World War II in Europe : Occupation and Resistance

The success of the Blitzkrieg strategy, even beyond expectation on the German side, presented them with a problem : how to administrate many occupied territories, in size and population larger than that of Germany itself, with a population hostile to the Germans.
The German policy was ruthless, supporting local ambitious politicians such as VIDKUN QUISLING in Norway, by using collaborators to enforce Nazi policy (the persecution of Jews etc.). In many countries, resistance organizations were formed - the RESISTANCE in France, PARTISANS in occupied Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania. Resistance also operated in Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, since late 1943 in Italy.
The German policy was to (a) reduce the German troops committed to occupation duty to a minimum, in order to free German soldiers for service at the front. They achieved this by employing 'allied' forces (Bulgarians, Italians) in the occupation of territory, especially on the Balkan peninsula. The second measure (b) was to immediately respond in case a person wearing a German uniform was killed. In such cases, the entire adult male population of a nearby village was summarily executed - at LIDICE in Czechoslovakia, at ORADOUR-SUR-GLANE in France etc. These acts were in violation of international law. The resistance movement in the respective country understood the message, focussing on acts of sabotage, on hiding/aiding refugees, on targeting collaborators.

The Soviet occupation of Eastern European countries (the Baltic Republics in 1939-1941, for instance) was equally ruthless, with 10,000 of Estonians, Latvians deported to Siberia or executed.
As an ally of the US and Britain in the later phase of the war, Stalin had to consider world opinion aand apply some restraint; the population of occupied territories still suffered.

When Italy and Germany were occupied by the Allies, the situation was somewhat different, as a considerable part of the Italian respectively German population regarded the British and Americans as liberators. A combination of feeling guilty of having started the mess and of relief that the Nazi/Fascist oppression was over combined with the free-spending attitude of US GI's, distributing their rations of chocolate and cigarettes (with which they were supplird in abundance) among the local population, especially among children and young women.
Although FRATERNIZATION was forbidden by all belligerent occupants, this was not taken too seriously by the Allied forces.
There were a few "150%-Nazis", among them the WEREWOLVES, fanatic German youngsters brainwashed to fight to the last, which were responsible for some ambushes. But there was no organised resistance against American/British occupation.


This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on February 15th 2002