Last time we’ve talked how European governments coped with the World War II. But it is much more important how ordinary people, like those who we’re meeting on daily basis coped with lasting threat and oppression enforced by Nazis regime and their puppet governments throughout Europe. There are hundreds of stories worth of telling, each with its own heroes from the past who had bravery to stand up and do something worthy for themselves, their families, their loved ones and ultimately for the future in which freedom will be kept as the most cherished of all human rights.
We’ve all heard about French Resistance and what they did. German occupation forces and collaborationist Vichy regime will be significantly crippled by actions performed by these brave men and women. Don’t think for one second it that was political movement, because Gaullists, communists, socialists and Jews fought for the same goal. And that ultimate goal was liberation of France. Foreigners have also been permitted to join the Resistance so that Luxembourgers, Belgians, Italians, Poles, Spaniards, Hungarians and even German anti-fascist were contributing to the cause.
But few people know that other countries had similar groups and that all across Europe people organized themselves in order to fight Nazis and to restore dignity to their own communities. In Belgium it is estimated that around 5% of the population have engaged in active resistance while much more participated in passive resistance while in the Netherlands almost 300, 000 people fought German oppression.
In Austria one of the first Hitler’s victims and interestingly his home country active resistance existed since 1938. Austrian resistance was broad, but not well connected. Leftist organizations rarely worked along with Catholic and monarchist element in resistance. But it is also worth noting that even Austrian nationalists often resisted Nazism because they weren’t satisfied with destruction and disappearance of Austrian state.
Scandinavia was no exception, with Denmark and Norway having active fighters that carried out attacks and assassinations that undermined German authority in the region. We also have to mention Yugoslav Partisans who fought bravely all across the rugged terrain of what was then Yugoslavia. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned they played decisive role in the liberation of the country.
But the most important or the largest role of all had the Polish resistance. These men and women did so much for liberation of their own country and the entire Europe that it would take days to cover everything. That’s why we will simply name their most impressive achievements which helped Allies to secure their win.
Polish resistance fighters often successfully disrupted and attacked German supply line to the Eastern Front, which helped Red Army to penetrate into German positions more effectively. Polish resistance is also know for supplying western allies with intelligence from Poland, particularly to the British. The resistance is also known for saving thousands of Jews. It is estimated that they saved more lives than any other organization or government during World War II.
Sadly many of these brave leaders perished after the war under communist regime, with the Trial of the Sixteen held in Moscow being one of the worst examples of staged trials in human history.