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A small but vigorous Communist party already experienced with underground work was the first to initiate clandestine operations. They set up front organizations and recruited members. By April 1942, they had recruited enough people to form a guerrilla arm called ELAS. Aris Velouchiotis, a former schoolteacher and Communist revolutionary, was the leader of this group whose goal was to harass the occupiers and wear them down.
A charismatic leader with a strong streak of cruelty, he had a knack for communicating with peasants in the simple but subtle language of the mountains and possessed a flair for the dramatic. He draped his short, powerful figure with bandoliers, wore a black Cossack-style hat flamboyantly and was surrounded by a personal bodyguard of a score or more men, who adopted his headgear and hence were known as "black bonnets" (Bailey, 1978, p. 153).
Another group in Greece, EDES, developed in the mountains along the Albanian border. Republicans, their leader was Napoleon Zervas, who had served as an officer during the First World War but had been dismissed from the Army because of leading a coup d'etat against the monarchy 16 years earlier. In 1942 he led about 100 men against an Axis supply convoy in a guerrilla operation. They exploded a charge under a heavy tank, which split it open and tipped it over. Zervas and his man "swarmed down on the column. They killed the survivors and stripped the 60-odd victims of valuables. Then they brought up their pack mules and loaded them with wounded guerrillas and all the armaments they could salvage. Finally, they set fire to the trucks and tanks and disappeared into their mountain fastness" (Bailey, 1978, p. 155).
The Greek guerrillas were rugged, hardy farmers and herdsmen from remote mountainous regions. Their guerrilla activities were transformed in September 1942 when British soldiers were dropped by air into a mountainous region of Greece to blow up three viaducts: "Greece's north-south railroad ran over those viaducts, and by destroying any one of them, the British would put the railroad out of commission for at least six weeks, stopping German supplies bound for Piraeus and thence by ship to Rommel's Afrika Korps" (Bailey, 1978, p. 155). A Greek shepherd known as "Uncle Niko," who knew English from having lived in America, saw the English parachutes descending and said, "God has sent us Englishmen from heaven; it is my duty to help them" (cited in Bailey, 1978, p. 155).
Uncle Niko found the British soldiers and led them to a large cave. He supplied them with food, cooking utensils, and mules to carry their heavy gear. The British built a model of the viaduct they planned to destroy. They made their explosives to fit the model's V-shaped girders and practiced attaching charges and fuses blindfolded.
Other helpful Greeks arranged for the British commander, Colonel Myers, to meet with Zervas and Aris, and the three men decided to share command of the operation. Zervas and Aris's two guerrilla groups engaged the Axis forces that were guarding the viaduct while the British demolition team got under the bridge. Once there, they unexpectedly had to remold their plastic explosives because the viaduct had U-shaped girders rather than V-shaped. This took about an hour, during which time the Greek resistance kept the enemy busy. Then, the British blew a whistle to signal they were ready to light the fuses. Colonel Myers wrote, "Two minutes later there was a tremendous explosion, and I saw one of the seventy-foot steel spans lift into the air and -- oh, what joy! -- drop into the gorge below, in a rending crash of breaking and bending steelwork" (p. 156).
Zervis and Aris helped the Allies throughout the war. Towards the end they were involved in an operation called Animals, the purpose of which was to deceive the Germans into believing an Allied invasion of Greece was imminent. Actually, this was to distract their "attention from the site of the real invasion: Sicily...." (p. 159). The plan was simple but clever: "Off the Mediterranean coast of Spain, close enough so the tide could carry it ashore for the Spanish to discover and pass on to the Germans, they dumped a corpse dressed in a British officer's uniform and carrying phony documents referring to the coming invasion" (p. 159). The Germans were convinced. The guerrillas concentrated themselves on the southwestern coast adding credible "evidence" of a coming invasion.
On June 21 the guerrillas attacked Axis supply and communications lines all over the country, destroyed a 50-mile stretch of highway so that no supplies could be transported or troops moved, and "severed the north-south railway in no fewer than 16 places..." (p. 159). They thoroughly disrupted transportation. German troops in Greece that could have been used elsewhere to better advantage were pinned down while the invasion of Sicily took place.
The Greek guerrillas lived in small bands "in hillside huts and caves and moved their rendezvous areas frequently to avoid detection. They lived off the land and used the terrain to their advantage" (Bailey, 1978, p. 160). Not a day went by that they did not come down and blow something up, a stretch of railroad tracks or a bridge that was vital. And the Germans could never catch them. The fact they knew the land and were familiar with footpaths, underbrush, and secret places was a great advantage. In fact, an intimate knowledge of the area was an advantage to all resistance workers over the invading strangers.
The gamut and nature of resistance activities is so broad it would be impossible to describe them all in one essay. An interesting bit of comical resistance took place in Norway during the Christmas season of 1941. A Christmas Card company produced a series of humorous cards depicting the Norwegian flag and satirizing Nazis. The cards showed traditional Christmas gnomes wearing stocking caps, for instance -- caps the Nazis had outlawed as sending a message of resistance. The cards were also clearly in violation of the Flag Ordinance passed in June 1940, which said only members of the Nazi Party could display a Norwegian flag. The cards also wished the recipient, "God norsk jul,' (Merry Norwegian Christmas) rather than the usual 'God jul,' pointedly suggesting a return to Christmas as it used to be, without the uninvited guests" (Stokker, 1997, p. 189). The most potent card depicted a rose-painted chest with a large Norwegian flag being taken from it. Among the design of roses was an "H" worked in, which everyone knew stood for King Haakon who had been forced to escape to England. When the Germans realized the message of the cards, they confiscated all that were left and ordered the post office to send any found in the mail to the central post office. The following year an ordinance was issued: "Whosoever deals in propaganda for an enemy government or produces, obtains, or spreads items antagonistic to German interests, will be punished by death. Anyone possessing any item of anti-German propaganda must immediately turn it in to the nearest German or Norwegian police authorities. Violators will be punished by death" (cited in Stokker, 1997, p. 193). Despite the penalty, many cards survived and are in archives, museums, and private collections today. Beyond humor, the cards must have provided meaning for people whose country had been overrun by enemies.
In France, a series of small resistance groups worked independently of each other.
Overall, the Free French resistance was under General De Gaulle, although the English also formed a resistance operation there. Workers in the Free French resistance got their orders from England over the BBC. One group was doctors and medical people headed by Dr. Albert Haas (1984) and his wife Sonja. Dr. Hass was a Hungarian Jew and his wife, also Jewish, was French. Soon after the invasion, they joined a small clandestine group at Arles in which each member agreed to try to make contact with the Resistance network rumored to be forming. Dr. Haas' job in a clinic provided him with a safe and private meeting place that wouldn't attract attention. He and his wife began recruiting others and listening for coded orders to come over evening BBC broadcasts. Finally, one night they heard, "The bird is ready to fly with the chained duck." (Haas, 1984, p. 38).
It was their coded signal to meet the next day with contacts in a pre-arranged place and discuss going to England (by submarine) for a month of intensive training. They learned jujitsu, arts of sabotage, how to use plastic explosives, to read architectural plans, and how to read upside down. They became trained observers, learned how to steal, and ways to respond "coolly to unexpected dangers" (Haas, 1984, p. 46). Finally, they learned how to jump out of airplanes and memorized codes with which to decipher their orders, which were broadcast over the BBC. Then, they flew back to France and parachuted down.
Dr. Haas took a position on the…[continue]
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