Response: Armchair Historian – How Yugoslavia Liberated Itself

Response: Armchair Historian – How Yugoslavia Liberated Itself

The original video is here:

During the second world war, many nations occupied by the Fascist powers, developed underground movements interested in seeing their countries liberated…”.

First sentence, and already the first mistake. Yes, it is true that Yugoslavia did have antifascists who wanted to see the country liberated from the Axis oppression, but these had absolutely nothing to do with Josip Broz Tito, at least initially. Fact is that the Communist Party of Yugoslavia opposed any actions against the Axis all the way up until the Axis attack on the Soviet Union, as its leadership was more loyal to the “Mother Russia” than it was to their own people.

Yugoslavia was a nation in name…”.

True. It was in fact a Serb imperial project, which Serbs holding majority of positions and ruling over everyone with an iron fist. This only began to change in 1939., but that was too little, too late.

Yugoslavia had stumbled from democracy to dictatorship…”.

No, it was never a democracy.

But Paul had already infuriated his Serbian-dominated military by making concessions to the Croatians…”.

Completely true, but it does not mention that Serbian military had help of British intelligence services in performing the coup.

Lastly, the Italians claimed Lublana and most of Dalmatia, leaving the nation (Croatia) effectively dismembered along the ethnic lines”.

Croats were a majority in both Dalmatia and interior of Istra at least, so saying that these borders were “along the ethnic lines” is wrong. Italy was merely making good on what the Entente had promised them.

Though remarkably, the ink on the surrender terms barely had time to dry before the first resistance movements against the occupation began to coalesce”.

There were no “resistance movements against the occupation” in the first weeks. I will write about this in more detail, but Serb / Chetnik rebellion had in fact begun before the occupation had been established. Collapsed elements of the Royal Yugoslav Army had begun killing Croatian civilians even before establishment of Independent State of Croatia on 10th April (Yugoslavia itself surrendered on 18th April). The goal was not resistance against the occupation but rather the establishment of Greater Serbia.

One specific example is rebellion in Srb. As soon as the Yugoslav army began to collapse, Serbian troops escaped to Srb with large quantities of weapons and ammunition. Yet the resistance took almost two months to form. Communists there began to organize rebellion in June, yet Ustashi authority in Srb was only established on 20th June – in what appears to be a direct response to organization of the terrorist cells. Serb rebellion itself was aimed against Croatia and Croatia only – not against the occupation in general. In fact, rebel Serbs received assistance from Italian fascists, who did everything in their power to undermine Croatian government. Resistance against the occupation only began in early January 1942., when Partisans from Dalmatia attacked an Italian column near Dugopolje.

Meanwhile, a Serbo-Croatian Communist called Josip Tito saw the invasion as the chance to see his dream of socialist Yugoslavia come to fruition, and immediately set about raising a partisan force that would engage in direct combat against the occupying forces.”

Josip Broz Tito was born to a Croatian father and a Slovene mother. He was thus a Croatian or Croatian-Slovene Communist, not a Serb at all. And in fact, Tito was most likely a Rusian agent – Josip Broz was a metal worker and lacked two fingers, whereas Tito who led the Partisans had all ten fingers on his hands. Lastly, he only became interested in resisting the occupation after Hitler attacked the Soviet Union.

While the Royalists and Communists were busy forming their resistance movements, the new puppet state of Croatia was busy planning a genocide of anyone who was not a Fascist Croatian”.

As a matter of fact, it was the Royalists and Communists who first began the campaign of ethnic cleansing. Now, this is not to say that Ustashi ethnic cleansing campaign will not have happened anyway – NDH was a puppet state of the Third Reich, after all – but Serbs were not innocent victims the statement makes them out to be.

…and empowered his ultranationalist Ustashi organization to enforce this ethnic cleansing”.

This is a case of a lie through a truth. Yes, Ustashi did carry out ethnic cleansing. But so did the Chetniks and the Communists – in fact, Chetnik campaign of ethnic cleansing against Croatians began as early as 8th April. And since the video is allegedly about Yugoslavia and not NDH, why is there no mention of Nedić’s Serbia, which carried out far more effective genocide of Jews than NDH did?

The actions of the Ustashi combined with the general anarchy that gripped Yugoslavia immediately following the occupation…”

“General anarchy” here meaning mass murders by Chetniks and Partisans.

whole villages defected to Partisans on the spot”.

I cannot confirm or deny the German policy of killing hundred people for every German soldier killed, but many who defected to Partisans did so either because they had already rebelled against Croatia (e.g. Chetniks joining the Partisans), or to gain protection either from the Axis forces or from the Chetniks.

This tactic was so effective that in late autumn of 1941. Tito successfully liberated the town of Užice, proclaiming it as its own republic. Royalist guerillas under Colonel Mihailović also participated in the liberation…”

I am not certain that citizens of Užice will have agreed about the “liberated” part. Partisans in Užice established a reign of terror not that dissimilar to what Ustashi did in the NDH, murdering political opponents and other undesireables. Moreover, rather than working on liberating Serbia, Chetniks and Partisans used Užice as a base of operations against Ustashi presence in Bosnia.

At any rate, the cooperation did not last long. But there was no civil war: when Partisans threatened Chetniks, a meeting was called to avoid “bloodshed between Serb brothers”. Chetnik voivode Ćosović and Đekić accepted this, retreating towards Visegrad where they carried out ethnic cleansing over local Croatian and Muslim population, not unlike that done in Srebrenica in 1995.

Following the fall of the Republic of Užice, Partisans began to cautiously regroup in Bosnia, while Mihailović was left to court the favour of the Western Allies”.

That is wrong. In fact, Partisans first left towards Sandžak and Zlatobor, and only much later began to infiltrate into Bosnia, but Partisan movement in Serbia was broken and rebellion against the Axis there will not renew until 1944. It was Chetniks who immediately crossed into NDH – first into Višegrad on Drine and into the eastern Bosnia, where they immediately carried out mass murder and ethnic cleansing campaign against the domicile population.

He was irritated to discover that his Royalists had come to be known as the Chetniks by Allied Intelligence, a name associated with several nominally independent groups within Yugoslavia, including the Black Chetniks, who directly collaborated with the Germans.”

Fact is that Draža Mihailović entered open collaboration with Germans in November 1941. While it is true that he did not have control over most Chetnik movements, it is also a fact that Mihailović himself was not innocent of collaboration with the Axis.

But he was far from unique. Even Tito’s Partisans often collaborated with Italian Fascists in their campaign against NDH, and with the exception of the Ustashi and the Communists, war in Yugoslavia was a case of everybody collaborating with everybody else at some point.

Mihailović however still viewed his men as part of the Royal Yugoslav Army and continued to refer to them in such terms.”

Which did not prevent him from collaborating with the Germans, as explained above.

Though endlessly praised as the hero of resistance movement in the Yugoslavia by the BBC, Mihailović was given very little material support by the Allies, leaving him in no position to wage an effective resistance.”

And for a good reason, as he was more interested in fighting against everybody other than the Germans. For Chetniks, it was NDH that was the main enemy, not the Axis powers as such, and they will not have accepted an independent Croatia even if it had been formed by the Allied powers as opposed to the Axis.

And while Mihailović was indeed given very little material support by the Allies, he received massive material support from the Germans and the Italians.

Instead he contacted the government of the occupied Serbia and began to quietly collaborate with the Axis forces in the hopes of preventing Tito’s partisans from triggering any more reprisals against native Serbians.”

Which was not necessarily a bad choice, seeing how Partisans often either incited the Axis to murder people or carried out false-flag murders themselves in order to improve their own position and prepare the terrain for post-war establishment of the Communist regime.

In contrast to his royalist opposite, Josip Tito took the immediate advantage of the operation Barbarossa by launching a general offensive against the depleted German forces in Yugoslavia.”

He did not “take advantage” as that would imply that he was waiting to rebel and only used the opportunity. Rather, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia was actively opposed to any resistance against the Axis as up until Barbarossa, USSR and Germany were allies, and USSR kept supplying Hitler with war materiel and basic necessities such as grain and oil. It was only when Germany attacked the USSR that the Yugoslav Communists changed the tune and became the “antifascists” to help their Communist Motherland. Even so, the insurrection was not immediate – effective Communist resistance only began in 1942., as there existed basically no groundwork. While resistance before that date did exist, it was only sporadic – which will not have been the case had Tito been only waiting for the opportunity to rebel, as the video implies.

Fact is, Tito’s “antifascist” insurrection was done to help the Great Communist Motherland against the Axis. It had nothing to do with liberation of the people from Nazi terror.

The turning point was the Battle of the Neretva River, where Tito was able to force a crossing into the safe territory despite facing overwhelming odds”.

Tito first destroyed the bridges over Neretva because he was afraid that Chetniks will cross and smash him, and then he realized that he needed to cross the river to survive, and so had to improvise pontoon bridges. After (somehow) succeeding, Tito declared this particular bit of stupidity to be genius play of deception.

In fact, the entire concept of retrat was a massive mistake. Tito kept his units concentrated and vulnerable, where in fact he should have dispersed them. Commander of the Staff for Croatia, Ivan Rukavina, did precisely this, ordering his two divisions to disperse and retreat to Plješevica, where they simply waited for the enemy forces to bypass them. By doing this he saved his units and had next to no losses, but Tito and his staff reproached him for that, and later fired him.

Between Battles of Neretva and Sutjeska, Tito’s units suffered a total of 75% losses, whereas Axis losses were less than 1% (7 489 partisans killed, 4 000 – 5 000 partisans dead to disease, while Axis suffered 583 dead). While Axis did suffer a strategic defeat – Tito had escaped – tactically, the battle was a massive succes for the Axis, and showed the full extent of Tito’s military incompetence.

One of main reasons for disaster was Tito’s inattentiveness. Tito had earlier signed an agreement with Germans which he believed guaranteed he will not be attacked. As a result, he did not carry out any reconnaissance, and thus failed to notice massive concentration of German forces in the area. And when German intentions were noticed, Tito was shocked and paralyzed by indecision. As a result, the decision to make an attempt at breakthrough was made far too late. Out of 16 000 partisans, some 12 000 ended up being causalties of Tito’s incompetence.

In relatiation, the Germans slaughtered over 200 000 wounded and injured partisans who were left behind.”

200 000 partisans is more than the total number of partisans in Yugoslavia at the time. In fact, Tito’s forces numbered a total of 16 000 partisans, and it is not even clear whether the number of partisans included the wounded or only the combat-capable partisans. Even if 16 000 was only the number of the combat-capable partisans, the wounded could not have numbered much more than that. The number I was able to find states that there were 4 000 wounded, which means that maximum number of Partisan casualties was 16 000 – nowhere close to 200 000 mentioned here.

In fact, total number of causualties in Yugoslavia due to World War II (not-counting post-war massacres) is between 500 000 and 1 000 000, with most likely number being around 700 000. Had Partisans suffered 200 000 causalties, this means that some 30% of total deaths of the World War II in Yugoslavia were suffered in this one operation.

This (Italian surrender) came just in time for the Partisans as the Germans launched Operation Kugelblitz or Ball Lightning against the Partisan-held territory in the State of Croatia. By now, Axis strategy was simple: destroy everything, kill everyone, and burn anything that could be of any possible use to the insurgency. And Ante Pavelić’s Ustashe had already killed between 250 000 and 700 000 Serbians and ethnic minorities within Yugoslavia. But the wildly disproportionate brutality of the Ustashe only served to drive thousands of willing recruits directly into Tito’s arms”.

Casualty numbers are completely bogus: most likely number of causalties in Yugoslavia during the entire war is between 500 000 and 1 000 000. Yugoslavia’s population in 1941. was 15 973 000, of which NDH encompassed 6 285 000. Even assuming that NDH caused twice as high casualty rate as the rest of Yugoslavia, NDH could not have accounted for more than 300 000 – 600 000 deaths. And this includes not only people killed by the Ustashi government, but also those killed by the Germans, Italians, Chetniks, Partisans, Soviets and Allied air attacks. Overall, 250 000 is close to being the highest realistic number of deaths caused by the Ustashi regime, not the lowest.

And these numbers are for the entire war. Operation Kugelblitz was launched in December 1943., which was halfway in the war between the Partisans and the Axis. Therefore, number of 250 000 to 700 000 killed by the Ustashi by that point would mean that they had killed 500 000 – 1 400 000 people in total. And this is just Ustashi, so if one accounts for the Partisans and Chetniks in the NDH, as well as deaths in rest of Yugoslavia, total number of people killed in Yugoslavia will have been between 1 000 000 and 7 000 000 people.

As for the Axis strategy, the description is mostly true. But that same approach also held for the Chetniks and the Partisans: they were hardly any more humane than the Axis, and what difference there was came down to resources, not the mentality or the approach to war. As much as the Axis (including but not limited to Ustashi) brutality served to drive recruits into Tito’s Partisan movement, so did Chetnik and Partisan brutality serve to create the so-called “Wild Ustashi” militias – which then replied to brutality with brutality of their own.

But Tito’s trials were not over yet, as the Germans had one last card up their sleeve. Operation Rosselsprung or the Knight’s Move. Though only consisting of about 12 000 troops, this assault was the most well-planned and surgically minded of the seven major offensives launched against the partisans, involving an airborne assault by the 500th SS Parachute Battalion on the resistance HQ in the Bosnian town of Drvar. “

Forces planned for the operation numbered 20 000, but in the end 16 850 men were used, of which 3 460 were Chetniks and 2 025 NDH troops.

Tito himself was present in the HQ and was forced to take cover in a nearby cave. While the partisans fought in the desperate defence of their leader, the Allies sent help in the form of the Balkan Air Force, which launched numerous sorties against the Luftwaffe and German ground forces. As chaos reigned, Tito was able to break away from the engagement, and retreated toward the town of Kupres.”

The reason why he was able to break away was because commander of the 500th SS Parachute Battalion refused to send in the second wave which could have cut off Tito’s retreat. It appears that he has had some communications issues, and when communication had been reestablished, the troops were required to defend Drvar against Partisan reinforcements. As a result, the second wave which could have cut off Tito’s retreat by landing above the cave was never deployed.

Tito himself was not in fact present in the HQ at the time of the attack. Instead, he was in a cabin in the cave, but both the cabin and the cave were too small for the operations of the HQ. Partisan HQ itself was nearby, on a hill above Drvar, and communication between Tito and HQ was carried out through couriers (messengers).

Though as many as 6 000 Partisans were killed in the operation Rosselsprung, the Germans were eventually forced to retreat, their forces having been decimated in the mountainous terrain around Drvar.”

It was not Germans but rather Partisans who were forced to retreat. After the operation to kill Tito had clearly failed, Partisan reinforcements closed in on now German-controlled Drvar from all sides. This forced Axis forces to shift into a defensive stance, and they fortified themselves in Drvar. Germans repelled several Partisan attacks, albeit the last attack was repelled only by the skin of their teeth. But during the night the Partisan command learned of the approach of the 92nd Regiment (Motorisierte-Grenadier-Regiment 92) towards Bosanski Petrovac, and by the morning the 373rd Croatian Infantry Division had also arrived. Partisan forces were forced to retreat, suffering heavy casualties in the process – at least 250 dead, wounded or missing.

The failure of this last major anti-partisan operation signaled a permanent reversal in Tito’s fortunes. By now the Yugoslav partisan movement had become the largest in occupied Europe, with over 700 000 men now openly involved in the liberation.”

Questionable, but I have nothing to negate it. Moving on.

Tito successfully negotiated an agreement with the Yugoslav government in exile, becoming recognized as the Yugoslavia’s sole legitimate military leader. On August 17th, Tito leveraged his newfound status to the hilt, declaring amnesty for all collaborators. This was a devastating blow to Mihailović and his Chetniks, and the movement practically collapsed on the spot, with most of his men defecting to the Partisans.”

And in doing so, Tito rehabilitated the largest criminal movement on the area of Yugoslavia at the time. Turning the coat to Partisans did not change Chetniks’ nature, and they continued to murder Croatians left and right – the same sort of behavior which had created the Ustashi movement in the first place was now condoned by Tito’s “liberators”.

Nor was Tito alone in making such a move: Ante Pavelić had declared an amnesty for all Partisans that surrendered already in 1944., so Tito was likely just copying Pavelić. Further, Tito’s offer of amnesty was not genuine, as mass murders of Croatian soldiers and civilians show.

During the winter of 1944. – 1945., Tito took the offensive and threw wave after wave of partisans against the Syrmian front.”

It was not just the Partisans against the Syrmian front. Soviet Red Army had significant forces arrayed against the Syrmian front from the very beginning, with the 4th Motorized Corps, 31st Corps 75th Corps, 46th Corps, 2nd Ukrainian Front and other units being present in strength. In fact, even at the beginning of the operation, Soviet troops at Syrmian front significantly outnumbered their Yugoslav allies. And in the end, the Syrmian front was only broken through once the Soviets introduced further forces, including significant artillery units. The front took 175 days to break through, and Partisans played only a secondary role in this particular success.

He also expanded operations in central Serbia and began laying the groundwork for a Communist regime in Yugoslavia. No longer the underdog, the Partisans now began conducting their own reprisals against the native Germans, Serbians, Croatians and Hungarians, executing or imprisoning them in the tens of thousands.”

Executions alone were in the tens of thousands.

Seeing they would get no mercy from the communists, the fascist Croatians abandoned the Syrmian front and surrendered to the Western Allies. As the Croatians wavered, the remaining Chetniks made a last-ditch attempt to win recognition by engaging them in the battle on the Lijevča Field where they were promptly defeated.”

The front was abandoned because increased presence of the Red Army and the breakthrough of the front achieved by the same Red Army. Communists showed no mercy to any of their political enemies (royalists, democrats, nationalists) for years, yet it didn’t help them win battles.

Battle on the Lijevče Field was not only a defeat for the Chetniks, it in fact destroyed the Chetnik movement itself.

With their supply lines in ruins from constant Partisan raids, the remaining Germans holding Syrmia knew the end was in sight. In April, Tito’s forces launched their final offensive, siezing Sarajevo and dismantling what remained of the Independent State of Croatia. The last Axis defensive lines collapsed just a few days later, and the Germans began a full-scale retreat out of the Yugoslavia.”

Final retreat of Axis forces began due to Soviet pressure, not due to Partisan activity in the rear, as significant as that was.

Not content with simply letting them go, Tito’s forces pursued and engaged a column of nearly 30 00 German soldiers at the Battle of Polana, which actually took place days after the official Nazi surrender on May 8th

Battle of Polana was not the last battle of World War II. It began on 14th May 1945., and ended on 15th May 1945. It was concurrent with Battle of Odžak, where Ustashi units numbering 4 000 troops held village of Odžak against 35 000 Yugoslav troops. The battle began on 19th April 1945., and ended in Yugoslav victory on 25th May 1945., full ten days after Battle of Polana and 17 days after the official Nazi surrender.

Suffice to say, German force at Polana field was not the “last enemy force disarmed” in Yugoslavia.

Yugoslavia was left a ruined nation, with at least a million dead…”

Minimum number of dead in Yugoslavia is 500 000, if one does not count the people that Communists killed after the war.

The end of the war brought no relief, as Tito’s partisans conducted a ruthless purge of the remaining fascist and nationalist elements in Yugoslavia. Known as the Bleiburg Repatriations, these reprisals added at least 30 000 corpses to the pile, and would leave deep scars in the national psyche that linger on to this day.”

Most likely number of people killed on Bleiburg and Way of the Cross is between 35 000 and 70 000. Other sources state that 27 000 were killed at Bleiburg itself, making the number of 35 000 dead likely too low; low end of 50 000 dead is thus more likely.

The problem with video is most likely in sources. Fact is that majority of historians in the West (and outside Yugoslavia in general) are still uncritically regurgating the Communist Cold War propaganda which was largely published to make Communist Yugoslavia acceptable to the West. As such, the rather impressive list of sources in the description is completely useless, as the authors most likely had no access to, or no interest in, the newer research from within Yugoslavia that debunks most of the propagandist materials.

Still, regardless of the cause, fact remains that nearly every single fact in the video is wrong.

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