Despite great obstacles, Jews throughout occupied Europe attempted armed resistance against the Germans and their Axis partners. They faced overwhelming odds and desperate scenarios, including lack of weapons and training, operating in hostile zones, parting from family members, and facing an ever-present Nazi terror. Yet thousands resisted by joining or forming partisan units. Among them was Leon Idas.
Leon Idas was born in 1925 in Athens, Greece, and grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood with his father, a textiles merchant, mother, four brothers, and sister. He attended a private school run by the Greek Orthodox Church.
Shortly after the beginning of the German occupation of Greece in 1941, sixteen year-old Leon joined a group of partisans fighting for the liberation of Greece under a socialist banner. At that time, there were three groups of partisans in Greece, socialist, democratic, and loyalist. Leon fought and served as communications specialist with the partisans for more than two years, setting up wires that wound through the trees in various villages to enable telephone communication.
The partisans lived in and organized armed resistance against the German army from bases in the mountains of Greece, aided by nearby villages, British airdrops of supplies, and their own resourcefulness. They employed mostly ambush and guerrilla tactics against the German army, and the Germans in turn attempted to eliminate the partisans by destroying villages that supported them. During his more than three years with the partisans, Leon suffered hunger, lacked adequate clothing, and had virtually no contact with his family, save for a single encounter with one of his brothers who was fighting for another partisan group.
At the end of the war in December 1945, Leon left the partisans and returned to his family home in Athens. Once there, he was reunited with what was left of his family and learned that his parents and brother Gabriel had died in Auschwitz during this time. Leon eventually made his way to the United States with no more than 50 cents in his pocket and settled in Baltimore, MD. He married and raised a family of three sons and one daughter, started his own clothing business, Royal Vintage Clothing. Leon passed away in April of 2013.
Critical Thinking Questions
- What obstacles and limitations did Jews face when considering resistance?
- What pressures and motivations may have influenced Leon Idas' decisions and actions? Are these factors unique to this history or universal?
- How can societies, communities, and individuals reinforce and strengthen the willingness to stand up for others?