The Security Battalions and the Civil War

by Andre Gerolymatos

When, in the spring of 1943, Ioannis Rallis agreed to form a government, an important precondition was that his regime would be permitted the establishment of a security force. The Germans agreed to this principle, and on April 7, 1943, the Rallis government enacted legislation which decreed the mobilization of four Evzone Battalions. Two of these units were to be formed in Athens and the remainder in Thessaloniki[1]. The Germans, however, did have certain misgivings concerning the reliability of these forces, and they consequently vetoed the deployment of any battalion in Thessaloniki. At the same time, they only permitted the authorized battalions to be armed with rifles and machine guns.[2]  In part, these restrictions were the result of German apprehensions over the dubious loyalty of indigenous security forces, as well as the effect on their Italian allies. Until this point, Greece had fallen mostly under the Italian sphere of influence. As such, the existence of a Greek military force could have spawned potential difficulties among the axis partners.[3] In view of these factors, Rallis had to contend with a token force, which, despite a persistent recruiting campaign, failed to attract a sufficient number of volunteers.[4] This, however, only reflected the realities of the moment since within a short span of time the pace of the war would create an entirely different situation.[5]  […]

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[1] NARS 226:83476. According to S. Grigoriadis, Συνοπτική ιστορία της εθνικής αντίστασης, 1941-45, Athens, 1981, p. 238, the Rallis government informed the Greek public of the security battalions on June 29, 1945.
[2] NARS 226:83476. In addition to the security battalions, which were, at least in name, a military force of the Rallis government, the Germans were able to use the services of private anticommunist organizations such as E.E.E. and the Poulos battalion.
[3]For the place of Greece in the Italian sphere of influence, see: M.L. Van Creveld, Hitler's Strategy 1940-1941: The Balkan Clue, Cambridge, 1973, p. 179; E. Wiskemann, The Rome-Berlin Axis: A History of the Relations Between Hitler and Mussolini, London, 1949, p. 278. According to F. W. Deakin, The Brutal Friendship, London, 1962, p. 253, the Germans feared that their Balkan satellites would defect to the allied camp in case of an allied offensive in the Balkans and that such an exodus might include the Italians. This made the German attitude toward Greece, in the spring of 1943, even more sensitive to Italian considerations.
[4] NARS RG 226:83476.
[5] Especially since the slogan used for the recruitment of the battalions included, along with references to anticommunism, the use of these forces to prevent the return of the king, see NARS RG 226:83476. According to J. L. Hondros, Occupation and Resistance: The Greek Agony 1941-44, N.Y., 1983, p. 81, Rallis did not originate the security battalions, but the idea came from General Pangalos, who feared that an allied victory would permit the British to impose the monarchy on Greece. Rallis accordingly revised Pangalos's proposal by using fanatical royalist officers instead of republicans. Later on, the security battalions did attract royalist officers but initially many monarchist officers made their way to the Middle East or joined ELAS, the remainder preferring to keep out of the resistance and the puppet government. On this, see: A. Gerolymatos, "The Role of the Greek Officer Corps in the Resistance," Proceedings of the International Historical Congress, Dictatorship and Occupation in Greece, 1936-1944 (forthcoming). On the republican nature of the security battalions, see: H. Fleischer, "Νέα στοιχεία για τη σχέση των γερμανικών αρχών και ταγμάτων ασφαλείας," Μνήμων, Athens, 1980; G. Seferis, Πολιτικό ημερολόγιο, vol. 1, Athens, 1979, p. 141; L. Spais, Πενήντα χρόνια στρατιώτης, Athens, 1970, p. 263.