Role in WW II
See also: Albanian Kingdom (1943–44)
In Albania, World War II began with its invasion by Italy in April 1939. Fascist Italy set up Albania as its protectorate or puppet state. The resistance was largely carried out by Communist groups against the Italian (until 1943) and then German occupation in Albania. At first independent, the Communist groups united in the beginning of 1942, which ultimately led to the successful liberation of the country in 1944.
After the Italian invasion of Albania in April 1939, 100,000 Italian soldiers and 11,000 Italian colonists who wanted to integrate Albania into the Italian Empire settled in the country. Initially the Albanian Fascist Party received support from the population, mainly because of the unification of Kosovo and other Albanian-populated territories with Albania proper after the conquest of Yugoslavia and Greece by the Axis in Spring 1941.
Benito Mussolini boasted in May 1941 to a group of Albanian fascists that he had achieved the Greater Albania long wanted by the Tirana nationalists. On June 22, 1941, Germany launched Operation Barbarossa and on June 28 Albania also declared war on the USSR.
In October 1941, small Albanian Communist groups established an Albanian Communist Party in Tirana of 130 members under the leadership of Enver Hoxha. In mid-1942, however, party leaders increased their popularity by calling young people to fight for the liberation of their country from Italy.
In September 1942, the party organized the Albanian National Anti-Fascist Front, from a number of resistance groups, including several that were strongly anti-communist. They assembled a National Liberation Army.
Germany occupied Albania in September 1943, dropping paratroopers into Tirana before the Albanian guerrillas could take the capital, and soon drove the guerrillas into the hills and to the south. Berlin subsequently announced it would recognize the independence of a neutral Albania and organized an Albanian government, police, and military.
Many Balli Kombëtar units and leaders collaborated. The partisans entirely liberated Albania from German occupation on November 29, 1944. The Albanian partisans also helped in the liberation of Kosovo and parts of Yugoslavia.