||"dawnbreak in the west"|
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Axis mismanagement of the Balkans
Hitler invaded Stalin's Russia in 1941. This is often considered a folly on Hitler's part; but it was something the man had been planning all his life. The true problems with his invasion were in its execution. And none of the invasion's mistakes were more damaging than the time he initiated it: 22 June 1941, giving him insufficient time to secure Russia's internal networks before winter.
The reason for that, we were always taught, was because Hitler was bogged down in the Balkans that spring. And the reason for that was because anti-Nazi factions in the Balkans had taken over most of Yugoslavia and Greece, and were threatening the rest. Hitler had no choice but to intervene.
The ultimate cause was Hitler's ally in Italy, Benito Mussolini. He had invaded Greece the prior autumn, and was making a mess of things there. The Croats in Yugoslavia are Catholic and more-or-less pro-Mussolini, and the Bosnian Muslims there were anti-Semitic and pro-Hitler. (The 1943 Encyclopaedia Britannica mistakenly implies that the Croats supported Mussolini out of cowardice. If fact their Ustashe regiments proved very brave... on behalf of evil.) But there were also plenty of Orthodox Serbs in Yugoslavia, who have always viewed themselves as the borderguard of the lost Byzantine civilisation. They had no desire to see Mussolini control Greece, nor to see Hitler reduce fellow Slavs in Russia to serfdom. When the Yugoslav king made up his mind in March 1941 to support the Axis, the Serbs had him removed literally within the week.
Hitler was (just) smart enough to recognise this. Mussolini, not so much.
I do however wonder to what degree the Croats emphasised with the occupied Czechs and especially Poles. Maybe they expected that as Mussolini men they would receive a better deal.
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