Government of National Salvation

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This article is about the World War II Serbian puppet government. For the territory where this government operated, see Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia. For the Albanian caretaker government, see Government of National Reconciliation.
Government of National Salvation
Влада Hародног Cпаса / Vlada Narodnog Spasa
Regierung der Nationalen Rettung
Puppet government of Germany
1941–1944
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem
Oj Srbijo, mila mati/Ој Србијо, мила мати
Oh Serbia, Dear Mother

The territory of Serbia within Europe, circa 1942.
Capital Belgrade
Languages Serbian
Religion Serbian Orthodox
Government Puppet government
Prime Minister
 •  1941–44 Milan Nedić
Historical era World War II
 •  Occupation of Yugoslavia 29 August 1941
 •  Evacuation to Austria October 1944
Population
 •  est. 4,500,000 
Currency Serbian dinar

The Government of National Salvation (Serbian: Влада народног спаса, Vlada narodnog spasa; German: Regierung der nationalen Rettung), also referred to as the Nedić regime, was the second Serbian puppet government, after the Commissioner Government, established on the Territory of the (German) Military Commander in Serbia[Note 1] during World War II. It was appointed by the German Military Commander in Serbia and operated from 29 August 1941 to October 1944. The GNS enjoyed some support.[2] The Prime Minister throughout was General Milan Nedić. The Government of National Salvation was evacuated from Belgrade to Kitzbühel, Austria in the first week of October 1944 before the German withdrawal from Serbia was complete.

Nedić himself was captured by the Americans when they occupied Austria, and was subsequently handed over to the Yugoslav communist authorities to act as a witness against war criminals on the understanding he would be returned to American custody to face trial by the Allies. The Yugoslav authorities refused to return Nedić to United States custody. He died on 4 February 1946 after either jumping or falling out the window of a Belgrade hospital, under circumstances which remain unclear.

History[edit]

Formation[edit]

Following the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, Germany placed Serbia proper under the authority of a military government to maintain control over important resources. Those included two major transportation routes, the Danube River waterway and the railroad line connecting Europe with Bulgaria and Greece, along with nonferrous metals that Serbia produced. The Germans decided to set up a puppet government in order to not tie up a large amount of German manpower.[3] The first puppet government was the short-lived Commissioner Administration, established on 30 May 1941, under the leadership of Milan Aćimović. He was an anti-communist and had been in contact with the German police before the war. His cabinet consisted of nine members, many of whom were former cabinet members under the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and were known to be pro-German. However, it lacked any real power and was no more than an instrument of the Germans. As communist partisans began an insurgency against the German occupiers and the Aćimović government, Harald Turner, an SS commander in the German military administration, suggested strengthening and reforming the administration. General Milan Nedić, formerly chief of general staff of the Royal Yugoslav Army, was selected to be the head of the new government.

On 29 August 1941, Nedić was installed as the prime minister following the resignation of the Commissioner Administration. His first cabinet included fifteen members. The Germans were particularly impressed with his reputation as a man of authority. They threatened to bring in Bulgarian troops to occupy the whole of Serbia, including Belgrade, if he did not accept.[4] The regime did not have any international standing even among the Axis powers. Although Heinrich Danckelmann, the Military Commander in Serbia, promised to give Nedić and his government a high degree of authority and independence, the deal was never written down, so his oral agreements were void after he was replaced by General Franz Böhme. Although Turner attempted to convince Danckellmann's successors to grant the Government of National Salvation more power, his requests were ignored. However, they did allow him to organize a Serbian State Guard (Srpska državna straža, SDS), unifying the Serbian gendarmerie and other formations.[5]

Waning power[edit]

In his first radio address on Radio Belgrade, Nedić condemned the communist-led resistance and gave them an ultimatum to put down their arms. However, Nedić soon lost control of the State Guard, when, on 22 January 1942, General August Meyszner, the Higher SS and Police Leader in Serbia, took command of it. The Government of National Salvation gradually lost more power to the Germans, who intervened in even the smallest decisions that it made. Nedić's already small following among Serbians declined even further as a result of this weakness. He attempted to resign twice, but each time he ended up changing his mind and withdrawing the resignation. Nedić also ended up reorganizing his cabinet, removing two minister on October 1942 and several more in November 1943, at which point he also took over as the interior minister.[5]

Dimitrije Ljotić, the leader of one of the most effective anti-partisan detachments, the Serbian Volunteer Corps (Srpski dobrovoljački korpus, SDK), maintained some degree of influence over the prime minister, although he refused to take a government position himself. Nedić once told Turner that Ljotić would make a good successor in the event of his departure. The SDK was not part of the SS or the Wehrmacht, instead it was nominally directed by the puppet government, and was paid by the government.[6]

Relations between the Serbian government and the Bulgarian occupation forces in Serbia were strained. A colonel in the Bulgarian 6th Division noted that the local population hated the Bulgarians as much as they hated the Germans.[7] Nedić frequently complained about their presence to the Germans and demanded that the Bulgarians withdrew from Serbia.[8]

In the Banat, a special regime was established, administered by the local German minority. The Serbian puppet government recognized it as the civilian administration of the region, under Belgrade's nominal control. A detachment of the SDS was created there, the Banat State Guard, which recruited its members from the local ethnic Germans. It had of 94 officers and 846 privates as of March 1942.[9]

In March 1942, in the face of the government's growing unpopularity, Nedić sent a memorandum to the Germans with suggestions to improve its standing. They included having elections for a head of state, forming a single national political party, giving the head of state command of the SDS, only interfering with the higher levels of the Serbian government to give them more freedom to work with the Serbian people, and withdrawing Bulgarian forces from Serbia. General Paul Bader, the new Military Commander in Serbia, had Turner speak with Nedić, pressuring the prime minister to withdraw the memorandum. Backed by the entire cabinet, Nedić refused to withdraw it and asked for the memorandum to be sent to Berlin for consideration. It was sent, where the German high command ignored it. Nedić tried again in September 1942, this time threatening to resign for greater effect. The Germans declined it but persuaded him to remain in office. German Wehrmacht officers in Serbia nonetheless still considered Nedić to be loyal and praised him for being a dependable man.[10]

Relations with the Chetniks[edit]

Cooperation between the Serbian puppet government and the Chetniks began in the fall of 1941, during a major German operation in western Serbia against the partisans. The Chetniks wanted to minimize Serbian casualties from German reprisals by defeating the partisans, and later wanted to gain a solid base in the Nedić regime's military and administrative apparatus, so that they could seize control of the government before the partisans at the end of the war. Many members of the Serbian government maintained contact with the Chetniks, including interior minister Milan Aćimović. He later served as the liaison between the Germans and the Chetnik leader Draža Mihailović. Several Chetnik units "legalized" themselves by serving with the quisling forces of the Serbian puppet government, but at the same time, Chetniks also took part in activities against the Germans and their auxiliaries. The government's armed forces gave weapons and other supplies to the Chetniks and provided them with intelligence.[11]

Legalized Chetnik forces included the Pećanac Chetniks, which fought against the partisans with the Serbian government forces since August 1941. The Germans did not trust them. At the peak of their strength in May 1942, the legalized Chetniks numbered at 13,400 officers, non-commissioned officers, and men. Chetnik detachments were, as with the other Serbian forces, under German command. Most legalized Chetnik detachments were dissolved in late 1942, with the last being dissolved in March 1943. Some of them joined the SDS or SDK, but the majority returned to Mihailović's illegal Chetniks.[12] The Chetniks made a number of agreements with the Germans in 1943, bypassing the Serbian puppet government, which resulted in Nedić and his regime losing what support it had left among the people. Many members of his administration, including government officials, as well as military and police officers, made secret deals with the Chetniks themselves. Those included Aćimović, Belgrade's mayor, Dragomir Jovanović, and General Miodrag Damjanović of the State Guard.[8]

Accepting refugees[edit]

One area in which the Government of National Salvation did have success was the acceptance of Serbian refugees that fled from neighboring states, most notably the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). The Ustaše, a Nazi-affiliated Croatian ultranationalist paramilitary organization in the NDH, expelled roughly a third of all ethnic Serbs inside the NDH. (The other two thirds of Serbs in the NDH were either murdered or forcibly converted to Roman Catholicism.) The Germans transferred some Slovenes to the Serbian rump state as that territory was incorporated into the German Reich. Other sources of refugees included Bulgarian-occupied Macedonia and the Italian governorate of Montenegro. Franz Neuhausen, the German plenipotentiary for economic affairs, estimated that there were about 420,000 refugees in Serbia. The Nedić regime created a Committee for Refugees in May 1941 to handle them, headed by Toma Maksimović, a former factory boss from Borovo. While the committee had difficulties in finding enough food, housing, and other supplies for them, the refugees were well received by the Serbian population. Food was especially difficult to provide due to the Germans exporting it to the Reich or to German forces in Greece. Most of the able-bodied refugees were employed, while children were either placed into different households or orphanages.[citation needed]

German officials pointed out that transfers of people from the NDH to Serbia increased the unrest in the territory, due to the fact some refugees joined the partisans or the Chetniks. The Serbian government, and some German officials, wanted to repatriate some Serbs to the places that they came from, but this was denied by the military administration, due to the difficulties that would be present for them in the NDH.[13]

Final days of the regime[edit]

As the tide turned against Germany during the war, the German occupational administration sought to ally all anti-communist forces to fight against the partisans, including Mihailović's Chetniks. Hermann Neubacher was made the special envoy of the German foreign ministry in Belgrade in 1943. He had formerly worked in Romania and Greece, and sought to improve the German military position in the region by increasing the power of the Nedić regime. He planned to form a "Greater Serbian Federation", which would have included Serbia and Montenegro. He also attempted to curtail the authority of the German military in Serbia, return command of the SDS to Nedić, and to reopen the University of Belgrade. However, none of his ideas came to fruition, due to the fact that they had no support from foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, nor from anyone else in the German government. Hitler himself had no wish to strengthen the puppet government as he thought that it was unreliable. As Nedić's power decreased even further, more members of his government started working for the Chetniks.[8]

The Germans' workings with the Chetniks angered Nedić, who wrote a nine-page list of complaints to the Germans on 22 February 1944. The list included complaints that the Germans were now giving Mihailović more power than him. Nedić criticized the large burden of occupation costs and German interference at even the lowest levels of his administration, and the fact that none of his proposals for improving the situation were accepted. After that, the Military Commander in Serbia (Hans Felber, who replaced Bader in 1943) asked Nedić for his opinion about a change of policy towards the Chetniks, but it was also ignored. Only one of Neubacher's policy changes were successful, the easing of reprisals against the Serbian population by German forces.[8]

Nedić and Mihailović met on 20 August 1944 to discuss the situation in Serbia and how they should respond to it. The two agreed that they needed more arms from the Germans for the Chetniks and the SDS to fight the partisans, and were able to convince Generalfeldmarschall Maximilian von Weichs, the German commander-in-chief of southeastern Europe, to try to provide them with more weapons. However, they ultimately got very little additional equipment. In late August 1944, the partisans began an offensive against the Germans and the anti-communist Serbian forces, and the Allies began dropping supplies into Serbia. They also bombed communications lines, in an attempt to make it impossible for the German forces in Greece to link up with those in Serbia. The Chetniks were forced out of the country by late September, and Soviet operations began in early October in the east. German forces and Serbian SDS troops were forced to withdraw under the pressure of multiple attacks.[8]

After the war[edit]

Belgrade was liberated by partisans and Soviet forces in the Belgrade Offensive, which was finished on 20 October 1944. Nedić and what remained of his government fled the country in the first week of October to Austria, dissolving the regime. The command of the SDS was transferred to General Damjanović, who gave command of it to Mihailović, although they were separated in January 1945 in Bosnia. He and the other collaborators were handed over by the British to the Yugoslav communist authorities in early 1946. In early February of that year, it was reported that Nedić committed suicide by falling out of a window at a Belgrade hospital.[8]

Military[edit]

Serbian State Guard[edit]

Main article: Serbian State Guard

The Government of National Salvation founded a military, the Serbian State Guard (Srpska državna straža or SDS, Српска државна стража). It was formed from the former Yugoslav gendarmerie regiments, was created with the approval of the German military authorities. Nedić initially had control over it as the commander-in-chief, but from 1942 the Higher SS and Police Leader took command.[5]

The SDS was also known as the Nedićevci after Milan Nedić, the prime minister of the Government of National Salvation, who eventually gained control of its operations. The Serbian State Guard initially numbered 13,400 men.[14] The Guard was divided into three sections: the urban police, the rural area forces, and the frontier guard. In late 1943, the Guard numbered 36,716 men.[5]

In October 1944, as the Red Army closed on Belgrade, the SDS was transferred to Mihailović's control by a member of the fleeing Nedić administration,[8] at which point it fled north and briefly fought under German command in Slovenia before being captured by the British near the Italian-Yugoslav border in May 1945.[15]

The SDS was equipped using arms and ammunition captured by the Germans from throughout Europe, and was organised as a largely static force split across five regions (oblasts): Belgrade, Kraljevo, Niš, Valjevo and Zaječar, with one battalion per region. Each region was further divided into three districts (okrugs), each of which included one or more SDS companies.[16] An independent force known as the Banat State Guard operated in the Banat region, which numbered less than one thousand men.[9]

Auxiliary formations[edit]

See also: Chetniks

In addition to the State Guard, a number of other formations fought in Serbia alongside the Germans. Those included the Serbian Volunteer Corps, formed in September 1941 by as the Serbian Volunteer Detachments, under Dimitrije Ljotić, a member of the fascist Yugoslav National Movement. The organization was divided into nineteen detachments, and after being renamed the Serbian Volunteer Corps, received a new structure that included companies, battalions, and regiments. It consisted of about 12,000 members, and included about 150 Croats. It was the only Serbian collaborationist formation trusted by the Germans, and was praised by German commanders for its valor in action.[6]

There was also a group of Chetniks, the Pećanac Chetniks, that became "legalized" and fought for the Germans and the puppet government until being disarmed in 1943.[12] A force of White Russian volunteers was also formed, the Russian Corps. It consisted of White émigrés living in Serbia that wanted to fight against the communist partisans, and included about 300 Soviet prisoners of war.[17]

Administrative divisions[edit]

Administrative subdivisions instituted by the Government of National Salvation.

Serbia's borders initially incorporated parts of the territory of five of the prewar banovinas.[18]

In October 1941, the Germans ordered the Nedić government to reorganise the territory, as the existing structure was not suitable and did not meet military requirements. By means of an order issued on 4 December 1941, the German military commander adjusted the military-administrative structure to conform to German requirements.[19] As a result, the district (Serbian: okrug) subdivision (which had existed in the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes prior to the formation of the banovinas) was restored. The Nedić government issued a decree on 23 December 1941 by which Serbia was divided into 14 districts (Serbian: okruzi) and 101 municipalities (Serbian: srezovi).[18] The District of Veliki Bečkerek (also known as The Banat) was theoretically part of Serbia, but became an autonomous district, run by the members of local ethnic German population.[20] On 27 December 1941, the heads of the districts were appointed and met with Milan Nedić, Milan Aćimović, Tanasije Dinić, and Cvetan Đorđević.

County Districts
Belgrade County Belgrade, Grocka, Lazarevac, Mladenovac, Palanka, Smederevo, Sopot, Umka, Veliko Orašje
Ivanjica County Istok, Ivanjica, Podujevo, Mitrovica, Novi Pazar, Raška, Srbica, Vučitrn
Kragujevac County Aranđelovac, Gornji Milanovac Gruža, Kragujevac, Orašac, Rača, Rudnik
Kraljevo County Čačak, Guča, Kraljevo, Preljina
Kruševac County Aleksandrovac, Brus, Kruševac, Ražanj, Trstenik
Jagodina County Ćuprija, Despotovac, Jagodina, Paraćin, Rekovac, Svilajnac, Varvarin
Leskovac County Kuršumlija, Lebane, Leskovac, Prokuplje, Vladičin Han, Vlasotince
Niš County Aleksinac, Bela Palanka, Lužnica, Niš, Petrovac, Svrljig, Žitkovac
Požarevac County Golubac, Kučevo, Petrovac, Požarevac, Veliko Gradište, Žabari, Žagubica
Šabac County Bogatić, Krupanj, Ljubovija, Loznica, Obrenovac, Šabac, Vladimirci
Užice County Arilje, Bajina Bašta, Čajetina, Kosjerić, Požega, Užice
Valjevo County Kamenica, Mionica, Valjevo, Ub
Veliki Bečkerek County Alibunar, Bela Crkva, Jaša Tomić, Kikinda, Kovačica, Kovin, Nova Kanjiža, Novi Bečej, Pančevo, Sečanj, Veliki Bečkerek, Vršac
Zaječar County Boljevac, Bor, Brza Palanka, Donji Milanovac, Kladovo, Knjaževac, Kraljevo Selo, Negotin, Salaš, Sokobanja, Zaječar

List of ministers[edit]

President of the council of ministers

# Portrait Name
(Born–Died)
Term of Office Notes
1 Milan Nedić 1939.jpg Milan Nedić
(1878–1946)
29 August 1941 4 October 1944 After the war, he was captured and died after falling out of a window at a Belgrade hospital.

Minister of internal affairs

# Portrait Name
(Born–Died)
Term of Office Notes
1 Milan Aćimović.jpg Milan Aćimović
(1898–1945)
29 August 1941 10 November 1942 He was killed by Yugoslav Partisans in May 1945.
2 Tanasije Dinić
(1891–1946)
10 November 1942 5 November 1943 He was captured by Yugoslav authorities after the war and executed.
3 Milan Nedić 1939.jpg Milan Nedić
(1878–1946)
5 November 1943 4 October 1944 He was the president of the council and interior minister concurrently from November 1943.

Minister of buildings

# Portrait Name
(Born–Died)
Term of Office Notes
1 Ognjen Kuzmanović 29 August 1941 4 October 1944

Minister of post offices, telegraphs and telephones

# Portrait Name
(Born–Died)
Term of Office Notes
1 Josif Kostić
(1877–1960)
29 August 1941 4 October 1944 Survived the war and died around 1960.

Minister of the presidency council

# Portrait Name
(Born–Died)
Term of Office Notes
1 Momčilo Janković
(1883–1944)
29 August 1941 5 October 1941 Left the government after disagreements with other ministers, executed by partisans in 1944.

Minister of education

# Portrait Name
(Born–Died)
Term of Office Notes
1 Miloš Trivunac
(1876–1944)
29 August 1941 7 October 1941 Executed by partisans in 1944.
2 Velibor Jonić.jpg Velibor Jonić
(1892–1946)
7 October 1941 4 October 1944 He was captured by Yugoslav authorities after the war and executed.

Minister of finance

# Portrait Name
(Born–Died)
Term of Office Notes
1 Dušan Letica 29 August 1941 7 October 1941 Left the government in 1941.
2 Ljubiša Mikić 7 October 1941 10 November 1942
3 Dušan Đorđević 10 November 1942 4 October 1944

Minister of labor

# Portrait Name
(Born–Died)
Term of Office Notes
1 Panta Draškić 29 August 1941 10 November 1942

Minister of justice

# Portrait Name
(Born–Died)
Term of Office Notes
1 Čedomir Marjanović 29 August 1941 10 November 1942
2 Bogoljub Kujundžić.jpg Bogoljub Kujundžić
(1887–1949)
10 November 1942 4 October 1944 Survived the war and died in 1949.

Minister of social policy and people's health

# Portrait Name
(Born–Died)
Term of Office Notes
1 Jovan Mijušković
(1886–1944)
29 August 1941 10 November 1942 He was captured by Yugoslav partisans and executed in 1944.
2 Stojimir Dobrosavljević 10 November 1942 6 November 1943
3 Tanasije Dinić
(1891–1946)
6 November 1943 4 October 1944 He was captured by Yugoslav authorities after the war and executed.

Minister of agriculture

# Portrait Name
(Born–Died)
Term of Office Notes
1 Miloš Radosavljević 29 August 1941 10 November 1942
2 Radosav Veselinović 10 November 1942 4 October 1944

Minister of people's economy

# Portrait Name
(Born–Died)
Term of Office Notes
1 Mihailo Olćan
(1894–1961)
29 August 1941 11 October 1942 Escaped after the war and died in Australia in 1961.
2 Milorad Nedeljković
(1883–1961)
10 November 1942 4 October 1944 Escaped after the war and died in France in 1961.

Minister of transportation

# Portrait Name
(Born–Died)
Term of Office Notes
1 Đura Dokić 7 October 1941 10 November 1942

Education[edit]

Under minister Velibor Jonić, the government abandoned the eight-year elementary school system adopted in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and moved to a four-year program. A new curriculum was introduced:[21]

Subject I Grade II Grade III Grade IV Grade
Religious education 1 1 2 2
Serbian 11 11 7 7
Fatherland and history - - 4 6
Nature - - 5 5
Math and geometry 5 5 4 4
Singing 1 1 2 2
Physical education 2 2 2 2
Total hours 20 20 26 28

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Official name of the occupied territory translated from German: Gebiet des Militärbefehlshaber Serbiens[1]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Hehn (1971), pp. 344-73
  2. ^ MacDonald, David Bruce (2002). Balkan holocausts?: Serbian and Croatian victim-centred propaganda and the war in Yugoslavia. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 142. ISBN 0719064678. 
  3. ^ Tomasevich (2001), p. 175
  4. ^ Tomasevich (2001), pp. 177-80
  5. ^ a b c d Tomasevich (2001), pp. 182-85
  6. ^ a b Tomasevich (2001), pp. 187-90
  7. ^ Tomasevich (2001), pp. 200-01
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Tomasevich (2001), pp. 222-28
  9. ^ a b Tomasevich (2001), pp. 205-07
  10. ^ Tomasevich (2001), pp. 210-12
  11. ^ Tomasevich (2001), pp. 212-16
  12. ^ a b Tomasevich (2001), pp. 194-95
  13. ^ Tomasevich (2001), pp. 217-21
  14. ^ MacDonald, David Bruce (2002). Balkan holocausts?: Serbian and Croatian victim-centred propaganda and the war in Yugoslavia. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 134. ISBN 0719064678. 
  15. ^ Tomasevich (2001), pp. 776-77
  16. ^ Thomas & Mikulan 1995, p. 21.
  17. ^ Tomasevich (2001), pp. 191-93
  18. ^ a b Brborić (2010), p. 170
  19. ^ Tomasevich (2001), p. 74
  20. ^ Tomasevich (2001), pp. 74-75
  21. ^ Koljanin (2010), p. 407

References[edit]

Books[edit]

Journals[edit]

  • Brborić, Ivan (2010). "Ministarski savet Milana Nedića decembar 1941 - novembar 1942". Istorija 20. veka. 28 (3). pp. 169–180. 
  • Hehn, Paul N. (1971). "Serbia, Croatia and Germany 1941-1945: Civil War and Revolution in the Balkans". Canadian Slavonic Papers. University of Alberta. 13 (4): 344–373. Retrieved 8 April 2012. 
  • Koljanin, Dragica (2010). "U službi 'Novog poretka' - osnovno školstvo i udžbenici istorije u Srbiji (1941-1944)". Istraživanja. 21. pp. 395–415.