Historical sources of the historiography vs Titographic „history“ (I)
The clarification of the issue of who Tito’s Partisans kept as their main, if not perhaps the only, political-military opponent and enemy during the entire WWII in Yugoslavia, is directly related to the topic of this article – the Partisan cooperation and collaboration with the Croat-Bosniak Nazi Ustashi. Evidence of the latter-presented here-appears in an archival, original and authentic Partisan document from the period of their “struggle for the national liberation”. This document makes clear against whom the Partisans were fighting and against whom they did not fight, and, most importantly, why they fought four years in order to achieve their political goals (this document is written in the Latin alphabet and contains grammatical and linguistic errors):
Dear Isa, you will wonder how I delivered you this letter. But let it not be doubt to you. When we meet you, we will explain everything. Here is what it is about. You have with the Sixth Brigade, augmented with the parts of the Majevica’s or Fruška Gora’s detachment, immediately to move between Goražde and Medjedje on Sandžak’s side and there to clean terrain from the Chetniks in the direction of Zlatibor and Čajniče. Here you will catch a connection with the left-wing of our First Division and receive further directives.
On your way, i.e., during the move, do not fight with the Germans, do not undertake any action on the railway as it is in the interest of our current operations. Send even before you move your couriers towards Ustikolina, where they will catch a connection with our units.
Our most important task now is to destroy the Chetniks of Draža Mihajlović and break his administrative machine which is the greatest threat for the further national-liberation struggle.
Everything else you will find out when we meet.
In East Bosnia, leave the smaller detachments whose task will now be to fight against the Chetniks and to mobilize new men. Making the Sixth Brigade stronger must not be at the expense of the speed of moving in the direction indicated above.
With comradely greetings
(signed by Josip Broz Tito, Aleksandar Ranković and Sreten Žujović)
This archival corpus delicti brings clarity to the identity of the only enemy of Tito’s revolutionaries (the Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland known as the Chetniks of D. Mihailović) who has been, in fact, the client detachments of Stalin’s Red Army in Yugoslavia. It is of extreme importance to emphasize that this document is signed by Josip Broz Tito himself. Moreover, it should be stressed that several times at the Comintern’s meetings in Moscow his political party’s leadership in the interwar period was issuing directives to destroy the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as a “Greater Serbia created by the Versailles Order” after the Great War. Therefore, it is not surprising that in this document the Chetniks of Draža Mihailović (considered as the Serb nationalists) are the only real enemy who was standing in the way of the Communist building of a new Socialist Yugoslavia primarily at the expense of Serb national interests.
A similar letter to the above, which was sent to the Communist commander Isa Jovanović, and signed by the top Communist leadership – Tito, Ranković, and Žujović, is in the form of a military order, which was written and signed by Tito on March 30th, 1943. This letter (also written in the Latin script) is addressed to the Headquarters of the Bosnian Corps of the People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia:
All your fights direct against the Chetniks in Central Bosnia and Krayina and fight only in defense against the Ustashi if you are attacked by them.
Official Yugoslav state’s historiography of the 1980s and the 1990s, has “quite appropriate” responses to these corpus delicti archival documents from WWII that there was an apparently only separate case, which can be explained by at that time military and political situation on the front in western parts of Yugoslavia as the Germans organized the military operation the “Weiss 1” and the “Weiss 2” (the “Battle of Neretva”) against Tito’s Partisans and as it is known, a drowning man clutching at straws and catches. However, the central point of Tito’s offer to the Germans in March 1943 was not the only tactical maneuver due to the “new unfavorable situation” in order to save the head, but rather it was a strategic policy and practical actions by Broz’s Supreme Command during the entire WWII in Yugoslavia. The truth was that the Germans organized offensive the “Weiss 1” and the “Weiss 2” not against Tito’s Partisans, but, in fact, against D. Mihailović’s Chetniks in order to destroy them in Krayina (Banija, Lika, Kordun), Bosnia, Herzegovina and Dalmatia prior to the Allied landings on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. By making a direct agreement with Tito’s political representatives of the Supreme Command in March 1943 (the “March Agreements”) the Germans actually sent the Partisans to the Chetniks on the Neretva River in order to do the job for them. Tito’s fighters met the German requirements singing the song “Partisans prepare your machine guns to fire at the King and the Englishmen!” Thus, the common and the only enemies of both the Germans and the Partisans were the Chetniks (the Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland) led by General Dragoljub Draža Mihailović. In the spring of 1943, the Chetniks were prepared to accept the Anglo-American allies in Dalmatia. For the Germans, the Anglo-American invasion of the Dalmatian and/or Montenegrin seacoast meant the opening of the second front in Europe and retreat back to Germany, while the same Anglo-American action with the help of the Chetniks for Tito’s Partisans meant the end of a policy of the Communist takeover of Yugoslavia.
It is necessary to draw attention to the episode in the Soviet “Republic of Bihać” in Bosnia-Herzegovina (which was established by Tito’s Partisans in 1942 with an agreement by the authorities of the Independent State of Croatia on which territory the Republic was established and functioning for several months) when the Partisans were leaving, by force, the territory of Bihać which was under a German offensive in spring 1943. The Partisans on this occasion took a large part of the Serbian civilians with them, but not Croatian and Muslim, to the Neretva River and possibly further towards Serbia. There were forcibly moved c. 40,000-50,000 Serbian civilians. This Partisan action had a three-fold function:
- The civilians were the shield for the Communist leadership and the Partisan detachments who were going to fight the crucial battle against the Royal Chetniks on the left bank of the Neretva River.
- In this way, the (anti-Serb) ethnic cleansing of the area was accomplished.
- The Serbian civilians were prevented from escaping to the neighboring safe area around Gacko which was under Chetnik control.
In regard to this case, the Supreme Commander of the Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland, General Draža Mihailović sent to the Yugoslav Government in London the following dispatch:
Because of this Communist terror the masses of the people are retreating from Bihać and fleeing to Glamoč. As soon as the Germans approach, the unprotected peoples are left at the mercy of the Germans and the Ustashi who mercilessly massacred [Ustashi] them. Who escaped by chance is freezing in the snow and ice. Between Drvar and Glamoč there are over 500 frozen corpses of women and children. This is more than a horror. It is a struggle of the Communists who are encouraged by the foreign propaganda to systematically destroy our [Serb] people.
However, after WWII, the Yugoslav state’s and party historiography posited the thesis that in the above case (the Serbian) people voluntarily went with Tito’s Partisans. In other words, it was a “humanitarian action” in order to rescue the civilians and what Josip Broz Tito confirmed in 1948 at the Fifth Congress of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia in Belgrade:
With our army of huge crowds of 50,000 women, children and old men retreated towards Livno … All units were left in their positions, while the Supreme Command with the three Proletarian Divisions retreated to the Neretva River.
In reality, however, this civilian people had protested and demanded to be transported and provided with food and clothing in order to survive a harsh Bosnian-Herzegovinian winter. Information on what subsequently transpired after this protest appears in the source, as cited below:
The reluctance of the people, the elderly men, women, and children were deemed by – the Communists as a type of rebellion, sabotage, Fascism and all else. Their response was to begin killing on the spot. The Communists killed for every little thing. They killed mothers, who were fighting not for their lives, but to save their children, because they did not want to lead them to their death. Political commissars, “popular committees”, field workers and their servants, were at work. They were going from house to house, driving out from them the women and children. They were driven out into the street, on the road. They were putting these poor people in the convoy of death, which was going through the Golgotha, on which they had to die.
It is clear that in this action (the Serbian) civilians had to play the role of “human shield” for Broz’s Partisans in the coming conflict in the valley of the Neretva River against the sole military and political opponent – Mihailović’s Chetniks (supporters of the Royal Yugoslav Government-in-exile, overwhelmingly being the Serbs). The Communist detachments went to the Neretva River valley in pursuant to their („March“) agreements with the Germans. The latter had a plan to defeat the victors of the final battle between the Partisans and the Chetniks in the Neretva River valley in Herzegovina and thus to destroy both enemies – the Partisans and the Chetniks. After the Communist victory on the left bank of the Neretva River over the Chetniks, the Germans along with the Nazi Ustashi immediately launched the new offensive (the “Schwarz”, which is called in the Yugoslav Communist historiography as the “Sutjeska” or the “Fifth Enemy’s Offensive”). Drawing on the evidence provided by Mane Pešut, another witness to the event – Vladimir Dedijer, focused on the personal destiny of the Serbian civilians who formed that „Column of Death“ (after the war, V. Dedijer served as the official biographer of Josip Broz Tito):
Tonight the mother is going barefoot on the ice, with some rags around the legs, which are so long to pull the frost to it. On the back in the bag baby hook. Another child pulls at her arm, while the third, the oldest one, walks ahead, going and weeping. They did not eat anything for two days…
I approach one boarded window. Someone cries from the ground. I walked around the house, went down to the road and came to the door of the ground floor. I saw through the broken doors the people who were sitting around the fire, covered with blankets, silent, motionless. A child cries out in a loud voice. Something struggles under a blanket. I walked up closer and cried as hard as I could. The wrestling stopped, but not and the child’s voice. The blanket was lifted, revealing the face of the mother, whom I had seen today with her three children. Glassy eyes, she was all in a sweat. I realized what was happening. She was smothering her own baby. She was tired of. Griping, looking for the bread. She was tired, hungry, her back was in pain from wearing the youngest kid, the hands were painful from carrying the rest of the children. She just wanted to release both the child and herself from further horrors. If I came a minute later – in the morning we would find only a dead child’s body. It is no coincidence that this woman said in the evening when I met her on the road: “Holy Death, take me!”
There are already twenty-one days how she left the Banija region with the children to escape the persecution by the “Prinz Eugen Division” [of the Yugoslav Germans] and the „Devil’s Division” [of the Croats and the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslim Bosniaks]. She had walked 350 kilometers on the frost.
With respect to the mass suffering of (the Serbian) civilians of the “Column of Death” in February 1943, there is an eye-witness testimony by the commander of the Dinara Chetnik Division, Duke (vojvoda) Momčilo Đujić, whose testimony sheds a whole new light on official Yugoslav state’s Titoist historiographic phrases about the Partisans’ “humanity” in the “Battle for the Wounded Men” (the “Battle of Neretva” or the German “Weiss” military operation) in the winter/spring of 1943:
The Communists disseminate information that the Germans, Ustashi and Chetniks go together in order to kill everyone. And they took with them many women and children from the Lika region [in present-day Croatia]. I was around Grahovo [in present-day West Bosnia-Herzegovina] waiting for Tito’s columns and was gathering these people [the Serbian civilians], accommodating them in my villages and later returning them to their homes. Many women, however, dragged the little children with them: mothers did not want to leave a child! Tito cleverly came up with the idea – as the army moved slowly because of the women and children – that a special battalion was to take the children while their mothers were allowed to go with their husbands. Nurses and special units allegedly will take care of the children. And now, he [someone from the Partisans] has taken these children … about one hundred and fifty. Beneath a mountaintop of the Mt. Šator, there is the Šator’s Lake with fresh water. Here, there was a state’s house for the forest guards. It was a luxury villa built in mountain style. All those kids, I counted their skeletons, were put in this house and the house was set on fire.
I came a month later, and there was snow, from which the little bones of these children were sticking protruding. This picture also I can not forget. We did not have a photographic camera, but one scene could be taken as an eternal monument: a mother from the Lika region [Ličanka] who did not want to hand over her children, sat on a stone of the forest trail, approximately one km. from that house. The bodies had not disintegrated, they were still frozen. The mother was keeping one child on her breast, one child on his knees caught her under the armpit, and the oldest child was lying on the ground and keeping her legs with his arms. This image was never out of my head. And who would not want to kill the Communists, who would not want to kill the Ustashi?
That this first-hand testimony about the behavior of Tito’s Partisans towards the wounded men in early spring 1943 was not atypical, and, in fact, corresponded to the actual situation on the ground during WWII (in contrast to the Yugoslav Communist movie the “Battle of Neretva”, also called the “Battle for the Wounded Men”) gives us another relevant source (document) from December 1943. This document is also historically very important in resolving the enigma of the wartime life and work of Josip Broz Tito about whom there have been written an impressive number of biographical studies, but usually without reference to all relevant and reliable archival documents and testimonies. In all of these biographical writings, there are still unresolved questions that remain. These pertain to his true origin, his distinctive character up to his seizure of power in Yugoslavia by armed forces of the Partisan detachments which originated from the territory of the Independent State of Croatia and were mainly composed of the Serbs. In order to contribute to the writings of both Tito’s true (wartime) biography and his Partisan movement, it is essential to consider one of the extremely important archival documents which sheds light on the nature of the Communist movement in Yugoslavia during WWII.
This is a top-secret document issued by the Special Police Department of the Command of the City of Belgrade about “Tito” on December 13th, 1943 archived in the Archives of Yugoslavia in Belgrade. It was sent to the Presidency of the Government of Serbia:
This Department has the honor to report to the Presidency that it has received a notice containing certain details of the Partisan army, the personality of their “commander” Tito, his way of life, as well as about the relationship between him, his closest associates and his army. These notices are received from the persons who some time ago, came from Montenegro.
One notice indicates that Tito and his Staff spent last summer in the mountains near Nikšić and at a place called “Goransko”. Here at “Goransko”, the Partisan Staff organized a medical service using the local hospital, where and wounded Partisans were getting medical help. In the hospital, they were getting medical help as well as the local people from whom part of this information is received. With respect to Tito’s personality, the data we had are absolutely identical with the data received from these persons [civilians]. In addition to already known data we also received information pertaining to, the person. He is described as mid-height, his figure is smooth, he wears civilian suits which are mostly new. He speaks a corrupted Serbian language, which resembles Kajkavian [speech].
The relationship between Tito, his Staff and co-workers is authoritative in both official dealings and private life. This difference is reflected in particular in Tito’s dealing with his co-workers, even with the closest. And his way of life is very different from the life of the others, as Tito has plenty of food, a variety of sweets. He lives an immoral life, has with him a young Jewish girl with whom he previously lived. Thus, he lives well, while his “army” receives very little food. Such poor food is even fed to sick and wounded Partisans.
Those closest to him, include a Jew Moša Pijade and former Yugoslav officers General Orović Savo and Captain Jovanović [Arso], although with respect to these two it is said that they accidentally joined them [Partisans]. Among other things, it is reported that Tito’s Staff, with the exception of the important officials, is composed of just younger people.
Tito’s Staff is very mobile and it is a rare case to be in one place for a longer time. Movement occurs always when it is received a notice comes from the intelligence group about the coming danger. Such a case occurred with the last place of accommodation of Tito’s Staff, wherefrom originated these data. During the move from the mountain and the place called “Goranjsko”, the Partisans burned all the archives, as well as the very building they had occupied, and even 40 of their most seriously wounded [soldiers], as they frequently do [kill] it.
Their intelligence service uses employees, local women, rarely local men, whose appearance would not draw the attention of local authorities. From the same source we know today that Tito and his Staff were in the mountains between Plevlja, Pavino Polje and Nikšić.
Front notification is given to the title, with a request for knowledge and using it.
According to the order, the Administrator of the City of Belgrade, Head of the Department of Special Police. Inspector.
The most important significance of this document is that the end of the report provides an exact account of what had actually happened in reality out of the Communist post-war political propaganda. This is the information that during their withdrawal Tito’s Partisans killed all of their 40 seriously wounded comrades, i.e. all of those who could not move and those whom the others had to carry. And this is not an isolated (atypical) action, but rather common practice of Tito’s soldiers. The testimonies of local informants support this account and, indeed formed the basis of the police report. That is what testifies local informants whose testimonies are the foundations of the writing of this police report. The latter contains no mention of Partsan empathy for their wounded comrades which was such a frequent feature of post-war Titoist pro-Partisan propaganda films such as the “Battle on the Neretva River” (about the 1943 event).