Religious and Political Opposition During WWII: A Look at Resistance Movements Across Europe
World War II was a period of great upheaval and turmoil in Europe, as the continent was plunged into the deadliest and most destructive conflict in human history. The conflict pitted the allied powers, led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, against the axis powers, led by Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and imperial Japan.
While the majority of the population in the countries that were part of the axis powers supported their governments and their goals, there were also individuals and groups that resisted the regime. This opposition was particularly strong among religious and political communities that found themselves targeted by the policies and actions of the regime.
This article will provide an overview of the religious and political opposition that took place during WWII across Europe. It will explore the motivations of the opposition, the methods they used, and the impact they had on the outcome of the war.
The religious opposition in WWII was primarily driven by the persecution and oppression of religious minorities by Nazi Germany. The Nazi regime viewed Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other minority groups as threats to the so-called purity of the Aryan race and sought to eradicate them from Germany and later from the occupied territories.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were one such group that faced persecution due to their refusal to pledge allegiance to the Nazi regime or to participate in military service. They were often subjected to brutal treatment, including imprisonment, torture, and execution.
However, Jehovah’s Witnesses, despite facing such circumstances, refused to back down from their beliefs. They continued to preach and share their message, even at the risk of their own lives.
The ethnic cleansing that was to unfold during the Nazi rule under Hitler began with the simple boycotts of Jewish shops and businesses. The escalation of the Nazi Holocaust from 1938-1945 resulted in the deaths of 6,000,000 people.
Operation “Final Solution” was also devised to kill Polish Jews with the use of railways that transported millions of people, many whom died along the ride in the overcrowded, resourceless train. This was also a ploy that gave support to the lie that the Germans were merely “resettling” the Polish Jews, when in truth, the trains were taking them to the Belzec extermination camp, where those that survived the train ride were executed.
Soviet Holocaust Ethnic Cleansing
Soviet troops liberated the Majdanek camp on Polish grounds on July 24, 1944 where a total of 360,000 Jews had already been murdered. Himmler, in fear for the fast approaching Soviet Army, mandated the destruction of the gas chambers. The SS troops began to round up the surviving concentration camp inmates for the death marches that killed many more Jews through exhaustion, starvation, dehydration. Also, any victims that failed to keep up in the march were shot by the SS.
The Soviet Army was able to approach the Auschwitz camp by January 27 of 1945. The Western Allies had followed by forcing their way onto German grounds by spring of 1945. Then they proceeded to liberate the holocaust victims in the remaining Buchenwald, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen camps.
General religious and political Opposition
Also, opposition was felt in a small group of young Germans who resented the required collaboration to the Hitler Youth. University students in Munich were also recorded to have had formed White Rose in 1942, a resistance group against the holocaust that created leaflets to distribute. This led to the arrest and execution of the group’s three main leaders, a professor and two siblings.
Moreover, a conservative group comprised of diplomats and military officers devised an assassination plan for Hitler’s death who they hoped to replace with right-wing conservative Karl Goerdeler. The attempt failed as Hitler survived the bomb’s blast. Those that were involved in the attempt were tried and most were executed.