Uprising in Serbia (1941)

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Poster of the Serbian Partisans, calling for an uprising.
The uprising as of September 1941.
The Uprising in Yugoslavia and Europe 1941.

The Uprising in Serbia was initiated in July 1941 by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia against the German occupation forces and their Serbian quisling auxiliaries in the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia. At first the Yugoslav Partisans had mounted diversions and conducted sabotage and had attacked representatives of Aćimović's quisling administration. In late August some Chetniks joined the uprising and liberated Loznica. The uprising soon reached mass proportions. Partisans and Chetniks captured towns that weak German garrisons had abandoned. The armed uprising soon engulfed great parts of the occupied territory. The largest liberated territory in occupied Europe was created by the Partisans in western Serbia, and was known as the Republic of Užice. Rebels shared power on the liberated territory; the center of the Partisan liberated territory was in Užice, and Chetniks had their headquarters on Ravna Gora.

As the uprising progressed, the ideological rift between the two factions became more and more obvious. On one side were the Chetnik detachments who considered themselves loyal to the royal government in exile and fought for the restoration of pre-war order. On the other side were members of the Peoples Liberation Army of Yugoslavia who favored the introduction of socialism and the post-war reorganization of Yugoslavia on federal basis. The Chetnik leader Dragoljub Mihailović abandoned the uprising in late October and entered into negotiations with the quisling government and the Germans in order to destroy the rival Partisans.

The Germans soon gathered a large force and quelled the uprising using mass terror, but the remaining Partisan forces crossed into Bosnia, where they formed the 1st Proletarian Brigade. After the collapse of the uprising, Territory of the Military Commander was largely pacified until the return of the Partisans and the Belgrade Offensive in second half of 1944. Meanwhile, the Chetniks became even more reluctant to fight against Germans, and engaged in anti-Partisan operations and open collaboration. Nevertheless, Mihailovic was able to establish itself as the sole legitimate representative of the Yugoslav government in exile, who ordered that all resistance forces should fight under his command.

Background[edit]

Yugoslav infantry surrendering to Germans.

Hitler believed that with occupation of Yugoslavia, the country was liquidated as independent state. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was divided between Germany, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria, while in the territory of present-day Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina was proclaimed Independent State of Croatia. Occupiers plundered possessions and took some 350,000 Yugoslav soldiers into captivity. The largest part of Serbia was organized into Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia and as such it was the only example of the military regime in occupied Europe.[1] Germans chose Milan Aćimović for head of quisling Commissary Government.

Preparations for the uprising[edit]

Communists[edit]

Sixteen blindfolded Partisan youth await execution by German forces in Smederevska Palanka, 20 August 1941.

Preparations for the uprising by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia began after the May consultation held in Zagreb on 4 May 1941. The Military Committee of the Provincial Committee of the Communist Party for Serbia was formed in mid-May. On 13 May 1941, Josip Broz Tito sent a message to the Comintern stating that the Yugoslav communists were preparing for an uprising that would commence when Germany attacked the Soviet Union. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia arrived in Belgrade in late May, and this was of great importance for the development of the resistance. After their arrival, the Central Committee held conferences with local party officials.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union was launched on 22 June 1941. Before the invasion, the Germans withdrew the majority of their troops from Serbia, leaving three weak divisions in Serbia (the 704th, 714th and 717th Infantry Divisions) and one weak division (the 718th Infantry Division) in the Independent State of Croatia. The majority of these divisions were made up by older soldiers originating from Austria. Communist sympathisers in Srđan Budisavljević's Ministry of Interior in Dušan Simović's government, such as Janko Janković, destroyed files on communists held in prewar police archives. So, when mass arrests of communists began after the launching of Operation Barbarosa, few records were available for the Gestapo to use. The communists then considered that all the requirements for the uprising were now met.

Entering of the USSR in the war strengthened hope of Serbian people (who traditionally saw Russia as protector of Serbia), as well as optimism that the war would be over soon. Dragomir Jovanović recorded that on 22 June atmosphere in the streets was similar to atmosphere of during coup on 27 March. In Mačva peasants pulled out stakes from haystacks fearing that Soviet paratroopers would impale by falling. In Belgrade, the observers were placed on a tall building to report the arrival of Soviet aircraft. In Banat, medical groups were formed to help paratroopers.[2]

Proclamation of 5 July

Decision for preparing struggle in Serbia issued on June 23, 1941 at the meeting of the Provincial Committee for Serbia, which was attended by Aleksandar Ranković, Spasenija Babović, Đuro Strugar, Moma Marković, Ivo Lola Ribar, Blagoje Nešković, Vukica Mitrović, Mirko Tomić, Miloš Matijević, Ljubinka Milosavljević, Vasilije Buha and Milovan Đilas. At the meeting were determined party instructors for certain parts of Serbia. In light of upcoming struggle, communist had to hasten forming of armed groups and collecting weapons and medical supplies. After the meeting, instructors wnt into their designated areas. Moma Markovic by the end of June held meetings with district committees in Jagodina, Niš and Zaječar, Mirko Tomić was in charge for Kruševac, Vasilije Buha went to Niš, Milan Mijalković went in Užice and Čačak, Miodrag Ivković in Šabac. Petar Stambolić operated in Pomoravlje area and Miloš Minić in Valjevo area. Several local detachments were formed numbering dozens of partisans. Significant amounts of weapons and ammunition were collected. Supreme Staff of People's Liberation Partisan Detachments was established on June 27. Josip Broz Tito was chosen as Supreme Commander. Remaining members were: Milovan Đilas, Edvard Kardelj, Ivan Milutinović, Aleksandar Ranković, Rade Končar, Franc Leskošek, Sreten Žujović, Ivo Lola Ribar and Svetozar Vukmanović. On July, in home of Vladislav Ribnikar on Dedinje was held session of Central Committee. Present were Tito, Ranković, Milutinović, Đilas, Ribar, Vukmanović and Žujović. Decision was made on beginning of sabotages and small attacks on German and quisling forces. Here was established Supreme Staff for Serbia with Žujović, Filip Kljajić, Branko Krsmanović, Nikola Grulović and Rodoljub Čolaković as members. This date was later celebrated is socialist Yugoslavia as Fighter's Day.

On July 5, appeared a proclamation of the communist party that called Serbian people in struggle against invaders. Serbian people was reminded on its glorious past, called to side with invincible Slavic Russia, headed by Stalin, the greatest son of Russian people. Communists pointed time had come for armed struggle against invaders, urged people to organize partisan detachemnts, set fire in factories ad warehouses, destroy rails and communications, organise hiding of wheat, etc.[3]

Chetniks[edit]

Main article: Chetniks
Mihailović confers with his men.

Colonel Dragoljub Mihailović avoided falling in German hands during the invasion. He and his followers came and hid on mountain Suvobor on May 13, on plato called Ravna gora. Ravna gora is isolated area, where presence and influence of Germans were weak, and local administration and gendarmerie remained intact. During first months at Ravna Gora, Mihailović were trying to came into contact with other officers who also avoided capture or formed own detachments, develop intelligence network, come in contact with government in exile and win local officials for his cause. With their help, Mihailović was creating lists of reservists and conscripts he would mobilise. Only civilians that were included into his organisation were members of Serbian Cultural Club, such as Dragiša Vasić and Stevan Moljević.

Mihailović believed that war would not end soon. He made his first public appearance on village fair in Tometino Polje on June 28, where he announced to gathered people that preparations for armed combat were done, but the moment for its beginning hadn't yet come.

Resistance begins[edit]

German train destroyed by partisans in Serbia 1941.

Western Serbia was chosen for base of the uprising, due to forests and hilly terrain and due to its population who provided strong resistance to invading Austrian forces in World War One. First partisan and chetnik detachments were formed in Valjevo area.

For the beginning of the uprising is taken armed action of Rađevina partisan detachment on 7 July 1941 in Bela Crkva near Krupanj. In Bela Crkva was held the traditional Ivanjdan midsummer village fair. There came a group of fifteen partisans, led by commander Miša Pantić and political commissar Žikica Jovanović Španac. Partisans gathered people and called them to join in fight against the German invaders. Speech was given by Pantić, a doctor from Valjevo, and Jovanović, a journalist from Valjevo and combatant from Spanish Civil War. Gendarmes Bogdan Lončar and Milenko Braković tried to break up the gathering, forbidden under conditions of military occupation. The partisans opened fire and killed both gendarmes.[4]

Spread of the uprising[edit]

The uprising spreat initially on Western Serbia, and later in other parts of Serbia. During July and August many Party ans SKOJ proclamations that called on armed struggle were printed. Communist groups cut communication lines along rail line between Niš and Leskovac. Main power line of Radio Belgrade was cut already on 4 July. Saboteurs in Belgrade set fires on German trucks, garages, trains, etc.

Commissariat of Interior registered 220 sabotages during July. Attacks were carried out on police and gendarmerie stations, seats of local governments, rail lines. Village Valjevska Kamenica was liberated on July 22, 1941. German representative Felix Bender reported to Minister for Foreign Affairs that various groups of determined communists consists of 60-100 members, who, partially well armed... carries out terrorist acts toward Serbian people, take or kill Serbian officials, make sabotages, etc. Bender mentioned killings of German soldiers, attacks on German trains, trucks, sabotages on military installations. He also reported that gendarmerie inflicted losses to communists, but that gendermerie has suffered losses, too.

Chetniks join the uprising[edit]

The Partisans and the Chetniks carried captured Germans through Užice, autumn 1941.

When organized partisan struggle begun, few ex-Army commanders, originally without of Mihailović's approval, carried by wave of the uprising, took part in combat. Mihailović didn't want to start his uprising, but to wait and build up his forces, waiting for a favourable moment. He thought that Germans were stronger in every way and every resistance is futile and counter-productive. Participation of chetnik forces in the uprising was largely forced by fear that partisans will take influence within Serbian people. Former officers couldn't stand to watch how young boys and laymen from ranks of teachers, students, workers and peasants were waging battles. It was particularly true for officers who were compromised by their poor performance during Axis invasion four months ago and whom civilians considered for incompetent cowards.

In late August Mihailović ordered creation of chetnik detachments, made of recruits 20–30 years old. Their assignment would be taking power at moment of popular uprising. Mihailović proclaimed himself legitimate representative of Yugoslav Royal Army and. on basis of Yugoslav laws, demanded enlisting of reservists 30–40 years old. This chetnik units had assignment to prevent pillages and unnecessary violence, and in the same time, actions of destructive elements (communists).[5]

Since the end of August first contacts of partisans and chetniks were made. Already on August 25, agreement on joint attacks was made by commander of Podrinje partisan detachment and Captain Dragoslav Račić, a commander of Cer chetnik detachment. Joint partisan-chetnik actions against German forces came to the fore during takings of Krupanj and Gornji Milanovac, battle of Šabac and sieges of Valjevo and Kraljevo.

Battle of Loznica[edit]

Chetnik insurgents launch a surprise attack on the occupied town of Loznica on the morning of 31 August, 1941 after which the Germans refused the invitation to surrender send out from a courier the previous night. Fighting for Loznica was the largest armed conflict with the Germans in occupied Yugoslavia until then.[6]

Capture of Banja Koviljača[edit]

Captured German tank in Čačak, October 1941.

Banja Koviljača was captured in a battle fought between 1st and 6th September 1941 between allied forces of Chetniks and Partisans on one side and German forces garrisoned in occupied Banja Koviljača (now Western Serbia) and Ustashe relief forces from Bosnia (then in NDH) on the Axis side. The battle took place during the Uprising in Serbia, soon after Chetniks captured Loznica on 31 August 1941. The attack on the German outpost in Banja Koviljača was the first major battle between Serb rebels and German forces by the end of Invasion of Yugoslavia. The action of Chetniks against occupying German forces garrisoned in Loznica and Banja Koviljača was organized in period of Partisan-Chetnik collaboration.[7] The Battle of Banja Koviljača was the first battle where Chetniks and Partisans were allied against Axis forces.[8]

Battle of Krupanj[edit]

After three days of fighting, Krupanj was liberated on September 3, 1941 by Valjevo partisan detachment and chetniks led by Orthodox priest Vlada Zečević and lieutenant Ratko Martinović.[9] Zečević, Martinović and bulk of their chetniks later joined to partisans.

Liberation of Užice[edit]

Battle of Šabac[edit]

German mass murder of civilians in Šabac, Serbia 1941.

Nebojša Jerković, a commander of Mačva partisan detachment, visited Chetnik captain Dragoslav Račić, a commander of Cer Corp in order to reach agreement on joint attack on Šabac.[10] Battle of Šabac lasted from September 22 until September 24, when 342ns German Division came in aid to besieged Germans and broke rebel encirclement. German soldiers retaliated and killed some 1,000 men from Šabac and Mačva.[11] Number of soldiers in Mačva partisan detachment drop to half on initial troops. Deployment of 342nd German Division marked beginning of big German counter-offensive on liberated territory.

Battle of Kruševac[edit]

Battle of Gornji Milanovac[edit]

Battle of Čačak[edit]

Battle of Kraljevo[edit]

Republic of Užice[edit]

Main article: Republic of Užice

Initial German response[edit]

Government of National Salvation[edit]

Killings of civilians[edit]

Main article: Kragujevac massacre
German announcement of killing 2,300 civilians in Kragujevac massacre as retaliation for 10 killed and 26 wounded Wehrmacht soldiers.

Partisan-chetnik split[edit]

Germans taken a group of partisans to executions, with the help of chetniks.

In order to quell the uprising, Germans brought additional troops and carried out severe retaliation campaign against civil population. German actions enforced Mihailović to withdraw his troops from combat, attack the partisans and sought contact with German administration in order to end hostilities.[12] Despite Mihailović's offer, Germans replied that they would soon bring armoured units that will end the uprising and that German Wehrmacht can not to burden itself with allies who join them from opportunistic reasons.[13] Mihailović justified that he had to take some towns from Germans in order to prevent communist to take them and that he didn't want to fight against Germans. Mihailović tried to persuade Germans in his unconditional loyalty and requested supplies for combat against partisans.[13] He asked Germans that his patriotic actions remain secret to avoid fate of Kosta Pećanac, who openly made agreement with Axis, lost any influence within Serbian people and became considered a traitor by his own people.[13]

Despite to all Mihailović's offers, Germans didn't leave him any other option, but unconditional surrender.[13] Since then, Mihailović waged relentless war against partisans. Chetnik actions against Partisans in southwest Serbia at the end of 1941 were parallel or nearly parallel with German actions against Partisans.[14] Partisan HG for Serbia issued proclamation to Serbian people on treachery committed by Mihailović who attacked partisans and sought to deceive honest Serbian peasants and chetniks.[15]

During fights between Chetniks and Partisans in western Serbia at the beginning of November 1941, Chetniks captured a few hundred partisans. Chetniks gathered a few hundred captured partisans and on November 13, handled them to Nedić's and German troops, who executed them. Concurrently with Mihailović's turn toward Germans, Yugoslav Prime Minister in exile Dušan Simović promoted him via Radio London for commander of all armed Yugoslav troops in the country.[16]

End of the uprising[edit]

Operation Uzice[edit]

Main article: Operation Uzice

Operation Mihailovic[edit]

Main article: Operation Mihailovic

Aftermath[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Petranović, Branko (1992). Srbija u Drugom svetskom ratu. Beograd. 
  2. ^ Predrag J., Marković (7. 7. 2011.). "Zaboravljena antifašistička tradicija". vreme.com. Retrieved 1. 4. 2011.. 
  3. ^ Proglas PK Srbije povodom napada Nemačke na SSSR
  4. ^ Новак Живковић, „Прва партизанска акција у Србији. Непријатељски извештај о догађајима од 7. јула 1941. године у Белој Цркви“, Архивски преглед, 1–2/1966, Београд, 1967, стр. 142.
  5. ^ NAREĐENJE KOMANDANTA ČETNIČKIH GORSKIH ŠTABOVA OD AVGUSTA 1941. ZA FORMIRANJE ČETNIČKIH JEDINICA
  6. ^ Dr I. Avakumović, Mihailović prema nemačkim dokumentima, London, 1969, 21
  7. ^ Mitrović 1975, p. 180"Акција четника против непријатељских гарнизона у Лозници и Бањи Ковиљачи била је у условима спровођења партизанско-четничке сарадње."
  8. ^ S. Pajić (4 September 2011). "Decenijama palio sveću zaboravljenom heroju" (in Serbian). Blic. Retrieved 23 January 2014. "u oslobođenju Banje Koviljače prvi put su zajedno delovali četnici i partizani" 
  9. ^ Minić, Miloš (1993). Oslobodilački ili građanski rat u Jugoslaviji 1941-1945. Agencija "Mir". p. 244. "...Зечевићем и поручником Мартиновићем који су окупили у свој четнички одред неколико стотина људи из тог краја..Њихов одред учествовао је у борби заједно са Рађевским батаљоном и у тој борби је један немачки батаљон био после тешке борбе разбијен и заробљен, и Крупањ ослобођен." 
  10. ^ Dušan Trbojević, Cersko-Majevička grupa korpusa, 21-22.
  11. ^ Nemački masakri u Srbiji
  12. ^ Izveštaj kapetana Matla pretpostavljenima od 30. oktobra 1941. o razgovorima sa predstavnicima Draže Mihailovića
  13. ^ a b c d Zapisnik sa sastanka Mihailovića sa nemačkim predstavnicima u selu Divci 11.11.1941.
  14. ^ Tomasevich, Jozo (1969). Contemporary Yugoslavia. University of California Press. p. 92. GGKEY:5JR74ERLNET. 
  15. ^ Zbornik NOR, tom I, knj. 2, dok. 60.
  16. ^ Zbornik NOR, tom XIV, 1, 76-78.

Literature[edit]

See also[edit]