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A Short History of the Jews of Greece
The Occupation and the Final Solution

Greece became involved in the Second World War on October 28, 1940, when the Italians simultaneously invaded Albania and presented an ultimatum to the Greeks. The Greek dictator, Ioannis Metaxas, who had been in power since 1936, responded with an adamant ‘ochi’, no, and moved the army north to meet the attack. What Mussolini had seen as a war of a few weeks became a grinding stalemate. The Italian war machinery bogged down in the exceptionally heavy snows of that winter, and by the spring of 1941 the Italians were forced to withdraw. From this embarassing situation the Italians were saved by the Germans, who invaded Greece in 6 April. The exhausted Greek army no longer had the arms to repel the new attack, which overran Athens on 21 April and defeated the last resistance on Crete by the end of May. Germany and her allies, Bulgaria and Italy, were jubilant at the success.

Greece was divided into three occupation zones. The Italians were affirmed in their hold over the Dodecanese Islands, the Ionian Islands, a large section of mainland Greece, and the Peloponnesos. The Bulgarians were given eastern Macedonia and Thrace, with its accompanying access to the Aegean, the goal of their 900 year old expansionist dreams. The Germans laid claim to western Macedonia, Thessaloniki,  a strip of land lying along the Turkish border in eastern Thrace, the major Aegean islands, and Crete. They also, of course, maintained rights of intervention in the areas under Bulgarian and Italian occupation.

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