Liberty 2167

General Draza Mihailovich was Nazi’s enemy No.1

By Milosav Samardzic

Милослав Самарџић

ON FILE: We have to repeat some history lessons because there are so many people here in the United States, especially some “American Bosnians”, who do not know basic facts about General Draza Mihailovich and his Chetniks’ fights against Nazi occupiers during World War II. Lesson 1: German operations east of Drina river against the Chetniks

According to the ten-day report of German Command in Serbia, from April 20, 1942, “the pursuit of Mihailović in the area 30 km SW from Kraljevo was fruitless.” At the time, the Germans did not know the whereabouts of Mihailović. Soon, however, they were tipped off that the HQ of the Yugoslav Army in the Homeland (JVUO, the official name of troops loyal to Mihailović – tr.) was at Mt. Golija. At the end of April 1942, Germans and the Ljotić militia combed the mountain, without success. This turned out to be just a prelude for extensive operations of the 714th and 717th divisions, as well as 800th Regiment “Brandenburg”, specialized for anti-guerilla warfare, in the area between Ravna Gora and Golija.

Germans expected the most from Operation “Forstrat”, undertaken in the general area of Golija from May 15 to June 3, 1942, as well as from its sub-operation “Action 800”, the goal of which was the “capture of Draža Mihailović”. General Bader reported to Southeast Commander General Löhr on June 10, 1942, that operation “Forstrat” had failed, though it did result in the capture of 29 “rebels,” one British Captain, as well as “one important Mihailović courier”.

According to the report of Maj. Radomir Cvetić to the U.S. military mission, in August 1942, a 20-man German patrol stumbled onto 40 Chetniks of the Javor Corps, at Mt. Javor. Four Germans were killed and Chetniks had no losses. The Javor Corps then clashed with the Germans at Mučanj. Two Chetniks were killed, and German losses were unknown. During October 1942, the Javor Corps attacked the Germans at Seremetovići, on Mt. Golija. Four Germans were killed and 10 were captured, while the Chetniks had two men wounded. During the same month, a 120-strong German detachment attacked 30 Chetniks near the village of Bela Stena. Three Germans were killed, while Chetniks had 2 dead and 3 wounded.

The highest-ranking Nazi official present in Serbia during the war was Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, who visited Kraljevo from October 15-18, 1942. The purpose of Himmler’s visit was to inspect the 7th Volunteer Mountain SS Division “Prinz Eugen”, on the eve of its first action: Operation “Kopaonik” against the Rasina Corps of Maj. Dragutin Keserović.

With his 1500 fighters, Keserović escaped the attempted encirclement by 20,000 SS and a couple of Bulgarian battalions. The Axis troops burned down two villages and massacred their population. According to Keserović’s report, 700 civilians were killed in Kriva Reka. A protest note of “Prime Minister” Nedić to the Germans mentions 300 peasants killed, as well as 250 in one village at Mt. Goč. Kriva Reka suffered the most because it was Keserović’s HQ. Around 120 of the villagers were rounded up by the Germans, who locked them inside the village church and set it on fire.

Another battle with the Germans took place at Mt. Kopaonik in early December, in the village of Blaževo. Chetnik losses were Capt. Stevan R. Vlahović, commander of the Kopaonik Brigade, Lt. Blagoje Kovačević, two non-commissioned officers and three soldiers. One German officer and 20 soldiers were killed, 7 by Pvt. Radivoje Maksimović. Afterwards, in Blaževo, the Germans burned down the church, school, town hall and the infirmary, while in Šumice they burned down ten houses. In another nearby village, Dumiševina, they executed 15 civilians. They plundered all three villages.

Across Serbia, every day saw “low intensity” fights between Chetniks and Axis forces. According to General Löhr’s monthly report to Berlin on November 29, 1942, the 704th Infantry Division had success against the Chetniks in Northeastern Serbia, and 717th Infantry Division had to be transferred from Srem to the area of Valjevo – Loznica “to maintain peace”. The “Prinz Eugen” SS Division “destroyed enemy groups around Goč, Ivanjica and Western Morava valley, while Bulgarian Corps was “active in their area”.

Chetnik sources also record constant German activity. Gen. Miroslav Trifunović, commander of Serbia, reported to Mihailović on December 19, 1942:

“In area of Čačak, Kragujevac, and Gornji Milanovac, Germans often pursue our people. At the same time, they terribly terrorize the civilians. Arrested by the Germans: Captain Obradović, commander of the Orašac Corps, on 27 November 1942; Major Simović, commander of the 1st Kragujevac Brigade, on December 2, 1942; Captain Andrejević, commander of the 2nd Kragujevac Brigade , on December 5, 1942.”

Around this time, a group of captured Chetniks and their sympathizers was executed at Oplenac; they were buried in a mass grave, which was discovered only recently.

Trifunović also reported on an operation of 3-4,000 Germans and Bulgarians in Šumadija at the beginning of December 1942. On this occasion, his couriers, Sgt. Milan Parezanović and Pvt. Milan Djordjević, killed three Gestapo agents (born in Pančevo) disguised as local peasants.

In December 1942, many clashes took place in villages east of Požarevac, between Germans and Ljotić militia attempting to requisition food and the Mlava Corps of Maj. Simeon Ocokoljić, which tried to stop them. In the first battle, at the beginning of December 1942, one Chetnik was killed. In another, on December 11t, one German officer, one NCO, and 20 Ljotić men were killed. In the following week, the Morava Brigade commander Capt. Dragoljub Jeremić was killed. Maj. Ocokoljić reported to Mihailović by radiogram that, because of his unit’s actions, the Germans shot 50 civilians.

The biggest battle in the Valjevo area at this time took place in the village of Stapar, at dawn on December 6, 1942. Some 500 Ljotić men and 500 Germans attacked Mountain Guard commander Nikola Kalabić, and Valjevo Corps commander Neško Nedić, with their staff. To avoid capture, Kalabić’s aide Lt. Milan B. Vitas committed suicide.

Three NCOs from the Valjevo Corps and one soldier were killed. Lt. Nedić was captured with another two Chetniks after they were stunned by a hand grenade explosion. “Fighting desperately, we broke out of enemy encirclement”, reported Kalabić.

On December 22, a 200-strong German detachment surrounded Kalabić and his three aides in the house of Živorad and Milorad Subotić in Osečenica. During the breakthrough, Kalabić’s aides were killed. According to his report, one German officer and one soldier were killed, while six were wounded, though Lt. Nedić reported one killed and one wounded German. The Germans executed 27 civilians, including every male of the Subotić family, and burned the hamlet to the ground.

Meanwhile, from November 29- December 2, 1942, German and Bulgarian forces undertook “Operation Rudolf” in southern Serbia. Twelve captured Chetniks were shot, and the occupier didn’t have loses.

Maj. Dragutin Keserović attempted to stop German reprisals by retaliating in kind, shooting the German prisoners. In November 1942, he ordered his men to capture as many Germans as possible. According to the report of Col. Mladen Žujović to British Ambassador Ralph Stevenson, soon 89 German prisoners were brought to Keserović’s HQ. The German command at the time listed that number of soldiers as “missing.”

Keserović then sent the Germans his threat, and they responded by covering Kruševac with posters announcing new reprisals. Žujović wrote that the Germans agreed to “get even” if Keserović really started to shoot prisoners. In the end, they released their hostages, and Keserović released the rest of the Germans.

According to one witness, Keserović said that he “captured many Germans” and killed them at Mt. Gledić, which was in retaliation for their executions of hostages and civilians.

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The “Gordon” Group

Thanks to German documents, however, much is known about the activities of one particular sabotage detachment, alternately known as Sabotage Group “Gordon”, Headquarter 101, or Sabotage-Diversion HQ of Command 110.

Command 110 was the code for South Serbia Command, headed by Maj. Radoslav Đurić, mentioned earlier. Officially he was also in charge of Group “Gordon”, but in practice the detachment was commanded by his associate, Lt. Ratomir-Ratko Sotirović. Ratomir’s deputy was his brother, Reserve Lt. Ratibor Sotirović, a reporter for the daily Politika before the war, whom Mihailović personally sent to create a cell in Toplica. Ratomir’s aide was “Sergeant Ćirić”, actually Dragoslav Žugić of Užice, a railroad official in Niš.

Ratomir later denounced the war against the Communists as “fratricidal,” and was executed by the Chetniks. Ratibor succumbed to torture during the interrogation by the Gestapo in Niš. The Gemans shot Dragoslav Žugić at Bubanj Hill. (82)

The father of brothers Sotirović, Sotir Sotirović of Niš was on a German poster listing executed “DM followers”, but he was not actually executed. The listing was a way of pressuring Ratomir and Ratibor while they were being investigated. (83)

By request of Maj. Đurić and Gen. Mihailović, Group “Gordon” was supplied by Western Allies with explosives and gold (British pounds), both as reward and to cover expenses and ensure greater mobility. Capture of these British funds further motivated the German investigators. They managed to eliminate four sub-commands of Group “Gordon” along the Belgrade–Athens and Niš–Sophia railroads:

• Intelligence Center 1a (September 1942)

• Intelligence  Center 1b (January 1943)

• Traveling sabotage Center (Grdelica Gorge, March 1943)

• Sabotage-Intelligence Center “Antique Store” (Summer 1943).

These units consisted mainly of active and retired railroad officials and clerks.

Intelligence Center 1a consisted of railroad workers from the Central Railroad Station in Niš, Aleksandar Makotar, Radoš Đelošević and others, as well as Obrad Stepanović from Gornji Grguri, who stored explosives dropped by British planes. Thirty members from this unit, among them one woman – famous beauty Jelena Obradović – were shoot at Bubanj Hill, while others were taken to the Red Cross camp in Niš, then at Banjica near Belgrade, and then to internment (Makotar and Đelošević returned to Niš after the war, where they were arrested and interrogated by the Communists).

The Traveling Sabotage Center consisted of 20 female saboteurs, who were assigned to move from place to place and help with sabotages. One of them, a railroad clerk from Belgrade, was caught with plans for disabling a German train.

According to a report of the German task force (Wienecke) tasked with the pursuit of Group “Gordon”, 773 of its saboteurs were arrested. After the interrogation, 396 of them were executed. They where:

• 14 officers of Nedić’s Serbian State Guard, who secretly worked for Chetniks

• 24 non-commissioned officers of Serbian State Guard

• 217 railroad officers, clerks and workers (12 Station managers, 23 station manager deputies and 50 switchman)

• 15 telegraphers

• 87 phone operators

• 35 women – clerks at Directorates South and North

• 4 “DM Commandants”

Of the arrested, 207 were sent to hard labor, 120 released due to lack of evidence, and 50 were held for further investigation. Group “Gordon” was tried by the SS Court in Niš (Group “Karl-Wienecke”) and the SS Court in Belgrade (Group “Gertrad”). (84)

Full article in printed Liberty

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