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After the German invasion of Greece, in [] the Germans tranferred him to the Dachau concentration camp, from where he was released in May []. Returning to [[Greece]], he reassumed the leadership of the KKE from [[Giorgios Siantos]], acting general secretary of the KKE since January 1942.
In November [], he purged his arch-rival [[Markos Vafiadis]] and assumed control of the communist [[Democratic Army of Greece]]. After the defeat of the communist side in the Greek Civil War, Zachariadis denounced Siantos as a "British agent".
In [], the KKE leadership and the remnants of the Democratic Army fled into exile in the communist states of the Eastern bloc. Zachariadis' tough leadership of the KKE, his harsh treatment of dissenters, and his insistance on keeping units of the Democratic Army on a war footing, provoked serious rioting among exiled Greek communists in Tashkent in [].