Battle of Poljana
The Battle of Poljana (Monday May 14 – Tuesday May 15, 1945) was a battle of World War II in Europe. It started at Poljana, near the village of Prevalje in Yugoslavia (now Slovenia), and was the culmination of a series of engagements between the Yugoslav Partisans and a large retreating Axis column, numbering in excess of 30,000 men. The column consisted of units of the German (Wehrmacht), the Armed Forces of the Independent State of Croatia, the Montenegrin People's Army (former Chetniks and the survivors of the Battle on Lijevče field), and Slovene Home Guard forces, as well as other fascist collaborationist factions and even civilians who were attempting to escape into British-controlled Austria. It took place a few days after 8 May, when the armed forces of Nazi Germany officially surrendered.
The Armed Forces of the Independent State of Croatia were reorganized in November 1944 to combine the units of the Ustaše and Army of the Independent State of Croatia into eighteen divisions, comprising 13 infantry, two mountain, two assault and one replacement division, each with its own organic artillery and other support units. There were also several armoured units. From early 1945, the divisions were allocated to various German Corps and by March 1945 were holding the Southern Front.
In the spring of 1945, the German Army and their allies were in full retreat from the Yugoslav Partisans. In early April, the Partisan 3rd Army, under the command of Kosta Nađ, fanned out through the Drava Valley region (Podravina), reaching a point north of Zagreb, and crossed the old Austrian border with Yugoslavia in the Dravograd sector. The 3rd Army closed the ring around Axis forces when its advanced motorized detachments linked up with detachments of the 4th Army in Carinthia. As a result, the German Army Group E was prevented from escaping north-west across the Drava river. Completely surrounded, General Alexander Löhr, Commander-in-Chief of Army Group E was forced to sign the unconditional surrender of the forces under his command at Topolšica, near Velenje, Slovenia, on Wednesday May 9. Nevertheless, some of his troops, along with collaborationist units, namely the NDH forces, Slovene Home Guard, Montenegrin People's Army (former Chetniks), and elements of other factions, continued to resist and tried to fight their way west to what they hoped would be the protection of the British at Klagenfurt.
Just before 9 am on May 14, a significant force of mostly NDH units with some Montenegrin People's Army and Slovenian Home Guard troops approached Partisan positions at the Šurnik farm near Poljana demanding free passage west. This was refused, and firing commenced on both sides. NDH attacks, including artillery fire support, intensified in the afternoon, evening and overnight, finally ceasing on the morning of 15 May with the arrival of around 20 British tanks. Tense negotiations followed, during which British officers made it abundantly clear that they would not offer protection to the collaborators and that unconditional surrender to the Partisans was the only option. White flags of surrender were finally raised around 4 pm on 15 May.
Casualty estimates by the Partisans were at least 310 NDH and Axis dead in the two main locations of fighting, and 250 wounded. On the Partisan side, losses were considerably lower, numbering fewer than 100 dead and wounded.
The surrender of this last area of Axis resistance 8 days after the official end of World War II in Europe, the surrender of the Germans on Monday 7 May 1945, was the last major battle of World War II in Europe.
On May 15, the Bleiburg repatriations began.
- Channel 4 - History - World War II: A chronology
- Thomas, 1995, p.23
- Thomas, 1995, p.17
- Memorial Room at Topolšica:http://www.culture.si/en/Memorial_Room_at_Topol%C5%A1ica
- "Memories of a Croatian Soldier: Zvonko's Story", Autobiographic annotations prepared by Zvonko Springer (ZS), Anif (Salzburg), 1999
- Franci Strle: Veliki Finale na Koroškem (2nd edition, 1977) p322-354
- Thomas, N., Mikulan, K. and Pavelic, D. Axis Forces in Yugoslavia 1941-45, Osprey, London, 1995. ISBN 1-85532-473-3
- Franci Strle: Veliki Finale na Koroškem (Grand Finale in Carinthia) (2nd edition, 1977) (in Slovene)
- extract from Franci Strle: Veliki Finale na Koroškem (Grand Finale in Carinthia) (2nd edition, 1977) (in Slovene)