April 27, 2009
Serbia seeks grave of slain WWII guerrilla leader
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s government has formed a special commission to try to locate the grave of a World War II guerrilla leader executed as a traitor by the Communists, officials said Monday.
The location of Dragoljub Draza Mihailovic’s grave has been unknown since postwar Communist authorities executed him in 1946 for collaboration with the Nazi occupiers.
For decades, the issue has fueled divisions in Serbia, where many believe that Mihailovic was a hero who was killed for his loyalty to the Karadjordjevic royal family which ruled the country before the war.
Mihailovic is particularly respected among Serbs in America, most of whom had fled Communism. A Chicago-based Serb group recently offered a $100,000 (€75,500) reward for help finding the grave.
In Serbia, Slobodan Radovanovic, the state prosecutor who heads the government commission, urged the opening of secret state security files on the case. He also said the people who were involved in the Mihailovic execution should be called to testify about the location of his body.
Senior Justice Ministry official Slobodan Homen said, “Our only goal is to clarify this historic mystery.” He said the commission will not make any judgments about Mihailovic’s role in the war.
Mihailovic, a Yugoslav officer, launched a resistance movement in 1941 against the German occupiers. But he also fought against Communist guerrillas later in the war, and non-Serbs have accused his troops of atrocities.
The Communist authorities jailed Mihailovic after the war and sentenced him to death in a hasty trial.
In 1948, U.S. President Harry Truman posthumously awarded Mihailovic the Legion of Merit award for his role in rescuing hundreds of U.S. airmen downed by the Nazis over Serbia.
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