National Republican Greek League

The National Republican Greek League (Greek: Εθνικός Δημοκρατικός Ελληνικός Σύνδεσμος (ΕΔΕΣ), Ethnikós Dimokratikós Ellinikós Sýndesmos (EDES)) was one of the major resistance groups formed during the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II.

The largest of the non-communist resistance groups, its military wing, the National Groups of Greek Guerrillas (Εθνικές Ομάδες Ελλήνων Ανταρτών, Ethnikés Omádes Ellínon Antartón (ΕΟΕΑ)) concentrated its military activities in Epirus. From 1943 onwards, EDES came into confrontation with the communist-led National Liberation Front, beginning a series of civil conflicts that would lead to the Greek Civil War.

National Republican Greek League
Εθνικός Δημοκρατικός Ελληνικός Σύνδεσμος
Ethnikos Dimokratikos Ellinikos Syndesmos
Participant in the Greek Resistance
Napoleon Zervas (2nd from left) with fellow EDES officers Fotios Zambaras (1st from left)
Napoleon Zervas (2nd from left) with fellow EDES officers Fotios Zambaras (1st from left)
Active1941–1944
IdeologyGreek nationalism
Republicanism
Liberalism
Venizelism
Anti-communism
Anti-fascism
LeadersNapoleon Zervas
Komninos Pyromaglou
Area of operationsEpirus
Aetolia-Acarnania
Sizeca.12,000 (October 1944)
AlliesEKKA
PAO
PEAN
EOK
MAVI
Bouboulina Group
Organization X
SOE
Greek government in exile
Opponent(s)Royal Italian Army
German Army
Kingdom of Bulgaria
Collaborationist government
Security Battalions
Këshilla
Balli Kombëtar
EAM/ELAS

Foundation and ideology

The National Republican Greek League was founded on 9 September 1941 by a former army officer, Colonel Napoleon Zervas, a centrist who had been expelled from the army after the failed pro-Venizelist coup d'état of 1935, and two of his friends, Leonidas Spais and Ilias Stamatopoulos.[1]

Like many other resistance movements founded during that time, the political orientation of the National Republican Greek League was Republican, with a strong dislike towards the exiled king, George II, and featured some vague leftist-socialist tendencies. In the aftermath of the four-year right-wing Metaxas dictatorship, which was strongly supported by the king, the monarchy was almost universally rejected, while social ideals for "social fairness" became the vogue among the various resistance groups.

The founding charter of EDES explicitly demanded the "establishment in Greece of a Republican regime, of Socialist form", the "revelation [...] of the treason of former King George II and the gang of the 4th of August Dictatorship", calling for a thorough cleansing of the state and Greek social and public life from anyone "who has not proven a National Republican [and] socialist conscience through actions". The charter acknowledged the prominent exiled Venizelist general Nikolaos Plastiras as its nominal political head, but due to his exile in France they failed to take his consent beforehand.[1] For the time being, no reference to armed opposition against the occupying forces was made in the text.[1]

On the same day, Komninos Pyromaglou, a friend and assistant of Plastiras, left Nice, where Plastiras resided, for Greece. He was authorize by the general to form, on his behalf, a republican organization with socialist content", and prepare to turn both "against the Occupier" and against a return of the monarchy.[2] After his arrival in Athens on 23 September, Pyromaglou came into contact with Republican circles, and after contacting Zervas took EDES' command. In October, a five-member Executive Committee was founded, with Pyromaglou as Plastiras' representative as General Secretary and Zervas as a simple member.[3]

As the organization grew, it succeeded in establishing links with the British Headquarters in Cairo, with a view to receiving funds, weapons and guidance. Under British pressure which at the time strongly supported the Greek monarchy, Zervas was forced to send a statement of loyalty to King George II in March 1942.[4] This marked a silent breach with the vitriolic anti-monarchist attacks of the past months, and marked EDES's slow slide towards a more pro-monarchist stance.

Beginnings of armed resistance – The Gorgopotamos operation

Like most similar groups, EDES was initially limited to Athens. Having the support of many prominent Venizelist and Republican military figures, EDES came into contact with EAM and tried to establish some form of cooperation. The negotiations failed over the demands of the Communists for a merger of EDES with EAM and their distrust of Zervas' pro-British attitudes.[5]

On 23 July 1942, after intense British pressure and more than a month after the official appearance of the military wing of EAM, the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS), Zervas, accompanied by Pyromaglou and a handful of companions, set out for the Valtos Mountains in Aetolia-Acarnania, an area with long traditions of guerrilla warfare stretching back to the Ottoman period.[6] From then and until the end of the Occupation, Epirus would be the primary area of operations of the EDES andartes.

Supported by British parachute drops, EDES quickly gathered some 100 fighters. The first major operation of EDES was "Operation Harling", the destruction of the Gorgopotamos viaduct by a joint force of British SOE commandos, and EDES and ELAS forces. While the successful operation, one of the greatest sabotage acts in occupied Europe, greatly boosted the prestige of the nascent Resistance, it also caused a significant rift between EDES and ELAS: the British loudly proclaimed and lauded Zervas' role in the operation, while ignoring the contribution – numerically far greater – of the leftist ELAS forces.[7] While the rift was healed by British mediation, it presaged the problems that would appear in the future.

List of battles

1942

  • 23 Oktober - 24 November: Battle against Italian forces at Skoulikaria and at wider mountainous area of Arta, during 22 days.
  • 25 November: Operation Harling (Gorgopotamos).
  • 20–22 December: Battle against Italian forces at Ano Kalentini - Xirokampos - Velentziko - Koufalo of Arta

1943

  • 20 May: Victorious battle against Italians and Cham Albanians at Agia Kyriaki village.
  • 22 June : Destruction of Spiliopotamos bridge.
  • 6 July: Victorious battle against Italian alpinists at Milia, Epirus.
  • 8–20 September: Battles against German forces at Metsovo, Pramada, Kalarites.
  • 16,19 September: Battles against Germans and Cham Albanians at Skala Paramythias.
  • 30 September: Attack against German forces at Xirovouni.
  • 30–31 October: Battle against Edelweiss Division (with the eventual participation of ELAS, mainly against the EDES forces[8])
  • November–December: Battles against Germans and Cham Albanians at Thesprotia.

1944

  • 29 Juny: Liberation of Paramythia and Parga.
  • 30 Juny: Victorious battle against Germans and Cham Albanians at Menina.
  • 11 August: Liberation of Margariti.
  • 17–18 August: Conquest of Fort Menina.
  • 14 September: Battle of Dodona-Liberation of Lefkada.
  • 22 September: Liberation of Igoumenitsa and Filiates.
  • 7–15 October: Battles against German forces.

Accusations of collaboration by ELAS

The left wing Greek People's Liberation Army on various occasions accused its rival organizations, and particularly EDES, for collaboration with the occupation forces.[9][10][11] However, this accusation was as yet unfounded, at least concerning EDES' guerilla branch.[12] Moreover, during the armed conflicts between ELAS and EDES in Athens, a propaganda war was launched with ELAS accusing EDES of collaboration, mainly due to gaining plausibility from the explicit exemption of EDES from German propaganda attacks.[11][13] EDES was accusing ELAS for soviet perspective and crimes against non communists.

On the other hand, Stylianos Gonatas, initially a political leader of EDES in Athens, won the peculiar enmity of the organization because he supported the collaborationist Security Battalions and encouraged young officers to join their ranks, which led to hostility of the EAM groups towards him.[14][15] The 12th Army of Nazi Germany attempted for a short time to coopt the EDES forces, and to use them against the ELAS, but this attempt failed and in July 1944 the EDES launched new attacks.[16][17]

The civil war within the Resistance

These internal conflicts caused rivalry between resistance groups and eventually escalated into civil war. In October 1943, ELAS launched an attack on EDES. These attacks triggered a civil war that would last until February 1944. After that, a fragile truce was established, which lasted until December, two months after the Liberation. Then, while the ELAS of Athens attempted to overthrow the government, other units stormed the EDES positions in Epirus. The latter was defeated and the remaining forces were evacuated to Corfu. After the defeat of the ELAS in Athens (January 1945), EDES forces returned to Epirus, where part of them got involved to the expulsion of the Cham Albanians.

References

  1. ^ a b c Fleischer (1990), p. 150
  2. ^ Fleischer (1990), p. 154
  3. ^ Fleischer (1990), pp. 154–155
  4. ^ Fleischer (1990), p. 388
  5. ^ Fleischer (1990), p. 238
  6. ^ Fleischer (1990), p. 241
  7. ^ Fleischer (1990), p. 247
  8. ^ "Η μάχη της Νεράιδας, 30-31 Οκτωβρίου 1943". Ελληνικά Χρονικά (in Greek). 31 October 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  9. ^ Charles R. Shrader. The withered vine: logistics and the communist insurgency in Greece, 1945-1949. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999 ISBN 978-0-275-96544-0. p. 34.
  10. ^ Ian Dear,Michael Richard Daniell Foot. The Oxford companion to World War II. Oxford University Press, 2001 ISBN 978-0-19-860446-4, p. 403
  11. ^ a b David H. Close. The origins of the Greek civil war . Longman, 1995, ISBN 978-0-582-06472-0, p. 106
  12. ^ John O. Iatrides. Greece in the 1940s: a nation in crisis Vol. 2. University Press of New England, 1981, ISBN 978-0-87451-198-7, p. 58
  13. ^ Hondros, John Louis (June 1983). Occupation and resistance: the Greek agony, 1941-44. Pella Pub. Co. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-918618-24-5. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  14. ^ Shrader, Charles R. (1999). The withered vine: logistics and the communist insurgency in Greece, 1945-1949. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-275-96544-0. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  15. ^ McNeill, William Hardy (1947). The Greek dilemma: war and aftermath. J.B. Lippincott Company. p. 87. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  16. ^ Shepherd, Ben H. (2016). Hitler's Soldiers: The German Army in the Third Reich. Yale University Press. p. 89. ISBN 0300219520. A short-lived attempt to coopt EDES forces, and use them against ELAS partisans, also failed, and by July 1944, EDES was attacking the Germans again.
  17. ^ Kretsi, Georgia (2002). Ethnologia Balkanica. Ethnologia Balkanica. 6. Berlin: LIT Verlag Münster. p. 182.

Sources

1946 Greek referendum

A referendum on maintaining the monarchy was held in Greece on 1 September 1946. The proposal was approved by 68.4% of voters with a turnout of 88.6%.

Anastasios Balkos

Anastasios Balkos (Greek: Αναστάσιος Μπάλκος, 1916–1995) was a Greek Army lieutenant general and conservative politician, who served as Greece's Minister of Public Order and as an intelligence officer in the Greek secret services.

Battle of Menina

The Battle of Menina (Greek: Μάχη της Μενίνας) was conducted by the Greek resistance group EDES against the German garrison of the village Menina, Thesprotia, during the German occupation of Greece. They were successful and captured a large quantity of supplies.

Dimitrios Psarros

Dimitrios Psarros (Greek: Δημήτριος Ψαρρός, 1893 – April 17, 1944) was a Greek army officer and resistance leader. He was the founder and leader of the resistance group National and Social Liberation (Greek: Εθνική και Κοινωνική Απελευθέρωσις, EKKA), the third-most significant organization of the Greek Resistance movement after the National Liberation Front (EAM) and the National Republican Greek League (EDES).

Expulsion of Cham Albanians

The expulsion of Cham Albanians from Greece was the forced migration of thousands of Cham Albanians from parts of the Greek region of western Epirus after the Second World War to Albania, at the hands of elements of the Greek Resistance; the National Republican Greek League (EDES) (1944) and EDES veteran resistance fighters (1945).In the late Ottoman period, tensions between the Muslim Chams and the local Greek Orthodox Christian population emerged through communal conflicts that continued during the Balkan Wars, when part of the historic region of Epirus, then under Ottoman rule, became part of Greece. During the First Balkan War, a majority of Cham Albanians, though at first reluctant, sided with the Ottoman forces against the Greek forces and formed irregular armed units and burned Christian Orthodox-inhabited settlements, with only few Albanian beys willing to accept Greek rule in the region. As a response to this activity Greek guerilla units were organized in the region. After the Balkan wars and during the interwar period, the Muslim Chams were not integrated into the Greek state, which adopted policies that aimed to drive them out of their territory, partly through their inclusion in the Greek-Turkish population exchange, although this was not realized because of objections by Italy's fascist regime. Furthermore, the attempted settlement of Greek refugees from Asia Minor within the area and bouts of open state repression in the 1920s and 1930s, in particular by the authoritarian Metaxas regime, led to tensions between the Cham minority and the Greek state. Meanwhile, Fascist Italian propaganda initiated in 1939 an aggressive pro-Albanian campaign for the annexation of the Greek region and the creation of a Greater Albanian state. As such with the onset of the Second World War, a majority of the Muslim Cham population collaborated with the Axis troops, either by providing them with indirect support (guides, local connections, informants etc.) or by being recruited as Axis troops and armed irregulars. The latter cases were responsible for atrocities against the local Greek populace. Overall, the Muslim Chams were sympathetic to Axis forces during the war and benefited from the Axis occupation of Greece. Armed Cham collaborator units actively participated in Nazi operations that resulted in the murder of more than 1,200 Greek villagers between July and September 1943, and, in January 1944, in the murder of 600 people on the Albanian side of the border. There were also moderate elements within the Muslim Cham community who opposed hatred of their Greek neighbors. A limited number of Muslim Chams enlisted in Albanian and Greek resistance units in the last stages of World War II.Collaboration with the Axis fueled resentment by the Greek side and in the aftermath of World War II, most of the Muslim Cham community had to flee to Albania. In the process between 200 and 300 Chams were massacred by EDES forces in various settlements, while 1,200 were murdered in total. Some Albanian sources increase this number to c. 2,000. In 1945-1946, a special collaborator's court in Greece condemned a total of 2,109 Cham Albanians in absentia for collaboration with the Axis powers and war crimes. The estimated number of Cham Albanians expelled from Epirus to Albania and Turkey varies: figures include 14,000, 19,000, 20,000 and 25,000. According to Cham reports this number should be raised to c. 35,000. Atrocities were not encouraged by the EDES leadership and the British mission, but both were unable to prevent them. Several local Greek notables promised safe passage and offered to host all those Chams who would abandon the Nazi side.Moreover, according to Albanian sources an additional 2,500 Muslim Cham refugees lost their lives through starvation and epidemics on their way to Albania. After the members of the community settled in Albania, the People's Republic of Albania did not treat them as victims but took a very distrustful view towards them and proceeded with arrests and exiles. The Cham Albanians were labelled as "reactionaries" and suffered a certain degree of persecution within Albania, probably because they were Greek citizens, their elites were traditionally rich landlords, they had collaborated with the Axis forces and they had been involved in anti-communist activities.

Georgios Kartalis

Georgios Kartalis (Greek: Γεώργιος Καρτάλης, 1908–1957) was a Greek politician.

Georgios Zoitakis

Georgios Zoitakis (Greek: Γεώργιος Ζωιτάκης; January 1910 – 21 October 1996) was a Greek Army general and regent of Greece from 13 December 1967 to 21 March 1972, during the period of the military regime of the Colonels.

Greek nationalism

Greek nationalism (or Hellenic nationalism) refers to the nationalism of Greeks and Greek culture. As an ideology, Greek nationalism originated and evolved in pre-modern times. It became a major political movement beginning in the 18th century, which culminated in the Greek War of Independence (1821–1829) against the Ottoman Empire. It became a potent movement in Greece shortly prior to, and during World War I under the leadership of nationalist figure Eleftherios Venizelos who pursued the Megali Idea and managed to liberate Greece in the Balkan Wars and after World War I, briefly annexed the region of İzmir before it was retaken by Turkey. Today Greek nationalism remains important in the Greco-Turkish dispute over Cyprus.

Komninos Pyromaglou

Komninos Pyromaglou (Greek: Κομνηνός Πυρομάγλου; 1899 – 15 December 1980), was a Greek teacher and politician, and one of the driving forces behind the foundation of the National Republican Greek League (EDES), the second-largest Resistance organization in Axis-occupied Greece during World War II. Drifting to the Left after the war, he became elected to Parliament and wrote extensively on his experiences during the Occupation and the Resistance.

Lela Karagianni

Eleni "Lela" Karagianni (Greek: Λέλα Καραγιάννη; 1898-1944) was a Greek resistance leader during World War II. The wife of an Attican pharmacist and the mother of seven children, Karagianni worked to coordinate Greek resistance cells and their activities against the occupying Axis forces. Captured and tortured by the Germans in 1944, Karagianni was sent to Haidari concentration camp, where she continued to organize a resistance against the Germans. She was executed by firing squad on 8 September 1944.

List of Greek Resistance organizations

During the period of the Axis Occupation of Greece in the Second World War, a multitude of Resistance organizations sprang up. A May 1943 report of the Intelligence Bureau of the Greek government in exile mentioned 33 active groups, a number that increased to 79 in a joint British report of 17 October 1943. According to some sources, the number was as high as 140. These numbers include groups of vastly different natures, which can be roughly divided in three categories: the major organizations, which displayed significant regional or nationwide action, including guerrilla operations against the Occupation authorities; the small political groupings, mainly active in Athens, with a limited following and engaged mainly in political propaganda and small-scale sabotage; and a small number of groups focused on intelligence and sabotage operations, in direct cooperation with the British secret services in the Middle East.

Lyngiades massacre

The Lyngiades massacre, which took place on October 3, 1943, was a Nazi German war crime perpetrated by members of the 1st Mountain Division of the Wehrmacht Heer during the Axis occupation of Greece. The village of Lyngiades, near Ioannina in northwestern Greece, was arbitrarily chosen as a target for reprisals by the Wehrmacht due to the killing of a German officer by members of the Greek Resistance. The vast majority of the victims were children, women and elderly.

Napoleon Zervas

Napoleon Zervas (Greek: Ναπολέων Ζέρβας; May 17, 1891 – December 10, 1957) 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 (after EAM), in terms of size and activity, resistance organization against the Axis Occupation of Greece.

National Bands Agreement

The National Bands Agreement (Greek: Σύμφωνο των Εθνικών Ομάδων) 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 negotiations were begun by the British military mission in March 1943 as an attempt to avoid a repeat of the clashes between the Communist-controlled ELAS, by far the largest armed guerrilla organization, and the other groups. In addition, the British were concerned with presenting the Germans with the real possibility of an Allied invasion of the Balkans, and an increased and coordinated guerrilla effort was vital for this (Operation Animals, cf. also Operation Mincemeat and Operation Barclay).

On 6 June, representatives from ELAS (Colonel Stefanos Sarafis and Andreas Tzimas), EDES (Colonel Napoleon Zervas and Komninos Pyromaglou) and the British mission (Eddie Myers and Christopher Woodhouse) assembled in the village of Liaskovo. The negotiations lasted on-and-off for a month, until the agreement was signed on 5 July. EKKA, which at the time did not have any armed force in the field due to its forcible disarmament by ELAS, signed the agreement on 18 July, represented by Colonel Dimitrios Psarros and Georgios Kartalis. The Panhellenic Liberation Organization (PAO), another nationalist group active in Macedonia but also hostile to ELAS, was also considered for later inclusion.

In the event, the agreed joint headquarters, where ELAS had the majority, failed to coordinate the guerrillas' movements, best evidenced following the capitulation of Italy in September 1943, when each organization tried to get as much as it could from the spoils of the Italian army of occupation. ELAS seized the lion's share, and clashes between the groups began again in October 1943 with an attack on EDES by ELAS forces.

National Liberation Front (Greece)

The National Liberation Front (Greek: Εθνικό Απελευθερωτικό Μέτωπο, Ethnikó Apeleftherotikó Métopo (EAM)) 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.

Operation Harling

Operation Harling, known as the Battle of Gorgopotamos (Greek: Μάχη του Γοργοποτάμου) in Greece, was a World War II mission by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), in cooperation with the Greek Resistance groups EDES and ELAS, which destroyed the heavily guarded Gorgopotamos viaduct in Central Greece on 25 November 1942. This was one of the first major sabotage acts in Axis-occupied Europe, and the beginning of a permanent British involvement with the Greek Resistance.

Stylianos Gonatas

Stylianos Gonatas (Greek: Στυλιανός Γονατάς; 15 August 1876 in Patras – 29 March 1966 in Athens) was a Greek military officer and Venizelist politician and Prime Minister of Greece between 1922 and 1924.

Ubaldo Soddu

Ubaldo Soddu (23 July 1883 – 20 July 1949) was an Italian military officer, who commanded the Italian Forces in the Greco-Italian War for a month.

Soddu was born in Salerno. From 1939–1940, Soddu was under-secretary at the Ministry of War. In November 1940 he was sent to Albania to take over command of the Italian Forces from General Sebastiano Visconti Prasca and then sacked and replaced by the Chief of the General staff Ugo Cavallero four weeks later.

Vasileios Sachinis

Vasileios Sachinis (Greek: Βασίλειος Σαχίνης, 1897–1943), was a Greek leader of the Northern Epirote Liberation Front (MAVI) (1942–1943), an organization related to the National Republican Greek League of Napoleon Zervas.

Sachinis was born at the villages of Dhuvjan in Dropull area (south of Gjirokastër) and studied at the Robert College in Constantinople (Istanbul). Then he became a prosperous businessman in Gjirokastër. During World War II and after the retreat of the Greek army from the area, he became part of the Northern Epirote resistance against the Italian and then the German occupation forces in southern Albania (Northern Epirus) (1942–1943) He protested to the Italian Occupation Forces, accusing them that they supported various activities of the Albanian resistance groups against the local Greek population. He became finally targeted by Albanian communists, he was tortured and executed (November 18, 1943).

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