How were the Bulgarians regarded by the Nazis during World War II?

How were the Bulgarians regarded by the Nazis during World War II?

On one hand, the Bulgarians "signed on," with Nazi Germany when the latter was looking for Balkan allies against Russia. So did Hungary and Romania.

Hungary had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I, and also had an alliance with Italy (against Yugoslavia). Romania had been pro-Allied during World War I, but sided with Germany for roughly the same reasons as Finland; the Soviet Union had annexed parts of Romania (Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina) in 1940. Bulgaria had aided the Central Powers against the Serbs during World War I, and did somewhat the same for the Axis against Yugoslavia in 1941 when that country (originally an Axis signatory) "backed out."

But unlike the other two Balkan states, Bulgaria did not willingly send troops to Russia to assist Germany. Also, Bulgarians resisted Nazi efforts to round up the country's Jews, unlike the others. Finally, the Bulgarians were (south) Slavs, whom Hitler, at least, disliked.

In this regard, they might have been considered similar to the treacherous (Yugo)slavs. Or were they seen as a Turkic people that some scholars consider them to be? (Turkey had also been a German ally in World War I.)

Did the Nazis have similar views of the Bulgarians as the other (non-Slavic) Axis signatories after 1941? Or were they considered a "necessary evil" to be dealt with after the war more harshly than the others?

The Nazis did not spend that much time regarding Bulgaria. The country was important for access to Greece and, eventually maybe, Turkey and the Middle East. Its tobacco kept German soldiers in cigarettes. As long as it was docile, it wasn't worth Germany's attention. That was just the way Bulgaria liked it, since in return they got territory from Yugoslovia, Romania, and Greece that they believed was Bulgarian.

In German eyes, Bulgarians tended to be regarded as an industrious, if primitive, peasant people. The country does have an advantage in being beautiful, with good food, tobacco, meat, etc. There was much for Germans to enjoy in going there during the war. Also to get there, they tended to go through Romania, which although allied to Germany and actually fighting in the war with troops, Germans tended to despise. Serbians, on the other hand, were perceived as "too big for their britches" - after all they had dared to resist in March 1941. The Bulgarians by contrast were quaint and "knew their place." I'm only talking about perceptions here, mainly those gathered from reading letters sent home by German soldiers, memoirs, and periodicals such as Das Reich.

Unfortunately the answers here expressed earlier are wrong.

  1. Hitler hated the slavs.
  2. Hitler did NOT consider bulgarians to be slavic. "The idea that bulgarians are slavs is nonsense, bulgarians are turkomen" - A. Hitler.
  3. Hitler considered the "turkomen" to be aryans -> Hitler liked Bulgaria.

It really is as simple as that.

Less known fact is that Hitler considered slavic people as simply non-aryans, non-aryan category didn't automatically mean that the race should be exterminated, just take a note, they set up alliance with Japan too, and Hitler gave many Japanese citizens the "honorary aryan" status. The fact they aren't aryans was used to justify invasion of the territory of Poland, Russia and the area between them. Many TV shows and movies interpreting this as hatred against slavs but in reality he wanted to expand Germany to east and take their land.

Read the following wikipedia link on relation how they treated people who fit in category as "non-aryans". This fits to hungarians, slovaks and croatians too, not sure about romanians.

Nazis used anti-Slavic propaganda to justify the invasion of Poland and the Soviet Union and in according with their ideology of Lebensraum ("living space") for the Germans in Eastern Europe, although a very small percentage of people who the Nazis deemed in Eastern Europe to be descendants of ethnic German settlers and who were willing to be Germanised were accepted as part of the Aryan master race (Herrenvolk).

So the entire non-aryan policy can be summarized by following statement: those non-aryans who are harmless, can be integrated to future Germany if they don't take too much space from future German Reich. The thinking behind is, Hitler certainly didn't want slavic majority in the 1000 years Reich.

To answer straightly your question: Bulgaria (as Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Finland) wasn't in the way of plan of greater Germany.

The first world war's role of Hitler's allies weren't important. Just think about it: Italy, Romania, Bulgaria: they were all on the Antant side. Hitler had different idea than licking wounds, he sincerely believed he can make an agreement with UK for a long time, but it didn't happen. Hitler did politics to his own favour, he showed enough flexibility when it was neccessary to reach his goals. He even created alliance with soviets to divide Poland, gave back territories to Hungary, created puppet states where it was neccessary.

World War II: In Depth

The mass murder of Europe’s Jews took place in the context of World War II. As German troops invaded and occupied more and more territory in Europe, the Soviet Union, and North Africa, the regime’s racial and antisemitic policies became more radical, moving from persecution to genocide.

This content is available in the following languages


  • Initial neutrality (September 1939 – 1 March 1941)
  • Axis Powers (1 March 1941 – 8 September 1944)
  • Occupation in Thrace and Macedonia
  • International situation
  • Holocaust
  • Allies (September 1944 – May 1945)
  • Consequences and results
  • Armed forces
  • See also
  • References
  • External links

As an ally of Nazi Germany, Bulgaria participated in the Holocaust, causing the deaths of 11,343 Jews, and though 48,000 Jews survived the war, they were subjected to forcible internal deportation, dispossession, and discrimination. [3] Bulgaria's wartime government was pro-German under Georgi Kyoseivanov, Bogdan Filov, Dobri Bozhilov, and Ivan Bagryanov. It joined the Allies under Konstantin Muraviev in early September 1944, then underwent a coup d'état a week later, and under Kimon Georgiev was pro-Soviet thereafter.

The Top 10 Most Wanted Missing Art Works From World War II

When Germany’s Focus magazine revealed earlier this week that authorities had found a historic trove of missing 20 th century European art suspected of being looted by the Nazis, it made headlines all over the world. For art sleuths searching for missing works, it was a sign that there is still a chance to uncover lost treasures.

One of the many legacies of the Third Reich is its purge of private art collections. Up to 200,000 art works are thought to have gone missing during the war, says Katya Hills, client development manager at the London-based Art Loss Register, the world’s largest database of lost and stolen art.

The organization is currently on the hunt for 30,000 items listed as looted or missing from this era.

Below is a list—compiled by the Art Loss Register—of the most valuable and famous artworks to have been lost or stolen during World War II. Hills hopes that some of the works may be among the over 1,400 items revealed to have been found in the latest Nazi art bust.

The Luger P08 has a sinister reputation, but it’s really just an innovative pistol

George Luger took that statement seriously. The result was a pistol known for its accuracy, the ammunition it introduced to the militaries of the world and the evil reputation it later gained.

The P08 nine-millimeter Parabellum—or Luger—pistol was the brainchild of its namesake inventor, and it served Germany faithfully during both world wars. Often associated with the Nazi regime, it was the handgun of the Kaiser’s Soldaten before Hitler took power.

Yet it’s more closely associated with the latter. If you watch a World War II movie, you almost expect a barking Gestapo officer to start frantically waving a Luger around.

“From its adoption, the Luger was synonymous with the German military through the end of World War II,” Aaron Davis wrote in The Standard Catalog of the Luger. “Ask any World War II vet of the [European Theater of Operations] what the most prized war souvenir was and the answer will invariably come back, ‘a Luger.’”

Although chambered for several calibers, the most common Luger model used nine-millimeter Parabellum ammunition, a caliber that swept the world after World War I, and which owed its name to the Latin saying.

Armies around the world still use this round in various submachine guns. It’s also the round fired by the Beretta M-9 pistol, currently the official sidearm of the United States military.

At top and above—Luger pistols. Thomas Quine, Askild Antonsen/Flickr photos

The Luger is a recoil-operated, locked breech, semi-automatic handgun with an eight-round capacity. It has a unique toggle-lock action, which uses a jointed arm to lock the weapon, instead of the slide action used by almost every other semi-auto pistol in the world.

Luger got his initial idea for the pistol from Hugo Borchardt, designer of the bizarre-looking C-93. Borchardt’s pistol was powerful and accurate, but heavy, awkward to hold and very expensive to produce. Luger took the complex toggle-lock action, simplified it, angled the pistol grip at 55 degrees—to make the weapon more comfortable to hold—and produced the gun in a smaller package.

The Luger Model 1900 was the first weapon engraved with the letters DWM—for the Berlin manufacturer Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken—indicating the point of origin for all early models of the pistol.

The Swiss first purchased the Luger Model 1900, originally chambered in 7.65 millimeter. By 1906, DWM made pistols for Brazil, Bulgaria, Holland, Portugal and Russia.

The U.S. Army even briefly considered the Luger before turning to the M1911 .45-caliber pistol. However, other customers—including the German navy—wanted a bigger round. By 1908, the classic nine-millimeter Luger was the standard, hence the designation Pistole 1908.

The Luger remained the standard service pistol of the German army until 1938, when the Walther P-38 nine-millimeter pistol entered service. Despite its good technical reputation, the Luger is still a complicated machine with several downsides.

When the pistol’s breech is open, the jointed arm sits at an acute angle—the kind of mechanics that make the pistol susceptible to malfunctions because of fouling.

In fact, the Browning Hi-Power became the Luger’s greatest competitor, because of the Browning’s simplicity—which mattered to soldiers who had to field-strip and clean the handgun in the field.

Yet, the Luger has a reputation for toughness and accuracy that obviously served German soldiers well. Lugers from the early 20th century are particularly well-made, built to standards so exacting that many P08s that first saw service during World War I were completely usable during World War II and beyond.

Luger P08s were highly prized trophies of war. Allied soldiers captured thousands of them—and several episodes of the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers highlights an American soldier’s quest to obtain one.

Stars & Stripes cartoonist Bill Mauldin referenced the Luger in one of the most popular images of the war. In his cartoon, one German prisoner says to another German prisoner, “Luger, $100 … camera, $150 … Iron Cross, $12 … It is good to be captured by Americans!”

However, the Germans quickly realized they could kill or wound trophy-seeking soldiers by wiring discarded Lugers on the battlefield to hand grenades or mines, making the pistol a potentially deadly souvenir.

But the Luger was its own worst enemy. Like a lot of German military hardware, it was expensive to produce—one of the reasons why Hitler’s army turned to the less-expensive Walther.

After World War II, the Swiss stopped using the Luger. Other countries soon followed. But collectors have always valued the pistol. It screams “bad-boy gun” because of its Nazi past, and rarer Lugers such as the ones chambered for the 7.65-millimeter round sometimes sell in excess of $1,200.

11th Armored Division Campaigns during World War II

Formed in 1942, the 11th Armored Division landed on the Normandy beaches in France in mid-December 1944. Shortly after its arrival in Europe, the "Thunderbolt" division was deployed to Belgium to attack advancing German forces during the Battle of the Bulge. In March 1945, the 11th moved into the Rhineland and advanced eastward into the heart of Germany. The following month, the unit moved southward from Thuringia into Bavaria, capturing Coburg on April 11 and Bayreuth on April 14. On May 5, the 11th took the Austrian city of Linz, and a few days later met up with advancing Soviet forces.

How were the Bulgarians regarded by the Nazis during World War II? - History

I found this 1917 advertisement for swastika jewelry while browsing through the NY Public Library Digital Gallery. The text reads in part:

To the wearer of swastika will come from the four winds of heaven good luck, long life and prosperity. The swastika is the oldest cross, and the oldest symbol in the world. Of unknown origin, in frequent use in the prehistoric items, it historically first appeared on coins as early as the year 315 B.C.

As this suggests, while the symbol of the swastika is most frequently associated with Hitler and Nazis during World War II, and is still used by neo-Nazi groups, the symbol itself has a much longer history. From wikipedia:

Archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates from the Neolithic period. An ancient symbol, it occurs mainly in the cultures that are in modern day India and the surrounding area, sometimes as a geometrical motif and sometimes as a religious symbol. It was long widely used in major world religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Before it was co-opted by the Nazis, the swastika decorated all kinds of things. Uni Watch has tons of examples. Here it is on a Finnish military plane:

A women’s hockey team called the Swastikas from Edmonton (from 1916):

In the comments, Felicity pointed to this example:

My mom is a quilter and collects antique quilts (when she can afford them). She says that while in general, antique quilts and quilt-tops have gone up a great deal in price over the decades, there’s still one sort you can pick up for a song — swastika quilts.

It’s kind of sad to think of somebody in 1900 putting all that time and hand-stitching into a ‘good luck’ quilt that is now reviled.

All of these examples occurred before the Nazis adopted the swastika as their symbol (and changed it slightly by tilting it on a 45-degree angle). Of course, the original meaning or usage of the swastika is beside the point now. Because it is so strongly associated with the Nazis, it’s impossible to use it now without people reading it as a Nazi symbol. And in fact it’s unimaginable that a group in the U.S. or Europe would use the swastika today without intentionally meaning to draw on the Nazi association and the ideas espoused by Hitler and his party.

Wendy Christensen is an Assistant Professor at William Paterson University whose specialty includes the intersection of gender, war, and the media. You can follow her on Twitter.

Comments 90

Elizabeth &mdash June 3, 2008

To an educated eye one can automatically tell those are not the Nazi swastikas, as the Nazi swastika is on a slant.

Wendy &mdash June 3, 2008

True, the Nazi swastika is tilted on a 45 degree angle. Nonetheless, the swastikas in this 1917 ad evoke Nazism now, post-WWII (which I imagine is why it was part of the online library gallery of racist images and symbols). My guess would be that either version of the image would evoke Nazism if someone wore it on t-shirt today.

ESS &mdash June 4, 2008

This post reminded me of one done by Paul Lukas at UniWatch, a website that examines the "Obsessive Study of Athletics Aesthetics," that examined the use of the swastika as a logo for various sports teams.

Here is the link:

Sociological Images » WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO BEHIND YOUR BACK (DECEMBER 2008) &mdash January 1, 2009

[. ] Remember how the swastika didn’t used to connote total evil? Neither did we. We added several more examples of pre-Nazi uses of the swastika to this post. [. ]

Felicity &mdash January 2, 2009

My mom is a quilter and collects antique quilts (when she can afford them.) She says that while in general, antique quilts and quilt-tops have gone up a great deal in price over the decades, there's still one sort you can pick up for a song -- swastika quilts.

It's kind of sad to think of somebody in 1900 putting all that time and hand-stitching into a 'good luck' quilt that is now reviled. Here's one photo I found: Nevada state museum

Stompie smax &mdash January 2, 2009

incidentally, that use by world religions isn't entirely past tense. it probably comes as a bit of a shock to many visiting westerners that the swastika is used as the symbol for buddhist temples on most japanese maps.

Carrie &mdash January 2, 2009

To add to the comment about temples in Japan, in Korea we have swastikas marking traditional medicine shops and other small Buddhist run/related shops.

Sociological Images » WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO BEHIND YOUR BACK (JANUARY 2009) &mdash February 1, 2009

[. ] found another instance of pre-nazi uses of the swastika, this time the symbol was used in a warm, cozy quilt. Thanks to Felicity who pointed us to it [. ]

T &mdash February 3, 2009

The tiles in the entrance of a pre-war (1928) apartment building in Brooklyn feature swastikas. I used to live there and the porter told us that a lot of the buildings in the neighborhood had swastika motifs -- I have seen swastikas worked into the borders of wood floors as well. According to the porter, a lot of these buildings were constructed by teams of native american builders from upstate New York. He also claimed that building inspectors had tried to get them to replace the tiles over the years.

Simono &mdash February 3, 2009

At least in germany, austria everybody knows of pre-nazi swastika use. though we call it "swastika" in non-nazi context ("hakenkreuz" - if its nazi context).

Simono &mdash February 3, 2009

oh and you are not allowed to wear those in public, at least in germany+austria. that could theoretically get you in jail for a long time (short version:

Lila &mdash February 26, 2009

There are big swastika tiles on the landings of the stairs in one of the buildings at the University of Chicago. I have no idea how old they are, but it really freaked me out last week when I noticed I was standing on one! :)

Ego Kornus &mdash March 28, 2009

Great post,
and Swastika is good!

Sociological Images » What We’ve Been Up To Behind Your Back (June 2009) &mdash July 1, 2009

[. ] Gwen and I saw a swastika design built into a brick chimney. It reminded us of Wendy’s fascinating post on the history of the swastika symbol from June 2008. Before WWII, it didn’t signify oppressive racist ideology at all. The [. ]

Seatangle &mdash July 4, 2009
World War II Era Converse with Swastika Soles » Sociological Images &mdash June 2, 2010

[. ] also our post on the surprising history of the symbol. var object = SHARETHIS.addEntry(< title:'World War II Era Converse with Swastika Soles', url: [. ]

Allie &mdash June 2, 2010
Sara &mdash June 7, 2010

We Hindus and Jains can't use our symbol in the USA because people think its a Nazi symbol. &

Most awkward gift wedding gift ever | When Latke Met Ladki &mdash September 19, 2011

[. ] opening). In Hinduism and many other Indian religions like Jainism and Buddhism, it is regarded as one of the oldest symbols of prosperity, good luck, health and heaven dating as far back as 3300–1300 BCE. The swastika is as common and accepted in Hindu communities [. ]

Mike T. &mdash August 5, 2013

Didn't swastika symbolize the sun before hitler has used it? I remember seeing on tv that in India there are still bridges that had swastika decorations.

Orse &mdash November 11, 2013
Ely &mdash May 23, 2014

The guna people here in Panama have used the swastika since forever. It's on their flag:

That's Guna Yala's flag (the autonomous territory, the "comarca" where a good deal of the gunas live).

I guess it helps that Panama is a country that has never had much to do with the nazis. Sure, when I think about swastikas, my brain screams "nazis", but if I see it around here, in Panama, I'm like "ohhhhh, a guna thing, that's a really pretty handicraft. ".

Not to mention all the hindus who wear swastika necklaces and stuff sometimes.

Daniel Pose &mdash May 24, 2014

If the 1917 swastikas are remarkable, then readers will marvel at photos showing that in 1917 the US's Pledge of Allegiance used the early stiff-armed salute that was adopted later in Germany. The pledge was the origin of the Nazi salute and Nazi behavior (see the discoveries of the historian Dr. Rex Curry).

The German National Socialist's symbol was not a "swastika" in that the German socialists did not call their symbol a "swastika." They called their symbol a "Hakenkreuz," which means "hooked cross" because their symbol was a type of cross. It was also not a swastika in that they used it to represent crossed "S" letters for their dogma -"socialism"- as alphabetical symbolism (again see work of Dr. Curry). German turned their symbol 45 degress and points it in the "S" letter direction. So, the Germans did not "hijack" the symbol. The hijacking of the symbol was done by people who did not want to disparage the Christian cross, so they began deliberately mis-identifying the German socialist symbol as a "swastika." That continues to this day. If you want to rehabilitate the swastika, then you should explain these differences so that others will understand.

One reason that the writer Christensen does not know this is because she uses wakipedia (wikipedia). She should not let students her university cite wakipedia and neither should she. The swastika is one example of many topics on which wakipedia will never publish the truth.

The Holocaust: Non-Jewish Victims

Although Jews were the primary victims of the Nazi&rsquos evil, many other groups were targeted based on both racial and political grounds. Other groups singled out by the Nazis included LGBTQ individuals, the physically and mentally disabled, Roma (gypsies), Poles and other Slavic peoples, Jehovah&rsquos Witnesses, and members of political opposition groups. However tragic, these non-Jewish victims are typically not considered victims of the Holocaust. According to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, &ldquoBy the 1950s, the English term Holocaust came to be employed as the term for the murder of the Jews in Europe by the Nazis. Although the term is sometimes used with reference to the murder of other groups by the Nazis, strictly speaking, those groups do not belong under the heading of the Holocaust, nor are they included in the generally accepted statistic of six million victims of the Holocaust.&rdquo

How Many Non-Jews Were Killed*

Five million is frequently cited as the number of non-Jews killed by the Nazis. The figure is inaccurate and was apparently an invention of famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal. According to historian Deborah Lipstadt, he began to refer to &ldquoeleven million victims&rdquo of the Holocaust, six million Jews and five million non-Jews in the 1970s. Wiesenthal later admitted making up the figure to promote interest in the Holocaust among non-Jews. Lipstadt, says &ldquohe chose five million because it was almost, but not quite, as large as six million.&rdquo

The number of non-Jewish civilians murdered for racial or ideological reasons in concentration camps, historian Yehuda Bauer estimates, was no more than half a million. As many as 35 million non-Jews were killed by the Nazis in the course of the war, he said.

Why Did Hitler Kill Non-Jews?

First, we need to examine Hitler&rsquos egocentric and maniac ideology. Hitler, who was Chancellor of Germany during the Holocaust, came to power in 1933 when Germany was experiencing severe economic hardship. Hitler promised the Germans that he would bring them prosperity and that his military actions would restore Germany to a position of power in Europe.

Hitler had a vision of a Master Race of Aryans that would control Europe. He used very powerful propaganda techniques to convince not only the German people, but countless others, that if they eliminated the people who stood in their way and the degenerates and racially inferior, they &ndash the great Germans would prosper.

Hitler&rsquos first target was Germany&rsquos closest neighbor to the east, Poland. An agricultural country with little military power. Hitler attacked Poland from three directions on September 1, 1939 and, in just over one month, Poland was overrun.

In Poland, Hitler saw an agricultural land near Germany, populated by modest but strong and healthy farmers. Hitler quickly took control of Poland by wiping out the Polish intelligentsia. During the next few years, millions of other Polish citizens were rounded up and either placed in slave labor for German farmers and factories or taken to concentration camps where many were either starved and worked to death or used for scientific experiments.

The Jews in Poland were forced inside ghettos, but the non-Jews were made prisoners inside their own country. No one was allowed out. The Germans took over the ranches, farms and Polish factories. Most healthy citizens were forced into slave labor. Young Polish men were drafted into the German army. Blond haired children were &ldquoGermanized&rdquo and trained from an early age to be Nazi supporters.

&ldquoAll Poles will disappear from the world,&rdquo Heinrich Himmler said, It is essential that the great German people should consider it as its major task to destroy all Poles.&rdquo

Jehovah&rsquos Witnesses

Every European country, even Germany, had those who did not believe in the Nazi ideology and who were willing to die for their beliefs. Perhaps no other group stood so firmly in their beliefs as the Jehovah&rsquos Witnesses. Hitler felt particularly threatened by this strong group of Christians because they, from the very beginning, refused to recognize any God other than Jehovah.

When asked to sign documents of loyalty to the Nazi ideology, they refused. Jehovah&rsquos Witnesses were forced to wear purple armbands and thousands were imprisoned as &ldquodangerous&rdquo traitors because they refused to take a pledge of loyalty to the Third Reich.

Roma Gypsies

Like the Jews, the Roma were chosen for total annihilation solely because of their race.

Even though Jews are defined by religion, Hitler saw the Jewish people as a race that he believed needed to be annihilated. Likewise, the Roma were a nomadic people that were persecuted throughout history. Both groups were denied certain privileges in many European countries. The Germans believed both the Jews and Roma were racially inferior and degenerate and therefore worthless.

The Roma were also moved into special areas set up by the Nazis and half a million of them &ndash representing almost the entire Eastern European Roma population &ndash was wiped out during the war.

Courageous Resisters

Every European nation had its courageous resisters. Poland&rsquos Underground army &ndash- made up of children, teenagers, men and women &ndash was responsible for defending the lives of thousands of its Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. Many were killed for their acts of courage against the Nazis.

Even though most German citizens were supportive of Hitler&rsquos plan to control Europe, there were German citizens who died because they refused to go along with Hitler&rsquos plan.

Priests and Pastors Died for Their Beliefs

Hitler wanted to conquer all of Europe and create a new religion based on worship of the Nazi ideology. Since Catholic priests and Christian pastors were often influential leaders in their community, they were sought out by the Nazis. Thousands of Catholic priests and Christian pastors were forced into concentration camps. A special barracks was set up at Dachau, the camp near Munich, Germany, for clergymen. A few survived some were executed, but most were allowed to die slowly of starvation or disease.

Pink Triangles for Homosexuals

Because Hitler&rsquos plan for a great Master Race had no room for homosexuals, many males from all nations, including Germany, were persecuted, tortured and executed. Suspected homosexuals among the Nazis were also sent to concentration camps, some wearing their SS uniforms and medals. The homosexual inmates were forced to wear pink triangles on their clothes so they could be easily recognized and further humiliated inside the camps. Between 5,000 to 15,000 homosexuals died in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

No Place for the Disabled

The Nazis decided that it was a waste of time and money to support the disabled. During Hitler&rsquos &ldquocleansing program,&ldquo thousands of people with various handicaps were deemed useless and put to death like dogs and cats.

Sterilization for Black Children

Prior to World War I, there were very few dark-skinned people of African descent in Germany. But, during World War I, black African soldiers were brought in by the French during the Allied occupation. Most of the Germans, who were very race conscious, despised the dark-skinned &ldquoinvasion.&rdquo Some of these black soldiers married white German women that bore children referred to as &ldquoRhineland Bastards&rdquo or the &ldquoBlack Disgrace.&rdquo

In Mein Kampf, Hitler said he would eliminate all the children born of African-German descent because he considered them an &ldquoinsult&rdquo to the German nation. &ldquoThe mulatto children came about through rape or the white mother was a whore,&rdquo Hitler wrote. &ldquoIn both cases, there is not the slightest moral duty regarding these offspring of a foreign race.&rdquo

The Nazis set up a secret group, Commission Number 3, to organize the sterilization of these &ldquoRhineland Bastards&rdquo to keep intact the purity of the Aryan race. In 1937, all local authorities in Germany were to submit a list of all the mulattos. Then, these children were taken from their homes or schools without parental permission and put before the commission. Once a child was decided to be of black descent, the child was taken immediately to a hospital and sterilized. About 400 children were medically sterilized -- many times without their parents&rsquo knowledge.

Death or Divorce - A Choice for Many

Many husbands and wives of Jews in Germany were forced to choose between divorce or concentration camps. Hitler would not allow &ldquointerracial&rdquo marriages. Those that chose to remain married were punished by imprisonment in camps where many died.

Sources: Holocaust Forgotten (Reprinted with permission from the author)
Yad Vashem
Deborah E. Lipstadt, &ldquoSimon Wiesenthal and the Ethics of History,&rdquo Jewish Review of Books, (Winter 2011)
Ron Kampeas, &ldquo&lsquoRemember the 11 million&rsquo? Why an inflated victims tally irks Holocaust historians,&rdquo JTA, (January 31, 2017).

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Greek Tragedy: Civil War During World War II

On a Friday in mid-September 1944, after a fierce three-day battle outside the Greek town of Meligalas, the victors marched 50 captive soldiers and more than 1,000 civilians into the main square. There, with the frenzied assistance of other villagers, they proceeded to torture, mutilate and murder them—some victims shot or stabbed, others hanged, many beaten to death with clubs, stones, canes, even shoes. When the slaughter was over, the killers unceremoniously dumped the corpses into a nearby well.

The perpetrators were not soldiers of the occupying German, Italian or Bulgarian armies they and their victims were Greek. The incident occurred during an unspeakably bitter civil conflict between the communist and nationalist forces of a war-ravaged Greece, a clash that began even while the country remained under Axis control.

On Oct. 28, 1940, Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini sent his forces into Greece. The Greek army, despite having no armored support, mounted a ferocious counterattack and drove the Italians back across the Albanian border in what many historians consider the first Allied land victory of World War II. Shortly thereafter the British reinforced the Greek army with a small expeditionary force. In April 1941, however—outraged by the humiliating repulse of his Italian allies and anxious to keep the British from using Greece as a base from which to bomb critical oil fields in German-allied Romania—Adolf Hitler postponed his plan to invade Russia and instead launched a blitzkrieg toward Athens. By early June the Wehrmacht had overrun mainland Greece and the Aegean Islands, driving out Allied forces and sending King George II and his government into exile. What followed was a brutal occupation that lasted nearly three and a half years.

Hitler carved up the country, keeping the most strategically important locations (including Athens, Thessaloniki and several key islands) for himself and doling out the remainder to Italy and Bulgaria (which promptly annexed a long-contested portion of northern Greece). The German high command then established a Greek puppet government comprised of collaborators who considered it preferable to go along with their conquerors rather than die resisting them.

It soon became evident, however, no workable accommodation was possible. From the outset the Germans imposed restitution fees, ostensibly to reimburse them for the cost of their invasion and occupation. After stripping the country of its currency, they systematically seized crops and other foodstuffs, as well as the products of Greek commerce, and diverted all commodities and modes of transportation for their own use. The program, little more than officially sanctioned pillaging, left the conquered without food or adequate clothing. By the winter of 1941–42, during what has come to be known as the Great Famine, Greeks were starving by the hundreds each day, with the death toll climbing exponentially. The collaborationist government, which didn’t want to displease its German masters, did nothing to help. To make matters worse, when other nations sent food for relief, it often fell into the hands of either the Germans or government officials and black marketers, who would swap it in exchange for money or personal property. Literally adding insult to injury, as the Greeks starved, growing numbers of German soldiers and civilians came to tour the nation’s ancient monuments, bask on its beaches and frolic in the clear Aegean.

The heavy hand of the occupiers drove thousands of Greek men and women into the mountains to form resistance units. In addition to striking at Axis patrols and outposts, they attacked German supply lines, seriously impeding the flow of materiel to Hitler’s forces in Africa. Far from united under one banner, however, the resistance groups were separated by politics and even regional mistrust. There were really only two forces of significant size—and their mutual enmity nearly rivaled their hatred of the Germans. The largest and best organized movement—the National Liberation Front (EAM) and its military arm, the Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS)—had been formed in 1941 by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and was in direct ideological conflict with the smaller, weaker National Republican Greek League (EDES).

The two forces would occasionally unite to fight their common enemy. The most dramatic example of their tentative cooperation was a raid designated Operation Harling. On Nov. 25, 1942, 86 ELAS and 52 EDES partisans—supporting a dozen-man demolition party of Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE)—destroyed the Gorgopotamos railway viaduct linking Athens and Thessaloniki, temporarily crippling a vital supply link to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s forces in North Africa. Although Operation Harling proved one of the most successful Greek tactical operations of the war and provided a textbook example of effective guerrilla warfare, the truce between EAM and EDES was an uneasy one at best.

Reprisals by the Germans were harsh and indiscriminate, and their Italian and Bulgarian allies followed suit. It was not uncommon for them to execute 50 or more captives, mostly noncombatants, for every Axis soldier killed by Greek guerrillas. They destroyed hundreds of villages—often after having killed the entire male population—and left nearly 1 million people homeless. Again, the collaborationist government did nothing to protect its people. Instead, in a show of solidarity with Germany it formed a 22,000-strong all-Greek force known as the Security Battalions, which roamed the countryside killing anyone suspected of fighting as, or sympathizing with, partisans. The battalions took special pains to hunt down communists, who had opposed the prewar Greek monarchy.

The Germans and their allies initiated an anti-Semitic mini-Holocaust in Greece, rounding up as many of the nation’s Jews as possible—generally with the assistance of the collaborationist government—and shipping them off to Auschwitz and Treblinka. More than 80 percent of Greece’s estimated prewar Jewish population of 60,000 died during the occupation, though some escaped extermination by fleeing to the hills and joining the resistance.

According to the Greek National Council for Reparations From Germany, when the Germans finally evacuated in October 1944 they left more than 800,000 Greek corpses in their wake. As Hitler’s forces withdrew, they destroyed whole towns and villages, roads, bridges, canals and power stations, leaving widespread devastation. Yet the two major Greek resistance forces—EAM and EDES—did not wait for the Germans to leave before turning on one another. They embarked on a civil war that would continue long after the Axis guns were stilled and would suck in British and American dollars, military resources and troops.

In early 1944, months before the German exodus, the communist-dominated EAM set up a provisional government in the mountains of northern Greece, openly defying both the EDES forces and the royalist government in exile. Immediately after the Germans left, the British, who had actively supported Greece throughout the war, re-established a presence in Athens. They brought the opposing factions together and set up a fragile unity government. That effort soon came apart when ELAS refused to turn in its weapons and disband. On Dec. 3, 1944, civil strife broke out, and for the next month and into the New Year, in a series of clashes known as the Dekemvrianá (“December Events”), Athens became a battleground between ELAS and the British-supported government forces.

Ironically, amid the partisan chaos, many of those who had collaborated with the Germans during the occupation managed to elude arrest and punishment, some even finding positions within the government. Greek authorities did try several collaborationist leaders, sentencing one to death (later commuted to life), two to life imprisonment and others to various prison terms. One of those receiving a life sentence was former Prime Minister Ioannis Rallis, who was instrumental in creating the Security Battalions. However, Greek authorities showed little interest in pursuing German war criminals, which was a source of embarrassment to the British, who had set themselves up as the power behind the new government. This pattern, tactfully described as benign judicial neglect, is hardly surprising when one considers that in 1945 liberal-leaning Prime Minister Nikolaos Plastiras was driven from office when it was discovered that during the war he had offered to head a pro-German government in Athens. Two years later the former head of EDES had to resign his cabinet position when his wartime ties to German officers came to light.

The Dekemvrianá was the start of the partisan clash. Filling the vacuum left by the German withdrawal, ELAS had established control of most of Greece, with the exception of Athens and Thessaloniki. Britain—under the direction of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his foreign secretary, Anthony Eden—refused to allow communist rule in Greece and committed troops and weapons to the defense of the government. Seeking to minimize popular support for EAM, the British rounded up 15,000 suspected communist sympathizers, deporting 8,000 to camps in the Middle East.

ELAS responded in brutal fashion by unleashing a “Red Terror,” seizing and executing thousands of members of what it deemed “reactionary” families and even whole villages. They abducted thousands more “enemies of the people”— generally citizens guilty of nothing more than a modicum of prosperity—driving them through gauntlets of leftist-allied countrymen on into the wintry hills without shoes or coats and feeding them little or nothing. Many died of exposure, while those who couldn’t keep up were shot.

While ELAS exacted its bloody reprisals, the government continued its policy of communist suppression, marked by forced evacuations and mass deportations. Tragically, it was noncombatant civilians who suffered most.

Inevitably, EAM-ELAS was destined to lose, given its enemy’s superior numbers and technology. By early January 1945 ELAS forces—battered by British artillery, armor and air attacks—had conceded defeat. Peace was formalized on February 12 with the signing of Treaty of Varkiza, which promised a political voice to the members of EAM-ELAS, provided they surrender their weapons. Most leftists complied and turned in their arms, only to expose themselves to an unchecked rightist backlash. By July, during the ensuing “White Terror,” a British-supported national guard largely comprising former troops of the collaborationist Security Battalions had arrested some 20,000 EAM-ELAS members and executed 500. By comparison, the total number of collaborationists executed by the postwar Greek government was 20. By year’s end ELAS resistance fighters in Greek prisons outnumbered jailed collaborationists 10-to-1. Some would languish behind bars well into the 1960s.

Greece held a general election in March 1946, but in protest of the unfolding rightist persecution the Communist Party of Greece refused to participate, virtually ensuring the victory of its nationalist opponents. And within months a plebiscite voted to return King George II to his throne. With the formal return of the royalists to power, civil war broke out in earnest. By early 1947 the collective force of communist guerrillas—rebranded the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE)—controlled much of the countryside, and by year’s end it had again established a provisional government in the northern mountains.

Neighboring Yugoslavia and Albania initially supported the DSE, and its fighters crossed freely back and forth across their borders. One of its more contentious programs involved the abduction of Greek children between 3 and 14 years of age— as many as 30,000, according to some sources—to be raised in Eastern Bloc countries as communists. (Greece’s Queen Frederica responded by setting up a network of refugee camps to shelter such at-risk children.) In July 1948, however, relations between Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and Yugoslavia’s Marshal Josip Broz Tito suffered a major rift that resulted in the two countries severing ties. The Greek communists had to choose a side they aligned with the Soviets, whereupon Tito closed his border with Greece. Although this proved a major blow, by that time the DSE faced an even starker reality —the United States had actively taken the royalist side.

Since its intervention in 1944 Britain had been supporting nationalist forces with economic and military assistance, but by February 1947 Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s government—deep in the throes of postwar austerity—informed the United States it was unable to continue its support and asked President Harry Truman to assume the role of Greece’s protector. Truman saw an immediate opportunity to take a stand against an increasingly powerful Soviet Union, while announcing to the world America’s intention to stem the communist tide wherever it arose. As Truman saw it, communism threatened both Greece and Turkey, and he feared that the resultant “collapse of free institutions and loss of independence would be disastrous not only for them but for the world.” On March 12 he addressed a joint session of Congress to petition for extensive and ongoing aid for both countries.

After detailing the devastation wrought by the Germans, Truman blamed “a militant minority, exploiting human want and misery, [that] was able to create political chaos.” Greece, he said, was “threatened by the terrorist activities of several thousand armed men, led by communists, who defy the government’s authority” and rely upon “terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio, fixed elections and the suppression of personal freedoms.” Only with support from the United States could Greece realize its destiny as a “self-supporting and self-respecting democracy.” Describing a potential communist takeover as having effects that “will be far reaching to the West as well as to the East,” Truman said, “It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”

By redefining the very nature of American foreign policy, Truman was in essence declaring the Cold War. He pointed to the Soviet Union as the main foe of democracy the communist credo, he argued, presented a global threat to freedom, through both military invasion and, more diabolically, internal subversion.

Ironically, the basis for Truman’s argument that the Soviets were behind the Greek communist insurgency was flawed. The Soviet Union had, in fact, provided virtually no help to Greek communist forces. At the Fourth Moscow Conference in October 1944 Churchill and Stalin had entered into a coldblooded secret pact—the “percentages agreement”—whereby the Soviets ceded 90 percent control of Greece to Great Britain in exchange for 90 percent Soviet control over Romania, and 75 percent influence over Bulgaria. Thus when the Greek Civil War heated up, the Soviets were content to watch from the sidelines. As one ELAS veteran recalled years later, “Right until the very end…we did not receive a single Soviet bullet.”

Nonetheless, Truman successfully painted the Soviet Union as the chief threat to global democracy, and Congress accepted his not-unreasonable premise. Truman requested an allocation of $400 million—what he referred to as “an investment in world freedom and world peace”—for the provision of economic and military aid to Greece and Turkey two months later Congress complied, thereby initiating the Truman Doctrine. It would define American foreign policy, for better or worse, for decades to come.

The Greek civil war raged until the fall of 1949, inflicting further destruction on a country that had yet to emerge from the devastation of World War II. The Greek National Army, fortified by American dollars, weapons and advisers, systematically drove the leftists from their mountain strongholds. The last battle—fought on Mounts Grammos and Vitsi in far northern Greece—saw the communist fighters hopelessly outgunned and outnumbered more than 5-to-1. Finally, on Oct. 16, 1949, the Greek communist radio station announced an end to hostilities “to prevent the complete annihilation of Greece.” As the firing ceased, many of the communist fighters fled across the border into Albania. An estimated 150,000 Greeks had perished since the commencement of civil hostilities, including 165 priests slain by the communists. Up to a million people had been displaced from their homes. But for the first time in nearly a decade, peace prevailed.

In the wake of the conflict Greek authorities outlawed communism. Although there were sporadic guerrilla flare-ups over the next few years, the KKE’s struggle soon dissolved into a war of words, marked by dissension and splits within the party.

Far from embracing the “guarantees of individual liberty” and “freedom from political oppression” for which Truman had so eloquently campaigned, the new Greek government instituted a rightist regime defined for the next several years by repression and intolerance. It came as no surprise a precedent had been set before the outbreak of World War II, when in 1936 Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas—with the full awareness and support of King George II—had established a neo-fascist dictatorship that banned political parties, abolished parliament, arrested dissenters and introduced systematic police brutality. When the Germans forced that government into exile in 1941, many Greeks hoped it would never return.

Yet the post–civil war Greek government—installed with the economic and military support of the United States and run by nationalist politicians, backed by the army and marked by autocratic suppression of political expression—was little better than the Metaxas dictatorship. Shortly after a 1967 military coup that brought anti-communist Greek army officers to power, the junta designated thousands of its leftist opponents “enemies of the country”—even as it provided state pensions for former members of the Security Battalions. Not until the 1974 collapse of this “Regime of the Colonels” did Greece emerge from the miasma of military occupation and internal strife to reassert its claim as the cradle of democracy.

Ron Soodalter has written for Smithsonian, Civil War Times, America’s Civil War and Wild West. For further reading he recommends Inside Hitler’s Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941–1944, by Mark Mazower The Struggle for Greece, 1941–1949, by C.M. Woodhouse and Children of the Greek Civil War: Refugees and the Politics of Memory, by Loring M. Danforth and Riki Van Boeschoten.

Originally published in the March 2015 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here.

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