WORLD WAR II FROM A TO Z

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During the Second World War, resistance occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means, ranging from non-cooperation, disinformation and propaganda, to hiding crashed pilots and even to outright warfare and the recapturing of towns. In many countries, resistance movements were sometimes also referred to as The Underground.

Among the most notable resistance movements were:

Polish Resistance 

  • Polish Home Army – was the dominant movement in German-occupied Poland.  It was formed in February 1942 from the Związek Walki Zbrojnej (Armed Resistance). Over the next two years, it absorbed most other Polish underground forces. Its allegiance was to the Polish Government-in-Exile, and it constituted the armed wing of what became known as the “Polish Underground State”.
Kotwica ("Anchor") device of the Polish Underground State and Home Army, on a Polish flag

Kotwica (“Anchor”) device of the Polish Underground State and Home Army, on a Polish flag

  • Leśni –  (short for leśni ludzie, Polish for “forest people”) is an informal name applied to some anti-German partisan groups that operated in occupied Poland during World War II. The “forest people” groups comprised mostly people who for various reasons could not operate from the communities they lived in and had to retreat into the forests.
First days of Warsaw Uprising: Major Alfons Kotowski ("Okon") in western Warsaw, 1 August 1944

First days of Warsaw Uprising: Major Alfons Kotowski (“Okon”) in western Warsaw, 1 August 1944

  • The whole Polish Underground State is a collective term for the underground resistance organizations in Poland during World War II, both military and civilian, that were loyal to the Government of the Republic of Poland in exile in London.
Władysław Sikorski, Polish commander in chief and prime minister during World War II

Władysław Sikorski, Polish commander in chief and prime minister during World War II

Soviet Partisans were members of a resistance movement which fought a guerrilla war against the Axis occupation of the Soviet Union during World War II. The movement was coordinated and controlled by the Soviet government and modeled on that of the Red Army. The primary objective of the guerrilla warfare waged by the Soviet partisan units was the disruption of the Eastern Front’s German rear, especially road and rail communications. There were also regular military formations, also called partisans, that were used to conduct long-range reconnaissance patrol missions behind enemy lines from bases within Soviet-held territory.

"Hail the heroic partisans, who destroy the fascists' rear"

“Hail the heroic partisans, who destroy the fascists’ rear”

Italian Resistenza led mainly by the Italian CLN; (National Liberation Committee ) is an umbrella term for a resistance groups that opposed the occupying German forces and the Italian Fascist puppet regime of the Italian Social Republic during the later years of World War II. It was formed by pro-Ally Italians, following the Allied invasion of the country, the armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces, and German military occupation of northern Italy.

The dead body of Benito Mussolini next to his mistress Claretta Petacci and those of other executed fascists, on display in Milan on 29 April 1945, in Piazzale Loreto, the same place that the fascists had displayed the bodies of fifteen Milanese civilians a year earlier after executing them in retaliation for resistance activity. The photograph is by Renzo Pistone. The bodies, from left to right, are: Nicola Bombacci Benito Mussolini Claretta Petacci Alessandro Pavolini Achille Starace

The dead body of Benito Mussolini next to his mistress Claretta Petacci and those of other executed fascists, on display in Milan on 29 April 1945, in Piazzale Loreto, the same place that the fascists had displayed the bodies of fifteen Milanese civilians a year earlier after executing them in retaliation for resistance activity. The photograph is by Renzo Pistone. The bodies, from left to right, are: Nicola Bombacci Benito Mussolini Claretta Petacci Alessandro Pavolini Achille Starace

French Resistance  is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II. Résistance cells were small groups of armed men and women (called the Maquis in rural areas), who, in addition to their guerrilla warfare activities, were also publishers of underground newspapers, providers of first-hand intelligence information, and maintainers of escape networks that helped Allied soldiers and airmen trapped behind enemy lines. The men and women of the Résistance came from all economic levels and political leanings of French society, including émigrés; academics, students, aristocrats, conservative Roman Catholics (including priests) and also citizens from the ranks of liberals, anarchists, and communists.

 

French resistance walking through a village in a "show of force"

French resistance walking through a village in a “show of force”

Yugoslav Partisans, officially the National Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia, was Europe’s most effective anti-Nazi resistance movement, often compared to the Polish resistance movement, albeit the latter was an exceptional, non-communist autonomic movement. The Yugoslav Resistance was led by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia during World War II. Its commander was Marshal Josip Broz Tito.

"To arms, everyone!", a Partisan propaganda poster.

“To arms, everyone!”, a Partisan propaganda poster.

Belgian Resistance refers to the resistance movements opposed to the German occupation of Belgium during World War II. Within Belgium, resistance was fragmented between a large number of separate organizations, divided by region and political stances. Aside from sabotage of military infrastructure in the country and assassinations of collaborators, these groups also published large numbers of underground newspapers, gathered intelligence and maintained various escape networks that helped Allied airmen trapped behind enemy lines escape Nazi-occupied Europe. The resistance included both men and women from both Walloon and Flemish parts of the country.

Examples of mimeograph machines used by the Belgian resistance to produce illegal newspapers and publications

Examples of mimeograph machines used by the Belgian resistance to produce illegal newspapers and publications

The Norwegian resistance to the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany began after Operation Weserübung in 1940 and ended in 1945. It took several forms:

  • Asserting the legitimacy of the exiled government, and by implication the lack of legitimacy of Vidkun Quisling‘s pro-Nazi regime and Josef Terboven’s military administration
  • The initial defense in Southern Norway, which was largely disorganized, but succeeded in allowing the government to escape capture
  • The more organized military defense and counter-attacks in parts of Western and Northern Norway, aimed at securing strategic positions and the evacuation of the government
  • Armed resistance, in the form of sabotage, commando raids, assassinations and other special operations during the occupation
  • Civil disobedience and unarmed resistance
Norwegian refugees undergoing military training in Sweden

Norwegian refugees undergoing military training in Sweden

Greek Resistance is the blanket term for a number of armed and unarmed groups from across the political spectrum that resisted the Axis occupation of Greece in the period 1941–1944, during World War II.

Guerillas of Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS)

Guerillas of Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS)

Dutch Resistance to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II can be mainly characterized by its prominent non-violence, peaking at over 300,000 people in hiding in the autumn of 1944, tended to by some 60,000 to 200,000 illegal landlords and caretakers and tolerated knowingly by some one million people, including German occupiers and military.

Members of the Eindhoven Resistance with troops of the US 101st Airborne Division in Eindhoven during Operation Market Garden, September 1944

Members of the Eindhoven Resistance with troops of the US 101st Airborne Division in Eindhoven during Operation Market Garden, September 1944

Many countries had resistance movements dedicated to fighting the Axis invaders, and Germany itself also had an anti-Nazi movement. Read my post about the White Rose.

The White Rose

The White Rose

Although Britain was not occupied during the war, the British made preparations for a British resistance movement, called the Auxiliary Units, in the event of a German invasion. Various organizations were also formed to establish foreign resistance cells or support existing resistance movements, like the British SOE and the American OSS (the forerunner of the CIA). I recommend a British television show from 1987-1990 called Wish Me Luck that is about British agents (many are women) dropped into France.

Radio equipment used by the British SOE and the American OSS when members parachuted into occupied countries

Radio equipment used by the British SOE and the American OSS when members parachuted into occupied countries

There were also resistance movements fighting against the Allied invaders. In Italian East Africa, after the Italian forces were defeated during the East African Campaign, some Italians participated in a guerrilla war against the British (1941–1943). The German Nazi resistance movement (“Werwolf”) never amounted to much. The “Forest Brothers” of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania included many fighters who operated against the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States into the 1960s.

Forest Brothers

Forest Brothers

During or after the war, similar anti-Soviet resistance rose up in places like Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Chechnya. While the Japanese were famous for “fighting to the last man,” Japanese holdouts tended to be individually motivated and there is little indication that there was any organized Japanese resistance after the war

Resistance took many forms:

  • Non-violent such as sabotage, strikes, demonstrations or professional resistance like from churches, students, communists and doctors.
  • Armed resistance that included raids for food, operations to destroy birth records of Jews, temporary liberation of areas, uprisings like in Warsaw and guerrilla warfare.
  • Espionage
  • Illegal press
  • Covert listening to BBC broadcasts for news bulletins and coded message.  See my post about messages personnels.
  • Political resistance
  • Helping people go into hiding (Most known, the story of Ann Frank)
  • Helping Allied military personnel caught behind Axis lines
  • Helping POWs with illegal supplies, breakouts, communications etc.
  • Forgery of documents

 Interested in reading more:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resistance_during_World_War_II

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/resistance_movements.htm

http://www.history.co.uk/study-topics/history-of-ww2/collaboration-and-resistance

http://www.museumofworldwarii.com/resistance

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4 responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great post and so informative. I found out only 1 1/2 yrs ago that my mom and Uncle were part of the German Resistance. My mom was tiny enough so they sent her underneath bridges to place the TNT. My Uncle was shot in the leg but escaped and my mom had a bullet graze her leg so she was luckier. They blew up bridges to prevent the German army from advancing. I also know that my mom and her family would listen to the BBC. My mom was the “Lookout” so the others could listen in on the broadcast

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Until I read your post, I only knew about the French resistance. Thank you for doing the research and writing a thorough article about the resisters in WWII.
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