Greece

Full Name Kingdom of Greece
Alliance Allies - Minor Member Nation or Possession
Entry into WW2 28 Oct 1940
Population in 1939 7,222,000
Military Deaths in WW2 20,000
Civilian Deaths in WW2 400,000
 - Civ Deaths from Holocaust 60,000

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

In years between WW1 and WW2, Greece was marked by instability. The large population migration as the result of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 saw many civilian deaths, and the 1924 fall of the monarchy would completely reverse itself in 1935. In 1936, the pro-British Ioannis Metaxas took dictatorial control of the nation. In Oct 1940, Metaxas rejected the demands issued by Italy, leading to an Italian invasion and marking Greece's entrance into WW2. Greek troops successfully defended against the Italian invasion and a launched a counteroffensive that penetrated deep into Italian-controlled Albania by the year's end; Germany's intervention in the Balkan Peninusla in Apr 1941 would ultimately result in Greece's defeat, however. Among the final strongholds held by the Allies was the southern island of Crete, which saw a major combined arms assault by the Germans involving 750 glider troops and 10,000 paratroopers from above, and 7,000 troops delivered by sea; the losses suffered in this invasion would lead to Adolf Hitler's decision to ban the use of airborne troops on a major scale for all future campaigns. The final remnants of British and Greek troops were evacuated by sea from Crete to Egypt by Jun 1941.

Under occupation, Greece was divided into three occupation zones. The Italians took control the bulk of the main landmass of the country thus giving them control of the entire Adratic Sea and Ionian Sea region, while the Bulgarians took control of the northeastern corner in order to gain ports on the coast of the Aegean Sea. The Germans took strategically important locations such as western Crete, the Athens-Piraeus region, and the Thessaloniki region. Chronic shortage of food and other basic supplies caused extreme hardship to Greek civilians during the occupation. As early as the winter of 1941 to 1942, a great many Athenians (estimates ran as high as 300,000) died from starvation and mal-nourishment (the "Great Famine"); the situation would be alleviated somewhat in summer 1942 when the International Red Cross was able to bring in supplies. Armed resistance by the Greeks began early in the occupation; though locally effective, some of the resistance groups saw as much fighting against each others as against the occupation administration. Axis deaths and damages attributed to partisan attacks often led to deadly reprisals. On 16 Aug 1943, for example, the 317 inhabitants of the village of Kommeno were rounded up and executed for the suspicion of partisan support. In another instance, between 14 and 16 Sep 1943, about 500 civilians were killed in the Viannos-Ierapetra region on Crete by troops of German Army 22nd Air Landing Division. Bulgaria, which annexed its share of occupied Greece officially within its borders, was particularly brutal when provoked, as its ultimate goal was to resettle Thrace and Macedonia with its own population. For example, a uprising which began in Macedonia 28 Sep 1941 was quickly put down by Bulgarian Army troops, after killing 3,000 resistance fighters; in the subsequent weeks about 15,000 additional Greeks, said to have aided the uprising, were rounded up and executed. In all, it was estimated that about 70,000 civilians were killed by the Germans, Bulgarians, and the Italians during the occupation. In 1943, when the Italians signed an armistice with the Allies, German troops quickly marched into the Italian occupation zone and took control, fighting the Italians on many occasions.

Of the 300,000 to 400,000 civilian casualties of war, 60,000 of whom were Jews. Anti-Jewish measures began early in the occupation, but it was not until Mar 1943 that the Bulgarians and Germans conducted large scale deportations, many of whom would end up in Auschwitz and Treblinka in occupied Poland, and many would never return.

The Germans ruled its portion of occupied Greece through the façade of a puppet government under the nominal leadership of Georgios Tsolakoglou, Konstantinos Logothetopoulos, then Ioannis Rallis as prime ministers.

The several thousand Greek troops which had fled Crete to British-controlled Egypt formed the Royal Hellenic Army in the Middle East. After training in British Palestine, Greek troops participated in the Second Battle of El Alamein in Egypt, and later the Battle of Rimini in Italy. Greek Navy vessels that avoided destruction during the German invasion joined the British Royal Navy; many of them would serve as convoy escorts across the globe during the war. Most of the few air force personnel who escaped Greece would join the Allied Desert Air Force.

When Soviet troops neared, German troops began withdrawing northward in 1944 to avoid being trapped at the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula. Seeing a strong communist force already forming in Greece and fearing its possible post-war success, British troops landed in Athens in Oct 1944. Small pockets of German resistance, generally on the islands in the Aegean Sea, would not cease until the final days of the European War in 1945.

After the war, Greece gained the Dodecanese Islands from Italy. Between 1946 and 1949, Greece fell under a state of civil war, which many viewed as the escalation of the in-fighting that began during the Axis occupation between royalist and communist resistance fighter groups. With the United Kingdom and United States backing the royalists and the communist governments of Albania, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria backing the communists, the Greek Civil War was among the first acts of the Cold War in Europe.

Source: Wikipedia

People

Bakirtzis, EvripidisPapandreou, GeorgiosSachinis, Vasilios
DamaskinosPaulSakellariou, Alexandros
George IIPetrakis, GeorgiosSarafis, Stefanos
Logothetopoulos, KonstantinosPoulos, GeorgiosTsolakoglou, Georgios
Metaxas, IoannisPsarros, DimitriosVelouchiotis, Aris
Papagos, AlexandrosRallis, IoannisZervas, Napoleon

Events Taken Place in Greece

Balkans Campaign28 Oct 1940 - 1 Jun 1941
Battle of Matapan27 Mar 1941 - 29 Mar 1941
Dodecanese Campaign8 Sep 1943 - 20 Nov 1943

Ships

ElliKilkisLemnosPapanikolis

Weapons

75 mm Schneider-Danglis 06/09 Field Gun

Photographs

Sunken Kilkis (foreground) and beached Lemnos (background), Salamis, Greece, circa late Apr 1941German soldiers raising the German war flag over the Acropolis of Athens, Greece, May 1941German Panzer IV tank near the Temple of Hephaestus, Athens, Greece, 1941-1942Bombing of Kalamaki Airfield, Athens, Greece, seen from the bomb bay of a US B-17 bomber, 15 Sep 1944
See all 5 photographs of Greece in World War II


Greece in World War II Interactive Map




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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Eddy Good says:
    27 Oct 2013 05:10:36 PM

    Is the Battle of Kalamata not worthy of a mention?
  2. Australia Messinia says:
    28 Jan 2014 06:42:16 PM

    We haven't forgotten the Battle of Kalamata in Australia. The famouse ANZAC VC winner saying "Retreat? F*** That"

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Greece in World War II Photo Gallery
Sunken Kilkis (foreground) and beached Lemnos (background), Salamis, Greece, circa late Apr 1941
See all 5 photographs of Greece in World War II



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"We no longer demand anything, we want war."

Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939