Hitler’s speech on Greece

BERLIN, REICHSTAG – ADOLF HITLER’S SPEECH OF MAY 4, 1941

Deputies. Men of the German Reichstag:

In the meantime, however, certain difficulties had arisen. As a result, Rumania, owing to internal changes, dropped out of England’s political scheme.

In dealing with these conditions, I shall begin by giving you a brief outline of the aims of Germany’s policy in the Balkans. As in the past, the Reich never pursued any territorial or any other selfish political interest in the Balkans. In other words, the Reich has never taken the slightest interest in territorial problems and internal conditions in these States for any selfish reason whatsoever.

On the other hand, the Reich has always endeavored to build up and to strengthen close economic ties with these States in particular. This, however, not only served the interests of the Reich but equally the interests of these countries themselves.

If any two national economic systems ever effectively complemented one another, that is especially the case regarding the Balkan States and Germany. Germany is an industrial country and requires foodstuffs and raw materials. The Balkan States are agrarian countries and are short of these raw materials. At the same time, they require industrial products.

It was therefore hardly surprising when Germany thus became the main business partner of the Balkan States. Nor was this in Germany’s interest alone, but also in that of the Balkan peoples themselves.

AND NONE BUT OUR JEW-RIDDEN DEMOCRACIES, WHICH CAN THINK ONLY IN TERMS OF CAPITALISM, CAN MAINTAIN THAT IF ONE STATE DELIVERS MACHINERY TO ANOTHER STATE IT THEREBY DOMINATES THAT OTHER STATE. IN ACTUAL FACT SUCH DOMINATION, IF IT OCCURS, CAN BE ONLY A RECIPROCAL DOMINATION.

It is presumably easier to be without machinery than without food and raw materials. Consequently, the partner in need of raw material and foodstuffs would appear to be more tied down than the recipient of industrial products. IN THIS TRANSACTION THERE WAS NEITHER CONQUEROR NOR CONQUERED. THERE WERE ONLY PARTNERS.

The German Reich of the National Socialist revolution has prided itself on being a fair and decent partner, offering in exchange high-quality products instead of worthless democratic paper money. For these reasons the Reich was interested in only one thing if, indeed, there was any question of political interest, namely, in seeing that internally the business partner was firmly established on a sound and healthy basis.

THE APPLICATION OF THIS IDEA LED IN FACT NOT ONLY TO INCREASING PROSPERITY IN THESE COUNTRIES BUT ALSO TO THE BEGINNING OF MUTUAL CONFIDENCE. All the greater, however, became the endeavor of that world incendiary, Churchill, to put an end to this peaceful development and by shamelessly imposing upon these States utterly worthless British guarantees and promises of assistance to introduce into this peaceable European territory elements of unrest, uncertainty, distrust and, finally, conflict.

Originally, Rumania was first won over by these guarantees and later, of course, Greece. It has, meanwhile, probably been sufficiently demonstrated that he had absolutely no power of any kind to provide real help and that these guarantees were merely intended to rope these States in to follow the dangerous trend of filthy British politics.

RUMANIA HAS HAD TO PAY BITTERLY FOR THE GUARANTEES, WHICH WERE CALCULATED TO ESTRANGE HER FROM THE AXIS POWERS.

Greece, which least of all required such a guarantee, was offered her share to link her destiny to that of the country that provided her King with cash and orders.

EVEN TODAY I FEEL THAT I MUST, AS I BELIEVE IN THE INTEREST OF HISTORICAL ACCURACY, DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE GREEK PEOPLE AND THAT THIN TOP LAYER OF CORRUPT LEADERS WHO, INSPIRED BY A KING WHO HAD NO EYES FOR THE DUTY OF TRUE LEADERSHIP, PREFERRED INSTEAD TO FURTHER THE AIMS OF BRITISH WAR POLITICS. To me this is a subject of profound regret.

Germany, with the faint hope of still being able to contribute in some way to a solution of the problem, had not severed relations with Greece. But even then I was bound in duty to point out before the whole world that we would not tacitly allow a revival of the old Salonika scheme of the Great War.

Unfortunately, my warning was not taken seriously enough. That we were determined, if the British tried to gain another foothold in Europe, to drive them back into the sea was not taken seriously enough.

The result was that the British began in an increasing degree to establish bases for the formation of a new Salonika army. They began by laying out airdromes and by establishing the necessary ground organization in the firm conviction that the occupation of the airdromes themselves could afterward be carried out very speedily.

Finally a continuous stream of transports brought equipment for an army which, according to Mr. Churchill’s idea and plans, was to be landed in Greece. As I have said, already we were aware of this. For months we watched this entire strange procedure with attention, if with restraint.

The reverses suffered by the Italian Army in North Africa, owing to a certain material inferiority of their tanks and anti-tank guns, finally led Mr. Churchill to believe that the time was ripe to transfer the theater of war from Libya to Greece. He ordered the transport of the remaining tanks and of the infantry division, composed mainly of Anzacs, and was convinced that he could now complete his scheme, which was to set the Balkans aflame.

THUS DID MR. CHURCHILL COMMIT ONE OF THE GREATEST STRATEGIC BLUNDERS OF THIS WAR. As soon as there could be no further doubt regarding Britain’s intentions of gaining a foothold in the Balkans, I took the necessary steps.

Germany, by keeping pace with these moves, assembled the necessary forces for the purpose of counteracting any possible tricks of that gentleman. In this connection I must state categorically that this action was not directed against Greece.

The Duce did not even request me to place one single German division at his disposal for this purpose. He was convinced that with the advent of good weather his stand against Greece would have been brought to a successful conclusion. I was of the same opinion.

The concentration of German forces was therefore not made for the purpose of assisting the Italians against Greece. It was a precautionary measure against the British attempt under cover of the clamor caused by the Italo-Greek war to intrench themselves secretly in the Balkans in order to force the issue from that quarter on the model of the Salonika army during the World War, and, above all, to draw other elements into the whirlpool.

This hope was founded principally on two States, namely, Turkey and Yugoslavia. But with these very States I have striven during the years since I came into power to establish close co-operation.

The World War actually started from Belgrade. Nevertheless, the German people, who are by nature so ready to forgive and forget, felt no animosity toward that country. Turkey was our ally in the World War. The unfortunate outcome of that struggle weighed upon that country just as heavily as it did upon us.

The great genius who created the new Turkey was the first to set a wonderful example of recovery to our allies whom fortune had at that time deserted and whom fate had dealt so terrible a blow. Whereas Turkey, thanks to the practical attitude of her leaders, preserved her independence in carrying out her own resolutions, Yugoslavia fell a victim to British intrigue.

Most of you, especially my old Party comrades among you, know what efforts I have made to establish a straightforward understanding and indeed friendly relations between Germany and Yugoslavia. In pursuance of this aim Herr von Ribbentrop, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, submitted to the Yugoslav Government proposals that were so outstanding and so fair that at least even the Yugoslav State of that time seemed to become increasingly eager for such close co-operation.

Germany had no intention of starting a war in the Balkans. On the contrary, it was our honest intention as far as possible to contribute to a settlement of the conflict with Greece by means that would be tolerable to the legitimate wishes of Italy.

The Duce not only consented to but lent his full support to our efforts to bring Yugoslavia into a close community of interests with our peace aims. Thus it finally became possible to induce the Yugoslav Government to join the Threepower Pact, which made no demands whatever on Yugoslavia but only offered that country advantages.

Thus on March 26 of this year a pact was signed in Vienna that offered the Yugoslav State the greatest future conceivable and could have assured peace for the Balkans. Believe me, gentlemen, on that day I left the beautiful city of the Danube truly happy not only because it seemed as though almost eight years of foreign policies had received their reward but also because I believed that perhaps at the last moment German intervention in the Balkans might not be necessary.

We were all stunned by the news of that coup, carried through by a handful of bribed conspirators who had brought about the event that caused the British Prime Minister to declare in joyous words that at last he had something good to report.

YOU WILL SURELY UNDERSTAND, GENTLEMEN, THAT WHEN I HEARD THIS I AT ONCE GAVE ORDERS TO ATTACK YUGOSLAVIA. To treat the, German Reich in this way is impossible. One cannot spent years in concluding a treaty that is in the interest of the other party merely to discover that this treaty has not only been broken overnight but also that it has been answered by the insulting of the representative of the German Reich, by the threatening of his military attache, by the injuring of the aide de camp of this attache, by the maltreating of numerous other Germans, by demolishing property, by laying waste the homes of German citizens and by terrorizing.

GOD KNOWS THAT I WANTED PEACE. But I can do nothing but protect the interests of the Reich with those means which, thank God, are at our disposal. I made my decision at that moment all the more calmly because I knew that I was in accord with Bulgaria, who had always remained unshaken in her loyalty to the German Reich, and with the equally justified indignation of Hungary.

Both of our old allies in the World War were bound to regard this action as a provocation emanating from the State that once before had set the whole of Europe on fire and had been guilty of the indescribable sufferings that befell Germany, Hungary, and Bulgaria in consequence.

The general directions of operations issued by me through the Supreme Command of the German forces on March 27 confronted the Army and the Air Force with a formidable task. By a mere turn of the hand an additional campaign had to be prepared. Units that had already arrived had to be moved about. Supplies of armaments had to be assured and the air force had to take over numerous improvised airports part of which were still under water.

WITHOUT THE SYMPATHETIC ASSISTANCE OF HUNGARY AND THE EXTREMELY LOYAL ATTITUDE OF RUMANIA IT WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY DIFFICULT TO CARRY OUT MY ORDERS IN THE SHORT TIME ENVISAGED.

I fixed April 6 as the day on which the attack was to begin. The main plan of operation was: First, to proceed with an army coming from Bulgaria against Thrace in Greece in the direction of the Aegean Sea.

The main striking strength of this army lay in its right wing, which was to force a passage through to Salonika by using mountain divisions and a division of tanks; second, to thrust forward with a second army with the object of establishing connection as speedily as possible with the Italian forces advancing from Albania. These two operations were to begin on April 6.

Third, a further operation, beginning on the eighth, provided for the break-through of an army from Bulgaria with the object of reaching the neighborhood of Belgrade. In conjunction with this, a German army corps was to occupy the Banat on the tenth.

In connection with these operations general agreement had been made with our allies, Italy and Hungary. Agreements as to co-operation had also been reached between the two air forces. The command of the German Armies operating against Macedonia and Greece was placed in the hands of Field Marshal von List, who had already particularly distinguished himself in the previous campaigns. Once more and under the most exacting conditions he carried out the task confronting him in truly superior fashion.

The forces advancing against Yugoslavia from the southwest and from Hungary were commanded by Col. Gen. von Weick. He, too, in a very short time with the forces under his command reached his objective.

The Army and SS detachments operating under Field Marshal von Brauchitsch, as Commander in Chief, and the Chief of the General Staff, Col. Gen. Halder, forced the Greek Army in Thrace to capitulate after only five days, established contact with the Italian forces advancing from Albania, occupied Salonika, and thus generally prepared the way for the difficult and glorious break-through via Larissa to Athens.

These operations were crowned by the occupation of the Peloponnesus and numerous Greek islands. A detailed appreciation of the achievements will be given by the German High Command.

The Air Force under the personal command of Reich Marshal Goering was divided into two main groups, commanded by Col. Gen. Loehr and General von Richthofen. It was their task, first, to shatter the enemy air force and to smash its ground organization; second, to attack every important military objective in the conspirators’ headquarters at Belgrade, thus eliminating it from the very outset; third, by every manner of active co-operation everywhere with the fighting German troops to break the enemy’s resistance, to impede the enemy’s flight, to prevent as far as possible his embarkation.

The German armed forces have truly surpassed themselves in this campaign. There is only one way of characterizing that campaign: Nothing is impossible for the German soldier.

Historical justice, however, obliges me to say that of the opponents that have taken up arms against us, MOST PARTICULARLY THE GREEK SOLDIERS, HAVE FOUGHT WITH THE GREATEST BRAVERY AND CONTEMPT OF DEATH. They only capitulated when further resistance became impossible and therefore useless.

But I am now compelled to speak of the enemy who is the main cause of this conflict. As a German and as a soldier I consider it unworthy ever to revile a fallen enemy. But it seems to me to be necessary to defend the truth from the wild exaggerations of a man who as a soldier is a bad politician and as a politician is an equally bad soldier.

Mr. Churchill, who started this struggle, is endeavoring, as with regard to Norway or Dunkerque, to say something that sooner or later might perhaps he twisted around to resemble success. I do not consider that honorable but in his case it is understandable.

The gift Mr. Churchill possesses is the gift to lie with a pious expression on his face and to distort the truth until finally glorious victories are made out of the most terrible defeats.

Hitler’s speech on Greece