General, Captain of EDES (1891 – 1957)
Napoleon Zervas was a statesman and general who played a protagonistic role in the events that took place during 1941-1949, the most difficult times of modern Greek history. A dynamic, brave and determined individual, Zervas founded and led the most significant resistance movement in Greece, fighting against Greece’s most formidable enemies simultaneously: the German Occupation Axis and the Communists.
In 1910 he was admitted as a volunteer in the military. He fought in the Balkan Wars in 1912-1913 as well as against the Germans and the Bulgarians in Macedonia in 1917. As an ardent proponent of Eleutherios Venizelos during the National Schizm, Zervas was imprisoned by the Metaxas regime. Soon afterwards, when Nazi Germany invaded Greece in 1941, Zervas founded the National Republican Greek League (EDES from Greek ΕΔΕΣ), the most powerful resistance group in Greece.
As leader of EDES, Napoleon Zervas and his men fought relentlessly against the Germans while simultaneously receiving attacks from EAM-ELAS, the communist army led by Aris Velouchiotis. The battles in which EDES participated were numerous and of great importance. The first operations began on October 1942, when Napoleon Zervas and EDES, having insufficient weaponry confronted the Italians. On November, 1942, together with the help of the British they detonated the Gorgopotampos viaduct.
Zervas and his men had devoted their entire lives to the war, battling with extraordinary heroism, displaying acts of self-sacrifice in the name of freedom. From 1942 to 1947, Zervas and the members of EDES fought continuously in every battle of the resistance, day and night. By 1943, EDES’ army comprised of 3500 men.
In 1944 he liberated Ioannina and saved Epirus from falling into the hands of the Germans and the Cham Albanians. Furthermore, he rescued and protected the children of the Cham Albanians after they were abandoned by the fleeing Albanians in Epirus. Zervas attempted to negotiate terms of co-operation with ELAS, who not only rejected his terms, but turned against him and all other resistance movements with the aim of exterminating them all. Zervas was accused of having co-operated with the Germans, especially by the communists, something which never happened.
After the war, Zervas joined politics. He founded his own political part and was elected member of the Parliament several times. He held different ministries under different governments for a short period of time, without notable success. Nevertheless, he was the most powerful and competent general during the years 1941-1947, whose contributions to the war have been invaluable. It is estimated that without his service to the country, Greece would have succumbed to the communists and would have become part of the Autonomous Macedonian Country of Soviet influence.
- Barbis, Kostas. 1941 -1949 Έτη Αγώνων, Θυσιών και Αίματος, 3 tomes. Athens: Pelasgos publications, 2008. Print.