National Republican Greek League

National Republican Greek League
Εθνικός Δημοκρατικός Ελληνικός Σύνδεσμος
Ethnikos Dimokratikos Ellinikos Syndesmos
Participant in the Greek Resistance
Active 1941-1944
Ideology Greek nationalism, Republicanism, Venizelism, Socialism, Anticommunism, Antifascism
Leaders Napoleon Zervas, Komninos Pyromaglou
Area of
operations
Epirus, Aetolia-Acarnania
Strength ca. 12,000 (October 1944)
Opponents Royal Italian Army, German Army, Këshilla, EAM-ELAS

The National Republican Greek League (Greek: Εθνικός Δημοκρατικός Ελληνικός Σύνδεσμος, Ethnikos Dimokratikos Ellinikos Syndesmos, abbreviated 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, 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.

Contents

Foundation and ideology

The National Republican Greek League was founded on 9 September 1941 by a former army officer, Colonel Napoleon Zervas, a centrist ex-army officer who had been expelled from the army after the failed pro-Venizelist coup d'etat 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 forced to sent 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' slow slide towards a more pro-monarchist stance.

Beginnings of armed resistance - The Gorgopotamos operation

Napoleon Zervas (2nd from left) with fellow EDES officers.

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 - numerically far greater - contribution 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

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.
  • 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.[8][9][10] Specifically, one of the reasons given for the ELAS to launch an attack on EDES in October 1943, was the latter's presumed collaboration. However, this accusation was as yet unfounded, at least concerning EDES' guerilla branch.[11] 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.[10][12] 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.[13][14] Apart from British support EDES had also some kind of covert German support.[15] Since autumn 1943 EDES and the 12th Army of Nazi Germany there was an important connection, which led to an armistice and a pact of mutual assistance against the Greek People's Liberation Army in February 1944.[16]

The civil war within the Resistance

Attempts at cooperation

The first conflict

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.

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. ^ Charles R. Shrader. The withered vine: logistics and the communist insurgency in Greece, 1945-1949. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999 ISBN 9780275965440. p. 34.
  9. ^ Ian Dear,Michael Richard Daniell Foot. The Oxford companion to World War II. Oxford University Press, 2001 ISBN 9780198604464, p. 403
  10. ^ a b David H. Close. The origins of the Greek civil war . Longman, 1995, ISBN 9780582064720, p. 106
  11. ^ John O. Iatrides. Greece in the 1940s: a nation in crisis Vol. 2. University Press of New England, 1981, ISBN 9780874511987, p. 58
  12. ^ Hondros, John Louis (1983-06). Occupation and resistance: the Greek agony, 1941-44. Pella Pub. Co.. p. 171. ISBN 9780918618245. http://books.google.com/books?ei=Neq5TJrtItDFswbMoJjHDQ&ct=result&id=7S9nAAAAMAAJ&dq=EDES+%2B+quisling&q=The+Athenian+EDES+was+collaborating+with+the+quisling+government+and+the+Germans-+a+charge+that+proved+to+be+valid.#search_anchor. Retrieved 16 October 2010. 
  13. ^ Shrader, Charles R. (1999). The withered vine: logistics and the communist insurgency in Greece, 1945-1949. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 38. ISBN 9780275965440. http://books.google.com/books?id=Vu2i13Yq60QC&pg=PA38. Retrieved 16 October 2010. 
  14. ^ McNeill, William Hardy (1947). The Greek dilemma: war and aftermath. J.B. Lippincott Company. p. 87. http://books.google.com/books?ei=ZfK5TIbUGoHNswbL9ZG8DQ&ct=result&id=DL1KAAAAMAAJ&dq=In+particular,+General+Gonatas,+who+had+been+the+most+prominent+figure+in+the+Athens+EDES+organization,+won+the+peculiar+enmity+of+EAM+by+advising+young+regular+officers+to+obey+the+summons+of+the+quisling+Government+and+take+service+at&q=In+particular,+General+Gonatas,+who++had+been+the+most+prominent+figure+in+the+Athens+EDES++organization,+won+the+peculiar+enmity+of+EAM+by+advising++young+regular+officers+to+obey+the+summons+of+the+quisling++Government+and+take+service+with+the+Security+Battalions.+#search_anchor. Retrieved 16 October 2010. 
  15. ^ Thomas, Nigel; Abbott, Peter (1983). Partisan warfare 1941-45. Osprey Publishing. p. 26. ISBN 9780850455137. http://books.google.com/books?id=z1CNJitx5RkC&pg=PA26-IA7. Retrieved 16 October 2010. 
  16. ^ Kretsi, Georgia (2002). Ethnologia Balkanica. Ethnologia Balkanica. 6. Berlin: LIT Verlag Münster. p. 182. http://books.google.com/books?id=-ebpDLhkVWcC&pg=PA182. 

Sources

  • (Greek) Fleischer, Hagen (1990). Στέμμα και Σβάστικα: Η Ελλάδα της Κατοχής και της Αντίστασης, Τόμος Α′ [Crown and Swastika: Greece of the Occupation and the Resistance, Vol. 1]. Athens: Papazissis. ISBN 960-02-0764-X. 
  • (Greek) Fleischer, Hagen (1995). Στέμμα και Σβάστικα: Η Ελλάδα της Κατοχής και της Αντίστασης, Τόμος Β′ [Crown and Swastika: Greece of the Occupation and the Resistance, Vol. 2]. Athens: Papazissis. ISBN 960-02-1079-9. 
  • Mark Mazower (2001). Inside Hitler's Greece - The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44. United States: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08923-6. 
  • Woodhouse, Christopher Montague (1948). Apple of Discord: A Survey of Recent Greek Politics in their International Setting. London. 
  • Center of Military History, German Antiguerrilla Operations in The Balkans (1941-1944) Washington DC: United States Army.
  • The Statutes of EDES

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