Author Topic: Serbia under Nazi occupation  (Read 2193 times)

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Offline <k>

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Serbia under Nazi occupation
« on: April 11, 2017, 12:48:19 PM »
OVERVIEW.

The Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia was the area of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia that was placed under a military government of occupation by the Wehrmacht following the invasion, occupation and dismantling of Yugoslavia in April 1941. This territory was the only area of partitioned Yugoslavia in which the German occupiers established a military government. This was due to the key rail and river transport routes that passed through it, and its valuable resources, particularly non-ferrous metals.

On 22 April 1941 the territory was placed under the supreme authority of the German military commander in Serbia, with the day-to-day administration of the territory under the control of the chief of the military administration staff. The lines of command and control in the occupied territory were never unified, and were made more complex by the appointment of direct representatives of senior Nazi figures such as Himmler, Göring and Ribbentrop. The Germans used Bulgarian troops to assist in the occupation, but they were at all times under German control. The military commander in Serbia had very limited German garrison troops and police detachments to maintain order but could request assistance from a corps of three divisions of poorly-equipped occupation troops.

The German military commander in Serbia appointed two Serbian civil puppet governments to carry out administrative tasks in accordance with German direction and supervision. The first of these was the short-lived Commissioner Administration which was established on 30 May 1941. The Commissioner Administration was a basic tool of the occupation regime, lacking in any powers. In late July 1941 an uprising began in the occupied territory, which quickly swamped the Serbian gendarmerie, German police and security apparatus, and even the rear area infantry force. To assist in quelling the rebellion, which initially involved both the communist-led Yugoslav Partisans and the monarchist Chetniks, a second puppet government was established. The Government of National Salvation under Milan Nedić replaced the Commissioner Administration on 29 August 1941. This failed to turn the tide, and the Germans were forced to bring in front line divisions from France, Greece and even the Eastern Front to suppress the revolt. Resistance continued at a low level until 1944, accompanied by frequent reprisal killings, which for some time involved the execution of 100 hostages for every German killed.



NOTE: Most of the text in this topic is taken from Wikipedia. I have shortened it and rearranged it to suit my purposes.

Main Wikipedia source: Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia.

Offline <k>

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2017, 12:49:39 PM »
In 1934 King Alexander I of Yugoslavia was assassinated in Marseilles while on a visit to France. The crown prince then became King Peter II, at the age of only eleven. However, since he was so young, his uncle, Prince Paul, ruled as regent in his place. Paul kept Yugoslavia neutral after the outbreak of World War 2. However, though he was pro-Allied in his sympathies, in March 1941 he felt obliged to sign the Tripartite pact and cooperate with the Nazis, who now dominated much of Europe. Two days later he was deposed in a military coup by anti-Nazi officers opposed to the pact, and King Peter was installed in power.  The next month Hitler attacked Yugoslavia and then dismembered it after its surrender on 17th April. On 6 April 1941 the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was invaded from all sides by the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and their ally Hungary. King Peter fled the country with his government, ending up in England in June, where he later joined the RAF.

Hitler blamed the Serbs for the anti-Nazi coup, since they dominated the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. After dismembering Yugoslavia, he also partitioned Serbia itself, awarding parts of its territory to his Axis allies. Hungary gained the western part of Vojvodina from Serbia, and also part of Slovenia. The Independent State of Croatia, newly created from the territory of Yugoslavia as an Axis satellite, extended its territory into parts of former Serbia. Bulgaria annexed Yugoslav Macedonia and also parts of southern Serbia. Italy had conquered and occupied Albania in 1939, and now it annexed the ethnically Albanian parts of Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia to Albania proper. Mussolini also annexed parts of Slovenia and Croatia to Italy.

The remaining part of Serbia was now known as “The Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia” and was under German occupation. The eastern half of Vojvodina, known as the Banat, was home to many ethnic Germans, though they were not a majority in the region. The Banat had a total population of 640,000, including 280,000 Serbs, 130,000 Germans, 90,000 Hungarians, 65,000 Romanians, 15,000 Slovaks and 60,000 of other ethnicities. Hitler decided to give the Banat its own limited autonomy, putting ethnic Germans in charge and in effect separating it from the rest of Serbia.

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2017, 12:53:44 PM »
As a visual aid, here is a map of modern Serbia, as it was before Kosovo broke away and declared independence. Serbia is surrounded by the territories of many different nationalities, some of whom still belonged to Yugoslavia in the 1930s and after 1945.

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2017, 12:57:14 PM »
Below you see the different regions of Vojvodina, which was part of Serbia. The lower map shows how Vojvodina was partitioned between the  Axis powers.

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2017, 01:07:23 PM »
Here is a map showing the partition of the whole of Yugoslavia. It's a complex situation, so a few maps are helpful.



See also: Croatia: Nazi Satellite State, 1941-5.

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2017, 01:12:24 PM »
The first government of rump Serbia, known as The Commissioner Government, has been described as "a low-grade Serbian administration under the control of the German military command - a simple instrument of the occupation regime". It was headed by Milan Aćimović and operated from 30 April 1941 to 29 August 1941. Milan Aćimović was born in 1898 in Belgrade and received a law degree from the University of Belgrade in 1923. He became the chief of police in Belgrade in 1938 and was Minister of the Interior from December 1938 to February 1939. Most of the former local administrators in rump Serbia remained in place, and the German military administration placed its own administrators at each level to supervise the local authorities. In mid-May Aćimović's administration issued a declaration to the effect that the Serbian people wanted "sincere and loyal cooperation with their great neighbour, the German people".

While the commissioners were quite experienced in their portfolio areas or in politics or public administration generally, the Aćimović administration itself was in an extremely difficult position because it lacked any power to actually govern. The three main tasks of the Aćimović administration were to secure the acquiescence of the population to the German occupation, help restore services, and "identify and remove undesirables from public services". Refugees escaping persecution in the Independent State of Croatia, and others fleeing Bulgarian-annexed Macedonia, Kosovo and Hungarian-occupied Bačka and Baranja had begun to flood into the territory.

In 1941 the administration's Military Commander, Franz Böhme, responded to guerrilla attacks on German forces by carrying out the German policy towards partisans that 100 Serbs would be killed for each German killed and 50 Serbs killed for each wounded German. The first reprisals were the massacres in Kragujevac and in Kraljevo by the Wehrmacht. This policy proved to be counterproductive, as it ruined any possibility of gaining any substantial numbers of Serbs to support the collaborationist regime.

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2017, 01:18:27 PM »
After the collapse of Yugoslavia, the National Bank of Yugoslavia was forced into liquidation on 29 May 1941, and two days later a decree was issued by the Military Commander in Serbia creating the Serbian National Bank. The new bank was under the direct control of Franz Neuhausen, the plenipotentiary general for economic affairs, who appointed the governor and board members of the bank, as well as a German commissioner who represented Neuhausen at the bank and had to approve all important transactions. The new bank introduced the Serbian dinar as the only legal currency and called in all Yugoslav dinars for exchange. At this stage only banknotes were introduced. Coins were not issued until 1942.

The Germans imposed huge occupation costs on the Serbian territory from the outset, including amounts required to run the military administration of the territory as determined by the Wehrmacht, and an additional annual contribution to the Reich set by the Military Economic and Armaments Office. The occupation costs were paid by the Serbian Ministry of Finance on a monthly basis into a special account with the Serbian National Bank. Occupation costs amounted to about 40% of the current national income of the territory by mid-1944.

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2017, 01:53:30 PM »
From late 1939, Nazi Germany had been in a pact with the Soviet Union, which allowed the two countries to partition Poland. Stalin had also annexed the Baltic states and part of Finland. It had always been Hitler's intention to attack the Soviet Union, because he despised communism. The Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.

Many Yugoslavs were overjoyed at the entry of the Soviet Union into the war, thinking that this meant the Nazis would soon be defeated. Stalin encouraged the people in the Nazi-occupied territories of Europe, and in particular those people who were members of the communist party, to rise up against the Nazis. The Uprising in Serbia was initiated in July 1941 by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia against the German occupation forces and their Serbian auxiliaries in the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia. At first the Yugoslav Partisans had mounted diversions and conducted sabotage and had attacked representatives of Aćimović's quisling administration. In late August some Chetniks joined the uprising and liberated Loznica. The uprising soon reached mass proportions.

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2017, 02:04:05 PM »
As a result of the uprising, Harald Turner, an SS commander in the German military administration, suggested strengthening and reforming the government. Milan Nedić, formerly chief of general staff of the Royal Yugoslav Army and later Minister of the Army and Navy, was selected to be the head of the new government, as the best available candidate. Nedić had welcomed the anti-Nazi Yugoslav coup of 1941, which deposed the pro-Axis regime, and he fought for Yugoslavia in the German-led Axis invasion that followed.The Germans now had to apply significant pressure to Nedić to encourage him to accept the position, including threats to bring Bulgarian and Hungarian troops into the occupied territory and to send him to Germany as a prisoner of war. Unlike most Yugoslav generals, Nedić had not been interned in Germany after the capitulation, but instead had been placed under house arrest in Belgrade.

On 27 August 1941, about seventy-five prominent Serbs convened a meeting in Belgrade where they resolved that Nedić should form a Government of National Salvation to replace the Commissioner Government, and on the same day, Nedić wrote to Danckelmann agreeing to become the Prime Minister of the new government. Two days later, the German authorities appointed Nedić and his government, although real power continued to reside with the German occupiers. There was no foreign minister or minister for the Army and Navy. The Nedić regime itself "had no status under international law, and no power beyond that delegated by the Germans", and "was simply an auxiliary organ of the German occupation regime."

The Nedić government ostensibly had a policy of keeping Serbia quiet to prevent Serbian blood from being spilled. The regime carried out German demands faithfully, aiming to secure a place for Serbia in the New European Order created by the Nazis. The propaganda used by the Nedić regime labelled Nedić as the "father of Serbia", who was rebuilding Serbia and who had accepted his role in order to save the nation. The Nedić government formed institutions similar to those in Nazi Germany and used racist terminology that was taken from Nazi ideology, glorifying the Serbian "race" and accepting its "aryanhood”.  Nedić hoped that his collaboration would save what was left of Serbia and avoid total destruction by Nazi reprisals. He personally kept in contact with Yugoslavia's exiled King Peter, assuring the King that he was not another Pavelić (the leader of the Croatian Ustaše), and Nedić's defenders claimed he was like Philippe Pétain of Vichy France (who was claimed to have defended the French people while accepting the occupation), and denied that he was leading a weak Quisling regime.

Nedić is seen on the far right of the image below.

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2017, 02:19:10 PM »
Aside from the Wehrmacht, which was the dominant Axis military in the territory, and (from January 1942) the Bulgarian armed forces, the Germans relied on local collaborationist formations for the maintenance of order. Local movements were formed nominally as subordinate to the local puppet government, but remained under direct German control throughout the war. The primary collaborationist formation was the Serbian State Guard, which functioned as the "regular army" of the Government of National Salvation of General Nedić. By October 1941 German-equipped Serbian forces had, under supervision, become increasingly effective against the resistance.

Foremost among these forces was the Serbian Volunteer Corps. On 16 September 1941 the puppet government had called upon the Serbian population to form anti-communist units. The next day 234 members of ZBOR, a pre-war political party, enlisted as the first volunteers. In the 1930s, Zbor only ever polled around 1% of the vote in elections. This is because it was pro-German, whereas the majority of Serbs were anti-German in sentiment. Zbor was against Jews, the Free Masons and western capitalism. It also believed in the dominance of the Serbs in Yugoslavia. Yet its leader, Dimitrije Ljotić, was also a monarchist and a religious fanatic. Since Zbor never held real power, it is difficult to say whether it was truly fascist or merely an extreme racist, elitist and reactionary organisation.

On 17 September the Serbian Volunteer Corps was formed under the command of Colonel Konstantin Mušicki, a Serbian officer. The command consisted of 12 companies, each 120-150 men strong. Many volunteers came from the student ZBOR organization and others were refugees from Croatia. The Serbian Volunteer Corps was formally under Nedić's Command of Gendarmerie, but it was actually under the direct control of SS and Police Leader, August Meyszner. In operations in the field, its units were put under the tactical command of German divisions. SDK units were not allowed to move from the assigned territory without German authorization.

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2017, 03:53:29 PM »
Cooperation between the Serbian puppet government and the Chetniks began in the autumn of 1941. The Chetnik were Yugoslav royalists, mostly Serb, who hated the communist partisans even more than they hated the Nazis. The Chetniks wanted to minimise Serbian casualties from German reprisals by defeating the partisans, and later wanted to gain a solid base in the Nedić regime's military and administrative apparatus, so that they could seize control of the government before the partisans at the end of the war. As military conditions in Serbia deteriorated, Nedić increasingly cooperated with Chetnik leader Draža Mihailović.

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2017, 04:10:11 PM »
In October 1941, members of Zbor organised a Grand Anti-Masonic Exhibition in Belgrade. In January 1942 Serbia issued a set of stamps to commemorate this event.

The designs are an almost hallucinatory vision of evil. The evil is entirely in the eyes of the designers, of course, because this is the pure propaganda of hate. Masons, Jews and communists are targeted in symbols of pure hatred. This must be one of the most astonishing sets of stamps ever issued - for all the wrong reasons. If fascists took drugs, perhaps these are the scenes they would see.

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2017, 07:15:22 PM »
In 1942 the first coins appeared: the 50 para, 1 dinar and 2 dinara coins. They were all made of zinc. The obverse showed the double-headed eagle from the Serbian coat of arms, but without the crown, because Serbia no longer had a king, and Yugoslavia no longer existed. The reverse of all the coins showed the year, and the denomination appeared between two ears of wheat.

Below you see the 1 dinar of 1942, courtesy of numista.

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2017, 07:17:02 PM »
The reverse of the 2 dinara coin.

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Re: Serbia under Nazi occupation
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2017, 07:18:27 PM »
Here you see the reverse of the 50 para. The surface of the coin is badly corroded, a typical hazard of zinc coins.