In reference to the book “Chetniks” by Joze Tomašević part 2
A textbook on manipulation
Tomašević and his reviewers did not use the most important German wartime documents, but that tale served a purpose along with variety of tricks.
Writes: Miloslav SAMARDŽIĆ
Another test would be to question whether Tomašević enumerated and described the German operations against the Chetniks during 1941-1944. They numbered 34, he does not. He mentions them in passing, whilst one of those he states though planned was not carried out: Operation ‘Tojfel’ against the Chetniks on mount Ozren near Doboj in April 1943. But according to actual reports from German Wehrmacht Supreme Command in the south-east, the losses were: on the Chetnik side, 158 killed and 148 captured and the other side German and Croat losses were 38 dead, 64 wounded and 20 missing.
Does he describe major military operations by the Chetniks against the Germans? No he does not, even though there are countless German reports regarding these operations. The following four German reports were sent within a half-hour of each other on the 5th October 1943. The following four German reports were sent within a half-hour of each other on the 5th October 1943.
’09, 40: radio reports from 3rd Battalion of the 370th Grenadier regiment: Assistance! From 04.00hrs under attack from heavy weapons’. The attack intensified at 07.00 hrs. ‘Northeast Visegrad Chetniks advancing. Please auxiliary troops from Rogatice. Air support please’.
10.00: The main command in Croatia announces: 2nd Mountain Brigade reports Visegrad encircled. The north east part of the city occupied by enemy. Help required in heavy battles. The 6th mountain regiment requires aerial reconnaissance. Militia fled, residents following. Armed reinforcements needed.
10.05: 3rd Battalion of the 370th Grenadier Regiment reports: Pressure from the east so powerful that Croatian irregular soldiers and gendarmes fleeing. Please urgent help from the air.
10.10: Divisional command of the 3rd Battalion to the 370th Grenadier Regiment advises over the radio; “assistance sought from the Luftwaffe, but currently the weather is bad. Croatian forces will today enter Višegrad.”
The Partisans did not take part in offensive operations against the Germans; they systematically hid from them and attacked the Chetniks. Because the Partisans war aim was the struggle for power.
Does Tomašević describe and list the urban settlements that Chetniks liberated from the Germans, 32 in all? No he does not. By contrast the Partisans did not liberate one urban settlement from the Germans, until the arrival of the Red Army.
Does Tomašević describe the actions of saboteur groups, the largest of which was codenamed Group ”Gordon”? No. According to the German anti-saboteur formation ‘Vinek’ saboteur group ‘Gordon’ performed 1.499 acts of sabotage and diversion, mostly on the railways, particularly during the North Africa campaign against Hitler’s Field Marshal Rommel. The most important German supply line went through Serbia, these acts of sabotage occurred at a vital time and are probably a record for the entire Second World War. Whilst performing these actions 35 Chetniks were killed, the Germans captured and executed 396 commandos and saboteurs of Group ‘Gordon ‘, while another 207 of them were sent to concentration camps and a further 50 imprisoned.
Does Tomašević describe the highest level German visit to the occupied Kingdom of Yugoslavia since Hitler’s stay in Maribor in 1941? No, because Heinrich Himmler’s attendance at Kraljevo in October 1942 was to oversee a German operation against the Chetniks.
Does he cite that the largest camp on the territory of Serbia was officially named by the Germans: ”DM camp Dedinje”? in respect of Draza Mihailovic’s initials, because in the camp, which the communists re-named ” Camp at Banjici’, were most of his comrades, including his wife and two children.
Does he cite the countless reports of executions of ”DM hostages” killed? No he does not. They were killed in reprisal for each German solder killed in conflict according to the proportion of one hundred Serbs for each German soldier. Throughout the whole book he only mentions the shooting of 250 ” DM” captives on 25 December 1942, tacitly implying this shooting was an exception.
However, tens of thousands of Serbian hostages were executed.
In one incident alone on September 10th 1943, the German commander of Serbia, General Felber, ordered the execution of 500 Serbian “DM” hostages, in reprisal for the shooting 10 German soldiers by the Chetniks at Jajinci near Belgrade.
The following is Felber’s command for September 17th 1943:
“As a reprisal for an attack on a truck near Bajina Basta, where they killed four and wounded four customs officers, shoot 300 DM supporters”.
Also due to an attack on SS guards in Gojnoj Gori by Chetniks, where they killed four SS men and one officer, Felber ordered the execution 10 “DM” captives.
Following an attack on vehicle near Sevojno, in which a German security officer was wounded, in reprisal 25 “DM” captives were executed.
In a battle at Vrnjacka Banja, Chetniks killed eight German soldiers, the Germans in reprisal on October 1st, 1943 in Jajinci shot 400 ”DM” hostages. On the same day, in Cacak and Jajinci a further 285 Serbs were executed and in Nis 35 executed, in total 720 Serbs were executed in just one day! On the 4th of October in Sabac another 150 supporters of Draza Mihailovic were executed, as well as many other executions.
Finally, did Tomašević quote from major German intelligence reports? No he did not.
For example, these are excerpts from a report by head of German intelligence service for Eastern Europe, General Reinhard Gehlen, on the 9th February 1943:
“Among the various insurrectionist movements that are increasingly troubling in the territory of the former Yugoslav state, the movement of Draza Mihailovic stands in first place when it comes to leadership, weapons, organization and activities … The DM movement is an organisation constituted and based on the fanatical will of every individual … Great knowledge of the terrain by fighters and the positive attitude of the majority of the Serbian people are utilized by the movement … Within the movement D. M. there are also organized armed military units that constitute the `Yugoslav Home Army. Currently it has about 150,000 people in the whole the territory of Yugoslavia. ”
All this is enough to conclude that Tomašević and his reviewers did not use the most important German wartime documents, but the story served along with a variety of other tricks for. For example, when describing the uprising in Serbia in 1941, they turned their attention as to why the uprising broke out. Although there are numerous Wehrmacht military reports, Tomašević cites mostly civilian reports, and those of politicians. For example, Felix Benzler, representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Third Reich in Serbia, in August 1941, used the term ‘communist uprising’ ‘and’ ‘communist movement’. Further he reports on the 12th of September: ” Under the influence of a communist led protest in support of Russia, some individual Chetnik groups also took part in the protest against German occupation troops, although so far there has been no actual fighting”. However, the communists supposed nationalist show of support was a camouflage for their support of communist aims and those of the Soviet communists.
Following this there seemed to be uprisings from every quarter: on July 4th 1941 Stalin directed communists to begin the fight against the Germans in order to relieve the pressure on the Soviet Union, which they duly obeyed. By contrast, the British government during August in several radio broadcasts repeatedly advised occupied nations not to rise up in insurrection, because they ” could only result in severe reprisals with the loss of our key people ”. BBC Radio London transmitted a statement by the President of the Yugoslav government: General Dusan Simovic, who threatened to sanction the leaders of any pre-mature uprising. (Such as happened after World War I when the only surviving leader of the Topličko 1917 uprising was placed under investigation). This “coincided with this Mihailovich’s viewpoint”, and so on.
Thus in a 20 page explanation of the causes of the uprising, and continued throughout the course of Tomašević’s book, he fails to described any event accurately. Almost everything is subordinated to the question of ‘why’ events occurred, while the more important question of ‘what’ actually happened is glossed over, with passing comments in sentences such as: ”Some Chetnik detachments indeed, later that same month, began to fight against the Germans on their own or associated with the Partisans”.
Seemingly, with the use of manipulated evidence the story is logical.
However, Benzler as a politician was not versed in the events on the ground, and to some extent neither was the commander of German troops in Serbia, General Dankelman, for which he was dismissed. They succumbed under the influence of Serbian Germanophiles, who led them to believe falsely that the rebellion was a communist uprising. Seemingly, in the beginning their false assumption was somewhat justified, because on July 7th 1941, the Communists killed the two Serbian gendarmes, not with the intention of starting an anti-German uprising, but rather a communist political revolution. Colonel Draza Mihailovic was covertly connected to the Serbian gendarmerie, the strongest domestic armed formation on the territory of occupied Serbia, with a plan for the gendarmerie to take a major role in the destruction of the Communists. The gendarmerie had freedom of movement in relation to the occupiers, who saw them as a legitimate law enforcement unit. Even before the war they had fought against Communist Party terrorists. However, the Germanophiles learnt of the plan and that gendarmerie commander, Colonel John Trišića was going Ravna Gora (territory under Milhailovich’s command) and asked the Germans to deprive the gendarmerie of weapons and ammunition, and then disband them. With the implication, that a greater threat came from the ”English mercenaries” the Chetniks. During August and September 1941, the Communists suddenly occupied a relatively large area of territory and began killing civilians, who they falsely accused as ‘enemies of the people’. Mihailovic, did not have enough military strength to deal with the Communists, because at his heels were the Germans and domestic Germanophiles. So he moved on to plan B: trying to put the Communists under his command, delaying their destruction, as was his legal obligation, for that he had to wait for an opportune moment (among other things, Tomašević and his reviewers did not put events in a legal perspective). The attempt succeeded only partially, in particular by creating common courts, because otherwise the Communists condemned to death all the wealthier citizens, in order to confiscation their property. Besides, the population and the army were not as keen as the gendarmerie to fight against the communists, but there was an overwhelming willingness to fight the traditional enemy: the Germans. If Mihailovich had just observed events, allowed greater collaboration with the communists and let them gain importance, it would have given them the ability to ‘take power and begin to kill’.
Tomašević’s convoluted story was further mixed up under the miss-guidance of German documents. On 12th September 1944, when the uninformed Benzler reported that there had been no fighting between the Chetniks and the Wehrmacht, the commander of the southeast, Field Marshal List, correctly reported that so far the rebels had ‘incorrectly been called communists’, they were in fact the forces of Milhailovich .
General Staff Major Jaris from the Southeast Command, on September 18th 1941 wrote that the uprising is ”under the leadership of former Yugoslav officers”. General Frederick Turner, German Chief of Staff Serbia, September 21st, described the uprising by ” Mihailovich bandits”. General Franz Böhme, who replaced Dankelman as military commander in Serbia, reported on the 25th September 1941 on the uprising: “the management is in the hands of Serbian officers and soldiers and seems to have enough command personnel ”.
The story in the aforementioned Benzler’s report of 12th September is further unraveled by the chronology of events, according to German military documents:
– 31st August 1941 Chetniks liberated the town of Loznica (8 Chetniks were killed and 10 wounded, while the German losses were 12 killed and 93 captured; it was the first liberated town in occupied Europe).
– 1st September Chetniks liberated the town of Bogatić (25 killed and more wounded, Germans losses one dead, eight injured).
– 4th September Chetniks liberated the town of Krupanj. Losses: Chetniks three dead, three dead partisans (the partisans accounted for 20 percent of the insurgent forces in the attack), Germans 9 dead, 30 wounded and 130 captured.
– 6th September Chetniks liberated the town of Banja Koviljaca. Losses: Chetniks 41 dead, Germans 9 dead, 24 wounded and 51 taken prisoner, the Ustasha – unknown losses.
When at the end of September German reinforcements began to arrive, the primary units facing them were Chetniks, whilst the Communists remained deep in the background, within the center of Uzice forming ‘people’s government bodies’. In November the Chetniks held back these reinforcements at Kadinjaca for a month, if they had reached the city of Uzice the communist defense would have been broken in only two hours.
The price for the premature uprising was enormous. According to a report by General Bader, the Germans from 1st September 1941 to the 12th February 1942 during punishment excursions executed 20,149 Serbs in retaliation. The quota of killing 100 Serbs for each German soldier killed was not fulfilled, so Bader ordered the execution of a further 3,484 Serbian civilians.
After this experience, people saw through the communists and until the end of the war they did not have a stronghold in Serbia, but took over in the wake of Soviet tanks.
The inaccurate manner in which Tomašević describes the uprising in Serbia in 1941, Tomašević extends to all wartime events, namely he uses uninformed and unimportant documents that fit in with his bias that is supportive of the partisans and falsely accuses Milhailovich’s Chetniks. Supposed agreements with the Chetniks were German invention as part of their psychological warfare, and of course there is no documented evidence let alone any signatures on documents, but Tomašević treats this invention as real. Agreements with NDH (Independent State of Croatian) prohibiting removal of Serbs to concentration camps are labeled as collaboration with the Ustasha, even though there are no recorded instances of Chetniks fighting alongside the Ustasha against the partisans. By contrast there are several German documents recording the partisans and Ustasha collaborating against the Chetniks. The efforts by the Italians to stop the terrible genocide by Croatian forces against Serbs and Jews, is also labeled as collaboration with the Chetniks. Tomašević throws every possible false accusation of collaboration against Milhailovich’s legitimate army.
The biased and misleading use of incorrect documents by Tomašević could be described at best as professional misconduct. However, his reference to the genocide of unseen proportions perpetrated by the Croatian Nazi state, as merely: ” brutal anti-Serb Ustasha measures ”, is morally corrupt. Even Hitler’s special envoy to the Balkans, Dr. Hermann Neubacher, wrote that this genocide ”is one of the cruelest actions of the mass murder in world history”, assessing the number of slaughtered at 750,000. The extent and brutality of the genocide is witnessed by the fact that the German generals sought to abolish Croatian Nazi state, but Hitler did not allow this whilst the Italians, who were horrified by the slaughter, occupied half of the territory.
Translated by Mane Popovich