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“b. To ease the burden of the Italian Army group when
(448-PS) That directive was signed by Hitler, and, as shown on the original, was initialed by both Keitel and Jodl. A copy went to Raeder, and the copy sent to Foreign Intelligence presumably reached Ribbentrop
A conference took place on 19 and 20 January between Keitel and the Italian General, Guzzoni. This was followed by a meeting between Hitler and Mussolini, at which Ribbentrop, Keitel, and Jodl were present. In the speech which the Fuehrer made on 20 January 1941, after the conference with the Italians, he declared:
The massing of troops in Roumania serves a threefold purpose: "a. An operation against Greece. “b. Protection of Bulgaria against Russia and Turkey. “c. Safeguarding the guarantee to Roumania. “Each of these tasks requires its own group of forces, altogether therefore very strong forces whose deployment far from our base requires a long time. "Desirable that this deployment is completed without interference from the enemy. Therefore disclose the game as late as possible. The tendency will be to cross the Danube at the last possible moment and to line up for attack at the earliest
possible moment.” (C-134) At a conference between Field Marshal List and the Bulgarians, on 8 February, the following plans were discussed:
"Minutes of questions discussed between the representatives of the Royal Bulgarian General Staff and the German Supreme Command-General Field Marshal List-in connection with the possible movement of German troops through Bulgaria and their commitment against Greece and possibly against Turkey, if she should involve herself in the war.”
The Bulgarian and the German general staff will take all measures in order to camouflage the preparation of the operations and to assure in this way the most favorable conditions for the execution of the German operations as planned.
“The representatives of the two general staffs consider it to be suitable to inform their governments that it will be good to take the necessity of secrecy and surprise into consideration when the three-power treaty is signed by Bulgaria, in order to assure the success of the military operations."
(1746-PS) A further top secret directive of 19 February sets the date for the Operation Marita (C-59). It states that the bridge across the Danube is to be begun on 28 February, the river crossed on 2 March, and the final orders to be issued on 26 February at the latest. On the original of this order the actual dates are filled in in the handwriting of Keitel.
The position of Bulgaria at this moment was this: Bulgaria adhered to the Three-Power Pact on 1 March 1941. On the same day the entry of German troops into Bulgaria began in accordance with the Plan Marita and associated directives already referred to. The landing of British troops in Greece on 3 March, in accordance with the guarantee given in the spring of 1939 by the British Government, may have accelerated the movement of the German forces. In any event, as has been shown, the invasion of Greece had been planned long beforehand and was already in progress at this time.
A short extract from a report by Raeder on an interview with Hitler, which the original shows took place in the presence of Keitel and Jodl at 1600 hours on 18 March, shows the ruthless nature of the German intentions:
"The C in C of the Navy asks for confirmation that the
settlement." (C-167) This report shows, it seems clear, that the Nazi conspirators, in accordance with their principle of liquidating any neutral which did not remain disinterested, had made every preparation by the end of January and were at this date in the process of moving the necessary troops to ensure the final liquidation of Greece, which was already at war with, and getting the better of, their Italian allies.
C. Lulling the Unsuspecting Victim.
They were not yet, however, ready to deal with Yugoslavia, towards which their policy accordingly remained one of lulling the unsuspecting victim. On 25 March, in accordance with this policy, the adherence of Yugoslavia to the Three-Power Pact
was secured. This adherence followed a visit on 15 February 1941 by the Yugoslav Premier Cvetkovic and the Foreign Minister Cinkar-Markvic to Ribbentrop at Salzburg and subsequently to Hitler at Berchtesgaden, after which these ministers were induced to sign the Pact at Vienna on 25 March. On this occasion Ribbentrop wrote the two letters of assurance. The first made this guarantee:
“Notes of the Axis Governments to Belgrade,
tegrity of Yugoslavia at all times.' (2450-PS) That letter was signed by Ribbentrop, who was present at the meeting in August 1939 when he and Hitler tried to persuade the Italians to invade Yugoslavia. It was in fact 11 days after this letter was written that the Germans did invade Yugoslavia, and two days after the letter was written that they issued the necessary order. The second letter reads:
"Mr. Prime Minister:
through Yugoslavian national territory." (2450-PS) The position at this stage, 25 March 1941, was therefore that German troops were already in Bulgaria moving towards the Greek frontier, while Yugoslavia had, to use Hitler's own term in his letter to Mussolini, “become disinterested” in the cleaning up of the Greek question.
The importance of the adherence of Yugoslavia to the ThreePower Pact appears very clearly from an extract from the 685964-46-51
minutes of a meeting between Hitler and Ciano. The first paragraph states:
“The Fuehrer first expressed his satisfaction with Yugoslavia's joining the Tri-Partite Pact and the resulting definition of her position. This is of special importance in view of the proposed military action against Greece, for, if one considers that for 350 to 400 kilometers the important line of communication through Bulgaria runs within 20 kilometers of the Yugoslav border, one can judge that with a dubious attitude of Yugoslavia an undertaking against Greece would have been militarily an extremely foolhardy
venture.” (2765-PS) Again, it is a matter of history that on the night of 26 March 1941, when the two Yugoslav ministers returned to Belgrade, General Simovic and his colleagues effected their removal by a coup d'état, and Yugoslavia emerged on the morning of 27 March ready to defend, if need be, its independence.
D. Further Planning for Attack.
The Nazis reacted rapidly to this altered situation, and the immediate liquidation of Yugoslavia was decided on. A conference of Hitler and the German High Command on the situation in Yugoslavia took place on 27 March 1941. Those present included the Fuehrer; the Reich Marshall (Goering); Chief, OKW, (Keitel); and the Chief of the Wehrmacht Fuehrungstab, (Jodl). A report of the conference notes that “later on the following persons were added," and among them is included Ribbentrop (1746-PS). Hitler's statement proceeded as follows:
"The Fuehrer describes Yugoslavia's situation after the coup d'etat. Statement that Yugoslavia was an uncertain factor in regard to the coming Marita action and even more in regard to the Barbarossa undertaking later on. Serbs and Slovenes were never pro-German."
“The present moment is for political and military reasons favorable for us to ascertain the actual situation in the country and the country's attitude toward us, for if the overthrow of the Government would have happened during the Barbarossa action, the consequences for us probably would have been considerably more serious.”
"The Fuehrer is determined, without waiting for possible loyalty declarations of the new government, to make all preparations in order to destroy Yugoslavia militarily and as a
national unit. No diplomatic inquiries will be made nor ul-
collapse will take place within the shortest time.” (1746–PS) Thus it appears that two days after Yugoslavia had signed the Tri-Partite Pact and the Nazis had given assurances, simply because there had been a coup d'etat and it was possible that the operations against Greece might be affected, the destruction of Yugoslavia was decided on without any question of taking the trouble to ascertain the views of the new Government. The report of the meeting continues :
“5. The main task of the Air Force is to start as early as possible with the destruction of the Yugoslavian Air Force ground installations and to destroy the capital Belgrade in
attacks by waves." (1746-PS) It is again a matter of history that the residential areas of Belgrade were bombed at 7 o'clock on the following Sunday morning, 6 April 1941.
At that same meeting of 27 March 1941 a tentative plan, drawn up by Jodl, was offered: