Axis occupation of Greece

The three occupation zones. Blue indicates the Italian, red the German and green the territory annexed by Bulgaria. The Italian zone was taken over by the Germans in September 1943.
German soldiers enter Athens in 1941.
Soldiers of the Legion Freies Arabien in Wehrmacht, Greece, September 1943.

The occupation of Greece by the Axis Powers (Greek: Η Κατοχή, I Katochi, meaning "The Occupation") began in April 1941 after Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany invaded Greece, and lasted until Germany and its satellite Bulgaria withdrew from the mainland of the country in October 1944. German garrisons remained in control of Crete and other Aegean islands until after the end of World War II, surrendering to the Allies in May and June 1945.

Fascist Italy had initially declared war and invaded Greece in October 1940 but the invasion was stopped, and the Hellenic Army was able initially to push the invaders back into neighboring Albania, then a protectorate of Italy. This forced Nazi Germany to shift its military focus from the preparation of "Operation Barbarossa" to an intervention on its ally's behalf in southern Europe. While most of the Hellenic Army was dislocated on the Albanian front to fend off the Italian counter-attacks, a rapid German Blitzkrieg campaign commenced in April 1941, and by June Allied Greece was defeated and occupied by the Nazis. As result, the Greek government went into exile, and an Axis collaborationist puppet government was established in the country. Furthermore, Greece's territory was divided into occupation zones run by the Axis powers, with the Nazi Germans proceeding to administer the most important regions of the country themselves, including Athens, Thessaloniki and the most strategic Aegean Islands. Other regions of the country were given to Germany's Axis partners, Fascist Italy and Bulgaria.

The occupation ruined the Greek economy and brought about terrible hardships for the Greek civilian population. Much of Greece was subjected to enormous destruction of its industry (80% of which was destroyed), infrastructure (28% destroyed), ports, roads, railways and bridges (90%), forests and other natural resources (25%)[1][2][3] and loss of civilian life (7.02% - 11.17% of its citizens).[4][5] Over 40,000 civilians died in Athens alone from starvation, tens of thousands more died because of reprisals by Nazis and collaborators.[6] At the same time the Greek Resistance, one of the most effective resistance movements in Occupied Europe, was formed. These resistance groups launched guerrilla attacks against the occupying powers, fought against the collaborationist Security Battalions, and set up large espionage networks. By late 1943 the resistance groups began to fight amongst themselves. When liberation of the mainland came in October 1944, Greece was in a state of extreme political polarization, which soon led to the outbreak of civil war. The subsequent civil war gave the opportunity to many prominent Nazi collaborators not only to escape punishment (because of their anti-communism), but to eventually become the ruling class of postwar Greece, after the communist defeat.[7][8]


  • Fall of Greece 1
  • The Triple Occupation 2
    • The German occupation zone 2.1
      • Economic exploitation and the Great Famine 2.1.1
      • Axis atrocities 2.1.2
    • The Italian occupation zone 2.2
    • The Bulgarian occupation zone 2.3
  • Civil administration 3
  • Collaboration 4
  • Resistance 5
  • Liberation and aftermath 6
  • The Holocaust in Greece 7
  • Influence in post-war culture 8
  • Notable personalities of the occupation 9
  • References 10
  • Bibliography 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13

Fall of Greece

German artillery shelling the Metaxas Line.