Today, on the glorious commemoration of the Greek resistance to the Axis Powers in 1940, I am humbled to remember the sacrifice, the bravery, and the indominible will of a handful of rough-and-ready fighters that saved civilization during WWII. The history texts do not harp on the crucial resistance Greece, a poor, unresourceful nation (not particularly known for its organizational skills either then or now) gave the Italians and the Germans when they entered Greece. On this day, we commemorate the incredible power the underdog can have when he is buttressed by the forces of truth, freedom and democracy–the founding values of our entire Western world. The world does not give credit enough to these “adartes”, guerrilla-fighters who in the northern borders of Bulgaria managed to delay the Nazi take over of the birthplace of Western civilization. While other European nations succumbed to the Nazi grip, Greece took a total of 160 days to give in. This caused the needed delay which kept Hitler’s forces from easily sweeping in and taking over Russia. This delay caused him to deploy more forces to Greece and Crete tying up logistics so that by that time the cruel Russian winter had crawled, giving the Russians enough time to prepare, and weakening the German forces who were not accustomed to the cold. If it had not been for this rat-and-tattered group of rebel fighters, history would have been written differently.
This was not the first time Greeks have been known to do this. Remember the Battle of Salamis? What is disappointing is that not enough current historians, media outlets, cultural institutions, citizens pay tribute or give this country enough credit for what it’s done. If it had not been for Greece, who knows if Hitler would have won? Who knows if democracy would still have survived? Who knows if the forces of darkness would not have eclipsed civilization as we know it? Thank the Holy Theotokos, whose Holy Protection we commemorate on the same day and which we also acknowledge as having helped the forces go against an enemy five times more powerful and ruthless than they. But mostly we honor the love of virtue, “filotimo,” the spirit of courage in those underdogs who proved victory is not gained through the power in numbers, but the power in each individual’s spirit and the force of will that one person carries to change the tides of evil. We thank the Greeks, those young men and women who gave their lives in the face of certain death and agony, for becoming heroes even when all they thought they were doing was going up against incredible odds and a most certain death.
This is a blog post from a fellow Greek for more historical details to the accomplishments:
Homage to the Greek Resistance(1940-1944) in 2nd World War
Friday October 29, 2010 at 12:58PM
Greece was attacked unprovoked by Italian troops on the 28th of October 1940 and was invaded by the German troops on the 6th April 1941
The Battle of Greece, initially against the unprovoked Italian attacks from 28 October 1940 onward and later on the German invasion from 6 April 1941 onward, lasted altogether 216 days. This unexpectedly very long and stanch Greek fight back caused international astonishment, general admiration and praise, manifested in many ways. It was something magnificent and rightly considered as a Greek miracle.
Peter Young, in his book “WORLD ALMANAC BOOK OF WW II” reports that the Axis occupied France in 45 days, in spite substantial British military support; Belgium in 18 days; Holland in 5 days, while Denmark submitted in 12 hours and Bulgaria, Rumania and Albania succumbed without a fight.
While only Great Britain and Greece remained practically the only free countries in Europe, small and poor Greece, with material and moral preparation, unity, self-sacrifice, capable political, spiritual, religious and military leadership, fighting alone without substantial allied aid for 160 days, was victorious in her struggle against attacking and many times larger fascist Italy. Later on, when Nazi Germany attacked her too on 6 April 1941, she carried on fighting with the support of meagre British military forces on her mainland, while during the last 11 days she fought together with Commonwealth forces in the defence of the island of Crete. Part of the Greek Armed Forces, including all the remaining from the Battle of Greece Hellenic Navy Warships, together with the King and the under Prime Minister E. Tsouderos Government, moved to Alexandria in Egypt, where they continued fighting the common enemies on the side of the Allies till 1944. However, the Hellenic Merchant Marine was placed by the Greek Government at the disposal of the Allies from the very start of WW II on 1 September 1939 and continued serving them to the final WW II end in August 1945.
The failure of the five-month long offensive and the repeated persistent attempts of the fascist Italian Empire to conquer Greece were crowned by the resounding collapse of the largest till then Italian Spring Attack of March 1941. This final offensive was supervised and coordinated by Mussolini himself, who for the purpose went to the Front. Following the failure of this attack too, Mussolini returned beaten and humiliated to Rome.
1) The measure of resistance was paid considerable homage to by German officials. Hitler’s Chief of Staff, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel stated during the Nuremberg Trials, “the unbelievably strong resistance of the Greeks delayed by two or more vital months the German attack against Russia; if we did not have this long delay, the outcome of the war would have been different in the eastern front and in the war in general.”
2) Adolf Hitler himself ordered that no Greek soldier shall be taken prisoner and that those who were, were to be released immediately out of respect of their bravery.
3) Hitler in his speech to the Raichstag on 4 May 1941, which is found recorded in the archives of the Hellenic Radio: “Historic justice compels me to ascertain that of all our opponents, the Greek soldier in particular fought with boldness and highest disrespect for death. Capitulated only when further resistance was impossible and useless.”
4) A speech Adolf Hitler made at the Reichstag in 1941 said of the campaign: “It must be said, for the sake of historical truth, that amongst all our opponents, only the Greeks fought with such endless courage and defiance of death.”
5) The diary of Joseph Goebbels 9 April 1941: “I forbid the Press to underestimate the Greeks, to defame them…. The Führer admires the bravery of Greeks.”
The measure of Greek resistance was paid homage and aroused admiration around the world:
1) British Prime Minister Winston Churchill would say “until now we would say that the Greeks fight like heroes. From now on we will say that heroes fight like Greeks.”
2) American President Franklin Roosevelt would say “all free peoples are deeply impressed by the courage and steadfastness of the Greek nation … which is defending itself so valiantly.”
3) Joseph Stalin, in an open letter read over the air on Radio Moscow short wave on numerous occasions during the war, would say “the Russian people will always be grateful to the Greeks for delaying the German army long enough for winter to set in, thereby giving us the precious time we needed to prepare. We will never forget.”
4) The British Minister of Foreign Affairs Lord Halifax, in his speech to the House of Lords, following the capture by the Greeks of the town of Cotitza, from the retreating in Albania Italians: “Great admiration inspires all of us the accomplishment of the Greek valour against an enemy so much more numerous and so much better equipped. These deeds remind us of the trophies of the classical times. Long live Greece!”
5) The memoirs of the Russian Field Marshal Zukoff: “If the Russian Peoples succeeded in raising their tired bodies in front of the gates of Moscow, to contain and set back the German torrent, they owe it to the Greek People, that delayed the German Divisions all the time needed. The gigantomachy of Crete, was the climax of the Greek contribution.”
The words of Hitler himself, spoken in 1944 to the famous German photographer and cinematographist Lenie Riffenstahl, as she relates in her memoirs: “The entrance of Italy to the War was proven catastrophic for us. Had the Italians not attacked Greece and had they not needed our help, the War would have taken a different course. We would have had time to capture Leningrad and Moscow, before the Russian cold weather set in.”
(1) Lest we forget the 28th of October of 1940, by Peter N. Yiannos, Ph.D
(2) Adolf Hitler’s speech to the Reichstag on May 4, 1941accessed October 10, 2006
(3) Adolf Hitler’s speech to the Reichstag on May 4, 1941
(4) Joseph Goebbels The Goebbels Diaries,1939-1941, (H. Hamilton 1982) ISBN 0241108934
(5) Reflections on the 65th Anniversary of the day Greece answered no and once again changed the course of history, by Chris P. Tomarasaccessed October 10, 2006
(6) Reflections on the 65th Anniversary of the day Greece answered no and once again changed the course of history, by Chris P. Tomaras accessed October 10, 2006
(7) Reflections on the 65th Anniversary of the day Greece answered no and once again changed the course of history, by Chris P. Tomara saccessed October 10, 2006