"The destruction of European Jewry 1933 - 1945"
by Nora Levin
Published by: The Schocken Books, New York
Library of Congress Catalog #: 67-23676
Pages 508 - 511
The interval between May 15, when the
attack was originally scheduled, and June 22, when it finally came,
represented the additional time the German generals on the Russian front
needed for certain victory. Later these were to be five weeks of deep snow and subzero temperatures that blocked the movement of
the German Armies. The Balkan campaign set back the timetable for Barbarossa.
German generals ever afterward would lamentthe loss of those five weeks...
More and more he [Hitler] was becoming obsessed with Russia and the
necessity for a showdown. The fateful directive for the invasion of the
USSR, coded "Operation Barbarossa," was dated December 18, 1940, and the target date for the opening of the assault was May 15, 1941. However
before Barbarossa could get under way, the Balkans had to be secured.
A German Army was massed in Romania in February 1941. By this time,
the Greeks had caused the Italians to retreat... Germany had to move troops
from Rumania into Greece through Bulgaria. Bulgaria had gambled on the wrong side in World War I. She made a similar miscalculation in February
1941, when she accepted Hitler's assurance that the war was already won...
On the night of February 28, German units crossed the Danube from Rumania
and took up strategic positions in Bulgaria...
Yugoslavia, however, was not as accommodating as Bulgaria... The Yugoslav
regent, Prince Paul, had carried the policy of neutrality to the limit
for fear of provoking Germany; ministers and leading politicians were afraid to speak. There was one exception, however - an Air Force general,
named Dus"an Simic', who represented [Serb] nationalist elements among
the officers' corps. Simovic's office at Zemun [suburb of Belgrade] became
a center of Yugoslav opposition to German penetration into the Balkans
and Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, on March 1, 1941, Bulgaria had joined the
Tripartite [Nazi] Pact, and Yugoslavia was pressured into following the suit.
By that date, German motorized forces were already at the Yugoslavian frontiers.
On March 18, Prince Paul left Yugoslavia an a secret visit to Berchtesgaden.
Under great pressure, he verbally committed his country to Bulgaria's course.
Prime Minister Cvetkovic' left Belgrade March 24... on a Vienna-bound train
and, unknown to the public and press, signed a pact with Hitler the following
day. The conspirators then began to act.
The small circle around Simovic' had been preparing for action in
case of capitulation. The leader of the planned rising was General Bora
Mirkovic', a commander of the Yugoslav Air Force. When the news of the
pact began to circulate in Belgrade, the conspirators took over the government
in a bloodless coup in the name of the young King Peter II. Prince Paul
then signed the act of abdication and was allowed to leave for Greece.
The overthrow of the collaborationist governmentset loose an outburst of
popular enthusiasm. The streets of Belgrade were thronged with Serbs chanting
"Rather war than the
pact [with Hitler]", "Rather death than slavery."
There was dancing in the squares and English and French
flags were draped everywhere. The young King who, by climbing down a rain-pipe
had made his own escape from Regency tutelage, took the oath in Belgrade
Cathedral amid great acclaim. The military coup aroused a surge of [Serb]
national vitality. The Serbs had flung their defiance at Hitler at the
moment of his greatest power.
These events threw Hitler into an uncontrollable rage and in a
characteristically impulsive reaction, he decided to crush Yugoslavia.
Eroded by vanity and fury, he took the coup as a personal affront. He called for the immediate invasion of Yugoslavia and instructed Ribbentrop
to advise Hungary, Romania and Italy that they would get spoils for their
efforts in the conquest. Germany meanwhile planned to take important copper and coal-mining districts for herself. As the support for the coup
had come principally from the works of Serbs, the Axis [Nazi] powers regarded
them as their main enemy and favor the Croats who were later rewarded with
The gallant little country that dared
to defy Hitler was pitilessly
smashed in a few days. On April 6, the Nazis bombed Belgrade, reducing
much of the city to rubble and killing 50,000 persons. Hitler achieved his revenge, but at a very high price. The German diversion against Yugoslavia...
forced the postponement of the attack against Russia by five full weeks,
a delay that would prove
After the German conquest, Yugoslavia ceased to exist as a nation...
Serbia was densely occupied by German troops. Hitler
personally felt a violent hatred for the Serbs, possibly
derived from his Austrian childhood
and undoubtedly inflamed by the March coup. A powerful partisan movement rose up in Serbia in the summer of 1941 and drew horrifying
As partisan warfare spread, the Nazis decided on straight revenge
on the Jews and Serbians. For every dead German soldier or civilian, a
hundred Jews and Serbians were killed; for every wounded German; fifty were killed... The killing was done by [German] Army troops...
Here the author gives the same description of the destiny of the
Serbian Jews as described in other Holocaust literature: In occupied Serbia,
German Army shoots Jewish mail population. Remaining Jewish women and children are transported to Semlin (Zemun) which was part of
Independent State of Croatia.
...Troop units began to move the families of the dead hostages to Semlin...
Semlin, however, was not transit to Poland; it was the end of the road.
From time to time, a group of women and children were loaded onto
gas vans and driven out to the woods. During the spring and summer of 1942,
at least 6,000 Jewish women and children from Semlin were gassed in vans... Not until October 1952, however, when several Gestapo officers
in Serbia were brought to trial, was the use of gassing vans revealed.
See, also, excerpts from the same book on the
destiny of Jews and Serbs in Independent State of Croatia. There,
the author says (pp. 514-517): Nazi Croats called Ustashi "murdered and
tortured Jews and Serbs in indescribably bestial fashion."
- More quotes from the same book
- Common suffering of Jews and Serbs
The truth belongs to us all.
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Last revised: September 25, 1997