The Most Merciful Way Hitler could have Dealt with the Balkans

My question is one of realistic possibilities:
After the Yugoslav coup, Hitler probably had to invade Yugoslavia and Greece in order to secure his southern flank, and pretty much any leader would be forced into that position. I simply don’t see how any leader could avoid that at that juncture.

However, what is the most merciful, non-destructive way Hitler could have handled both the invasion and occupation of Greece and Yugoslavia? Beyond not bombing parts of Belgrade to rubble, could Hitler have simply disbanded the Yugoslav military, put a regency loyal to the Axis in place, and maybe confiscated all the surplus military equipment so the military couldn’t resist? And with Greece, crushed it but forced Mussolini to only take the most minor of territorial consessions?

What would the least dickish thing Hitler could do that would realistically secure his flank while brutalizing the people in these countries the least. Surrender doesn’t count.

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Much like Japan is responsible for provoking the US, Yugoslavia should take the blame for provoking Hitler. The whole country was a trainwreck of ethnic tensions. Their army was being spoon-fed nationalist propaganda about how they single-handedly won WW1 and they honestly believed (and still believe) that any German offensive against them would’ve been stopped like in 1914.

If anything, Hitler’s brutality helped unite the people of Yugoslavia into a common goal and stabilized the country. For a few decades at least…


That being said, is there anything Hitler could have done if, for the sake of argument, that would have pacified Yugoslavia AND been as least brutal to the people there as possible. I am very much of the school of thought that in order to judge from history we need to know what the realistic and semi-realistic options leaders had in place of what they did.

Even something like the Holocaust, what other options did Hitler have? Not doing it is the flippant response and sorta correct, but talking about agriculture practice reform, shifting production to type IX subs to be made into merchant subs to purchase food dense foodstuffs like butter and lard with loot swag in Argentina (where they would find better prices anyway than the European black market), a provocative policy of deurbanization of the unemployed to local instead of German farms, where you’d probably get people more willing to work. More hoarding, but that prevents people getting desperate enough to go partisan.

The Holocaust DID help solve or stave off the huge food crisis mentioned in the movie Conspiracy. It’s just a lot of better ways to stave off a famine than to selectively kill off Poland’s Jewry over the summer of 1942. Probably less resource-intensive to boot, although that probably sounds colder than I mean it too. For me, reading in Tooze that the Holocaust Holocaust was the end result of shitty Nazi agricultural management shocked my soul and I said, it’s not enough to condemn, we need to understand what they should have done instead in the context of their own stated goals.

We find Nazi ideology repellant but Nazi ideology does not lead to the War Against Humanity, it DOES lead to the Nuremberg Laws and maybe to wars of expansion, but not this cavalcade of suffering and depravity. It enables such things but how many horrors have been perpetrated in the name of liberal democracy? THat’s not a condemnation of liberal democracy, it’s just I feel there are bad people in every system looking for an excuse and the best way to keep them in check is to give the lawful neutral and neutral types better policy suggestions so in times of desperation the [unprintable]s do not seem so appealing.

Government officials and managers of all types are more concerned with covering their asses than anything. So offering them solutions with minimal blowback is ideal for heading off crackpot ideas, like killing off Poland’s Jewry over the summer of 1942.

Not forgetting isn’t enough, we need to think about how policy could have been conducted differently, even in the Nazi government. Not just to understand the gravity of evil by alternatives but to inspire future generations to think about alternatives in what they think are desperate times.

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Alternatively they could have 1 Not started a war but sell tech and buy food for that money (like now actually). 2 Buy food from Stalin who was very willing to ship to Germany until Barbarossa. 3 Not replace their Democracy with a a looney tunes idiot who in his election program wanted to take away the citizenship from the Jews. The food crises was made worse because they slaughtered farmers and burned the farms in Russia instead of being nice to people who hated Stalin as well.

The famine was a self-made problem!

Thus the idiot extremely antisemitc/antigypsie/antihandicapped policies from the National Socialist were the prime reason the food crises happens in the first place.

Adam Tooze is very narrow in his train of thinking in his book and some people criticize him for that. E.g. not mentioning the ideological.

Chewie, you’re not arguing with me on most of those! What I’m asking is a bit more practical:
For the Balkans question, assume it’s April 1941. Everything past then is in the past, there is only TODAY that can be changed. And Hitler more or less needs to invade Yugoslavia and Greece to secure his southern flank. Now we both know this is Adolf Hitler and he has no personality reason to do anything differently. THat’s the ideological component.

BUT, if we are to condemn the horror show of what happened in Yugoslavia and Greece in areas of German occupation, we need to know what he COULD have done, within the scope of his plans and needs. I would say that wiping out the Soviet Union was not simply an ideological obsession but a national security requirement given Bolshevism’s ideology, it’s lawlessness, it’s willingness to kill ANYONE to achieve it’s goals sane or not. Putting it off for a year to invade Turkey and the Middle East and secure a separate, secondary, and largely untouchable (by the Red Army) source of oil would have done a LOT to secure Germany’s long term position, and they’d have another year and a half of their oil supply to make do even if the British did the worst to the oil fields.

ANd free up the bulk of the Afrika Corps, which was a significant chunk of their motor pool capacity once they rolled up Egypt. Send in a bunch of Cavalry and armored cars and they could probably take the Sudan, get back into the horn and seal up the Red Sea with minimal forces IF they could get decent division numbers through Turkey which I have no doubts, cause they didn’t in Yugoslavia either.

Now all of this is about delaying Barbarossa, and your bits are about treating the people better, at least till you win then the jaws of the flytrap close if you wish. Or not. If nothing else similar policies of gentle pacification could have been pursued on grounds of not fighting enemies wherever you go, rather than “Nazi humanism.”

Even in that light, even with all the plenty o bad the Nazis had done at this point April 41, there had to have been a way to step back from the brink in this sector. The question is, how much could they step back? If Yugoslavia was a tinderbox of ethnic hatreds full of angry irrational people, then it sounds like the Germans could not avoid a brutal occupation no matter what they did.

I do think the Italians provide a model. They weren’t perfect, but given the limited resources of the regime (unlike the endless post-war supplies the American occupation could get) they acquitted themselves very well. But they also didn’t have to reign in the Utasha and they didn’t govern the most violent areas of Yugoslavia. But they did a lot to not inflame the problems and the locals generally decided to not fight back because they weren’t being robbed.

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