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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
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.
After sections dealing with operations against Gibraltar and an offensive against Egypt, the order continues :
"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 free
dom." 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 Marita, bears a distribution list which shows that copies went 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.
The support of Bulgaria is to be expected.” (1541-PS) The next paragraph gives the forces for the operation, and paragraph 4 deals with the operation Marita itself. Paragraph 5 states:
"The Military preparations which will produce exceptional
of scouting missions and advanced parties.” (1541-PS) Another “Top Secret Directive” carries the plan a little farther. It deals with decisive action in support of the Italian forces in Tripoli and in Albania. The first short paragraph reads:
"The situation in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations demands for strategical political and psychological reasons German assistance, due to employment of superior forces by
England against our allies." (448-PS) Paragraph three, after dealing with the forces to be transferred to Albania, sets out what the duties of the German forces will be:
"a. To serve in Albania for the time being as a reserve for an emergency case, should new crises arise there.
“6. 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. ". 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