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National Republican Greek League
Εθνικός Δημοκρατικός Ελληνικός Σύνδεσμος
Ethnikós Dimokratikós Ellinikós Sýndesmos
LeadersNapoleon Zervas
Komninos Pyromaglou
Dates of operation1941–1944
Active regionsEpirus
IdeologyGreek nationalism
Sizeca.12,000 (October 1944)
Organization Bouboulina [el]
Organization X
Greek government in exile
OpponentsRoyal Italian Army
German Army
Kingdom of Bulgaria
Collaborationist government
Security Battalions
Balli Kombëtar

The National Republican Greek League (Greek: Εθνικός Δημοκρατικός Ελληνικός Σύνδεσμος (ΕΔΕΣ), Ethnikós Dimokratikós Ellinikós Sýndesmos (EDES)) was a major anti-Nazi resistance group formed during the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II.

The largest of the non-communist resistance groups, its military wing, the National Groups of Greek Guerrillas (Εθνικές Ομάδες Ελλήνων Ανταρτών, Ethnikés Omádes Ellínon Antartón (ΕΟΕΑ)) concentrated its military activities in Epirus. From 1943 onwards, EDES 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[edit]

The National Republican Greek League was founded on 9 September 1941 by a former army officer, Colonel Napoleon Zervas, a Venizelist who had been expelled from the army after the failed coup d'état of 1935, and two companions, Leonidas Spais and Ilias Stamatopoulos.[1]

Like many other resistance movements founded during that time, the political orientation of the National Republican Greek League was Republican, with a strongly stated opposition towards the exiled king, George II, and general leftist-socialist proclamations. In the aftermath of the four-year right-wing widely rejected in the country, while social ideals for "social fairness" became the vogue among the various resistance groups.[citation needed]

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 so-called 4th of August Dictatorship", calling for a thorough cleansing of the state and Greek social and public life from anyone "who has not proven through actions [to be] a National Republican [and have a] socialist conscience". The charter acknowledged the prominent exiled Venizelist general Nikolaos Plastiras as its nominal political head, although, due to his exile in France, they'd failed to obtain his consent beforehand.[1] At that time, yet, no explicit reference to armed opposition against the occupying forces was made in the text.[1]

On the same day, Komninos Pyromaglou, a friend and assistant of Plastiras, left Nice, 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.[2] After his arrival in Athens on 23 September, Pyromaglou came into contact with Republican circles, and after contacting Zervas took EDES' command. In October, a five-member Executive Committee was founded, with Pyromaglou as General Secretary, representing Plastiras, and Zervas as a member.[3]

As the organization grew, it succeeded in establishing links with the British Headquarters in Cairo, and receiving funds, weapons, and guidance. Under British pressure, in support of the Greek monarchy, Zervas sent a statement of loyalty to King George II in March 1942.[4] This marked a silent breach with the anti-monarchist attacks of the past months, and marked EDES's turn towards a pro-monarchist stance.

The organization supported irredentism, arguing that Greece should be allowed to annex parts of Albania and Bulgaria after the war.[5] In 1944 and 1945, following the retreat of Axis forces and their evacuation of Greece, EDES participated in the expulsion of the Cham Albanians community, on account of their collaborationist actions during the Occupation, which included atrocities and acts of ethnic cleansing against the local population.[6]: 469–471 [7][8] The expulsion was approved by the Middle East Allied Command, in a directive to "push [the Chams] out of Greece and into Albania."[9]: 218  The state of Albania subsequently accused Greece of having perpetrated, through EDES, war crimes by attacking Cham villages and murdering civilians.[10] The issue of the Cham minority remains open from the Albanian side, after the communist regime fell.

Beginnings of armed resistance – The Gorgopotamos operation[edit]

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.[11]

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.[12] 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 Gorgopotamos 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 contribution – numerically far greater – of the leftist ELAS forces.[13] While the rift was healed by British mediation, it presaged the problems that would appear in the future.

On 24 February 1943, Zervas addressed his friend Antonis Petsakis in a letter, urging him to create a branch of EDES in Peloponnese, before ELAS establishes full control of the region. A branch of the National Groups of Greek Guerrillas (ΕΟΕΑ) was then founded in Patras and by the summer of 1943 a small armed guerilla group was formed by E. Sevastakis. The Peloponnesean branch of EDES struggled with finding weapons and ammunition, prompting Zervas to request for a British airdrop of supplies in Achaea. The airdrop did not materialize and Sevastakis' group disbanded in late July, numbering some 70 men at the time.[14]

List of battles[edit]


  • 23 October - 24 November: Battle against Italian forces at Skoulikaria and at wider mountainous area of Arta, during 22 days.
  • 25 November: Operation Harling (Gorgopotamos).
  • 20–22 December: Battle against Italian forces at Ano Kalentini - Xirokampos - Velentziko - Koufalo of Arta


  • 20 May: Victorious battle against Italians and Cham Albanians at Agia Kyriaki village.
  • 22 June : Destruction of Spiliopotamos bridge.
  • 6 July: Victorious battle against Italian alpinists at Milia, Epirus.
  • 8–20 September: Battles against German forces at Metsovo, Pramada, Kalarites.
  • 16,19 September: Battles against Germans and Cham Albanians at Skala Paramythias.
  • 30 September: Attack against German forces at Xirovouni.
  • 30–31 October: Battle against Edelweiss Division (with the eventual participation of ELAS, mainly against the EDES forces[15]) at Tzoumerka.
  • November–December: Battles against Germans and Cham Albanians at Thesprotia.


  • 30 March Battle in Thesprotiko against Germans and Cham Albanians.
  • 29 Juny[clarification needed]: Liberation of Paramythia and Parga.
  • 30 Juny[clarification needed]: Victorious battle against Germans and Cham Albanians at Menina.
  • 11 August: Liberation of Margariti.
  • 17–18 August: Conquest of Fort Menina.
  • 14 September: Battle of Dodona-Liberation of Lefkada.
  • 22 September: Liberation of Igoumenitsa and Filiates.
  • 7–15 October: Battles against German forces.

Accusations of Collaborationism[edit]

Following large scale clashes between ELAS and EDES in October 1943, Zervas entered into contact with the Germans and began discussing the possibility of collaboration against ELAS. In February 1944, Zervas and XXII Mountain Corps commander Hubert Lanz reached a "gentlemen's agreement". Under its terms the two sides were to enter a truce, exchange limited information on ELAS prior to each side's military operations against the communists and enter full on collaboration in case EDES found itself on the brink of collapse. According to 1st Mountain Division officer Karl Heinz Rotfuchs, the agreement remained a secret from the absolute majority of EDES members. It was also kept secret from the British, so that EDES would continue to receive material support from the former. Upon their departure from Epirus, the Germans ensured that leftover materiel would reach the hands of EDES rather than ELAS.[16]

The left wing Greek People's Liberation Army on various occasions accused its rival organizations, and particularly EDES, of collaboration with the occupying Nazi forces.[17][18][19] During the armed conflicts between ELAS and EDES in Athens, a propaganda war was launched with ELAS accusing EDES of collaboration, mainly due to gaining plausibility from the explicit exemption of EDES from German propaganda attacks.[19][20]

On the other hand, Stylianos Gonatas, initially a political leader of EDES in Athens, won the peculiar enmity of the organization because he supported the collaborationist Security Battalions and encouraged young officers to join their ranks, which led to hostility of the EAM groups towards him.[21][22] The 12th Army of Nazi Germany attempted for a short time to coopt the EDES forces, and to use them against the ELAS, but this attempt failed and in July 1944 the EDES launched new attacks.[23][24]

The civil war within the Resistance[edit]

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. After that, a fragile truce was established, which lasted until December, two months after the Liberation. Then, while the ELAS of Athens attempted to overthrow the government, other units stormed the EDES positions in Epirus. The latter was defeated and the remaining forces were evacuated to Corfu. After the defeat of the ELAS in Athens (January 1945), EDES forces returned to Epirus, where part of them got involved to the expulsion of the Cham Albanians.


  1. ^ a b c Fleischer (1990), p. 150
  2. ^ Fleischer (1990), p. 154
  3. ^ Fleischer (1990), pp. 154–155
  4. ^ Fleischer (1990), p. 388
  5. ^ Tsoutsoumpis, Spyridon (2021). "The Lords of War: violence, governance and nation-building in north-western Greece". European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire. 28 (1): 50–73. doi:10.1080/13507486.2020.1803218. S2CID 225206762.
  6. ^ Meyer, Hermann Frank (2008). Blutiges Edelweiß: Die 1. Gebirgs-division im zweiten Weltkrieg [Bloodstained Edelweiss. The 1st Mountain-Division in WWII] (in German). Ch. Links Verlag. ISBN 978-3-86153-447-1.
  7. ^ Manta, Eleftheria (2009). "The Cams of Albania and the Greek State (1923 - 1945)". Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. 4 (29). Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  8. ^ See Paramythia_incident.
  9. ^ Barjaba, Kosta; King, Russell (2005). "The New Albanian Migration". In King, Russell; Mai, Nicola; Schwandner-Sievers, Stephanie (eds.). Introducing the Theorising Albanian Migration. Brighton & Portland: Sussex Academic Press.
  10. ^ Baltsiotis, Lambros (2011). "The Muslim Chams of Northwestern Greece. The grounds for the expulsion of a "non-existent" minority community". European Journal of Turkish Studies. Social Sciences on Contemporary Turkey (in French) (12). doi:10.4000/ejts.4444. ISSN 1773-0546.
  11. ^ Fleischer (1990), p. 238
  12. ^ Fleischer (1990), p. 241
  13. ^ Fleischer (1990), p. 247
  14. ^ Stouras (2016), p. 94
  15. ^ "Η μάχη της Νεράιδας, 30–31 Οκτωβρίου 1943". Ελληνικά Χρονικά (in Greek). 31 October 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  16. ^ Lamprinos, Fotis (dir) (1981). Άρης Βελουχιώτης: Το Δίλημμα [Aris Velouchiotis: The Dilemma] (Documentary) (in Greek). Cine-Video. 106-110 minutes in. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  17. ^ Charles R. Shrader. The withered vine: logistics and the communist insurgency in Greece, 1945–1949. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999 ISBN 978-0-275-96544-0. p. 34.
  18. ^ Ian Dear,Michael Richard Daniell Foot. The Oxford companion to World War II. Oxford University Press, 2001 ISBN 978-0-19-860446-4, p. 403
  19. ^ a b David H. Close. The origins of the Greek civil war . Longman, 1995, ISBN 978-0-582-06472-0, p. 106
  20. ^ Hondros, John Louis (June 1983). Occupation and resistance: the Greek agony, 1941-44. Pella Pub. Co. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-918618-24-5. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  21. ^ Shrader, Charles R. (1999). The withered vine: logistics and the communist insurgency in Greece, 1945-1949. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-275-96544-0. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  22. ^ McNeill, William Hardy (1947). The Greek dilemma: war and aftermath. J.B. Lippincott Company. p. 87. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  23. ^ Shepherd, Ben H. (2016). Hitler's Soldiers: The German Army in the Third Reich. Yale University Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-0300219524. A short-lived attempt to coopt EDES forces, and use them against ELAS partisans, also failed, and by July 1944, EDES was attacking the Germans again.
  24. ^ Kretsi, Georgia (2002). Ethnologia Balkanica. Vol. 6. Berlin: LIT Verlag Münster. p. 182.