The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter IX
Aggression Against Greece & Yugoslavia
(Part 2 of 8)

B. Planning for Invasion: Collaboration with Italy and Bulgaria.

Despite the obligation of Germany under the Convention of 1899, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and under the foregoing Assurance which I have read, the fate of both Greece and Yugoslavia had, as is now known, been sealed ever since the meeting between Hitler, Ribbentrop, and Ciano at Obersalzberg, 12 August 1939 and 13 August 1939 (TC-77). The effect of the meeting was that Hitler and Ribbentrop, only two months after the dinner to the Prince Regent, were seeking to persuade Italy to make war on Yugoslavia at the same time that Germany was to commence hostilities against Poland, which Hitler had decided to do in the very near future. Ciano while evidently in entire agreement with Hitler and Ribbentrop as to the desirability of liquidating Yugoslavia, and while himself anxious to secure Salonika, stated that Italy was not yet ready for a general European war. Thus, despite all the persuasion which Hitler and Ribbentrop exerted at the meeting, it became necessary for the Nazi conspirators to reassure their intended victim, Yugoslavia, since in fact Italy -maintained its position and did not enter the war when Germany invaded Poland, and since the Germans themselves were not yet ready to strike in the Balkans. It was apparently for this reason that on 6 October, through Hitler's speech, the Nazis repeated the assurance they had made in April 1938. It is a matter of history that after the defeat of the Allied Armies in May and June 1940, the Italian Government declared war on France and that subsequently, at three o'clock in the morning on 28 October

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1940, the Italian Minister at Athens presented the Greek Government with a 3 hour ultimatum, upon the expiration of which Italian troops were already invading the soil of Greece.

This event was reported by the British Minister at Athens in these words:

"The president of the council has assured himself an outstanding place in Greek history and, whatever the future may bring, his foresight in quietly preparing his country for war and his courage in rejecting without demur the Italian ultimatum when delivered in the small hours of that October morning, will surely obtain an honorable mention in the story of European statecraft. He means to fight until Italy is completely defeated and this reflects the purpose of the whole Greek nation."

A letter from Hitler to Mussolini, which is undated but which -- this is clear from the contents -- must have been written shortly after the Italian invasion of Greece on 28 November 1940, contained these sentiments:

"Jugoslavia must become disinterested, if possible however from our point of view interested in cooperating in the liquidation of the Greek question. Without assurances from Yugoslavia, it is useless to risk any successful operation in the Balkans.

"Unfortunately, I must stress the fact that waging a war in the Balkans before March is impossible. Therefore, any threatening move towards Jugoslavia would be useless, since the impossibility of a materialization of such threats before March is well known to the Serbian general staff. Therefore, Jugoslavia must, if at all possible, be won over by other means and other ways." (2762-PS)

It was at this time that Hitler was making his plans for the offensive in the Spring of 1941, which included the invasion of Greece from the north. It was an integral part of those plans that Yugoslavia should be induced to cooperate in them or at least to maintain a disinterested attitude towards the liquidation of the other Balkan States. These facts are disclosed in a "Top Secret Directive" issued from the Fuehrer's Headquarters, signed by Hitler, initialed by Jodl, and dated 12 November 1940. This order reads, in part:

"Directive No. 18.

"The preparatory measures of Supreme HQ for the prosecution of the war in the near future are to be made along the following lines.***" (444-PS)

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After sections dealing with operations against Gibraltar and an offensive against Egypt, the order continues:

"The commanders-in-chief of the Army will make preparations for occupying the Greek mainland north of the Aegean Sea in case of need, entering through Bulgaria, and thus make possible the use of German air force units against targets in the Eastern Mediterranean, in particular against those English air bases which are threatening the Rumanian oil area.

"In order to be able to face all eventualities and to keep Turkey in check, the use of an army group of an approximate strength of ten divisions is to be the basis for the planning and the calculations of deployment. It will not be possible to count on the railway, leading through Yugoslavia, for moving these forces into position.

"So as to shorten the time needed for the deployment, preparations will be made for an early increase in the German Army mission in Roumania, the extent of which must be submitted to me.

"The commander-in-chief of the Air Force will make preparations for the use of German Air Force units in the South East Balkans and for aerial reconnaissance on the southern border of Bulgaria, in accordance with the intended ground operations." (444-PS)

The positions of the Italian invading forces in Greece in December 1940 may be summarized in the words in which the British Minister reported to Foreign Secretary Eden:

"The morale of the Greek Army throughout has been of the highest, and our own naval and land successes at Tarento and in the Western Desert have done much to maintain it. With relatively poor armaments and the minimum of equipment and modern facilities they have driven back or captured superior Italian forces more frequently than not at the point of the bayonet. The modern Greeks have thus shown that they are not unworthy of the ancient tradition of their country and that they, like their distant forbears, are prepared to fight against odds to maintain their freedom."

In fact, the Italians were getting the worst of it, and it was time that Hitler came to the rescue with the order for the German attack on Greece.

This Directive of 13 December 1940, which is Top Secret Directive number 20, dealing with Operation Marta, bears a

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distribution list which shows that copies vent to the Commander of the Navy (Raeder), to the Commander of the Air Force (Goering), to the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces (Keitel), and to the Command Staff (Jodl). The first two paragraphs state:

"The result of the battles in Albania is not yet decisive. Because of a dangerous situation in Albania it is doubly necessary that the British endeavour be foiled to create air bases under the protection of a Balkan- front, which would be dangerous above all to Italy as well as to the Rumanian oil fields.

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

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