Slovene Partisans

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National Liberation Army and
Partisan Detachments of Slovenia
Participant in the National Liberation War
Slovenian Partisans flag.svg
The flag of the Slovene Partisans[1]
Active 1941–1945
Ideology Communism
Socialism
Republicanism
Federalism
Leaders Boris Kidrič[2][3]
Headquarters mobile, attached to the Main Operational Group
Area of
operations
Axis-occupied Slovene Lands
Strength (see below)
Part of Yugoslav Partisans
Became Yugoslav People's Army
Opponents Germany, Italy, Hungary, Independent State of Croatia, White Guard, Slovene Home Guard
Battles
and wars
Battle of Dražgoše (1941)
Battle of Nanos (1942)
Battle of Janče (1942),
Battle of Jelenov Žleb (1943),
Battle of Kočevje (1943),
Battle of Turjak Castle (1943),
Raid at Ožbalt (1944),
Battle of Poljana (1945)

The Slovene Partisans (formally National Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Slovenia) were part of Europe's most effective anti-Nazi resistance movement[4][5] led by Yugoslav revolutionary communists[6] during World War II, the Yugoslav Partisans.[7] Since a quarter of Slovene ethnic territory and approximately 327,000 out of total population of 1.3[8] million Slovenes were subjected to forced Italianization[9][10] since the end of First World War, the objective of the movement was the establishment of the state of Slovenes that would include majority of Slovenes within a socialist Yugoslav federation in the post-War period.[7]

Slovenia was during WWII in a unique situation in Europe, only Greece shared its experience of being trisected, however, Slovenia was the only one that experienced a further step — absorption and annexation into neighboring Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Hungary.[11] As the very existence of the Slovene nation was threatened, the Slovene support for the Partisan movement was much more solid than in Croatia or Serbia.[12] An emphasis on the defence of ethnic identity was shown by naming the troops after important Slovene poets and writers, following the example of the Ivan Cankar battalion.[13] Slovene Partisans were the armed wing of the Liberation Front of the Slovene Nation, a resistance political organization and party coalition for what the Partisans referred to as the Slovene Lands.[14] The Liberation Front was founded and directed by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ), more specifically its Slovene branch: the Communist Party of Slovenia.

Being the first organized military force in history of Slovenes,[15] the Slovene Partisans were in the beginning organized as a guerilla and later as an army. Their opponents were the occupants and since summer 1942 also the anti-Communist Slovene forces. The Slovene Partisans were mostly ethnically homogenous and primarily communicated in Slovene.[15] These two features have been considered vital for their success.[15] Their most characteristic symbol was a triglavka.[15][16] They were subordinated to the civil resistance authority.[14] The Partisan movement in Slovenia, though a part of the wider Yugoslav Partisans, was operationally autonomous from the rest of the movement, being geographically separated, and full contact with the remainder of the Partisan army occurred after the breakthrough of Tito's forces through to Slovenia in 1944.[17][18]

Background[edit]

During WWII, Nazi Germany and Hungary occupied northern areas (brown and dark green areas, respectively), while Fascist Italy occupied the vertically hashed black area (solid black western part being annexed by Italy already with the Treaty of Rapallo). After 1943, Germany took over the Italian occupational area, as well.

After World War I ended in 1918, the Slovene-settled territory partially felt under the rule of the neighboring states Italy, Austria and Hungary. Slovenes there were subjected to policies of forced assimilation.

On 6 April 1941, Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis Powers. Slovenia was divided among the occupying powers: Italy occupied southern Slovenia and Ljubljana, Nazi Germany got northern and eastern Slovenia, while Horthy's Hungary was awarded the Prekmurje region. Some villages in Lower Carniola were annexed by the Independent State of Croatia.

The Nazis started a policy of violent Germanisation. In the frame of their plan for the ethnic cleansing of Slovene territory, tens of thousands of Slovenes were resettled or chased away, imprisoned, or transported to labor, internment and extermination camps. The majority of Slovene victims of the occupation authorities were from the regions occupied by the Germans, i.e. Lower Styria, Upper Carniola, Central Sava Valley, and Slovenian Carinthia.

The Italian occupation policy in the Province of Ljubljana gave Slovenes cultural autonomy, however the Fascist system was systematically introduced. After the establishment of the Liberation Front, the violence against the Slovene civil population in the zone escalated and easily matched the German.[19] The province was subjected to brutal repression. Alongside with summary executions, the burning of houses and villages, hostage-taking and hostage executions, the Province of Ljubljana saw the deportation of 25.000 people, which equaled 7.5% of the total population, to different concentration camps.

Formation, organisation, and ideological affiliation of the membership[edit]

In both Slovene Partisans squads and in the "field committees" of the Liberation Front of the Slovene Nation the Communists were indeed in the minority.[13] During the course of the war, the influence of the Communist Party of Slovenia started to grow. Nowhere else in Yugoslav territory did the Partisan movement have a plural political composition like it did have in Liberation Front of the Slovene Nation, so the Yugoslav Communist Party wanted that the Slovene partisans should be brought under more exclusive Communist control.[13] This was not officially declared until the Dolomite Declaration of 1 March 1943.[2]

The High Command of the Slovene Partisans (Supreme Command at first) was established by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Slovenia on 22 June 1941. The command members were the commander Franc Leskošek (a.k.a. Luka), the political commissar Boris Kidrič (succeeded by Miha Marinko), deputy commander Aleš Bebler (a.k.a. Primož), and members Stane Žagar, Oskar Kovačič, Miloš Zidanšek, Dušan Podgornik, and Marijan Brecelj. The decision to start armed resistance was passed at a meeting on 16 July 1941.[20]

The first partisan shot in the Slovene Lands was fired by one Miha Novak on 22 July 1941 at a former Yugoslav policeman who was claimed to have collaborated with the Germans and to have betrayed to them local supporters of the Communist Party.[21] The man was attacked by the Šmarna Gora Partisan group from an ambush at Pšatnik Forest near Tacen. The Germans arrested about 30 people and executed two of them.[22]

In the latter Socialist Republic of Slovenia, 22 July was celebrated as the Day of the National Rising.[22] The historian Jože Dežman stated in 2005 that this was a celebration of a day when a Slovene wounded another Slovene by shooting and that it symbolised the victory of the Communist Party over its own nation. In addition to the war against the occupying forces, there was a civil war going on in the Slovene Lands and both the Communist and the anti-Communist side tried to cover it, according to Dežman.[21]

At the very beginning the Partisan forces were small, poorly armed and without any infrastructure, but Spanish Civil War veterans amongst them had some experience with guerrilla warfare. Some of the members of Liberation Front and partisans were ex-members of the TIGR resistance movement.

Autonomy[edit]

A triglavka, as used by the Slovene Partisans

The partisan activities in Slovenia were initially independent of Tito's Partisans in the south. In autumn 1942, Tito attempted for the first time to control the Slovene resistance movement. Arsa Jovanović, a leading Yugoslav communist who was sent from Tito's Supreme Command of Yugoslav partisan resistance, ended his mission to establish central control over the Slovene partisans unsuccessfully in April 1943.[17][18]

The merger of the Slovene Partisans with Tito's forces happened in 1944.[17] The Slovene Partisans retained their specific organizational structure and Slovene language as commanding language until the last months of World War II, when their language was removed as the commanding language. From 1942 till after 1944, they wore the triglavkas, which was then gradually replaced with the Titovka cap as part of their uniform.[23] In March 1945, the Slovene Partisan Units were officially merged with the Yugoslav Army and thus ceased to exist as a separate formation. The General Staff of the Slovene Partisan Army was abolished in May 1945.

Cooperation with Allies[edit]

In June 1943 Major William Jones arrived at the high command of the Slovene resistance units located in the Kočevje forest as the envoy of a British-American military mission, and one month later the Slovene Partisans received their first consignment of arms from the Allies.[13]

Number of combatants[edit]

The estimates of the number of Slovene Partisans differ. Despite a solid support among the Slovenes,[24] the numbers of Slovene Partisans was quite small and increased only in the latter stages of the war.[25] There were no more than 700–800 Slovene Partisans in August 1941, about 2000 in the end of 1941,[26][27] 5,500 in September 1943, at the time of the capitulation of Italy.[27] According to Slovene Historical Atlas, published in 2011, in summer 1942 there were 5,300 Slovene partisans and 400 members of the Home Guard, a year after in summer 1943 there was unchanged number, i.e. 5,300 Slovene partisans, but the number of members of the Home Guard increased to 6,000, also there were 200 members of the Slovene Chetniks, in autumn 1943 (after the capitulation of Italian army) there were 20,000 Slovene partisans, 3,000 members of the Home Guard and no Slovene Chetniks left, while in summer 1944 there were 30,000 Slovene partisans, 17,000 members of the Home Guard and 500 members of the Slovene Chetniks, and in winter 1945 the number of Slovene partisans increased to 34,000, while the number of members of the Home Guard and members of the Slovene Chetniks was unchanged. In December 1944, there were 38,000 Slovene Partisans, which was the peak number.[26][27][28]

Partisans who were ethnic Germans[edit]

Although majority of the Gottschee ethnic Germans obeyed the Nazi Germany which issued an order that all of them should relocate from Province of Ljubljana, which was occupied by the Fascist Italy, to the "Ranner Dreieck" or Brežice Triangle, which was in the German occupation zone, some of them (fifty six) refused to leave their homes and, instead, decided to join Slovene Partisans fighting against Italians together with their Slovene neighbours.[29][30]

Logistics[edit]

In December 1943, the Franja Partisan Hospital was built in difficult and rugged terrain, only a few hours from Austria and the central parts of Germany.

Civil war and post-war killings[edit]

The civil war that broke out in Slovenia during the occupation was, ideologically and politically, the result of the conflict between two authoritarian ideologies: Bolshevik communism and Catholic clericalism.[13] Communists were unreceptive to warnings of harmful consequences of the rash elimination of opponents and begun to be - with the success of the Slovene Partisan movement in spring and summer 1942 - convicted that the national liberation phase was to be continued with the revolutionary one,[13] which had already led to violent encounters with Catholic activists, who began to leave the Partisan ranks. The Communist security service killed 60 people in the first few months of 1942 in Ljubljana alone; people who the Communist leadership had proclaimed as collaborators and informers. After the assassination of Lambert Ehrlich, and 429 shot by VOS agents in May 1942, and especially the liquidation of a number of priests, Bishop Rožman rejected the OF and Partisans outright. Part of the clergy continued to support the Partisan movement and performed religious ceremonies for them, burring killed Partisans on the church graveyards, etc. Gottschee ethnic German priest Josef Gliebe, who preferred to stay with those who did not want to be moved away, has been helping Partisans with food, shoes and clothes, being labelled "red one" by Slovene Home Guard.[31]

In the summer of 1942, a civil war between Slovenes broke out. The two fighting factions were the Slovenian Partisans and the Italian-sponsored anti-communist militia, known as the White Guard, later re-organized under Nazi command as the Slovene Home Guard. Small units of Slovenian Chetniks also existed in Lower Carniola and Styria. The Partisans were under the command of the Liberation Front (OF) and Tito's Yugoslav resistance, while the Slovenian Covenant served as the political arm of the anti-Communist militia.[citation needed] The civil war was mostly restricted to the Province of Ljubljana, where more than 80% of the Slovene anti-partisan units were active. Between 1943-1945, smaller anti-Communist militia existed in parts of the Slovenian Littoral and in Upper Carniola, while they were virtually non-existent in the rest of the country. By 1945, the total number of Slovene anti-Communist militiamen reached 17,500.[32] Over 28,000 Partisans were killed due the war, compared to over 14,000 anti-Communists. The Slovene Partisans and revolutionary forces killed over 24,000 Slovenes during and after World War II, and contributed through post-war killings 15% to all Slovene victims of the war. The anti-communist forces killed about 4,400 Slovenes in their independent actions.[33]

Notable members[edit]

Members of Slovene Partisans who are today internationally most notable include Boris Pahor, a writer and public intellectual, Nazi concentration camps survivor, who opposed Italian Fascism and Titoist Communism, as well.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ According to Brezovar, Milan. Letopis muzeja narodne osvoboditve LRS, 1957 p. 41, the Slovene Partisan flag is the Slovene tricolor flag with the anti-Fascist red five-armed star over all three fields.
  2. ^ a b Gow, James; Carmichael, Cathie (2010). Slovenia and the Slovenes: A Small State in the New Europe (Revised and updated ed.). Hurst Publishers Ltd. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-85065-944-0. 
  3. ^ Beacons in the Night: With the OSS and Tito's Partisans in Wartime Yugoslavia. Stanford University Press. 1996. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-8047-2588-0. 
  4. ^ Jeffreys-Jones, R. (2013): In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence, Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780199580972
  5. ^ Adams, Simon (2005): The Balkans, Black Rabbit Books, ISBN 9781583406038
  6. ^ Rusinow, Dennison I. (1978). The Yugoslav experiment 1948–1974. University of California Press. p. 2. ISBN 0-520-03730-8. 
  7. ^ a b Tomasevich, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration 2. San Francisco: Stanford University Press. pp. 96–97. ISBN 0-8047-3615-4. 
  8. ^ Lipušček, U. (2012) Sacro egoismo: Slovenci v krempljih tajnega londonskega pakta 1915, Cankarjeva založba, Ljubljana. ISBN 978-961-231-871-0
  9. ^ Cresciani, Gianfranco (2004) Clash of civilisations, Italian Historical Society Journal, Vol.12, No.2, p.4
  10. ^ Hehn, Paul N. (2005). A Low Dishonest Decade: The Great Powers, Eastern Europe, and the Economic Origins of World War II, 1930–1941. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0-8264-1761-2. 
  11. ^ Gregor Joseph Kranjc (2013).To Walk with the Devil, University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division, p. introduction 5
  12. ^ Hoare, Marko Atilla (2002). "Whose is the partisan movement? Serbs, Croats and the legacy of a shared resistance". The Journal of Slavic Military Studies 15 (4). doi:10.1080/13518040208430537. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f Štih, P.; Simoniti, V.; Vodopivec, P. (2008) A Slovene History: Society, politics, culture. Inštitut za novejšo zgodovino. Ljubljana. p.426.
  14. ^ a b Repe, Božo (2005). "Vzroki za spopad med JLA in Slovenci" [Reasons for the Conflict Between the Yugoslav People's Army and the Slovenes]. Vojaška zgodovina [Military History] (in Slovene) VI (1/05): 5. ISSN 1580-4828. 
  15. ^ a b c d Vankovska, Biljana. Wiberg, Håkan (2003). "Slovene and the Yugoslav People's Army". Between Past and Future: Civil-Military Relations in the Post-Communist Balkans. I.B.Tauris. pp. 164–165. ISBN 978-1-86064-624-9. 
  16. ^ Martinčič, Vanja (1990). Slovenski partizan: orožje, obleka in oprema slovenskih partizanov [Slovene Partisan: Weapons, Clothing and Equipment of Slovene Partisans] (in Slovene, English). Museum of People's Revolution. pp. 44–45, 50–52. COBISS 17009408. 
  17. ^ a b c Stewart, James (2006). Linda McQueen, ed. Slovenia. New Holland Publishers. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-86011-336-9. 
  18. ^ a b "Histories of the Individual Yugoslav Nations". The former Yugoslavia's diverse peoples: a reference sourcebook. ABC-Clio, Inc. 2004. pp. 167–168. 
  19. ^ Ballinger, P. (2002). History in exile: memory and identity at the borders of the Balkans. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08697-4
  20. ^ Mlakar, Polona. "Archivalia of the Month (February 2012): Partisan Act". Archives of the Republic of Slovenia, Ministry of Culture, Republic of Slovenia. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  21. ^ a b Dežman, Jože. Trampuš, Jure (3 April 2005). "Oba elementa, patriarhalni in boljševistični teror, si morda podajata roko ob spoznanju, da so bili partijski morilci večinoma katoliško vzgojeni fantje, ki so zelo hitro začeli pobijati ljudi kot mačke." [Both Elements, the Patriarchal and the Bolshevist Terror, Perhaps Give Hands to Each Other at the Recognition that the Murderers of the Party Were Mainly Catholic-Raised Boys Who Very Quickly Started to Kill People Like They Would Be Cats]. Mladina (in Slovene). ISSN 1580-5352. 
  22. ^ a b Traven, Rezka (June 1976). "Tistega dne, 22. julija" [On That Day, 22 July]. Javna tribuna [Public Tribune] (in Slovene) 16 (130) (Municipality of Ljubljana Šiška). p. 2. ISSN 0351-9902. 
  23. ^ Vukšić, Velimir (July 2003). Tito's partisans 1941–45. Osprey Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-84176-675-1. 
  24. ^ Hoare, Marko Atilla (2002). "Whose is the partisan movement? Serbs, Croats and the legacy of a shared resistance". The Journal of Slavic Military Studies 15 (4). doi:10.1080/13518040208430537. 
  25. ^ Gow, James; Carmichael, Cathie (2010). Slovenia and the Slovenes: A Small State in the New Europe (Revised and updated ed.). Hurst Publishers Ltd. p. 49. ISBN 978-1-85065-944-0. 
  26. ^ a b Griesser-Pečar, Tamara (2007). Razdvojeni narod: Slovenija 1941–1945: okupacija, kolaboracija, državljanska vojna, revolucija [Divided Nation: Slovenia 1941–1945: Occupation, Collaboration, Civil War, Revolution] (in Slovene). Mladinska knjiga. pp. 345–346. ISBN 978-961-01-0208-3. 
  27. ^ a b c Slovensko in italijansko odporniško gibanje - strukturna primerjava: diploma thesis [Slovene and Italian Resistance Movement - Structural Comparison: diploma thesis] (in Slovene). Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana. 2008. pp. 59–62. COBISS 27504733. 
  28. ^ Guštin, Damijan. "Slovenia". European Resistance Archive. ERA Project. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  29. ^ Zdravko Troha (2004) Kočevski Nemci - partizani [fotografije Zdravko Troha, Pokrajinski muzej Kočevje, Arhiv Slovenije]. Ljubljana: Slovensko kočevarsko društvo Peter Kosler. ISBN 961-91287-0-2
  30. ^ Ulrich Weinzierl (2003) Wald und Wald und Wald, Spectrum - Die Presse, 15. November 2003.
  31. ^ Igor Mekina (2004) Germans who were Partisans, Mladina, 27 February. Ljubljana.
  32. ^ Slovenski zgodovinski atlas (Ljubljana: Nova revija, 2011), 186.
  33. ^ Svenšek, Ana (10 June 2012). "Prvi pravi popis - v vojnem in povojnem nasilju je umrlo 6,5 % Slovencev" [The First True Census: 6,5% of the Slovenes died in the War and Post-War Violence]. MMC RTV Slovenija (in Slovene). RTV Slovenija. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Website of the Union of Societies of Combatants of the Slovene National Liberation Struggle
  • Former website of the Union of Societies of Combatants of the Slovene National Liberation Struggle
  • History of the Union of Societies of Combatants of the Slovene National Liberation Struggle