Dear Sirs:

I have been a  subscriber of TIME for a long time, but I was never before as intrigued by an article in your magazine as I was by Mr Stein’s article in the last issue, that of July 22, 2012, p.62.  I realize that The Awesome Column makes no pretense at serious thought, but this  writer’s historical ignorance astounds me, just the same. In that article Mr Stein  states  that the Greeks have not accomplished anything in the last 2200 years, when they fought the Fourth Macedonian War. Since Mr Stein chose the topic of “WAR” to judge the Greeks by, I will do the same and go back only 72 years, to the Second World War, which started in 1940.  If Mr Stein were somewhat  familiar with that war, he would realize that Greece played a pivotal role in its outcome.

Allow me to elaborate:

Greece,  with 1% of the Allied population, kept the Axis powers, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria and Albania in the battlefield for seven months, that is for 10% of the duration of that war: from October 28, 1940 to June 1, 1941. Compare that with the fact that  Germany  alone   had occupied Poland, France, Norway, Belgium, Holland and Denmark by doing battle for just seven weeks, and maybe you will agree that Greece played a significant and surprisingly beneficial  role in the outcome of that war.  The Axis lost more than 30,000 troops killed in occupying Greece, compared to 159 men they lost occupying Yugoslavia, which at that time was more than twice the size of Greece.

The result of this unexpectedly long Greek resistance was that Hitler lost his battle with the Soviet Union as well as  the Battle for the Mediterranean and for the Suez Canal. This conclusion was arrived at by Hitler himself, who recorded it in his last testament, three weeks before his suicide in the underground bunker of the chancellery in Berlin.

The life loss and the material damages suffered by Greece in the seven month -long  battle and the four year- long occupation  that followed
were immense. The  life loss amounts to 13% of the population,  much of it to famine and to executions. The  material damages caused by the pillage of the country, plus  the forced loan and the forced occupation expenses that had to be  paid by the Greek treasury to support the German troops in Greece and in North Africa,   the removal of antiquities from  museums, as well as of all gold, silver, nickel and copper (a removal that  took place under the expert supervision of German companies and archeologists) and finally the total destruction of the infrastructure and of 1700-1800 villages, correspond to more than 33 GDP’s of Greece. The war damages and the forced loan imposed on Greece were estimated and agreed upon internationally in November of 1946 in Paris, along with the damages suffered by Poland, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, France, Britain and other  countries. Greece has never received any of the war damages it was awarded in 1946 whereas most of the other countries have been compensated.

Before closing, I should mention that the present value of the war damages that Germany owes Greece today, by far exceeds the value of Greece’s current debts to Germany and others. I suppose that is an example of “unfairness”, another topic that Mr Stein touched on briefly in his article. For more details on the topic, Mr Stein may wish to visit   www.greece.org/blogs/reparations/wwii/

Thank You,

George C. Blytas, PhD,
Author of The First Victory, Greece in the Second World War.
COSMOS, 2009.