Ten Great Books for History Buffs: Greece in World War II


For people who love reading about Greece’s important role during World War II, here’s a list of 10 great books we’ve selected, leading up to the anniversary of Oxi Day on October 28th. It certainly isn’t a comprehensive list– just a list of our ten favorites.

Inside Hitler’s Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44 by Mark Mazower – This gripping and richly illustrated account of wartime Greece explores the impact of the Nazi Occupation upon the lives and values of ordinary people. The first full account of the experience of occupation, it offers a vividly human picture of resistance fighters and black marketeers, teenage German conscripts and Gestapo officers, Jews and starving villagers. When the book was first published in 1994, Foreign Affairs Magazine said this“A superb book on the horrors afflicting wartime Greece, from German terror to the suffering of famine-stricken people, to the destruction of Greek Jewry, to an account of Greek resistance and the ensuing civil war. A young English historian has done vast archival research and emerged with a gripping, readable and human account, setting every moment of a tragic period in appropriate context. He emphasizes Italian resistance to German efforts at murdering Jews, while insisting that the Wehrmacht and even the German Foreign Office were complicit with S.S. brutality. Richly illustrated and made more valuable by judgments explicitly relevant to the history of World War II: The aims of the German terror system throughout occupied Europe were more far-reaching than punishing offenders they were to extinguish the will and the imagination of the subject population.”

The Struggle for Greece, 1941-1949 by C. M. Woodhouse – As commander of the Allied Military Mission to the Greek guerrillas in German-occupied Greece, Colonel Woodhouse held an uneasy balance between the Communists and the government. He was in a prime position to write the history of the Greek civil war, and his account of this turning point in Communist fortunes in Europe has achieved the status of a classic. A review from Foreign Affairs Magazine said this about the book: “A British classicist turned soldier and flown into Greece in 1943 provides an authoritative account of the many struggles within the struggle, of the many factions, for example, within the Greek Resistance and the communist movement. An important contribution not only to Greek history but to that of the postwar era generally. The author, a former M.P., is not unsympathetic to the radical hopes of social reformers but is scathing about the Stalinist brutalities that were committed in Greece, including, of course, within the communist ranks.”

Heroes Fight Like Greeks, The Greek Resistance Against the Axis Powers in WWII by Ronald J. Drez – In this powerful and engaging historical narrative, decorated combat veteran and critically acclaimed author Ronald J. Drez unfolds the astounding tale of the arduous Greek Resistance against the Axis Powers in World War II. Along with Great Britain, Greece was the only country to stand against the Pact of Steel and the dreaded Nazi and Fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini. Although Greece technically fell to Germany in 1941, the indomitable spirit and courage of the Greek people never did. Indeed, the Nazis feared the fierce Greek Resistance fighters so much that Hitler was never able to seize control of any Greek land. In this meticulously researched volume, Drez has succeeded in shining a light into one of the most overlooked aspects in the great annals of World War II history. Packed with personal testimony and many rare photographs and illustrations, Heroes Fight Like Greeks is an indisputably important report on one of the most harrowing World War II stories. Get this book by clicking here.

Modern Greeks: Greece in World War II: The German Occupation and National Resistance and Civil War by Costas Stassinopoulos – A gripping story of struggle and triumph in Greece in 1940s concentrating on three critical phases of Greek World War II-era history: The war against the Italians and Germans; the fierce national resistance against the Axis forces that were occupying Greece, and the brutal Civil War that followed. Stassinopoulos fought in the heroic resistance against the fascist invaders and vividly recounts the sacrifice, honor, and successes of the Greek armed forces and the Greek guerrillas that drew the admiration of the free world and kindled hope for the Allied victory. The book was published by the American Hellenic Institute Foundation in Washington DC in 1997 and remains a classic reader for those interested in this important period of Greek history. Get this book by clicking here.

The Defense and Fall of Greece by John Carr – On 28 October 1940, the Greek premier, Ioannis Metaxis, refused to accept a deliberately provocative ultimatum from Mussolini and Italian forces began the invasion of Greece via Albania. This aggression was prompted by Mussolini’s desire for a quick victory to rival Hitler’s rapid conquest of France and the Low Countries. On paper, Greek forces were poorly equipped and ill prepared for the conflict but Mussolini had underestimated the skill and determination of the defenders. Within weeks the Italian invasion force was driven back over the border and Greek forces actually advanced deep into Albania. A renewed Italian offensive in March 1941 was also given short shrift, prompting Hitler to intervene to save his ally. German forces invaded Greece via Bulgaria on 6 April. The Greeks, now assisted by British forces, resisted by land, sea and air but were overwhelmed by the superior German forces and their blitzkrieg tactics. Despite a dogged rearguard action by Anzac forces at the famous pass of Thermopylae, Athens fell on the 27th April and the British evacuated 50,000 troops to Crete. This island, whose airfields and naval bases Churchill considered vital to the defense of Egypt and the Suez Canal, was invaded by German airborne troops the following month and eventually captured after a bitter thirteen-day battle. The remaining British troops were evacuated and the fall of Greece completed. John Carr’s masterful account of these desperate campaigns, while not disparaging the British and Commonwealth assistance, draws heavily on Greek sources to emphasize the oft-neglected experience of the Greeks themselves and their contribution to the fight against fascism. Get this book by clicking here.

The First Victory: Greece in the Second World War by George C. Blytas – This book provides a sweeping account of the role that Greece played in that conflict. During the first thirteen months of the war, Hitler’s unstoppable war machine had occupied seven European countries and had enslaved a population of 120 million by fighting for less than three months. The surprising seven-month-long Greek resistance to the invading armies of Italy and Germany that followed in 1940-1941, gave the Greeks the first Allied victories on land, and became a beacon of hope and an inspiration to freedom-loving countries everywhere. The Greek victories provided badly needed relief to the British who,, at that time, were fighting the Axis alone. The archives of the warring armies provide the backdrop of ferocious battles of the Greek forces against numerically superior and far better equipped Italian and German troops. Personal accounts by men and women who lived through extraordinary events provide the details, pinpointing moments that horrify and inspire. From the introduction, which describes the events leading to the Second World War, the book unfolds through the diplomatic and military developments of the battle of Greece. The resistance, which emerged during the occupation and persisted through to the liberation at a staggering cost to the Greek nation, completes the saga. From the USA Today: ”George Blytas’s book brings Greece’s heroic and pivotal role in WWII to the forefront. Few people realize that Greece’s defeat of Mussolini’s forces in 1940 was “The First Victory” against Axis forces in World War II and forced Hitler to invade Greece and delay his Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union, a key factor in Hitler’s failure to defeat the Soviet Union. Gene Rossides, Editor, Greece’s Pivotal Role in World War II and its Importance to the United States today.” Get this book by clicking here.

After the War Was Over: Reconstructing the Family, Nation, and State in Greece, 1943-1960 by Mark Mazower – This volume makes available some of the most exciting research currently underway into Greek society after Liberation. Together, its essays map a new social history of Greece in the 1940s and 1950s, a period in which the country grappled–bloodily–with foreign occupation and intense civil conflict. Extending innovative historical approaches to Greece, the contributors explore how war and civil war affected the family, the law, and the state. They examine how people led their lives, as communities and individuals, at a time of political polarization in a country on the front line of the Cold War’s division of Europe. And they advance the ongoing reassessment of what happened in postwar Europe by including regional and village histories and by examining long-running issues of nationalism and ethnicity. Previously neglected subjects–from children and women in the resistance and in prisons to the state use of pageantry–yield fresh insights. By focusing on episodes such as the problems of Jewish survivors in Salonika, memories of the Bulgarian occupation of northern Greece, and the controversial arrest of a war criminal, these scholars begin to answer persistent questions about war and its repercussions. How do people respond to repression? How deep are ethnic divisions? Which forms of power emerge under a weakened state? When forced to choose, will parents sacrifice family or ideology? How do ordinary people surmount wartime grievances to live together? Get the book by clicking here.

Apartment in Athens by Glenway Wescott – This compelling historical fiction-based novel was first published in 1945 and was an instant best seller and considered a great American classic. It concerns an unusual triangular relationship about a Greek scholarly couple in Nazi-occupied Athens who are forced to share their living quarters with a Nazi German officer, Wescott masterfully stages a drama of accommodation and rejection, resistance and compulsion. Apartment in Athens depicts a great and terrible human war through the lens of one couple’s everyday existence. It is a tale of spiritual struggle in which triumph and defeat are next to impossible to tell apart. The book is included in the prestigious New York Review Books Classics list and has been reprinted several times since 1945 and even made into a film by an Italian production studio. Get the book by clicking here.

When the Tree Sings by Stratis Haviaras – Haviaras’ novel is a powerful story about the Second World War and the subsequent Greek civil war, seen through the eyes of a young boy in a remote village. The narrative is lyrical, almost folkloric in its tone, despite the brutality and turmoil of the events it describes. The story provides the reader with brief glimpses into the life of the child living in German occupied Greece. Haviaras’ use of short scenes, images, myth and folktales unite to form a haunting picture of one town’s struggle during and after World War II. The overall structure of the novel, a composite made up of hundreds of vignettes, is a unique approach in story-telling. It functions as piece of a larger work that gives the reader a broader picture of the devastation during and after the war. Even following liberation by Allied Forces, the vignettes reflect the continued oppression of the townsfolk by an occupying military. The structure of both the individual vignettes and the larger work as a whole relates the chaos of war to the reader in a way that a more traditional structure would not. Get the book by clicking here.

Ill Met By Moonlight by W. Stanley Moss – Ill Met By Moonlight is the gripping account of the audacious World War II abduction of a German general from the island of Crete. British special forces officers W. Stanley Moss and Patrick Leigh Fermor, together with a small band of Cretan partisans, kidnapped the general, then evaded numerous German checkpoints and patrols for nearly three weeks as they maneuvered across the mountainous island to a rendezvous with the boat that finally whisked them away to Allied headquarters in Cairo. W. The book was turned into an American film in the 1950s. Stanley Moss was a World War II hero and later a best-selling author. He traveled extensively after the war, notably to Antarctica with a British Antarctic Expedition. Eventually he settled in Kingston, Jamaica. The San Francisco Chronicle called this book an “Amazing story that is marvelously well told, in an exuberant, racing style that makes it impossible to lay the book aside once the first page is read” and the Spectator called it a “twin masterpiece of action and narrative.” Get the book by clicking this link.



  1. Great collection of History books! One of the best proposals….for those who need some Knowledge Feed and a need for thinking seriously about the Past , trying to reconstruct their ideas for the Future….trying to make a new assemble paving the way for that "future." Νεα Συνθεσις…

  2. Great compilation. So glad you mentioned Haviaris book. I would add his other book, The Heroic Age, also about a young boy seeing the horrors of war through youth’s magic lens.
    Also, Mark Mazower has written a fine book about Salonica.

  3. Pingback: When Headlines Spoke Volumes About Greece's Role in WWII: Check Out These New York Times Headlines from the 1940s - The Pappas Post

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