Greek Resistance

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National Resistance
Part of the Balkans Campaign of World War II and the Resistance against the Axis Powers
Triple Occupation of Greece.png
Map of the Triple Occupation of Greece by Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria in 1941–44
DateApril 1941 – October 1944
(until May 1945 in some Greek islands, including Crete)
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg  Italy (until Sep. 1943)
Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria (until Sep. 1944)
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Hellenic State
Secessionist groups:
Flag IMARO.svg Ohrana
Flag of Albania (1943-1944).svg Këshilla
Flag of the Principality of Pindus and Voivodship of Macedonia.svg Vlach Legion (until Sep. 1943)
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg EAM (ELAS)
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg EDES (EOEA)
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg EKKA (5/42 Regiment)
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg EOK
and others...
Supported by:
State flag of Greece (1863-1924;1935-73).svg Greek Government-in-Exile
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom (SOE)
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Günther Altenburg
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Alexander Löhr
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Hermann Neubacher
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Walter Schimana
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Hellmuth Felmy
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Pellegrino Ghigi
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Carlo Geloso
Flag of Bulgaria.svg Ivan Markov
Flag of Bulgaria.svg Trifon Trifonov
Flag of Bulgaria.svg Asen Sirakov
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Georgios Tsolakoglou
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Konstantinos Logothetopoulos
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Ioannis Rallis
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Georgios Bakos   Skull and Crossbones.svg
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Georgios Poulos
Flag IMARO.svg Andon Kalchev
Flag of Albania (1943-1944).svg Xhemil Dino
Flag of the Principality of Pindus and Voivodship of Macedonia.svg Alcibiades Diamandi
Flag of the Principality of Pindus and Voivodship of Macedonia.svg Nicolaos Matussis
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Aris Velouchiotis
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Stefanos Sarafis
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Andreas Tzimas
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Evripidis Bakirtzis
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Alexandros Svolos
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Georgios Siantos

Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Napoleon Zervas
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Komninos Pyromaglou
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Dimitrios Psarros   Skull and Crossbones.svg
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Georgios Kartalis
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Nikolaos Plastiras
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Kostas Perrikos   Skull and Crossbones.svg
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Eddie Myers
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg C.M. Woodhouse
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Patrick Leigh Fermor
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg W. Stanley Moss
State flag of Greece (1863-1924;1935-73).svg Themis Marinos  [ el ]

The Greek Resistance (Greek : Εθνική Αντίσταση, romanized: Ethnikí Antístasi, "National Resistance") is the blanket term for a number of armed and unarmed groups from across the political spectrum that resisted the Axis occupation of Greece in the period 1941–1944, during World War II. It is considered as one of the strongest resistance movements in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Romanization of Greek is the transliteration (letter-mapping) or transcription (sound-mapping) of text from the Greek alphabet into the Latin alphabet. The conventions for writing and romanizing Ancient Greek and Modern Greek differ markedly, which can create confusion. The sound of the English letter B was written as β in ancient Greek but is now written as the digraph μπ, while the modern β sounds like the English letter V instead. The Greek name Ἰωάννης became Johannes in Latin and then John in English, but in Greek itself has instead become Γιάννης; this might be written as Yannis, Jani, Ioannis, Yiannis, or Giannis, but not Giannes or Giannēs as it would have been in ancient Greek. The masculine Greek word Ἅγιος or Άγιος might variously appear as Hagiοs, Agios, Aghios, or Ayios, or simply be translated as "Holy" or "Saint" in English forms of Greek placenames.

A political spectrum is a system to characterize and classify different political positions in relation to one another upon one or more geometric axes that represent independent political dimensions. The expressions political compass and political map are used to refer to the political spectrum as well, especially to popular two-dimensional models of it.



The rise of resistance movements in Greece was precipitated by the invasion and occupation of Greece by Nazi Germany (and its allies Italy and Bulgaria) from 1941–44. Italy led the way with its attempted invasion from Albania in 1940, which was repelled by the Greek Army. After the German invasion, the occupation of Athens and the fall of Crete, King George II and his government escaped to Egypt, where they proclaimed a government-in-exile, recognised by the Allies. The British actively encouraged, even coerced, the King to appoint centrist, moderate ministers; only two of his ministers were members of the dictatorial government that had governed Greece before the German invasion. Despite that some in the left-wing resistance claimed the government to be illegitimate, on account of its roots in the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas from 1936–41.

Battle of Greece Invasion of Allied Greece by Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany during WWII

The Battle of Greece 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.

Axis occupation of Greece Military occupation

The occupation of Greece by the Axis Powers began in April 1941 after Nazi Germany invaded Greece to assist its ally, Fascist Italy, which had been at war with Allied Greece since October 1940. Following the conquest of Crete, all of Greece was occupied by June 1941. The occupation in the mainland lasted until Germany and its ally Bulgaria were forced to withdraw under Allied pressure in early October 1944. However, German garrisons remained in control of Crete and some other Aegean islands until after the end of World War II in Europe, surrendering these islands in May and June 1945.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

The Germans set up a Greek collaborationist government, headed by General Georgios Tsolakoglou, before entering Athens. Some high-profile officers of the pre-war Greek regime served the Germans in various posts. This government however, lacked legitimacy and support, being utterly dependent on the German and Italian occupation authorities, and discredited because of its inability to prevent the cession of much of Greek Macedonia and Western Thrace to Bulgaria. Both the collaborationist government and the occupation forces were further undermined due to their failure to prevent the outbreak of the Great Famine, with the mortality rate reaching a peak in the winter of 1941–42, which seriously harmed the Greek civilian population.

Georgios Tsolakoglou Prime Minister of Greece

Georgios Tsolakoglou was a Greek military officer who became the first Prime Minister of the Greek collaborationist government during the Axis occupation in 1941–1942.

Athens Capital and largest city of Greece

Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence starting somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BC.

Western Thrace Traditional region of Greece

Western Thrace or West Thrace is a geographic and historical region of Greece, between the Nestos and Evros rivers in the northeast of the country; East Thrace, which lies east of the river Evros, forms the European part of Turkey, and the area to the north, in Bulgaria, is known as Northern Thrace.

First resistance acts

German soldiers raising the German War Flag over the Acropolis of Athens. The symbol of the country's occupation, it would be taken down in one of the first acts of the Greek Resistance. Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-164-0389-23A, Athen, Hissen der Hakenkreuzflagge.jpg
German soldiers raising the German War Flag over the Acropolis of Athens. The symbol of the country's occupation, it would be taken down in one of the first acts of the Greek Resistance.

Although there is an unconfirmed incident connected with Evzone Konstantinos Koukidis the day the Germans occupied Athens, the first confirmed resistance act in Greece had taken place on the night of 30 May 1941, even before the end of the Battle of Crete. Two young students, Apostolos Santas, a law student, and Manolis Glezos, a student at the Athens University of Economics and Business, secretly climbed the northwest face of the Acropolis and tore down the swastika banner which had been placed there by the occupation authorities.

Konstantinos Koukidis

Konstantinos Koukidis was the alleged Greek Evzone on flag guard duty on 27 April 1941 at the Athens Acropolis, at the beginning of the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II. After the first Germans climbed up the Acropolis, an officer ordered him to surrender, give up the Greek flag and raise the Nazi swastika flag in its place. Koukidis instead supposedly chose to stay loyal to his duty by hauling down the flag, wrapping it around his body and jumping from the Acropolis rock to his death. A commemorative plaque near the spot marks the event.

Battle of Crete Battle during WWII on Crete

The Battle of Crete was fought during the Second World War on the Greek island of Crete. It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany began an airborne invasion of Crete. Greek and other Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, defended the island. After one day of fighting, the Germans had suffered heavy casualties and the Allied troops were confident that they would defeat the invasion. The next day, through communication failures, Allied tactical hesitation and German offensive operations, Maleme Airfield in western Crete fell, enabling the Germans to land reinforcements and overwhelm the defensive positions on the north of the island. Allied forces withdrew to the south coast. More than half were evacuated by the British Royal Navy and the remainder surrendered or joined the Cretan resistance. The defence of Crete evolved into a costly naval engagement; by the end of the campaign the Royal Navy's eastern Mediterranean strength had been reduced to only two battleships and three cruisers.

Apostolos Santas World War II Greek Resistance fighter

Apostolos Santas, commonly known as Lakis, was a Greek veteran of the Resistance against the Axis Occupation of Greece during World War II, most notable for his participation, along with Manolis Glezos, in the taking down of the German flag from the Acropolis on 30 May 1941.

The first wider resistance movements occurred in northern Greece, where the Bulgarians annexed Greek territories. The first mass uprising occurred around the town of Drama in eastern Macedonia, in the Bulgarian occupation zone. The Bulgarian authorities had initiated large-scale Bulgarization policies, causing the Greek population's reaction. During the night of 28–29 September 1941 the people of Drama and its outskirts rose up. This badly-organized revolt was suppressed by the Bulgarian Army, which retaliated executing over three thousand people in Drama alone.[ citation needed ] An estimated fifteen thousand Greeks were killed by the Bulgarian occupational army during the next few weeks and in the countryside entire villages were machine gunned and looted.[ citation needed ] The town of Doxato and the village of Choristi are officially considered today Martyr Cities.

Northern Greece

Northern Greece is used to refer to the northern parts of Greece, and can have various definitions.

Drama, Greece Place in Greece

Drama is a city and municipality in northeastern Greece in Macedonia. Drama is the capital of the regional unit of Drama which is part of the East Macedonia and Thrace region. The town is the economic center of the municipality, which in turn comprises 60 percent of the regional unit's population. The next largest communities in the municipality are Choristi, Χiropótamos (2,554), Kallífytos (1,282), Kalós Agrós (1,178), and Koudoúnia (996).

Bulgaria country in Southeast Europe

Bulgaria, officially the Republic of Bulgaria, is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and North Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. The capital and largest city is Sofia; other major cities are Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria is Europe's 16th-largest country.

At the same time, large demonstrations were organized in Greek Macedonian cities by the Defenders of Northern Greece (YVE), a right-wing organization, in protest against the Bulgarian annexation of Greek territories.

Annexation acquisition of a states territory by another state

Annexation is the administrative action and concept in international law relating to the forcible acquisition of one state's territory by another state and is generally held to be an illegal act. It is distinct from conquest, which refers to the acquisition of control over a territory involving a change of sovereignty, and differs from cession, in which territory is given or sold through treaty, since annexation is a unilateral act where territory is seized and held by one state. It usually follows military occupation of a territory.

Armed groups consisted of andartes - αντάρτες ("guerillas") first appeared in the mountains of Macedonia by October 1941, and the first armed clashes resulted in 488 civilians being murdered in reprisals by the Germans, which succeeded in severely limiting Resistance activity for the next few months. [1] However, these harsh actions, together with the plundering of Greece's natural resources by the Germans, turned Greeks more against the occupiers.

Establishment of the first resistance groups

Guerillas of ELAS Antartes tou EAM-ELAS.jpg
Guerillas of ELAS

The lack of a legitimate government and the inactivity of the established political class created a power vacuum and meant an absence of a rallying point for the Greek people. Most officers and citizens who wanted to continue the fight fled to the British-controlled Middle East, and those who remained behind were unsure of their prospects against the Wehrmacht. This situation resulted in the creation of several new groupings, where the pre-war establishment was largely absent, which assumed the role of resisting the occupation powers.

The first major resistance group to be founded was the National Liberation Front (EAM). EAM was a political movement. By 1944 EAM became a movement with more than 1,800,000 members (the Greek population was around 7,500,000 at that time). EAM was organized by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and other smaller parties, but all major political parties refused to participate either in EAM or in any other resistance movement. On February 16, 1942, EAM gave permission to a communist veteran, called Athanasios (Thanasis) Klaras (later known as Aris Velouchiotis) to examine the possibilities of a victorious armed resistance movement. Soon the first andartes (guerrillas) joined ELAS and many battles were fought and won against both the Italians and Nazis (the sabotage of Gorgopotamos bridge [with the participation of EDES partisans and British commandos of SOE], the battle at Mikro Horio, etc.)

The second to be found was Venizelist-oriented National Republican Greek League (EDES), led by a former army officer, Colonel Napoleon Zervas, with exiled republican General Nikolaos Plastiras as its nominal head. Although its foundation was announced in late 1941, there were no military acts until 1942, when the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS), the armed forces of EAM, was born.

Resistance in the mountains – Andartiko

Napoleon Zervas, leader of the military wing of the EDES, with fellow officers Napoleon Zervas.JPG
Napoleon Zervas, leader of the military wing of the EDES, with fellow officers

Greece is a mountainous country, with a long tradition in andartiko (αντάρτικο, "guerrilla warfare"), dating back to the days of the klephts (anti-Turkish bandits) of the Ottoman period, who often enjoyed folk-hero status. In the 1940s, the countryside was poor, the road network not very well developed, and state control outside the cities usually exercised by the Greek Gendarmerie. But by 1942, due to the weakness of the central government in Athens, the countryside was gradually slipping out of its control, while the Resistance groups had acquired a firm and wide-ranging organization, parallel and more effective than that of the official state.

Emergence of the armed resistance

In February 1942, EAM, an organization controlled by the local Communist Party formed a military corps, ELAS, that would first operate in the mountains of Central Greece, with Aris Velouchiotis, a communist activist, as their chief captain. Later, on 28 July 1942, a centrist ex-army officer, Colonel Napoleon Zervas, announced the foundation of the National Groups of Greek Guerrillas (EOEA), as EDES' military arm, to operate, at first, in the region of Aetolia-Acarnania. National and Social Liberation (EKKA) also formed a military corps, named after the famous 5/42 Evzone Regiment, under Col. Dimitrios Psarros, that was mainly localized in the area of Mount Giona.

The rail bridge of Gorgopotamos that was blown up (Operation Harling). Gorgopotamos Bridge 1.jpg
The rail bridge of Gorgopotamos that was blown up (Operation Harling).

Until the summer of 1942, the occupation authorities had been little troubled by the armed Resistance, which was still in its infancy. The Italians in particular, in control of most of the countryside, considered the situation to have been normalized. [2] From that point, however, the Resistance gained pace, with EAM/ELAS in particular expanding rapidly. Armed groups attacked and disarmed local gendarmerie stations and isolated Italian outposts, or toured the villages and gave patriotic speeches. The Italians were forced to re-evaluate their assessment, and take such measures such as the deportation of army officers to camps in Italy and Germany, which naturally only encouraged the latter to join the underground en masse by escaping "to the mountains". [3]

These developments emerged most dramatically as the Greek Resistance announced its presence to the world with one of the war's most spectacular sabotage acts, the blowing up of the Gorgopotamos railway bridge, linking northern and southern Greece, on 25 November 1942. This operation was the result of British mediation between ELAS and EDES (Operation "Harling"), carried out by 12 British Special Operations Executive (SOE) saboteurs and a joint ELAS-EDES force. This was the first and last time that the two major Resistance groups would cooperate, due to the rapidly developing rivalry and ideological retrenchment between them.

The establishment of "Free Greece"

Conference of EAM in Kastanitsa, Thessaly Konferencija na EAM vo Kastanija.jpg
Conference of EAM in Kastanitsa, Thessaly

Nevertheless, constant attacks and acts of sabotage followed against the Italians, such as the Battle of Fardykampos, resulting in the capture of several hundred Italian soldiers and significant amounts of equipment. By the late spring of 1943, the Italians were forced to withdraw from several areas. The towns of Karditsa, Grevena, Trikkala, Metsovon and others were liberated by July. The Axis forces and their collaborators remained in control only of the main towns and the connecting roads, with the interior left to the andartes. This was "Free Greece", stretching from the Ionian Sea to the Aegean and from the borders of the German zone in Macedonia to Boeotia, a territory of 30,000 km² and 750,000 inhabitants.

Italian collapse and German takeover

By this time (July 1943), the overall strength of the andartes was around 20 [4] -30,000, [5] with most belonging to the ELAS, newly under the command of General Stefanos Sarafis. EDES was limited in operations to Epirus, and EKKA operated in a small area in Central Greece. [5] The Italian capitulation in September 1943 provided a windfall for the Resistance, as the Italian Army in many places simply disintegrated. Most Italian troops were swiftly disarmed and interned by the Germans, but on Cephalonia the Acqui Division resisted for about a week (ELAS fighters joining them) before being forced to surrender and subsequently massacred. In many places significant amounts of weaponry and equipment, as well as men, fell into the hands of the Resistance. The most spectacular case was that of the Pinerolo division and the Lancieri di Aosta  [ it ] Cavalry Regiment, which went completely over to the EAMite andartes. [6]

Memorial to the Greek Resistance on the road to Distomo. 20090802 distomo05.jpg
Memorial to the Greek Resistance on the road to Distomo.

The Germans now took over the Italian zone, and soon proved to be a totally different opponent from the demoralized, war-weary and far less brutal Italians. Already since the early summer of 1943, German troops had been pouring into Greece, fearing an Allied landing there (in fact falling victims to a grand-scale Allied strategic deception operation, "Operation Barclay"). Soon they became involved in wide-ranging counterguerrilla operations, which they carried out with great ruthlessness, based on their experiences in Yugoslavia. In the course of these operations, mass reprisals were carried out, resulting in war crimes such as at Kommeno on August 16, the Massacre of Kalavryta in December and the Massacre of Distomo in June 1944. At the same time, hundreds of villages were systematically torched and almost one million people left homeless. [7]

Prelude to Civil War: the first conflicts

Despite the signing of an agreement in July 1943 between the three main Resistance groups (EAM/ELAS, EDES and EKKA) to cooperate and to subject themselves to the Allied Middle East High Command under General Wilson (the "National Bands Agreement"), in the political field, the mutual mistrust between EAM and the other groups escalated. EAM-ELAS was by now the dominant political and military force in Greece, and EDES and EKKA, along with the British and the Greek government-in-exile, feared that after the inevitable German withdrawal, it would try to dominate the country and establish a soviet regime. This prospect was not only linked with the increasing distrust shown by many conservative and traditional liberal members of the Greek society towards the Communists and EAM, but also with British. The British were opposed to an EAM's after-war dominance in Greece due to their political opposition to communism, while on the logic of the spheres of influence they believed that such a development would lead the country, which traditionally considered belongs in their sphere of influence, to that of the Soviet Union. Finally the conflict of interests between them and the USSR settled after British secured Soviet assent to this in the so-called "percentages agreement" between Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in October 1944. EAM on its part considered itself "the only true resistance group". Its leadership was intensely distrustful of British policies for Greece, and viewed Zervas' contacts with London and the Greek government with suspicion. [8]

Dimitrios Psarros, leader of EKKA Dimitrios Psarros.jpg
Dimitrios Psarros, leader of EKKA

At the same time, EAM found itself under attack by the Germans and their collaborators. Dominated by the old political class, and looking already to the oncoming post-Liberation era, the new Ioannis Rallis government had established the notorious Security Battalions, with the blessing of the German authorities, in order to fight exclusively against ELAS. Other anti-communist resistance groups, such as the royalist Organization "X", were also reinforced, receiving arms and funding by the British.

A virtual civil war was now being waged under the eyes of the Germans. In October 1943, ELAS attacked EDES in Epirus, where the latter organization was the dominant resistance group, by transferring units from the neighbouring regions. This conflict continued until February 1944, when the British mission in Greece succeeded in negotiating a ceasefire (the Plaka agreement) which in the event proved to be only temporary. The attack led to an unofficial truce between EDES and the German forces in Epirus under General Hubert Lanz. [9] But the fight continued amongst ELAS and the other minor resistance groups (like "X"), as well as against the Security Battalions, even in the streets of Athens, until the German withdrawal in October 1944. In March, EAM established its own rival government in Free Greece, the Political Committee of National Liberation, clearly staking its claim to a dominant role in post-war Greece. Consequently, on Easter Monday, 17 April 1944, ELAS forces attacked and destroyed the EKKA's 5/42 Regiment, capturing and executing many of its men, including its leader Colonel Dimitrios Psarros. The event caused a major shock in the Greek political scene, since Psarros was a well-known republican, patriot and anti-royalist. For EAM-ELAS, this act was fatal, as it strengthened suspicion of its intentions for the post-Occupation period, and drove many liberals and moderates, especially in the cities, against it, cementing the emerging rift in Greek society between pro- and anti-EAM segments.

Resistance in the islands and Crete

W. Stanley Moss in Crete during the Damasta sabotage. W. Stanley Moss - Damasta Operation.jpg
W. Stanley Moss in Crete during the Damasta sabotage.

The resistance in Crete was centred in the mountainous interior, and despite the strong presence of German troops, developed significant activity. Notable figures of the Cretan Resistance include Patrick Leigh Fermor, Petrakogiorgis and George Psychoundakis. Resistance operations included airfield sabotages, the abduction of General Heinrich Kreipe by Patrick Leigh Fermor and Bill Stanley Moss, the battle of Trahili, and the sabotage of Damasta.

On Euboea, Sara Fortis led a small, all-female company of partisans against the German occupational forces. [10]

Resistance in the cities

Lela Karagianni was head of the intelligence group Bouboulina. She was executed in September 1944 by the Germans LELA-1.jpg
Lela Karagianni was head of the intelligence group Bouboulina. She was executed in September 1944 by the Germans

Resistance in the cities was organized quickly, but of necessity groups were small and fragmented. The cities, and the working-class suburbs of Athens in particular, witnessed appalling suffering in the winter of 1941-42, when food confiscations and disrupted communications caused widespread famine and perhaps hundreds of thousands of deaths. This caused fertile ground for recruitment, but lack of equipment, funds and organization limited the spread of the resistance. The main roles of resistance operatives were intelligence and sabotage, mostly in cooperation with British Intelligence. One of the earliest jobs of the urban resistance was helping stranded Commonwealth soldiers escape. The resistance groups stayed in touch with British handlers through wireless sets, met and helped British spies and saboteurs that parachuted in, provided intelligence, conducted propaganda efforts, and ran escape networks for allied operatives and Greek young men wishing to join the Hellenic forces in exile. Wireless equipment, money, weapons and other support was mainly supplied by British Intelligence, but it was never enough. Fragmentation of groups, the need for secrecy, and emerging conflicts between right and left, monarchists and republicans, did not help. Urban resistance work was very dangerous: operatives were always in danger of arrest and summary execution, and suffered heavy casualties. Captured fighters were routinely tortured by the Abwehr and the Gestapo, and confessions used to roll up networks. The job of wireless operators was perhaps the most dangerous, since the Germans used direction-finding equipment to pinpoint the location of transmitters; operators were often shot on the spot, and those were the lucky ones, since immediate execution prevented torture.

Panagiotis G. Tesseris (center) was a leader within EAM/ELAS. He is in full military uniform with other members of the Greek Resistance. Greek resistant members with Panagiotis G. Tesseris center.jpg
Panagiotis G. Tesseris (center) was a leader within EAM/ELAS. He is in full military uniform with other members of the Greek Resistance.

Urban protest

One of the most important forms of resistance were the mass protest movements. The first such event occurred during the national anniversary of 25 March 1942, when students attempted to lay a wreath at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. This resulted in clashes with mounted Carabinieri , and marked the awakening of the spirit of Resistance amongst the wider urban population. Soon after, from 12–14 April, the "TTT" (Telecommunications & Postal) workers began a strike in Athens, which spread throughout the country. Initially, the strikers' demands were financial, but it quickly assumed a political aspect, as the strike was encouraged by EAM's labour union organization, EEAM. Finally, the strike ended on April 21, with the full capitulation of the collaborationist government to the strikers' demands, including the immediate release of arrested strike leaders. [11]

In early 1943, rumours spread of a planned mobilization of the labour force by the occupation authorities, with the intent of sending them to work in Germany. The first reactions began amongst students on 7 February, but soon grew in scope and volume. Throughout February, successive strikes and demonstrations paralyzed Athens, culminating in a massive rally on the 24th. The tense climate was amply displayed at the funeral of Greece's national poet, Kostis Palamas, on 28 February, which turned into an anti-Axis demonstration. [12]

Risks involved

Statue of Nike (Victory) in Hermoupolis commemorating the Resistance Syros El. Venizelou Ermoupoli.jpg
Statue of Nike (Victory) in Hermoupolis commemorating the Resistance

Resisting the Axis occupation was fraught with risks. Foremost among these for the partisans was death in combat as the German military forces were far superior. However, the guerrilla fighters also had to face starvation, brutal environmental conditions in the mountains of Greece, while poorly clothed and shod.

The resistance also involved risks for ordinary Greeks. Attacks often incited reprisal killings of civilians by the German occupying forces. Villages were burned and their inhabitants massacred. The Germans also resorted to hostage taking. There were also accusations that many of ELAS' attacks against German soldiers didn't happen for resistance reasons but aiming the destruction of specific villages and the recruitment of their men. Quotas were even introduced determining the number of civilians or hostages to be killed in response to the death or wounding of German soldiers. [13]

Table of main Resistance groups

Group namePolitical orientationPolitical leadershipMilitary armMilitary leadershipEstimated peak membership
National Liberation Front (Ethnikó Apeleftherotikó Métopo/ΕΑΜ)
Broad leftist front affiliated with the Communist Party of Greece Georgios Siantos Greek People's Liberation Army (Ellinikós Laikós Apeleftherotikós Stratós/ELAS) Aris Velouchiotis, Stefanos Sarafis 50,000 + 30,000 reserves (October 1944) [14]
National Republican Greek League
(Ethnikós Dimokratikós Ellinikós Sýndesmos/EDES)
Venizelist, nationalist, republican, conservatist, anti-communist Nikolaos Plastiras (nominal), Komninos Pyromaglou National Groups of Greek Guerrillas
(Ethnikés Omádes Ellínon Antartón/EOEA)
Napoleon Zervas 12,000 + ca. 5,000 reserves (October 1944) [15]
National and Social Liberation
(Ethnikí Kai Koinonikí Apelefthérosis/EKKA)
Venizelist, republican, liberal, anti-communist Georgios Kartalis 5/42 Evzone Regiment
(5/42 Sýntagma Evzónon)
Dimitrios Psarros and Evripidis Bakirtzis 1,000 (spring 1943) [15]

Notable Resistance members






British agents:

See also

Related Research Articles

National Liberation Front (Greece) Greek resistance movement during World War II

The National Liberation Front was the main movement of the Greek Resistance during the Axis occupation of Greece. Its main driving force was the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), but its membership throughout the occupation included several other leftist and republican groups. ΕΑΜ became the first true mass social movement in modern Greek history. Its military wing, the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS), quickly grew into the largest armed guerrilla force in the country, and the only one with nation-wide presence. At the same time, from late 1943 onwards, the political enmity between ΕΑΜ and rival resistance groups from the centre and right evolved into a virtual civil war, while its relationship with the British and the British-backed Greek government in exile was characterized by mutual mistrust, leading EAM to establish its own government, the Political Committee of National Liberation, in the areas it had liberated in spring 1944. Tensions were resolved provisionally in the Lebanon Conference in May 1944, when EAM agreed to enter the Greek government in exile under Georgios Papandreou. The organisation reached its peak after liberation in late 1944, when it controlled most of the country, before suffering a catastrophic military defeat against the British and the government forces in the Dekemvriana clashes. This marked the beginning of its gradual decline, the disarmament of ELAS, and the open persecution of its members during the "White Terror", leading eventually to the outbreak of the Greek Civil War.

Greek Peoples Liberation Army armed wing of the Greek resistance movement National Liberation Front

The Greek People's Liberation Army, also mistakenly called the National People's Liberation Army, was the military arm of the left-wing National Liberation Front (EAM) during the period of the Greek Resistance until February 1945, when, following the Dekemvriana clashes and the Varkiza Agreement, it was disarmed and disbanded.

National Republican Greek League organization

The National Republican Greek League was one of the major resistance groups formed during the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II.

National and Social Liberation was a Greek Resistance movement during the Axis occupation of Greece. It was founded in autumn 1942 by Colonel Dimitrios Psarros and politician Georgios Kartalis.

Military history of Greece during World War II

The military history of Greece during World War II began on 28 October 1940, when the Italian Army invaded from Albania, beginning the Greco-Italian War. The Greek Army was able to halt the invasion temporarily and was able to push the Italians back into Albania. The Greek successes forced Nazi Germany to intervene. The Germans invaded Greece and Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, and overran both countries within a month, despite British aid to Greece in the form of an expeditionary corps. The conquest of Greece was completed in May with the capture of Crete from the air, although the Fallschirmjäger suffered such extensive casualties in this operation that the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht abandoned large-scale airborne operations for the remainder of the war. The German diversion of resources in the Balkans is also considered by some historians to have delayed the launch of the invasion of the Soviet Union by a critical month, which proved disastrous when the German Army failed to take Moscow.

Napoleon Zervas Greek general

Napoleon Zervas was a Greek general and resistance leader during World War II. He organized and led the National Republican Greek League (EDES), the second most significant, in terms of size and activity, resistance organization against the Axis Occupation of Greece.

Dimitrios Psarros Greek army officer and resistance fighter

Dimitrios Psarros was a Greek army officer and resistance leader. He was the founder and leader of the resistance group National and Social Liberation, the third-most significant organization of the Greek Resistance movement after the National Liberation Front (EAM) and the National Republican Greek League (EDES).

Aris Velouchiotis Greek resistance fighter

Athanasios Klaras, better known by the nom de guerreAris Velouchiotis, was the most prominent leader and chief instigator of the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS), the military branch of the National Liberation Front (EAM), which was the major resistance organization in occupied Greece from 1942 to 1945. Aris Velouchiotis was appointed military leader of ELAS.

Greek government-in-exile

The Greek government-in-exile was the government in exile of Greece formed in the aftermath of the Battle of Greece, and the subsequent occupation of Greece by Nazi Germany and the Fascist Italy, also by the Kingdom of Bulgaria. The government-in-exile was based in Cairo, Egypt. Hence it is also commonly referred to as the "Cairo Government". It was the internationally recognised Greek government, during the years of the Axis occupation of Greece.

The 4th "Ali Demi" Battalion was a battalion under the 15th Regiment of Greek People's Liberation Army, founded during the Second World War. It comprised both from Cham Albanians and Greeks, of the region of Epirus and was established in May 1944.

Georgios Kartalis was a Greek politician.

Greek Civil War 1946-1949 civil war in Greece

Τhe Greek Civil War was a civil war fought in Greece from 1946 to 1949 between the Greek government army — backed by the United Kingdom and the United States — and the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE) — the military branch of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) — backed by Yugoslavia, Albania and Bulgaria. It is often considered the first proxy war of the Cold War, although the Soviet Union avoided sending aid. The fighting resulted in the defeat of the DSE by the Hellenic Army. Founded by the Communist Party of Greece and supported by neighboring and newly founded Socialist States such as Yugoslavia, Albania and Bulgaria, the Democratic Army of Greece included many personnel who had fought as partisans against German, Italian and Bulgarian occupation forces during the Second World War of 1939–1945.

The National Bands Agreement was an agreement concluded on 5 July 1943 at the village of Liaskovo, between the British military mission to occupied Greece and the three main Greek Resistance organizations, EAM-ELAS, EDES and EKKA. Its aim was to coordinate the actions of the Resistance movement in Greece, including the establishment of a joint headquarters under the aegis of the British GHQ Middle East.

The Feneos Executions is the name given to a series of killings committed by the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS) resistance group, and especially by its secret police OPLA, in the Feneos area of Corinthia, Greece, during the very first stages of the Greek Civil War, while the country was still occupied by the Axis Powers.

Battle of Fardykambos

The Battle of Fardykambos, also known as the Battle of Bougazi, was fought between the National Liberation Front (EAM-ELAS) of the Greek Resistance against the Italian troops during the Axis Occupation of Greece. The battle was notable for the large-scale and spontaneous participation of the local populace, and of officers from other groups and organizations, including right-wing rivals to ELAS.

The Panhellenic Liberation Organization, was a Greek undercover resistance organization against the Axis occupation of Greece. It was founded in 1941 by a group of Greek army officers, under the name Defenders of Northern Greece, employing methods of non violent resistance. In 1943, YVE was renamed as the Panhellenic Liberation Organization (PAO), shifting its focus towards armed struggle. In the August of the same year it came into conflict with Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS), a communist-led resistance organization. PAO was defeated in the ensuing civil war and its remnants turned towards collaboration with the Germans.

Prometheus II was a minor group of the Greek Resistance during the Axis occupation of Greece in World War II, engaged in espionage and sabotage operations in collaboration with the Special Operations Executive, as well as providing liaison to other groups of the Resistance.

Battle of Meligalas battle

The Battle of Meligalas took place at Meligalas in Messenia in southwestern Greece, on 13–15 September 1944, between the Greek Resistance forces of the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS) and the Axis collaborationist Security Battalions.


  1. Mazower (2001), p. 87-88
  2. Mazower (2001), pp. 106–7
  3. Mazower (2001), p. 132–3
  4. German Antiguerrilla Operations, Ch. 7.II
  5. 1 2 Mazower (2001), p. 137
  6. German Antiguerrilla Operations, Ch. 8.III
  7. Mazower (2001), p. 155
  8. Mazower (2001), p. 141–43
  9. Mazower (2001), pp. 148, 178
  10. Admin, Content (2016-12-07). "Sara Fortis". Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  11. Mazower (2001), p.112
  12. Mazower (2001), pp.120-121
  13. Mazower, Inside Hitler's Greece p.177
  14. Shrader (1999), pp. 23, 26
  15. 1 2 Shrader (1999), p. 31