Military history of Albania during World War II


Military history of Albania during World War II

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Albanian Resistance of World War II


caption=Albanian Partisans in a village in Albania.
partof=World War II
place=Albania
date=1942 - 1945
result= Partisan victory
combatant1= organization in North Albania.
combatant2=flagicon|Italy|1861-state Kingdom of Italy (from 1941 to 1943)
Flag|Nazi Germany (from 1943 to 1944)
(from 1942 to 1944)
comander1= Mehmet Shehu
comander2= many
Strength of 1= About 300,000 troops with rifles and MP40 and a few MG40.
Strength of 2= More than 600,000 troops, many tanks, airplanes and heavy artillery.
Casualties of 1= 28,000 Partisans were killed, about 40,000 civilians died.
Casualties of 2= 70,000 German soldiers were killed, many Italian and German bases were bombed.
notes=
Total casualties:~138,000
|

Communist and Nationalist resistance

Beginning of the Communist movement

Faced with an illiterate, agrarian, and mostly Muslim society monitored by Zog's security police, Albania's communist movement attracted few adherents in the interwar period. In fact, the country had no fully fledged communist party before World War II. After Fan Noli fled in 1924 to Italy and later the United States, several of his leftist protégés migrated to Moscow, where they affiliated themselves with the Balkan Confederation of Communist Parties and through it the Communist International (Comintern), the Soviet-sponsored association of international communist parties. In 1930, the Comintern dispatched Ali Kelmendi to Albania to organize communist cells. But Albania had no working class for the communists to base their ideas on, and Marxism appealed to only a minute number of quarrelsome, Western-educated, mostly Tosk, intellectuals and to landless peasants, miners, and other persons discontented with Albania's obsolete social and economic structures. Forced to flee Albania, Kelmendi fought in the Garibaldi Battalion of the XI International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War and later moved to France, where together with other communists, including a student named Enver Hoxha, he published a newspaper. Paris became the Albanian communists' hub until Nazi deportations depleted their ranks after the fall of France in 1940.

Enver Hoxha's and Mehmet Shehu's early years

Enver Hoxha and another veteran of the Spanish Civil War, Mehmet Shehu, eventually rose to become the most powerful figures in Albania for decades after the war. The dominant figure in modern Albanian history, Enver Hoxha rose from obscurity to lead his people for a longer time than any other ruler. Born in 1908 to a Tosk landowner from Gjirokastër who returned to Albania after working in the United States, Hoxha attended the country's best college-preparatory school, the National Lycée in Korçë. In 1930 he attended the university in Montpellier, France, but lost an Albanian state scholarship for neglecting his studies. Hoxha subsequently moved to Paris and Brussels. After returning to Albania in 1936 without earning a degree, he taught French for years at his former lycée and participated in a communist cell in Korçë. When the war erupted, Hoxha joined the Albanian partisans. Shehu, also a Tosk, studied at Tirana's American Vocational School. He went on to a military college in Naples but was expelled for left-wing political activity. In Spain Shehu fought in the Garibaldi International Brigade. After internment in France, he returned to Albania in 1942 and won a reputation for brutality fighting with the partisans.

The beginning of the Albanian Communist Party and the National Liberation Movement

In October 1941, the small Albanian communist groups established in Tirana an Albanian Communist Party of 130 members under the leadership of Hoxha and an eleven-man Central Committee. The party at first had little mass appeal, and even its youth organization netted few recruits. In mid-1942, however, party leaders increased their popularity by calling the young peoples to fight for the liberation of their country, that was conquered by Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946). This propaganda increased the number of new recruits by many young peoples eager for freedom. In September 1942, the party organized a popular front organization, the National Liberation Movement (NLM), from a number of resistance groups, including several that were strongly anticommunist. During the war, the NLM's communist-dominated partisans, in the form of the National Liberation Army, did not heed warnings from the Italian occupiers that there would be reprisals for guerrilla attacks. Partisan leaders, on the contrary, counted on using the lust for revenge such reprisals would elicit to win recruits

Nationalist resistance

A nationalist resistance to the Italian occupiers emerged in October 1942. Ali Klissura and Midhat Frashëri formed the Western-oriented and anticommunist Balli Kombëtar (National Front), Balli Kombetar collaborated with Nazi-Germany, a movement that recruited supporters from both the large landowners and peasantry. The Balli Kombëtar opposed King Zog's return and called for the creation of a republic and the introduction of some economic and social reforms. The Balli Kombëtar's leaders acted conservatively, however, fearing that the occupiers would carry out reprisals against them or confiscate the landowners' estates. The nationalistic Geg chieftains and the Tosk landowners often came to terms with the Italians, and later the Germans, to prevent the loss of their wealth and power.

Between Italy's surrender and German occupation

With the overthrow of Benito Mussolini's fascist regime and Italy's surrender in 1943, the Italian military and police establishment in Albania buckled. Albanian fighters overwhelmed five Italian divisions, and Italian recruits flocked to the guerrilla forces. The communists took control of most of Albania's southern cities, except Vlorë, which was a Balli Kombëtar stronghold, and nationalists attached to the NLM gained control over much of the north. British agents working in Albania during the war fed the Albanian resistance fighters with information that the Allies were planning a major invasion of the Balkans and urged the disparate Albanian groups to unite their efforts. In August 1943, the Allies convinced communist and Balli Kombëtar leaders to sign the Mukje Agreement that would coordinate their guerrilla operations. The two groups eventually ended all collaboration, however, over a disagreement on the postwar status of Kosovo. The communists, supported returning the region to Yugoslavia after the war with the hope that Tito would cede Kosovo back to Albania peacefully, while the nationalist Balli Kombëtar advocated keeping the province. The delegates at Mukja agreed that a plebiscite should be held in Kosovo to decide the matter; but the communists soon reneged on the accord declaring that the communist delegates had not followed the orders they were given by the party leaders. Later, the communists were attacked by Balli Kombëtar forces, igniting a war that was fought for the next year, throughout Albania.

German occupation

Germany occupied Albania in September 1943, dropping paratroopers into Tirana before the Albanian guerrillas could take the capital, and the German army soon drove the guerrillas into the hills and to the south. Berlin subsequently announced it would recognize the independence of a neutral Albania and organized an Albanian government, police, and military. The Germans did not exert heavy-handed control over Albania's administration. Rather, they sought to gain popular support by backing causes popular with Albanians, especially the annexation of Kosovo. Many Balli Kombëtar units cooperated with the Germans against the communists, and several Balli Kombëtar leaders held positions in the German-sponsored regime. Albanian collaborators, especially the Skanderbeg SS Division, also expelled and killed Serbs living in Kosovo. In December 1943, a third resistance organization, an anticommunist, anti-German royalist group known as Legaliteti, took shape in Albania's northern mountains. Led by Abaz Kupi, it largely consisted of Geg guerrillas, supplied mainly with weapons from the allies, who withdrew their support for the NLM after the communists renounced Albania's claims on Kosovo. The partizans entirely liberated Albania from German occupation on November 29, 1944.

By that time, the Soviet Army was also entering neighboring Yugoslavia, and the German Army was evacuating from Greece into Yugoslavia.

Communist takeover of Albania

Provisional Communist administration

The communist partisans regrouped and gained control of southern Albania in January 1944. In May they called a congress of members of the National Liberation Front (NLF), as the movement was by then called) at Përmet, which chose an Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation to act as Albania's administration and legislature. Hoxha became the chairman of the council's executive committee and the National Liberation Army's supreme commander. The communist partisans defeated the last Balli Kombëtar forces in southern Albania by mid-summer 1944 and encountered only scattered resistance from the Balli Kombëtar and Legality when they entered central and northern Albania by the end of July. The British military mission urged the remnants of the nationalists not to oppose the communists' advance, and the Allies evacuated Kupi to Italy. Before the end of November, the main German troops had withdrawn from Tirana, and the communists took control of the capital by fighting what was left from the German army. A provisional government the communists had formed at Berat in October administered Albania with Enver Hoxha as prime minister.

The consequences of the war

Albania stood in an unenviable position after World War II. Greece and Yugoslavia hungered for Albanian lands they claimedFact|date=October 2008. The NLF's strong links with Yugoslavia's communists, who also enjoyed British military and diplomatic support, guaranteed that Belgrade would play a key role in Albania's postwar order. The Allies never recognized an Albanian government in exile or King Zog, nor did they ever raise the question of Albania or its borders at any of the major wartime conferences. No reliable statistics on Albania's wartime losses exist, but the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration reported about 30,000 Albanian war dead, 200 destroyed villages, 18,000 destroyed houses, and about 100,000 people left homeless. Albanian official statistics claim somewhat higher losses.

Furthermore, thousands of Chams (Tsams, Albanians living in Northern Greece) were driven out of Greece with the justification that they had collaborated with the Nazis.

See also

* Timeline of Albanian history to 1993
* World War II
* Albania under Italy
* Albania under Nazi Germany
* Participants in World War II

References

*" [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/altoc.html Library of Congress Country Study] of Albania"
* Amery, Julian. (1948). "Sons of the Eagle". MacMillan & Co Ltd London. This book from a British agent with the Royalists during the war has no ISBN but is being reprinted.

External links

* [http://www.terra.es/personal7/jqvaraderey/194145fc.gifMap]
* [http://terkepek.adatbank.transindex.ro/kepek/netre/226.gifMap]


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