Saturday, May 23, 2015
The current Hellenic Republic is demanding reparations from the current Federal Republic of Germany in compensation for crimes committed by the former Nazi State of Germany against the former Kingdom of Greece. In other words, the Greek republic is today demanding payment from a government which has done them no harm. Putting aside the issue of the governments involved, only a very few (and ever shrinking) number of people alive in Greece today ever suffered from German occupation just as very few Germans are alive today who were anything more than innocent children at the time of the invasion and occupation of Greece. There is no obvious justification then for the German people of today being expected to pay for wrongs which were committed by their grandparents or great-grandparents to a Greek population which has, for the most part, been born long after such wrongs were committed. That the Greek people suffered under the German occupation is not in question nor is it doubted that many Greek people are still suffering today but those Greeks who are suffering today have only their own governments and, more often than not, their own electoral choices to blame for that.
Secondly, the selective nature of this demand for reparations makes it appear to be more an attempt at moral blackmail than a genuine quest for just compensation. As was mentioned in the previous article on Greece in World War II, most of the country, for most of the war, was under Italian occupation and the acts of cruelty committed by the Italians against the Greeks were few and far between. Additionally, part of Greece was also occupied by the Bulgarians and there were many acts of cruelty meted out to the Greeks in that zone of occupation. However, we only see the current Greek government demanding reparations from Germany and not from the Italians or Bulgarians; perhaps because neither of these countries have the money to give that the Germans do? There were also numerous acts of barbarism committed against the Greeks by the Greeks themselves during the war and in the civil war that grew out of it. These were invariably committed by revolutionary organizations, many of them communists, whose acts of resistance were what often prompted the reprisals by German forces for which the Greeks are now demanding reparations.
That brings me to the third point which is that one of the complicating matters in terms of war-time guilt in cases like this is the role played by collaborators. This was also the case in Greece where republican General George Tsolakoglou declared the monarchy abolished and set up the “Hellenic State” which collaborated with the Axis powers occupying the country. He was followed by two other collaborationist leaders, the last of which did not collaborate as much as the Germans were soon forced out of the country. It was this government which paid the so-called “war loan” to Nazi Germany for which the legitimate Greek government later demanded reparations. It was also this collaborationist government which helped the Germans in requisitioning supplies from the already hard-pressed Greek population which resulted in the “Great Famine” in the winter of 1941-42 that cost about hundreds of thousands of Greek lives. Their suffering was immense but some Greeks were complicit in that suffering along with the Nazis and the ring-leaders did not face all that harsh of a punishment. Tsolakoglou was convicted of treason but never executed, he died of disease three years after the war still in prison and his successor fled the country to Nazi Germany, was arrested by the Americans who handed him over to the Greeks who first sentenced him to death but then reduced that to life in prison and then reduced that. He was released in 1951 and died peacefully at home a decade later.
Does this seem like justice? It was certainly a far less harsh fate than befell Hitler, Mussolini or Tojo. For the record, the actions of collaborators does not, in my view, negate the suffering of other people, the vast majority of whom opposed the occupation forces whether they actively resisted or not. However, I do think that it should lessen the “victim-hood” status of such countries where there was widespread collaboration with the side later deemed to have been the guilty party. There are other examples of this, in fact far more troublesome than that of Greece I would say. In France, for example, the level of collaboration with the Nazi regime was far more extensive than most realize and was something that the post-war French government of Charles DeGaulle tried very hard to hush up and forget about in favor of a new narrative of unrelenting resistance to the Nazis to help rebuild French national pride. However, certainly the most egregious example must be that of the Indonesian dictator Sukarno who extracted a huge amount of reparations from a defeated Japan even though he himself had been a Japanese collaborator during the war. In short, he demanded and received compensation for crimes committed by the Japanese occupation forces in his country which he himself helped them to commit!
This latest Greek demand for compensation is also a case of double-dipping and hypocrisy. Although, again, the current Greek government is certainly not alone in trying to run this scam, using guilt to try to coerce a country to pay more than once for wrongs committed in the past. In 1960 West Germany paid the Greek government 115 million D-Marks in compensation for the crimes committed by the Nazis in Greece during the war. The Greek government has since claimed that this was not supposed to be the final amount but in 1990, prior to re-unification, East and West Germany signed another agreement with the Americans, British, French and Russians in which these countries renounced all rights held in Germany, allowing for reunification and for Germany to become a united country with the same rights and obligations as any other. It was supposed to be a return to normalcy and an end to the World War II punishments against Germany.
Keeping that in mind, when the Greek government recently demanded a whopping $303 billion from the Federal Republic of Germany in war reparations, the Germans pointed to the aforementioned agreement with the U.S., U.K., France and Russia which was called the “Treaty on the FINAL Settlement with Respect to Germany” (my emphasis) and that this had concluded all such matters and further reparations would not be discussed. The Greeks objected to this on the grounds that they had not been party to any such agreement. The Germans responded to that objection with the simple statement of fact that Greek involvement was irrelevant as Germany had surrendered to the Americans, British, French and Russians -not to the Greeks. Therefore, these were the only powers that Germany had to deal with in regards to what happened during the war. This is where the hypocrisy part comes in and, under the circumstances, it is rather funny.
The German response to this objection, by Greece, was that it was irrelevant as Germany had not been beaten by the Greeks and had not surrendered to the Greeks but was beaten by the Americans, British and Russians and so had surrendered to them. What is comic about this answer, and why the Greeks have nothing to say about it, is that this was exactly what the Greeks themselves had said in World War II. To over-simplify for the sake of brevity; while the Greeks were fighting the Italians at the front door the Germans had come in by the back door and taken them from behind. When the Greeks surrendered they were very adamant and very dramatic about specifically surrendering to the Germans and not the Italians who they said had not beaten them. As a result, Germany controlled the process and Italy was unable to annex any of the territory Mussolini had wanted for the Third Roman Empire. Thus, perhaps unwittingly, the German republic had caught the Greeks in a technicality of their own making by pointing out that Nazi Germany had not surrendered to Greece and thus had no need of satisfying Greek demands.
Finally, it is extremely doubtful that the Greeks will receive any of these new reparations that they are demanding. The German government has said it is a settled subject and if they do give the Greeks any money it will be because they choose to and not because they believe Greece is legitimately entitled to it. Almost everyone that I have talked to about this subject immediately came to the same conclusion, that this was simply a dishonest way of trying to force more money from the German bank that would loan them no more. It is a ridiculous proposition and the Greek politicians who came up with it have only hurt the image of their country on the world stage by putting it forward.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
However, despite the symbols, the uniforms, the nationalism and so on, the regime of Metaxas was most of all the product of necessity. Greece had stagnated from so many years of turmoil and in-fighting, the Greek position in Europe had plummeted and the country was in bad shape. Metaxas was authoritarian without question, suppressing dissidents, censoring the media and so on but it was all done to correct this downward spiral. If General Metaxas was a dictator, he was not a bad one. There was no cult of personality around Metaxas, loyalty was reserved for King George II. There was no effort to remake society really but rather an effort to revive Greek culture, Greek traditions and support the Greek Orthodox Church. Enemies were political and those singled out were those who had proven their treasonous tendencies in the past. There was no effort at setting up scapegoats, no racist legislation, no persecution of Jews. If Adolf Hitler admired Metaxas, it was of no great importance. Metaxas deferred to the King and there was no doubt that King George II viewed the Nazi regime with disgust and was, from start to finish, staunchly sympathetic with the Allied nations, particularly Britain.
|Metaxas' party flag|
However, Metaxas was not taking anything for granted. He had already considerably modernized the Greek army and he began to build it up further to be prepared for any eventuality. That would prove extremely important very soon. Italians worried that the Greeks were planning an attack on Albania while their forces were concentrated in North Africa for the invasion of Egypt. After the fall of France, German forces also handed over to Italy captured messages from King George II of Greece offering Britain and France the use of Greek facilities such as air and naval bases should they need them. Finally, in October of 1940, an ultimatum from Mussolini arrived in Athens. The Duce demanded that the Greek government allow Italian armed forces free movement through Greek territory. It was a pretext and nothing more, no one in Rome expected Metaxas of all people to agree to it and he predictably refused. Within a matter of hours, four Italian columns began the invasion of Greece. However, despite the outward confidence of Mussolini, it was the Greeks who were much better prepared for this war.
|Italian troops in Greece|
This turned out to be a major mistake for the Allied war effort. In North Africa, British forces were severely depleted in order to reinforce a hopeless battle in Greece. Most would not even arrive in time to participate in the battle. In the spring of 1941 the Italians launched another offensive that began to push the Greeks back, though losses were heavy and the gains were light. However, the coup in Yugoslavia that took that country out of the Axis and into the Allied camp prompted German intervention. Because the Greeks had concentrated all of their divisions on the Albanian border to stop the Italians, the Bulgarian border was almost totally undefended and it was from there that the Germans struck. The result was the swift defeat of the Greek forces and on April 23 King George II relocated to the island of Crete. When that position came under attack by German airborne troops, he was forced to relocate again to the safety of British headquarters in Egypt. By April 20 the Greeks had surrendered, the troops were given very honorable terms in recognition of how hard they had fought and most of Greece came under Italian occupation.
|Germans occupy Greece|
Resistance movements, of course, emerged and they tended to be dominated by communists and other revolutionary republicans who saw this as their great chance to seize power with the King and Metaxas out of the country. King George II did not stay in Egypt long where he was made to feel unwelcome by the pro-Italian King Farouk and so he moved on to England. Regular Greek forces continued to serve alongside the other Allies in the Middle East theater of operations. At home, acts of resistance, first against the Bulgarians and then against the Germans, provoked harsh retaliation. Meanwhile, similar to what happened in regards to other countries in the region, the British government, seeing the preponderance of leftists among those fighting the Germans, pressured King George II to form a government-in-exile that was more to the left, casting off those who had been serving him when the crisis began. As a result, only two members of the Metaxas regime were left in the new government. However, Britain did stand up for Greece when dealing with the Soviet Union that expected to take control of the whole Balkan peninsula when the war was over. While the rest was consigned to the Soviet sphere of influence, Greece would not and the British stuck to their guns on that score.
|King George II in Egypt|
It was an unenviable position for King George II to be in. While being publicly celebrated in London and Washington DC, he was obliged to name Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens to the post of regent in 1945 and he proceeded to appoint a mostly republican government. By this time the British had cleared the Germans out of Greece and the King had been rather forced to agree to yet another plebiscite on the future of the monarchy when the war was over. However, a rival communist government was also set up in Greece and so, as the Germans retreated, outright civil war erupted between the Greek royalists and the communists, backed of course by the Soviet Union. King George II was beginning to suffer poor health and the turmoil and suffering of his people took a heavy toll. Already his wife, Elizabeth of Romania, had divorced him, being unable to cope with the stressful life of the Greek monarchy and being increasingly sidelined he was forced to settle down in England and simply await the results of the struggle at home. Finally, in 1946, World War II having ended, the plebiscite was held and the communists boycotted it, allowing the royalists to sweep to an easy victory.
|King George II addresses the U.S. Congress|
By 1947 the British were no longer led by Churchill but by the leftist Clement Attlee who started decolonization and moving Britain in a socialist direction. Supporting Greece against communist insurgents was something Britain was no longer capable or, under the current government, very willing to do. The United States of America, from 1947, then became the major supporter of the Greek royalists with President Harry Truman pledging all necessary support for King Paul. Predictably, the communists in Greece began portraying the King and any loyal government of being puppets of the United States, playing on popular anti-American sentiments. Queen Frederika of Brunswick, a zealous anti-communist, was also singled out for particular attack by the treasonous press, some days attacking her for her German background, other times for her close ties with America. Eventually, however, under the steady leadership of King Paul, the civil war ended in a victory for the Greek royalists, peace returned and the economy began to recover. The republicans, as ever, did not go away and, once again, bided their time for another crisis to take advantage of in order to seize power. They would eventually get their chance and the world is free to view how Greece has fared under their rule.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
|King Philip II of Spain|
It was not until 1570 that the Kingdom of Manila, on the island of Luzon, was taken and it became the capital city and has remained so ever since. Until 1821 The Philippines were, within the Spanish empire, categorized with “New Spain” which was centered on what is today Mexico. It is interesting to note that Mexico was thus the Spanish colony most connected to The Philippines (in terms of trade and communication) and long after The Philippines were parted from Spain, the contribution of Mexico to the Allied cause in World War II, which consisted of the 201st Squadron (the “Aztec Eagles”) was in driving the Japanese out of The Philippines in 1945. The two countries have a unique connection. However, while Spanish forces were still expanding their control over The Philippines, threats of domination by another power were almost constant due to the key location of the islands astride the South China Sea trade routes. The powerful ruler of Japan, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, demanded that they become vassals of Japan but, of course, Spain was having none of that and Lord Hideyoshi was not in a position to do anything about it. There were attacks by the Dutch and the Portuguese on The Philippines, all basically fighting for control of commerce in the region and there was a very dangerous series of attacks from China. These invasions were not on the part of the Great Ming Empire but rather a notorious Chinese pirate named Limahong who tried to carve out his own pirate-kingdom in the islands. He managed to dominate some of the local rulers in eastern Luzon and attacked Manila but ultimately the Spanish and Filipino forces defeated him.
|Empire of Brunei flag|
|My own tinkering -NOT an actual flag|
No people, whoever they are, enjoy being ruled by outsiders and there were plenty of examples of injustice on the part of Spain (and later the United States) for the Filipinos to have legitimate grievances over. However, while many today may not wish to acknowledge the fact, The Philippines were simply never presented with an option of being independent or subject to the colonial rule of a foreign power. The islands were not united, were not one country or one people before the Spanish and even if they had been, were too sparsely population because of rampant tropical diseases to ever be able to survive on their own. Thus, the only choice The Philippines ever had was which imperial power was going to have jurisdiction over them. If Spain had not ruled The Philippines, someone else would have and that fact was clear at the outset of the colonial period and would reoccur throughout Filipino history.
|British King George III|
|Queen Isabel II statue, Intramuros|
|Prince Yamagata Aritomo|
The child King Alfonso XIII would be the last monarch The Philippines would ever have. Unrest continued to grow, aided in no small part by the number of people from Latin America who came to the islands whether in private occupations or in government positions, bringing with them a background in republicanism and opposition to Spain. Despite the best efforts of the Queen-mother, acting as regent, in 1898 war broke out between Spain and the United States, mostly over American support for the rebellion in Cuba. The Philippines was a place hardly anyone in America had ever heard of or thought about. Yet, during the war it stood out as an inviting target. Spanish control had been pushed back practically to the walls of the old city itself, (known as Intramuros) in Manila. After a brief battle, mostly a show for honor’s sake, the Spanish surrendered and, so to speak, tossed the Americans the keys as they were leaving. The Spanish flag was lowered, never to be raised again and, to the frustration of the Germans and Japanese, the United States stepped in as the new colonial power, the Spanish being paid about $20 million for their lost territory.
|King Juan Carlos in the Philippines|
|Queen Sofia during her most recent visit to The Philippines|
Friday, May 15, 2015
|Crown Prince Boris w/ Marshal Mackensen in WW1|
Under similar conditions, Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party had come to power in Italy. Political divisions were eliminated, law and order was restored and, as everyone knows, even the trains ran on time. More recently, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party seemed poised to assume total control over Germany. They too promised to end the threat of communist revolution, civil disorder and a redress of grievances from World War I. Many Bulgarian military leaders took inspiration from all of this and, shortly before Hitler did come to power in Germany, they led a successful coup in 1934 that effectively made Bulgaria a military dictatorship under Colonel Kimon Georgiev, leader of the Zveno or “link” organization that called for a union with Yugoslavia. King Boris III was reduced to being a ceremonial figurehead but that situation was not to last long. The Bulgarian monarch was not the sort of man to allow himself to be sidelined and do nothing about it. The following year he organized a royalist counter-coup that ousted Georgiev and replaced him with the monarchist General Pencho Zlatev as prime minister. Later, a civilian but still a loyal monarchist, Andrei Toshev, replaced him.
|Queen Ioanna & the King wearing Italian decorations|
At first, King Boris III declared neutrality. There was no real consensus as to which side Bulgaria should join if it did fight. The King famously said, “My generals are pro-German, my diplomats are pro-British, my queen is pro-Italian and my people are pro-Russian.” However, the war crept ever closer and the Axis powers held out a number of temptations to win Bulgaria over such as reclaiming lost territory from Romania, Yugoslavia and Greece. At first, Hitler did not ask for Bulgarian involvement in the war but simply the right to establish bases for the German air force in Bulgaria and for German troops to move through the country in order to get at actual enemies like Greece and Yugoslavia. The King agreed and, at first, everything seemed to work out. Bulgaria gained territory without actually having to fight. However, things would change dramatically in the pivotal year of 1941. In that year Hitler launched the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. Alongside the Germans, Finns, Italians, Hungarians and Romanians would participate (as well as smaller units from countries as far away as France and Spain) but Bulgaria refused to take an active role in any hostilities against Russia. Needless to say, Hitler was not best pleased.
|King Boris III in World War II|
The United States was rather shocked by this, having no animosity toward Bulgaria and having previously refused to declare war on the country in World War I. Everyone believed that the Bulgarian declaration of war was the result of German pressure and so held off from retaliation. However, FDR finally decided that the situation demanded a response in kind and so, belatedly, declared war on Bulgaria in the summer of 1942. The following year, Sofia would be bombed by Allied air forces. However, Bulgaria was also in a difficult position with her Axis partner Germany. Hitler had been content to allow Bulgaria to sit out the war against Russia at first but in 1942 the tide began to turn and the Nazi dictator became increasingly difficult to deal with. In August of 1943 he demanded that King Boris III come see him and on that visit the Fuhrer launched a verbal tirade against the Bulgarian monarch demanding that he make a greater contribution to the Axis war effort. For hours Hitler ranted and cajoled but, after returning home, King Boris III remarked that he felt he had been successful in his resistance and keeping Bulgaria free of German control.
|The worst of allies|
For the Bulgarian Royal Family, the death of Boris III was the beginning of the end. It was also in 1943 that the King of Italy had dismissed Mussolini and sought an armistice with the Allies. This made the Germans all the more suspicious of the Bulgarians whose queen was the daughter of the King of Italy they considered a traitor to the Axis cause. She, Queen Ioanna (as Giovanna was called in Bulgaria), her daughter and her six-year-old son recently proclaimed King Simeon II were effectively prisoners in their own home at the hands of the Germans. However, even that was not expected to last long with the German forces on the Eastern Front crumbling and the Soviet Red Army pushing ever closer to the Bulgarian frontier. The Queen devised a plan to escape with her children to Syria, via Turkey, with a regency council holding power under Prince Kyril. There was never a chance to pull it off though. In 1944 the Red Army marched into Bulgaria after treacherously declaring war on the country that had gone to great pains to avoid giving Russia any cause for offense. Their advance was not resisted and opposition groups, the Agrarian republicans, communists and the “link” rose up against the monarchy at the same time, taking advantage of the situation. The regency was disbanded and (a year later) all its members were executed. About 200 would die in the overall purge.
|King Simeon II of Bulgaria|
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Probably more out of an urge to rebel and assert his independence from his father rather than genuine ideological agreement, the Prince of Wales openly associated himself with the very leftist and even anti-monarchial opposition leader Charles James Fox. During the American War for Independence, Fox and his clique openly took the side of the rebels, condemning the King and parading about in the blue and buff colors of the continental army. If the Prince of Wales only associated with Fox as a way to annoy his father, Fox likewise had little genuine use for the Prince as well. He disliked monarchy altogether but saw in the Prince of Wales someone he could use to gain power and who could be duped into helping him wreck the political establishment in Britain. However, the Prince of Wales was not the dupe Fox thought he was, as would be proven in due time. First, however, the Prince had to get through his first, really serious, scandal which arose from his love life. Yet, it was not because of the succession of mistresses he had but rather one woman who was actually one of the best things to ever happen to him and who just might have changed the course of his life.
When the Prince of Wales did legally marry it came about not because of romance but because of his mounting debts. The King was absolutely opposed to any increase in his allowance because of his lavish spending. However, Parliament finally agreed to cover his debts if he would settle down and get married. So, in 1795, he agreed to marry his cousin Caroline of Brunswick. It was hardly a match made in Heaven. Bride and groom were repulsed by the other and the Prince was drunk at his own wedding (perhaps the only way he could go through with it). After the birth of their first child early the following year, a daughter, the two lived apart. Meanwhile, the Prince of Wales was becoming more critical to national life as King George III began to show signs of madness, actually the first symptoms of porphyria. As the behavior of the King became more erratic, more looked to the Prince of Wales for leadership. Yet, for some, the Prince seemed all too eager to snatch power from his father. He did himself no favors by associating with the opposition, mocking the King, spreading embarrassing stories about him and even speaking (though surely not seriously) about a sort of palace coup to seize the royal powers for himself. Despite rallying for a time, eventually the mental state of the King became such that he had to be set aside and the Prince of Wales was appointed regent to act on his behalf in 1811.
There was plenty of criticism during the rather short ten-year reign of King George IV for his personal habits, his spending and his interference in politics. That, however, should be kept in perspective. The criticism of his personal life was mostly accurate but his political meddling was mostly due to incorrect assumptions based on his previous association with the Whigs. In fact, he largely stayed out of politics and the era of royal involvement in government seen during the reign of his father stopped and the era of royal non-interference had begun with George IV (or resumed from the first two Georges). However, that fact alone meant that when he did involve himself in political matters, particularly to carry on certain policies of his father (such as blocking Catholic emancipation) caused it to stand out more than it should have. There was also more to the man than the drunken glutton portrayed in the press. Many consider him the most intelligent of the Hanoverian monarchs and, when he was sober, he could demonstrate his knowledge, wit and uncanny memory.
During his reign, King George IV moved considerably to the right from where he had been in his rebellious youth when aligned with Fox. Once the responsibility of royal leadership was fully on his shoulders, George IV realized that the type of ideas espoused by Fox would lead to anarchy and the sort of revolutionary chaos seen in France. Because of this, the Whigs viewed him as a traitor to their cause and would never forgive him for it. However, he was not the sort of man to put up much of a fight in the political arena. By the time he was actually King, with a lifestyle that had aged him beyond his years, he preferred to avoid confrontation whenever possible. As a result, he often promised one group his support on a certain issue only to fail to give it when it seemed there would be resistance. This left him with an untrustworthy reputation that caused most to try to avoid him. He was secluded most of the time but when he did make public appearances he could still awe a crowd with his magnificent fashion sense and showed that he could still display the regal bearing and dignity of his youth, despite his increased years and even more increased waistline. He could still win people over and, while often discounted, his highly choreographed visit to Scotland (the first such royal visit since the Stuart era) did help bring the United Kingdom more closely together.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
|Prince Paul with Adolf Hitler|
Prince Paul was actually much more pro-democracy than the previous monarch, King Alexander I, had been. When World War II broke out, he declared Yugoslavia to be firmly neutral and he took Yugoslavia into the Axis but he did so on three specific conditions, all aimed to keep Yugoslavia from actually playing any part in the war. When seen in context, these conditions and his actions in joining the Axis all make perfect sense. It must be remembered that there were numerous neighboring countries who had designs on Yugoslav territory (an unavoidable consequence of the way it was cobbled together after World War I). In the south were lands Bulgaria thought should belong to them, the same for Hungary in the northeast. Historically Italian areas in the west were also a potential cause of trouble. Prior to the conflict, the Italian military had most expected the next war Italy fought would be against Yugoslavia and Mussolini had given support to the Catholic Croatians who wanted to declare independence from Yugoslavia.
|Prince Paul of Yugoslavia|
Nothing could be more obvious than that Prince Paul was no Nazi or Fascist sympathizer. He wanted to stay out of the war and preserve his country the way it was. However, not all of the Serbian military agreed and the British were quick to encourage them. They did not want Yugoslavia to sit out the war but to join it on the Allied side. This was really quite a despicable thing for the British government to do since there was no realistic way they could support Yugoslavia in the war. Nazi Germany blocked any assistance from coming across the continent and, after the Italian occupation of Albania, Mussolini controlled the entrance to the Adriatic and so could block any help from the sea. The military may have pulled off the coup in any event but what the British were thinking in encouraging and supporting it is hard to fathom. It was the same sort of thinking that led to the humiliating fall of the Kingdom of Norway as but one example. Nonetheless, it happened on March 27, 1941 when a group of air force officers led by General Dusan Simovic forced Prince Paul to resign and go into exile in Greece. There was jubilation in some quarters and Churchill was certainly pleased but this was the start of a long period of suffering for all of the peoples of Yugoslavia and, effectively, the end of the Serbian monarchy.
|King Peter II of Yugoslavia|
The unfortunate Prince Paul was taken into custody by the British and held in house arrest in British East Africa (Kenya) for the remainder of the war. King Peter II went eventually to London (via Greece, Palestine and Egypt) where he finished his studies and joined the British Royal Air Force as well as serving as titular head of the Yugoslavian government-in-exile. At home, Yugoslavia was divided among the Axis forces. Macedonia went to Bulgaria, formerly Hungarian lands were annexed by that country, coastal areas were occupied by Italy, Serbia was occupied by Germany and the Independent State of Croatia was proclaimed by Ante Pavelic. Some supported the Axis forces and others carried on armed resistance. The two primary resistance groups were the royalist Chetniks who continued to fight for King Peter II and the communist partisans led by Tito. In addition to fighting the occupying forces these two groups carried on a bitter civil war within the World War against each other. This is something which has attracted some criticism (invariably aimed at the Chetniks and never the communists) but it was, from a purely Yugoslavian point of view, the conflict that should have had priority. After all, no matter how successful they were, they were not going to win the war against the Axis powers all by themselves. That was up to the Allies. However, the outcome of the civil war would determine if Yugoslavia would survive, whether the former kingdom would continue or whether a Marxist dictatorship were established.
This also coincided with a new strategic plan for the Allies. Consideration had been given to a more massive Allied invasion of southern Europe but Stalin objected to the plan. He wanted it all left to his forces and preferred for the British and Americans to invade Western Europe, opening a new front there to draw German forces away from his advancing Red Army. The Allies abandoned Yugoslavia, along with the other Balkan countries (save Greece which Britain had an interest in) and Eastern Europe as a whole to the monstrous Soviet regime. They abandoned the Chetniks who they had originally supported and who had fought for years, including launching very successful raids against Axis forces on their behalf. It is little wonder, given the situation, that some Chetniks (though not all) decided to join with the Germans and Italians who would at least help them resist the communist partisans. Their reputation has never recovered from this, and it is unfortunate but it should be remembered that it was the decision of the Allies which made the Axis powers the only option left for the Chetniks.
|King Peter II in the RAF|
Looking back, it is easy to be critical of what the Allies did. We are not in the middle of a world war. However, some criticism is justified. Britain and France, as it turns out, entered into a war with Nazi Germany that they could not win on their own. That was their choice. To involve Stalin in the war as a member of the Allied nations, however, was not their choice. That choice was made by one Adolf Hitler when he invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. From that point on, Stalin was going to have some part to play in Eastern Europe whether his other Allies liked it or not, providing the Axis forces were defeated of course (which they were). Even so, what happened to Yugoslavia was a betrayal. Some have tended to exaggerate the role of Britain in the coup that brought down Prince Paul. It was an entirely Yugoslavian affair, however, Britain supported it and perhaps the YRAF officers would not have been so keen on the idea if Britain had not been or had been more realistic about what tangible assistance they could offer when German, Italian and Hungarian troops came surging across their borders. Even so, what happened to Yugoslavia was a betrayal. Finally, the agreement that consigned Eastern Europe to Stalin was not supposed to include the establishment of puppet dictators in every country. Even so, Churchill and FDR should have known better than to think that Stalin would allow other peoples privileges he refused to his own.
|A King betrayed|