Wednesday, Oct 22nd, 2014

Yugoslav Partisans saved 795 Allied airmen in World War II

It is important to educate the public about the fact that anti-Fascist Partisans also saved American Airmen in World War II.

By on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 - 1,452 words.

Image: Anti-fascist Croatian Partisan fighter Stjepan Filipović shouting "Death to fascism, freedom to the People!" (the Partisan slogan) seconds before his execution by a Serbian Nazi unit, Serbian State Guard, in Valjevo, occupied Yugoslavia.

Operation Halyard was one of the largest Allied airlift operation behind enemy lines of World War II. The Yugoslav Partisans played a major role in saving downed Allied airmen. Serbian nationalists often claim that Chetniks saved over 500 downed airmed, but that figure is simply wrong. According to statistics compiled by the US Air Force Air Crew Rescue Unit, between 1 January and 15 October 1944, a total of 1,152 American airmen were airlifted from Yugoslavia, 795 with the assistance of the Yugoslav Partisans and 356 with the help of the Serbian Chetniks.

In World War II, the Yugoslav Partisans were a multi-ethnic resistance force under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito (Josef Tito). It included Croats, Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Jews, Roma (‘Cigani’), Slovenes, Albanians (‘Siptari’) and Serbs. On the other hand, the Chetniks were a Serbian nationalist organization led by opportunistic Nazi-collaborator General Draza Mihailovich (aka: Dragoljub Mihailovic).

Quazi-historians with obvious Serbian sympathies – like Lucien Karchmar – often cite the Operation Halyard as ‘evidence’ of the Chetnik’s anti-fascist ideology. After all, why would Serbian Nazi collaborators save 356 allied airmen? It is because Draza Mihailovic was going to great lengths to regain Allied support and to depict himself in a favorable light to the western Allies. With the Axis defeat in Europe a certainty and having lost all Allied support to the Partisans, Draza Mihailovic and his Nazi collaborationalist movement stood no chance of survival. The Allies were aware that Mihailovic’s Chetniks were at the same time also rescuing Nazi German and Nazi Ustasha aviators from Tito’s anti-fascist Partisans.

According to Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies,

The Chetniks’ struggle with the invaders came to a complete stop at the end of 1941, and gradually evolved into cooperation with the Italians and the Germans against Tito… By the end of 1943, the break between the West and the Chetniks was complete. The Chetniks became [nazi] collaborators and joined the forces fighting the partisans. After the occupation of Serbia by the partisans and the Red Army, the Chetniks were hunted down. Shortly after the end of the war, Mihajlovic and his men were captured and brought before a Yugoslav national tribunal. Most of them were hanged.”

According to Yad Vashem, Serbian Chetniks led by General Draza mihailovic killed Jews:

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.”

General Draza Mihailovic was antisemite who hated Jewish people. his Chetniks movement despised Tito’s Partisans, because Partisan units were (according to Chetniks) largely ‘composed’ of “Jews, Gypsies and Muslims.” The Chetniks hated all national minorities in Yugoslavia. At the beginning of World War II, Draza Mihailovic’s movement demonstrated a full intent to commit genocide against Bosnian Muslims, Jews, and Croats.

As part of his policies in support of the creation of Greater Serbia, General Mihailovic issued the so called “Instructions” (“Instrukcije”) to his commanders on December 20, 1941 to fight for “the creation of Greater Yugoslavia, and within it Greater Serbia, ethnically clean within the borders of Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Srem, Banat, and Backa” and to ‘cleanse’ (destroy) “all national minorities [including Jews] and anti-state elements from state territory“. Further, Mihailovic asked his commanders create “direct common borders between Serbia and Montenegro, as well as Serbia and Slovenia by cleansing the Muslim population from Sandzak, and Muslim and Croat populations from Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Mihailovic planned to settle “areas cleansed of national minorities and anti-state elements by Montenegrins” whom he considered to be ‘nationally patriotic’ and ‘honest.’

From 1941-1943 Serbian Chetniks committed genocide by systematically rounding up and killing more than 50,000 Bosnian Muslims. In one of largest terrorist raids on Muslim villages from both sides of Drina, Chetniks rounded up and killed some 15,000 Muslims in February of 1943. Chetnik leader Pavle Djurisic provided a bit conservative figures, admitting his troops, in fact, killed 9,200 Bosnian Muslim “women, old people, and children” in a single military operation in February of 1943.

Having slaughtered more than 50,000 Muslims by 1943, Serb fascists also hunted down and killed Jews. However, the killing of Jews started much earlier and was, statistically speaking, devastating for the Jewish community. Ninety percent of Yugoslav Jews perished in World War II.

The oppression of Jews in Serbia started before the arrival of Hitler’s occupying forces. Six months before the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia, Serbia voluntarily passed the legislation restricting Jewish participation in the economy, education and employment. One year later, on 22 October 1941, anti-Semitic “Grand Anti-Masonic Exhibit” was funded by Serbia’s capital city, Belgrade. Serbian Orthodox Church also encouraged antisemitism and portrayed Jews and “scum” of this world. Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic openly encouraged Serbs to assist Germans in exterminating Jews. Serbian Orthodox Church canonized Serbian nazi collaborator Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic who is now regarded as ‘as the most distinguished religious personality since Saint Sava’”

Serbian Nazi fascists worked closely with German Nazi officials in making Belgrade the first “Judenfrei” (free of Jews) city of Europe. Serbian leader Milan Nedic made an official visit to Adolf Hitler on 19 September 1943, advancing the idea that Serbia is no place for Jews and thanking ‘Führer’ for his decision to exterminate our people in Europe.

Throughout the War, the Serbian 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. With Adolf Hitler’s blessing, Serbian Nazi collaborators established the Serbian State Guard which comprised of around 20,000 Serb fascists, compared to the the 3,400 German police in Serbia. Their mission was to hunt down and kill Jews, Gypsies and other non-Serbs.

Milan Nedic’s second in command was Dimitrije Ljotic. Ljotic founded the Serbian Fascist Party and organized the Serbian SS Volunteers Corps which hunted down and killed Jews, Gypsies and Muslims. Serbian citizens received cash bounties for capturing or killing Jews.

Banjica concentration camp was primarily operated by Serb Nazis who took sadistic pleasure in killing Jews. The camp was created by converting barracks of the Serbian SS 18th infantry division. The funding for this conversion came not from Germans, but from the municipal budget of Belgrade.

Jews were also killed in the Sajmiste concentration camp. According to Dr. Josip Pecaric,

With reference to Sajmiste, it is important to note that it is the only concentration camp in the Second World War which was set up exclusively for Jews, the only ‘Jewish camp’ (Judenlager) in the world, from which no Jews survived (this was true of Banjica as well). Camp inmates were executed on the streets of Belgrade, using mobile gas chambers, and mass graves were located in various parts of the city. This makes Belgrade the only capital city that was also a concentration camp during the war; and all of this in plain view of the city’s inhabitants.”

Serbian collaborationist forces during this period, sanctioned by the Serbian fascist government, also included the ZBOR party and Serbian Volunteer Corps led by Dimitrije Ljotić and the rogue Chetnik faction of Kosta Pećanac. Serbian Gestapo, officially known as the 1st Belgrade Special Combat detachment, was a special Serbian SS police unit which was established in World War II Serbia.

It was only after the withdrawal of the Germans and the overthrow of the Nedic regime in October 1944 that the Serbs in Serbia began to join the anti-fascist Partisans in large numbers. These new Partisans included tens of thousands of former Serbian Nazi collaborators responding to Tito’s promises of amnesty.

It is true that Bosnian Muslims also had their own SS Handzar unit.

The so called “13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar [Handzar] (1st Croatian)” was one of the thirty-eight divisions fielded as part of the Waffen-SS during World War II. However, this Nazi unit did not target Jewish people in the World War II. The Handschar division was a mountain infantry formation, the equivalent of the German “Gebirgsjäger” (Mountain troops) units. It was used to conduct operations against anti-fascist Yugoslav Partisans and Serbian Nazi-collaborationist Chetniks. Its recruits were composed of Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croats (Bosnian Catholics), because both ethnic groups were persecuted and killed by Serbian Nazi collaborators (Chetniks).

An overhelming majority of Bosnian Muslims (98%) joined Partisans in the Second World War and fought against the Germans and Serbian nazi collaborators, Chetniks. Handzar Division was relatively short lived. It was created in 1943 and it disintegrated mid-field in late 1944.


  1. Beverly says:

    I don't see how Wikipedia is a good source for anything – I can go and post something there right now, but if you want to go there, then for your own benefit do your research completely. I'm not Serbian nor Croatian, but I study that part of the world, and I personally like to study every side of the story. Because there are always a few sides to every story, numbers are our safest bet. Although every 'side' has its good and bad, if you look at the numbers, the Nazi Serbs conducted the most atrocities in WW2 in that region just like the Serbs conducted the most atrocities in the recent Bosnian war of 1992.

  2. Nik says:

    Once again, a desperate hotchpotch of unrelated items from this same author. A photo of a commie being hanged has nothing to do with the title of the article, but don't let propaganda stand in the way of a good photo op.

    Anyone wanting the truth about Operation Halyard would make a good start by going here:
    and also purchasing or borrowing the Gregory Freeman book from a library. It features none of the political sniping and untruths of this article. Operation Halyard was a self-contained operation and covered the evacuation of 500+ air crew over a short period, and this was from behind enemy lines, not Partizans using clear transport and communications links to return men to a border.

    The author fails to add that the Partizans also contained many Ustashi who changed sides when they realized that they could continue to kill Serbs.

    Talking of 'quazi-historians' (sic.), the author fails to see that his own uncited 'facts', eg. 356 allied airmen should read 500+, and that is fact. As for quoting fellow quaZi historians, about Chetniks being Nazi collaborators, he doesn't bother with evidence. It is as insulting as saying that Jews who worked in concentration camps were Nazi collaborators. When the majority of people slaughtered during WW2 were Slavs and not Jews – within Yugoslavia and also if you counted the rest of Europe and Russia – it is odd that the author only chooses Jewish perspectives in his writings. That is very odd.

    Too much uncited fiction in the article to address individually, but I would urge anyone wanting the real truth to get yourselves a book. This author continues to ignore Partizan collaborations with the Nazis, also the 1943 attempt by Tito to reach a deal with them, and also the communists political, via propaganda newspapers, support for the Ustashi.

    Running out of material, the author then goes on to recycle the Djurisic material from his previous work, such is the paucity of the "research" that has been done. Durisich, remember, was not acting under Mihailovic's orders and, besides, the author cannot resist a Serb-bashing digression. Once again, a masonic exhibition made under force of the Nazis is pinned to Serbs, but of course this is also recycled by the author from a previous article and has no bearing to the subject of the article, which is the rescue of air men.

    Once again, the author, looking to save the planet by recycling, uses his 'judenfrei' story again, and fails to mention that it was the volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans born in Yugoslavia) who said this.

    Once again, the author fails to pick up a book and read that James Klugmann was responsible for the Chetniks losing support politically and giving their military success reports credited to the communists.

    Yet again, the author says that Ljotic was Nedic's second in command, which was not true. That the Serbian Volunteer Corps was SS – not true – and that they targetted Jews, Gypsies, and Muslims – not true because they were formed to fight communists. Their battle reports are all to do with fighting communists. As for "Serbian SS 18th Infantry Division", I can only repeat what I said the last time the author raised this, which was that the 18th SS division was called 'Horst Wessel' and comprised of Hungarian volksdeutshe, ethnic Germans in other words, and there were many ethnic Hungarians and Germans in Yugoslavia at the time Any time you see "Serbian" and "SS" by this author, you know it is not true because there were no Serbian SS units, however much propagandists and failed bloggers would like it to be true. The author also ignores the (true) reputation of the Bosnian Muslim SS Handzar Division and seeks to play it down – they weren't Serbs, were they? – and fails to mention their reputation for cutting out the hearts of their victims.

    So, another article with the majority of text recycled from the author's previous work and having little or nothing to do with the title of the article beyond the first paragraph. Anyone wanting to learn the real history is advised to read books by real historians.

  3. Yahalom Kashny says:

    "Any blanket identification of the Serbs as being friendly to the Jews is totally baseless. " according to Shlomo Avineri, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a former director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

    Excerpt from Shlono Avineri's article:

    "When the Germans occupied Belgrade in 1941, a collaborationist Serb administration was set up by the Nazis in the Serbian areas. It was headed by a Serbian commander and former Yugoslav minister of war, Gen. Milan Nedic.

    It was this collaborationist Serbian regime that issued anti-Jewish laws, deprived Jews of their property and livelihood, herded them into concentration camps and delivered them to their deaths at the hands of the Germans."

  4. amazed says:

    Stumbled on this protracted argument while trying to aid a student in related research. It's accepted that the victorious write the most history, but it's truly sad that no absolute truth can be made clear and obtainable to anyone at any time.

  5. Vladan says:

    Many Jews are idealistic and joined communist movements because of ideology rather than multi-ethnic reasons. Trying to portray Croats as the 'good guys' while they willingly joined the Nazi movement and opened so many concentration camps including one exclusively for children is living in denial. The history of Croatia during the second world war is shameful and they should face reality. Partisans were mostly composed from Serbs from Croatia who fled the Ustashe although the leadership of the Partisans was as you say mostly composed of non Serbs.
    The official policy of the Croatian government was anti-jewish and they sent as many jews as they could to the Jasenovac concentration camp. The Serbian government under german occupation never applied anything close to that. Even the camp called Sajmiste which is in today's Belgrade was during the second world war part of the Croatian independent State.
    Manipulating history to make oneself feel good about himself is showing no respect to all those who died in horrible conditions during all these wars.

  6. Poli Sci Student says:

    WW2 affected many people around the globe. Despite each country, ethnic group or individual’s reasons for taking a particular side in that war, most areas affected have somehow learned from the past and accepted the true nature and history of what really happened. Politicians and Government leaders used rhetoric/propaganda to turn people of different backgrounds against each other, but many of these countries have recovered and created a descent life for their people. The Balkan region seems to still be stuck in the past teaching and feeding deep rooted hatred for different ethnicities. Politicians in this region are still using this this blunt instrument of hatred to control the masses in order to further their personal goals and profit financially form it. It is time for the people of Eastern Europe (specifically Ex-Yugoslavia) to wake up and join the rest of Europe and show their government who they really are……a generation of educated Europeans who were affected by many years of war, but ready for change and opportunity despite the political rhetoric of hatred from their politicians. Accept the truth and move forward by finding the common traits that bind you together and make you stronger as a people or country.

  7. Jure says:

    what are you talking about , who operated the worst death camp in yugoslavia ww11 may be in europe ,the ustase did thats who open your bloody sick catholic eyes,, and by the way i am a catholic

  8. Vladan says:

    please provide at least something to back your last paragraph. The first two paragraphs are correct though.
    I don't know of concentration camps in Serbia however please read this

  9. kris says:

    That is true. He who wins writes history! On the article, I don't know were you done your research. You missed out on information. So I am sorry to say this but your research lacked depth. You missed out on many things. I have a Macedonian Background and there were plenty of soldiers fighting in the partisan army against the Germans and Chetniks and the Croatian Ushtasse. Before my grandfather past away 2 years ago. He told me what happened in those years. His story is an amazing one to me. He was ment to go to the front line against the Germans. The day before he fell ill and was hospitalised for 3 weeks. The strange thing was on the frontline were he had his best friends and cousins all of them Macedonian and some serbian soldiers (which were all orphans) were all killed.
    No one came back! I was also told (by my Grandfather) that the partisans actually helped the Jews get out of the reaches of the Nazi's. Chetniks and Ushtasse were with the germans. I have many croatian and serbian friends. And when we have spoken about ww2 both nationalities had family either for side partizan or ushtasse. So it come down to who you wanted to fight for. I am thankful that I was brought up by my parents to respect everyone no matter what they are race, colour or religion. Now my dads advice was that of his dad. Who fought in ww2. He always told me that no one wants to fight a war. Its the leaders and all us people are the one's that suffer. He always told us about how the war was but always kept the horrific stuff he had witnessed to himself. I look back at what happened to him 1 day before he was chosen for the frontline and think to myself someone was watching over him or else I would never be on this planet. So for everyone, the advice my grandad told me was dont look backwards at tragic things that happened. They should be left behind as talking about who done this and who done that just leads to more future wars. This come from a man who was so pleasant in life. But had been in an awful generation. Our family are proud to have all his medals. On that note peace to all you guys i gotta do some work now. And do some proper research before you right history. Its hard to do though as most of the veterans who can tell the truth about who they fought for and why they chose them are deceased. Remember everyone has a choice in life. You can chose to fight or die!

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