The Nazi propaganda machine was highly efficient. There was tight control over the information getting to the German population. When the news was unwelcome the German Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, was able to delay its release while the desired message was formulated. Hitler, and the Nazi regime, had been taken by surprise by the Italian invasion of Greece. But it was matter of routine for them to delay the news and then twist the facts when it did come out.
In one of his last diary entries from Germany the American journalist William Shirer describes German news management. Shirer had had a very successful run following the war in Germany and had covered the first bombing of Berlin by the RAF, after earlier getting the scoop on the French surrender in June.
Shirer had now decided that time was running out for him, even though he was an American citizen. He had already moved his family to Switzerland.
On this occasion his German military contacts seem to have had a very accurate assessment of the abilities of the Greeks against the Italians:
Berlin, October 29, 1940
Twenty-four hours after Italy’s wanton aggression against Greece, the German people are still deprived of news by their rulers. Not a line in the morning papers or the noon papers. But Goebbels is carefully preparing his public for the news. This morning he had the press publish the text of the outrageous Italian ultimatum to the Greek government. It was almost an exact copy of the ultimatum which the Germans sent to Denmark and Norway, and later to Holland and Belgium. But the German public may have wondered what happened after the ultimatum, since it expired yesterday morning.
LATER.-The news was finally served the German people in the p.m. editions in the form of the text of today’s Italian war communique. That was all. But there were nauseating editorials in the local press condemning Greece for not having understood the “new order” and for having plotted with the British against Italy. The moral cesspool in which German editors now splash was fairly well illustrated by their offerings today. After several years of it I still find it exasperating.
Also today, the usual Goebbels fakes. For example, one saying that the Greeks disdained even to answer the ultimatum, though the truth is that they did. They rejected it. There is certainly no enthusiasm among the people here for the latest gangster step of the Axis.
German military people, always contemptuous of the Italians, tell me Greece will be no walk-way for Mussolini’s legions. The mountainous terrain is difficult for motorized units to operate in and moreover, they say, the Greeks have the best mountain artillery in Europe. General Metaxas, the Premier, and quite a few Greek officers have been trained at Potsdam, the Germans tell me.