The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Archive/File: imt/ tgmwc/judgment/j-invasion-yugoslavia
Last-Modified: 1997/09/13

                           of the
               International Military Tribunal
                           For The
             Trial of German Major War Criminals

               His Majesty's Stationery Office

                                                   [Page 32]


On 12th August, 1939, Hitler had a conversation with Ciano
and the Defendant Ribbentrop at Obersalzberg. He said then:

     "Generally speaking, the best thing to happen
     would be for the neutrals to be liquidated one
     after the other. This process could be carried out
     more easily if on every occasion one partner of
     the Axis covered the other while it was dealing
     with the uncertain neutral. Italy might well
     regard Yugoslavia as a neutral of this kind."

This observation was made only two months after Hitler had
given assurances to Yugoslavia that he would regard her
frontier as final and inviolable. On the occasion of the
visit to Germany of the Prince Regent of Yugoslavia on 1st
June, 1939, Hitler had said in a public speech:

     "The firmly established reliable relationship of
     Germany to Yugoslavia now that owing to historical
     events we have become neighbors with common
     boundaries fixed for all time, will not only
     guarantee lasting peace between our two peoples
     and countries, but can also represent an element
     of calm to our nerve-racked continent. This peace
     is the goal of all who are disposed to perform
     really constructive work."

On the 6th October, 1939, Germany repeated these assurances
to Yugoslavia, after Hitler and Ribbentrop had
unsuccessfully tried to persuade Italy to enter the war on
the side of Germany by attacking Yugoslavia. On the 28th
October, 1940, Italy invaded Greece, but the military
operations met with no success. In November Hitler wrote to
Mussolini with regard to the invasion of Greece, and the
extension of the war in the Balkans, and pointed out that no
military operations could take place in the Balkans before
the following March, and therefore Yugoslavia must if at all
possible be won over by other means, and in other ways. But
on the 12th November, 1940, Hitler issued a directive for
the prosecution of the war, and it included the words:

     "The Balkans: The Commander-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."

On the 13 December he issued a directive concerning the
operation "Marita," the code name for the invasion of
Greece, in which he stated:

     "1. 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
     endeavor be foiled to create air bases under the
     protection of a Balkan front, which would be
     dangerous above all to Italy as to the Rumanian
     2. My plan therefore is (a) to form a slowly
     increasing task force in Southern Rumania within
     the next month, (b) after the setting in of
     favorable weather, probably in March, to send a
     task force for the occupation of the Aegean north
     coast by way of Bulgaria and if necessary to
     occupy the entire Greek mainland."

On 20th January, 1941, at a meeting between Hitler and
Mussolini, at which the Defendants Ribbentrop, Keitel, Jodl,
and others were present, Hitler stated:

     "The massing of troops in Rumania serves a
     threefold purpose:
     (a) An operation against Greece;
     (b) Protection of Bulgaria against Russia and
     (c) Safeguarding the guarantee to Rumania ..
     It is desirable that this deployment be 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."

On 19th February, 1941 an OKW directive regarding the
operation "Marita" stated:

     "On 18 February the Fuehrer made the following
     decision regarding the carrying out of Operation
     Marita: The following dates are envisaged.
     Commencement of building bridge, 28th February;
     crossing of the Danube, 2nd March."

On the 3rd March, 1941, British troops landed in Greece to
assist the Greeks to resist the Italians; and on the 18th
March, at a meeting between Hitler and the Defendant Raeder,
at which the Defendants Keitel and Jodl were also present,
the Defendant Raeder asked for confirmation that the "whole
of Greece will have to be occupied, even in the event of a
peaceful settlement," to which Hitler replied, "The complete
occupation is a prerequisite of any settlement."

On the 25th March, on the occasion of the adherence of
Yugoslavia to the Tripartite Pact at a meeting in Vienna,
the Defendant Ribbentrop, on behalf of the German
Government, confirmed the determination of Germany to
respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of
Yugoslavia at all times. On the 26th March the Yugoslav
Ministers, who had adhered to the Tripartite Pact, were
removed from office by a coup d'etat in Belgrade on their
return from Vienna, and the new Government repudiated the
Pact. Thereupon on the 27th March, at a conference in Berlin
with the High Command at which the Defendants Goering,
Keitel, and Jodl were present, and the Defendant Ribbentrop
part of the time, Hitler stated that Yugoslavia was an
uncertain factor in regard to the contemplated attack on
Greece, and even more so with regard to the attack upon
Russia which was to be conducted later on. Hitler announced
that he was 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. He stated that he would act with "unmerciful

On the 6th April German forces invaded Greece and Yugoslavia
without warning, and Belgrade was bombed by the Luftwaffe.
So swift was this particular invasion that there had not
been time to establish any "incidents" as a usual
preliminary, or to find and publish any adequate "political"
explanations. As the attack was starting on 6 April, Hitler
proclaimed to the German people that this attack was
necessary because the British forces in Greece (who were
helping the Greeks to defend themselves against the
Italians) represented a British attempt to extend the war to
the Balkans.

It is clear from this narrative that aggressive war against
Greece and Yugoslavia had long been in contemplation,
certainly as early as August, 1939. The fact that Great
Britain had come to the assistance of the Greeks, and might
thereafter be in a position to inflict great damage upon
German interests was made the occasion for the occupation of
both countries.

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