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by The OXI Day Foundation
The free world watched as one by one countries across Europe surrendered to Hitler's Axis forces. At 3:00 a.m. on October 28, 1940, a representative of the Axis forces arrived at the Greek prime minister's residence and demanded Greece's surrender. The prime minister replied with one single word -- Oxi -- No.
A few hours later, the Axis forces descended on Greece, expecting that it would quickly fall, but the Greek resistance forced Hitler to change his plans. News of Greece's victory flooded the radio airwaves and covered the front pages of newspapers around the globe. A grateful world celebrated -- no one expected such a small nation to derail the seemingly unstoppable Axis forces.
Here is the amazing story of OXI Day
Oxi Day is an enduring symbol of Greek resistance and patriotism.
It is a source of inspiration for Greeks and a reminder of the importance of defending freedom and national sovereignty.
There are many quotations by various leaders that are often repeated on OXI Day -- this quote from Winston Churchill about Greek bravery during WWII probably being the most famous of the lot:
"Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks!"
Less circulated is the eloquent praise bestowed upon Greece and her people by American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Here is the full text a letter by Roosevelt, a "Letter Praising the Heroism of the Greeks," sent to the Ambassador of Greece in Washington on October 29, 1942:
My dear Mr. Ambassador:
On the early morning of October 28, 1940, the Fascist aggressors handed an ultimatum to Greece. The challenge was hurled back without a moment's hesitation. This was what might have been expected from a gallant and courageous people devoted to their homeland. You commemorate tonight the second anniversary of the beginning of the total resistance of the Greek people to totalitarian warfare.
More significant, even, than the initial reply to the challenge is the fact that Greece has continued to fight, with every means at its command. When the Greek mainland was overrun, the resistance was carried on from the islands. When the islands fell, resistance continued from Africa, from the seas, from anywhere the aggressor could be met.
To those who prefer to compromise, to follow a course of expediency, or to appease, or to count the cost, I say that Greece has set the example which every one of us must follow until the despoilers of freedom everywhere have been brought to their just doom.
Oxi Day - October 28, 1940
Although Greece used every means within reason to avoid retaliation and war, on October 28, 1940, Italian Ambassador Grazzi called upon Greek Prime Minister John Metaxas at 3 a.m. with an ultimatum, which was actually a declaration of war. The ultimatum was that Italy demanded the right to occupy with her armed forces and for the duration of the war with England, a number of strategic points in Greek territory, and that Greece must not oppose or resist such occupation. Metaxas had three hours in which to reply, but his immediate reply was: "OXI!"
OXI became a symbol and watchword for Greece in the war that followed and which began with fighting at 5:30 a.m. the same morning, October 28, 1940, on the Albanian border. Despite numerical and superior forces thrown by Italy against Greece, the Greeks held their own for weeks, and then began to rout the Italian armies.
From October 28, 1940 until April 6, 1941, the Greek soldiers defeated the Italians in almost every action, and were ready, and actually had crossed the border into Albania. Hitler then finally had to go to Mussolini's rescue, although it forced him to alter his attack on Russia. With German soldiers, tanks, and devastating air power, Hitler's armies defeated Greece in a little more than 3 weeks, but this momentary diversion by the German armies gave the Allies invaluable time, and the delay actually proved fatal to the German plans to conquer Russia. For Greece, it was a costly, destructive war, and the country was plunged into years of terrible hardship under German and Italian rule. Although able to withstand the two-to-one and sometimes three-to-one odds of the Italian armies, whom they defeated, the Greek army was unable to withstand the giant, continuous blows that the Germans struck in their invasion.
Greece was No. 9 on Germany's list of conquered countries: Czechoslovakia (March 15, 1939); Denmark and Luxembourgh, April and May, 1940, surrendered without fighting; Poland, September - October, 1939, resisted for 30 days; Norway held out for 61 days, April - June, 1940; Holland resisted only four days, May, 1940; Belgium for 18 days, May, 1940; and France for only 43 days, May - June, 1940. Greece resisted the Germans for 21 days, holding out for that length of time, after already having fought the Italians for more than five months.
Source: AHEPA History
Greece: The Story of OXI Day