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Greek Resistance to WWII Axis Forces Longest in Europe

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Greek soldiers in the Greco-Italian War. Credit: Greek Foreign Ministry/CC BY-SA 2.0

Greek resistance to the Axis powers during the Second World War was the longest of all the nations of Western Europe, with the exception of the UK, which was never occupied outside of the Channel Islands.

According to historical records, Greece resisted for a total of 219 days against Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, and Albania between October 1940 and April 1941, when Nazi Germany launched a final, massive attack through Bulgaria.

By comparison, the nation of Norway resisted for sixty-three days whereas France, which was a military superpower at the time, managed to hold the Axis powers for only forty-three days.

During that time, Greece recorded 13,325 deaths, 62,663 wounded, and 1,290 missing in action. British, Australian, and New Zealand troops, who fought alongside the Greeks, suffered 903 casualties and 1,250 wounded while 13,958 of their men were captured by the Axis powers.

Days of Greek and European resistance to Axis powers

Greece 219 days
Norway 61 days
France 43 days
Poland 30 days
Belgium 18 days
Holland 4 days
Yugoslavia 3 days
Czechoslovakia 0 days
Denmark 0 days

Lasting only approximately six hours, the German ground campaign against Denmark, a tiny nation with nearly all its territory at sea level, was one of the shortest military operations of the Second World War.

Greeks were honored fighting against the Axis powers

Greeks gained fame around the world in modern times for their incredible courage and fierce resistance against the Italian and German invasions in 1940 and 1941 as well as also during the brutal years under Axis occupation.

Historical figures have long praised the Greeks for their strength and commitment to justice and freedom.

The iconic British statesman Winston Churchill, who led the United Kingdom during World War II, famously praised the Greek people in a BBC speech during the first days of the Greco-Italian War stating, “Until now we used to say that the Greeks fight like heroes. Now we shall say: Heroes fight like Greeks.”

In another statement at the House of Commons on April 24, 1941 he said, “The word heroism I am afraid does not render the least of those acts of self-sacrifice of the Greeks, which were the defining factor in the victorious outcome of the common struggle of the nations, during WWII, for the human freedom and dignity. If it were not for the bravery of the Greeks and their courage, the outcome of WWII would be undetermined.”

Leaders from around the world acknowledged Greece’s “underdog” quality, admiring the country’s resolve and indomitable courage.

American President Franklin Roosevelt honored the Greeks only a few months after the Axis invasion, noting that their courage inspired all of America. He said:

The heroic struggle of the Greek people to defend their liberties and their homes against the aggression of Germany after they had so signally defeated the Italian attempt at invasion has stirred the hearts and aroused the sympathy of the whole American people.

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