The Italian withdrawl from the Axis and surrender to the Allies greatly complicated the German occupation of Greece. Most of the occupation force in the Balkans was Italian. Not only did this weaken the occupation force, but the Resistance forces received large quantities of arms and supplies from the Italians. The Germans rushed additional forces into the Balkans, but they were not capable of supressing the guerilla forces. The situation worsened when Bulgaria switched sides as the Red Army approached. The Germans in September 1944 finally evacuated the Greek mainland so that they would not be cut off in the Balkans by the Red Army which was pushing into Bulgaria and Hungary. The Germans succeeded in airlifting some combat units off Crete, but British aircraft carriers moving into the eastern Meditteranean mean that German garisons were isolated. The Germans in May 1945 surendered the last of the Greek islands under their control. Liberation in Greece, however, did not bring peace. Conflict developed between the Communist Resistance forces EAM/ELAS and the British-backed conservative Papandreou government. Athens was liberated on October 12, 1944. The struggle for control of liberated Greece resulted in conflict between EAM/ELAS and the British-backed conservative government. There was considerable concern about a possible Communist seizure of power. The British, as a result, toughened their position against ELAS and their soldiers--the andartes. In some cases the British even made common cause with rightest elements that had collaborated with the NAZIs. [Manzower] These differences made it difficult for the Greek resistance and the Btitish who landed to persue the Germans as they left Athens and moved north.
Marshall Badoglio announced an armistice with the Allies (September 8). It was in effect a surrender to the Allies. Badoglio knew, however he had much more to fear from the Grmans thn the Allies. Fearing reprisals from the Germans, Badoglio with the King promply fleed Rome to reach Allied lines. The actual Armistice was signed on Malta. Most of the Italian Army was left without orders. A few units managed to stand together. Some went over to the Allies, such as the garrisons of Sardegna and Corsica. Others units stood with the Germans. A virtual Civil occurred within the military and the Fascist Government between pro-Axis cause and pro-Allied forces. The bulk of the Army wanted nothing more to do with the war. The Germans managed to disarm them and ship them north to POW camps in Germany before the Allies could land in force. Fascist Italy was the first Axis partner to fall to the Allies. The Armistice was unusual, because the Allies saw it as surrender, the Italians as an armistace. The most unusual part of it was usually an armistace ends the fighting. For the Italian people it was in many ways just the beginning of the fighting.
The Italian withdrawl from the Axis and the War greatly complicated the German occupation of Greece. Most of the occupation force in the Balkans was Italian. Not only did this weaken the occupation force, but the Resistance forces received large quantities of arms and supplies from the Italians. The Germans rushed additional forces into the Balkans, but they were not capable of supressing the guerilla forces. The Germans after the battle of Kursk (July 1943) were so hard pressed on the Eastern Front that only limited reserves were available to be deoployed in thde Balkans.
The Greek Communist Party (KKE) after the NAZI invadsion of the Soviet Union formed the Natiojnal Liberation Front (September 1941). It was a popular front group of the left wing parties, right wing parties refused to join. EAM's militar force was the National People's Liberation Army (ELAS). ELAS fought the German, Italian and Bulgarian occupation forces, but because of their vicious reprisals, spent as much time fighting right-wing resistance groups, the National Republican Greek League (EDES) and the National and Social Liberation (EKKA). British agents in Greece attemoted to negotiate a ceasefire so the Resistance could focus on the Germans--the Plaka agreement) (February 1944). The Resistance groups by 1944, however, understood that the Germans were defeated and focused on the country's future after liberation. ELAS broke the agreement by murdering Dimitrios Psarros, EKKA's eader. The precise circumstances are unclear. ELAS has completely destroyed the right-wing groups (by April 1944). Because of the limited German occupation force, ELAS succeeded in liberating a large area of the mountainous Greek mainland, mainly because the German wihdrew into the population centers and rail corridors north. EAM established a separate government--the Political Committee of National Liberation (PEEA) (March 1944). EAM even conducted elections to a PEEA parliament--the National Council (April 1944). EAM allowed women to voite for the first time. PEEA and the Greek Governmentb in exile did not recohnize each other.
The Germans experienced major military reverses in 1944. The Allies finally crossed the Channel. After landing in Normandy (June 1944), the Allies smashed the German &th Army (July 1944) and liberated Paris(August 1944). The Germans were forced to withdraw to the borders of the Reich. In the East the military reverves were even more serious. Defeats in the Ukraine was follwed by the Red Army's destruction of Army Group Center--the Wehrmacht's largest combat formation in Operation Bragation (June-August 1944). This brought the Soviets to the borders of the Reich in East Prussia and the Vistula in Poland. There was no longer any copherent military reason for maintaining substantial German forces in the Balkans.
George Papandreou, leader of the Democratic Socialist Party, escaped from Greece and went to Cairo to promote the cause of national unity. The king entrusted Papandreou with the formation of a government (June 1944). He was unable to pursade the
KKR-dominated EAM, primarily because they were intent on seizing power. As a result, political strife continued in Greece. Basically EAM as the strongest party in Greece and the Red Army sweeping into the Balkans, saw the chance of creating a socialist state and had little interest in cooperating with other parties.
The situation worsened when fot the Germans when Bulgaria switched sides as the Red Army approached.
The Germans in September 1944 finally decided to evacuate the Greek mainland so that they would not be cut off in the Balkans by the advancing Red Army which was pushing into Bulgaria and Hungary. The Germans attempt to keep the evacuatioin secret as units are quietly shifted north. The Germans succeeded in airlifting some combat units off Crete, but British aircraft carriers moving into the eastern Meditteranean meant that German garisons on other Greek islands were isolated. The Germans in May 1945 surendered the last of the Greek islands under their control.
The last German soldiers in Athens without fanfare, remove the NAZI flag from the Acropolis. As they drive out of the city towards the road north they encounter crowds of Athenians waving the blue and white Greek flags. Church bells ring all over the city. The Resistance (ELAS) seized control of Athens (October 12, 1944). The situation in the country suide is far from jubilent. Thousands have died. Fiod is diffivult to obtin and the economy had collapsed. The country�s infrastructure (roads, bridges, and railways) had largely during the Resistance efforts was destroyed. The country was bankrupt and experiencing run-away inflation. The Government was near collapse. Greece was dependent on the Allies to deliver food and other necesities.
The British Government was concerned about a Communist take over in Greece. The British wanted to invade Greece in early 1944, but were unable to interest the Americans who were focused on Normandy. They planned a series of small actions in the Agean. Operation Accolade focused on the Dodecanese Islands. Operation Hercules was planned to assault Rhodes.
After the Germans began withdrawing and ELAS seized control in Athens, Primeminister Churchill ordered a small force to accompany the Greek government-in-exile home. Lieutenant General Ronald Scobie was appointed to command Force 140 in Opperation Manna. British troops in 1944 finally entered Greece as the Wehrmact withdrew north--Operation Noah's Ark. This was the second British landings in Greece. The first had confronted a very different Wehrmacht (April 1941). Noah's Ark was an unopposed landing. The southern area of Greece had been evacuated by the time the British began landing, although there was still fighting going on in thre north. Force 140 first landed on the Peloponnese. The Special Boat Squadron (SBS) captured Araxos airfield. Parachute troops dropped at Megara (October 4). The British occupied Athens and Peiraias (October 14). The remainder of Force 140 landed soon afterwards. The biggest problem for the British was the Greek ELAS Resistance forces and within only a few days fighting flared.
The liberation of Greece was not the joyous event that occurred in many other occupied countries. Even before the British arrived a civil war was brewing. And the leftists while delighted to see the Germans departing were not al all pleased to see the British arriving. Over 0.4 million Greeks died during the the War, the great majority were civilians including. The Jewish communities with ancient roots was destroyed.
Thousands died in the famine, including many children. Food was in short supply again by the tome the Germans departed. The population was near starvation. The currency was virtually worthless. A loaf of bread costs 2 million drachma. People were trading what ever property, even homes, for food such as olive oil they could feed the children. Only food assistance from the llies prevented mass starvation. The British as they moved into Greece did not find jubilant crowds waving flags. Rather they found starving people in a state of shock over what had occurred. The Germans had burned villages, including churches and schools. Larhevnumbers of civilians had been uprooted and were homeless. The Government was bankrupt. Factories were destroyed and the economy was in a state of collapse. The Germans destoyed the transportation network, including ports, railways, and bridges. The entire Greek economy would have to be reconstructed.
The Government of National Unity which had been the government in exile under G. Papandreou arrived in Pireas (port of Athens) (October 18). They were landed by a British naval vessel. Today in Greece this is now celebrated as Liberation Day. Confrontations between the British/Papandreou and ELAS occurred almost immediately and gradually escalated. In a serious confrontation, 15 communist protesters were shot to death. Open warfare broke out between ELAS and the British (December 3). General Scobie's small force was badly outnumbered. They managed to cling on to a small section of the city. The British rushed reinforcements to Athens and regained control, suppressed the uprising. The British proceeded to clear the city block by block of ELAS fighters. While paper over at the time--the Dekemvriana is commonly seen as the beginning of the Civil War.
As the British forces began arriving in Greece (September 1944), the Royal Air Force arrived with them. RAF operatiins began at the Araxos airfield. It was captured (September 23). The many airfields around it were secured within a month. This included Megara which was captured by 4 para in a parachute drop. Kalamaki close to Athens became the center of RAF activity in Greece. It was renamed Hassani (December 1) and became home to No. 337 Wing RAF. Ot included Spitfire and Beaufighter, Dakota (C-47), and Wellington squadrons. Royal Helenic Air Force Spitfire Sqauadrons arrived (November 1944). Thevwere Greek-manned ynits flying with the RAF. They became the first operational units of the trvonstitited Royal Hellenic Air Force. As a far as we can tell, these units did not play an important role in air operatiions against the Germans. in the Balkans or the Reich itself. Allied Mediterannean air operations were primarily conducted by the Amerivans from vases in soither Italy which jad been obtained when the Allies invaded Italy a year eralier (September 1943). The supply routes were shorter and the llies by late 1044 dif not need additional air bases to procecure the air war against Germany. The Greek air nases were primarily used to support British units securing Greece as the Geramns retreated north. The RAF units soon got involved in the conflict with Communist dominated ELAS resistance group and ultimnately the Greek Civil War.
EAM was no more willing to cooperate in Papandreou's Hovernment of National Unity than it was with the right-wing resistance. They wanted a Socialist republic and the end of the monarchy. EAM was thus unwilling to demobilize ELAS which controlled most of the country. A country can not, however, have multiple party armies. The fighting in early Secember had shown what this would mean. Papandreou with the support of Lt Gen Sir Robert Scobie, the commander of the British Expeditionary Force, announced the mandatory disbanding of ELAS and other party armies by December 10, 1944. A Greek army was to be formed to replace the resistance forces. British prime minister Winston Churchill and foreign secretary Anthony Eden flew to Greece (December 24, 1944). They were determined to resolve the situation. A cease fire was negotiated (January 11). The political parties sighned a peace agreement (February 1945). The King appointed Archbishop Damaskinos regent of Greece. . One of its clauses was that a populsr referendum would be should be held to decide the constitutional question. The referendumm was to be held under the supervision of the Allies. This ended the fightingting in 1945, but the settlement would not lasr and a civil war broke out (1946).
Liberation in Greece, however, did not bring peace. Conflict developed between the Communist Resistance forces EAM/ELAS and the British-backed conservative Papandreou government. Athens was liberated on October 12, 1944. The struggle for control of liberated Greece resulted in conflict between EAM/ELAS and the British-backed conservative government. There was considerable concern about a possible Communist seizure of power. The British, as a result, toughened their position against ELAS and their soldiers--the andartes. In some cases the British even made common cause with rightest elements that had collaborated with the NAZIs. [Manzower] These differences made it difficult for the Greek resistance and the Btitish who landed to persue the Germans as they left Athens and moved north.
Greece after liberation (October 1944) was left in political and economical crisis as a result of the brutal German occupation and the highly polarized struggle between the leftists and rightists which would eventually lead to the targeted the power vacuum and led to the Civil War, one of the first armed Cold War conflicts. This all meant a quick return to a mormal situation impossible. And this especially imapacted the economic recovery. Beyond the actual recovery, there was little interest businessmaen and farmers in investing in repairs and rebuilding knowing that the Communists were about to take over. This affected food production. Greece was still a largely agricultural country, but even in the best of times Greece was dependent on food imports. The hard rocky soil of Greece and mountaneous terraine means that it was not among the European countries with the most productive agricultural sector. But the Germans were not longer plundering the country, seizing food and shipping it to the Reich. The Greek economy was hstill heavily dependent on animals (transport, farm work, milk and cheese). Most farm animals were lost during the War in part because of the War and occuoation and in part because animal feed was diverted to feed hungry people. This affected farm production and recovery after the Germans withdrew. The Allies (meaning primarily America) were able to ship in food relief supplies. Thus the famine caused by the Germans was over, but food was still in short supply. Aid from America came in the form of Government and private efforts. Britain aided Greece after liberation, but could not continued to do so adter the War. The Truman Dctrine and Marshall Plan provided massive aid to Greece, including food aid. The United States provided $338 million in aid the Greece, half of which was food and economic aid. [Note: These numbers may see small today. but remember these were in 1940s dollars and Greece is a relatively small country.]
Hionidou, Violetta. Famine and Death in Occupied Greece, 1941�1944 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Laiou-Thomadakis, Angeliki. "The Politics of Hunger: Economic Aid to Greece, 1943�1945." Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora (Vol. 7) (2008).
Mazower, Mark. Inside Hitler's Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941-1944 (Yale University Press, 1993), 437p.
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