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"The Holocaust"

"The destruction of European Jewry 1933 - 1945"

by Nora Levin 

Published by: The Schocken Books, New York 
Edition 1973

Library of Congress Catalog #: 67-23676

Pages 508 - 511

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 independence.

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 crucial. 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...

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 reprisals...

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...

End quote

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.

Page 513:

...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.

End quote

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

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Last revised: September 25, 1997