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Reviewed by:
  • Partisanenkrieg in Jugoslawien 1941–1944
  • Milan Vego
Partisanenkrieg in Jugoslawien 1941–1944. By Klaus Schmider. Hamburg, Germany: E. S. Mittler & Sohn, 2002. ISBN 3-8132-0794-3. Maps. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 629. Euro 39.90.

Scholarly works on the guerrilla war in Yugoslavia, 1941-45, either in English or in German are rare. A large number of books, monographs, and articles were published in the former Yugoslavia dealing with what communists called the "war of national liberation." However, many of these accounts were written either by direct participants or ideological supporters [End Page 994] of the communist regime in Belgrade. With few exceptions, the scholarly value of their work was rather low. There were very few books written in English dealing with the guerrilla war in Yugoslavia between 1941 and 1945. Nor were many books written based on the German primary sources. The most important German works on the subject were Das Ende auf dem Balkan 1944/45. Die militärische Räumung Jugoslawiens durch die deutsche Wehrmacht by Karl Hnilicka, published in 1970 and Der Endkampf auf dem Balkan. Operationen der Heeresgruppe E von Griechenland bis zu den Alpen by Erich Schmidt-Richberg, published in 1955. Dr. Schmider's work is the first that has tried to provide a comprehensive description and analysis of the military events in the former Yugoslavia from the German side. The work focuses on the events between the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941 and the entry of the Soviet forces into Serbia in September 1944. As the author explains, that latter event signified the end of the guerrilla phase of war for the communist-led People's Liberation Army.

The book consists of eight chapters plus eight appendixes. The chapter on the political and geographic framework allots only six pages to the development of the Yugoslav state from 1918 to 1941. This is far short of what was needed to lay a foundation for the subsequent narrative and analysis. The nature of war in the former Yugoslavia cannot really be understood without some knowledge of the political, diplomatic, social, ethnic, and religious factors that led to the brutal internecine conflict of 1941-45. This chapter also should have provided a detailed explanation of the events that led to the Axis invasion and the partition of the country.

Dr. Schmider's work deals almost exclusively with the military events in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The author does not explain why guerrilla movements in occupied Slovenia, Kosovo, and Macedonia were not addressed. The best part of the book are four chapters describing the German and Italian operations against Tito's "partisans" in Bosnia and Croatia in 1941-44. An additional chapter deals with events in Serbia in 1942-44. Dr. Schmider's analysis of the major operations conducted by the Germans and the Italians and the reasons for their failure is done well. He also explains military events in the context of the key political events. His critique of the Croatian leader Ante Pavelic and his Ustasha government is right on the mark. The policies of Zagreb toward the Serbs and other national groups were utterly brutal and ultimately self-defeating. The Zagreb government was the main culprit behind the decision of so many Serbs to join either Tito's partisans or Draza Mihailovic's Chetniks.

The author's description of Josip Broz Tito's policies toward the Germans is accurate and refreshing. Clearly, Tito was willing to collaborate with the Germans in order not only to crush his internal enemies but also to prevent any Western influence in the country. Milovan Djilas, one of Tito's top aides, shed some light on Tito's secret negotiations with the Germans in his book, Wartime, published in 1977. Dr. Schmider has provided more details on a series of secret negotiations held in September 1942 and March 1943. The German police attaché in Zagreb in a report to Heinrich Himmler on 21 [End Page 995] September 1942, referring to a meeting at Tito's main headquarters, quoted Tito as saying that despite bloodshed on the eastern front an understanding must be reached between the Soviets and the Germans...


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