Greek Resistance 1941-45: Organization, Achievements and Contributions to Allied War Efforts against the Axis Powers

By Chimbos, Peter D. | International Journal of Comparative Sociology, May 1999 | Go to article overview

Greek Resistance 1941-45: Organization, Achievements and Contributions to Allied War Efforts against the Axis Powers


Chimbos, Peter D., International Journal of Comparative Sociology


Since her independence from the Ottoman Turks in 1830, Greece, for historical, cultural and economic reasons, has been a reliable and vital ally of western English speaking countries in times of war. Greece's greatest contribution to Allied war efforts, however, was her heroic resistance against the Axis powers(1) during World War II, particularly the National Resistance (Ethniki Antistasi) movement of liberation, extant from 1941 to 1945. As Angelopoulos (1995 :XII) indicates, "of all the countries occupied by the Axis powers, Greece was by far the most spirited in its resistance, waging unremitting guerilla warfare in the towns, the countryside, in the mountains and on the seas, against the occupier for a period of four years." Despite its immense contributions to the war against the Axis, the Greek Resistance (1941-45) has received little recognition and publicity in Allied countries, especially North America. Because of divisive post World War II politics and the liberal-leftist political orientation of the Greek Resistance movement, the Allies downplayed its military significance and contributions.

With a revisionist perspective, this paper provides an historical and sociological analysis of the Greek Resistance against the triple occupation of Greece (194145) by Germany, Italy and Bulgaria. More specifically, this paper considers (a) how the Greek Resistance was organized and how it developed during its three and one half years of political and military action; (b) its membership; (c) its actual contributions to Allied war efforts against the Axis powers and (d) the aftermath of its existence.

The analysis is based on information collected from published and unpublished materials and documents of the Greek Resistance movement, and lengthy interviews with individuals who actively participated in military and political resistance organizations during that period. The Centre for the Study of the History of the National Resistance in Athens has also been a useful source for providing information on demographic aspects of the Resistance movement.

Historical Background

Immediately prior to World War II, the world had been divided into two conflicting political and military camps: the Axis camp and the Allied Camp. The Axis camp comprised Germany, Italy and Japan, whose objectives were to expand their geographical territories for economic and political reasons. For example, Japan had started her military campaigns of territorial expansion in China, and plans were made to invade India. Germany had drawn plans to occupy Europe, Africa and the Soviet Union. Italy's ambitious plans were to establish her own empire which would include Albania, Greece, Yugoslavia and Ethiopia.

It is well known that Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany had established ideologically similar politico-economic systems. Italy had established a Fascist state which prevailed from 1922-1943 and Germany was under Nazism from 1933-1944. These Fascist-Nazi political systems promulgated terror, racism and oppression, and the resultant World War caused the loss of many millions of human lives on both sides of the conflict.

The Allied camp, consisting of the British Empire, Canada, France, U.S.A., Greece and later (1941) the Soviet Union, was a response to the expansion of the Axis powers. Certain countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Croatia, became satellites of the Nazis. Others, like Switzerland, Spain and Turkey remained neutral. It must not be assumed, however, that all citizens of the Axis countries and their satellites collaborated with the Fascists or Nazis. Many Germans, for example, refused to collaborate with the Nazis and were severely punished. At least 3 million anti-Nazi Germans were locked up in concentration camps. About 800,000 of these were tried in military courts and 72,600 were executed (Demetrakos, 1995:34). These numbers do not include the millions of Jews who were executed by the German SS forces or who died in concentration camps. …

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