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Greek civilian casualties and German policy towards them

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Greek civilian casualties and German policy towards them

Postby Korbius on 30 Apr 2003 00:17

How come the Greeks lost so many civilian lives (around 325,000)during WWII? Since they were non-slavic, wouldn't they be treated better unlike the rest of eastern slavic European countries?
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Postby Krasnaya Zvezda on 30 Apr 2003 02:48

Most of the casulties were not as a result of dirct fight with Germans. The requisitioning of food stocks resulted in a terrible famine during the winter of 1941?42, in which as many as 100,000 people died.


Civil war is the main contributor to the high number of dead civillians. Just as during the War of Independence and World War I, so during this time of grave national crisis internecine strife divided the resistance organizations. Besides fighting the Axis occupation, they jockeyed for postwar power. During the winter of 1943?44 civil war broke out in the mountains of Greece between EAM/ELAS and the much smaller EDES, which, however, enjoyed the support of the British authorities, who had become increasingly alarmed at the prospect of a postliberation seizure of power by the communists.

And you are right, Germans did not treated the Greeks as bad as they did the Slavs. Hitler even considred them Aryan, if someone knows what he ment by that.
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Postby Korbius on 30 Apr 2003 10:34

The civil war in Greece started in December 1944, so that was close to the end of WWII, and there were around 65,000 casualties on both sides in the period '44-'49, so that would take the number somewhere around 250,000 civilian casualties, around 100,000 that you mentioned died from famine, what about the rest? Were they killed for retaliation in helping the resistance movement/partisans?
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Postby Krasnaya Zvezda on 30 Apr 2003 13:04

As many sources mention, the number of casulties in Greece varies depending on the source. The 100 000 died only in the great famine, many others died throughout the war from hunger also. In general, the following is accepted:


In 1941-1944 the Greece's resistance movement had carried out about 25 sabotage and diversion actions. Among others it destroyed 150 steam engines, 400 railway and road bridges, sunk or damaged about 250 vessels of a displacement over 60 thousand tons. Partisan detachments had fought 800 bigger and smaller battles with invaders' units as well as with gendarmerie troops and security battalions of the collaborationist government in Athens. A general balance of invaders' losses: 22 thousand Germans and 4800 Italians killed. The losses of Bulgarian occupation forces are not known. Considerable quantities of military equipment, weapons, ammunition and other supplies as well as uniforms and food fell a prey to partisans.

The Greek nation, which according to the 1940 census numbered about 7.4 million inhabitants, sustained huge casualties. Generally they made 410 thousand people (5.6%), out of which about 260 thousand died of hunger, 50 thousand were shot on the spot by German and Italian fascists, 60 thousand died in concentration camps. The victory in autumn 1944 over the German and Italian fascism did not bring a full freedom and peace to the Greek nation. During the civil war, lasting since 1946 till 1949 died thousands of the Greeks. Over 20 thousand former members of the resistance movement were executed by post-war dictatorial regimes. About 60 thousand combatants had chosen an emigration, many of them had found their way to Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Poland, Canada and Australia.
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Postby Roberto on 30 Apr 2003 15:29

Krasnaya Zvezda wrote:A general balance of invaders' losses: 22 thousand Germans and 4800 Italians killed.


These figures seem too high to me. I presume they are based on sources linked to the partisan movements, with a tendency to exaggerate the damage they inflicted on the enemy.

Where did you get these figures from?
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Postby Krasnaya Zvezda on 01 May 2003 11:27

Roberto wrote:
Krasnaya Zvezda wrote:A general balance of invaders' losses: 22 thousand Germans and 4800 Italians killed.


These figures seem too high to me. I presume they are based on sources linked to the partisan movements, with a tendency to exaggerate the damage they inflicted on the enemy.

Where did you get these figures from?



Conquest of the Balkans (Third Reich Series)
Publisher: Time Life; (April 1990)
ASIN: 0809469804

Why strange? It is accepted that German losses only during the invasion (With Crete also) were around 5 000 so this is at the begining of the war only month or two after the start of the war.

Here you have some partial data on German lossess in Balkans, again, sources vary in their estimates:

http://www.feldgrau.com/stats.html


All the best.
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Postby Roberto on 02 May 2003 18:49

Krasnaya Zvezda wrote:
Roberto wrote:
Krasnaya Zvezda wrote:A general balance of invaders' losses: 22 thousand Germans and 4800 Italians killed.


These figures seem too high to me. I presume they are based on sources linked to the partisan movements, with a tendency to exaggerate the damage they inflicted on the enemy.

Where did you get these figures from?



Conquest of the Balkans (Third Reich Series)
Publisher: Time Life; (April 1990)
ASIN: 0809469804

Why strange? It is accepted that German losses only during the invasion (With Crete also) were around 5 000 so this is at the begining of the war only month or two after the start of the war.


If losses during the conquest of Greece and the attack on Crete are included, the figure would be more plausible, but I would still have a problem believing that Greek partisans killed about 17,000 German troops, not only because I remember having seen a figure about this high for Yugoslavia and Greece together during the most intensive years of partisan fighting, on a site which unfortunately seems to have gone offline.

The efficiency of irregular rebels as a fighting force was wildly overstated during World War II, most notably in regard to Soviet partisans, who were claimed to have killed about half a million German troops. Let’s have a look at this excerpt from the book

The Phantom War - The German struggle against Soviet partisans 1941-1944, by Matthew Cooper, Macdonald and Jane’s Publishers Limited, London, 1979

Introduction

Evil devours itself. Perhaps no other single aspect of the Second World War so well exemplifies the truth of this saying as the German struggle against the Soviet partisans from 1941 to 1944. Unpleasant tale though it is, its telling provides some important truths concerning the nature of the Third Reich and of its Führer, Adolf Hitler; it reveals that National Socialism contained within itself the seeds of its failure. Had it not been for the brutality of its racial dogma, the complexities and contradictions of its organization, and the intransigence and narrowness of intellect of its leader, it is at least arguable that Germany could have pacified the occupied territories of Russia, harnessed for its own purposes the discontent with the Communist regime that was widespread among the Russian peoples, and thereby brought to an end the Soviet Union. The failure to achieve this was the primary cause, in its turn, of the defeat of the Third Reich.

But, interesting though such a thesis may be, it is purely hypothetical. What is certain, however, is that, by their savage repression of the Eastern peoples, the German invaders lost the support of the indigenous population, created hostility where none previously existed, and, despite the great weaknesses inherent in the partisan movement, were forced to surrender large areas of occupied territory to the Soviet guerrillas. Although the Germans could claim, with reason, that the partisans had not succeeded in their primary task - the dislocation of vital supply lines to the armies at the front - they themselves were brought to the realization that their ruthless measures, born of an intolerant radicalism, could only fuel the fires of resistance, and foster, rather than subdue, partisan activity. But by the time this truth had penetrated the prejudices of Führer, High Command, and regime, it was too late; the war in the East had been lost.

The history of German rule in occupied Russia in general, and of its security measures in particular, also reveals much about Hitler’s responsibility for the immeasurable atrocities that took place during the war. Certainly, although he gave orders of great cruelty concerning the policies to be pursued towards the Russian people, they included no mention of any desire to commit genocide. Perhaps, therefore, it could be argued that he had no intention of allowing his political officials and soldiers to engage in the destruction of twenty million Russians, of whom at least 750,000 were Jews - the enormity of which figures becomes clear when it is realized that the number of Soviet soldiers and partisans killed in battle amounted to around one third of the total. Perhaps, even, it might be said that the Führer had no knowledge that such wholesale slaughter, initiated solely by subordinates such as Heinrich Himmler, was taking place. Perhaps. But what can be established beyond doubt is that it was Hitler, and he alone, who created the conditions whereby such evil could be done. He shaped the mentality of the invaders. Without his diatribes against the Slavs and the Jews - the Untermensch - and without his orders, or those emanating at his instigation and with his approval from his military staffs, the High Commands of the Wehrmacht and the Army, the atrocities perpetrated by his SS men and his soldiers would not have taken place. As Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, Chief of the SS Anti-Partisan formations, was to tell the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg after the war: ‘if, for decades, a doctrine is preached that the Slav race is an inferior race, and the Jews not even human at all, then such an explosion is inevitable’. For that, Hitler must bear responsibility.

The struggle behind the German front lines in the East was immense; at its peak, it involved some 250,000 partisans against 500,000 men in the security forces.[my emphasis] At times it could cause the invader much consternation. In 1943, for example, the Luftwaffe was forced to issue to its pilots a map on which, in red, were marked areas over which it was dangerous even to fly - areas that were in the German-held rear areas themselves. Claims for the efficacy of the Soviet guerrilla war have been many. General Ponomarenko, Chief of the partisan Central Staff, asserted that up until the middle of 1943, Soviet guerrillas in Belorussiya alone killed more than 300,000 Germans, caused more than 3,000 railway accidents, and destroyed 3,263 bridges, 1,191 tanks, 4,097 lorries, 378 heavy guns, and 895 supply depots.[my emphasis] A well-known British military writer, Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, wrote: ‘’ The partisans, whose numbers were always increasing, sowed fear in the hearts of the German soldiers, who were scattered along the endless railways. In the immense spaces which these crossed, the partisan detachments played the same role as did the submarine packs in the Atlantic’ - packs which, it should be remembered, nearly brought about the economic demise of Great Britain. Others, however, have been less sure of the value of the guerrillas. Sir Basil Liddell Hart, for example, believed their activities to have been both ineffective and counter-productive, rarely being more that just a nuisance value and having direct consequences for the civilian population by provoking the enemy into taking severe reprisals. Such writers point to the fact that the partisans were but an auxiliary force of the Red Army; that their activities did not become serious until the second half of the occupation; that, even then, they were limited to the poorer, less populated, and often less strategic areas; and that, in any case, Soviet claims for their successes are wildly exaggerated. Indeed, if early Soviet accounts are to be believed, the Germans suffered more than one million casualties from guerrilla activity alone - about one-sixth of all their soldiers who fought in the East. At the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, General Jodl, Chief of Operations of the Wehrmacht High Command, in whose interest it would have been to exaggerate the menace of the partisans, doubted whether German casualties in the Soviet Union at their hands were as high as 50,000. Recent studies suggest that they were even less, at between 15,000 and 20,000, not including those of the Eastern volunteers who also took part in security operations.[my emphasis] In this sense, at least, the phantom war lived up to its name, appearing to possess immense form but, in reality, having little substance. This, however, was often overlooked by the Germans, who, in the extreme violence of their security measures, appeared not only to have misunderstood the proper conduct of anti-guerrilla warfare, but also to have overestimated the partisan danger. As the Head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, admitted a few months before the Germans were driven from the Soviet Union: ‘Perhaps we have overreacted to these bandits, and by this have caused ourselves needless problems.’


According to the above, Soviet partisan forces killed 50,000 of the occupying forces at most, thereof only 15,000 to 20,000 Germans. This although Soviet partisan units had a total of 250,000 men under arms and were thus numerously much stronger than the bands of the various Greek partisan organization, who were also fighting each other if I’m not mistaken. If Greek partisans nevertheless killed 17,000 Germans, this would mean they were immensely more effective a fighting force than the Soviet partisans.

Do you believe they were?
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Difference between Soviet and Greek Partisan

Postby wildboar on 04 May 2003 17:50

Roberto Wrote
According to the above, Soviet partisan forces killed 50,000 of the occupying forces at most, thereof only 15,000 to 20,000 Germans. This although Soviet partisan units had a total of 250,000 men under arms and were thus numerously much stronger than the bands of the various Greek partisan organization, who were also fighting each other if I’m not mistaken. If Greek partisans nevertheless killed 17,000 Germans, this would mean they were immensely more effective a fighting force than the Soviet partisans.

Do you believe they were?


The Soviet partisans were members of NVKD and most of the partisans were ethnic russians .
While most of the greek partisans were civilians .
so while soviet partisans were highly inefficient the greek partisans were to extent effective than soviet one
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Postby Proton on 04 May 2003 19:50

Does anybody have any figures regarding the German losses in each country occupied in the South/Western Balkans?
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Postby Roberto on 05 May 2003 12:13

wildboar wrote:Roberto Wrote
According to the above, Soviet partisan forces killed 50,000 of the occupying forces at most, thereof only 15,000 to 20,000 Germans. This although Soviet partisan units had a total of 250,000 men under arms and were thus numerously much stronger than the bands of the various Greek partisan organization, who were also fighting each other if I’m not mistaken. If Greek partisans nevertheless killed 17,000 Germans, this would mean they were immensely more effective a fighting force than the Soviet partisans.

Do you believe they were?


The Soviet partisans were members of NVKD


Were they?

I presume some cadres had direct links to the Soviet government and military command, but this doesn't necessarily make them members of the NKVD. Does wildboar have evidence supporting his assertions, for a change?

wildboar wrote:and most of the partisans were ethnic russians .


Yeah, ethnic Greeks were Aryan while ethnic Russians were Slav sub-human scum.

Or what is this reference to ethnicity supposed to mean?

wildboar wrote:While most of the greek partisans were civilians .


So were the overwhelming majority of Soviet partisans, for all I know.

wildboar wrote:so while soviet partisans were highly inefficient the greek partisans were to extent effective than soviet one


Or so wildboar would like to believe.

Having read Kenneth Macksey's The Partisans of Europe, however, I'd say that irregular forces throughout occupied Europe were not much of a match for highly trained regular forces, that the Greek partisan movements (which according to Macksey were more interested in fighting each other than in fighting the Germans, see quote below) were no exception and that they exaggerated the damage they inflicted on the enemy just like the Soviet partisan movement did. If we were to believe Ponomarenko's claims on how many German troops Soviet partisans killed and how much equipment they destroyed, we would have to conclude that the Soviet partisan force was the most combat-efficient irregular fighting force ever.

Kenneth Macksey (The Partisans of Europe in World War II, pages 229/230) wrote:
[...]When it became apparent that the Germans were at last set upon withdrawal, the Allied reaction was twofold; to expedite the Operation Noah’s Ark sabotage scheme against the Axis communications, and to ensure stable government while the work of rehabilitating a population beset by famine was started. Concerning Noah’s Ark, however, it must be recorded that the Greek guerrillas, above all EAM/ELAS, preferred to avoid the Germans, happy to see them depart as a prelude to the internecine struggle they sought. Such damage as was inflicted upon the old enemy was by Allied special forces: British commandos and the Special Boat Squadron, the American OGs and the Greek right-wing EDES under Zervas. They disrupted the railways, without completely stopping traffic, and ambushed convoys, but caused only a minute proportion of enemy losses.[my emphasis] Rather more important, they seized landing grounds in readiness for the main Allied forces when they chose to arrive. But already, despite an agreement to withhold, the rival political parties were jostling to seize the reins of government in the aftermath of the German withdrawal. The guerrilla effort, therefore, was intermittent, only partially successful and far from the “crowning mercy” they claimed it to be; the principal damage to the old enemy almost certainly fell to the credit of the air forces.[my emphasis]
Nor did British land forces, arriving with perfect timing on the heels of the Germans, make a large contribution. Though it is obvious that the Allies possessed thorough intelligence of high-level German intentions (having, as they did, knowledge of the German cipher), their tackling of the enemy was defective. Pursuit of a swiftly fleeing foe was hampered by lines of communication which the Germans, as usual, had desolated, completing the job begun by the partisans, and brought to an advanced state of disruption by the air forces. In any case the British were heavily committed to saving Greek lives, in a population at starvation point, and in preventing the slaughter o indigenous units which had helped keep order on behalf of the Germans. Already, however, disquieting Communist propaganda was souring relations. When, for example, ELAS stood back while British troops, at loss to themselves, defeated a German column, it was not to be expected that the British would take kindly to a Communist newspaper report which gave all the credit to ELAS and ignored the British contribution. Yet this was the realistic trend of Communist propaganda in its efforts to persuade the Greek people, and the world, that they alone were responsible for the liberation of the country. In due course ELAS’s claims for Germans killed amounted to fifty thousand, whereas the Germans admit to only some seven thousand killed and wounded, many of whom probably fell to other agencies, few to ELAS.[my emphasis][…]


The German organization Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, dedicated to tracing and tending the graves of German soldiers killed in World War II throughout the world, speaks of "more than 15,000" German soldiers who lost their lives on Greek soil during World War II. This figure includes German troops killed during the conquest of Greece in 1941 and the retreat from the country in 1944. It also includes those killed in the attack against Crete (5,500 according to the VDK) and those killed on the islands of the Aegean, where they fought their erstwhile Italian allies and British troops after Italy changed sides in 1943. Also included are deaths due to Allied air raids, which according to the above quoted passage from Macksey’s book caused most German casualties, whereas Greek partisan movements in general and the Communist ELAS in particular accounted for only a fraction thereof.

The VDK’s data can be found under

http://www.volksbund.de/kgs/land.asp?Land=99029
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Postby alsaco on 06 May 2003 22:23

I think Roberto has brought a clear presentation of the "killing" side of the partisans. In France also the number of german soldiers killed by the maquis war and in town or road ambushes by occasionnal groups has been regularly exagerated.

I would say that in France, Italy and Greece we can accept that 5000 killed is a maximum, even knowing that wounded and POW were quite allways executed, for different reasons. The number is higher in Yugoslavia, and in the case of Russia is probably much higher. Moreover in Yugoslavia and Russia, we must think that during the german retreat, partisans have been in position to include in their statistics numerous soldiers caught, and executed, during clean-up and combing operations, while in France these left behind groups did become POW, delivered as they were immediately to american and british MPs.

But the effect of resistance and partisan was mainly a moral one. Joined to the straffing by planes, the risk of ambushes did break up transports and interrupt transmission of orders and informations. Nerves were so overcharged that soldiers did travel permanently with a guard on the top of lorries and armed sentries on the back of each vehicle. Attacks were rare in fact, but permanently expected.

Moreover, attacking groups of soldiers or convoy ot troops was not the main task of resistance groups. They had to collect and transmit information, collect and escort american airmen, protect and shelter radio stations and jedburgh units, organise and realise sabotages and disruptions. Only against retreating groups did the resistance apply offensive actions, the rest of the time defensive and essentially escape was the main objective.

When speaking of 14000 germans killed, you say that in the two years preceding the arrival of the allies, 700 days, the resistance movement has killed everyday 20 soldiers. Or that with an ambush each week, 100 little fights, the german have suffered 140 KIA weekly from the hands of the partisans. Should such a rate be exact, I am sure the list of hostages, of burned villages and german exactions and massacres would be much longer then it is.

Don't you think ?.
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Postby michael mills on 07 May 2003 04:59

To get back to the original topic, which is Greek civilian casualties.

The main reason for the mass starvation which caused most of the civlian casualties in Greece was the extremely low level of rations allotted by the german occupiers. In fact, only the Jews were allotted rations lower than those allotted to the Greeks.

Details of the rations allotted to Jews, Greeks and the other peoples under German occupation can be found in the 1943 book "Starvation over Europe (Made in Germany): A Documented Record", by Boris Schub and Zorach Wahrhaftig.

The low rations allotted to the Greek civilian population were not a result of German racial policy, but rather of circumstances. Greece, a country with few agricultural resources, was a food-deficit country, dependent on food imports, which were cut off when it came under German and Italina control. While Germany had no policy of starving the Greek population, and no policy of taking food out of the country, neither was it prepared to supply Greece from the limited food available within occupied Europe.

Nevertheless, the German authorities had no objection to food aid being delivered to the Greek population by the Allies. In fact, they allowed Allied ships to bring food to Greek ports under flags of truce, and to return to Allied ports. Without that food aid, Greek civilian casualties from starvation would have been much higher.

German consent to the delivery of Allied food aid to Greece was not an isolated phenomenon. The German authorities also permitted United States charitable bodies, headed by Herbert Hoover, to send food aid to occupied Poland; that food aid continued until it was prohibited by the United States Government after its entry into the war against Germany.
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Postby David Thompson on 07 May 2003 06:14

Michael -- Michael Mazower, in his book "Inside Hitler's Greece: The Experience of Occupation 1941-44," Yale University Press, New Haven (CT): 1993, has an interesting treatment of the Greek famine of 1941-42 at pp. 23-52 (with an additional chapter on the "black market" at pp. 53-64). He agrees with you that Germany had no policy of starving the Greek population, but emphasizes German economic plunder and the issuance of "fiat money" by the occupiers as precipitating the famine.

Mazower estimates (at p. 41) the deaths from the famine at between 250-300,000.
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Re: Greek civilian casualties and German policy towards them

Postby Chinaski1917 on 20 Oct 2012 15:44

A general balance of invaders' losses: 22 thousand Germans and 4800 Italians killed.


German losses were about 15.000
5.500 in battle of Crete
2.200 during the invasion of mainland Greece
and 7.000 by Resistance and other activities.

As to Italian losses :

viewtopic.php?f=75&t=164882

13,755 killed
Last edited by Chinaski1917 on 20 Oct 2012 15:54, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Greek civilian casualties and German policy towards them

Postby Chinaski1917 on 20 Oct 2012 15:48

The warning by a German representative on May 7 1941 that if no action is taken in Greece the situation will lead to a general famine were ignored from his seniors and Hitler himself.


Violeta Hionidou, Famine and Death in Greece 1941-1944 , pub.Vivlopoleion tIs Estias, p.31
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