Political activities in Croatia
Jelić was raised among seven siblings on his parents' estate in the Dalmatian interior. Already as a pupil he contributed to the 1922/23 election campaign of the Croatian bloc, opposing the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav centralism. During his studies of medicine in Zagreb he supported the ultranationalist Croatian Party of Right (Hrvatska Stranka Prava, HSP). In early 1926 his father died in police custody.
In summer 1927 he became president of the HSP student organization and thus a junior partner of Ante Pavelić who was a Zagreb deputy for the HSP. In autumn 1928 Jelić took a lead in the foundation of the militant youth organization Hrvatski Domobran (Croatian Home Defender) with the aim of establishing a Greater Croatia. He became chief editor of the affiliated paper. Meanwhile, the political climate in the South Slav state roughened due to the assassination of Stjepan Radić, the leader of the Croatian Peasant Party. King Alexander suspended the constitution and dissolved the parliament.
In exile (first decade)
Jelić, alongside Pavelić, left Yugoslavia in early 1929 for Austria where he finished his doctorate in Graz. He continued his efforts for Croatian national independence, resulting in political pressure from Belgrade passed on by the Austrian government. In the early 1930s Pavelić sent him to South America for agitation among the Croatian émigrés. In this time Jelić edited the Croatian nationalist exile paper Nezavisna Hrvatska Država (The Independent Croatian State) which was also distributed in the US through a middleman. Jelić's mission in the Americas was to establish branches of the Hrvatski Domobran. He frequently consulted Pavelić in Italy and became his right-hand man overseas. The Hrvatski Domobran developed into an organizational backbone of Pavelić's Ustaša underground militia in Europe (for which Jelić recruited personnel). Throughout the 1930s Jelić sojourned in South America, Austria again (in mid-1932), Berlin (July 1932 – spring 1934), USA (until October 1934), Italy (until April 1936), Germany (until early 1939), USA (until September 1939) and Gibraltar (October 1939 – June 1940). On his way back from the US in autumn 1939, Jelić was intercepted by the British Navy at Gibraltar and taken into custody. This was a service of the British government to demonstrate its goodwill for Royal Yugoslavia. Jelić's activities abroad were linked with Nazi Germany, giving rise to keep him prisoner.
In exile (second decade)
In June 1940 he was taken to a camp on the Isle of Man where he rested until late 1945. Thus, he was prevented from taking a high position among the leadership of the Axis-allied Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH).
After being released he continued his nationalist networking in London and established contacts to like-minded Croats as well as personalities of anti-Communist leanings. The Security Service (MI5) came to the conclusion that he served as "a focal point" for worldwide Croatian exile activities. He tried to intervene at the British government in favour of Croatian political refugees, most of them Ustaše and their kin, who were threatened by Tito's Yugoslavia. Finally in May 1949 Jelić was allowed to enter West Berlin.
In Germany (1949–1972)
Together with prominent Croatian exiles, mostly belonging to the former NDH-elite, Jelić founded the Munich-based Croatian National Committee (Hrvatski narodni odbor, HNO), trying to draw the attention of Western politicians to the Croatian Cause. In search for political support the HNO came to an agreement with representatives of the former German minority in Croatia. By the late 1950s the HNO underwent an ongoing crisis. Nevertheless, Jelić, as an exile of the first generation and the publisher of Hrvatska Država (The Croatian State), continued to be an outstanding spokesman among the Croatian independence activists abroad. He obtained German citizenship and participated in right-wing party politics. At the beginning of the 1970s he attracted wider attention by claiming Soviet support for his plans of an independent Croatian state. In the early 1970s he survived two assassination attempts in West Berlin (most probably organized by the Yugoslav secret service known as UDBA) and died a sudden death after he had returned from a fundraising tour to North America.
- Branimir Jelić: Političke uspomene i rad dra Branimira Jelića. Ed. by Jere Jareb. Cleveland, Oh. 1982, pp. 602-604.
- Mario Jareb: Ustaško-domobranski pokret. Od nastanka do travnja 1941. godine (= Biblioteka XX. stoljeće). Zagreb 2006, pp. 52-57.
- Tomislav Krolo: Hrvatski politički emigrant 1941.-1991. Ed. by Ivan Čizmić. Zagreb 2009, pp. 463-465.
- See chapter "Nationalist Networking: Branimir Jelić in His Struggle for an Independent Croatia" in Bernd Robionek: Croatian Political Refugees and the Western Allies. A Documented History. 2nd. ed. Berlin 2010, pp. 51-74.
- See chapter "The Croatian Heß: Jelić's Detention in the United Kingdom" in Bernd Robionek: Croatian Political Refugees and the Western Allies. A Documented History. 2nd. ed. Berlin 2010, pp. 75-88.
- See chapter "Undesired but Blocked Up: Jelić on Release in the UK" in Bernd Robionek: Croatian Political Refugees and the Western Allies. A Documented History. 2nd. ed. Berlin 2010, pp. 186-198.
- Berislav Jandrić: Hrvatska politička emigracija u Njemačkoj 1946.-1956. godine, in: Dijalog povijesničara – istoričara vol. 10/2. Ed. by Igor Graovac, Zagreb 2008, pp. 63-79.
- Cf. Vladimir Geiger: Pravo na zavičaj, in: Dijalog povjesničara – istoričara, vol. 6. Ed. by. Hans-Georg Fleck/ Igor Graovac. Zagreb 2002, pp. 351-363.
- "Aus unserer Seele". Spiegel-Interview mit dem Stellvertretenden Vorsitzenden des Berliner "Freundschaftskreises der CSU", Dr. Branko Jelić, in: Der Spiegel, 16 February 1970, p. 67 (http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-45202542.html).
- Stephen Clissold: Croat Separatism. Nationalism, Dissidence and Terrorism (=Conflict Studies 103). London 1979, p. 7.
- Bernd Robionek: Croatian Political Refugees and the Western Allies. A Documented History. 2nd. ed. Berlin 2010, p. 87 f.