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11-08-2015, 18:56

The Resistance in Central and Eastern Europe

In central and eastern Europe the resistance was more immediately and more resolutely committed to direct action, but it was also disabled by internal conflict which sometimes verged on civil war. During the first year of the war, while Soviet Russia was enduring almost continuous defeat, large units were separated from the main army but were not captured. The government and institutions of the Soviet regime were swept away. Dispersed troups had to be reformed and the Communist Party restored. After this band of several thousand partisans attacked behind the immense German front. They manoeuvred in areas which were too vast for thorough-going occupation. Their role was to cut the German supply lines, which had been overstretched, and to divert a large number of German divisions from the principal front, while the Red Army was preparing a counter-offensive. These operations were undertaken in an atmosphere ofpatriotic exultation. They marked the fulfilment of the Bolshevik regime's integration with traditional Russia. President Benes of Czechoslovakia skilfully preserved national unity, by reaching an agreement with Soviet Russia outside and with the communists inside his country. The Slovak insurrection in summer 1944 was to be a great triumph in the European resistance movements. National unity could not be achieved in Poland, Yugoslavia or Greece, where the exiled governments and their partisans at home quarrelled with the communist partisan groups. In Poland, rhe memory of the Russo- German Pact and the Russian and German occupation which followed it drained the Poles' pro- Russian sympathies, especially those who had joined the government in exile. Efforts at a reconciliation bogged down when the corpses of several thousand Polish officers were discovered at Katyn. Thereafter Stalin gave support exclusively to the communist partisans. In August 1944 he even allowed the Germans to crush the Warsaw uprising. Tito, the leader of the partisans in Yugoslavia, was underpinned by the English, not the Russians. He fought against the Croat and Serbian collaborators and the 'Cetnici' resistance of Mihailovic, as well as the occupying forces. The partisans readiness to fight gave them an edge. Their struggle moulded Yugoslavia after the war. As in Soviet Russia, Yugoslav resistance operations constituted a separate front. In Greece communists fought constantly and bitterly with anticommunists. The British wished to assure their control of the Mediterranean and intervened against the communists, whom Stalin, by an agreement with Churchill, allowed the British to crush. While the Axis powers were at war, opposition to the regime was regarded as high treason. This policy produced moral conflicts which paralysed the exiled Germans for a long time. Although the opposition inside Germanv had largely been herded into concentration camps, some sabotage work was accomplished and information was collected on behalf of the Russians. On 20 July 1944, however, when defeat was imminent, a handful of German military chiefs tried to assassinate Hitler and to seize power. They failed and paid for their desperate attempt with their lives. Anti-fascist emigration from Italy was larger and more re solute, but ii was fragmented. As Italian defeats mounted, the anti-fascists returned and the various factions sensibly joined forces. Bui Mussolini was finally toppled without their intervention. The formation oi the Liberation Committees after Mussolini's fall gave them a more active role to play. In reconquered Italy, they tried to persuade the Allies to turn their backs on King Victor Emanuel, whom they held responsible for fascism. In the parts of Italy under German occupation, the Committees organized partisan groups. They fought in the same conditions as the French and Yugoslav partisans and sometimes linked operations with them.