A generic term for partisans and intelligence agents actively opposed to Axis occupation. Winston Churchill initially placed great hopes in local resistance to Nazi occupation, but this rarely materialized in the West. For instance, in Belgium the main emphasis was on providing intelligence to the Western Allies and aiding downed pilots and crews, not on occasional shootings of Wehrmacht or Schutzstaffel (SS) personnel—that only brought swift Gestapo reprisals. In Norway, Italy, and the south of France armed resistance was marginally more than an minor irritant to the Wehrmacht or to local fascists, though it had psychological and political importance postwar as a vehicle of restoration of collective dignity and national pride. That was true decades later even in Germany, where individual and isolated acts of resistance came to be seen by some as salvaging a glimmer of national conscience about the events of the war and the daily and active collaboration of so many Germans with evil. Everywhere in Western Europe, damage done by active resisters was strategically minor and paled when compared to the price the Gestapo or SS exacted in savage and often indiscriminate reprisals.
Resistance was more extensive but still largely ineffective for most of the war in Yugoslavia. In that ethnically torn country massacre, reprisal, and active armed resistance was hardly distinguishable from civil war. The only strategically significant resistance in the German rear occurred along the Eastern Front, where large partisan units formed locally or were joined by thousands of former Red Army troops, cut-off by the Germans during earlier campaigns. . The Polish Home Army and Ukrainian nationalist resistance groups also carried out many acts of military sabotage and ambush. The Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS retaliated everywhere in the most savage manner they could imagine, making German rear areas a world unto themselves, places shorn of pity or mercy on either side, with only torture, mutilation, and abundant death.
Soviet subjects in German-occupied territory recruited into the Wehrmacht or Waffen-SS, mostly from among prisoners of war but some directly from the civilian population. Most of the Soviet citizens who served in the German armed forces in some capacity were non-Russian: Cossacks, Tatars, Turkmen, Armenians, Georgians, and men from several Muslim communities from the Caucasus; along with Balts, Belorussians, Poles, and Ukrainians. Perhaps 800,000 served the Germans in some military capacity. Most were formed into battalions and assigned to German divisions, although some division-sized units fought in the Waffen-SS. Some Osttruppen battalions fought partisans in Italy and Yugoslavia. Sixty battalions faced the Western Allies in Normandy. Most were used by the Germans as cannon fodder on the Eastern Front.
Armenians, Azeris, Georgians, Tatars, Turkmen, and others from several small Muslim ethnic groups from the Caucasus who fought in “legions” alongside the Wehrmacht or Waffen-SS.
Auxiliary police drawn from the local, non-German population who worked with German occupation authorities in eastern Europe, especially the Sicherheitspolizei.