World War II (1939-1945)
In 1939, Albania became an Italian protectorate and was used to facilitate military operations against Greece the following year. The Italian attack, launched at October 28, 1940 was quickly repelled by the Greek forces. The Greek army, although facing a numerically and technologically superior army, counterattacked and in the next month managed to enter Northern Epirus. Northern Epirus thus became the site of the first clear setback for the Axis powers. However, after a six month period of Greek administration, the invasion of Greece by Nazi Germany followed in April 1941 and Greece capitulated.
Following Greece's surrender, Northern Epirus again became part of the Italian-occupied Albanian protectorate. Many Northern Epirotes formed resistance groups and organizations in the struggle against the occupation forces. In 1942 the Northern Epirote Liberation Organization (EAOVI, also called MAVI) was formed. Some others joined the left-wing Albanian National Liberation Army, in which they formed a separate battalion (named Thanasis Zikos).
During October 1943-April 1944, the Albanian collaborationist organization Balli Kombëtar with support of Nazi German officers mounted a major offensive in Northern Epirus and fierce fighting occurred between them and the EAOVI. The results were devastating. During this period over 200 Greek populated towns and villages were burned or destroyed, 2,000 Northern Epirotes were killed, 5,000 imprisoned and 2,000 taken hostages to concentration camps. Moreover, 15,000 homes, schools and churches were destroyed. Thirty thousand people had to find refuge in Greece during and after that period, leaving their homeland. When the war ended, a United States Senate resolution demanded the cession of the region to the Greek state, but according to the following post war international peace treaties it remained part of the Albanian state.
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