German Occupation of Greece

  September 22, 2021   Read time 5 min
German Occupation of Greece
Greek forces, she claimed in justifying this call, were provoking incidents on Greece's borders with Albania so that Greece could annex parts of that country. Greece was also persecuting national minorities, while British forces were continuing to interfere in Greek internal affairs on behalf of 'aggressive monarchist elements'.

When the Council met on 30 August, Britain questioned whether a series of unsubstantiated allegations of this sort should be placed on the agenda of the Council without question (a somewhat curious objection in the light of the passionate Western concern at Yalta and San Francisco about the absolute right of free discussion in the Council). The United States, rather more consistently, held that the complaint should at least be heard. And the question was in fact placed on the agenda. The Ukrainian delegate then launched a tirade against the Greek Government, denouncing it for its oppression of opposition elements, the dissolution of trades unions, expeditions against national minorities, the setting up of special military courts to try resistance fighters and for provoking incidents against Albania. He accused the British authorities of widespread interference, especially in influencing the plebiscite on the monarchy that hadjust been held. These accusations were supported by the Soviet Union and Albania, which complained of Greek provocations on her frontier and the persecution of the Albanian minority in Greece.

The Greek delegate rejected as absurd claims that Greece threatened Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, which had far more powerful military forces than Greece. He attacked Yugoslav support for the idea of a Macedonian state as the real source of tension. To raise Greek civil conflicts in the Security Council was an attempt to support rebels against the Government of Greece, and to influence the result of the plebiscite which had just taken place. The British and US delegates favourably compared the admittedly imperfect electoral and plebiscite arrangements in Greece with those existing elsewhere in Eastern Europe (Bulgaria was at that moment organising a similar plebiscite on the future of the monarchy in that country): the very fact that there was a substantial vote against the monarchy in Greece, the US representative pointed out, implied that there was at least some degree of political freedom there (the Bulgarian poll had just shown less than 1 per cent of the electorate as favouring a continuation of the monarchy there, which was held more likely to reveal the absence of political freedom than the absence of support for the monarchy).

It was of course the international aspects of the situation which were of prime concern to the Security Council. Even while it met, incidents were taking place on Greece's frontier with Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Albania. While the communist states claimed that these resulted from incursions by Greek forces, the Greek Government and its supporters held that they were the result of infiltration by guerrilla bands, who received periodic shelter and su pport within the borders of neighbouring states. The United States therefore proposed the establishment of an investigating commission of impartial observers, to be nominated by the Security Council, which should proceed to the borders and check the causes of the disturbances. She even suggested, to meet communist complaints, that it should look at the situation of national minorities within the area, in so far as this affected international peace and security (a proposal which Greece might well have complained violated her sovereign rights). Even so, the idea was rejected, on somewhat obscure grounds, by Gromyko, who proceeded to veto the US proposal. A Soviet counter-resolution, placing all responsibility on 'aggressive Greek monarchist elements', and calling on Greece to refrain from persecuting national minorities, was supported only by Poland. As a result no action resulted from the Ukrainian com plaint.

Less than three months later the issue was again before the Security Council, this time raised by Greece. By now the situation on Greece's borders had become even worse. In November 1946, the Greek village ofSkra was attacked by 700 guerrillas, apparently from across the Yugoslav border: 150 houses were burnt down and nineteen Greek soldiers killed. Communist parties all over Europe were calling for support for the Greek partisans, struggling against a reactionary government maintained only by Anglo-American support. A situation of civil war was rapidly being reached. The Greek delegate complained to the Council of systematic violations of Greece's frontier by her neighbours, which were said to be supporting guerrilla warfare against her. He called once again for an investigation of the situation on the spot. The Greek Prime Minister, who flew to New York to address the Council, charged Yugoslavia in particular with intensive propaganda in favour of the creation of a Macedonian state to be incorporated in Yugoslavia, and all three neighbours of allowing their territory to be used as a base for operations aimed against Greece. Representatives of the three countries denied these charges and replied with accusations of their own against the Greek Government. The US representative pointed out that the debate itself showed there existed a dispute between Greece and her neighbours and supported the Greek demand for an investigation. The Soviet Union, to the surprise of everybody, this time accepted the proposal; but she demanded that the commission, instead of consisting of three respected neutrals, as the United States had formerly proposed, should include communist representatives. And she ensured that it should be empowered to investigate the 'causes and nature' of the border troubles, so possibly enabling it to examine internal Greek questions as well as border violations.

The Commission was composed of representatives of each member of the Council. It spent just over two months between the end of January and early April 1947 in the Balkans, visiting all four countries and sending investigating teams to particular areas to interview witnesses. From the beginning its proceedings were punctuated by continuing conflict between the communist members and those of the West over the procedure to be employed, the witnesses to be examined, and the whole purpose of the inquiry. The Soviet and Polish members managed to take up 75 per cent of the time spent in questioning witnesses, focusing attention exclusively on the policies of the Greek Government, the activities of British forces in Greece, the imprisonment and execution of resistance fighters, the suppression of Greek trade unions, and Greek frontier claims. The Western representatives sought to direct the inquiry to the activities of guerrilla bands in the northern areas of Greece and the support being given them by the neighbouring countries.