Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Did the Allies Face Resistance Groups During World War II?

Resistance Groups Against the Allies Don't Get Talked About Very Often

Cossack volunteer in the Wehrmacht worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Cossack volunteers in the Wehrmacht.
Did the Allies face resistance from locals within their span of control? Yes. There were a few resistance movements against the Allies in Europe. These generally revolved around nationalistic impulses that still echo today.

One area of resistance to the Allies grew out of Ukraine (which is part of Europe, of course). The Russians were not beloved in Ukraine, and that is putting it mildly. Many Ukrainians greeted the Germans as liberators. I have a page devoted to Ukrainian collaborators with the Germans here. This hatred led, among other things, to the defection to the Germans of Soviet Lt. General Andrey Andreyevich Vlasov, a Ukrainian patriot who was captured near Leningrad after the defeat of his Second Shock Army. Vlasov formed an “Army of National Liberation” in support of the Germans They fought under the St. George Cross. In Russia, Vlasov to this day is considered somewhat worse than Benedict Arnold is in the United States.

Cossack volunteer in the Wehrmacht worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A local tribesman from the Caucasus in the service of the Wehrmacht during World War II (colorized).
Some people in the Baltic States and in Georgia and the Caucasus, such as the Cossacks, also supported the Germans both militarily and otherwise. The southern area of the USSR was full of different tribes that just wanted the Soviets to go away forever. These proved useful to the Germans by showing their mountain trails and passes. Not much was heard of them after the Russians took control again. However, Ukraine and these other areas still had their issues with Russia, as you might have read recently. Lavrentiy Beria’s execution squads took care of some of those situations, so they have received no publicity.

Athens women protesting against the British during World War II worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Women of Athens protest against the shooting by British troops and their local auxiliaries of local protesters on 3 December 1944 in Athens. Photograph: Dmitri Kessel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty.
Another area of resistance happened in late 1944 when the British occupied Greece. This is an extremely murky situation that has received almost no post-war attention. On 3 December 1944, the British army, still at war with Germany, opened fire upon – and gave locals who had collaborated with the Germans the guns to fire upon – a civilian crowd demonstrating in support of the partisans with whom Britain had been allied for three years. Winston Churchill felt that demonstrations were being orchestrated by communists and he was not tolerating them. These demonstrations came to be called the Dekemvriana. This term refers to a series of clashes fought during World War II in Athens between the Allies and local residents from 3 December 1944 to 11 January 1945. Now, exactly how much this constituted actual resistance worth killing people over or just a case of British overreaction is a matter of debate.

English socialite Unity Mitford was personal friends with Hitler during World War II worldwartwo.filminspector.com
It was quite fashionable to support fascism during the 1930s. Unity Mitford, an English socialite, was personal friends with Hitler. She was so distraught when war broke out between Great Britain and the Reich that she tried to commit suicide. The British Union of Fascists remained in existence during World War II until PM Winston Churchill finally shut it down in May 1940.
The third area of resistance was in Great Britain. This also has not received a great deal of publicity because of how embarrassing it was to everybody. The British Union of Fascists openly admired Hitler. Led by Sir Oswald Mosley and Mrs. I.M. Swire, among others, the Union remained in operation into 1940. The British finally arrested Mosley, a former MP and Great War veteran, and incarcerated him (with wife Diana) at Holloway Prison on 23 May 1940 under Defence Regulation 18B. Of course, there were plenty of active collaborators within Occupied Europe and I have a page about them here. However, the collaborators quickly melted away as the Allied advanced.

Assassin Ilse Hirsch on the cover of Military History magazine worldwartwo.filminspector.com
BDM leader Ilse Hirsch was part of the death squad that assassinated the collaborator mayor (Burgomeister) of Aachen during the last days of World War II. 
As the war ground to a close, there was still a lot of sentiment against the Allies in areas that they had occupied within the Reich itself. This also is an area that hasn’t received a lot of attention. In one of the most chilling operations of World War II, the Germans sent a task force to Aachen to liquidate a suspected collaborator who the Allied had appointed the new mayor (Burgomeister). These assassins received help from local residents. This was Operation Carnival, and I talk about it here.

Former Soviet Lt. General Andrey Andreyevich Vlasov greets some admirers worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Former Soviet Lt. General Andrey Andreyevich Vlasov, a Ukrainian patriot, became the ultimate nightmare of the Allies when he formed an army of like-minded men to fight them.
By and large, the Allies did not face a lot of resistance movements in Europe because when they occupied ground (as opposed to losing it), it was pretty clear that the tide of the war had changed. Partisan movements flourish when people in occupied areas gain a sense that the other side is winning. The partisan movement inside of occupied Russia, for instance, did not take off until after the German loss at Stalingrad. People naturally bet on the winning side, and thus the Allies did not face many partisan movements during World War II.

Ukrainian women show their support of the Wehrmacht worldwartwo.filminspector.com
 Ukrainian collaborator girls show their allegiance to the Germans during a parade in Stanislav that honored a visit by Hans Frank, Gauleiter of Poland.


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