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