Greek Resistance

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The Greek 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 during World War II.


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 to 1944. Italy led the way with its invasion of Albania in 1940. By 1941, Athens had fallen and King George II and his government escaped to Egypt, where they set up a government in exile which was recognized by the Allies. The British forced the King to use center wing politicians as ministers. Only two of his ministers were members of the previous dictatorial government. However, for most Greek citizens under occupation this government in exile was "too far". On one hand, followers of the left-wing resistance movement claimed it was illegitimate even before the war, since it descended from the dictatorship of General Ioannis Metaxas from 1936 to 1941. On the other hand, its inability to influence the events in Greece rendered it irrelevant in the minds of most Greek people.

The Germans set up a collaborationist government in Athens, but this government too lacked legitimacy and support, particularly once German economic exploitation of Greece created runaway inflation, acute shortages and eventually famine among the Greek civilian population. Some officers of the pre-War Greek regime served the Germans in various posts. During the war, this government created paramilitary forces armed by the Germans. These forces (whose maximum number was about 14.000 men in 1944) were never used against the allies but only against the pro-communist guerillas.

Table of resistance groups

Group name Political affiliation Estimated peak membership
Ethnikos Dimokratikos Ellinikos Syndesmos (EDES) anti-communist, Venizelist through royalist 14,000
Ethniki Kai Koinoniki Apeleftherosis (EKKA) anti-communist, Venizelist, republican 1,000
Ethniko Apeleftherotiko Metopo (ΕΑΜ) & Ethnikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos (ELAS) Leftist group dominated by the KKE — EAM was the civilian branch, ELAS the military wing 50,000 armed guerillas, 500,000 civilian*
  • It is estimated that almost 2 million people cooperated with EAM or its sister ELAS - branches of the most powerful resistance group - at some point in resistance to the German occupation, without becoming actual members of the organizations.


Notable resistance members

See also

Greece & World War II

Allied involvement in Greece

Further reading

  • W. Byford-Jones, The Greek Trilogy: Resistance-Liberation-Revolution, London 1945
  • R. Capell, Simiomata: A Greek Note Book 1944-45, London 1946
  • W. S. Churchill, The Second World War
  • N.G.L. Hammond Venture into Greece: With the Guerillas, 1943-44, London, 1983. (Like Woodhouse, he was a member of the British Military Mission)
  • Reginald Leeper, When Greek Meets Greek: On the War in Greece, 1943-1945
  • C. M. Woodhouse, Apple of Discord: A Survey of Recent Greek Politics in their International Setting, London 1948 (Woodhouse was a member of the British Military Mission to Greece during the war)