Resistance during World War II

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Soviet partisan fighters behind German front lines in Belarus, 1943.

Resistance movements during World War II occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means, ranging from non-cooperation, disinformation and propaganda to hiding crashed pilots and even to outright warfare and the recapturing of towns. Resistance movements were the people of the inhabited place trying to stop the Nazi government. Resistance movements are sometimes also referred to as "the underground".

Among the most notable resistance movements were the Yugoslav Partisans (the largest resistance movement in World War II),[1][2] the Polish Home Army, the Soviet partisans, the French Forces of the Interior, the Italian CLN, the Norwegian Resistance, the Greek Resistance and the Dutch Resistance.

Many countries had resistance movements dedicated to fighting the Axis invaders, and Germany itself also had an anti-Nazi movement. Although Britain did not suffer the Nazi occupation in World War II, the British made preparations for a British resistance movement, called the Auxiliary Units, in the event of a German invasion. Various organisations were also formed to establish foreign resistance cells or support existing resistance movements, like the British SOE and the American OSS (the forerunner of the CIA).

There were also resistance movements fighting against the Allied invaders. In Italian East Africa, after the Italian forces were defeated during the East African Campaign, some Italians participated in a guerrilla war against the British (1941-1943). The German Nazi resistance movement ("Werwolf") never amounted to much. On the other hand, the "Forest Brothers" of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania included many fighters who fought for the Nazis and operated against the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States into the 1960s. During or after the war, similar anti-Soviet resistance rose up in places like Romania, Poland, and western Ukraine. While the Japanese were famous for "fighting to the last man," Japanese holdouts tended to be individually motivated and there is little indication that there was any organized Japanese resistance after the war.


[edit] Organization

Members of the Dutch Eindhoven Resistance with troops of the US 101st Airborne Division in front of Eindhoven cathedral during Operation Market Garden, September 1944

After the first shock following the Blitzkrieg, people slowly started to get organized, both locally and on a larger scale, especially when Jews and other groups were starting to be deported and used for the Arbeitseinsatz (forced labor for the Germans). Organization was dangerous, so much resistance was done by individuals. The possibilities depended much on the terrain; where there were large tracts of uninhabited land, especially hills and forests, resistance could more easily get organised undetected. This favoured in particular the Soviet partisan in Eastern Europe. In the much more densely populated Netherlands, the Biesbosch wilderness could be used to go into hiding. In northern Italy, both the Alps and the Appennines offered shelter to partisan brigades, though many groups operated directly inside the major cities.

There were many different types of groups, ranging in activity from humanitarian aid to armed resistance, and sometimes cooperating to a varying degree. Resistance usually arose spontaneously, but was encouraged and helped mainly from London and Moscow.

[edit] Forms of resistance

Various forms of resistance were:

  • Non-violent
    • Sabotage – the Arbeitseinsatz ("Work Contribution") forced locals to work for the Germans, but work was often done slowly or intentionally badly
    • Strikes and demonstrations
    • Based on existing organizations, such as the churches, students, communists and doctors (professional resistance)
Polish insurgent at a Warsaw Uprising barricade, 1944
Members of the French resistance group Maquis in La Tresorerie, 14 September 1944, Boulogne
  • Armed
    • raids on distribution offices to get food coupons or various documents such as Ausweise or on birth registry offices to get rid of information about Jews and others the Nazis paid special attention to
    • temporary liberation of areas, such as in Yugoslavia, Paris, and northern Italy, occasionally in cooperation with the Allied forces
    • uprisings such as in Warsaw in 1943 and 1944
    • continuing battle and guerrilla warfare, such as the partisans in the USSR and Yugoslavia and the Maquis in France
  • Espionage, including sending reports of military importance (e.g., troop movements, weather reports etc.)
  • Illegal press to counter the Nazi propaganda
  • Political resistance to prepare for the reorganization after the war
  • Helping people to go into hiding (e.g., to escape the Arbeitseinsatz or deportation) – this was one of the main activities in the Netherlands, due to the large number of Jews and the high level of administration, which made it easy for the Germans to identify Jews.
  • Helping Allied military personnel caught behind Axis lines
  • Helping POWs with illegal supplies, breakouts, communication, etc.
  • Forgery of documents

[edit] Famous resistance operations

[edit] 1940

first partisan of II world war - Major Henryk Dobrzański aka "Hubal"

In March 1940, a partisan unit of the first guerilla organisation of the Second World War in Europe, led by Major Henryk DobrzaÅ„ski (Hubal) completely destroyed a battalion of German infantry in a skirmish near the village of Huciska. A few days later in an ambush near the village of SzaÅasy it inflicted heavy casualties upon another German unit. To counter this threat, the German authorities formed a special 1,000 man-strong anti-partisan unit of combined SS-Wehrmacht forces, including a Panzer group. Although DobrzaÅ„ski's unit never exceeded 300 men, the Germans fielded at least 8,000 men in the area to secure it.[3][4]

In 1940, Witold Pilecki, a member of Polish resistance, presented to his superiors a plan to enter Germany's Auschwitz concentration camp, gather intelligence on the camp from the inside, and organize inmate resistance.[5] The Home Army approved this plan, provided him with a false identity card, and on 19 September 1940, he deliberately went out during a street roundup in Warsaw-Åapanka, and was caught by the Germans along with other civilians and sent to Auschwitz. In the camp he organized the underground organization Zwiäzek Organizacji Wojskowej (ZOW).[6] From October 1940, ZOW sent the first reports about the camp and its genocide to Home Army Headquarters in Warsaw through the resistance network organized in Auschwitz.[7]

On the night of January 21–22, 1941, in the Soviet-occupied Podolian town of Czortkw, the Czortkw Uprising started. It was the first Polish uprising and the first anti-Soviet uprising of World War II. Anti-Soviet Poles, most of them teenagers from local high schools, stormed the local Red Army barracks and a prison, in order to release Polish soldiers kept there.

[edit] 1941

From April 1941, Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the Union for Armed Struggle started in Poland Operation N headed by Tadeusz Żenczykowski. Action was complex of sabotage, subversion and black-propaganda activities carried out by the Polish resistance against Nazi German occupation forces during World War II[8]

Beginning in March 1941, Witold Pilecki's reports were being forwarded via the Polish resistance to the Polish government in exile and through it, to the British government in London and other Allied governments. These reports were the first relation about Holocaust and principal source of intelligence on Auschwitz for the Western Allies.[9]

In February 1941, the Dutch Communist Party organized a general strike in Amsterdam and surrounding cities, known as the February strike, in protest against anti-Jewish measures by the Nazi occupying force and violence by fascist street fighters against Jews. Several hundreds of thousands of people participated in the strike. The strike was put down by the Nazis and some participants were executed.

The first anti-soviet uprising during WWII began on June 22, 1941 (the start-date of Operation Barbarossa) in Lithuania.

The Republic of UÅice (ñ ñ¿ñ») was a short-lived liberated Yugoslav territory, the first part of occupied Europe to be liberated. Organized as a military mini-state it existed throughout the autumn of 1941 in the western part of Serbia. The Republic was established by the Partisan resistance movement and its administrative center was in the town of UÅice. The government was made of "people's councils" (odbors), and the Communists opened schools and published a newspaper, Borba (meaning "Struggle"). They even managed to run a postal system and around 145 km (90 mi) of railway and operated an ammunition factory from the vaults beneath the bank in UÅice.

On 13 July 1941, in Italian-occupied Montenegro Montenegrin separatist Sekula Drljeviä proclaimed an Independent State of Montenegro under Italian protectorate, upon which a nation-wide rebellion escalated raised by Partisans, Yugoslav Royal officers and various other armed personnel. In quick time, most of Montenegro was liberated, but on 12 August – after a major Italian offensive – the uprising collapsed as units were disintegrating, poor leadership occurred as well as collaboration.

Operation Anthropoid was a resistance move during the World War II to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi –Protector of Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia– and the chief of Nazi's final solution, by the Czech resistance in Prague. Over fifteen thousand Czechs were killed in reprisals, with the most infamous incidents being the complete destruction of the towns of Lidice and LeÅ¡ky.

[edit] 1942

The Luxembourgian general strike of 1942 was a pacific resistance movement organised within a short time period to protest against a directive that incorporated the Luxembourg youth into the Wehrmacht. A national general strike, originating mainly in Wiltz, paralysed the country and forced the occupying German authorities to respond violently by sentencing 21 strikers to death.

In September 1942, "The Council to Aid Jews Żegota" was founded by Zofia Kossak-Szczucka and Wanda Krahelska-Filipowicz ("Alinka") and made up of Polish Democrat as well as other Catholic activists. Poland was the only country in occupied Europe where there existed such a dedicated secret organization. Half of the Jews who survived the war (thus over 50,000) were aided in some shape or form by Żegota.[10] Most known activist of Żegota was Irena Sendler head of the children's division who saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, providing them false documents, and sheltering them in individual and group children's homes outside the Ghetto.[11]

On the night of 7-8 October 1942, Operation Wieniec started. It targeted rail infrastructure near Warsaw. Similar operations aimed at disrupting German transport and communication in occupied Poland occurred in the coming months and years. It targeted railroads, bridges and supply depots, primarily near transport hubs such as Warsaw and Lublin.

On 25 November, Greek guerrillas with the help of twelve British saboteurs[12] carried out a successful operation which disrupted the German ammunition transportation to the German Africa Corps under Rommel – the destruction of Gorgopotamos bridge (Operation Harling).[13][14]

The ZamoÅä Uprising was an armed uprising of Armia Krajowa and Bataliony ChÅopskie) against the forced expulsion of Poles from the ZamoÅä region (ZamoÅä Lands, Zamojszczyzna) under the Nazi Generalplan Ost. Nazi Germans attempting to remove the local Poles from the Greater Zamosc area (through forced removal, transfer to forced labor camps, or, in rare cases, mass murder) to get it ready for German colonization. It lasted from 1942-1944, and despite heavy casualties suffered by the Underground, the Germans failed.

[edit] 1943

Belorussia, 1943. A Jewish partisan group of the Chkalov Brigade.

In early January 1943, the 20,000 strong main operational group of the Yugoslav Partisans, stationed in western Bosnia, came under ferocious attack by over 150,000 German and Axis troops, supported by about 200 Luftwaffe aircraft in what became known as the Battle of the Neretva (the German codename was "Fall Weiss" or "Case White").[15] The Axis rallied eleven divisions, six German, three Italian, and two divisions of the puppet Independent State of Croatia (supported by Ustaše formations) as well as a number of Chetnik brigades.[16] The goal was to destroy the Partisan HQ and main field hospital (all Partisan wounded and prisoners faced certain execution), but this was thwarted by the diversion and retreat across the Neretva river, planned by the Partisan supreme command led by Marshal Josip Broz Tito. The main Partisan force escaped into Serbia where it immediately took the offensive and succeeded in eliminating the Chetnik movement as a fighting force.

On 19 April 1943, three members of the Belgian resistance movement were able to stop the Twentieth convoy, which was the 20th prisoner transport in Belgium organised by the Germans during World War II. The exceptional action by members of the Belgian resistance occurred to free Jewish and gypsy civilians who were being transported by train from the Dossin army base located in Mechelen, Belgium to the concentration camp Auschwitz. The XXth train convoy transported 1,631 Jews (men, women and children). Some of the prisoners were able to escape and marked this particular kind of liberation action by the Belgian resistance movement as unique in the European history of the Holocaust.

In October 1943, the rescue of the Danish Jews meant that nearly all of the Danish Jews were saved from KZ camps by the Danish resistance. This action is considered one of the bravest and most significant displays of public defiance against the Nazis. However, the action was largely due to the personal intervention of German diplomat Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, who both leaked news of the intended round up of the Jews to both the Danish opposition and Jewish groups and negotiated with the Swedes to ensure Danish Jews would be accepted in Sweden.

On 26 March 1943 in Warsaw, Operation Arsenal was conducted by the Szare Szeregi (Gray Ranks) Polish Underground formation and led to the release of arrested troop leader Jan Bytnar "Rudy". In an attack on the prison van Bytnar and 24 other prisoners were set free. [17]

The Battle of Sutjeska from 15 May-16 June 1943 was a joint attack of the Axis forces that once again attempted to destroy the main Yugoslav Partisan force, near the Sutjeska river in southeastern Bosnia. The Axis rallied 127,000 troops for the offensive, including German, Italian, NDH, Bulgarian and Cossack units, as well as over 300 airplanes (under German operational command), against 18,000 soldiers of the primary Yugoslav Partisans operational group organised in 16 brigades. Facing almost exclusively German troops in the final encirclement, the Yugoslav Partisans finally succeeded in breaking out across the Sutjeska river through the lines of the German 118th Jger Division, 104th Jger Division and 369th (Croatian) Infantry Division in the northwestern direction, towards eastern Bosnia. Three brigades and the central hospital with over 2,000 wounded remained surrounded and, following Hitler's instructions, German commander-in-chief General Alexander Lhr ordered and carried out their annihilation, including the wounded and unarmed medical personnel. In addition, Partisan troops suffered from severe lack of food and medical supplies, and many were struck down by typhoid. However, the failure of the offensive marked a turning point for Yugoslavia during World War II.

Operation Heads started – action of the serial assassinations Nazi personnel sentenced to death by the Special Courts for crimes against Polish citizens in occupied Poland. The Resistance fighters of Polish Home Army's unit Agat kill Franz Brkl during Operation Brkl in 1943, and Franz Kutschera during Operation Kutschera in 1944. Both men wre high-ranking Nazi German SS and secret police officers responsible for murder and brutal interrogation of thousands of Polish Jews and Polish resistance fighters and supporters.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising lasted from 19 April-16 May, and cost the Nazi forces 17 dead and 93 wounded.

From November 1943, Operation Most III started. The Armia Krajowa provided the Allies with crucial intelligence on the German V-2 rocket. In effect, some 50 kg (110 lb) of the most important parts of the captured V-2, as well as the final report, analyses, sketches and photos, were transported to Brindisi by a Royal Air Force Douglas Dakota aircraft. In late July 1944, the V-2 parts were delivered to London.[18]

[edit] 1944

Macedonian Partisans liberating the city of Bitola in 1944.
The Vemork hydroelectric plant in Norway, site of the heavy water production, and a part of the German nuclear program, sabotaged by Norwegians between 1942 and 1944

On 11 February 1944, the Resistance fighters of Polish Home Army's unit Agat executed Franz Kutschera, SS and Reich's Police Chief in Warsaw in action known as Operation Kutschera.[19][20]

In the spring of 1944, a plan was laid out by the Allies to kidnap General Mller, whose harsh repressive measures had earned him the nickname "the Butcher of Crete". The operation was led by Major Patrick Leigh Fermor, together with Captain W. Stanley Moss, Greek SOE agents and Cretan resistance fighters. However, Mller left the island before the plan could be carried out. Undeterred, Fermor decided to abduct General Heinrich Kreipe instead.

On the night of 26 April, General Kreipe left his headquarters in Archanes and headed without escort to his well-guarded residence, "Villa Ariadni", approximately 50 ft 6 in (15.39 m)25 km outside Heraklion. Major Fermor and Captain Moss, dressed as German military policemen, waited for him 1 km (0.62 mi) before his residence. They asked the driver to stop and asked for their papers. As soon as the car stopped, Fermor quickly opened Kreipe's door, rushed in and threatened him with his gun while Moss took the driver's seat. After driving some distance the British left the car, with suitable decoy material being planted that suggesting an escape off the island had been made by submarine, and with the General began a cross-country march. Hunted by German patrols, the group moved across the mountains to reach the southern side of the island, where a British Motor Launch (ML 842, commanded by Brian Coleman) was to pick them up. Eventually, on 14 May 1944, they were picked up (from Peristeres beach near Rhodakino) and transferred to Egypt.

In April-May 1944, the SS launched the daring airborne Raid on Drvar aimed at capturing Marshal Josip Broz Tito, the commander-in-chief of the Yugoslav Partisans, as well as disrupting their leadership and command structure. The Partisan headquarters were in the hills near Drvar, Bosnia at the time. The representatives of the Allies, Britain's Randolph Churchill and Evelyn Waugh, were also present. Elite German SS parachute commando units fought their way to Tito's cave headquarters and exchanged heavy gunfire resulting in numerous casualties on both sides.[21] Interestingly, Chetniks under DraÅa Mihailoviä also flocked to the firefight in their own attempt to capture Tito. By the time German forces had penetrated to the cave, however, Tito had already fled the scene. He had a train waiting for him that took him to the town of Jajce. It would appear that Tito and his staff were well prepared for emergencies. The commandos were only able to retrieve Tito–s marshal's uniform, which was later displayed in Vienna. After fierce fighting in and around the village cemetery, the Germans were able to link up with mountain troops. By that time, Tito, his British guests and Partisan survivors were fted aboard the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Blackmore and her captain Lt. Carson, RN.

An intricate series of resistance operations were launched in France prior to, and during, Operation Overlord. On June 5 1944, the BBC broadcasted a group of unusual sentences, which the Germans knew were code words – possibly for the invasion of Normandy. The BBC would regularly transmit hundreds of personal messages, of which only a few were really significant. A few days before D-Day, the commanding officers of the Resistance heard the first line of Verlaine's poem , "Chanson d'automne", "Les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne" (Long sobs of autumn violins) which meant that the "day" was imminent. When the second line "Blessent mon cÅur d'une langueur monotone" (wound my heart with a monotonous langour) was heard, the Resistance knew that the invasion would take place within the next 48 hours. They then knew it was time to go about their respective pre-assigned missions. All over France resistance groups had been coordinated, and various groups throughout the country increased their sabotage. Communications were cut, trains derailed, roads, water towers and ammunition depots destroyed and German garrisons were attacked. Some relayed info about German defensive positions on the beaches of Normandy to American and British commanders by radio, just prior to 6 June. Victory did not come easily; in June and July, in the Vercors plateau a newly reinforced maquis group fought more than 10,000 German soldiers (no Waffen-SS) under General Karl Pflaum and was defeated, with 840 casualties (639 fighters and 201 civilians). Following Tulle Murders, Major Otto Diekmann's Waffen-SS company wiped out the village of Oradour-sur-Glane on 10 June. The resistance also assisted the later Allied invasion in the south of France (Operation Dragoon). They started insurrections in cities as Paris when allied forces came close.

Polish resistance soldiers during 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

Operation Tempest launched in Poland in 1944 would lead to several major actions by Armia Krajowa, most notable of them being the Warsaw Uprising that took place in between August 1 and October 2, and failed due to the Soviet refusal, due to differences in ideology, to help; another one was Operation Ostra Brama: the Armia Krajowa or Home Army turned the weapons given to them by the nazi Germans (in hope that they would fight the incoming Soviets) against the nazi Germans–in the end the Home Army together with the Soviet troops liberated the Greater Vilnius area to the dismay of the Lithuanians.

On 25 June 1944, the Battle of Osuchy started – one of the largest battles between the Polish resistance and Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II, continuation of the Zamosc Uprising.[22] During Operation Most III, in 1944, the Polish Home Army or Armia Krajowa provided the British with the parts of the V-2 rocket.

Norwegian sabotages of the German nuclear program drew to a close after three years on 20 February 1944, with the saboteur bombing of the ferry SF Hydro. The ferry was to carry railway cars with heavy water drums from the Vemork hydroelectric plant, where they were produced, across Lake Tinnsj so they could be shipped to Germany. Its sinking effectively ended Nazi nuclear ambitions. The series of raids on the plant was later dubbed by the British SOE as the most successful act of sabotage in all of World War II, and was used as a basis for the US war movie The Heroes of Telemark.

As an initiation of their uprising, Slovakian rebels entered Bansk¡ Bystrica on the morning of 30 August 1944, the second day of the rebellion, and made it their headquarters. By 10 September, the insurgents gained control of large areas of central and eastern Slovakia. That included two captured airfields, and as a result of the two-week-old insurgency, the Soviet Air Force were able to begin flying in equipment to Slovakian and Soviet partisans.

There were also many brave men and women who resisted the Japanese occupation of their Homeland and Western colonies during World War II. You can look them up in the list of names of organization below.

[edit] Resistance movements during World War II

Yugoslav Partisan fighter Stjepan "Stevo" Filipoviä shouting "Smrt faÅ¡izmu sloboda narodu!" ("Death to fascism, freedom to the people!") (the Partisan slogan) seconds before plunging to his death.

[edit] Notable individuals

[edit] Documentaries

  • Confusion was their business (from the BBC series Secrets of World War II is a documentary about the SOE (Special Operations Executive) and its operations
  • The Real Heroes of the Telemark is a book and documentary by survival expert Ray Mears about the Norwegian sabotage of the German nuclear program (Norwegian heavy water sabotage)
  • Making Choices: The Dutch Resistance during World War II (2005) This award-winning, hour-long documentary tells the stories of four participants in the Dutch Resistance and the miracles that saved them from certain death at the hands of the Nazis.

[edit] Dramatisations

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Anna M
  2. ^ Yugoslavia in World War 2
  3. ^ *Marek Szymanski: Oddzial majora Hubala, Warszawa 1999, ISBN 978-83-912237-0-3
  4. ^ *Aleksandra ZiÅkowska Boehm: A Polish Partisan's Story (to be published by Military History Press)
  5. ^ Jozef Garlinski, Fighting Auschwitz: the Resistance Movement in the Concentration Camp, Fawcett, 1975, ISBN 978-0-449-22599-8, reprinted by Time Life Education, 1993. ISBN 978-0-8094-8925-1
  6. ^ Hershel Edelheit, History of the Holocaust: A Handbook and Dictionary, Westview Press, 1994, ISBN 978-0-8133-2240-7,Google Print, p.413
  7. ^ Adam Cyra, Ochotnik do Auschwitz - Witold Pilecki 1901-1948 [Volunteer for Auschwitz], OÅwiäcim 2000. ISBN 978-83-912000-3-2
  8. ^ Halina Auderska, Zygmunt ZiÅek, Akcja N. Wspomnienia 1939-1945 (Action N. Memoirs 1939-1945), Wydawnictwo Czytelnik, Warszawa, 1972 (Polish)
  9. ^ Norman Davies, Europe: A History, Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN
  10. ^ Tadeusz Piotrowski (1997). "Assistance to Jews". Poland's Holocaust. McFarland & Company. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-7864-0371-4. 
  11. ^ Baczynska, Gabriela; JonBoyle (2008-05-12). "Sendler, savior of Warsaw Ghetto children, dies". Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). Retrieved 2008-05-12. [dead link]
  12. ^ Christopher M. Woodhouse, "The struggle for Greece, 1941-1949", Hart-Davis Mc-Gibbon, 1977, Google print, p. 37
  13. ^ Richard Clogg, "A Short History of Modern Greece", Cambridge University Press, 1979 Google print, pp.142-143
  14. ^ Procopis Papastratis, "British policy towards Greece during the Second World War, 1941-1944", Cambridge University Press, 1984 Google print, p.129
  15. ^ Operation WEISS - The Battle of Neretva
  16. ^ Battles & Campaigns during World War 2 in Yugoslavia
  17. ^ Meksyk II[dead link]
  18. ^ Ordway, Frederick I., III. The Rocket Team. Apogee Books Space Series 36 (pp. 158, 173)
  19. ^ Piotr Stachniewicz, "AKCJA "KUTSCHERA", KsiäÅka i Wiedza, Warszawa 1982,
  20. ^ Joachim Lilla (Bearb.): Die Stellvertretenden Gauleiter und die Vertretung der Gauleiter der NSDAP im –žDritten Reich–, Koblenz 2003, S. 52-3 (Materialien aus dem Bundesarchiv, Heft 13)ISBN 978-3-86509-020-1
  21. ^ pp. 343-376, Eyre
  22. ^ Martin Gilbert, Second World War A Complete History, Holt Paperbacks, 2004, ISBN 978-0-8050-7623-3, Google Print, p.542

[edit] External links

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