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The Yugoslav Front of World War II, also known as the Yugoslav People's Liberation War (Serbo-Croatian, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian Narodnooslobodilački rat, Cyrillic script: Народноослободилачки рат; Macedonian Народноослободителна борба; or ), was fought in occupied Yugoslavia during World War II (1941 - 1945) between the Yugoslav resistance forces, primarily the Yugoslav Partisans, and the Axis powers.

In April 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker was quickly overrun by Axis forces and partitioned between Germany, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria and client regimes in Croatiamarker and Serbia. Soon after, two guerrilla resistance armies sprang up: the communist-led and republican Yugoslav Partisans, supported by the Soviet Unionmarker, and the royalist Chetnik movement, known officially as the Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland, initially favored by the Western Allies. After brief and unsuccessful attempts at cooperation, the Chetniks allied with the Axis forces against the Partisans, receiving increasing amounts of logistical assistance (in particular, from Italy), eventually losing Allied support.

The Axis mounted a series of offensives intended to destroy the Partisans, coming close to doing so in winter and spring of 1943. Despite the setbacks, the Partisans remained a credible fighting force, gaining recognition from the Western Allies and laying the foundations for the post-war Yugoslav statemarker. With support in logistics, equipment, training, and air power from the Western Allies, and Soviet ground troups in the Belgrade Offensive, the Partisans eventually gained control of the entire country and the border regions of Italy and Austria.

The human cost of the war was enormous. The number of war victims is still in dispute, but is generally agreed to be at least one million. The victims included the majority of the country's Jewish population, many of whom perished in concentration camps run by the client regimes (e.g. Jasenovacmarker, Banjicamarker). The Croatian Ustaše regime and the Chetniks committed wide ranging atrocities against local non-Croat and non-Serb population, respectively, while the Germans carried out mass executions of civilians in retaliation for resistance activity (e.g. Kragujevac massacre). Also, in the immediate aftermath of the war, the Yugoslav Partisans carried extensive reprisal killings, of which the best known are the Bleiburg massacre and the Foibe killingsmarker.


On April 6, 1941 the Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker was invaded from all sides by the Axis powers, primarily by German forces, but also Italian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian formations. During the invasion, Belgrade was bombed by the German air force (Luftwaffe). The invasion lasted little more than ten days, ending with the unconditional surrender of the Royal Yugoslav Army on April 17. Besides being hopelessly ill-equipped when compared to the German army (Wehrmacht Heer), the Yugoslav army attempted to defend all borders but only managed to thinly spread the limited resources available. Also, some Yugoslav divisions refused to fight. Instead,they welcomed the Germans as liberators from Serb oppression. Thus "Yugoslav" resistance to the invasion collapsed overnight.

The main reason was that none of the subordinate national groups - Slovenes, Croats, and Macedonians - were prepared to fight in defense of a Serbian Yugoslavia. The only effective opposition to the invasion was from wholly Serbian units within the borders of Serbia itself. The Serbian General Staff were united on the question of Yugoslavia as a "Greater Serbia", ruled, in one way or another, by Serbia. On the eve of the invasion, there were 165 generals on the Yugoslav active list. Of these, all but four were Serbs.

The terms of the capitulation were extremely severe, as the Axis proceeded to dismember Yugoslavia. Germany occupied northern Sloveniamarker, while retaining direct occupation over a rump Serbian state and considerable influence over its newly created puppet state, the Independent State of Croatiamarker, which extended over much of today's Croatiamarker and contained all of modern Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker. Mussolini's Italy gained the remainder of Slovenia, Kosovomarker, and large chunks of the coastal Dalmatia region (along with nearly all of the Adriaticmarker islands). It also gained control over the newly created Montenegrin puppet statemarker, and was granted the kingship in the Independent State of Croatia, though wielding little real power within it. Hungary dispatched the Hungarian Third Army to occupy Vojvodina in northern Serbia, and later forcibly annexed sections of Baranja, Bačkamarker, Međimurjemarker, and Prekmurje. Bulgaria, meanwhile, annexed nearly all of the modern-day Republic of Macedoniamarker.

After the capitulation of Italy in 1943, all territories under its administration were placed under German or Ustaše control. These include Kosovo, Albania, Montenegromarker, and much of Dalmatia.

The territorial acquisitions of Axis states and the dissolution of Yugoslavia itself, were recognized only by the Axis, while the Allied powers continued to recognize the government-in-exile. When the AVNOJ (the Partisan wartime council in Yugoslavia) was recognized by the Allies, the official recognition of the Partisan Democratic Federal Yugoslaviamarker soon followed. The National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia was recognized by the major Allied powers at the Tehran Conference, when United Statesmarker agreed to the position of other Allied. The newly recognized Yugoslav government, headed by Prime Minster Josip Broz Tito, was a joint body formed from of AVNOJ members and the members of the former government-in-exile in London. The resolution of a fundamental question, whether the new state remained a monarchy or was to be a republic, was postponed until the end of the war, as was the status of King Peter II.

Yugoslav resistance

From the start, the Yugoslav resistance forces consisted of two factions: the Partisans, a communist-led movement propagating pan-Yugoslav tolerance ("brotherhood and unity") and incorporating republican, left-wing, and liberal elements of Yugoslav politics, and the Chetniks, a conservative royalist and nationalist force, enjoying support almost exclusively from the Serbian population in occupied Yugoslavia. The Chetniks were the ones to initially receive recognition from the western Allies. The Partisans were supported by the Soviet Union, but received universal Allied recognition in place of the Chetniks after the Tehran conference (1943). By the time of this conference, the degree of Chetnik-Axis collaboration was indicated to have increased greatly.

The Yugoslav Partisans (officially the People's Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia, NOV i POJ), under the command of Marshal Josip Broz Tito, primarily fought against the German, Italian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, and collaborationist forces. Drawing on a cadre of experienced fighters from the Spanish Civil War to train troops, and on socialist ideology to win support that crossed national lines, they steadily gained power during the struggle winning recognition from the Allies and the Yugoslavian government-in-exile as the legitimate Yugoslav liberation force. The movement grew to become the largest resistance force in occupied Europe, with 800,000 men organized in 4 field armies. Eventually the Partisans prevailed against all of their opponents as the official army of the newly-founded Democratic Federal Yugoslaviamarker (later Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia).

Although the activity of the Macedonian Partisans was part of the Yugoslav People's Liberation War, the specific conditions in Macedonia (due to the strong autonomist tendencies of the local communists) led to the creation of a separate sub-army called the People's Liberation Army of Macedonia which was engaged in the People's Liberation War of Macedonia. In 1944, the Macedonian and Serbian commands made contact in southern Serbia and formed a joint command, which consequently placed the Macedonian Partisans under the direct command of Marshal Josip Broz Tito. The autonomist wing in the Communist Party of Macedonia, which dominated during World War II, was finally pushed aside in 1945 after the Second Assembly of the ASNOM.

The royalist Chetniks (officially the Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland, JVUO), under the command of General Draža Mihailović, drew primarily from the scattered remnants of the Royal Yugoslav Army, relying overwhelmingly on the ethnic Serbian population for support. The Chetniks were formed soon after the invasion of Yugoslavia and the surrender of the government on April 17, 1941. The Chetniks were initially the only resistance movement recognized by the Yugoslavian government-in-exile and the Allied forces. The Partisans and Chetniks attempted to cooperate early during the conflict, but this quickly fell apart. After fruitless negotiations, the Chetnik leader, General Mihailović, turned against the Partisans as his main enemy. According to him, the reason was humanitarian: the prevention of German reprisals against Serbs. This however, did not stop the activities of the Partisan resistance, and Chetnik units attacked the Partisans in November 1941, while increasingly receiving supplies and cooperating with the Germans and Italians in this. The British liaison to Mihailović advised London to stop supplying the Chetniks after the Užice attack (see First anti-Partisan offensive), but Britain continued to do so.

Guerrilla and civil war

Early resistance

Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, began on June 22, 1941. On the same day, Yugoslav Partisans formed the 1st Sisak Partisan Detachment, the first armed resistance unit in Europe. Founded in the Brezovica forest near Sisakmarker, Croatiamarker, its creation marked the beginning of anti-Axis resistance in occupied Yugoslavia.

Various military formations more or less linked to the general liberation movement were involved in armed confrontations with Axis forces which erupted in various areas of Yugoslavia in the ensuing weeks. The Communist Party of Yugoslavia formally decided to launch an armed uprising on July 4, 1941, a date which was later marked as Fighter's Day - a public holiday in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslaviamarker. One Žikica Jovanović Španac ("The Spaniard") shot the first bullet of the campaign on July 7, 1941, later the Day of State of the Socialist Republic of Serbia (part of SFR Yugoslavia).

On August 10, 1941 in Stanulović, a mountain village, the Partisans formed the Kopaonik Partisan Detachment Headquarters. Their liberated area, consisting of nearby villages, was called the "Miners Republic" was the first in Yugoslavia, and lasted 42 days. The resistance fighters formally joined the ranks of the Partisans later on. On December 22, 1941 the Partisans formed the 1st Proletarian Assault Brigade (1. Proleterska Udarna Brigada) - the first regular Partisan military unit, capable of operating outside its local area. December 22 became the "Day of the Yugoslav People's Army". In 1942 Partisan detachments officially merged into the People's Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia (NOV i POJ).

The Chetnik movement was organized after the surrender of the Royal Yugoslav Army, by some of the remaining Yugoslav soldiers. This force was organized in the Ravna Gora district of western Serbiamarker under Colonel Draža Mihailović. However, unlike the Partisans, Mihailović's forces were almost entirely ethnic Serbs. He directed his units to arm themselves and await his orders for the final push. Mihailović avoided direct action against the Axis, which he judged were of low strategic importance.

The Chetniks initially enjoyed the support of the western Allies up to the Tehran Conference (1943). In 1942, Time Magazine, featured an article which praised the "success" of Mihailović's Chetniks, and heralded him as the sole defender of freedom in Nazi-occupied Europe. The Chetniks also were praised for saving several downed Allied pilots. However, Tito's Partisans fought the Germans more actively during this time. Tito and Mihailović had a bounty of 100,000 Reichsmarks offered by Germans for their heads. While "officially" remaining mortal enemies of the Germans and the Ustaše, the Chetniks were known for making clandestine deals with the Italians and other occupying and quisling forces.

Axis response

Italian armored cars in the Balkans.
German forces with French-made H39 tanks fording a river.
Bulgarian soldiers and German armored car.
The Partisans fought an increasingly successful guerrilla campaign against the Axis occupiers and their local collaborators, the Serbian Military Administration, the Ustaše-controlled Independent State of Croatiamarker, and the Chetniks (which they also considered collaborators). They enjoyed gradually increased levels of success and support of the general populace, and succeeded in controlling large chunks of Yugoslav territory. People's committees were organized to act as civilian governments in areas of the country liberated by the Partisans. In places, even limited arms industries were set up.

At the very beginning, however, the Partisan forces were relatively small, poorly armed, and without any infrastructure. But they had two major advantages over other military and paramilitary formations in former Yugoslavia: the first and most immediate advantage was a small but valuable cadre of Spanish Civil War veterans. Unlike some of the other military and paramilitary formations, these veterans had experience with a modern war fought in circumstances quite similar to those found in World War II Yugoslavia. Their other major advantage, which became more apparent in later stages of War, was in the Partisans being founded on ideology rather than ethnicity. Therefore they could expect at least some levels of support in almost any corner of the country, unlike other paramilitary formations limited to territories with Croat or Serb majority. This allowed their units to be more mobile and fill their ranks with a larger pool of potential recruits.

The Axis powers, however, were quite aware of the Partisan threat. They responded to it with numerous minor offensives. There were also seven major Axis operations specifically aimed at eliminating all or most Yugoslav Partisan resistance. These major offensives were typically combined efforts by the German Wehrmacht and SSmarker, Italy, Chetniks, the Independent State of Croatiamarker, the Serbian Military Administration, Bulgaria, and Hungary. In the first half of 1943 two of these offensives came close to defeating the Partisans. They are known by their German code names Fall Weiss (Plan White) and Fall Schwarz (Operation Black), as the Battle of Neretva and the Battle of Sutjeska after the rivers in the areas they were fought, or the 4th and 5th offensive, respectively, according to former Yugoslav historiography.

Former Yugoslav historiographers numbered the seven major Axis offensives as follows:
  • The First anti-Partisan Offensive (First Enemy Offensive), the attack conducted by the Axis in autumn of 1941 against the "Republic of Užice", a liberated territory the Partisans established in western Serbia. In November 1941, German troops attacked and reoccupied this territory, with the majority of Partisan forces escaping towards Bosnia. It was during this offensive that tenuous collaboration between the Partisans and the royalist Chetnik movement broke down and turned into open hostility.

  • The Second anti-Partisan Offensive (Second Enemy Offensive), the coordinated Axis attack conducted in January 1942 against Partisan forces in eastern Bosnia. The Partisan troops once again avoided encirclement and were forced to retreat over Igmanmarker mountain near Sarajevomarker.

  • The Third anti-Partisan Offensive (Third Enemy Offensive), an offensive against Partisan forces in eastern Bosnia, Montenegromarker, Sandžak and Hercegovina which took place in the spring of 1942. It was known as Operation TRIO by the Germans, and again ended with a timely Partisan escape. This attack is mistakenly identified by some sources as the Battle of Kozara, which took place in the summer of 1942.

  • The Fourth anti-Partisan Offensive (Fourth Enemy Offensive), also known as the Battle of the Neretva or Fall Weiss (Case White), a conflict spanning the area between western Bosnia and northern Herzegovina, and culminating in the Partisan retreat over the Neretvamarker river. It took place from January to April, 1943.

  • The Fifth anti-Partisan Offensive (Fifth Enemy Offensive), also known as the Battle of the Sutjeska or Fall Schwartz (Case Black). The operation immediately followed the Fourth Offensive and included a complete encirclement of Partisan forces in southeastern Bosnia and northern Montenegro in May and June 1943.

  • The Seventh anti-Partisan Offensive (Seventh Enemy Offensive), the final attack in western Bosnia in the spring of 1944, which included Operation Rösselsprung (Knight's Leap), an unsuccessful attempt to eliminate Josip Broz Tito personally and annihilate the leadership of the Partisan movement.

Allied support shifts

Later in the conflict the Partisans were able to win the moral, as well as limited material support of the western Allies, who until then had supported General Draža Mihailović's Chetnik Forces, but were finally convinced of their collaboration by many intelligence-gathering missions dispatched to both sides during the course of the war.

To gather intelligence, agents of the western Allies were infiltrated into both the Partisans and the Chetniks. The intelligence gathered by liaisons to the resistance groups was crucial to the success of supply missions and was the primary influence on Allied strategy in Yugoslaviamarker. The search for intelligence ultimately resulted in the demise of the Chetniks and their eclipse by Tito’s Partisans. In 1942, though supplies were limited, token support was sent equally to each. The new year would bring a change. The Germans were executing Operation Schwarz (Battle of Sutjeska, the Fifth anti-Partisan offensive), one of a series of offensives aimed at the resistance fighters, when F.W.D. Deakin was sent by the British to gather information.

His reports contained two important observations. The first was that the Partisans were courageous and aggressive in battling the German 1st Mountain and 104th Light Division, had suffered significant casualties, and required support. The second observation was that the entire German 1st Mountain Division had transited from Russia on rail lines through Chetnik-controlled territory. British intercepts (ULTRA) of German message traffic confirmed Chetnik timidity. Even though today many circumstances, facts, and motivations remain unclear, intelligence reports resulted in increased Allied interest in Yugoslavia air operations and shifted policy. In September 1943, at Churchill’s request, Brigadier General Fitzroy Maclean was parachuted to Tito’s headquarters near Drvar to serve as a permanent, formal liaison to the Partisans. While the Chetniks were still occasionally supplied, the Partisans received the bulk of all future support.

Thus, after the Tehran Conference the Partisans received official recognition as the legitimate national liberation force by the Allies, who subsequently set-up the RAF Balkan Air Force (under the suggestion of Brigadier-General Fitzroy MacLean) with the aim to provide increased supplies and tactical air support for Marshal Tito's Partisan forces.

In January 1944, Tito's forces unsuccessfully attack Banja Lukamarker. But, while Tito is forced to withdraw, Mihajlović and his forces were also noted by the western press for their lack of activity. On June 16, 1944, the Tito-Šubašić agreement between the Partisans and the Yugoslavian Government in exile of King Peter II was signed on the island of Vismarker. This agreement was an attempt to form a new Yugoslav government which would include both the communists and the royalists. It called for a merge of the Partisan Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia (Antifašističko V(ij)eće Narodnog Oslobođenja Jugoslavije, AVNOJ) and the Government in exile. The Tito-Šubašić agreement also called on all Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs to join the Partisans. The Partisans were recognized by the royal government as Yugoslavia's regular army. Mihajlović and many Chetniks refused to answer the call.

Between March 30 and April 8, 1945, General Mihailović's Chetniks mounted a final attempt to establish themselves as a credible force fighting the Axis in Yugoslavia. The Chetniks fought a combination of Ustaša and Croatian Home Guard forces in the Battle on Lijevča field. This battle was fought near Banja Luka in what was then the Independent State of Croatiamarker. The battle ended in victory for the Independent State of Croatia forces.

Allied offensive in the Balkans

[[File:Eastern Front 1943-08 to 1944-12.png|thumb|300px|Soviet advances from August 1, 1943 to December 31, 1944:


In August 1944, King Michael I of Romania staged a coup, Romaniamarker quit the war, and the Romanian army was placed under the command of the Red Army. Romanian forces, fighting against Germany, participated in the Prague Offensive. Bulgariamarker quit as well and, on September 10, declared war on Germany and its remaining allies. The weak divisions sent by the Axis powers to invade Bulgaria were easily driven back. In Macedonia, the Bulgarian troops, surrounded by German forces and betrayed by high-ranking military commanders, fought their way back to the old borders of Bulgaria. Three Bulgarian armies (some 455,000 strong in total) entered Yugoslavia in late September 1944 with the prearranged consent of Tito and the Partisans and moved from Sofiamarker to Nišmarker and Skopjemarker with the strategic task of blocking the German forces withdrawing from Greece. Southern and eastern Serbia and Macedonia were liberated within two months and the 130,000-strong Bulgarian First Army continued to Hungary.

Concurrently, with Allied air support and assistance from the Red Army, the Partisans turned their attention to the Serbian Military Administration, the state of the Serbian Axis fifth column. The area under its had seen relatively little fighting since the fall of the "Republic of Užice" in 1941 (see First anti-Partisan offensive). On October 20, the Red Army and the Partisans liberated Belgrade after a joint operation. At the onset of winter, the Partisans effectively controlled the entire eastern half of Yugoslavia—Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegromarker—as well as most of the Dalmatian coast. The Wehrmacht and the forces of the Ustaše-controlled Independent State of Croatiamarker fortified a front in Syrmia that held through the winter of 1944-45. To raise the number of Partisan troops Tito declared a general amnesty for all members of quisling forces that switched sides before December 31, 1944.

Partisan General Offensive

Meeting between German, Ustaša, and Chetnik commanders, April 1942.

On March 20, 1945, the Partisans launched a general offensive in the Mostarmarker-Višegradmarker-Drinamarker sector. With large swaths of Bosnian, Croatian and Slovenian countryside already under Partisan guerrilla control, the final operations consisted in connecting these territories and capturing major cities and roads. For the general offensive Marshal Josip Broz Tito commanded a Partisan force of about 800,000 men organized into four armies: the 1st Army commanded by Peko Dapčević, 2nd Army commanded by Koča Popović, 3rd Army commanded by Kosta Nađ, and the 4th Army commanded by Petar Drapšin. In addition, the Yugoslav Partisans had eight independent army corps (the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, and the 10th).

Set against the Yugoslav Partisans was German General Alexander Löhr of Army Group E (Heeresgruppe E). This Army Group had seven army corps (the XV Mountain, XV Cossack, XXI Mountain, XXXIV, LXIX, and LXXXXVII). These corps included seventeen weakened divisions (1st Cossack, 2nd Cossack, 7th SS, 11th Luftwaffe Field, 22nd, 41st, 104th, 117th, 138th, 181st, 188th, 237th, 297th, 369th Croat, 373rd Croat, 392nd Croat and the 14th SS Ukranian Division). In addition to the seven corps, the Axis had remnant naval and Luftwaffe forces, under constant attack by the British Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and United States Air Force.

The Army of the Independent State of Croatiamarker was reorganized in November 1944 to combine the units of the Ustaše and Croatian Home Guard into eighteen divisions, comprising 13 infantry, two mountain, two assault and one replacement Croatian Divisions, each with its own organic artillery and other support units. There were also several armoured units. From early 1945, the Croatian Divisions were allocated to various German Corps and by March 1945 were holding the Southern Front. Securing the rear areas were some 32,000 men of the Croatian Gendarmerie (Hrvatsko Oruznistvo), organised into 5 Police Volunteer Regiments plus 15 independent battalions, equipped with standard light infantry weapons, including mortars.

The Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia (Zrakoplovstvo Nezavisne Države Hrvatske, or ZNDH) and the units of the Croatian Air Force Legion (Hrvatska Zrakoplovna Legija, or HZL), returned from service on the Eastern Front provided some level of air support (attack, fighter and transport) right up until May 1945, encountering and sometimes defeating opposing aircraft from the British Royal Air Force, United States Air Force and the Soviet Air Force. Although 1944 had been a catastrophic year for the ZNDH, with aircraft losses amounting to 234, primarily on the ground, it entered 1945 with 196 machines. Further deliveries of new aircraft from Germany continued in the early months of 1945 to replace losses. By 10 March, the ZNDH had 23 Messerschmitt 109 G&Ks, three Morane-Saulnier M.S.406, six Fiat G.50, and two Messerschmitt 110 G fighters. The final deliveries of up-to-date German Messerschmitt 109 G and K fighter aircraft were still taking place in March 1945. and the ZNDH still had 176 aircraft on its strength in April 1945.

Serbian units included the remnants of the Serbian State Guard and the Serbian Volunteer Corps from the Serbian Military Administration. There were even some units of the Slovene Home Guard (Slovensko domobranstvo, or SD) still intact in Sloveniamarker.

By the end of March, 1945, it was obvious to the Croatian Army Command that, although the front remained intact, they would eventually be defeated by sheer lack of ammunition. For this reason, the decision was made to retreat into Austria, in order to surrender to the British forces advancing north from Italy.

Bihaćmarker was liberated by the Partisans the same day that the general offensive was launched. The 4th Army, under the command of Petar Drapšin, broke through the defenses of the XVth SS Cossack Cavalry Corps. By April 20, Drapšin liberated Likamarker and the Croatian Littoralmarker, including the islands, and reached the old Yugoslav border with Italy. On May 1, after capturing the former Italian possessions of Rijekamarker and Istriamarker from the German LXXXXVII Corps, the Yugoslav 4th Army beat the western Allies to Triestemarker by one day.

The Yugoslav 2nd Army, under the command of Koča Popović, forced a crossing of the Bosna Rivermarker on April 5, capturing Dobojmarker, and reached the Una Rivermarker. On May 8, the Yugoslav 2nd Army, along with units of the Yugoslav 1st Army, captured Zagrebmarker. On April 6, the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Corps of the Yugoslav Partisans took Sarajevomarker from the German XXI Corps.

On April 12, the Yugoslav 3rd Army, under the command of Kosta Nađ, forced a crossing of the Drava river. The 3rd Army then fanned out through Podravina, reached a point north of Zagreb, and crossed the old Austrian border with Yugoslavia in the Dravogradmarker sector. The 3rd Army closed the ring around the enemy forces when its advanced motorized detachments linked up with detachments of the 4th Army in Carinthiamarker.

Also on April 12, the Yugoslav 1st Army, under the command of Peko Dapčević penetrated the fortified front of the German XXXIV Corps in Syrmia. By April 22, the 1st Army had smashed the fortifications and was advancing towards Zagreb. After taking Zagreb with the Yugoslav 2nd Army, both armies advanced in Slovenia.

Final operations

On May 2, the German capital city, Berlin, fell. On May 7, 1945, the Germans surrendered unconditionally and the war in Europe officially ended. The Italians had quit the war in 1943, the Bulgarians in 1944, and the Hungarians earlier in 1945. Despite the German capitulation, however, sporadic fighting still took place in Yugoslavia. On May 7, Zagrebmarker was evacuated, on May 9, Maribormarker and Ljubljanamarker were captured by the Partisans, and General Alexander Löhr, Commander-in-Chief of Army Group E was forced to sign the total surrender of the forces under his command at Topolšica, near Velenjemarker, Slovenia, on Wednesday May 9, 1945. Only the Croatian and other anti-Partisan forces remained.

From May 10 to May 15, the Yugoslav Partisans continued to face resistance from Croatian, and other anti-Partisan forces throughout the rest of Croatia and Slovenia. The Battle of Poljana, the last battle of World War II in Europe, started on May 14, ending on May 15, 1945 at Poljana, near Prevaljemarker in Sloveniamarker. It was the culmination and last of a series of battles between Yugoslav Partisans and a large (in excess of 30,000) mixed column of German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) soldiers together with Croatian Ustaše, Croatian Home Guard (Hrvatsko Domobranstvo), Slovenian Home Guard (Domobranci), and other anti-Partisan forces who were attempting to retreat to Austria.


On May 15, 1945 the Croatian Home Guard, the Ustaše, the XVth SS Cossack Cavalry Corps and the remnants of the Serbian State Guard, and the Serbian Volunteer Corps, surrendered to British forces. The Croatians attempted to negotiate a surrender to the British under the terms of the Geneva Convention, but were ignored. The Independent State of Croatiamarker had joined that Convention on January 20, 1943, and was recognised by it as a "belligerent", that is, as a national state with armed forces in the field. All the signatories of the Convention, including Great Britainmarker and the United Statesmarker, were informed that this recognition had been given. On May 5, in the town of Palmanovamarker (50 km northwest of Trieste), between 2,400 and 2,800 members of the Serbian Volunteer Corps surrendered to the British. On May 12, about 2,500 additional Serbian Volunteer Corps members surrendered to the British at Unterbergen on the Drava River.

On May 11 and 12, British troops in Klagenfurtmarker, Austria, were harassed by arriving forces of the Yugoslav Partisans. In Belgrade, the British ambassador to the Yugoslav coalition government handed Tito a note demanding that the Yugoslav troops withdraw from Austria. On May 15, Tito placed Partisan forces in Austria under Allied control. A few days later he agreed to withdraw them. By May 20, Yugoslav troops in Austria had begun to withdraw.

Around June 1, most of the Serbian State Guard, the Serbian Volunteer Corps, the Croatian Home Guard, the Ustaše, and the XVth SS Cossack Cavalry Corps who surrendered to the British were turned over to the Yugoslav government as part of what is sometimes referred to as Operation Keelhaul. The Partisans proceeded to brutalize the POWs in what became known as the Bleiburg massacres. On June 8, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Yugoslavia agreed on the control of Trieste.

On March 8, 1945, a coalition Yugoslav government was formed in Belgrade with Tito as Premier and Ivan Šubašić as Foreign Minister. King Peter II of Yugoslavia agreed to await a referendum on his rule before returning from exile. On November 29, in accordance with overwhelming referendum results, Peter II was deposed by Yugoslavia's Constituent Assembly. On the same day, the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslaviamarker was established as a socialist state during the first meeting of the Yugoslav Parliament in Belgrade. Josip Broz Tito was appointed Prime Minister.

On March 13, 1946, Mihailović was captured by agents of the Yugoslav Department of National Security (Odsjek Zaštite Naroda or OZNA). From June 10 to July 15 of the same year, he was tried for high treason and war crimes. On July 15, he was found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad. On July 16, a clemency appeal was rejected by the Presidium of the National Assembly. During the early hours of July 18, Mihailović, together with nine other Chetnik officers, was executed in Lisičiji Potok. This execution essentially ended the World War II-era civil war between the communist Partisans and the royalist Chetniks.

War victims

The official Yugoslav post-war estimate of victims in Yugoslavia during World War II is 1,704,000. However, the number of 1.7 million was later disputed as being deliberately exaggerated for war reparations from Germany. Germany refused to pay reparations until names were provided of the victims, following which another investigation showed only around 600,000 victims that could be identified by name. Subsequent data gathering in the 1980s by historians Vladimir Žerjavić (Croatian) and Bogoljub Kočović (Serb) showed that the actual number of dead was about 1 million. Both arrived at an almost equal figure during independent, unrelated studies.

This was later confirmed by Professor Vladeta Vučković, Serbian author of the official 1946 Yugoslav document, who agreed with the Žerjavić and Kočović estimations. Vučković stated that he had calculated demographic loss at 1,700,000 (i.e., including those not born, deaths by starvation, diseases, etc.), and later that number was interpreted as actual number of victims and presented by Yugoslav delegation at the peace conference later that year in Paris. Žerjavić's and Kočović's calculations of war losses in Yugoslavia during World War II were accepted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museummarker.

Other sources have confirmed their figures:

Victims by ethnicity

Nationality 1946 Kočović Žerjavić By name
Albanians 4,000 - - -
Bosniak 100,000 86,000 103,000 32,300
Croatian 410,000 207,000 210,000 103,257
Germans - 26,000 28,000 -
Hungarian 3,000 - - -
Jews 60,000 60,000 57,000 45,000
Macedonians 6,000 - - -
Montenegrin 50,000 50,000 20,000 16,276
Slovaks 1,000 - - -
Slovenians 60,000 32,000 42,000 42,027
Serbs 880,000 487,000 530,000 246,740
Turks 686 - - -
Others - 66,000 55,000 31,723
TOTAL 1,703,686 1,014,000 1,027,000 597,323

Victims by SFR Yugoslavmarker federal unit

Country 1946
Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker 690,000
Croatiamarker 630,000
Kosovomarker 14,000
Macedonia 17,000 [358305]
Montenegromarker 50,000
Sloveniamarker 60,000
Serbiamarker 170,000
Vojvodinamarker 40,000

After Federal Republic of Germanymarker (West Germany) refused to pay war reparations for 1,700,000 war victims, the Yugoslav Federal Bureau of Statistics has created a detailed list of victims (with name and surname) in 1964.

Federal Republic Death toll Survived
Bosnia and Herzegovina 177,045 49,242
Croatia 194,749 106,220
Macedonia 19,076 32,374
Montengro 16,903 14,136
Slovenia 40,791 101,929
Serbia proper 97,728 123,818
Kosovo 7,927 13,960
Vojvodina 41,370 65,957
Total victims 597,323 509,849

To number of 597,323 killed with known name and surname Federal Bureau of Statistics has added another 20 - 30 % of dead (called deficiency in report) for unknown victims which has given between 750,000 to 780,000 people killed by German, Italian, Hungarian, Bulgarian or Quisling forces. Together with estimated 200,000 killed collaborators and quislings, the total number would reach about one million. This listing compiled at the request of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1964 will be declared state secret and first time is published only in 1989.

In Croatia, the Commission for the Identification of War and Post-War Victims of the Second World War was active from 1991 until the Seventh Government of the republic, under Prime Minister Ivica Račan ended the commission's work unfinished in 2002. In the 2000s, concealed mass grave commissions were established in both Slovenia and Serbia to document and excavate mass graves from the Second World War.


There existed a number of local faction and militias active on Yugoslav territory during World War II. These include:



See also


  2. David Martin, Ally Betrayed: The Uncensored Story of Tito and Mihailovich, (New York: Prentice Hall, 1946), 34.
  3. Chetnik - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  4. Barton, Dennis; "Croatia 1941 - 1946"; Churchin History Information Centre
  5. Shaw, 1973, p.92
  6. Shaw, 1973, p.89
  7. Independent State of Croatia, or NDH (historical nation (1941-45), Europe) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  8. Hungary - Shoah Foundation Institute Visual History Archive
  9. Rendulić, Zlatko. Avioni domaće konstrukcije posle drugog svetskog rata, Lola institut, Beograd, 1996, p 10
  10. Yugoslavia in World War 2
  12. Bailey, Ronald H. 1980 (original edition from 1978). Partisans and guerrillas (World War II; v. 12). Chicago, Illinois, USA: Time-Life Books. P. 80
  13. Battles & Campaigns during World War 2 in Yugoslavia
  14. Thomas, 1995, p.9
  15. Thomas, 1995, p.17
  16. Thomas, 1995, p.30
  17. Savic, D. and Ciglic, B. Croatian Aces of World War II Osprey Aircraft of the Aces - 49 (Oxford, 2002)
  18. Ciglic, et al., 2007, p. 150
  19. Thomas, 1995, p.22
  20. Shaw, 1973, p.101
  21.,9171,852848,00.html Too Tired Time Magazine 1946-06-24 ]
  22. Nikolić, Goran; "ŽRTVE RATA IZMEDJU NAUKE I PROPAGANDE"; Nova srpska politička misao (in Serbian)
  23. Vladimir Zerjavic - Yugoslavia manipulations with the number of Second World War victims, Publisher: Croatian Information Centre, ISBN 0-919817-32-7
  24. Federal Bureau of Statistics in 1964 published in Newspaper Danas on November 21, 1989
  25. 66 7.6.2002 Zakon o prestanku važenja Zakona o utvrđivanju ratnih i poratnih žrtava II. svjetskog rata

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