** war and social upheaval: World War II -- the Resistance impact

The World War II Resistance: Impact

Figure 1.--Here we see an unidentified photograph taken by a Grtman soldier. It bsyrely was tajen in what one World War II historian refers to as the Bloodlands of Eastern Europe--notice both the unimproved road and the endless flat vista. It was prbably taken in 1942 and 43. The sign reads "Partisanen - Gefahr" maning Partsans -- Danger. We cannot make out the rest of the sign. The soldier to the left is part of the Feldgendarmerie (militatpolice) identified by the destinctyive gorget. The major imoact of the Resitanmve was tieing down occuoyinhg forces needed to prorect supply lines.

TThere is a lot of romnticism associated with the World War II Resistance Movement. Most occupied countries after the War, over emphasized the impact of the Resistance, seeking to bolster their national image. [Rosbottom, pp. 198-99.] It was, however, not a major factor in the War. In most countries, the Germans delt effectively with the Resistance through horrifying brutality. This prevented most people from daring to participate. And a very small part of the population fared participate--for good reason. It was very dangerous. One estimate puts it at something like 3 percent in Western Europe, but considerably higher on Eastern Europe wher NAZI rule was more brutal. The Resistance, however, did play a positive role. They occupied important numbers of German troops (primarily in the East), disrupted supplies routes and communications, and provide critcal intelligence on German operations. The Germans often did not use front-line combat troops in anti-partisan operations. As the partisas and other resistance groups did not have heavy weapons, the anti-partisan units did not have to be of the same quality and as heavily armed as front-line units. The resistance movement in Europe played a role, but not criticial role, in defeating the NAZIs. While there were armed resistance units, outside of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, they were not of great importance. Thus only in the East (occupied Soviet Union) did the resistance an actual military threat. In most of Europe, the Resistance played a variety of roles, but was primarily important in gathering intelligence. The two most important intelligence operations were those gathering information on German rocket and cruise missle development and even more important German Atlantic Wall defenses opposing the D-Day landings. While the Resistance in the West usually avoided attacking German targets. In part because the Germans were much more heavily armed, nut probably more importantly the bloody reprisals that followed. They did engage in a range of other actions, including disrupting communication lines, aiding downded Allierd airmen, helping Jews, and bostering civilian morale.


Rosbottom, Ronald C. When Paris Went Dark (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014.


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Created: March 15, 2003
Last updated: 6:17 AM 1/18/2017