ADOLF HITLER (1889 - 1945) Dictator of Germany and Nazi Party leader, Hitler's bloody rise to power, his military seizure of most of Europe and North Africa and his genocidal racial policies culminated in suicide in his Berlin bunker as Russian troops approached. HITLER ORDERS THE INVASION OF YUGOSLAVIA AND GREECE - 'THE MOST CATASTROPHIC DECISION IN HITLER'S CAREER' An excessively rare typed signed document critical in the determination of the outcome of World War II: Adolf Hitler's military Fuhrer Directive ordering the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece - an order historian William L. Shirer called '...the most catastrophic single decision in Hitler's career...'. The top secret 4pp. 4to. document titled 'Directive 25', was issued from 'Fuhrer Headquarters' [Berlin] on March 27, 1941 in a set of only 13 copies, and is the first such military directive ever offered for sale. In it, the vengeful dictator seeks retribution for the Yugoslavians' betrayal of their promise to join the Axis coalition. His order reads, in part: '1. The military revolt in Yugoslavia has changed the political position in the Balkans. Yugoslavia, even if it makes initial professions of loyalty, must be regarded as an enemy and beaten down as quickly as possible. 2. It is my intention to break into Yugoslavia in the general direction of Belgrade and to the south by a concentric operation from the Fiume-Graz area on the one side, and the Sofia area on the other, and to deal an annihilating blow to the Yugoslav forces. Further, the extreme southern region of Yugoslavia will be cut off from the rest of the country and will be occupied as a base from which the German-Italian offensive against Greece can be continued. The opening of traffic on the Danube as soon as possible and the seizure of the Bor copper mines are important for economic reasons. Efforts will be made to induce Hungary and Bulgaria to take part in operations by offering them the prospect of regaining the Banat and Macedonia. Internal tensions in Yugoslavia will be encouraged by giving political assurances to the Croats. 3. I issue the following detailed orders: (a) As soon as sufficient forces are available and the weather allows, the ground installations of the Yugoslav Air Force and the city of Belgrade will be destroyed from the air by continual day and night attack. (b) If possible simultaneously -- but in no event earlier -- undertaking Marita will begin, with the temporarily limited objective of occupying the Salonika Basin and gaining a foothold on the heights of Edessa. For this purpose, XVIII Army Corps can advance through Yugoslav territory. Favorable opportunities will be seized to prevent the creation of an organized front between Mount Olympus and the Edessa Highlands. (c) All forces still available in Bulgaria and Romania will be committed to the attacks which will be carried out from the Sofia area to the northwest and from the Kyusten-dil-Gorna Dzhumaya area to the west, with the exception that a force of about one Division, with air support, must remain to protect the Romanian oilfields. The protection of the Turkish frontier will, for the present, be left to the Bulgarians. A German formation consisting if possible of an Armored Division will stand by in the rear in support. (d) The thrust from the general direction of Graz towards the southeast will be made as soon as the necessary forces have been assembled. The Army is free to decide whether Hungarian territory should be crossed in breaching the frontier. Security measures at the Yugoslav frontier are to be strengthened immediately. As on the Bulgarian frontier, important objectives can be occupied even before the general offensive, simultaneously with the air attack on Belgrade. (e) The Luftwaffe will support with two Groups the operations of 12th Army and of the assault group now being formed in the Graz area, and will time the weight of its attack to coincide with the operations of the Army. The Hungarian ground organization can be used for assembly and in action. The possibility of bringing X Air Corps into action from Italian bases will be considered. The protection of convoys to Africa must, however, continue to be ensured. Preparations for the occupation of the island of Lemnos will be continued. I reserve the right to give orders for this operation. Care must be taken to ensure adequate antiaircraft protection for Graz, Klagenfurt, Villach, and Leoben, and also for Vienna. 4. Basic agreement with Italy will be reached, for the time being, by the High Command of the Wehrmacht. The Army will detail Liaison Staffs with Italian 2nd Army and with the Hungarians. The Luftwaffe is authorized to begin immediate discussions with the Italian and Hungarian High Commands in order to limit the area of the air operations of the three powers. The build up of Hungarian ground installations can begin at once. 5. Commanders In Chief will inform me, through the High Command of the Wehrmacht, of their plans for the operation, and of related problems. Adolf Hitler'. Marginal file and staple holes, multiple dockets, overall very good. Hitler had secretly met with the Regent, Prince Paul of Yugoslavia at Berchtesgaden on Mar. 4-5, 1941 where with a mixture of threats and the offer of Salonika, Paul was convinced to join in the Tripartite Pact with Germany, Italy, and Japan. On Mar. 25, the Yugoslav Premier and Foreign Minister met Hitler and von Ribbentrop in Vienna and signed the agreement. They had no sooner returned to Belgrade the next night than they, Prince Regent Paul, and their entire government were overthrown by a popular uprising, the crowd also spitting upon the German minister's car. Hitler flew into an uncontrollable rage and on the 27th ordered his top generals and staff to meet with him as he was 'determined to destroy Yugoslavia militarily and as a nation. No diplomatic inquiries will be made...and no ultimatums presented...' (Shirer). Goring was ordered to have his Luftwaffe level Belgrade, which was immediately undertaken. Then, according to secret OKW notes on the meeting, Hitler made the declaration that in the eyes of many historians cost him the war: 'The beginning of the Barbarossa operation will have to be postponed up to four weeks...' Hitler had originally set the date for the invasion of Russia to commence on May 15, 1941. However, the diversion of key Panzer and infantry regiments from Poland and Romania in order to subjugate the determined resistance of the Yugoslavians and Greeks cost Hitler a crucial five and a half weeks, delaying the start of his invasion of Russia until June 22, 1941. The rest is history: fall rains and resulting glue-like muddy roads slowed road traffic to a crawl, and a frigid early winter found the German army completely unprepared, stalling their advance within sight of Moscow. The weeks lost in assuaging Hitler's anger towards the Yugoslavians and Greeks may well have cost him the war.

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November 29, 2023 10:00 AM EST
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