By Wilfried Heink-
In the Fight with the Partisans:
This is the caption of the first chapter under “Yugoslavia” – getting back to Crimes of the Victors, the book under discussion. It contains four chapters in total, Yugoslavia, Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia.
Instead of writing “the authors tell us”, or “we are told”, I’ll just translate what is written, not verbatim unless noted, with the page numbers added and add my comments if necessary.
Russian defense minister Marshal Andrei Grechko, during the 1975 preparation of the victory celebrations regarding the 30th anniversary of Germany’s defeat, stated in the Czech press that it was not just the Soviet army that defeated Germany, but that the resistance groups of east and south Europe played a decisive part. The Yugoslavs protested, for Grechko placed the efforts of the Romanians and Bulgarian’s on the same level as those of the Yugoslavs. Marshall Josip Broz Tito, in a speech, talked of distortion of history (p.25). 1.7 million Yugoslav lives were lost in their fight for freedom; there could never be mention of a “joint victory over Fascism”. When reminded that the Red Army supplied the Yugoslav resistance fighters with weapons and logistics, Tito replied that all they lacked were tanks. The Russian historian Wladimir Selenin, in a TASS interview, praised the efforts of the Yugoslav partisans who tied up large continence of German troops, making it possible for Red Army troops to be successful elsewhere. Thus helping to defeat the Germans, as well as the Italians and making the landing of the Anglo-American troops in Italy possible. This was still not enough to satisfy Tito (p.26).
As an aside, concerning the defeat of the Italians, here is what A. Fredborg had to say about some of them:
“The Rumanians run like rabbits, and the Italians are little better,” a German officer told me. He added that German troops had been brought up to the Middle Don and replaced the yielding Italians and Rumanians…One of the most important prerequisites for the partisan activities in Croatia-and in Serbia and Montenegro too,…was the double game to which the Italians committed themselves. Why they did so, is not quite clear. Part of the explanation is probably that they quite simply wanted to buy themselves peace. However that may be, the partisans got arms, ammunition, and food from them.” (Behind the Steel Wall, p. 152; 158/59)
Hitler should have been more careful when picking allies, for, with friends like these… Now back to whose partisans get the credit for defeating the Germans. On a visit to Moscow by Yugoslav President Bijedic on April 9, 1975 – during a toast – Bijedic never mentioned the role the Red Army played in Yugoslavia, but told the audience that:
“Die Völker und Nationalitäten Jugoslawiens, die von der Kommunistischen Partei und vom Genossen Tito geführt werden, begannen mit den Vorbereitungen zum organisierten Kampf vom ersten Tage des Überfalls Hitlers auf Jugoslawien und der Kapitulation des monarchistischen Regimes im April, 1941 an. Nach Hitlers Überfall auf die Sowjetunion veröffentlichte die KP Jugoslawiens eine Proklamation, in der sie zum bewaffneten Kampf gegen die Hitlerbanden und für die Befreiung des Landes von den Eindringlingen aufrief, zu einem Kampf, der sich über ganz Jugoslawien ausbreitete“. (pp. 26/27)
(The people and nationalities of Yugoslavia, led by the communist party, made preparations for an organized fight on the first day of Hitler’s attack, after the capitulation of the monarchist regime in April 1941. After Hitler’s attack of the SU, the communist party of Yugoslavia published a proclamation calling for armed resistance against the Hitler gangs and to liberate the country. This fight eventually spread over all of Yugoslavia.)
Here again evidence that partisan warfare had been planned well in advance of Barbarossa. Tito confirmed this in Skopje: even before the outbreak of WWII preparations for resistance were made. At that time 80,000 soldiers served in the partisan units, 300,000 in 1942. When in September 1943 Italy capitulated, Tito was made president of the National Committee, acting as the Yugoslav government, illegally because Yugoslavia was occupied. After a visit by a Soviet military commission in February 1944, the “Liberation Army” was increased to 50 divisions of 130 independent partisan units consisting of 500,000 illegal combatants. In early 1945 the “Liberation” army was renamed “Yugoslavian Army”, equipped with the most modern weaponry and now numbering 800,000. The numbers are based on Yugoslav sources. But, even though in early 1945 a regular Yugoslav army existed, actions between partisans and regular troops were impossible to distinguish, forcing Germans to act. (pp. 27/28). And even though partisan units were then organized, they did not wear the same uniforms, no official symbols visible from a distance and did not carry their weapons in the open (p. 56). It was thus still impossible for the Germans to separate regular forces from the irregulars, but the Yugoslavs never made mention of this in their court verdicts against German POWs.
Hitler never intended to send troops into Yugoslavia – this whole action in fact endangered Barbarossa – but was forced to when Mussolini’s ill fated Greek adventure became bogged down The Germans fearing a British bridge head in the Balkans, had to act. But the Balkans were and are a witches’ brew of warring nationalities. Dr. Hans Laternser tried to make this clear at the IMT, pointing out that in the Balkans different norms apply, the fight between nationalities are conducted with a brutality unknown to the people of western Europe (p. 29). Dr. Rudolf Ibbeken testified at the IMT that in the Balkans it was not just a conflict between the population and the occupying forces:
“…sondern daß innerhalb des einen Krieges, möchte ich sagen, noch eine Unzahl von gleichzeitigen Kriegen im Lande stattgefunden hat”. (p. 30)
(…but I would like to say that inside of this war a number of wars were fought simultaneously.)
Another historian, Dr. Georg Scheller, pointed out that the brutality with which the war in Yugoslavia was fought was not peculiar to WW II, rather it was
“in keiner Weise ihre Ursache etwa in einem besonders scharfen Vorgehen der deutschen Wehrmacht. In allen großen und kleinen kriegerischen Auseinandersetzungen auf dem Balkan sind Grundsätze und Regeln, wie sie etwa in der Genfer Konvention verankert sind, nie zur Anwendung gekommen… Es ist mithin nicht richtig, die besondere Schärfe der Kriegführung auf dem Balkan der deutschen Wehrmacht zuzuschreiben. Sie ist vielmehr geschichtlich als eine besondere Erscheinung aller Balkankriege zu erklären und zu werten“. (Ibid.)
(…in no way the result of the drastic measures by the German forces. In all the big and small Balkan wars the rules, as those set down in Geneva, were ignored…It is thus wrong to claim that Germans are to blame for the rigorous warfare. Rather, it is historically a special occurrence of all the Balkan wars, and must be evaluated as such.)
In September 1941 Germans found the “Anweisung der Kommunistischen Partei Serbiens für den Bandenkrieg” (Instructions by the communist party of Serbia for bandit warfare) in Belgrade, those instructions were submitted at the IMT, too long to reproduce in its entirety, here then just a few details:
Communications behind the front are of value, rail lines, telephone lines and bridges must be destroyed…
Precise reports about enemy movements are vital
If the population is supportive, the area behind the front can be controlled, forcing the enemy to employ more troops.
Raids: It is of utmost importance to approach the enemy unseen…
Close combat: The knife is the most important weapon…” (pp. 30-33)
All of those instructions – and there are many more – to fight illegally, clandestinely. A raid is successful when “der Gegner bis zum letzten Mann vernichted (ist)”(when the enemy is destroyed to the last man). Tito ordered Serbian partisans
“…jegliche Kennzeichen abzulegen, die Waffen zu verbergen und erbeutete deutsche Uniformen anzuziehen. Im Jastrebac-Gebirge traten 80 Prozent der Partisanen in deutscher, der Rest in bulgarischer Uniform auf. Von hier wie aus dem Raum der serbisch-bulgarischen Grenze wurden Funksprüche abgefangen, in denen die Liquidierung deutscher Soldaten stets unter der Bezeichnung ‘abgeschlachtet’ gemeldet wurde“. (p. 37)
(…to take of all identification badges, to hide the weapons and dress in German uniforms. In the Jastrebac Mountains 80% of the partisans wore German, the rest Bulgarian uniforms. Radio messages were intercepted recording the killing of German soldiers as ‘butchered’.)
Again and again bodies of German soldiers were found with their eyes popped out, genitals cut off, heads split, and naked – almost impossible to identify (p. 40). The Red Cross emblem was no guarantee for safety, Persons wearing the Red Cross, buildings, trucks and trains marked with it were even singled out as targets, forcing the authorities to decrease the size of the emblem (p. 41). The armed forces compiled a whole collection of photos and reports of atrocities and handed them to representatives of the IRC (International Red Cross; p. 44).
All of this was ignored at the IMT. On August 21, 1946 defense attorney Dr. Laternser presented evidence of the partisan tactics, pointing out that those illegal acts were the reason for German reprisals and that it was not the Germans who engaged in illicit warfare. He stated:
“Affidavits 906 to 931 give examples of the fighting methods of the partisans, while Affidavits 906 to 920 describe particularly dreadful atrocities committed by partisan bands. Affidavits 921 to 924 prove the partisans’ actions in violation of international law, with regard to clothing, weapons, and other details. Affidavits 925 to 931 describe the extent of sabotage against railroads. That in spite of this the Germans fought according to the rules of international law, is proved by Affidavits 932 to 970. They show that the partisans were treated like prisoners of war.” (p. 393)
As mentioned, all of this was disregarded. The judges maintained that Germany fought an illegal war, a “War of Aggression”. (p. 53) But as has been shown in part III, officers and soldiers can not be expected to differentiate between an illegal war and a legal war. Further, “Control Council Law No.10”, concocted in London following WWII, was law written after the fact, ex post facto, violating one of the fundamentals of jurisprudence. What it states under: “a) Crimes against Peace. Initiation of invasions of other countries and wars of aggression in violation of international laws and treaties…” is therefore of no consequence, for international law – agreements between states – never prohibited war. The Kellogg-Briand Pact on which this was based only states:
“Convinced that all changes in their relations with one another should be sought only by pacific means and be the result of a peaceful and orderly process, and that any signatory Power which shall hereafter seek to promote its national interests by resort to war a should be denied the benefits furnished by this Treaty;”
There is nothing here about illegal wars and punishment of individuals. All it says is that if a state should go to war it will lose the benefits furnished by this Treaty. Thus German soldiers had every right to counteract the illegal partisan warfare.
More details about atrocities committed on German soldiers are provided, killing of those who had surrendered. Also more mention of the fighting between the Croatian Ustasha and the Serbian Cetnici, their atrocities blamed on the Germans (pp. 48-51; 63). A report states that when the ice started to melt on the rivers, masses of bodies could be seen floating down the Sava and Danube rivers. On some days the Germans fished out up to 30 bodies (p. 65). These were victims of the infighting between rival Yugoslav factions, but all of them no doubt part of the 1.7 million allegedly killed by the Germans. It is the duty of the occupying army to restore order (p. 59), but not only did the Germans have to fight partisans, intend on inflicting losses on them, they were caught between warring groups, compounding the problems.
When Yugoslav forces captured Belgrade, many of them illegal combatants, supported by Red Army units, up to 30,000 German POWs were shot. Hundreds of German female radio operators, Blitzmädel, and Red Cross nurses were killed by placing them on pointed posts; others were used for target practice (p. 70). 10,000 murdered German soldiers were buried in a mass grave near the Kalemagdan fortification. A Red Cross nurse testified that during the Belgrade fighting, all of the wounded in an ambulance train were killed with knifes. Most of the places were those atrocities occurred are known, yet no effort by an international body has been made to locate the graves (p. 70).
On May 6, 1945, General Kesselring told the commander of the southeast army, colonel general Löhr, that Germany would capitulate on May 9. Löhr then contacted Tito to work out the capitulation details. Anything agreed upon was totally ignored by the Yugoslavs as soon as the Germans had surrendered and disarmed. Some 150,000 German soldiers ended up as Yugoslav POWs immediately, something German officers tried to prevent, cognizant of the hatred felt. The number of those butchered is not known (p.75). How many German soldiers in total were taken POWs is impossible to ascertain, because of unknown number of those murdered. Official figures talk of 200,000 to 240,000. But, army group Löhr was at that time 400,000 strong. According to official figures, 80,000 perished between 1944 and 1949 (p. 78)
The POWs were moved to camps in so-called Sühnemärsche, atonement marches. The Geneva Convention states that POWs can march no more than 20km (12.5 miles) a day. One of the POWs groups was forced to march 75km in 20 hours (p. 85). Whoever strayed was shot. Food was scares, anyone begging for water or food was also shot. 10,000 perished during those marches (p. 92).
Camp life was no better. Hardly any food was provided and prisoners were forced to gather herbs and cook them, the result was diarrhea and dysentery. “Death worked with a scythe”, in Belgrade camp # 1 the dysentery barrack housed 800; it was called the death barrack with at least 10 corpses carried out each day (p. 93). Inmates were also worked to death, in lumber camps and mines. They were also forced to clear minefields, but were not supplied with the proper equipment. At times, at the end of a shift hundreds of POWs were chased onto the cleared field, to insure that no mines were left (p. 94). Those who died were buried in unmarked graves, their names never recorded.
The partisans stilled their thirst for revenge first on members of the Waffen-SS. According to a report, on Pentecost Sunday 450 soldiers were shot near Reichenburg, their arms tied together with telegraph wire in groups of six, all shot in the back. At the capture of Krusevac, 2,000 soldiers of the “Prinz Eugen” division were murdered. In Reichenegg the partisans forced POWs into a bunker and dynamited it. When the stench became too strong, survivors had to cover the bunker with dirt. At Susegrad, partisans undressed 90 soldiers and chased them into the Sava River. Whenever possible the inmates buried the dead and marked the graves with stones or wooden crosses. In 1948, after the last POWs had left the provisory camps, locals dispersed the stones, gathered the crosses and burned them (p. 96).
Reading this, one has to wonder if the Soviet prosecutors at the IMT used those real atrocities, as committed on Germans, to spread tales about German atrocities. Jews also seem to have copied some of this to ‘enrich’ their stories.
The “Antifaschistische Ausschüsse” (antifascist committee), short Antifa, played a sordid role in all of this. Founded by the communist Karl Wolch to represent the POWs, he, along with the co-founder Adolf Ische, soon showed their true colors. He blamed the fate of the POWs on the ‘breathtaking crimes committed by the Nazis’ and claimed that most POWs had realized this, many thousands remaining in Yugoslavia to assist in the rebuilding of the country (pp. 97/8). He further stated that whoever had seen a German concentration camp would well be able to appreciate the positive differences, conveniently forgetting the tens of thousands who perished during the ‘atonement marches’ and in the camps (p. 99). Some of those discharged had to sign an affidavit, promising to work for the unification of the workers at home (GDR), etc. Refusing to sign would have meant remaining in the camp. The Antifa helped to set work norms, many perished because of them (pp.100 to 104). They also assisted in torture, thus helping to extort ‘confessions’ from officers and soldiers, later used in trials.
Many more examples are provided, too many to list here. We now get to the Trials. Just as the Soviets before them – when they established the “Extraordinary State Commission for Ascertaining and Investigating Crimes Perpetrated by the German-Fascist Invaders and their Accomplices” in November 1942 – the Yugoslavs also established the “State Commission for Ascertaining War Crimes of the Occupying Forces and their Helpers” (Staatliche Kommission zur Feststellung von Kriegsverbrechen der Besatzungsmächte und ihrer Gehilfen) before the war ended (p.118). 4433 Germans and 2062 Austrians were to be charged with committing war crimes (one needs to wonder what happened to the Italians?).
The Nuremberg verdict in Trial VII vs. the South-East Generals, the so-called hostage trial, aroused the ire of the prosecution, because it had determined that partisan activity was illegal.
“The tribunal had to deal with two pressing questions:
Were partisans “lawful belligerents” and thus entitled the status of prisoners of war?
Was taking hostages and reprisals against civilians as a “defense” against guerrilla attacks lawful?
On the question of partisans, the tribunal concluded that under the then current laws of war (the Hague Convention No. IV from 1907), the partisan fighters in southeast Europe could not be considered lawful belligerents under Article 1 of said convention. On List, the tribunal stated:
“We are obliged to hold that such guerrillas were francs tireurs who, upon capture, could be subjected to the death penalty. Consequently, no criminal responsibility attaches to the defendant List because of the execution of captured partisans…”
Regarding hostage taking, the tribunal came to the conclusion that under certain circumstances, hostage taking and even reprisal killings might constitute an allowed line of action against guerilla attacks. In the tribunal’s opinion, taking hostages (and killing them in retaliation for guerilla attacks) was subject to several conditions.”
When that verdict became known, all of the Yugoslav verdicts should have been reversed, they were not. The Belgrade prosecution did wait until the verdict of the main IMT trial was published, but not until the aforementioned trial had concluded. The farcical trials started on October 14, 1946, in the first case, 32 former members of the Waffen-SS were indicted, 21 shot, the rest send to forced labor prison terms between five and twenty years. There were 11 main trials in total, the last one commenced on October 22, 1947. 121 German/Austrian officers were charged, 96 of them murdered (2 shot, the rest hanged), the rest send to long prison terms, life most often. All in all about 3,000 German and Austrian officers were imprisoned, 1,000 returned, 1,000 died while in capture, 1,000 were executed (pp. 118-123).
The verdict of the South-East Generals trial in Nuremberg of July 8, 1947 to February 19, 1948, in which partisan warfare was declared to be illegal, came too late for the officers murdered by the Yugoslavs following their “trials”. The haste with which those sham proceedings were conducted has to be suspect; also, did the Nuremberg ‘judges’ wait until the Yugoslavs were finished murdering the innocent?
The final act of this drama started on January 18, 1949 in Werschetz, Vršac in Serbian. Here also the ethnic conflict, common to the Balkans, played a role, Werschetz is located in the Banat with a large German population. It is possible that this city was picked for the benefit of the few Germans that were left behind, but not the issue here. Many of the remaining German officers and soldiers were put on trial. Who selected them is not known (p. 135), but since the Yugoslav claimed that the “fascists” had murdered 1.7 million of their citizens, more show trials were needed to satisfy the populace. A returning German soldier, Pfeiffer, later testified at a Munich court that he knew for a fact that no evidence of any wrongdoing existed for 95% of those charged (p. 136). Quotas were established: Since so and so many Yugoslavs had been shot, and since a number of Germans have been charged, every German had to have shot his percentage of them (p. 137). ‘Confessions’ were extracted through torture. One of them, Dr. Martin Speer, refused to commit/confess to any crime. He was hanged by his hands from the ceiling and beaten until he died. The preferred method of torture was tying the hands of the victim behind his back and then hanging him on the hands. Or fastening of a small pail to the genitals, and then loading the pail with bricks. Beatings with anything handy were also common. According to an Austrian officer, Werschetz was a ‘war crimes factory’ (pp. 135-161).
Many, many more details are provided, 26 pages worth, too much to list here. And here too, most of the accused were sentenced to death. But, the political climate had changed and Tito needed the BRD. Thus, on June 30, 1950 the sentences were reduced to 18 or 20 year jail terms (pp. 164/65). An effort was made to turn some of those sentenced into communists, or to work in the Yugoslav security service, spy agency. But as relation with the BRD improved, some were let go, having to promise not to tell, the rest were ignored so as to not stir up hatred, as detailed in Part I.
And this is what the history of the Third Reich is based on. Sham trials conducted by the victors in which the accused were convicted based on ex post facto ‘laws’, and prevented from making their case by submitting exonerating evidence; or on ‘confessions’ beaten out of them. We also need to remember that most of what really had happened was recorded, but the records never published, no doubt destroyed by now.
Vae Victis, but we need to add that following WW II a concerted effort was/is made to demonize Germans.
To be continued…