Monday, September 20, 2010

The End in Slovenia - The British hand over the Serbian Volunteer Corps to Tito's murderers

Aleksandra's Note: Not enough has been exposed about the fate of the Serbian Volunteer Corps in WWII. This essay by Mr. Stevan Pirocanac is a valuable revelation about what happened to that faction of the Serbian forces in WWII Yugoslavia. It is amazing just how integral the British Allies were to Tito's ultimate success and the extent to which they facilitated those ends by playing right into his hands. The terrible irony is that Tito felt no allegiance whatsoever to the Allies or to "Democracy" or to "Freedom".


Aleksandra Rebic



By Stevan Pirocanac

On April 10th 1945, three regiments of the Serbian Volunteer Corps (the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th) went into action. They had a twofold aim.

The first was to clear the area of Bela Krajina of the Partisans, and thereby remove the danger threatening Ljubljana. This was requested by the Slovenian People's Committee and in full agreement with Dimitrije Ljotić's plan. At the best possible moment they sought to proclaim the remaining free parts of Slovenia's territory, as a territory of Slovenia, a State in the Federative Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and also invite the Western Allies and King Peter II to come.

Secondly, by penetrating the valley of the Kupa River, to go and somehow help the Chetniks of Montenegro, under the command of Vojvoda Pavle Djurišić. Djurišić had left the forces of General Dragoljub Mihailović in Bosnia, with intentions of joining the Monarchists (Serbian Volunteers, Dinarska Division and Vojvoda Jevdjević Chetniks, as well as the Slovenian Homeguard-Domobranci), in Slovenia and Istria.

Soon after the Montenegrins left General Mihailović they fought a serious battle at Lijevće Polje, from April 4th till April 7th 1945, against the Partisans and Croatian Ustashas. The goal of the Ustashas and the Partisans was to prevent the passage of Djurišić's forces to Slovenia. In this battle the Chetniks suffered heavy losses, both dead and wounded. A little more then one thousand were able to escape. Ustashas captured the rest, including Vojvoda Djurisić, Dragisa Vasić, Col. Zaharije Ostojić, Vojvoda Petar Bačević and others. The Chetnik leaders spoke with Dr. Sekula Drljević, who with other Montenegro separatists, during II World War were allied with Ustashas Poglavnik, Ante Pavelić. Djurišić's Chetniks then were given an ultimatum and chose to reorganize and ostensibly fall under the leadership of Drljević, with the permission of the Ustashas. Through this agreement, the Chetniks were transferred to Stara and Nova Gradiška, for rest, medical help and rearmament. There the Ustashas separated Djurišić and all the main superiors, in all 32 men, and also an additional 300 or so better known men. On April 20th, 1945, the Ustashas sent them by small riverboats to the concentration camp Jasenovac, where they were killed with exceptional brutality.

Because of the retreat of the Germans, the Ustashas were forced to move westward also. Occupied with their own problems, they transferred control of the Montenegro Chetniks to Drljević's men. Deprived of their leaders, the Chetniks in groups of varying sizes tried to advance towards Zidani Most, and from there tried to join the monarchist forces stationed in western Slovenia. At Zidani Most the Chetniks formed two groups. One group of about 1000 fighters and some civilians went to Ljubljana. Together with the Serbian Volunteers and Slovenian Dombranci, they crossed into Austria. From the Austrian camp at Vetrinje, the British Army returned this group to Yugoslavia where Tito's communists massacred them at Kočevje, in May of 1945. A few managed to escape. Out of close to 100 saved, less then 10 were Djurišić Chetniks.

The second group was divided in two. The smaller group of about 2000 was taken captive by the Partisans by Zidani Most. They all were killed immediately. The larger group of about 6000 fighters and approximately 2000 members of their families went towards Celje-Dravograd-Pliberg, on the border with Carinthia. They were forcibly returned to Yugoslavia by the British who used tanks and planes, between the 15th and 17th of May 1945. Bombs and cannon grenades were falling on the Chetniks and the refugees. In this group were Montenegro Metropolitan Dr. Joanikije and 70 orthodox priests. This group was killed in Radovljiči and Kočevje. Both of these atrocities are facts the British and the Partisans have persistently kept hidden. Up to 500 were able to flee the massacres, and about 200 were successful in reaching refugee camps in Italy. The rest were once again given back to the Partisans. Dr. Sekula Drljević and his wife were killed by the Chetniks, in the vicinity of Celovac, in Austria (1)

Group Tatalović (Lt.Col. R. Tatalović was in charge of the 3 Volunteer regiments) at first did not know what happened to Vojvoda Pavle and his Chetniks. At the beginning the Volunteers did not meet any bigger Partisan forces, and everything was accomplished rather easily and also a few Partisan warehouses were found with plenty of different supplies. In the village of Prezna, the Volunteers met with two brigades of Vojvoda Jevjević Chetniks, under the command of Capt. Djaković.

The situation changed when the IV Partisan Army, under the command of Petar Drapšin arrived in this area and began its advance towards Rijeka and Trst. That posed a threat to Ilirska Bistrica and St. Petar, the bases of the Volunteers and the Chetniks, and also Postojna, the Headquarters of the Serb Volunteers.

Accordingly, on April 21st, 1945, Col. Tatalović ordered the SVC regiments to start attacking the flank of the Partisan forces, actually to begin a reconnaissance of the river Kupa between the villages of Kuzelj and Fara, in order to cross the river the next day. Something unexpected happened during the night. The Partisans crossed the river and took up position. The next morning two battalions of the SVC advancing through the forest towards the river were ambushed by them, and soon the battle expanded to the whole front. It lasted some 10 hours until nightfall. The Partisans retreated and those killed were later found by the Volunteers to be wearing new British uniforms, well armed, and from the documents discovered, it was seen that they were members of the 26th Division. The next three days the Partisans kept stubbornly attacking, but in spite of Partisan superiority in manpower and armament, the Volunteers stopped them.

On the second day of the battle, April 25, 1945, six British airplanes came to help the Partisans, and bombed the small village Ajbel, where the HQ of the III regiment was located. In a short time Ajbel ceased to exist, and a majority of its inhabitants were killed along with the 10 Serb Volunteers. Among them was Second Lieutenant Aleksandar-Aca Gavrić from Šabac, and his friend Lt. Blaža, who came to the Volunteers from the Serbian State Guard. (2)

The Volunteers suffered heavy casualties from the Partisan artillery. So many were wounded that there were not enough carts/wagons to take them to the First Aid station. To make the situation more serious, the Chetniks under the command of Capt. Djaković who were holding the position to the left of the Volunteers, abandoned their position without informing the Volunteers.

On April 26, 1945, the Volunteers abandoned their own positions and started to move in the direction of a group of Slovenian Home Guards (Domobranci) under the command of Major Vuk Rupnik, the son of General Rupnik, the Commandant of the Home Guard. They were holding the position by the town of Stari Trg, protecting the entrance into the Valley of Cernica. During the march the Volunteers got a radio message that the Partisans had captured Ilirska Bistrica and St. Peter, and that the 1st Regiment was fighting Partisans close to Postojna and Prestranek. Also, the way to Planina, a town where the Volunteers' families were located, was cut off.

Group Tatalović, on 30th April 1945, went through Sodražice and came to Vrhnik. On May 3rd, 1945 the Slovenian People's Committee proclaimed Slovenija as a free part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and sent a telegram/wire to King Petar II to come to Slovenija. The Serbian Volunteers - Group Tatalović placed themselves under the Command of Col. Franc Krener, who became the Supreme Commandant of all nationalist forces in Slovenija (this was done according to the plan of Dimitrije Ljotić). The People's Committee immediately promoted Col. Krener to the rank of Brigadier-General. The same day Col. Tatalović received a radio message from General Mušicki that all other Volunteer units, including the families, were safe and in contact with British forces, in Istria.

During the 4th and 5th of May, Group Tatalović was fighting the Partisans at Logatec, and then they moved northward to defend the approach to Ljubljana from which the residents started to flee, towards Austria. At the front line, on the right were Slovenian Homeguardsmen, and next to them one regiment of the General Vlasov Russian soldiers.

On May 7th, 1945 General Krener sent a letter to the Volunteers, begging them to stay in this position one more day, to allow the wounded and sick to be evacuated from Ljubljana. In this letter, among other things, was the following: "...I am asking this from you, in the name of King and Fatherland, and the Slovenian People who will never forget!"

Under heavy artillery bombardment by the Partisans, the Volunteers stayed there for one more day. It became extremely difficult, since the Slovenian Guardsmen did abandon their positions, so the rear was open. The battle lasted all day; attacks and counter attacks were exchanged constantly. Volunteers did not know that they were all alone, as the Russians were also gone.

At noon, on May 9th, the Volunteers received a wire to urgently retreat to Škofja Loka and Kranj. From here, these last defenders of Ljubljana, crossed over the mountain range of Karavanke, and together with an endless column of civilian refugees passed through the Ljubelj railway tunnel, and into Austria, where on May 12, 1945 they met the British, in the village of Podgora. The British soon gave the order for arms to be taken away, and that representatives from the Partisans would be present on that occasion. After this was done, the Volunteers were put in the camp at Vetrinje. (3)

The British kept the Volunteers in Vetrinje till May 24, 1945. From the British behaviour it was not possible to guess their intentions. They were professional, unconcerned, and closemouthed. On May 24th, they started to transport first the Volunteers, and then the Slovenian Homeguards. That lasted a few days. The British assured them they were transporting them to Italy to be together with their comrades. When Col. Tatalović went to a British officer to get information where they were being sent, this officer gave his word of honour as a British officer, that they were being sent to Italy. Alas, instead of transporting them to Italy, the British sent the monarchists back to Tito's Yugoslavia where they were massacred, (without any subsequent investigations) in the forests of Slovenia, around Kočevje. From Vetrinje, the British sent back 3,000 Serbian Volunteers, 11,000 Slovenian Homeguards and some of their families, almost 1,000 Chetniks of Vojvoda Djurišić, together with some women and children.

From those, approximate 15,000+ handed over to the Communists, only a small number were able to flee and save their lives. Some escaped from the camp at St. Vid, and some few escaped from the actual place of the killings at Kočevje. A few even escaped from the pits the Partisans threw them into, after being shot. Thanks to them, the whole world heard about this horrible crime, which actually had two parts and two collaborators, responsible for it.

It should be mentioned that a Volunteer, Vladimir Ljotić, son of Dimitrije Ljotić, Chairman of the Yugoslav Royalist Movement "Zbor," was able to escape during the transportation and instead of fleeing westwards, towards Istria, did return to Vetrinje on May 25, 1945, in order to warn the Slovenians about the British betrayal. There he was friendly received by Major Vuk Rupnik who organised a meeting with five members of the Slovene National Committee of whom one was in uniform and Ljotić assumed that he was General Krener. Vladimir Ljotić told them of the handover of the Volunteers by the British to the Partisans but was not convinced that he was believed. However during the night of May 25/26, another Volunteer who had escaped, Lieutenant Djordje Stojanović, turned up and confirmed Ljotić's report.

The first part of this crime was the decision itself. Even today, to the shame of those among the British who were in a position to decide, it is not known who gave the order for handing over to Tito's Partisans, the Yugoslav nationalists and monarchists, soldiers of King Peter II, and allies of the Anglo-Americans. The second part of this crime was the massacre of those victims handed over, without being judged or convicted.

It is quite possible that those three regiments of the Serbian Volunteers would not have experienced such a fate if they had been looking after their own interests; but since the first day of their creation, September 15, 1941, until the May of 1945, they never looked after their own interests. For example, when it became obvious that Montenegro's Chetniks would not be able to advance to the Kupa river, where they were waited for by the Volunteers, Col. Tatalović received a message from the Volunteers' Headquarters to immediately start retreating westward, to join the other Volunteer units. Col. Tatalović sent the following answer: "We can not so suddenly leave the front and create an empty space through which the Communists may attack the Slovenians from the rear! Our honour demands that we, before retreat, inform General Rupnik, in Ljubljana, giving him a time period, making it possible that his forces take over our positions." (4)

General Rupnik received Tatalović' message, but he never did anything about it. And so, instead of moving west while it still was possible, the Volunteers were forced to move north, then defend Ljubljana, cross into Austria which then was the only way open to them and ultimately the place from where the British handed them over to Tito's murderers.

"...Slovenian people will never forget this..." (Gen. Krener, May 7th, 1945)


(1) S.J Vučetić, Gradjanski rat u Crnoj Gori 1941-1945, page 142

(2) Andrija Dropić "Akcija na Kupi", Volunteers Memorials, Vol. V page 56

(3) Capt. Miodrag Marković, "Akcija na Kupi", Volunteers Memorial 1941-1971, pages 221-231

(4) Dr. Djoko Slijepčević, Jugoslavija uoči II Svetskog rata, page 326 (Ing. M. Vasiljević: "Moja misija u Sloveniji u maju 1945 - izveštaj Komandi SDK")


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