An open letter from Kathimerini founder Georgios Vlachos to Hitler

An open letter to His Excellency Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of the German State Excellency, As you are aware, Greece wanted to stay out of the current war. When it broke out, Greece was just recovering from a series of great wounds caused by wars abroad and domestic division; it had neither the strength nor the desire nor any reason to get involved in a war whose outcome will certainly have serious consequences for the whole world but whose onset did not present direct dangers to Greece. Even if one does not take into account Greece’s direct statements, nor the documents that it published, nor the many speeches and documents certifying its intention to stay out of the war, one should pay heed to the following: That when the Greeks found the fragments of the torpedo that sank the light cruiser Elli in the port of Tinos (on August 15, 1940) and they confirmed that it was Italian, they hid the fact. Why? Because if they had revealed this they would have been obliged to declare war or to accept the declaration of war. Greece did not want war with the Italians, neither on its own nor as part of an alliance, nor with other Balkan countries nor with the English. All it wanted was to live peacefully in this small corner of the world, because it was exhausted, because it had fought much and because its geographical position is such that it does not wish to have as its enemy the Germans on land nor the English at sea. Until that moment, the moment that the Elli was sunk, in addition to its pacifist inclinations, Greece also had the additional security of two signatures: An Italian non-aggression agreement and an English one guaranteeing Greece’s territorial integrity. And so, shortly after the attack on the Elli, which provided tangible proof of future Italian aggression, convinced that the one signature was worthless, Greece still did not turn to the other side, as it ought to have done. Instead, it turned to you, Excellency. Do you recall? And it requested your protection. And what reply did Greece receive? I am not well-informed as to the reply. I know, however, according to our now-deceased prime minister, that Germany replied that we should not provide a pretext – that we should not mobilize, in other words – and for us to remain quiet. So we did not provide cause, we did not mobilize, we remained quiet. Or rather, we should say we slept quietly because a day earlier the Italians had hosted a dinner for us, when the Italian ambassador presented the ultimatum. And so, to whom would you expect Greece to turn? To the Italians, in the knowledge of where the torpedo came from, and the worthless signature? But they had declared war on Greece. Toward you? But you, unfortunately, were in Florence that very morning, on October 28. Should Greece stand alone? But it had neither an air force nor materiel nor money nor a fleet. So it turned toward the only other power whose signature it held. The English. And they, even though their homeland was burning, who were on wary guard on the Channel’s shores, who did not have enough means for their own security, heeded our call. They came immediately. Without demands, without negotiations, without documents. And after a few days, on the front that the brutal Italian surprise attack had established in the mountains of Epirus, the first Greek soldiers and the first English airman fell. You and the whole world know what happened after those hours. The Italians were defeated. And they were defeated in man-to-man fighting by us – the small, the weak. Not by the English. Because no English soldier set foot in Albania. The Italians were defeated. Why? Because they had no ideals, because they did not have the heart for this. Because… – But that is not our issue here. You remained a spectator of this battle, and we were told that you said: «This issue does not concern me. It is an Italian problem. I will not intervene unless English soldiers disembark in Thessaloniki in large numbers.» Since then, Excellency, we could ask you: «What about Florence? When, on the day that the Italians attacked Greece, you met with them on the banks of the Arno and handed over Greece?» But we did not wish to pose the question. Along with the fragments of the Italian torpedo we also hid in our pocket the meeting in Florence. And when some indiscreet voices would remind us of this we would reply: «The Germans disagreed. The Italians tricked them.» Why? Because we wanted to believe this. Because it was in our interest. Later, as we advanced into Albania, so did relations between Germany and Greece improve. The swastika flew above your Embassy in Athens at the start of the new year. It was lowered to half-staff when Prime Minister (Ioannis) Metaxas died. Your ambassador visited to congratulate the new prime minister. Trade relations between our two countries had resumed. And you protested vigorously when an American newspaper reported that German tanks had appeared in Albania. So all was well. We were in Albania, you were spectators and our English allies took part only with their aircraft and their fleet. Only. You know how hard we tried to keep their participation at that. We need only recall that when a British airplane crashed in Thessaloniki we requested of the British that they not be the ones to recover it. So that not even 10 English soldiers be seen there. So that we do not provide a pretext. You laugh?… You should. But at this time, even though we had relations, even though Germany’s position created a sense of some calm, you started to assemble forces in Romania. At first they were intended to train Romanians. Then they were to protect the oil there. Then they were to protect that country’s borders. Then – then they were 400,000. At that time, the undersigned visited Bulgaria on a journalistic mission and passed along the route that your troops are now passing. On his return, he told our late prime minister: «The road to Sofia has been widened. The wooden bridges have been recently fortified with supports. The shavings from the timber are still there. It is clear that the Bulgarians have worked hastily to prepare the road for an army to pass upon it…» After this, what was Greece to do? To request assistance? Not to request assistance? To show trust? Not to show trust? Could Greece remain unmoved when it saw the Germans on the Bulgarian border, when it counted them crossing the Danube, when it saw them entering Sofia and forging an alliance with the Bulgarians, when it heard the Bulgarians talk about the national goals that they wanted to achieve? Could Greece believe that the Germans were in Koula (on the Greek-Bulgarian border) in order to protect Romanian oil? But even so, let us leave all these incidents and declarations and history aside and let us come to the present. It appears, according to all the world’s radio stations, that the Germans want to invade Greece. And we ask you: Why? If the operation against Greece were deemed necessary for the Axis from the start, then (Italian ambassador Count Emmanuele) Grazzi would not have appeared on his own (to Metaxas) four months ago at 3 o’clock in the morning. Italy and Germany together would have presented another ultimatum, with different contents, with different deadlines. So, the operation against Greece was not deemed necessary for the Axis at the start. But is it now? Why? So that there may not be a new front against Germany in the Balkans? But that is nonsense. Neither Greece, which is at war, nor England (it clearly says as much in the official statement of two days ago, on March 6, but common sense argues for this even more strongly), nor Serbia, nor Turkey have any reason to provoke the further spread of the war. The war as it is is enough for them. In which case, why? Is it so that the Italians can be rescued in Albania? But what kind of rescue will this be? Will the Italians not be seen by the whole world to have been defeated totally, finally and for all time the moment the first German soldier sets foot in Greece? Will the whole world not cry out that all 45 million of them attacked our small nation of 8 million and they now call on the help of another 85 million to save them? And in the end, they may want to be rescued, but why should others come to their rescue in a way that is so demeaning? When we can help rescue them without making fools of them? Let the Italians leave Albania of their own accord… Let them tell everyone that they beat us, that they got tired of chasing us around, that they have had their fill of glory and are now leaving. We will help them. But you may ask, Excellency, «All this is well and good, but what about the English?» However, Excellency, we did not bring the English to Greece, the Italians did. Can we now tell those whom the Italians brought to go? And let us say that we tell them to leave. Who do we address this to? To the living. But how do we ask for the removal of those who have died? Those who fell in our mountains, those who – wounded – landed their planes in Attica and left their last breath here, those who, though their own country was in flames, came and fought here and fell here and found their grave here? Listen, Excellency, there are shameful deeds that are not committed in Greece. And that would be a most shameful deed. We can chase out neither the living nor the dead. We will not chase out anyone. We will stand with them, here, until there is a ray of sunshine and the storm is over. And you? You – they always say – will try to invade Greece. And we? We are a naive nation still and we do not believe this. We do not believe that an army with a long history and tradition – which even its enemies do not deny – will want to soil itself with a horribly wretched act. We do not believe that a heavily armed State of 85 million people fighting to create «a new world order» will ask for an attack on a small Nation that is fighting for its freedom against an Empire of 45 million. Because, what will this army do, Excellency, if instead of infantry, artillery and divisions Greece sends to its borders 20,000 wounded – without legs, without arms, in their bloodied bandages – to meet it? Is there an army anywhere that could attack such border guards? But no, this will not happen. If called upon, the army of Greece, whatever it is that remains free, will stand in Thrace they way it stood in Epirus. It will fight in Thrace as it did in Epirus. It will fight hard. It will die. And it will await the return from Berlin of the runner who came here five years ago and took with him the flame from Olympia, only to return with a torch to light a fire that threatens this land which may be small but is also great. This land that taught the world to live will now teach it how to die.