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KLA -- Resurgent Nazis Under NATO's Wing

By George Thompson

"No one, in any case, should entertain any notion that any future Kosovo, whether run by Albanians or by an international protectorate, is going to have any Serbs in it." Tim Judah, New York Review of Books.

The false historical analogy underlying NATO's war against Yugoslavia is the purported resemblance of the Serbs' anti-KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) counterinsurgency to nazi atrocities in the second world war. Clinton has compared the Serbian campaign to the Holocaust and Mrs. Clinton has stated that the images on CNN remind her of the movie Schindler's List; both implicitly analogize the Kosovar Albanians to Jews in the 1930s and '40s, and the Serbs to nazis. Other NATO leaders, and most journalists in NATO countries, have mindlessly echoed the Clintons' statements.

Not only is the analogy completely misplaced as a historical matter, but it was the Albanians who sided with the nazis and fascists in the 1940s and the current KLA that continues the ethnic eliminationist policies of that era. The Serbs are engaged in suppressing a resurgent neo-nazi movement, just as they did during and immediately after the world war. While NATO's rhetoric has served to rally an uninformed public's support for attacking Yugoslavia, even a cursory understanding of the area's recent history belies that rhetoric and refutes the false version of events that NATO has misused to justify its attack.

Mussolini's Italy occupied Albania proper in April 1939, and established a collaborationist regime with the enthusiastic support of the native population. After Hitler invaded and occupied Yugoslavia in spring 1941, the bulk of current Kosovo-Metohija was placed under Italian-Albanian collaborationist control and annexed to Albania. Kosovar Albanian fascist militias called the "Balli Kombëtar" or "Ballistas" conducted a campaign of murder and deportation against the Serb population between 1941 and 1943, the years of Italian control. Carlo Umilta, a civilian aide to the commander of the Italian occupation forces, described some of the atrocities in his memoirs and observed that "the Albanians are out to exterminate the Slavs."

The anti-Serb pogroms intensified after Italy's collapse in 1943, when the Germans assumed control of Albania, including Kosovo. In April 1944 the Germans formed the 21st "Waffen-Gebirgs Division der SS Skanderbeg" (alban.Nr.1) with German leadership and Kosovar Albanian officers and rank and file. Although the Germans raised the unit as an anti-Partisan force, its Albanian members were interested solely in murdering or expelling the Serb population, as their Ballista predecessors had done so successfully. The division was dissolved in early 1945.

A major impetus for the Kosovar Albanians' attempt to drive the Serbs from Kosovo under both fascist and nazi tutelage was militant Islam. The Islamist group "Second League of Prizren" was created in September 1943 by Xhafer Deva, a Kosovar Albanian, and proclaimed a jihad against Slavs. This effort was supported by the grand mufti of Jerusalem, El Haj Emin Huseini, who similarly called for the elimination of Jews in then-British-occupied Palestine.

No one is certain how many Serbs were killed or displaced in this Albanian-sponsored Holocaust. Estimates range between 10,000 and 30,000 murdered, with at least an additional 100,000 driven from Kosovo to elsewhere in Yugoslavia and replaced with "immigrants" from Albania proper. The Kosovar Albanians' depredations were a major cause of the current demographic imbalance: the Albanians constitute a majority of the Kosovo population because of their great success as Hitler's willing executioners. But their murderous attention was not limited only to Serbs. Countless Roma (Gypsies) were liquidated, and Kosovar Albanians, both acting alone and under German direction, managed to eliminate approximately 40 percent of Kosovo's Jewish population. The definitive work concerning the nazi-orchestrated elimination of Yugoslav Jews, "The Crimes of Fascist Occupants and Their Collaborators Against the Jews of Yugoslavia" (1952, revised 1957) (published by The Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia) estimates that there were approximately 550 Jews in Kosovo at the time of Hitler's takeover of Yugoslavia, and that 210 of them, or 38 percent, were murdered, primarily by Kosovar Albanians. In fact, the Skanderbeg division's first operation was to act as an "einsatzgruppen" against the Jews. Although KLA supporters now claim that no Jews were killed in Kosovo and that Jews were sheltered by the Kosovar Albanians, such claims are false and should be treated with the disdain shown to other Holocaust deniers.

Although their German mentors surrendered in 1945, the remnants of the Albanian Kosovar nazi and fascist groups continued fighting the Yugoslav government for an additional six years, with a major rebellion occurring from 1945 to 1948 in the Drenica region, the hotbed for today's KLA recruiting, under the command of Shaban Paluzha. Sporadic resistance continued from 1948 to 1951.

Notwithstanding the eventual suppression of these last Axis holdouts, Tito instituted a Kosovo policy of rewarding Albanians and subordinating Serbs instead of "denazifying" the Albanians. The Serbs that had been driven from Kosovo were as a general matter prevented from returning, while immigration from Albanian was encouraged to further skew the province's demographic profile. Tito granted an enhanced autonomy that placed Kosovar Albanians in local political control, and this power was used to continue making life intolerable for the Serbs, with the result that many thousands more fled during the 1970s and 1980s. The persecution of the Serbs during this time has been well documented elsewhere, particularly by David Binder of the New York Times who in 1982 -- long before Milosevic attained political power -- reported that the Albanians' violent "incidents have prompted many of Kosovo's Slavic inhabitants to flee the province, thereby helping to fulfill a nationalist demand for an ethnically 'pure' Albanian Kosovo." New York Times, Nov. 9, 1982 at A6. Facts on File reported similar findings, quoting an ethnic Albanian Communist Party official as saying "[t]he nationalists have a two-point platform, first to establish what they call an ethnically clean Albanian republic and then the merger with Albania to form a greater Albania". Facts on File World News Digest (Sept. 10, 1982).

In short, the same desire to drive out Serbs that animated the Albanian nazi and fascist units in the 1940s remained active throughout the post-war period. It flared anew into spectacular violence with the KLA's advent. In both form and substance, the KLA is merely a continuation of the Ballistas and Skanderbegs.

In form, the KLA has named its units after "heroes" of the Albanian nazi and fascist units. It has adopted the exact same insignia that was used by the Skanderbeg division. Many of its leaders and earliest members are the sons and grandsons of members of the Skanderbeg and Ballista units. A KLA-affiliated website, sponsored by the Kosova Liberation Peace Movement (www.klpm.org), looks with approbation on the nazi occupation:

As Germany overtook Yugoslavia in 1941, the Kosovar people were liberated by the Germans. All Albanian territories of this state, such as Kosova (sic), western Macedonia and border regions under Montenegro, were re-united into Albania proper. Albanian schools, governmental administration, press and radio were re-established.

And, needless to say, the Serbs were eliminated. The areas referred to constitute the "greater Albania" that the more audacious KLA leaders now seek to recreate. The kplm website envisions a similar "liberation" in the future: "The KLA is committed to liberate Kosova and to bring their motherland to freedom." Having seen that the previous liberation had resulted in the wholesale murder of the Serb and Jewish population, it is no wonder that the Serbian authorities took the strongest steps to prevent its promised recurrence.

Even more telling than the KLA's pedigree and self-chosen symbolism are its actions, for these truly demonstrate the group's unreconstructed nazism. The focus of the organization's efforts was the murder of Serb civilians, as well as Albanians that did not wish to provide their support. The KLA's 1998 terror campaign was designed to force all Serbs from areas under its control, and it was quite successful in doing so. In the autumn of 1998 the Associated Press reported that the Serbian populations of nearly 100 villages had been driven out, either by death or intimidation. KLA commanders Remi and Haradjani were particularly ruthless, and their documented campaign of terror against Serbs, Albanians and Roma, documented at www.siri-us.com, would earn them an indictment in the Hague if the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia had any interest in justice.

The methods used by the KLA reek of Hitler-era barbarity. In Klecka, 22 Serb civilians were tortured and executed and their remains disposed of in an improvised crematorium, and near Glogovac Serb farmers and their families were butchered and thrown in a muddy ditch. While these incidents were ignored in the American press, which had long since picked the KLA as its favorites in the Kosovo conflict, the Serb authorities and citizenry were quite familiar with them and knew they portended a similar fate for the entire non-Albanian population unless the KLA was defeated.

And make no mistake: KLA victory and Kosovo's forced removal from Serbia will complete the process begun in the 1940s of eliminating the remaining Serbs. As Tim Judah, a strong supporter of the KLA, approvingly predicted in the May 1999 New York Review of Books: "No one, in any case, should entertain any notion that any future Kosovo, whether run by Albanians or by an international protectorate, is going to have any Serbs in it." Judah's words echo those of Carlo Umilta, the Italian fascist who at least had the decency to be disgusted by that prospect. In short, the KLA, with NATO's armed support, will complete what Hitler and Mussolini started, as people like Judah cheer them on.

Nor can the leaders and citizens of NATO countries feign ignorance of the KLA's true nature. Former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, no friend of the Serbs, wrote in the May-June 1999 edition of Foreign Affairs that the KLA shows "hints of fascism on one side and whiffs of communism on the other" and notes the genealogical link between its leaders and members of "the Skanderbeg volunteer SS division raised by the Nazis" and their "part in the shameful roundup and deportation of . . . [the] few hundred Jews during the Holocaust." This description has been widely circulated although, predictably, Hedges ignored the shameful roundup and mass murder of Serbs during the nazi period. While most Americans, like Mrs. Clinton, may get their (mis)understanding of historical events through fictional movies, they should have at least a minimal understanding of the real historical facts before launching a war and destroying a country based solely on supposed historical analogies.

Some commentators in the U.S. have acknowledged the nazi/fascist affiliation of Kosovar Albanians in the 1940s, but argue that this is "ancient history" (to quote one U.S. congressman) and has no bearing on the current war. Aside from the fact that the Serb Holocaust is no more "ancient" than the gas chambers at Auschwitz, today's KLA has adopted the same goals and tactics of the Ballistas and Skanderbegs and should be given the same shrift that violent neo-nazi groups would receive in any other country.

Any group that considers the nazis as liberators, looks with nostalgia on nazi control, wishes to replicate that era today, and resorts to mass murder to do so deserves to be ruthlessly uprooted. Instead, NATO has allied itself with the KLA and gone to war to prevent the Serbs from eliminating this resurgent nazi cancer. What we have in the KLA is the resurrection of a 1940s nazi/fascist group, dressed up for 1990s media success and this time supported by the former world war 2 Allies along with, of course, Germany. The Serbs are no more the reincarnation of nazis than were the world war 2 resistance groups that fought against Hitler while the KLA's predecessors fought for him. The Serbian fight against the KLA was a continuation of the earlier struggle against Hitler's Kosovar Albanian allies. That Clinton's false analogy gained any credence among the ignorant populations of the United States and western Europe is, perhaps, a bigger injury than all the bombs and missiles dropped by NATO to help fulfill Hitler's agenda six decades later.

The Washington Post reported on June 5, 1999 that half the remaining Serb population had recently fled Kosovo, and the Washington Times of June 5 reported that the Pentagon expects the rest to follow. NATO has accomplished what even Hitler could not: the elimination of Serbs in Kosovo. Congratulations, America; you have done the Nazis' work, and Hitler is smiling in his grave..

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Last revised: June 9, 1999