Monday, October 09, 2006

General Mihailovich didn't sacrifice Belgrade

"One may ask now what would have been the fate of Mihailovich if, being less realistic and more romantic than he actually was, he had continued his fight irrespective of the consequences."

The British Press

The Whitehall News
July 19, 1946


General Mihailovich is dead, shot by a firing squad in Belgrade. This political murder, carried out by Marshal Tito’s appointed judges, was committed on the national hero of Serbia and on the man, who, in 1941, brought Yugoslavia into the war on the Allied side. It is, therefore, one of the most revolting examples of abandonment by the Western Democracies of their former Allies in East-Central Europe.

The main accusation against Mihailovich who, after the collapse of Yugoslavia, was the first to start there guerrilla warfare against the Nazis, was that after an initial period of great activity, he withdrew into the Serbian mountains and remained there comparatively passive. This was the basis of accusing him of “collaborationism.”

The fact, however, is that Mihailovich was a true patriot of Yugoslavia and as such, considered it his first duty to appreciate realistically the interest of his nation. Consequently, he thought the price which the Yugoslav people were paying for his armed activity, the price of mass executions carried out by the Germans in retaliation, much too high for the actual results he could achieve. He was confirmed in this attitude when, after Teheran, the Allies gave up the plan of invading the Balkans.

Tito, on the other hand, was never a free agent; he was consistently carrying out the directives of Soviet policy in the Balkans, and so, was never hampered by patriotic scruples. Thus, he could wage the Partisan war, disregarding the bloody reprisals taken by the Germans on the civilian population.

One may ask now what would have been the fate of Mihailovich if, being less realistic and more romantic than he actually was, he had continued his fight irrespective of the consequences. Would he, then, have escaped the accusation of the Belgrade court that he betrayed Yugoslavia?

The answer to this question is easily provided by the fate of another Allied commander, the Polish General Bor-Komorowski, who led the Warsaw rising. General Bor did exactly the opposite of what Mihailovich had done. In accordance with the romantic and heroic Polish mentality, he disregarded realistic political considerations—he fought to the bitter end and to prove the intransigence of the Polish resistance against the Nazis, he did not even hesitate to lay Warsaw in ruins. And yet, neither he nor the Polish Home Army commanded by him, have escaped the accusation by the present rulers of Poland of being pro-Nazi, Fascist, and collaborationists. General Bor avoided the fate of being tried like Mihailovich only because he was outside the grip of the Warsaw administration. His successor in the command of the Polish Home Army, General Okulicki, was, however, less lucky; ten years of penal servitude, the sentence of the Moscow trial against 16 Polish leaders, was his reward for his fine resistance record.

Thus the tragic fate of General Mihailovich is by no means a consequence of what he has done or left undone, but simply of the fact that, declining to be a Communist tool, he was a true representative of the independent spirit of Serbia—as Bor is of Poland. The political fate of both had been decided long ago, at the Conference of Teheran and Yalta, when East-Central Europe was then recognized as belonging to the Soviet sphere of influence. Both could do nothing to change this, but at least the realistic Mihailovich did not have to reproach himself for having destroyed Belgrade—in vain.

The Whitehall News
July 19, 1946

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