Resistance Groups - How Effective?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Negative Creep, Mar 11, 2009.

  1. Negative Creep

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    In every country the Germans occupied there were various levels of resistance. This could take many forms; assassination, sabotage, go slows, escape networks and so forth. However I've been wondering just how much of a difference did such groups make? Whilst they undoubtedly made a contribution is there now a myth surrounding resistance fighters?

    If we take France as an example, and estimate seems to be that 10% of the population were directly involved with the resistance movements. The number involved in collaboration however would have been much higher but this appears to be something that is glossed over. So were resistance groups more of a myth than an effective movement?
     
  2. Arsenal VG-33

    Arsenal VG-33 Member

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    I suggest you read "Soldiers of the Night" by David Schoenbrun. And no, the Collaboration hasn't been glossed over, but has been widely studied in France especially in the past 20 years.

    It is very hard to gauge the effectivness of underground movements because while all may be fighting for a common goal, they're often doing so in various ways, sometimes at odds with eachother because of their political nature. One thing is certain, most people today have absolutely no idea how hard it is to take up arms against a foreign occupying power, especially when the consequences may involve family members.

    I can tell you with a fair degree of certainty that:
    1-The Allies would have won the war without the Resistance
    2-The Allies would have suffered many more casualties without the Resistance.
    3-I believe the resistance of the different occupied countries all contributed to bringing about a quicker end to the war.
     
  3. Amsel

    Amsel Active Member

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    The resistance in France was effective at sabatouge. In the U-boat yards they were plagued by sabatour workers.
     
  4. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Depends on which resistance you are talking about. Most were effective in intelligence gathering, in Western Europe (the French probably being the best) while incidences of sabotage tended to be less so. Most countries had limited resistance early in the war but this tended to grow as the tide turned.

    It really was a mixed bag. The Dutch Underground was seriously compromised by the Gestapo, as was the Danish. In fact, it is one of the reasons the warnings on the Arnhem operation were ignored (though the Dutch Resistance didn't know what was coming, the information they sent back was pretty much accurate about who and what was waiting). The French underground was larger, better organized and broken down into politically or locally motivated groups. The Communist tended to be pretty good, the SOE supported was smaller but well focused and centered on intelligence gathering. Most large scale sabotage was focused after the invasion. Before, the Allied Command was more interested in information.

    The Italian Partisans were half fighting a civil war and half fighting the Germans. They increased in size from the Surrender in 1943 to the end of the war. The Italian Facist and Partisans went at it big time towards the end of the war. At that point, and this is my understanding from the limited amount of reading I have found on the subject, the Italian Partisans left the Germans alone (for the most part) as they were just trying to get out of Italy anyway. An example is the group of Partisans that captured Mussolini. He was in a German Column making a run for Switzerland. The Partisans stopped it, told the Germans if they handed over Mussolini and his people, they wouldn't stop them from getting to Switzerland. Otherwise, they'd fight it out. The Germans handed over Benito and went on their way.

    Balkans, serious, serious Partisan activity. Only country in WW2 that liberated itself. Gotta wonder if the Germans were just happy to get the hell out of there. Civil war was running at the same time the Partisans were fighting the Germans. Similar to Italy, but without the Allied Armies involved and a lot of old blood fueds, old hatreds and general score settling tossed in. A brutal, ugly war finally ended (for a short time anyway) with the rise of Tito. When he died, they went back at it again.
     
  5. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    One other point. Some of these Resistance Groups were little more than criminal operations running under the cloak of resistance to the Germans. Not all of them were doing it for King and Country. Some were just opportunist who saw a way to take advantage of the situation.

    But then again, if you're ripping off the Nazis, who cares?
     
  6. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Hi, timshatz,
    Balkans is not equal to ex-Yugoslavia.

    The other balkan countries did have partisan groups, most notably Albania and Greece. While Tito's partisans did have strong Red army suport(with tanks, planes, infantry etc) from octber 1944, the other two did the job on their own. Sure, the spec op from Western allies' agencies was beneficial in Balkan states.

    Again, before the second part of 1943, Tito's partisns were on their own.
     
  7. marshall

    marshall Member

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    I'm not an expert in that matter but one of the largest resistance groups was in Poland. In 1944 about 400,000 members.

    You can read more here Armia Krajowa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Or if someone wants to know more, a lot more, then I recommend a book "Raising '44 - The Battle for Warsaw" by Norman Davies



    Edit: Some statistics from wikipedia

    "List of confirmed sabotage-diversionary actions of the Union of Armed Combat (ZWZ) and Home Army (AK) from 1 January 1941 to 30 June 1944

    Sabotage / Diversionary Action Type Totals
    Damaged locomotives 6,930
    Delayed repairs to locomotives 803
    Derailed transports 732
    Transports set on fire 443
    Damage to railway wagons 19,058
    Blown up railway bridges 38
    Disruptions to electricity supplies in the Warsaw grid 638
    Army vehicles damaged or destroyed 4,326
    Damaged aeroplanes 28
    Fuel tanks destroyed 1,167
    Fuel destroyed (in tonnes) 4,674
    Blocked oil wells 5
    Wagons of wood wool destroyed 150
    Military stores burned down 130
    Disruptions of production in factories 7
    Built-in faults in parts for aircraft engines 4,710
    Built-in faults into cannon muzzles 203
    Built-in faults into artillery missiles 92,000
    Built-in faults into air traffic radio stations 107
    Built-in faults into condensers 70,000
    Built-in faults into (electro-industrial) lathes 1,700
    Damage to important factory machinery 2,872
    Various acts of sabotage performed 25,145
    Planned assassinations of Germans 5,733"
     
  8. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Tomo, Didn't mean to leave the Greeks and Albanians out of the mix. Was thinking more along the lines of the Balkans being everything east of the Adriatic and West of the Turkish side of the Bosphorus. A lot of countries in there,Ex-Yugoslavia being just one of them. Didn't mean to put them in as the sole participant but they are a good reprentation of what went on.

    Was writing quick, posting fast. My mistake for leaving them out.
     
  9. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    No problem, my intention was not to attack you :)
     
  10. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Didn't figure you were. Just pointing out a gap in my post. No worries, as they say.

    I think it is pretty impressive that the Balkans were the only part of Europe that liberated itself from full occupation. Pretty impressive really. Germans just quit. Left. Not something they are known for doing.

    Speaks volumes.
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I'd hazard a guess that Ukraine and the Baltic States had more people fighting against the Soviet Union then against Germany. People from these areas volunteered by the 10s of thousands to work inside Germany rather then be subject to "liberation" by the Red Army during 1943 to 1944. In 1945 the Soviet Union rounded up all they could catch and sent them to the Gulags to die.

    In other areas of the Soviet Union a lot of "Resistance Groups" were simply bypassed Red Army soldiers struggling to survive. Stalin routinely sent such men to the die in the Gulag if they made it back to Soviet lines. If captured Hitler sent them to his own version of a Gulag to die of exposure and starvation. So they had nowhere to go.

    In Yugoslavia it was more of a civil war. Croatia, Bosnia etc. were fighting to break free from Serbian rule.

    The French resistance was pretty small prior to 1944. In fact most of them joined after the Normandy invasion. I guess joining the resistance a few days prior to liberation was a way to insure the "Free French" did not accuse you of collaboration with the enemy.
     
  12. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    What no one has mentioned is how many troops the Germans had to pull out of major combat with the Allies to tackle the resistance movements across the Reichs' new boundries....

    Thousands and thousands of Germans were tasked with rooting these guys out, Germans that would have otherwise been on the fronts....

    That in and of itself made it worthwhile....
     
  13. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    I agree Les. Germany even had an operation in the Balkans/Greece/Ex-yugoslavia (apologies - like Tim, I'm no expert in that area) to deal strictly with the partisans. And the Allies even had air operations in support of the Western Front partisans late '43/early '44. I would say thats a big impact.
     
  14. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    And dont forget the Jedburghs that dropped into France to help the Partisians organize and plan/execute some of these "diversions"...
     
  15. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Russian partisans did not work in the same manner as many of the western controlled partisans, though it has to be said that even in western europe, the backbone to the organizing of resistance movements came largely from the various left wing and communist underground elements, who had prewar experience in these matters. There were exceptions to this, like the czetniks (the serbian right wing monarchists under Mihailovic), which meant that where there were left and right wing elements in the country, that the factions tended to fight each other as much as the Germans. This was particularly true in Greece and Yugolsavia. In Yugolsavia, Tito was more successful, because he appealed to the gras roots better than Mihailovic, and because in the end Mihailovic was seen as siding with the germans.

    Russian partisans never had this problem, because they were not based on popular support so much, and remained tightly controlled and supplied from Moscow. They typically were built around army remnants left behind after the initial invasion. Thats why Russian partisans operated very successfully in places like the ukraine, where support for the central regime was not strong. whilst that is true, hatred of the germans was even stronger. The Germans were hated even by their own allies, who never missed opportunities to make them suffer for the many broken promises that were the trademark of german foreign relations during the war.....


    as a footnote, after the war Stalin had most of the partisans leaders(and the pows captured in the war) shot or "re-educated" because he feared that they might have fallen under decadent western influences. Some things never change.........
     
  16. Yozimbo

    Yozimbo New Member

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    Hi all,
    particularly in Greece where I am from, the resistance groups were divided between several political factions each serving it's own hidden agenda (royalists, democrats, communists etc).
    Hence as early as 1943 the focus shifted from hitting German/Italian/Bulgarian targets to fighting each other in a bid to be in control when the Germans would withdraw from Greece (which was obvious by then). This eventually led to the full scale civil war of 1947.
    There are historical cases where small "independent" resistance groups were literally wiped out particularly from the biggest in numbers resistance group, the communist led ELAS.

    Having said that, there is a big historical question whether some of the action undertaken was of any military point. I will give you an average example based on numerous historical cases. In a remote mountainous area we have a village (of no strategic importance due to location etc). In this village is posted a German army platoon consisting mainly of older age or non-combat efficient troops (as these were in the fronts). A squad of resistance hits the village killing the some or all of them and then retreats in the surrounding mountains. In retaliation the Germans execute the villagers. This was one of the favorite tactics of ELAS. The reasoning being to "force" the village population to join them in the mountains in order to avoid the German retaliation. This led to rural people sometimes being more afraid of the ELAS than the Germans themselves. Another reason being that if people did not helped them out they would be branded as traitors and often executed. So a lot of people found themselves between a rock and a hard place...
    A similar point, strictly from an historian point of view, is whether the action from the French resistance against the Das Reich elements in June 1944 was necessary and worthwhile in regard to the (easily anticipated) retaliation against the local population (such as the Oradour-sur-Glane case).
     
  17. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Yozimbo, good post. Have read about the Greek Civil War. It was, by anybody's account, a truely nasty and bloody event. Similar to what happened throughout the Balkans after WW2 ended. In some cases, it was worse than the war itself.

    As to your point about Oradour-sur-Glane, there is a very good book on the subject by Max Hastings. Pretty old now, written in the early 70s, it tells about the march of the 2nd SS Panzer from it's bases in central France to the invasion beaches. The attrocity at OsG was committed on that march (as were other less famous acts). It mentions that the act was committed in retaliation for the death of an SS Capt, that the men who committed the act were part of the SS Alsace detachment and the SS Capt. who directed the massacre was astonished when later in June, he was told there was an inquiry going on into his actions that would probably lead to him being court martialed. He soon after died in action and the inquiry was dropped.

    It is an excellent book and anyone who wants to know about the actions of the French Partisans and their affect on the Germans should read it.

    But the name escapes me now.
     
  18. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    German combat units were not normally tasked with securing lines of communications. That was a job for locally raised militia and cavalry. Cosacks, Croatians and people from the Baltic states were employed in large numbers for this type work. In France it was largely the job of national police forces that reported to the French government.
     
  19. Yozimbo

    Yozimbo New Member

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    Indeed a very good book on the subject (i have it in 2 different editions)...
    Apparently according to historical records and testimonies the event was triggered when Major Helmut Kaempfe was captured and executed by the local resistance under the orders of Georges Guingouin. Following the discovery of his remains the I. Battalion, 4th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment under the command of Major Adolf Diekmann (a personal friend to Kaempfe) retaliated on OsG.
    In all aspects the act of execution of a high profile officer belonging to a unit that is known for it's fierceness and which is evacuating the area in a hurry, can only be attributed to personal glory chase and small politics at the expense of others...
    And it is widely accepted that this action didn't made any difference in the time the division took to reach the Normandy area...
     
  20. Negative Creep

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    I'll admit that I do have an ulterior motive for asking as I'm writing an essay on the French Resistance. To be more specific it's asking if the French Resistance was more a myth than an effective force.

    The problem is it's impossible to know how many were in the resistance as it took so many forms. There seems to be a minority (10% according to one source, but that would have fluctuated with the war) but even passive resistance was effective. For example, I read about the conscripted labourers in the Atlantic wall and how they were told they must doff their caps when Rommel arrived to inspect the works. Within a few minutes everyone had taken off their hats. A tiny effort that made no difference to the war, but resistance nonetheless.

    From what I've seen there were more involved with collaboration than resistance. It would seem the majority in any country, after the initial shock of defeat, just wanted to get on with their lives. However nothing I've seen thus far would describe resistance as a myth and there were certainly very brave people of all ages and beliefs involved. The Liberation of Paris must be a key event, but am I right in thinking the Germans had largely evacuated and had no air support, tanks or heavy artillery?
     
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