Introduction: The Occupation

On 23 April 1941, the King and the government fled Athens for Crete while the Germans advanced on the capital. Chaos and breakdown characterized the short period between the departure of the governors and the entry of the Germans into Athens. Many also left for Crete and the Middle East or simply made for the Peloponnese and the islands. The continuous bombardment of streets and harbours by enemy aircraft completed the atmosphere of disorder and fear. On 27 April the Germans entered an almost empty Athens, since the inhabitants remained stubbornly shut up in their houses. The hoisting of the Nazi swastika over the Acropolis marked the beginning of the German occupation. A quisling government was appointed with Georgios Tsolagoklou, the General who had signed the surrender, as first prime minister.
With the fall of Crete at the end of May, the Germans completed the occupation of the entire country. They imposed the 'New Order' that meant a time of exceptional hardship and distress for the Greek people.
Greece came under a tripartite occupation, since it was divided among the Germans and their allies, the Italians and the Bulgarians. To Bulgaria the islands Thassos and Samothrace were conceded, as was a zone between the Strymon and Nestos rivers that later extended to Alexandroupolis. The Germans kept two thirds of Evros, central and eastern Macedonia, some islands in the Aegean, Attica and Crete. The rest of Greece came into Italian hands.
In the zone of Bulgarian occupation, the situation was aggravated by the Bulgarians' methodical attempts at de-hellenization with the persecution of the Greek population (murders, persecution of clericals and teachers, deportation of minors to Bulgaria for hard labour, heavy taxation) and the installation of Bulgarian settlers. Among the worst instances of Bulgarian atrocities were the incidents at Drama on 28 and 29 September 1941, the mass execution of 3,000 patriots by Bulgarians at Doxato and other villages to suppress the spontaneous revolt that tried to overthrow the Bulgarian occupation authorities. Generally, the reaction of the Macedonians and Thracians to the oppression and Bulgarization met with atrocities that alarmed even the German administration.
Attempts at de-hellenization were not unusual in the Italian zone. In Epirus gangs of Albanians, armed by Italians, terrorized the countryside while the Italians proceeded to establish an independent 'principality' of the Vlachs in the Pindos mountains.
In the German zone the situation was equally desperate. The Greek people reacted particularly to the drainage of the country's goods, resources and reserves that would doom the economy to a terminal decline and subsequently the population to lethal starvation; the destruction of the infrastructure (transportation, buildings); the elimination of every trace of freedom; and the terrorism of the conquerors through imprisonment, execution and deportation which constituted the Greek version of the Nazis' new order. It should be noted that, in terms of the country's population, the overall toll taken on the Greek nation during the Occupation due to famine and various hardships in the struggle for liberation generally surpassed every other country of equivalent size in conquered Europe.