Napoleon Zervas
Napoleon Zervas was a Greek
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 and resistance leader during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. He organized and led the National Republican Greek League (EDES), the second most significant (after EAM), in terms of size and activity, resistance organization against the Axis Occupation of Greece.

Early life and army career

Zervas was born in Arta
Arta may refer to:Places*Arta, Azerbaijan, a village and municipality*Arta Region, Djibouti*Arta, Djibouti, capital city of Arta Region*Arta Prefecture, Greece*Arta, Greece, capital city of Arta Prefecture*Medieval Despotate of Arta...

, Epirus
The name Epirus, from the Greek "Ήπειρος" meaning continent may refer to:-Geographical:* Epirus - a historical and geographical region of the southwestern Balkans, straddling modern Greece and Albania...

, and was of Souliote
Souliotes were a warlike community from the area of Souli, in Greece, who became famous across Greece for their resistance against the local Ottoman Pashalik of Yanina ruled by the Muslim Albanian Ali Pasha...

 origin. After finishing high school in 1910, he volunteered for the Hellenic Army
Hellenic Army
The Hellenic Army , formed in 1828, is the land force of Greece.The motto of the Hellenic Army is , "Freedom Stems from Valor", from Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War...

. During the Balkan Wars
Balkan Wars
The Balkan Wars were two conflicts that took place in the Balkans in south-eastern Europe in 1912 and 1913.By the early 20th century, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia, the countries of the Balkan League, had achieved their independence from the Ottoman Empire, but large parts of their ethnic...

, he was promoted to the rank of first sergeant
First Sergeant
First sergeant is the name of a military rank used in many countries, typically a senior non-commissioned officer.-Singapore:First Sergeant is a Specialist in the Singapore Armed Forces. First Sergeants are the most senior of the junior Specialists, ranking above Second Sergeants, and below Staff...

. Later he attended the Hellenic Army NCO School and graduated as sergeant major
Sergeant Major
Sergeants major is a senior non-commissioned rank or appointment in many militaries around the world. In Commonwealth countries, Sergeants Major are usually appointments held by senior non-commissioned officers or warrant officers...

 in 1914.

Zervas was a fanatic Venizelist, and in 1916 he was among the very first to join the venizelist Movement of National Defence
Movement of National Defence
The Movement of National Defence was an uprising by Venizelist officers of the Hellenic Army in Thessaloniki in August 1916 against the royal government in Athens. It led to the establishment of a separate, Venizelist Greek government in the north of the country, which entered the First World...

 in Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki , historically also known as Thessalonica, Salonika or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia as well as the capital of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace...

. He served with distinction in many battles of the Macedonian front during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, being eventually promoted to Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

. After the defeat of Venizelos' Liberal Party
Liberal Party (Greece)
The Liberal Party was one of the major Greek political parties of the early 20th century.- History :Founded as the Xipoliton party in Crete , its early leaders were Kostis Mitsotakis and Eleftherios Venizelos...

 in the elections of 1920
Greek legislative election, 1920
The legislative elections of 1920 were probably the most crucial elections in the modern history of Greece, influencing not only the few years afterwards, including Greece's defeat by Kemal Atatürk's reformed Turkish army in 1922, but setting the stage for Greece's political landscape for most of...

, he fled to Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. He only returned to Athens in late 1922, after the Revolution of September 1922, and rejoined the Army.

Three years later, after the establishment of General Theodoros Pangalos
Theodoros Pangalos (general)
Major General Theodoros Pangalos was a Greek soldier and politician. A distinguished staff officer and an ardent Venizelist and anti-royalist, Pangalos played a leading role in the September 1922 revolt that deposed King Constantine I and in the establishment of the Second Hellenic Republic...

' dictatorship (June 1925), he was appointed as Garrison Commander of the city of Athens and at the same time, took command of the Second Battalion of the Republican Guard. These troops served as the main strongholds of Pangalos' military regime in the capital. Nevertheless, Zervas participated in the coup d'état of 22 August 1926, led by General Georgios Kondylis
Georgios Kondylis
Georgios Kondylis was a general of the Greek army and Prime Minister of Greece. He was nicknamed Keravnos, Greek for "Thunder" or "Thunderbolt".-Military career:...

, that overthrew Pangalos. Zervas however confronted Kondylis a month later, when the new strongman sought to disarm and dissolve the Republican Guard. Bloody battles took place in Athens between Zervas' battalion and the governmental forces. After his defeat, Zervas was sentenced to life in prison. However, two years later, the newly established republican government of Eleftherios Venizelos
Eleftherios Venizelos
Eleftherios Venizelos was an eminent Greek revolutionary, a prominent and illustrious statesman as well as a charismatic leader in the early 20th century. Elected several times as Prime Minister of Greece and served from 1910 to 1920 and from 1928 to 1932...

 (the Liberals' government of 1928-1932), granted him amnesty and Zervas was named Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

 in retirement.

Occupation and resistance

In September 1941, a few months after the start of the Axis Occupation of Greece, Zervas, along with other Venizelist army officers and political figures, founded the National Republican Greek League (EDES). The goals of EDES were the fight against the conquerors of Greece, the abolition of the Greek monarchy and the establishment of a republic on social-democratic
Social democracy
Social democracy is a political ideology of the center-left on the political spectrum. Social democracy is officially a form of evolutionary reformist socialism. It supports class collaboration as the course to achieve socialism...

 principles. A few months later, with his political advisor and second-in-command of EDES, Komninos Pyromaglou
Komninos Pyromaglou
Komninos Pyromaglou , was a Greek teacher and politician, and one of the driving forces behind the foundation of the National Republican Greek League , the second-largest Resistance organization in Axis-occupied Greece during World War II...

, he went to the mountains of Epirus, where he founded the military branch of EDES, the EOEA (Ethnikes Omades Ellinon Antarton, National Groups of Greek Guerrillas). The EDES-EOEA forces were proclaimed as combatant forces of the Allied Armies by the British General Headquarters of Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

. Zervas incorporated not only republicans but increasingly also royalists into his movement, who saw EDES as the only acceptable alternative to EAM, the Communist-dominated rival resistance movement that had established itself over most of the country. EOEA's activities were largely confined to Epirus, but Zervas had some control of Aitoloakarnania, in the Valtos
Valtos can refer to:* Bhaltos or Valtos, the largest village in Uig, Lewis in the Outer Hebrides* Valtos Province in Aetolia-Acarnania in western Greece...


In November 1942, the forces of EDES and those of ELAS (under the command of Aris Velouchiotis
Aris Velouchiotis
Aris Velouchiotis , the nom de guerre of Athanasios Klaras , was the most prominent leader and chief instigator of the Greek People's Liberation Army , the military branch of the National Liberation Front , which was the major resistance organization in occupied Greece from 1942 to 1945...

), in collaboration with a small group of British expert saboteurs, blew up the Gorgopotamos Bridge
Operation Harling
Operation Harling was a World War II mission by the British Special Operations Executive , in cooperation with the Greek Resistance groups ELAS and EDES, which destroyed the heavily guarded Gorgopotamos viaduct in Central Greece on 25 November 1942...

. In the final stages of the Occupation, EDES was contained strictly in the area of Epirus, having lost Aitoloakarnania, after a mini-civil war with ELAS in 1943. During the December 1944 clashes, EDES was attacked once more by Aris Velouchiotis, and in 24 hours was obliged to leave Epirus and fled to the island of Corfu
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

. On 15 February 1945, after the defeat of ELAS in Athens by the governmental and British forces, Zervas dissolved the remnants of his guerilla force in Corfu.

Expulsion of the Chams

During late 1944 and 1945, Zervas and EDES were also responsible for the expulsion of the entire Muslim Cham Albanian
Cham Albanians
Cham Albanians, or Chams , are a sub-group of Albanians who originally resided in the coastal region of Epirus in northwestern Greece, an area known among Albanians as Chameria. The Chams have their own peculiar cultural identity, which is a mixture of Albanian and Greek influences as well as many...

 minority, ca. 20,000 strong, from the Greek region of Epirus
Epirus (region)
Epirus is a geographical and historical region in southeastern Europe, shared between Greece and Albania. It lies between the Pindus Mountains and the Ionian Sea, stretching from the Bay of Vlorë in the north to the Ambracian Gulf in the south...

. The Chams, little integrated into Christian Greek society, had been a subject of Italian-sponsored Albanian irredentism both before and during the war, while a large part had collaborated with the Axis, taking part in reprisal actions against the Greek population. A small part joined the left-wing EAM-ELAS guerrillas, but the majority of their elites had allied with the Axis. On 18 June 1944, EDES forces under Zervas with Allied support launched an attack on Paramythia
Paramythia is a village and a former municipality in Thesprotia, Epirus, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Souli, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. Population 7,859 .-Name:...

, in Thesprotia
Thesprotia is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the Epirus region. Its capital is the town of Igoumenitsa. It is named after the Thesprotians, an ancient Greek tribe that inhabited the region in antiquity.-History:...

. After a short-term conflict against the combined Cham-German forces, the town was finally liberated. Soon after, violent reprisals were carried out against the town's Muslim community. In late summer 1944, EDES carried out attacks, accompanied by much violence and looting, against the Chams, which caused most of them to flee across the border to Albania.

Post-war years

After World War II, Zervas founded the National Party and at the elections of the 31st of March 1946, he was elected as representative of the Ioannina
Ioannina , often called Jannena within Greece, is the largest city of Epirus, north-western Greece, with a population of 70,203 . It lies at an elevation of approximately 500 meters above sea level, on the western shore of lake Pamvotis . It is located within the Ioannina municipality, and is the...

 district in the Hellenic Parliament
Hellenic Parliament
The Hellenic Parliament , also the Parliament of the Hellenes, is the Parliament of Greece, located in the Parliament House , overlooking Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece....

, while his party gained 25 seats in it. Later, he participated in Dimitrios Maximos
Dimitrios Maximos
Dimitrios E. Maximos was a Greek banker and politician. He briefly served as Prime Minister of Greece after World War II.Maximos was born in 1873 in Patras. He began his career in banking. Between 1933 and 1935, he became Foreign Minister of the government of Panagis Tsaldaris. He was Prime...

' cabinet as Minister without portfolio, from 24 January to 23 February 1947, and afterwards as Minister for Public Order until 29 August 1947.

The United States of America and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 opposed his appointment suspecting him of collaboration with Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 during World War II and dictatorial ambitions. Some leftist writers believe that Zervas collaborated with the Germans to face ELAS. However, most writers consider that the Germans made fake documents to provoke disbelief and suspicion among resistant groups of Greece, and take advantage of their mini civil wars, which weakenened them furthermore.

As a Minister for Public Order, Zervas initiated inefficient reforms of the gendarmerie and ordered mass arrests of Communists. When he was replaced, Dwight Griswold
Dwight Griswold
Dwight Palmer Griswold was an American politician who served as the 25th Governor of Nebraska from 1940 to 1946 and U.S. Senator from 1952 to 1954. He was a Republican.-Biography:...

, head of the U.S economic mission in Greece, said "I feel he is making more Communists than he is eliminating". A few years later, Zervas merged his party with the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (Greece)
The Liberal Party was one of the major Greek political parties of the early 20th century.- History :Founded as the Xipoliton party in Crete , its early leaders were Kostis Mitsotakis and Eleftherios Venizelos...

 and was re-elected as representative of Ioannina in the Parliament. He then served as Minister of Public Works in Sophoklis Venizelos
Sophoklis Venizelos
Sofoklis Venizelos was a prominent Greek politician who three times served as Prime Minister of Greece .He was born in Chania. The second-born son of Eleftherios Venizelos, Sofoklis served with distinction in the Greek Army during the First World War and the initial phases of the Asia Minor...

' cabinets from 2 September 1950 to 30 September 1951, also holding the portfolio of Merchant Marine until 1 February 1951. He did not manage his reelection in the Parliament at the next elections and withdrew from politics. He died on December 10, in Athens.

External links

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