Occupation and Resistance September 1939 - May 1945

From the time of Hitler’s appointment to Chancellor, men and women lived and died resisting German occupation. Resistance groups sprang up in every occupied country, and several organizations in Germany herself. Their members succeeded and failed in all sorts of activities against the Third Reich.

In many conquered lands, the Germans made promises of independence or the redress of ancient ethnic disputes. In some cases they followed through, but most natives who hailed the Germans as liberators were quickly and sharply disabused of their illusions.

Different areas were controlled differently. In many places the Germans set up provinces that were incorporate into Germany, each run by a Gauleiter who held absolute power. In the vast areas of Russia, the Germans held little territory but used armored trains and tanks to project power anywhere. Collaborationists that worked with the Germans r. an areas like Vichy France.

Especially after the losses in Stalingrad and Kursk, the Gauleiters were instructed to send resources to Germany. Besides natural resources, thousands of slave laborers were shipped into Germany to work in war production and other areas.

The romantic view of French Maquis fighting a hit-and-run battle while wearing black berets underestimates the horror and death that most resistance fighters lived for their short lives as partisans. Communists under the direct control of the Soviet Union organized much of the resistance in occupied Europe. This fact is often overlooked as the cold war precluded celebrating their actions.

The Gestapo was ruthlessly efficient in destroying resistance cells, and many resistance fighters died in torture or in concentration camps. Thousands of innocent men, women and children were killed in reprisals. Resistance often began as soon as the country was occupied. Defeated soldiers would hide their weapons in case of uprising; journalists and printers would hide their presses for future use. Often those Army officers willing to continue the fight would carry on after their government had surrendered.