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Resistance Movements during WWII

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This is the umbrella project for the wide range of Resistance Movements, Underground Organisations and Partisan Fighters during WWII that were active in almost every country though a variety of methods.


Should a suitable project not yet exist for your profiles you can create a new one. If you need help with starting another project, contact one of the following curators:
Pam Karp, Wendi Newman, Kevin Hanit,

You may also start a discussion.

The URL of new projects that you create should be added to the list under the heading Existing Resistance Projects in this page.


Resistance movements during World War II occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means ranging from non-cooperation, disinformation and propaganda, to hiding sought after agents and even to outright warfare and capturing of towns.

After the first shock following the Blitzkrieg, people slowly started to get organized with resistance, both locally and on a larger scale. Jews and others were starting to be deported and used for the Arbeitseinsatz (forced labor for the Germans) and many forms of opposition to the Nazis arose though possibilities for fighting and armed resistance depended much on the terrain. Where there were large tracts of uninhabited land, especially hills and forests, resistance was more easily organized and undetected. This favoured in particular the Soviet partisans in Eastern Europe. In northern Italy, both the Alps and the Apennines offered shelter to partisan brigades, though many groups operated directly inside the major cities.

Many different groups existed, the activity ranging from humanitarian aid to armed resistance,and sometimes cooperating to a varying degree. Resistance to German occupation was widespread throughout Europe, usually arising spontaneously, encouraged and helped from London and Moscow. In Western Europe the resistance movement centred around underground (secret) organisations that committed sabotage; aided downed Allied fliers; and worked with Allied intelligence agents. In Denmark, the underground was so effective that it was able to evacuate or send into hiding almost all of the country's Jewish population just as the Germans were about to send Danish Jews to concentration camps.

Among the most notable resistance movements were the Polish Resistance including the Polish Home Army Leśni, and the whole Polish Underground State; the Soviet partisans, the Italian Resistenza led mainly by the Italian CLN; the French Resistance, Yugoslav Partisans, the Belgian Resistance, the Norwegian Resistance, the
Greek Resistance, Dutch Resistance, the The Doomed Soldiers of the Polish army and Jewish Fighters and Partisans.

Existing Resistance projects:

Resistance included many forms:

  • Non-violent
  • Sabotage
  • Strikes and demonstrations
  • Armed
  • Raids on distribution offices - food coupons or various documents
  • Fighting to obtain temporary liberation of areas
  • Uprisings such as in Warsaw in 1943 and 1944, and in extermination camps such as in Sobibor in 1943 and Auschwitz in 1944
  • Battle and guerrilla warfare - partisans in the USSR, Yugoslavia and the Maquis in France
  • Espionage, including sending reports of military importance
  • Illegal press to counter the Nazi propaganda
  • Covert listening to BBC broadcasts for news bulletins and coded messages
  • Political resistance to prepare for the reorganization after the war
  • Hiding people from deportation, one of the main activities in the Netherlands
  • Helping Allied military personnel caught behind Axis lines
  • Helping POWs with illegal supplies, breakouts, communication, etc.
  • Forgery of documents

External sources:

- Jewish Armed Resistance and Rebellions on the Yad Vashem website
- Home of the British Resistance Movement
- European Resistance Archive
- Interviews from the Underground Eyewitness accounts of Russia's Jewish resistance during World War II; website & documentary film.
- Serials and Miscellaneous Publications of the Underground Movements in Europe During World War II, 1936-1945 From the Rare Book and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress
- Underground Movement Collection From the Rare Book and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress