The resistance movement in Albania was almost entirely loyal to Stalin and Communist Russia. Therefore, it remained unreceptive to any influence by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). The mountainous terrain of Albania made it an ideal place for guerrillas to operate. In July 1942, in what was essentially the first of major resistance offensives in Albania, all telephone communications were cut throughout Albania. Small resistance groups within that mountainous region could do great damage to property but also to morale and in November 1942, the Italians had to send five divisions to protect those Axis personnel who were already stationed there – if only to bolster their morale.
Partisans in Albania tended to operate in un-coordinated groups within a specified area, the boundaries of what tended to be marked by mountain ranges/ridges etc. In July 1943, however, they became a co-ordinated entity led by Colonel-General Enver Hoxha.
He controlled about 20 ‘battalions’ of guerrillas in Albania. His success was such that by the time the Italians came to surrender, near enough the whole country was under his control. A number of Italian soldiers joined Hoxha’s forces to fight the Germans who had occupied Albania on Italy’s surrender.
In the winter of 1943–1944, the Germans launched a major operation against the guerrillas of Hoxha. 40,000 troops assisted by collaborators were used. It was a failure as the terrain allowed Hoxha’s men to melt away into the mountains as soon as it was apparent that the Germans were coming. In retaliation, the Germans took out their frustration on the people living in the locality they were searching and many atrocities took place during those winter months.
In May 1944, the Germans launched another operation against the partisans using 50,000 men. It lasted four weeks but was no more successful than the previous one.
Knowledge of the terrain gave Hoxha’s men a great advantage over both the Germans and the Italians. Hoxha’s force was named the National Liberation Army. By November 1944, when the Germans started to withdraw from Balkans, Hoxha’s force controlled all the main parts of Albania. It was only natural that he took control of the country – something he did as head of the Worker’s Party. He ran Albania on Stalinist lines and remained head of Albania until 1985 when he died of diabetes.