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The National Republican Greek League ( , Ethnikos Dimokratikos Ellinikos Syndesmos, abbreviated EDES) was one of the major resistance groups formed during the Axis Occupation of Greece during World War II. The largest of the non-communist resistance groups, it concentrated its military activities in Epirus. From 1943 onwards, came into confrontation with the Communist-led National Liberation Front, beginning a series of civil conflicts that would lead to the Greek Civil War.

Foundation and ideology

The National Republican Greek League was founded on 9 September 1941 by a former army officer, Colonel Napoleon Zervas, and two of his friends, Leonidas Spais and Ilias Stamatopoulos.

Like many other resistance movements founded during that time, the political orientation of the National Republican Greek League was Republican, with a strong dislike towards the exiled King, George II, and featured some vague leftist/socialist tendencies. In the aftermath of the four-year right-wing Metaxas Dictatorship, which was strongly supported by the King, the monarchy was almost universally rejected, while leftist and social ideals for "social fairness" became the vogue among the various resistance groups.

The founding charter of EDES explicitly demanded the "establishment in Greece of a Republican regime, of Socialist form", the "revelation [...] of the treason of former King George II and the gang of the 4th of August Dictatorship", calling for a thorough cleansing of the state and Greek social and public life from anyone "who has not proven a National Republican [and] socialist conscience through actions". The charter also established the exiled Venizelist general Nikolaos Plastiras as its nominal political head, without the latter's consent or even knowledge. Remarkably, no reference to armed opposition against the occupying forces was made in the text.

On the same day, Komninos Pyromaglou, a friend and assistant of Plastiras, left Nicemarker, where Plastiras resided, for Greece. He was authorize by the general to form, on his behalf, a republican organization with socialist content", and prepare to turn both "against the Occupier" and against a return of the monarchy. After his arrival in Athens on 23 September, Pyromaglou came into contact with Republican circles, and was eventually persuaded by Zervas to join EDES. In October, a five-member Executive Committee was founded, with Pyromaglou as General Secretary and Zervas as a simple member.

As the organization grew, it established links with the British Headquarters in Cairomarker, with a view to receiving funds, weapons and guidance. Because the British strongly supported the Greek monarchy, Zervas quietly sent a statement of loyalty to King George II in March 1942. This marked a remarkable but silent breach with the vitriolic anti-monarchist attacks of the past months, and began the slow but inexorable turn of EDES towards a pro-British and pro-monarchist stance that would also lead to a direct confrontation with the greatest resistance movement, the leftist National Liberation Front (EAM).

Beginnings of armed resistance - The Gorgopotamos operation

Like most similar groups, EDES was initially limited to Athens. Having the support of many prominent Venizelist and Republican military figures, EDES came into contact with EAM and tried to establish some form of cooperation. The negotiations failed over the demands of the Communists for a merger of EDES with EAM and their distrust of Zervas' pro-British attitudes.

On 23 July 1942, after intense British pressure and more than a month after the official appearance of the military wing of EAM, the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS), Zervas, accompanied by Pyromaglou and a handful of companions, set out for the Valtos Mountains in Aetolia-Acarnania, an area with long traditions of guerrilla warfare stretching back to the Ottoman period. From then and until the end of the Occupation, Epirus would be the primary area of operations of the EDES andartes.

Supported by British parachute drops, EDES quickly gathered some 100 fighters. The first major operation of EDES was "Operation Harling", the destruction of the Gorgopotamosmarker viaduct by a joint force of British SOE commandos, and EDES and ELAS forces. While the successful operation, one of the greatest sabotage acts in occupied Europe, greatly boosted the prestige of the nascent Resistance, it also caused a significant rift between EDES and ELAS: the British loudly proclaimed and lauded Zervas' role in the operation, while ignoring the - numerically far greater - contribution of the leftist ELAS forces. While the rift was healed by British mediation, it presaged the problems that would appear in the future.

The civil war within the Resistance

Attempts at cooperation

The first conflict

These internal conflicts caused rivalry between resistance groups and eventually escalated into civil war. In October 1943 ELAS launched an attack on EDES. These attacks triggered a civil war that would last until February 1944. EAM, at this time the strongest of all resistance groups, accused EDES of collaboration with German and Axis forces in order to gain control over all anti-communist organizations, knowing that Allies would soon invade and take back control over Greece.

EDES in Athens

References

  1. Fleischer (1990), p. 150
  2. Fleischer (1990), p. 154
  3. Fleischer (1990), pp. 154-155
  4. Fleischer (1990), p. 388
  5. Fleischer (1990), p. 238
  6. Fleischer (1990), p. 241
  7. Fleischer (1990), p. 247


Sources




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