World War II in Yugoslavia


First greetings to all and I am so glad that on this way we can contribute to the WW2 project with some of our researches and interesting facts on the same way as we did earlier for “The Great War” channel!
p.s. I edit my post in the form of timeline in order to be more easy to follow all events.

World War II in Yugoslavia is definitely the most brutal, complicated, controversial and one of the saddest periods associated with the Balkans, which in many respects remained unclear or (mostly deliberately) unsettled until this days which is one of the basis of the problems for today’s relations in this region. Scars which the Second World War left on Yugoslavia are simply not measurable especially from the perspective of ordinary civilian citizens. I opened the general Yugoslavia topic with desire to present some interesting facts, sources, videos which I found, parts of the books that I read, but of course anyone with additional information is welcome. For now I will wrote just how it all started, but the topic will be updated by the time, hope as well by the other users who know more related to this topic.

June 1st 1939, Prince Paul Karađorđević (who was leading the politics instead of under aged Crown Prince Peter of Yugoslavia) had an official visit to Hitler where, according to the expression of the faces, it can be seen that neither Hitler nor Paul were specially enthusiastic about talks they had, although the prince and his wife were greeted with a full military and cultural honors. Hitler after told that Prince Paul is “like an eel” because when they were close to reach certain agreements he was hiding himself behind the decisions of Yugoslavian parliament. This game between Paul and Hitler will continue on diplomacy level until 1941 as long as the Paul could escape some Hitler demands.

March 24th 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia joined the Triple Pact of Germany, Italy and Japan under the great German pressure in the period of previous couple of months. The protocol was signed in Vienna by Yugoslav Prime Minister Dragiša Cvetković and Joachim von Ribbentrop. An official banquet was held right after which present diplomats commented as the “funeral party”. Interesting fact is that protocol was translated by the member of Yugoslav diplomatic delegation Ivo Andrić, the only Yugoslav Nobel prize winner (1961, Nobel Prize for Literature). Before continuing I would like to recalled that Hitler had long been making a knot around Yugoslavia which back then tried to avoid any kind of conflict and events that were happening in the war turned Europe.

March 27th, 1941 When people in Belgrade find out about Yugoslavia’s accession to the triple pact, on the streets of city erupted total chaos with protests and slogans like “better grave than slave” and “long live allies Britain and US” even communist symbols were there on the streets. The conspiratorial group of senior Yugoslav Army officers, led by Brigadier General of the Air Force, Borivoje Mirković, threw three members of the Royal Imposition from power (including Prince Poul) and rule was handed over directly to the young and still under aged King Peter Karađorđević (son of King Alexander Karađorđević who was assassinated in Marseille during the visit to France 1934). Later, many would argue that this coup is directly staged from the side of British secret intelligence service in Belgrade which many dissatisfied citizens in Serbia unconsciously followed while everything culminated relatively fast.

April 6, 1941 Hitler went extremely angry by developments in Yugoslavia and ordered full scale attack that begins on April 6 when Germany starts a total retaliation on the territory of Kingdom Yugoslavia (so called April War in Serbia or Hitlers Operation Punishment) that will completely fall into the hands of Nazi Germany and Italian occupier forces only in a two weeks, while completely surprised and unorganized Yugoslav Army collapsed. Young Yugoslavian King Peter, is evacuated to London and Belgrade is devastated by the Nazi bombing campaign where just in two days number of dead according to the data of the city administration amounts to 4000, half of which is buried under the buildings… Among the non-military targets except many civilian houses during the bombing were and National Library of Serbia, which burned to the ground with the loss of hundreds of thousands of very important scripts and books of the world heritage importance (most of those books were uniques without any copies created) and the Belgrade Zoo so that chaos in the city would be as big as possible.

April 10th, 1941 German troops entered Zagreb (Croatia), and were welcomed from the large group of citizens with enthusiasm and filled with flowers. The Ustasha exponent Slavko Kvaternik proclaimed the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia so called NDH on behalf of Ante Pavelić. Germans at first offered rule of the newly formed state to Croat political leader Vlatko Maček, who refused to joined political activities of the newly formed Independent State of Croatia (later he will be sent to Jasenovac concentration camp by the Croatian authorities as an opponent and danger for the new state). Ante Pavelić returned from Italy to Zagreb on April 17th (before that agreeing with most of Mussolini requirements) becoming an absolute dictator of the newly formed Nazi puppet state. By the Treaty of Rome on May 18, 1941 NDH gave Italy most of Dalmatia with its cities and by this act rounds up its territory.

Entering of the German forces into Serbia and Yugoslavia, direct targets of the bombings, as well as the creation of the Independent Nazi State of Croatia, Chetniks and Partisans resistance movements and their battles, collaborative governments, ideologies, horrible massacres, order 100 executed for 1 killed German during the war and everything else deserves much more time, deep researche and great attention. Meanwhile you can watch this videos to get familiar with the topic:

Prince Paul visiting Berlin 1939:

Bombing of Belgrade 6th April, 1941:

Belgrade April and May 1941, After Germans Occupied town:

Entering of the German troops in Zagreb and Welcome by the Locals:

Serbia during WW2:

Public executions by the Germans in Pančevo 1941:

Jasenovac - Cruelest Death Camp in WW2
(with direct witnesses and English subtitles):


Very interesting! Thank you for sharing :smile:


Prince Paul (Pavle) Karađorđević visiting Berlin, June 1939 :

Prince Paul (Pavle) Karađorđević, Princess Olga and Hitler (I guess from the same visit) :

Ivo Andrić (Nobel Prize winner from 1961) as a Yugoslavian delegation member :

Prime Minister Dragiša Cvetković signing the protocol on joining the Triple Pact in Vienna 1941 :

27th March 1941 - The most iconic picture from protest in Belgrade (often used for propaganda):

27th March 1941 - Protest in Belgrade center and support for under aged king Peter:

27th March 1941 - Prime Minister Dragiša Cvetković moment of being arrested in coup :

27th March 1941 - Under aged King Peter Karađorđević with the coup members :

Belgrade center after Nazi bombing in April 1941 :

Belgrade center after Nazi bombing in April 1941 :

Belgrade center after Nazi bombing in April 1941 :


Early Resistance, Occupation, First Massacres, Politics (Spring 1941) :

After the occupation of Yugoslavia by the German and Italian troops and during the creation of an Independent Croatian State, resistance has already begun at the very beginning of this process which created more problems for the new occupiers who will try to crush resistance by forcing retaliation on local civilians. Yugoslavian army was almost whole broken with exception of the Colonel Draža Mihailović Fast Detachment (after renamed into Mountain Detachment) who refused to surrender. During the April war Kosta Pećanac formed his Chetnik forces in the Toplica area (not related with Mihailović). Communist and Partisan factor especially among the Serbs begins to grow during the whole summer after NOPOJ was formed. Catastrophe in Smederevo explosion just added more pain to the occupied Serbia…

- During April War Chetnik veteran Kosta Pećanac asked the Yugoslav Army and Navy Ministry to prepare the execution of Chetnik actions in southern Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo. He got weapons and money, and he armed several hundred people in the valley of the Toplice River. Pećanac’s detachments fought mostly against Albanian and Bulgarian armed groups in the early stages of the occupation.

Note: Who watched episodes of The Great War know that Kosta Pećanac together with Kosta Vojinović started the Toplica Uprising during the WW1. Now he is much older and by many he is unworthy to lead the resistance. Also not to be confused with the troops of Colonel Mihailović since they are totally different (Mihailović was official Yugoslav Army Colonel, Pećanac local guerilla leader (Chetnik duke) at this phase of the war).

- April 17th 1941 Colonel Draža Mihailović who stood as the great fighter during the whole WW1 with Serbian army starting from the battle of Cer in 1914 (first allies WW1 victory) until the allies breakthrough 1918 (battle of Dobro Pole) now with the rest of his troops he rejects received order for capitulation:
I do not recognize capitulation, that word does not exist in Serbian language!

Note: In the previous days during the April war Mihailović was retreating and has fought against the Croatian Ustashas forces around Derventa trying to avoid surrounding and hoping to reach back the Serbian territory from where he could re-group and organize eventual resistance.

- April 21st 1941 One German soldier in town of Pančevo was killed on April 20th with the 9 local Germans before this. Germans for excuse next day wrote that they were killed by the members of local Yugoslav Army Resistance movement while in fact everything was staged for avoiding the huge scandal among the German army. On April 20th for Hitlers birthday an incident occurred among the German soldiers in Pančevo where drunk German officer killed German solider after arguing with him. For retaliation (based on after fake staged attack event), on April 21st Germans executed 4 locals while on April 22nd 14 were hanged and 18 executed in total 36 killed (mostly Serbs but as well some Hungarians and Jews). All of this is recorded by the German cameraman Gottfried Kasel who keep this record in his private collection and make it public only in 1997 for the Nazi crimes exhibition which also brake out as a huge scandal (take a look on the video at the first post).

Good source page for this:

- May 11th 1941 With a small core of his officers, soldiers and armed escort, Colonel Mihailović has finally arrived on Ravna Gora in Serbia where he founded the command of Yugoslavian Army Chetnik Detachment.

- June 5th 1941 Explosion Catastrophe in town of Smederevo (Serbia) ! After April war newly arrived German occupying forces have decided to collect all confiscated and captured weapons from the Yugoslavian army into one place and for this they choose town of Smederevo which is not so far away from Belgrade and back then had railway connection for cargo (also town lay on Danube river with its own medieval fortress). On June 5th around 14h just at the time when local market was full of people not only from Smederevo but also from the other local villages for trading food day, mass explosion accrued blowing up all the seized weapons, munitions, fuels and devastating whole town killing more then 2000 people at once! Smederevo was almost whole destroyed till the ground and among victims were son, daughter-in-law and grandson of Milan Nedić who would who will later become the president of Serbian People’s Salvation Government (Serbian puppet government during WW2 Nazi occupation). Nobody is officially indicted for the explosion, but unofficially there are different theories who could be behind this action (communist spy, some leftover member of the Yugoslav Army, allies airplane, German soldier who throw the cigarette and blow up whole area…)

Good source page for this:

NOTE: Milan Nedić as a highly controversial person deserves topic for himself. Today, part of public sees him as a hero who tried to save as much people as he could in terrible occupying conditions, while others sees him as a traitor who led the puppet government and allowing killing of tens of thousands people by the Germans and small core of Serbian puppet Militia during his rule. No matter how the explosion in Smederevo left him a deep pain for his lost family which will certainly influence his decisions in the future.

- June 22nd 1941 The First Sisak Partisan Detachment was formed (Prvi sisački partizanski odred) in the forest near Brezovica, commandeered by Vjekoslav Janić. It was the first anti-fascist Partisan unit in the whole of occupied Yugoslavia. It counted 79 members and all names can be found wikipedia too.

- Jun 27th 1941 Headquarters of National Liberation and the Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia (NOPOJ) was formed. The same day central commit set Josip Broz Tito as the supreme commander of all Partisan military forces in order to liberate the country. Shortly thereafter, on July 1st, Comintern sent precise instructions with a call for immediate action against occupation.

Vermahta warrants (of 100.000 Reichsmarks in gold as the prize) for two different resistance movement leaders in Serbia! First for Colonel Mihailovic (Chetniks) and Second for Josip Broz Tito (Partisans) :

Wanted%20Mihailovic%20(1366) Wanted%20Tito%20(1366)



I agree with you about the War in Yugoslavia episodes being controversial. I think they’re going to be the most controversial (considering what happened to the Croatia and Serbia episodes in TGW) ones in the whole series so I feel like the team should take A LOT of care when looking into this subject.

I would like to add a very important date that I feel like you’ve missed.

June 22nd 1941 The First Sisak Partisan Detachment was formed (Prvi sisački partizanski odred) in the forest near Brezovica, commandeered by Vjekoslav Janić. It was the first anti-fascist partisan unit in the whole of occupied Yugoslavia. It counted 79 members and all names can be found here (sh wiki)


Thank you, I added this important date into timeline so that people can follow things easier… I agree LOT of care should be taken by doing Yugoslavia episodes. Many different warring sides, nationalities, many guerilla groups, many local and puppet-resistance militias, politics, governments, atrocities-massacres, propaganda, spying which makes Yugoslavia the most active place (unfortunately) under the Nazi occupation period comparing to the other occupied territories and countries in Europe.