Death Toll: Unknown (estimated from 20,000 to over 100,000)
Genocide & Ethnic Cleansing of Bosniak Muslims and Croats around the Srebrenica region in 1943; Serbian Chetniks collaborated with the Nazis, the Italians and the Croatian Ustaša from approximately 1941-1945.
In just a few days of February 1943, the Serbian Chetniks under the leadership of Draza Mihailovich committed a genocide of close to 20,000 Bosniak Muslims in the Podrinje area (around Srebrenica region) – mostly women, children and elderly. Serbian Chetniks themselves admitted killing over 9,000 people in this genocidal campaign alone.
Modern Serbian nationalists, historical revisionists and neo-fascists, such as the Serbian Radical Party, portray Serbs as the major Balkan victims of the Second World War, but conceal the Chetnik collaboration with Nazi fascists, including the systematic genocide and ethnic cleansing that they committed against several peoples, including the Croats, Bosniaks and Jews.
There has been an attempt lately to whitewash the Serbian Chetnik movement. The Wikipedia article on Chetnik leader Draza Mihailovich, for example, has been hijacked by Serb-chauvinists in an attempt to rehabilitate the genocidal and collaborationist Chetniks and perpetuate the myth that they were a “resistance movement” against fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.
Here are the facts.
“The Serbian chetniks of Draza Mihailovic were represented as fighters against the occupier, while in fact they were the allies of the Nazi fascists in Yugoslavia….The documents in this collection indicate clearly and unequivocally that the Chetniks collaborated with the occupiers, both in the military and political sphere, as well as in the domain of economic activity, intelligence and propaganda…“
— The collaboration of Draza Mihailovic’s Chetniks with the enemy forces of occupation, 1976, by the Serbian scholars Dr. Jovan Marjanovic & Mihail Stanisic, Emphasis added.
“The units that could really be used against the Partisans were Serbian and partly Russian volunteers and Draža Mihailović’s people. My liaison officer with them was a certain Major, Ritterkreuztraeger.
— Wehrmacht General Edmund Glaise von Horstenau, German military attaché in Zagreb. Written on the situation in Serbia during his visit to Belgrade in June 1944. (Source: Peter Broucek, Ein General in Zwielicht; Errinerungen Edmund Glaises von Horstenau, Wien-Koeln-Graz, 1988; p.421)
“Partly, the Serbs [referring to the Chetniks – E.S.] have furthermore showed themselves as the most reliable allies in fighting against the red bands, that is against communism. They are always ready to fight against the bandits with the German Wehrmacht and even to place themselves under its command”
— Klaus Schmider, Partisanenkrieg in Jugoslawien, Hamburg; Berlin; Bonn 2002 p.307
The Chetniks or the Chetnik movement or Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland (Serbian: Четници, Četnici) were a Serbian nationalist and royalist paramilitary organization operating in the Balkans before and during the two World Wars.
They were initially formed as a Serbian nationalist organization fighting for a “Greater Serbia” cleansed of non-Serbs and thus resisted German occupation, but towards the end of World War II they collaborated with the Axis to a greater extent against the communist Partisans.
As the Chetniks increased their cooperation with the Germans, their attitude toward the Jews in the areas under their control deteriorated, and they identified the Jews with the hated Communists. There were many instances of Chetniks’ murdering Jews or handing them over to the Germans.
The physical liquidation of Serbian Jews began immediately in the spring of 1941 with the help of the Chetniks:
Almost all the men were killed by the autumn and the women and children and the remaining men were liquidated at the end of April and the beginning of May, 1942. The exact number of people killed is not known even from Jewish sources. Historian Jasa Romano, however, has come to the conclusion that 88% of all Serbian Jews were killed. The Serbian historian Sretenije Zrokić says that of the 11,870 Belgrade Jews only 1,115 or 9% survived the war. It was not only the Germans who captured and killed the Jews in Serbia, rather it was the Serbian Police, Nedić’s volunteers and Chetniks . Most were killed in the Sajmište and Banjica concentration camps. Not a single Jew managed to escape from the camps.
— Ljubica Stefan, Anti-semitism in Serbia during the World War II
Chetnik units had a clear Serbian nationalist ideology and aimed towards the recreation of the Serb-dominated monarchic Yugoslavia or “Greater Serbia.” The Chetniks viewed the influx of non-Serbs such as Jews, Muslims, Croats and others as ‘dilution and contamination of their “pure Serb struggle.”‘
Throughout the War, the Chetnik movement remained almost completely inactive against the occupation forces, and increasingly collaborated with the Axis, losing its international recognition as the Yugoslav resistance force.
Draža Mihailović, the leader of the Chetniks, was initially an anti-Nazi nationalist but started collaborating with the Axis occupation. He was tried and executed by firing squad by Tito’s government in 1946 for war crimes, high treason, collaboration, ethnic cleansing and genocide.
After a brief initial period of cooperation, the Partisans and the Chetniks quickly started fighting against each other. Gradually, the Chetniks ended up primarily fighting the Partisans instead of fighting the Axis occupation.
At first, the Western Allies had viewed the Chetniks as the core of the resistance movements in Yugoslavia against the invaders. But reports from British parachutists who had joined the fighting forces in Yugoslavia began to reach the West, indicating that the Chetniks’ policy was to fight the partisans under Tito, rather than the Germans and their allies. Consequently, the attitude of the western Allies underwent a change in the second half of 1942, and they switched their aid to the partisans who were fighting the Germany enemy.
By the end of 1943, the break between the West and the Chetniks was complete. The Chetniks had become collaborators and had joined the forces fighting the partisans. After the occupation of Serbia by the partisans and the Red Army, the Chetniks were hunted down [rightly].
Chetnik supreme commander Draža Mihailović issued the following “Instructions” to his commanders on 20 December 1941 outlining, among other things, the cleansing of all non-Serb elements in order to create a Greater Serbia:
“The mission of our units is:
- The struggle for the freedom of all of our people under the scepter of His Majesty, the King Peter II;
- The creation of Greater Yugoslavia, and within it Greater Serbia, ethnically clean within the borders of Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Srem, Banat, and Bačka;
- The struggle for the incorporation into our social structure of those non-liberated Slovenian territories under Italy and Germany (Trieste, Gorizia, Istria, and Carinthia), as well as Bulgaria and northern Albania with Shkodra;
- The cleansing of all national minorities and anti-state elements from state territory;
- The creation of direct common borders between Serbia and Montenegro, as well as Serbia and Slovenia by cleansing the Muslim population from Sandžak, and the Muslim and Croat populations from Bosnia and Herzegovina;
- The punishment of all Ustaše and Muslims who have mercilessly destroyed our people in these tragic days;The settlement of the areas cleansed of national minorities and anti-state elements by Montenegrins (to be considered are poor, nationally patriotic, and honest families).
There may be no collaboration with the communists – Partisans, as they are fighting against the Dynasty and in favor of socialist revolution. […] Albanians, Muslims, and Ustaše are to be treated in accordance with their merit for the horrendous crimes against our population, i.e. they are to be turned over to the People’s Court. The Croats living on the territory under Italian occupation are to be treated based on their disposition at the given moment.”
Shortly after the end of the war, Mihailovich and his men were captured and brought before a Yugoslav national tribunal; most were hanged.
Dragiša Vasić and Stevan Moljević, two leading intellectuals of the Chetniks, elaborated, in June 1941, a memorandum entitled “Homogeneous Serbia“, that claimed that the territories of “Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo, Vojvodina, most of Croatia, northern (and possibly all of) Albania, and parts of Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary as well as Serbia proper” would be included in a Greater Serbia.
It was proposed to be accomplished through the “cleansing the lands of all anti-state elements and non-Serb minorities.”
“The Germans are not interested in politics, they take everything from a military point of view. They need troops that can hold certain positions and clear certain areas of the Partisans. If they ask us to do it, we cannot do it. The Chetniks can.”
— Mirko Blaž, Major, 7th Brigade of the Poglavnik’s Personal Guard, March 5, 1944
“Chetniks, our natural allies, only they are fighting. “Kroatische Kampfgemeinschaft” exists only on paper.”
— Report to the OKW from the Split Abwehr office, extracts from a draft titled Die Entwicklung im Südosten vom 1. April-31. Dezember 1944 which was compiled in November 1944 using the documents of the Wehrmacht Führungstab and the KTB; to be found in the KTB OKW, KTB OKW, b.7/I, p.751
“The divisions that took part in Weiss II gave consistent reports [“aeusserten sich uebereinstimmend”] on the good conduct of Chetnik units. Through scouting and relieving attacks they have helped our troops, all that without asking for German support in any way.”
— Klaus Schmider, Partisanenkrieg in Jugoslawien, Hamburg; Berlin; Bonn 2002, p. 308
“In the few weeks that have passed since the division moved into this region formerly occupied by the Italians, the Chetniks have made themselves indispensable at securing the supply routes (especially the Knin-Drniš railroad). If Đujić [Chetnik commander Momčilo Đujić] were to be arrested at this moment, said Egleser, it would mean the troops would have to ‘…fight constantly for their own supplies.’”
— Klaus Schmider, Partisanenkrieg in Jugoslawien, Hamburg; Berlin; Bonn 2002 p. 232
“The ten-day report of the commanding General [of Fall Weiss, ‘Battle of the Neretva’] states even that the Chetniks ‘have proven themselves in co-operation with German Wehrmacht better than any of the Croatian Army units.’”
— Klaus Schmider, Partisanenkrieg in Jugoslawien, Hamburg; Berlin; Bonn 2002 p. 134
“At the end of September 1944 German commander of Split arrested the Ustashi-leader of the town in reprisal for Ustashi actions against the Chetniks who were allied to the Wehrmacht, threatening to ‘…shoot five Ustashis for every Chetnik.’”
— Hory, Ladislaus; Broszat, Martin, Der Kroatische Ustascha-Staat 1941-1945. Referenced by: Telegramme des Stabchefs der Ustascha-Miliz, Oberst Herenčić, von Ende September 1944; PA/AA, Gesandschaft Zagreb: Bd.67/4, Bl.75f.
“With offers made by D.M. [Draža Mihailović] movement, the handing-over of the enemy spies (Englishmen) should be asked for. Those who wish to return with their arms, should be helped on their way back home. DM-units should be bound not to undertake any hostile activities against the German Wehrmacht and it’s allies and to return German prisoners. They should also pledge to fight the communists in certain areas, supervised by a German liason officer.”
— ibidem,p.472-473; BA/MA, RW 40/82 KTB-Eintrag vom 1.11.1943
FORGOTTEN 1943 GENOCIDE BY NAZI CHETNIK FASCISTS
The Chetnik apologists like to argue that Draza Mihailovic didn’t know anything about genocidal campaigns his forces were committing against the Bosniak Muslim population of Bosnia-Herzegovina. A closer look at the above document reveals that Draza Mihailovic was well aware of genocide his forces were committing in 1943.
In the above document, Serbian Chetnik Commander Pavle Djurisic reported directly to the Chetnik General Draza Mihailovic about the “successes” of Chetnik operations in the extermination campaigns against the Bosniak Muslim population in the area of Pljevlje, Cajnice, and Foca region. This is the region of Podrinje where Srebrenica is located.
In his briefing to the Serb General Draza Mihailovich, the Chetnik Commander Pavle Djurisic writes, (note: this is a translation of key points from Serbian cyrillic), quote:
All Moslem villages in three mentioned locations [municipalities of Pljevlje, Cajnice, and Foca] were burned down, and not even one home remained intact…. During military operations, we engaged in total destruction of Moslem population without regard to their sex or age. Our victims include 22 dead, of which 2 by accident, and 32 wounded. We killed about 1,200 Muslim soldiers and about 8,000 of their women, elderly and children.
Therefore, it is perfectly clear that Draza Mihajlovich knew what was going on, but he did nothing to stop the genocide of Bosniak Muslim civilians. He was complicit in Genocide against the Bosniak Muslim population of Podrinje in 1943. While the Serbian Chetniks admited killing 9,200 people in this genocide, the documented killings show close to 20,000 Bosniaks massacred, 98% of them being civilian men, women, children, and elderly. (See: “Srpski zlocini nad Bosnjacima Muslimanima 1941. – 1945.” by Semso Tucakovic).
Attempts to Deny 1943 Genocide
This genocide of Bosniak Muslim population in Podrinje occured in February of 1943. Since then, the leftist apologist genocide deniers have been actively denying any wrong-doings of Serbian Chetnik forces who collaborated with Nazi fascists in World War II. The most vocal Draza Mihajlovic’s apologist and opinionist (he doesn’t deserve to be called historian) – Lucien Karchmar – even came up with a list of philosophical reasons attacking the evidence against Chetnik crimes. In his book “Draza Mihailovic and the Rise of the Chetnik Movement, 1941–1942”, Lucien Karchmar devotes his study in apologizing for Draza Mihailovich’s crimes and dismissing each piece of historical evidence presented as a fraud or forgery. That’s exactly how Chetnik-apologists write history to justify, downplay or deny crimes of Chetniks against the Bosniak Muslim population of Bosnia-Herzegovina; not to mention Chetnik collaboration with Nazi fascists.
Instead of reading Lucien Karchmar’s make-belief stories about Chetnik innocence, one might read the book written by a respected Serbian historian Nikola P. Ilic who did a great job documenting collaboration of Chetniks with Fascists. The book is titled (in Serbian) “Kolaboracija Cetnika sa Okupatorima i Kvislinzima u Srbiji.”
Draza Mihailovic’s people with NAZI Fascists
According to Serbian scholars, Dr. Jovan Marjanovic & Mihail Stanisic, “The collaboration of Draza Mihailovic’s Chetniks with the enemy forces of occupation“, 1976, quote:
The Serbian chetniks of Draza Mihailovic were represented as fighters against the occupier, while in fact they were the allies of the Nazi fascists in Yugoslavia….The documents in this collection indicate clearly and unequivocally that the Chetniks collaborated with the occupiers, both in the military and political sphere, as well as in the domain of economic activity, intelligence and propaganda…
Serbia’s Union of Anti-Fascists has – on numerous occasions – protested growing falsification of history committed by Chetnik apologists who present Chetniks as “anti-fascists” who fought alongside allies.
Serbian Lobbying and Medal for a Fascist
Draza Mihailovic was the only NAZI fascist to be awarded the Legion of Merit for his “contribution” to the Allied victory. So, how did he receive this medal? According to the respected British historian and world renowned scholar of Balkan history, Dr. Marko Attila Hoare, quote:
Mihailovic continued his opportunistic game of seeking to collaborate with both Axis and Allies. In this context, he assisted the US airborne evacuation of about two-hundred and fifty airmen from Chetnik territory in August 1944. This simply meant that the Chetniks allowed the Americans to use their airstrip for the evacuation – scarcely a particularly heroic action – while at the same time, Mihailovic sent a delegation along with the departing US planes in a fruitless effort to win back Allied support. Yet it was for the rescue of US airmen that Mihailovic would posthumously receive the Legion of Merit. On other occasions, however, Mihailovic’s Chetniks rescued German airmen and handed them over safely to the German armed forces – were he so inclined, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder could follow Washington’s example and decorate Mihailovic for saving the lives of his country’s servicemen. Yet none of Mihailovic’s intrigues saved him or his Chetnik movement from destruction at the hands of the victorious Partisans: the revolution in the western Balkans – Europe’s second and last successful Communist revolution – succeeded thanks to British and American military intervention, which enabled the reestablishment of Yugoslavia. This is a fact that Milosevic’s left-wing supporters usually prefer not to mention. The Left Revisionists, November 2003]
Brief History of Chetnik Collaboration
Chetnik collaboration began in late 1941 during the attack on the Partisan “Užice Republic”, a short-lived liberated Partisan territory and the first liberated territory in World War II Europe, where Chetniks played a part in the general Axis attack. Mihailović admitted to a British colonel that the Chetniks’ principle enemies were “the partisans, the Ustasha, the Muslims, the Croats and last the Germans and Italians” in that order.
In 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was defeated by Germany and occupied by the Axis powers from 1941 to 1945.
The aging pre-war Chetnik leader Kosta Pecanac soon came to an arrangement with Nedic’s collaborationist regime in Serbia. Colonel Draza Mihailovic set up his Chetnik heaquarters in Ravna Gora and established contact with the Allies. In June 1941, following Operation Barbarossa the communist Partisans under Tito organised an uprising and in the period between June and November 1941, the Chetniks and Partisans largely co-operated in anti-Axis activity. Despite a number of meetings the co-operation did not last and in November the Chetniks attacked the Partisans headquarters in Uzice with the Partisans counter-attacking the following day.
Genocide against Bosniaks in Visegrad 1941-1945
Bosnian Muslim villages in Visegrad destroyed and cleansed 1941-45: Part I
Gornje and Donje Štitarevo: Around 283 Bosnian Muslims were massacred by local Serbs, members of Yugoslav Royalist Forces(Chetniks) in World War Two. The following families were completely cleansed from the village: Arnauti, Pite, Ferhatovići, Musić,Gaka etc. For crimes committed in this village,thanks to a survivor Nurko Cocalić, three local Serbs were prosecuted by a Court in Sarajevo: Dušan Vasiljević, Milomir Gogić and Zdravko Popović.
Rujište: Local Serbs massacred around 65 Bosnian Muslim neighbours including 22 women and children. The main perpetrators were Petar and Milorad Lukić. Entire Muslim families were cleansed from Rujište: Čavkušić, Liske and Smajlović.
Menzilovići: Local Serbs massacred around 21 Bosnian Muslim neighbours in March 1942. Several Muslim women were raped including a pregnant women Hata Menzilović. The main perpetrators were: Milan Glišić, Rade and Milan Lindo, Blagoje Sapoljnić, Đoko and Ilija Marković, Miroslav Kargan and Zorka Papić.
Stari Brod: Local Serbs and members of Milan Nedić’s Army at the beggining of 1943, gathered surviving Bosnian Muslims civilians, most of whom were women and children, from surrounding villages: Gornje Štitarevo,Vlahovići,Pozderčići, Kapetanovići, Sendići, Prelovo, Omeragići, Presjek, Gostilja etc. These civilians were brought to Stari Brod village where they were barricaded in a house and two stables and burnt alive. A Bosnian Serb Jovan Gogić from the village Blace, admitted that he witnessed this crime.
Omeragići: Around 42 Bosnian Muslims were massacered by their Serb negibours and members of Yugoslav Royalist Forces(Chetniks) in World War Two. One group of Bosnian Muslim men were excecuted in a forest called ”Duboko” and ”Hrtar”. Another group was excecuted in Zvekara cave. Some women and children were burnt alive in live pyres in Stari Brod.
Kurtalići: Around 21 Bosnian Muslims were massacred by Serb neighbours and members of Yugoslav Royalist Forces(Chetniks) in World War Two.The main perpetrator of his crime was Đoko Marković. Both witnesses of this masscare, Nurif and Mehmed kurtalić, were murdered in Kurtalići in 1992 by Bosnian Serbs.
Mušići: Around 60 Bosnian Muslims were massacred by Serb neighbours and members of Yugoslav Royalist Forces(Chetniks) in World War Two.The perpetrators of this crime included: Lazar Đurić, Stjepan Dikić, Ilija Marković, Luka Đurić and a women Zorka Papić. Ćamila Bosno, a Bosnian Muslim, witnessed when Zorka Papić beat to death her Muslim neigbhour Halima, who is Ćamila’s aunt.
Pozderčići: Around 39 Bosnian Muslims were massacred by Serb neighbours and members of Yugoslav Royalist Forces(Chetniks) in World War Two. Their property was looted by neigbouring Serbs. The main perpetrator of this crime was Ratko Mitrašinović who led a group of Chetniks from neighbouring Serb villahe Kragujevac. The remaining Bosnian Muslim civilians – women and children, sho survived this crime were later taken to Stari Brod where all were burnt alive in live pyres.
Kupusovići: Around 61 Bosnian Muslims were massacred by Serb neighbours and members of Yugoslav Royalist Forces(Chetniks) in World War Two. The main perpetraors were : the Mitrašinović brothers and Miloš Miličević. Aleksa Vojinović from Serb village Blace, kidnapped Hasna Kupus whom he raped and then murdered. The mosque in Kupusovići was completely destroyed and its stone was used in the construction of a church in Blace.
Koritnik: Around 47 Bosnian Muslims were massacred by Serb neighbours and members of Yugoslav Royalist Forces(Chetniks) in World War Two. Yugosla historian Vladimir Dedijer in his book ”Crimes against Muslims 1941-1945”, documented the testimony of one survivor Mehmed Kurspahic who witness the horrific torture of Mehmed Spahic.
Žlijeb: Around 109 Bosnian Muslims were massacred by Serb neighbours and members of Yugoslav Royalist Forces(Chetniks) in World War Two. During the first attack in November 1941, most of the village’s populaion fled to Višegrad, but later returned due to garantees from Serbs and most importantly from the Italian Fascist army command in Višegrad. Almost all men who returned to Žlijeb were massacred. The village was left wih 33 widows,100 orphans and almost 15 families were left without a single member. The perpetrators of this crimes were: the Mitranović brothers from Kragujevac village, Ilija Mitrašinović, Miloš Miličević, Petronije Knežević, Sredoje Knežević-Ivankić, the Radovanović brothers from Odžak village,Radoje Novaković from Odžak village etc.
Klasnik: Around 171 Bosnian Muslims were massacred by Serb neighbours and members of Yugoslav Royalist Forces(Chetniks) in World War Two. During the first attack in November 1941, around 26 men were massacred, most of the village’s populaion fled to Višegrad, but later returned due to garantees from Serbs and most importantly from the Italian Fascist army command in Višegrad. Bosnian Muslims were called to the Chetnik HQ to report and receive a security not for safe passage through their controlled area. Around 29 men went to report and never returned. Since most of the families were left without their menfolk, there was no one to protect them. The Chetniks used this situation for a raping spree. Dozens of Muslim women in Žlijeb village were raped.
Kapetanovići: Around 55 Bosnian Muslims were massacred by Serb neighbours and members of Yugoslav Royalist Forces(Chetniks) in World War Two. In March 1942, Rade, Sredoje Novaković and Vitomir Krstić from Pozderčići and Milija Radovanović from Odžak gathered around 18 Bosnian Muslim men to take them to the Chetnik command in Odžak to receive a security not for safe passage through their controlled area. After a failed escape attempt, the remaining men were taken to Mount Rogopek and excecuted. Thanks to Nusret Kapetanović, a orphan from Kapetanovići, Rade and Sredoje Novaković and Vitomir Krstić were arrested and sentenced to 20 years prison.
Resnik: Around 102 Bosnian Muslims were massacred by Serb neighbours and members of Yugoslav Royalist Forces(Chetniks) in World War Two. According to witness accounts, several Muslim girls and women were raped.
Kamenica: Around 112 Bosnian Muslims were massacred by Serb neighbours and members of Yugoslav Royalist Forces(Chetniks) in World War Two. The main perpetrators of this crime were : the Gudović brothers, the Vujkić brothers and Lazo Stjepanović from Paočića village. In a live pyre in the house of Bećo Bosno, around 26 women and children were burnt alive. Two Bosnian Serb neighbours Petar Lukić and Božo Ivanović raped Muslim women Šehrija Pjevo and Šefku Dudević. Several Serbs were reported to Police authorities after the war but no action against them was taken.
Mala Gostilja: Around 43 Bosnian Muslims were massacred by Serb neighbours and members of Yugoslav Royalist Forces(Chetniks) in World War Two. It should be noted that a Serb women Radina Andrić, wife of Ratko Andrć warned Muslims from this village that the Serbs were planning to massacre Muslim men and thus saved a large number of men.
Source: Krvava Ćuprija na Drini, Mustafa Sućeska, DES, 2001. Mr. Sućeska is a World War Two Visegrad Genocide survivor.
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF CHETNIK CRIMES OF GENOCIDE AGAINST CROATIANS AND BOSNIAKS FROM 1941 TO 1945
The actualization of genocidal crimes against Croatians and Bosniaks, according to the proposed plan by the Chetnik leaders and commanders, began immediately after the plans were drawn up and lasted to the end of the war. Their scope depended primarily on their military capabilities, their deployment and the strength of their opponents. From the documents we notice three periods which, according to the number of victims of genocide, were the most massive. The first was the commencement of the rebellion, from the end of July 1941 to February 1942. The second was from August to October 1942 and the third was from January to March 1943. These were the strongest military periods for the Chetnik movement on the territory of Bosnia and Croatia. It was also the time when the movement had the most intensive support of Chetniks from Serbia and Montenegro and the support of the Italian and to a lesser degree the German occupiers. We will mention several distinguishing examples from these periods.
A/ The first period (the end of July 1941 – February 1942
This period consists of two parts: the first, from the eruption of the rebellion until the autumn of 1941, when Chetniks and guerrillas participated in the rebellion together; and the second, which began at the same time as the division of the Chetnik and national liberation movement, namely, the division of the military into Chetniks and Partisans and crimes of Chetnik units may be observed.
In the first part, after the eruption of the revolt, in actions carried out jointly by the Chetniks and communists, the first massive crimes against Croatians and Bosniaks in Bosnia and Croatia were carried out. In this way, on July 27, 1941 and several days afterwards, in Bosansko Grahovo and the surrounding area, 62 Croatians, among whom were five women, nine children, and parish rector Ante Gospodnetic were killed by the rebels while their houses and five villages were burned after being looted. On July 2, in Krenjus and its surrounds, as well as in Vrtoci, several hundred Croatians, the majority being older individuals, women and children and the parish rector Kresimir Baric were massacred. They looted and burned houses and the Roman Catholic Church. Then followed the arrival of 2,500 Croatians from Boricevac and the surrounding area into Bihac. Boricevac itself was looted and completely burned and never rebuilt after the war. As a result, 19 Roman Catholic parishes on the right side of the Una River and ten on the left shore ceased to exist since there was no congregation left. Subsequently, on September 5, 1941, in Kulen Vakuf, 3,000 Bosniaks and a hundred Croatians were slaughtered and the area was looted and burnt. Also, 44 Bosniaks and 12 Croatians were killed in Varcar Vakuf and the surrounding areas. In Glamoc and its surrounds, 45 Bosniaks and two Croatians were killed. In Sanski Most the rebels killed Bosniaks and Croatian peasants and even their families: women and children.
It was the same in other areas. In this way, the “liberated territories” were soon “liberated” from Croatians and Bosniaks who were forced to leave so as not be slaughtered and killed. Their houses and villages were looted and burned. Soon, a river of 50,000 refugees began to flow into Bihac, Jajce, Knin, Sanski Most, Prijedor, Livno, and other towns. The share the Chetniks and their supporters took in executing these crimes was dominant. In eastern Herzegovina, massacres of civilians were carried by out rebels with assistance from Montenegro and this in Avtovac on June 28, 1941 when some 47 Bosniaks were massacred; in Berkovici (Dabar) on August 28, 300 Bosniaks were massacred, predominantly women and children, who were thrown into pits, and the majority into the “Cavkarica” pit, according to Partisan documents. According to the documents of NDH authorities, the number is considerably greater. Some Croatians were killed, while from the entire eastern Herzegovina region, colonies of refugees, flowed into neighbouring towns, predominantly Capljina, Mostar, and Dubrovnik. After being looted, many houses and villages were burned. It was in eastern Bosnia, where Chetnik units, established and assisted by Chetniks in Serbia, and active since the beginning of the revolt, that the first massacres of Bosniaks were recorded and this in Medjedja and Koraj in October and November 1941. Several hundred people were slaughtered.
Since the NDH powers were unable to suppress the rebellion and hinder its spreading, Italian and German occupying forces intervened. The Italians occupied Zones I and II and the Germans brought in new forces. The Italians enabled the organization and supplies for the Chetnik units and their close links from Serbia to Slovenia, who in turn organized, planned, and commenced the genocidal crimes against Croatians and Bosniaks. In this way, Chetniks around Knin and at the three border point started the terror against the Croatian population. On October 7 and 8, 1941, they slaughtered seven Croatians in Donji Ervenik. On July 3, 1941, they ordered “that all Catholics in the village of Stikova be converted to the Orthodox faith.” In an attack 16 days later, 11 local Croatians and 1 gendarme were killed. On December 11, in the village of Velika Plana, by Lovinac, six Croatians were massacred and before that, on September 29, 1941, 44 Croatians of Brotinja by D. Lapac were captured and then slaughtered. The majority were women and children. This resulted in a new wave of Croatian refugees.
From December 1941 until February 1942, many massive killings of Bosniaks by Chetniks were carried out in eastern Bosnia where the Italians had handed over authority to them. In this way, 5,000 Bosniaks and a hundred Croatians were killed in Foca and Gorazde according to a statement by a Chetnik commander. At the same time, in the Srebrenica region, 1,000 people were killed, in Vlasenica 2 to 3,000, in Rogatica under 1,000, and in Visegrad over a 1,000 individuals were slaughtered, burned and killed. The situation was similar in the Nevesinje district where Bosniaks were also slaughtered and five villages were burnt to the ground. Most of the victims were tortured, women and young girls were raped, while many were slaughtered and thrown into the Drina River from Foca to Ustipraca. After the looting, many of the houses and villages were completely destroyed along with mosques, three in Foca alone. Thousands of refugees fled towards Sarajevo, Tuzla, and other towns so that the number of refugees increased to 100,000 in the entire NDH territory mostly due to Chetnik terrors and crimes. The arrival of Partisans in this territory temporarily hindered further Chetnik crimes, but made possible the transition of many Chetniks into Partisans, without punishment for the crimes committed.
B/ The second period (August – October 1941
In this period, the majority of Chetnik crimes were again carried out in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Chetniks captured Foca on August 19,1942 in which 8,000 Bosniaks, both native inhabitants and some refugees, lived. Approximately 5,000 Bosniaks succeeded in escaping towards Sarajevo. Some smaller groups of Bosniaks went into hiding while the others were captured and killed. One of the survivors stated:”… As soon as the Chetniks occupied Foca, they captured and killed all the Bosniak men, as well as a great number of women and children, whilst almost all the girls and young women were raped. Altogether, men in hiding survived. Shops and houses were completely looted and some of them were burned”. The same source also claimes that there had been about 2,000 innocent victims.On September 5, 1942, P. Bacovic reported to D. Mihailovic that in Foca: “…1,200 Ustasa in uniforms and approximately 1,000 Bosniaks who had compromised themselves have been killed, while we had four dead and five wounded…. We had an enormous booty. Our goal was to secure links with Serbia and this we achieved.”
From August 29 until September 4, 1942, during the Italian military operation “Albia” against the Partisans on Biokovo, a group of 1,000 Chetniks from eastern Herzegovia carried out massive looting, arson, and crimes against the local Croatian civilian population. It was on the territory of the Cetina parish alone (in Rascani, Zupa biokovska, Kozica, and Dragljani) that 160 Croatians were slaughtered, shot, or burned. Among them were three priests, Ivan Condic, Josip Braenovic who was decapitated, and Ladislav Ivankovic. On September 5, 1942, Bacovic reported on the “punitive expedition” to D. Mihailovic, stating that the Chetniks had killed over “1,000 Ustasa”, and that they themselves had “not one dead or wounded”. He went on to state that en route from Ljubuski to Vrgorac, they had “skinned three Catholic priests alive”, killed “all the men 15 years of age and older” and that “17 villages had been completely destroyed”, after which, with songs and the Serbian flag, they “came to the shores of our Adriatic” to the south of Makarska “and positioned our flag”. From May until September 1942, on the basis of an agreement with the Italians, the Chetniks took over power in eastern Herzegovina with the exception of the towns. Subsequently, they killed several hundred Croatians and Bosniaks and a massive exodus of the Croatian and Bosniak population from the left shores of the Neretva River followed. During this period, the exodus was primarily from the Stolac region, in which “from approximately 28,000 Croatians and Bosniaks” (with the exception of a few families in Stolac itself) not a single Croatian or Bosniak remained according to Chetnik documents. During the Italian military operation against Partisans on the territory of Prozor in October 1942, the Chetniks first killed around 200 Croatians and Bosniaks in the Mostar area and then in the Prozor area, they killed, slaughtered, and threw into pits or water 1,716 people (340 Bosniaks and the rest Croatian civilians). Upon their return, they killed twenty Croatians, in the Konjic district, looted their homes and villages, and burned many of them as well. Bacovic sent the following telegram to D. Mihailovic on October 23, 1942: stating that : In the Prozor operations, over 2,000 Croats and Bosniaks slaughtered,and (Chetnik) soldiers returned.
Meanwhile, in northern and central Dalmatia, Chetniks carried out more genocidal crimes against Croatians under directions from the Italians and under their auspices. In this way, at the beginning of October 1942, on the territory of the Cetina parish, Chetniks, under the command of commander M. Rokvic, killed 200 Croatians, looted and burned down houses in the villages of Gata, Naglice, Cisla, Ostrvica, Zvecanji, Dugopolje, Kolenice, Srijani and Dolac Gornji. The Italians reported: “Most of the people killed were the elderly, women and children, who had no ties with the Partisans”. Every one was slaughtered when captured. During the killings, the Chetniks would sing: ” Petar from London writes us, Oh Croatians, you are no more”. On October 21, 1942, in Bitelic, near Sinj, Djujic`s Chetniks, under directions from the Italians, killed 29 Croats and 6 more in Otisic and then burned down 220 Croatian houses. According to the report of the Italian General Berardi from Knin, “every Catholic was tortured and slaughtered and afterwards most of the corpses were mutilated in the most horrible manner”, but he did not react. Djujic sent a telegram to D. Mihailovic reporting: ” My people killed all those we came upon” On October 3, 1942, Chetniks from Medak killed five Croatians from Ribnik.” All documents illustrate that the victims in these massacres were civilians which may be seen by the number of Chetnik casualties. The consequence was a new wave of Croatian refugees from these territories towards the sea and deeper into NDH territories.
C/ The third period (January – March 1943)
Chetnik genocidal crimes against Bosniaks and Croatians in this period correspond with German and Italian operations against NOP forces which began on January 20, 1943, throughout the NDH territory (headquarters in Bihac). Chetniks from the NDH territory, Montenegro and Serbia participated in these operations. They used this for the pre-planned cleansing of the Bosniak and Croatian population, and so, from January 3 until February 7, 1943, Bosniaks were cleansed from the districts of Cajnice, Foca and Pljevlja. The Chetnik Commander P. Djurisic gave the following report to his commander-in-chief on February 13, 1943: “All Muslim villages in the three mentioned districts are completely burned, so that not one of their homes has remained unscathed… The complete destruction of the Muslim population, regardless of sex and age, has been carried out during this operation.
Victims. The number of our victims amounts to 22 killed, of whom two were accidents and 32 wounded.
Of the Muslims, approximately 1,200 combatants and up to 8,000 other victims: women, the elderly and children”.The cleansing continued in Sandzak. According to the German General Luters, the aim of these Chetnik actions was “the extermination of the Muslim part of the population, especially in Sandzak and in Herzegovina”, because that “Muslim wedge between Serbia and Montenegro must finally disappear”. At the same time, he writes to his headquarters: “It is necessary to stress the characteristics of Chetnik warfare, their attacks on the unarmed weaker enemy… Their slaughter of helpless women and children (Bosniaks) is in itself, for the Chetniks, an understandable, honorable and brave act, and the executors consider themselves heroes”. This was confirmed by a Chetnik leader, D. Jevdjevic from the time when they “who were heroes in looting and slaughtering women were cowards when the first gun was fired”, fleeing 30 km ahead of the Croatian Partisans of Dalmatia. It was precisely the defeat of the Chetniks by the Partisans at the Neretva and the Drina Rivers where the contribution of the Croatian Partisans was most significant which influenced the breakdown of their plans to destroy the Bosniaks and Croatians. According to German verified data from the territory within their zone, in six east Bosnian and four central Bosnian districts, 8,400 Croatians and 24,400 Bosniaks were killed, making a total of 32,800 people.The small remaining groups of Bosniaks were forced by the Chetniks to convert from the Islamic to the Serbian Orthodox faith as was the case in the villages of Potpece and Vikoc near Foca.
At the same time, at the end of January 1943, the Chetniks in Dalmatia, taking advantage of the absence of stronger Partisan forces, engaged in an action, killing over 100 Croatians in the villages of Kijevo, Kosori, Maovice, Vrlika, Ruzic, Otavice, Gradac and Kricke, and raping women and girls, all under the slogan, “burn and slaughter everything Catholic”. At that time, they impaled 68 year-old Niko Blazevic and roasted until he died. In Otavice, they threw 86 year-old Ilija Mestrovic, the uncle of the famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, into his burning house. Already on February 1, 1943, D. Mihailovic was informed: ” In Kijevo and Vrlica, Bacovic shot 55 Ustasa and in Maovice and Otavice, Djujic killed 48 Ustasa. Afterwards, on February 3 and 4, 1943, Herzegovinian Chetniks, in the Imotski region, slaughtered and killed 32 Croatians, looted and destroyed their property, set their houses on fire and raped the young girls and women. In these actions, the only victims were Croatian civilians, who were all considered Ustasa by the Chetniks. Not one victim was Serbian and not one Serbian village was destroyed. Again, the consequence was the departure of 3,000 Croatians from Sinj alone.”
In regard to the news of the horrific massacres of Bosniaks committed under the leadership of D. Mihailovic, on May 1, 1943, the British government brought to his attention that the Chetnik leadership should “moderate their attitude” towards Bosniaks. Meanwhile, C. de Gaulle, shortly afterwards, awarded several Chetniks with the French war cross, to their great satisfaction.
It is necessary to stress that Croatian and Bosniak anti-fascists, activists, fighters, and members of NOP were killed without exception if captured by Chetniks. In this way, from May 25 until June 15, 1942, the Dinara Chetnik division alone in the battle against the Partisans, counted “over 500 Partisan corpses, mostly Croatians”. Some time later, in 1942, near Rujiste, the Chetniks captured 23 Croatian Partisans and shot them, for which deed they received 10,000 liras reward from the Italians; yet another method which the Italians used to instigate them to crime. Djujic`s report to D. Mihailovic of December 21, 1943, stated that in the battle against the Partisans, 140 Partisans had been captured, of whom seven were Serbian and the rest Croatian. The Serbians were released and the Croatians were all slaughtered and thrown into a pit. At that time, the commander of the Podrinje Chetnik Brigade wrote in his report, among other things, the following: “I shot 5 Partisans because they were “Turks”…”( that is, Bosniaks.). From other documents, it may be seen that the majority were representatives of various anti-fascist organizations of NOP, as well as the wounded who were without adequate military protection, which the Chetniks used to their advantage.
Outside of these periods and until the end of the war, the Chetniks continued to loot, violate and kill Croatians and Bosniaks, whenever they had the opportunity. We will only mention a few of these crimes. On June 7, 1943, in the Brnjic municipality, 42 Bosniaks were slaughtered, after which 1,060 refugees escaped to Zenica. In February 1944, Dalmatian Chetniks, in the villages of Dubrava, Danilo, Radonici and Goris killed 30 Croats. On April 4, they killed 10 in the Promin village of Necmen, 27 in the Skradin region on September 12, 1944, and 32 in December 1944 in Bribir, Grizani, and Tribalje near Crikvenica, burning 70 houses and the Bribir Church. In May 1944, Chetniks in Gorazde slaughtered about 50 Bosniaks, burning 2 mosques. In northeastern Bosnia, on October 8, 1944, the Trebavska Chetniks killed 25 Croatians in the villages of Tramosnica, Turic, Liporasce and Srednja Slatina. On January 3, 1945, Chetniks “captured, raped, and shot 27 women and children” (Croatians) in the villages of Kladari and Carevac, and ten days later massacred Croatians in the village Pecnik. On December 21, 1944, the Chetniks of Rogatic killed 23 Bosniaks in the village of Vinograd. Up to June 1944, on the territory of the Rogatic district alone, 3,677 homes were burned and 4,635 were Bosniaks killed (among whom were a small number of Croatians) by the Chetniks.
At the end of the war, the Chetniks were militarily defeated but many of them were given the opportunity during the war, most often after being imprisoned, to “voluntarily” join the Partisans.More than 80% took advantage of this opportunity and, almost as a rule, gained legal amnesty from their crimes. Only a few were convicted for their crimes. In this way, they were given the opportunity to plan the revenge which they had constantly stressed during the war, most frequently in the song: ” Oh Croatians, are we ever going to slaughter you, when Pero returns from London”, even though their King did not return. This was especially revealed during the final operations after the surrender at Bleiburg, with murders and firing squads during “Death Marches”, in camps and in places of execution for members of the Croatian defense forces and NDH authorities, as well as civilians throughout the territory of the former Yugoslavia, namely Croatians and Bosniaks.
The number of Chetnik victims of genocide among Croatians and Bosniaks during the war from 1941 to 1945 has not yet been confirmed. The newest demographic research suggests that the possible exact number of casualties on NDH territory is 200,000 Croats and 100,000 Bosniaks. These numbers refer to those killed. According to V. Zerjavic, of this number, 32,000 Croatians (20,000 in Croatia and 12,000 in Bosnia) and 33,000 Bosniaks were victims of the Chetniks.31 To many, Zerjavic`s number appears too small, especially due to larger estimates in some sources and literature. It might be that this is possible, until future research, which is now being conducted, establishes concrete numerical data for these Chetnik genocidal crimes.
Chetnik crimes of genocide against Croatians and Bosniaks in Croatia and Bosnia during the Second World War (1941-1945) were not incidental, rather they were planned and an integral component of the military and political goals of the Chetnik movement. Their origins are in the comprehension of Greater Serbian nationalists and expansionists, of which the Chetnik movement was the most extreme, most organized and most operative part during the war. According to this comprehension, national and historical territories outside of Serbia are also “Serbian” because Serbians live there, regardless of their number. Areas in which there are no Serbians may also be considered “Serbian” if geostrategic or other reasons exist. In this respect, they considered Bosnia and the greater part of today`s Croatia to be “Serbian” and endeavored to “cleanse” them, through crimes of genocide, of Croatians and Bosniaks who formed the majority of the population and then annex them to the ethnically pure “Greater Serbia”. It is precisely this constant effort of the Chetnik movement to establish this “Greater Serbia,” on the mentioned territories, which is the real reason for the Chetnik terror and genocidal crimes and not religious and national differences, nor terror or counter-terror, as some would have us believe. The Chetniks displayed their genocidal comprehension at all opportunities in numerous documents, maps, speeches, statements and actions before, during and unfortunately even after the Second World War. During this war, they attempted to achieve their genocidal plans with the support of and under the protection of first the Italian occupiers and then the German occupiers, as well as the support of the exiled government of Yugoslavia, Great Britain, and the United States. This is why, along with the Chetniks, the above mentioned participants carry their share of the responsibility for these crimes. In this respect, as we have partially shown, Bosniaks and Croatians in many territories in Croatia and Bosnia, from Serbia, Montenegro to Slovenia were “cleansed”. Wherever Chetnik units arrived, horrific crimes were committed, depending only on the relation of forces and the circumstances in a given territory and throughout NDH, Europe, and the world. This resulted in 300 villages and towns, numerous Muslim mosques, Catholic churches, and historical and cultural monuments burned and destroyed and tens of thousands of Croatians and Bosniaks killed. Among them were 67 Muslim imams and hafizs (keepers of the Koran), 52 Catholic priests, and several nuns of whom the most well-known are the so called Drina martyrs, five nuns who were taken by the Chetniks just before Christmas 1941 from the Pale convent to Gorazde where they were tortured, slaughtered, and thrown into the Drina River.
The Chetnik movement did not fulfill its genocidal intentions because it did not possess enough military units.The main reason was the self-organized defense and armed opposition of the Croatian and Bosniak people, which protected them from even more tragic Chetnik crimes in many places and brought about their military defeat. Following the war in 1945, all Chetnik criminals were given the opportunity to answer for their crimes of genocide against the Bosniak and Croatians and their historical, sacred and cultural monuments in court. Many were even given the chance to continue with these crimes under a different symbol (the communist red star?) For this reason, it is not coincidental that such genocidal crimes of greater Serbian nationalists and Chetniks occurred in even more appalling forms, with respect to the number of those killed, the number of refugees, and the destruction, against the Croatians and Bosniaks in the greater Serbian aggression upon the Republic of Croatia in 1991, and then, against the Republic of Bosnia until today. Historical experience shows that the military defeat of the Chetniks renders possible the return of the majority of the surviving Croatian and Bosniak population to their homes, but that is not sufficient. It is necessary to punish all the criminals, because until this is done, there will be no peace on these territories, and the threat of danger, new conflicts and new Chetnik crimes will always exist, which is something all international factors must be conscious of, if they truly want peace and if they do not wish to bear their share of the responsibility for Chetnik genocidal crimes.
Modern-Day Chetnik Movements
Modern groups claiming to be Chetniks fought as paramilitary units in the Yugoslav wars with the stated goal of amputating territory from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. They invoked the “Greater Serbia” ideology.
Vojislav Šešelj, a leader of the Serbian Radical Party, held a rank of voivoda of the Chetniks, given to him in 1989 by Momčilo Đujić, a surviving leader of the WWII Chetniks who fled to the United States.
Šešelj organized the modern Chetnik movement into several paramilitary units, including the “White Eagles” and “Srpski Četnički Pokret” who fought in the Yugoslav Wars which had been linked to several attrocities including Voćin and Vukovar massacres.
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Great article, thank you!
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