27 April 1941

German troops enter Athens during World War Two.

The Battle of Greece also known as Operation Marita, German: Unternehmen Marita is the common name for the invasion of Allied Greece by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in April 1941 during World War II. The Italian invasion in October 1940, which is usually known as the Greco-Italian War, was followed by the German invasion in April 1941. German landings on the island of Crete came after Allied forces had been defeated in mainland Greece. These battles were part of the greater Balkan Campaign of Germany.

Following the Italian invasion on 28 October 1940, Greece repulsed the initial Italian attack and a counter-attack in March 1941. When the German invasion, known as Operation Marita, began on 6 April, the bulk of the Greek Army was on the Greek border with Albania, then a protectorate of Italy, from which the Italian troops had attacked. German troops invaded from Bulgaria, creating a second front. Greece had already received a small, inadequate reinforcement from British, Australian and New Zealand forces in anticipation of the German attack, but no more help was sent afterward. The Greek army found itself outnumbered in its effort to defend against both Italian and German troops. As a result, the Metaxas defensive line did not receive adequate troop reinforcements and was quickly overrun by the Germans, who then outflanked the Greek forces at the Albanian border, forcing their surrender. British, Australian and New Zealand forces were overwhelmed and forced to retreat, with the ultimate goal of evacuation. For several days, Allied troops played an important part in containing the German advance on the Thermopylae position, allowing ships to be prepared to evacuate the units defending Greece. The German Army reached the capital, Athens, on 27 Aprila and Greece’s southern shore on 30 April, capturing 7,000 British, Australian and New Zealand personnel and ending the battle with a decisive victory. The conquest of Greece was completed with the capture of Crete a month later. Following its fall, Greece was occupied by the military forces of Germany, Italy and Bulgaria.

Hitler later blamed the failure of his invasion of the Soviet Union, which had to be delayed, on Mussolini’s failed conquest of Greece. The theory that the Battle of Greece delayed the invasion of the Soviet Union has been refuted by the majority of historians, who have accused Hitler of trying to deflect blame from himself to his ally, Italy. It nevertheless had serious consequences for the Axis war effort in the North African theatre. Enno von Rintelen, who was the military attaché in Rome, emphasizes from the German point of view, the strategic mistake of not taking Malta.

27 April 1810

Beethoven composes Für Elise.

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Ludwig van Beethoven, widely acknowledged as one of the greatest composers of all time, is thought to have completed his masterpiece “Für Elise” on this day in 1810.

Ludwig van Beethoven was born on 17 December 1770 in Bonn, Germany, and died on 26 March 1827 in Vienna, Austria. Amongst his complete oeuvre are two masterpieces that are familiar to even the least discerning ear, the Fifth Symphony and “Für Elise”. Passages from both of these pieces of music are instantly recognisable and remain famous all over the world.

Beethoven completed “Für Elise” on 27 April 1810, but it was not actually discovered and published until 1867, a full 40 years after his funeral. The original autographed score was found by a German music scholar, Ludwig Nohl, who had it transcribed and published. However, this original manuscript is now lost, and some have even suggested that it never actually existed, adding mystery to the music.

The other great mystery about “Für Elise” surrounds the identity of the dedicatee, Elise. Some scholars have suggested that Nohl may have transcribed the title incorrectly, and that it was actually called “Für Therese” in honour of Therese Malfatti von Rohrenbach zu Dezza. This generously named Therese was a friend and former student of Beethoven’s, whom he had fallen in love with and proposed to in 1810—only to be turned down in favour of the Austrian nobleman Wilhelm von Drossdik.