Resistance movements during second world war!

Popular resistance movements grew in every country that were invaded and occupied by the fascist powers and also within the fascist and the countries allied to them.

These movements grew in strength and intensified their activities particularly after the entry of the Soviet Union and, subsequently, of the US into the war.

The creation of the anti-fascist alliance facilitated the coming together of all anti-fascist forces in occupied countries and within the fascist countries.

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Many leaders of Czechoslovakia had escaped when the Nazi troops marched into their country and set up a puppet government in Slovakia. In 1940, a Czechoslovak government-in-exile headed by Eduard Benes, was set up.

The partisans of the Czechoslovak resistance movement which included communists, social democrats and others carried on guerrilla activities against the Germans throughout the war. The assassination of the Nazi governor has already been mentioned.


In August 1944, an uprising was organised in Slovakia and the soldiers of the puppet government there also joined the partisans. The uprising of 5 May 1945 in Prague led to the complete and final ending of the German occupation of Czechoslovakia.


The Second World War had started with the invasion of Poland, and she was the worst sufferer in the war. About 6,500,000 Poles—20 per cent of the total population of Poland—were killed in the war. About half of them were Jews.

From the beginning of the German invasion, a powerful resistance movement was built up in Poland. A Polish government-in-exile headed by General Sikorski, with its headquarters first in France and then in London, guided the Polish resistance.

In 1942, the Polish communists formed their own organisation for carrying on anti-German operations. The two organisations, however, did not always see eye to eye. The relations between the Soviet government and the Polish government-in-exile also worsened as a result of the latter are insistence that Poland’s pre­war frontiers, including the territories which the Soviet Union claimed as hers, be recognised.


This led to some tragic consequences. On 1 August 1944, a mass uprising took place in Warsaw. By this time the Soviet forces had liberated many parts of Poland. However, the organisers of the uprising, who supported the government-in-exile and, apparently, wanted to hand over liberated Warsaw to that government, made no efforts to coordinate their plans for the uprising with the Soviet forces.

The people of Warsaw fought most heroically against the German occupation troops but no help reached them from outside, and the uprising was brutally suppressed. About 250,000 Poles perished in the uprising.


In Yugoslavia the resistance against the fascist occupation and its local supporters was led by the Communist Party, which was headed by Josip Broz Tito. The various partisan groups were united to form the People’s Liberation Army.

The partisans of this army organised uprisings as a result of which many parts of Yugoslavia were liberated by the end of 1944. The Yugoslav government-in-exile had little support within the country and a government headed by Tito was set up there.


It has been mentioned earlier that the French government capitulated to Germany when the latter invaded France. General de Gaulle formed the Free France movement with its headquarters in London. In July 1942, on the initiative of the French communists, a National Front, which brought together all anti-fascist forces, was formed.

The French Resistance grew into a powerful movement and in early 1944 formed the French Forces of the Interior with a membership of 500,000. The members of the resistance movement carried out sabotages against the Germans and their French collaborators.

They played a crucial role in the successful landing of the Allied troops in France, and with their own forces liberated many parts of France from German occupation. Under General de Gaulle’s leadership, a provisional government had been set up on which various anti-fascist forces of France, including the communists, were represented.

On 19 and 20 August 1944, the French Resistance organised an uprising in Paris, and the German commandant, who had refused to obey Hitler’s order to destroy the city, surrendered. Soon after this incident, the provisional government headed by de Gaulle entered Paris.

The Soviet Union:

In terms of the total number of people killed in the war, the Soviet Union was the worst sufferer. The number of soldiers of the Soviet Union’s Red Army, who had been taken prisoner and killed by the Germans, is estimated to be 4,000,000.

Another 6,000,000 civilians, including about 750,000 Jews, were slaughtered by the Germans. According to the Soviet estimates, the total number of the Soviet people who perished in the war was about 20 million, or 10 per cent of the total population.

Some Western historians hold the view that there was widespread discontent against Stalin’s regime in the Soviet Union and that people, at least in some parts of the country, would have welcomed the German invasion in the hope that it would lead to the ending of Stalin’s rule.

However, the unparalleled German brutalities against the Soviet people in the initial stages of the war itself showed them what Hitler had in store for them. Thus, German brutalities united them and they built up the most powerful and effective resistance against the invaders.

Large-scale guerrilla warfare developed in every part of the Soviet Union which had fallen to the German army. The guerrilla operations, which were carried on in close collaboration with the Soviet army, played a vital role in the debacle which the Germans suffered in the Soviet Union. More than a million partisans took part in the guerrilla warfare against the German army in the territories of the Soviet Union.


After the debacle which the Italians suffered in Greece in 1940, Greece was occupied by German troops. The Greek government and the King of Greece fled to Cairo. The resistance against Germany was led by the Greek communists who had formed a National Liberation Front and the ELAS (National Popular Liberation Army).

The various anti-fascist groups were brought together and many parts of Greece were liberated. Soon, however, there was a conflict between the Greek government-in-exile and the resistance movement within the country.

After Greece had been freed from the fascists in late 1944, the government-in-exile with the support of British troops was sought to be installed in Greece. A civil war followed and it continued for some time even after the end of the Second World War.


The leading role in the defeat of fascism in Italy, the first country where fascism had been victorious, was played by the Resistance Movement. The Italian fascists had suffered debacles in all their military adventures, both in Europe and Africa.

In 1942, the communists and the socialists of Italy had joined together to overthrow the fascist regime. After the overthrow of Mussolini and the German occupation of northern Italy, a powerful resistance movement emerged in the German-occupied area.

The role of the Italian communists led by Palmiro Togliatti was particularly notable in the Italian Resistance. The final blow to the German occupation and Italian fascism came from the Italian Resistance in April 1945 when Genoa, Milan and Turin were liberated, and Mussolini was captured and shot.


All dissent in Germany had been ruthlessly suppressed long before the war started. The anti-Nazi Germans, who had escaped, carried on anti-Nazi propaganda and helped to mobilise world opinion against the Nazi regime and its aggressive designs.

The greatest literary figures of Germany—their works were burnt in bonfires by the Nazis—and the German communists played a leading role in resistance movement. The anti-Nazi Germans had fought in the Spanish Civil War in defence of the Republic.

During the war, small groups of anti-Nazi Germans were able to organise some acts of sabotage inside Germany. The Free Germany National Committee set up by the German émigrés and some from among the German prisoners-of-war conducted anti-Nazi propaganda within and outside Germany.

In 1944, some German army officers, who were convinced that Hitler was leading the country to total disaster, organised a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. On 20 July 1944, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg placed a bomb in Hitler’s headquarters at Rastenburg from where Hitler was conducting the war in the east.

The bomb exploded but it had not been placed close enough to where Hitler sat. Thus, Hitler survived the explosion, suffering only minor burns. Stauffenberg and other conspirators-were captured and shot. One of the most brilliant officers of the German army, Rommel, who had led the German troops in North Africa, and had joined the conspiracy was not shot but allowed to commit suicide.

Asian Countries:

The resistance movements grew in all countries of Asia which had come under Japanese rule. The most powerful of these was the war of resistance that had been going on in China since long before the Second World War started.

After the Sian incident resistance to the Japanese had gained primacy over the civil war between the communists and the Guomindang although the two sides did not really join together.

In other countries where Japanese rule replaced British, Dutch or the French rule, the anti-colonial nationalist movements which had emerged earlier now organised armed resistance against Japanese occupation.

Japanese atrocities in these countries were also responsible for the growing intensity of the armed resistance against Japanese occupation. Communists were generally the leading force in the anti-Japanese resistance in almost all Asian countries such as the Philippines, Indo-China, Indonesia, Burma, Malaya, etc.

The only exception was Thailand. In 1941, the Vietnamese communists led by Ho Chi Minh set up the Vietminh League, which fought against the supporters of Vichy France and the Japanese. On 2 September 1945, they proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

In Burma, the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League was formed under the leadership of Aung San. In the Philippines, the Anti-Japanese People’s Army organised armed actions against the Japanese.

All these movements played a crucial role in the final collapse of Japanese imperialism in Asia. In these, countries, the Japanese had displaced the old European colonial rule. In the French colonies they had allowed the rule by Vichy France to formally continue.

However, the people of the occupied countries of Asia did not view the Japanese as their liberators. In India, which had escaped Japanese occupation, the Indian National Congress, while fighting for India’s independence, extended its full support to the peoples struggling against Nazi occupation in Europe and Japanese occupation in Asia.