On the 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. The
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 neighbours 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
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 13th December he issued a directive concerning the operation
" Marita," the code name for the invasion of Greece, in which
" 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 endeavour be foiled to create air
bases under the protection of a Balkan front, which would be dangerous
above all to Italy as to the Roumanian oilfields.
2. My plan therefore is (a) to form a slowly increasing task force in
Southern Roumania within the next month, (b) after the setting in of
favourable 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 the 20th January, 1941, at a meeting between Hitler and Mussolini,
at which the defendants Ribbentrop, Keitel, Jodl and others were present,
" The massing of troops in Roumania serves a threefold
(a) An operation against Greece;
(b) Protection of Bulgaria against Russia and Turkey;
(c) Safeguarding the guarantee to Roumania....
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 the 19th February, 1941, an OKW directive re the operation "Marita"
" On the 18th 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 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 harshness."
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 the 6th 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 of 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.