Spring Storm: Adolf Hitler’s Headquarters During the Invasion of Yugoslavia

During the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia that began on April 6, 1941, Adolf Hitler established his forward command headquarters in his personal train known as the Fuehrersonderzug Amerika, the Fuehrer’s Special Train “Amerika”, or FHQu Mönichkirchen. The train was stationed in the Austrian town of Monichkirchen during the Yugoslav campaign. The headquarters was codenamed “Spring Storm” or Frühlingssturm.

Mönichkirchen was a market town with a population of approximately 600 in 1941 located between Graz and Vienna. Hitler’s private train arrived in the town on April 12, 1941 during the Balkans campaign, the Axis attacks on Yugoslavia and Greece, known as Operation Marita. It stood at the exit of a tunnel, near a hotel called the Mönichkirchnerhof. Hitler stayed there for fourteen days.

The Balkanfeldzug or Balkan Campaign was coordinated from here. There is a tunnel located near the station, that could be used as a shelter if there was an air attack, but an attack never occurred. Hitler stayed in the Sonderzug or took a walk to the small hotel or hof in the town.

King Boris III of Bulgaria, Admiral Miklos Horthy, the Regent of Hungary, Italian Foreign Minister Count Galeazzo Ciano, the Hungarian ambassador to Germany, Dome Sztojay, and German Admiral Erich Raeder were all guests at the train headquarters to discuss the occupation and dismemberment of Yugoslavia.

On April 20, Hitler’s 52nd birthday was celebrated here with a concert in front of the train.

Hitler left Mönichkirchen on April 26, 1941 to travel to Graz and Marburg an-der-Drau, or Maribor, Slovenia, in northern Yugoslavia, before he returned to Berlin.

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Adolf Hitler stands in front of the Sonderzug Amerika train, the Special Train “Amerika”.

The name of the train was later changed from “Amerika” to “Brandenburg”. The Führersonderzug can be regarded as the first of his field headquarters. During the 1941 Balkan campaign, the train was Hitler’s command and control headquarters stationed in Monichkirchen between Vienna and Graz. This was the only time it was a headquarters. After the Balkans Campaign, Hitler traveled on the train between Berlin, Berchtesgaden, Munich and other headquarters.

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Spring Storm: Adolf Hitler in a cabin of the Sonderzug Amerika train examining the 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque on his 52nd birthday, April 20, 1941 stationed in Monichkirchen, Austria, southwest of Vienna, north of Graz. Amerika was Hitler’s command and control headquarters during the invasions of Yugoslavia and Greece. The train’s closed curtains can be seen on the left as well as its low ceiling.

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The Fuehrersonderzug Amerika, the Fuehrer’s Special Train “Amerika”, can be seen in the background.

The Amerika train was well equipped to function as a mobile headquarters or forward command and control center. The components of the train were ascertained when each car was listed from June 22 to 24, 1941. The individual 17 components of the train in order were:

1)   two BR52 Class locomotives;

2)   a special Flakwagen armored anti-aircraft train flatbed car with two anti-aircraft guns, a pair of Flakvierling cannon batteries, one at each end of the car;

3)    a baggage car;

4)    the Führerwagen, which Hitler used;

5)    a Befehlswagen or command car, including a conference room and a communications center;

6)   a Begleitkommandowagen, for the accompanying Reichssicherheitsdienst;

7)   two cars for guests;

8)    a dining car;

9)    a Badewagen or bathing car;

10)               a second dining car;

11)                two sleeping cars for personnel;

12)                a Pressewagen or car for the press;

13)                a second baggage car; and,

14)                a second Flakwagen..

Heinrich Himmler, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and Hermann Goering also had special trains, as well as the OKW chief, Luftwaffe and Navy commanders, and OKH staff.

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Adolf Hitler in front of the Monichkirchnerhof or hotel in April, 1941.

Benito Mussolini did not meet with Hitler in April, 1941 while Hitler was at his headquarters in Monichkirchen. Hitler met with Mussolini on June 2, at the Brenner Pass. Their previous meeting was on October 4, 1940, also at the Brenner Pass. Mussolini was against plans to invade the Soviet Union. He was not informed of Operation Barbarossa by Hitler at the June 2 meeting.

In Hitler: A Chronology of his Life and Time, Second Revised Edition (2008 Palgrave Macmillan edition), Milan Hauner detailed Adolf Hitler’s timeline of events for April, 1941.

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Adolf Hitler in front of the Amerika train at Monichkirchen in April, 1941.

From April 1 to 10, Hitler was in Berlin. He left that evening for Munich to go to his final destination, which was the command and control headquarters known as Spring Storm in Monichkirchen, Austria, aboard his special train Amerika, to coordinate the attacks against Yugoslavia and Greece.

From April 12 to 25, Hitler was aboard his train Amerika in Monichkirchen and the hotel in the town.

On April 13, Hitler issued Directive 27 for the occupation and dismemberment of Yugoslavia as German troops entered Belgrade.

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Adolf Hitler in Monichkirchen in April, 1941.

On April 15, Hitler sent a telegram to Ante Pavelic congratulating him and Slavko Kvaternik on the proclamation of the NDH, Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska, the Independent State of Croatia, on April 10.

On April 19, King Boris III of Bulgaria met with Hitler at the Amerika train. Count Dome Sztojay of Hungary also was a guest. Sztojay was the Hungarian ambassador to Germany. Their discussions centered on the coming dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the spoils which would accrue to Bulgaria and Hungary.

On April 20, Hitler’s 52nd birthday, Hitler was visited by Count Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister under the Mussolini regime from 1936 to 1943. Hitler was photographed by Heinrich Hoffmann examining the 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque given to him as a gift by German forces who had removed it after seizing Sarajevo. Count Ciano congratulated him on the surrender of Greece. German Admiral Erich Raeder was also a guest.

On April 24, Admiral Miklos Horthy, the Regent of Hungary, was a guest who met with Hitler to discuss the dismemberment of Yugoslavia.

The German newsreel Die Deutsche Wochenschau, The German Weekend Show, Nr. 556 for April 30, 1941, captured the visits by King Boris, Count Ciano, and Admiral Horthy, to Hitler’s train headquarters.

On April 26, Hitler traveled to Graz, Klagenfurt, and Maribor, Slovenia, in northern Yugoslavia, which had been incorporated into the Reich.

On April 28, Hitler returned to Berlin where he stayed until May 4.

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Adolf Hitler walking beside the Amerika special train headquarters in April, 1941, in Monichkirchen.

The Balkan campaign was over. Yugoslavia and Greece had surrendered. Hitler then focused on the planning for the next offensive, Operation Barbarossa, the attack on the Soviet Union, scheduled for June 22.

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Adolf Hitler in Maribor, Slovenia, in northern Yugoslavia, after the region was annexed by Germany, April 26, 1941.

Sarajevo, 1941: The Removal of the Gavrilo Princip Plaque

When German troops occupied Sarajevo on April 15, 1941, one of the first actions they took was to remove the 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque erected in 1930 to commemorate the June 28, 1914 assassination. The memorial plaque was removed on April 19, 1941 and sent to Adolf Hitler at his command and control headquarters aboard his special train in Monichkirchen in Austria for his 52nd birthday.

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A group of Yugoslav volksdeutsche, or ethnic Germans, wearing white shirts and ties, were photographed and filmed marching in formation carrying a banner to the site of the assassination. They are shown carrying two ladders which they use to climb to the plaque, mounted on the wall of the building. They have erected a scaffold under the plaque. Two German soldiers, part of a military band, stand with a bass drum and cymbals in front of the façade. Two volksdeutsche remove the screws and dismantle the plaque, which they hand down to another member on the ladder. They then bring the plaque down. Two volksdeutsche members are photographed holding the plaque as two Wehrmacht officers look on. The removal ceremony was filmed for the German newsreel Die Deutsche Wochenschau, The German Weekend Show, Nr. 556 for April 30, 1941. The photo of the scene was taken by Adolf Hitler’s personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann on April 19, 1941. The photo was published by the Berliner Volkszeitung on April 24, 1941. Subsequently, the plaque is given to German Army troops who are photographed holding the plaque. It was brought to the Fuehrer headquarters, the Fuehrer Special Train, Sonderzug Amerika, in Mönichkirchen in Styria in Austria from where it was sent to Berlin.

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Adolf Hitler examines the 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque removed from Sarajevo by German troops and presented to him on his 52nd birthday on April 20, 1941, aboard his special command and control train, Sonderzug Amerika, in Monichkirchen, Austria. The photograph was taken by Hitler’s personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann.

The 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque commemorated the assassination by characterizing the event as ushering in “sloboda” or “freedom”, “freiheit” in German.

The Serbian Cyrillic script on the plaque reads:

“Na ovom istorijskom mjestu Gavrilo Princip Navijesti slobodu na Vidov-Dan 15. [28.] Juna 1914.”

“At this historical place Gavrilo Princip pronounces freedom on Vidov Dan 15th [28th] June 1941.”

The 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque was given to Adolf Hitler by three Kriegsberichter, or German war correspondents. A photograph of Hitler examining the plaque was taken by Heinrich Hoffman. Hitler had established his command and control headquarters for the Balkan campaign against Greece and Yugoslavia in his special personal train, the Sonderzug Amerika, which was stationed at the Austrian town of Monichkirchen. It was in a cabin of this train that he was photographed examining the Gavrilo Princip plaque. Hitler had used the train in the 1939 campaign against Poland but this was the only time when the train was the site of his forward command headquarters. The train would take him into occupied Yugoslavia on April 26 when he arrived in Maribor in Slovenia.

The photograph with the plaque first appeared in the German magazine Illustrierter Beobachter, No. 18, in 1941. The photograph was reprinted in 1966 in the book Das blieb vom Doppeladler: auf den Spuren der versunkenen Donaumonarchie by Ernst Trost (Vienna: Verlag Fritz Molden, 1966). In English, the title is The Remains of the Double-Headed Eagle: On the Trail of the Lost Monarchy.

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The plaque was kept in the Berlin Zeughaus, or German Military Historical Museum, along with the railroad coach from Compiegne. The railroad coach was blown up by German forces in 1945. The plaque also disappeared after the war.

The 1930 plaque represented a symbol of anti-German sentiment in the Balkans. It was an insult and a provocative symbol from World War I which was unacceptable in the New Order. It represented triumphalism which memorialized the German defeat in World War I. For this reason, the plaque was one of the first objects targeted by German occupation forces in Sarajevo.

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Hitler had welcomed the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand because he perceived him as pro-Slavic and not a genuine German nationalist but “the most mortal enemy of Austrian-Germanism” and the “patron of Austria’s Slavicization”. Franz Ferdinand was perceived by Hitler as promoting the “Slavicization” of Austria-Hungary. His wife Sophie of Hohenberg was Czech. She was a Slav. Their three children could not inherit the throne but Franz Ferdinand could. He was the heir to the Habsburg throne.

Hitler vehemently opposed any attempt to unite the German and Slavic populations of Austria. He opposed any conception of adding a Slavic component to the Austro-Hungarian state, a policy known as “trialism”, creating a German-Hungarian-Slavic country. Hitler supported the opposite. He wanted a German state with no mixing or uniting with the Slavic populations. He promoted “Germanization”.

So Hitler saw the assassination as a god-send which with one fell swoop destroyed the rapprochement and community with the Slavic populations. The resulting war against the two Slavic countries, Russia and Serbia, Hitler welcomed as a means to restore German identity and dominance. Hitler was photographed in Munich on August 2, 1914 at the outbreak of the war amidst a cheering and exuberant crowd after the German declaration of war against Russia. Hitler seized the opportunity to fight in the war by enlisting in the German Army to vindicate German history and culture.

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Hitler was photographed in pensive thought examining and contemplating the plaque with two German officers in the room. The assassination was the event that set in motion the decisions that led to the first world war which resulted in the defeat of Germany and the post-war collapse and devastation. Hitler had emerged as a political leader whose mission was to redress and to right the wrongs and grievances that resulted from that event. So there was some ambivalence and ambiguity about the plaque. The event it memorialized had triggered the events that shaped his life and career.

To Hitler, the plaque represented an affront or snub and a reminder of what the war was about. Like the Compiegne railroad car, it was a symbol and avatar of Germany’s humiliation and defeat. Hitler had satisfaction that the insult or indignity could be erased and Germany’s image restored, denigrated by the Versailles Treaty and the Guilt Clause. The plaque and the railroad car impugned and vilified the valor and sacrifices of German and Austrian troops.

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In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote at length about the Sarajevo assassination. He characterized Gavrilo Princip and the other assassins as “Slavic fanatics”.

He ultimately saw the assassination as a positive outcome because it would allow the re-emergence and restoration of German power in Europe.

The 1930 plaque had stirred international controversy and outrage when it was first erected in 1930. The Yugoslav government maintained that the monument or memorial was private, not endorsed or funded by the Yugoslav government.

The London Times was critical of the memorial and editorialized in 1930 that the assassination was “an act which was the immediate cause of the Great War, of its attendant horrors, and of the general suffering which has been its sequel.”

The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung called the plaque “a monstrous provocation which cannot be suffered.”

Winston Churchill was highly critical of commemorating the assassination by Gavrilo Princip. Churchill wrote in his 1932 book The Unknown War that it represented “infamy”: “Princip died in prison, and a monument erected in recent years by his fellow-countrymen records his infamy and their own.”

British historian R.W. Seton-Watson wrote that the memorial to Gavrilo Princip was “an affront to all right-thinking people.”

Ironically, Adolf Hitler endorsed and guaranteed the Versailles borders of Yugoslavia in 1941 when Germany signed the pact with the Yugoslav government in Vienna on March 25, 1941. With regard to Yugoslavia, Hitler had no territorial demands and accepted and validated the results of the Treaty of Versailles.

The 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque was kept in the Berlin Zeughaus, or German Military Historical Museum, along with the railroad coach from Compiegne. The plaque was displayed in Germany in 1941 on a wall of the museum. Like the Compiegne railroad car brought from France, the plaque became a museum exhibit in Berlin. The plaque was photographed on April 28, 1941. A German spectator was shown looking at the plaque mounted on a wall of the museum as a display in Berlin.

The Compiegne railroad car was blown up by German forces in 1945. Some fragments were later recovered. Presumably the same fate befell the Gavrilo Princip plaque.

In 1945, the Communist regime of Yugoslavia erected a new memorial in Sarajevo at the site of the assassination to Gavrilo Princip who became a “national hero” of Yugoslavia.

In 1953, a new plaque was erected by the Communist regime with Gavrilo Princip’s footprints encased in cement.

This 1953 plaque and memorial were destroyed by Bosnian Muslim forces in 1992.

In 1995, the Bosnian Muslim government erected a new Gavrilo Princip plaque in Sarajevo in Bosnian and in English in the Latin script. This plaque states that Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie at that site on June 28, 1914.

The Gavrilo Princip plaque in Sarajevo in 2014 is in Bosnian and in English. It reads in English:

“From this place on 28 June 1914 Gavrilo Princip assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia [sic].”

Sarajevo, 1941: The Great Synagogue and Its Destruction

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After the German army occupied Sarajevo on April 15, 1941, the first actions they took were to remove the 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque located at the site of the 1914 assassination and to destroy the new Sephardic synagogue, the Il Kal Grande, known as the Great Synagogue.

All the leading historians of the Holocaust have documented and substantiated the role of Bosnian Muslims in the destruction of the synagogue. Bosnian Muslims burned and looted the synagogue.

A book on Sarajevo during World War II by American historian Emily Greble, however, falsifies and distorts this event. Greble maintained that it was the Germans who destroyed the synagogue, omitting the fact that the Bosnian Muslims participated in its destruction.

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Bosnian Muslims looting the Sephardic synagogue. Yad Vashem.

In Sarajevo 1941-1945: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Hitler’s Europe, Cornell University Press, 2011, Greble described the destruction of the synagogue:

“The Jews kept a low profile while the Germans destroyed the new Sephardic Jewish synagogue, burned its libraries and archives, and seized prime Jewish real estate to house the German military and administration.” Chapter 2, “Autonomy Compromised: Nazi Occupation and the Ustasha Regime”, page 55.

She described the collaboration by Yugoslav Volksdeutsche but omitted any reference to Bosnian Muslim or Croat collaboration:

“The first troops of the German army (Wehrmacht) arrived in the city on April 15. … Sarajevo’s small community of Volksdeutsche eagerly met the arriving German troops and joined them in pillaging the city. Serbs looked on with alarm as the Germans haughtily removed the plaque commemorating Gavrilo Princip’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, a gift they sent to Hitler.”

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Bosnian Muslims looting the Sephardic synagogue. Yad Vashem.

Both Leni Yahil and Sir Martin Gilbert, the leading historians on the Holocaust, have described how the Sephardic synagogue in Sarajevo was destroyed by the Germans, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims.

In The Holocaust Chronicle, 1941 Timeline, page 227, published by Publications International, Ltd. in April 2000, the role of Bosnian Muslims is described:

“April 16, 1941: German troops and local Muslims loot and destroy the main synagogue in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.”

In The Farhud, Roots of the Arab-Nazi Alliance During the Holocaust, Edwin Black described the Ustasha-Muslim alliance during World War II that aided the Nazi genocide:

“Muslims plundered and decimated the Great Sephardic Synagogue in Sarajevo and the centuries-old synagogue in Dubrovnik.”

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Bosnian Muslims looting the Sephardic synagogue in Sarajevo, 1941. Yad Vashem.

In Jihad and Genocide, Rowman and Littlefield, Plymouth, UK, 2010, page 92, Richard L. Rubinstein documented the role Bosnian Muslims played in the destruction of the synagogue:

“On April 17, 1941, a Muslim mob burned down and looted Sarajevo’s Sephardic synagogue.”

Leading Holocaust historians have documented the fact that Bosnian Muslims participated in the destruction and looting of the Great Synagogue in Sarajevo. Greble, however, omits this fact. What are the possible motives?

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Bosnian Muslims looting the Sephardic synagogue in Sarajevo, 1941. Yad Vashem.

The admission that Bosnian Muslims participated in the destruction of the synagogue would undermine and challenge the post-1992 civil war perception or image of the Bosnian Muslims as victims in a simplistic, black and white Manichean dichotomy which was manufactured by the media, historians, and scholars. The Muslims are passive victims that are acted upon, that have things done to them. They never perpetrate acts themselves, they commit no crimes. In short, the factual falsification here is meant to perpetuate a stereotype or myth that has been manufactured since the 1992 civil war in Bosnia. This is the key explanation for why the documented fact of Bosnian Muslim participation and complicity in the destruction of the synagogue is suppressed and omitted.

Second, it maintains the illusion that all the major groups in Bosnia during World War II, the Orthodox Serbs, the Bosnian Muslims, the Roman Catholic Croats, the Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews, and the Roma were all in the same relation to the German occupation. This is not true. Some actively aided and joined the German forces. Others opposed them. Some were perpetrators of crimes. Still others were victims. The Bosnian Croats and the Bosnian Muslims were allies of the German forces. The Orthodox Serbs, the Jews, and the Roma were their victims. The former were the perpetrators of genocide and mass murder. The latter were victims. By omitting the fact that Bosnian Muslims or Bosnian Croats participated in the destruction of the synagogue, Greble is able to obfuscate or dilute this fact. It is a glaring omission that creates an inaccurate and misleading picture. As German newsreels show during the occupation, Bosnian Muslims were overjoyed and jubilant that the German troops had occupied Bosnia. As were the Bosnian Croats. Bosnian Muslims welcomed and fraternized with German troops. Why was this so? They saw the German occupation and the NDH Ustasha regime as empowering them and in realizing their national aspirations. They would achieve autonomy at the very least. At best, they would achieve nationhood and statehood. It would be a Bosnian Muslim Bosnia, a Bosnia run by Bosnian Muslims, a Bosnia which would be a recreation or restoration of the Ottoman Turkish Bosnia.

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The destroyed interior of the Sephardic synagogue in Sarajevo. Yad Vashem caption: “Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, 1941, The Great Synagogue after its plundering. The Great Synagogue was plundered by the Muslims shortly after the arrival of the Germans.” Yad Vashem Photo Archive.

In this respect, the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Serbs, Jews, and Roma was seen as the price that had to be paid to attain Bosnian autonomy or nationhood. At first, most Bosnian Muslim leaders were wholeheartedly in support of the Nazi and Ustasha regimes in Bosnia precisely for this reason, they would allow Bosnian Muslims to achieve their nationalist aspirations, self-rule in Bosnia.

Any power that advanced Bosnian Muslim nationhood was supported by Bosnian Muslim leaders. Germany, the NDH regime, was supported in 1941. In 1992, it was the U.S. and NATO that became allies. Bosnian Muslim leaders were not neutral or innocent bystanders. They supported those powers that advanced their interests. And in 1941, those powers were Nazi Germany and the Ustasha regime.

It quickly became evident that the NDH regime of Ante Pavelic did not support Bosnian Muslim autonomy or a Bosnian Muslim state or nation. The NDH relegated or subordinated the Bosnian Muslims to secondary status as a subgrouping of Croats, Croat Slavs who had converted to Islam. Once it became clear that the NDH would not support their nationalist ambitions, Bosnian Muslim leaders distanced themselves from the NDH regime and took a more active role in criticizing the policies of genocide conducted by the regime. But on the whole, most Bosnian Muslim leaders remained committed to the NDH Ustasha regime. Instead, they focused their political activities on Adolf Hitler and took a more active role in gaining German support for their agenda. Bosnian Muslim leaders personally wrote a Memorandum to Adolf Hitler requesting that they be granted a much more significant role in the New Order. The tradeoff for them would be a higher status within the Order and a payoff in the form of autonomy, or even nationhood. Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler became a sponsor and supporter of the Bosnian Muslim “autonomists”, or nationalist leaders. One tangible result of their request to Adolf Hitler was the formation of the two Bosnian Muslim Waffen SS Divisions formed in 1943 and 1944, the Handzar and the Kama Divisions made up primarily of Bosnian Muslim recruits. Another result was closer cooperation between Bosnian Muslim leaders and the Reich. Bosnian Muslim leaders would assist the Axis powers in achieving their goals, genocide and domination of Europe, if they would in return be granted autonomy or statehood. The Bosnian Muslim leaders remained committed to the NDH regime and to the Third Reich. The omission seeks to conceal this fact.

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The wreckage of the Great Synagogue in Sarajevo.

The omission seeks to present an inaccurate picture of tolerance in Bosnia. Bosnian Muslim leaders clearly sought to create a Bosnian Muslim state or at the very least an autonomous Bosnian Muslim region of the NDH. This new Bosnian Muslim state would be a state for and by Bosnian Muslims. It was not a multi-religious or multi-ethnic state. There was no role for other religious or ethnic groups. Just as with the 1992 Bosnian Muslim government of Alija Izetbegovic, the new state or autonomous region would be a Bosnian Muslim or Bosniak state. Other ethnic groups and other religious communities would not be part of the make-up of the state. It would not be a multi-ethnic or multi-cultural state, but a Bosnian Muslim state. The Bosnian Muslim leaders wanted to create their own state or nation, not a multi-ethnic community such as Yugoslavia was. Greble obfuscates this fact by implying that Bosnian Muslim national identity was based on a multi-religious and multi-cultural basis. This was not the case. Bosnian Muslim nationalism was just as viable and dominant as Croatian or Serbian nationalism. The manifestations of Bosnian Muslim nationalism would appear during the German occupation.

Bosnian Muslims were perpetrators of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The media image created following 1992 is that the Bosnian Muslims were passive victims with no agenda or interests of their own. They were always acted upon. They never acted themselves. The reality is that they had a nationalist agenda and sought to maintain their self-interests throughout World War II and the German occupation. Bosnian Muslims joined all the NDH Ustasha regime military and police formations and paramilitary groups. They participated and were actively involved in the crimes and attacks committed against Bosnian Serbs, Jews, and Roma. To be sure, not all Bosnian Muslims allied with the NDH or with Germany. But to claim that no Bosnian Muslims perpetrated any crimes is also misleading. The simplistic, Manichean dichotomy is grossly inaccurate. There was a spectrum from opposition to collaboration, as was the case with all the groups in Yugoslavia during World War II. The omission, however, creates the illusion that Bosnian Muslims committed no crimes during the Holocaust. They were just passive bystanders, innocent victims.

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“A Celebration of Hitler’s Birthday in Serajevo. Serajevo, Yugoslavia. … In this Balkan town where the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand started the First World War German troops pass in review before their general in celebration of Hitler’s fifty-second birthday on April 20th. Passed by German censor. c-5/19/40.” Wide World Photo. May 19, 1941.

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Sarajevo Ashkenazi synagogue damaged by German bombardment, April, 1941. Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Greble, Emily. Sarajevo 1941-1945: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Hitler’s Europe. Cornell University Press, 2011.

In “Wartime Sarajevo (1941-1945): Experiences, Identities, Communities”, IREX-IARO Scholar 2004-2005, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia Research Report, Emily Greble Bali? admitted:

“In 1941, most Catholic and Muslim elites in Sarajevo supported the Independent State of Croatia.”

Two key points emerge from an analysis of wartime Sarajevo:

1) most Bosnian Muslim leaders supported the Ustasha and Nazi occupation regime; and,

2) Bosnian Muslim leaders backtracked and distanced themselves from the NDH only when their own self-interests were threatened.

In Sarajevo, 1941-1945, Emily Greble examined Sarajevo in the 1941-1945 period. All the leading historians on Bosnia agree that the Bosnian Muslims burned and looted the synagogue or at the least took part in its destruction.

She argued, however, that it was the Germans who destroyed the synagogue. This contradicts Leni Yahil, Sir Martin Gilbert, Yad Vashem, the ultimate Holocaust authority, and all of the historians who have studied and written on Bosnia.

Robert J. Donia, in Sarajevo: A Biography, Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 2006,page 169, conceded that the Germans were helped by “local vandals” in the destruction of the Sephardic synagogue. These local vandals were Bosnian Muslims, but Donia is careful to omit this fact.

The effect and end result is the falsification, distortion, and manipulation of Sarajevo’s history through a subtle instance of omission. There is no question that she was aware of the historical literature of Sarajevo during World War II and the Holocaust. Why the deception? Why does she leave out the fact that Bosnian Muslims looted and burned the Great Synagogue in Sarajevo? She goes out of her way to castigate Volksdeutsche but omits any reference to Bosnian Muslim collaborators (or Croatian collaborators). This is a blatant and egregious attempt to falsify the history of Sarajevo and the role of Bosnian Muslims in the Holocaust.

Sarajevo, 1941: The Entry of German Troops

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German troops march in Sarajevo in front of a mosque, 1941. Reuters. (Click on image to enlarge.)

After the March 27, 1941 coup d’etat in Belgrade rejecting the alliance with the Axis countries, Adolf Hitler made the decision to destroy Yugoslavia as a country. On April 6, German, Italian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian troops invaded the country in a blitzkrieg assault that began with the bombing of Belgrade and Sarajevo.

After the capture of Belgrade on April 12 by German troops, Yugoslav forces retreated towards Sarajevo in the center of the country in the mountainous region of Bosnia-Hercegovina. The commander of the German Second Army, General Maximilian von Weichs, ordered his forces to maintain a non-stop and determined pursuit of Yugoslav troops withdrawing towards Sarajevo.

The Luftwaffe bombed Sarajevo on April 6, 1941 beginning at 6:00 AM. The Rajlovac airport was bombed in the early sorties. The bombardment continued for nine days, destroying factories, warehouses, and residential structures. Italian bombers struck the city on April 12-13. The National Theater was struck on April 13. One of the houses destroyed was that of the Kavilio family, a Sarajevo Jewish family, who became homeless, fleeing into the surrounding mountainous terrain. The bombing killed 93 residents of Sarajevo.

On April 12, 1941 the German XLIX and LI Corps had assembled and reorganized their forces along the Sava River. Sarajevo, located in the center of Yugoslavia, was to be the convergence point for the Axis attack. The German Second Army split its forces into two pursuit formations.

The German assault from the west was made up of four infantry divisions under the XLIX and LI Corps. These units were put under the command of the LII Infantry Corps. The 14th Panzer Division was to lead the attack on Sarajevo from the west.

The German assault from the east was made up of six divisions under the command of the First Panzer Group. The 8th Panzer Division was to lead the attack on Sarajevo from the east.

The German Fourth Air Force supported the ground assault on the city. The Luftwaffe was to attack Yugoslav troop formations in the Mostar-Sarajevo region of the front.

The Second Army established its command and control headquarters in Zagreb on April 13. XLIX and LI Corps reported that resistance had collapsed by the end of that day. German troops reached and traversed the Kupa River, a tributary of the Sava River that flows into that river at Sisak in Croatia.

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German troops salute as a Nazi swastika flag is raised over the Sarajevo City Hall building on April 16, 1941. Associated Press photo.

The spearhead of the assault on Sarajevo was the 14th Panzer Division which advanced southwest. The German troops used the Mark III tank in the attack.

The German forces were helped by Croatian troops who deserted in the Yugoslav Army who attacked Serbian troops resulting in a breakdown of a unified resistance and the emergence of a civil war. The German command capitalized on this internal strife and mutiny by bombing Serbian formations that were resisting for three hours in the Mostar region. The split between Croatian and Serbian troops in the Yugoslav Army increased and widened by the next day. Hostilities spread to Dalmatia as Croatian soldiers fought Serbian soldiers within the Yugoslav Army.

On April 14, the 14th Panzer Division took the Bosnian town of Jajce from the west, located fifty miles northwest of Sarajevo. The motorized units were able to rapidly advance southwards. Troops from the LI Corps reached the Una River and constructed bridgeheads. The Una River flows from Croatia to Bosnia along the northern boundary and flows into the Sava at the town of Jasenovac.

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A Bosnian Muslim resident looks on as German troops occupy Bosnia-Hercegovina in April, 1941 as captured in a German newsreel. Die Deutsche Wochenschau.

From eastern Yugoslavia, the 8th Panzer Division advanced southwest to Sarajevo. Two German motorized infantry divisions attacked Sarajevo from the east.  One division attacked from Zvornik, a Bosnian town on the border between Bosnia and Serbia, while the second division attacked from Uzice in western Serbia.  The Yugoslav Army collapsed by April 15. The Germans reported 40,000 Yugoslav POWs in Uzice, 30,000 in Zvornik, and 6,000 in Doboj, a town in northeastern Bosnia.

The two German pursuit groups from the Second Army converged on Sarajevo on April 15. The two panzer divisions entered the city at the same time. The German 16th Motorized infantry Division captured the city on April 15, 1941.

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German soldiers with a captured Yugoslav French-made Renault R35 light tank on the road to Sarajevo, April 13, 1941. Ullstein bild.

The Yugoslav Second Army based in Sarajevo surrendered although the bulk of the German infantry formations had not reached the city yet. The German advance was so rapid that it had outpaced the infantry.

German forces demanded the unconditional surrender of all Yugoslav military formations in toto. They refused any separate cease-fire offers made by Yugoslav military commanders of the Yugoslav Second and Firth Armies which were made on April 14. No negotiations, truces, or cease-fires were allowed.

The Yugoslav government, including King Peter II, his staff, ministers, and the supreme military command, had left Belgrade and had settled in the village of Pale, located southeast of Sarajevo. From here they fled through Montenegro to Greece. They escaped the German assault by landing in Cairo, Egypt. Their final destination would be London where Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s government would provide refuge and where a government-in-exile would be established.

By April 14, the Yugoslav government requested an immediate cease-fire. This request was made to German General Ewald von Kleist, whose forces had captured Belgrade on April 12. Kleist commanded the 1st Panzergruppe, which was made up of the III, XIV and XLVIII Panzer Corps and XXIX Infantry Corps.

The German Army High Command sent Maximilian von Weichs to Belgrade to negotiate the surrender on behalf of Germany. The surrender was signed by Weichs and Yugoslav Foreign Minister Alexander Cincar-Markovic and General Milojko Jankovic representing the Yugoslav government. The armistice went into force on April 18, 1941 at 1200.

Alexander Cincar-Markovic had been the Foreign Minister in the Prince Paul regime that signed the agreement with Germany in Vienna on March 25 with Prime Minister Dragisa Cvetkovic. Yugoslav Air Force General Dusan Simovic, who headed the coup, left Yugoslavia for Greece and put General Danilo Kalafatovic in charge of the Yugoslav military as Chief of Staff. The government went into exile so there was no one to act on behalf of the Yugoslav government. Jankovic was the Deputy Chief of Staff to Kalafatovic in the Yugoslav government. Dusan Simovic eventually settled in England with Peter II and created the government-in-exile.

The Axis powers created the Independent State of Croatia, Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska or NDH, proclaimed on April 10 in Zagreb, which included Bosnia-Hercegovina. Sarajevo became a major city in the NDH.

Many, though not all, of the Croat and Bosnian Muslim residents of Sarajevo, welcomed the German occupation troops. Germany was perceived as a nation that would achieve their nationalist aspirations for independence or autonomy.  Ethnic Germans, or Volksdeutsche, welcomed the German forces and aided and abetted their actions.

After the German entry into the city, German troops assembled before the Sarajevo Town Hall building as a Nazi swastika flag was raised. A German victory parade was held in downtown Sarajevo on Adolf Hitler’s birthday on April 20 which included performances by German military bands.

One of the first actions after the German entry was the destruction of the Sarajevo Sephardic synagogue, Il Kal Grande, known as the Great Synagogue, built in 1930. On April 17, 1941, a Bosnian Muslim mob burned down and looted the synagogue, which was Sarajevo’s largest. Bosnian Muslims were photographed removing wooden structures and other material from the destroyed synagogue.

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Yad Vashem caption: “Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, 1941, Muslims plundering the Great Synagogue.” Yad Vashem.

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German troops also removed the 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque located at the site of the June 28, 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. The plaque was sent to Adolf Hitler on his 52nd birthday on April 20, 1941. The plaque would become an exhibit in the Berlin Zeughaus, the German Military Museum, along with the Compiegne railroad car which had been brought from France.

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Volksdeutsche, or ethnic Germans, remove the 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque as a German military band plays and a German cameraman films the event for a German newsreel. Ullstein bild.

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The German occupation of Sarajevo from 1941 to 1945 would result in the murders of hundreds of thousands of Serbs in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia, 32,000 Jews, and 40,000 Roma.

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German Wehrmacht troops holding the 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque in Sarajevo, April, 1941. The plaque read in Serbian Cyrillic: “At this place Gavrilo Princip proclaimed freedom on Vidovdan, June 28, 1914.” Ullstein bild.

Gavrilo Princip in Film and TV: A Filmography

Gavrilo Princip has been the subject of films and television movies not only in Yugoslavia, but internationally as well, in the century since the assassination in Sarajevo.

An early film portrayal of Gavrilo Princip was by German actor Carl Balhaus in the 1931 German movie 1914, die letzten Tage vor dem Weltbrand, 1914: The Last Days Before the War, released on January 20, 1931 in Germany. The film was also released in France, as 1914, fleurs meurtries, and in the U.S. in 1932. The movie was directed by Richard Oswald whose production company made the film. The film was distributed by the Capitol Film Exchange in the U.S. Carl Balhaus had appeared as a student in The Blue Angel in 1930 with Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings.

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On right, Hubert Hilten as Gavrilo Princip in the 1955 Austrian film Sarajevo, or Um Thron und Liebe.

In 1955, he was portrayed by Austrian actor Hubert Hilten in the Austrian film Sarajevo, also known as Um Thron und Liebe, To Throne and Love, directed by Fritz Kortner and also featuring Klaus Kinski as Nedeljko Cabrinovic. The screenplay was by Robert Thoeren under the pseudonym Franz Werner. The film was released on October 17, 1955 in Austria. The film premiered in West Germany on September 14, 1955 and was shown on Danish television in 1964. The production company was Wiener Mundus-Film. The film was a dramatization of the twelve hours preceding the assassination on June 28, 1914.

He was portrayed by American actor Andrew Prine as Gavril Princip in the American television series Alcoa Premiere in Season 1, Episode 9, The End of a World, which aired on December 19, 1961. The director was Bernard Girard and the writer was David Karp. The series was hosted by Fred Astaire. The episode was a hour long dramatization of the assassination. The series was filmed in Revue Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California and shown on ABC. The production company was Avasta Productions. Prine had also appeared in The Miracle Worker in 1962, Chisum in 1970, and Gettysburg in 1993.

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Bosnian actor Predrag Finci as Gavrilo Princip in the 1968 Yugoslavian film Sarajevski atentat.

In 1968, he was played by Bosnian actor Predrag Finci in the Yugoslavian film Sarajevski atentat, The Sarajevo Assassination. The film was directed and written by Bosnian Fadil Hadzic. The film was produced by the Yugoslavian film studio Filmska Radna Zajednica (FRZ). The movie was shot on location in Sarajevo and was released in Serbo-Croat. The film was also released in Hungary in 1969 as A szarajevói merénylet. The movie is set during World War II in German-occupied Sarajevo.

The film begins with a German newsreel from April, 1941 showing the raising of the Nazi swastika flag on the Sarajevo city hall building after German troops have captured the city. German troops are also shown removing the 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque at the location of the assassination. The plaque was sent to Adolf Hitler for his 52nd birthday on April 20. In the first scene, two Yugoslav guerrillas are shown fleeing from Waffen SS troops through the narrow and winding streets of Sarajevo. They are engaged in a shoot out with the pursuing German soldiers. One of the guerrillas is shot on the left shoulder. He runs into a building where he finds refuge in an apartment where a man and a woman hide him. The man had been a member of the Mlada Bosna, or Young Bosnia Movement. He shows the guerrilla a large framed photograph on the wall of the members of the Young Bosnia Movement. He recounts the events surrounding the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 by Gavrilo Princip.

In 1972, he was played by Serbian actor Milan Mihailovic in a television dramatization Sarajevski atentat produced by Radiotelevizija Beograd (RTB). The film was directed by Arsenije Jovanovic and written by Radoslav Doric and Arsenije Jovanovic. The film was a dramatization of the assassination.

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Bosnian actor Irfan Mensur as Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevski atentat (1975), The Sarajevo Assassination, released in the U.S. as The Day That Shook the World in 1977.

In 1975, Gavrilo Princip was portrayed by Bosnian actor Irfan Mensur in a feature film co-production by Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, West Germany, and Hungary. The film was directed and co-written by Veljko Bulajic and starred Christopher Plummer, Maximilian Schell, Florinda Bolkan, and Rados Bajic. The film was produced by the Czech Filmové Studio Barrandov in Prague, Jadran Film in Zagreb, Kinema Sarajevo, and Mundo Film. The film was released on October 31, 1975 in Yugoslavia. The film was also released internationally. In 1977, the film was released in the U.S. under the title The Day That Shook the World. The film presented the Yugoslavian perspective of the assassination as endorsed in Communist Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito. Princip was presented as a “national hero” of Yugoslavia who sought to free Bosnia-Hercegovina from foreign occupation and to unite the South Slavs into a single country.

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In 1984, he was played by Rudi Wanka in the Austrian TV movie Weltuntergang, Doomsday or The End of the World. The setting is Sarajevo in 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie by Gavrilo Princip. The film was directed by Imo Moszkowicz and written by Milan Dor and Robert Muller. The Austrian examining magistrate Dr. Leo Pfeffer, played by Guenter Mack, oversees the investigation of the assassination that has wideranging stakes and repercussions with world war hanging in the balance. The film was shot in Austria by the production company Fernsehfilmproduktion Dr. Heinz Schneiderbauer and was also distributed in West Germany and the U.S.

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Reuben Pillsbury as Gavrilo Princip in Gavre Princip - Himmel unter Steinen, also released as Death of a Schoolboy.

In 1990, he was played by Reuben Pillsbury as Gavre Princip in the film Gavre Princip – Himmel unter Steinen, Gavre Princip – A Sky Under Stones, which was also released under the title Death of a Schoolboy, directed by Peter Patzak and written by David Antony and Peter Patzak based on the 1974 novel The Death of a Schoolboy by Dutch author Hans Koning. The film was a German and Austrian co-production released in English. The film was released as Le ciel sous les pierres in France. The production companies were Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR), Jadran Film, Lisa-Film, Neue Studio Film, and Roxy Film.

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Sinolicka Trpkova as Sophia and Reuben Pillsbury as Gavrilo Princip in Gavre Princip – Himmel unter Steinen, or Death of a Schoolboy.

That same year a Yugoslavian film, Belle epoque ili Poslednji valcer u Sarajevu, was made that featured Gavrilo Princip as a character played by Bosnian actor Davor Dujmovic. Tihomir Stanic did the voice over as Princip. Dujmovic had also appeared in the Emir Kusturica films While Father Was Away on Business in 1985, The Time of the Gypsies in 1988, and Underground in 1995. The movie was directed by Nikola Stojanovic and written by Nebojsa Pajkic, Haris Prolic, and Nikola Stojanovic. The production company was Bosna Film. The movie was released on December 18, 1990 in Yugoslavia. The film was released as The Last Waltz in Sarajevo in the international, world-wide release in English. The film was also released in Serbia and the UK in 2007.

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Bosnian actor Goran Kostic played Gavrilo Princip in the BBC series Days That Shook the World in 2003. The series also appeared on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel UK.

He was played by Bosnian-born actor Goran Kostic in the 2003 British one hour TV movie documentary series Days That Shook the World directed by Richard Bond and produced by Lion Television and the BBC. The episode also featured a segment covering April 30, 1945 entitled The Death of Adolf Hitler. The series was produced by David Bartlett and Stuart Elliott and originally aired on BBC Two on September 17, 2003. The British depiction was more negative, characterizing Gavrilo Princip and the other assassins as “state sponsored terrorists”. The episode was prefaced with the following narration: “The history of the twentieth century was defined by two global conflicts. The First World War began with a single bullet fired by a young Serb nationalist. World War II was only brought to a close when Adolf Hitler finally shot himself. Just two bullets less than thirty-one years apart gave birth to the modern world. This is a dramatization of events as they happened on two days that shook the world.”

In 2009, he was played by Milos Djuricic in the Serbian documentary film Kraljevina Srbija directed by Zdravko Sotra and written by Zdravko Sotra and Milovan Vitezovic. The film was produced by Kosutnjak Film.

In the 2009 Serbian film St. George Shoots the Dragon, Sveti Georgije ubiva azdahu, he was played by Dusko Mazalica. The film was directed by Srdjan Dragojevic and written by Dusan Kovacevic. The movie was co-produced by Serbia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Bulgaria. The production companies were Camera, Delirium, Radio Televizija Srbije (RTS), Yodi Movie Craftsman, and Zillion Films. The film was released in Greece by Seven Films.

As a participant, for good or ill, in one of the most cataclysmic events in world history, Gavrilo Princip will continue to be the subject of films and television movies. As historians and writers debate his role and influence in history, he will continue to be in the spotlight of world history.

Zagreb, 1941: Entry of German Troops

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German troops captured Zagreb on Thursday, April 10, 1941. The population of the city welcomed and celebrated the arrival of the Nazi forces. The Wehrmacht soldiers were seen as liberators and Adolf Hitler was idolized and emulated. The German troops that captured the city encountered massive crowds of jubilant and cheering throngs as German occupation forces entered the city. The euphoria and adulation expressed for Adolf Hitler, Germany, and the New Order in Europe were clearly evident.

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This reception that German occupation troops received in Zagreb was in marked contrast to Belgrade where the reaction was hostile and antagonistic. The reason for this difference was that Adolf Hitler established an independent Croatian state after Yugoslavia was dismembered. Hitler had accepted and guaranteed the borders of Yugoslavia created at Versailles. After the rejection of the pact with the Axis and the subsequent March 27 coup in Belgrade, however, Yugoslavia was invaded, occupied, and wiped off the map. Croatia was the beneficiary because the new Ustasha leaders which Germany and Italy installed in Zagreb were staunch allies of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.

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Two Croatians stand guard at a framed and decorated portrait of der Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, in Zagreb on April 10, 1941.

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German soldiers of the 14th Panzer Division enter Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, on April 10, 1941. In the background can be seen the Ban Josip Jelacic statue in downtown Zagreb. ullstein bild/Grainger Collection.

Offensive against Zagreb

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The German plan of attack against Yugoslavia was that the First Panzer Group was to advance from the southeast. One motorized column was to be diverted to the southwest with the objective of taking Zagreb. The two German infantry divisions from the LI Infantry Corps deployed farther west were to attack Zagreb on April 10.

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The German invasion of Yugoslavia targeted Zagreb because it was the capital of Croatia and was the second largest city in Yugoslavia representing the second largest ethnic population. Historically and traditionally, the Roman Catholic Croats had been part of the German and Hungarian political, military, and cultural traditions. Croatia had been a part of Austria-Hungary and was a dedicated and loyal ally during World War I. Hitler sought to revive this traditional affinity. Moreover, the leader of the Ustasha Movement in Croatia, Ante Pavelic, had been a supporter of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler before the German invasion of Yugoslavia. They, in turn, supported him and his movement.

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German troops advanced from the north from bases in Austria and Hungary. Croatian troops in the Yugoslav Armed forces tasked to defend Yugoslavia’s borders offered tepid resistance.  On April 10, Croat troops in the Yugoslav Fourth and Seventh armies deployed in the northern sector of the front mutinied. By the end of the day, both armies had collapsed and dispersed. In some regions, there were skirmishes between Croat and Serbian units. This allowed the German forces an unimpeded advance on Zagreb.

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The 14th Panzer Division of the XLVI Panzer Corps spearheaded the assault on Zagreb. By April 10, the division had reached the Drava River. German troops forded the river using inflated rubber boats. From the Drava bridgehead it advanced southwestward in in the direction of Zagreb. The division had bifurcated into two armored formations. The Zagreb attack was secondary to the main German thrust against the capital of Yugoslavia, Belgrade, by XLVI Corps and was meant as a diversionary move.

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The advance on Zagreb was rapid. German aircraft had bombed the roads leading to the city. There were large Yugoslav formations that the division had to confront. Yugoslav troops offered stiff resistance at the outset. German tanks were able to break through. Yugoslav forces retreated to the west. The division moved swiftly, traversing 100 miles, and reaching Zagreb from the northeast in the afternoon.

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“The Nazis Welcomed to Croat Capital”, April 15, 1941, Wide World Radiophoto. “Zagreb, Yugoslavia. The populace turns out to welcome the Germans arriving in Zagreb in the drive from the north of the wrecked kingdom.”

On the afternoon of April 10, troops of the German Second Army entered Zagreb where they were greeted as liberators by both political and military leaders as well as by the population of the city. A description of the reaction: “When the 14th Panzer Division entered Zagreb from the northeast it was welcomed by a wildly cheering pro-German populace.” The Germans took 15,000 Yugoslav prisoners of war in the offensive. The same day, the Independent State of Croatia was declared in Zagreb by Doglavnik Slavko Kvaternik. On the following day, units of the German LI Corps entered Zagreb. On that day, the new Ustasha regime ordered that Croats in the Yugoslav armed forces cease resistance and withdraw from all Yugoslav formations.

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A column of German Panzer III auf H tanks on a Zagreb street, April, 1941.

In a German newsreel of the entry, Zagreb residents on trolley cars can be seen cheering German motorcycle units as well as spectators on the streets. In one scene, a small child jumps to touch one of the motorcycles. In another scene, Croatian women are seen throwing gifts to German troops. Two Croats were shown standing guard at a framed and decorated portrait of der Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler. The Croatian flag was showing being raised. Other Croats were shown tearing down a Yugoslav government emblem from a building and then stomping on it with their feet. In the final scene, Croatian civilians are shown being issued rifles. A special German High Command Communique issued on April 11 announced that German troops had entered Zagreb “amid the jubilation of the population.”

In the 2013 memoir 1941: The Year That Keeps Returning, Slavko Goldstein described the welcome that Croatians bestowed on the German Wehrmacht troops: “Children were waving small paper flags, while from the ranks of people a jubilant refrain sounded: ‘No war and we have a state!’”

Anti-Serbian and anti-Jewish laws and regulations were immediately promulgated that sought to create an ethnically pure Croatian state.

At the Adolf Eichmann Trial, State Attorney Bar-Or called Alexander Arnon, a former resident of Zagreb, as a witness to describe events in Zagreb after the German troops entered the city.

State Attorney Bar-Or. What happened during the first days in Zagreb? Please tell the Court about the establishment of the independent state of Croatia, to the extent that the matter is connected with the persecution of the Jews there.

Alexander Arnon. On 10 April 1941, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the German troops entered Zagreb. At 5 o’clock Marshall Kvaternik proclaimed the Independent State of Croatia. On 11 April, at 11 o’clock in the morning, the first Gestapo man arrived at the Jewish Community offices where I worked. It was the eve of Passover, and we were distributing mazot (unleavened bread) and charity. …

Q. Immediately after this strong measures began to be taken against the Jews in Croatia?

A. Not in actual fact. The papers began to incite against the Jews the very same evening. On shops one could see notices “Jews – Entrance Forbidden!” and similar things.

Q. Who were the active elements in the population in connection with anti-Jewish acts in Croatia?

A. They were the Ustashi, the so-called Croatian Fascists, who had remained in the country, had not emigrated, and had prepared the revolution inside the country. …

Q. Was anti-Jewish legislation promulgated in Zagreb in April 1941, and then in June?

A. Before the promulgation of the first laws concerning Croatian citizenship, that is a week or two after the entry of the German troops, all Jewish lawyers in Zagreb had been arrested and taken to a camp in Kerestinetz near Zagreb. On 30 April the first law about Croatian citizenship was published. Shortly afterwards there appeared the laws about the protection of the Aryan race and of Croatian honour.

Q. Can you see this document, No. 1438?

A. Yes, of course.

Q. What is it?

A. These are the regulations about the so-called solution of the Jewish Question.

Q. What is their main contents?

A. This is the regulation which, first of all, blocked all bank accounts, confiscated all safes, and sequestered all storage depots, while prohibiting the handing over of anything to the Jews.

Q. What is the date of this legislation?

A. 26 June 1941. …

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A Jewish resident of Zagreb, Agram in German, with the newly introduced yellow patch with the Jewish star of David and the initial of the Croatian word for “Jew”, “Z”, for “Zidov”, 1941. ullstein bild/Grainger Collection.

Witness Arnon: … The regulation about the wearing of the Jewish Star appeared on 11 May.

State Attorney Bar-Or: You can see here a yellow patch, and on it a Star of David. What is under the Star of David?

Witness Arnon: “Z” Zidov – Jew. All Jews had to wear this sign, including second and third generation baptized Jews; it had to be worn on the left breast and on the right shoulder.

Presiding Judge: Do you wish to submit this, or would you rather keep it?

State Attorney Bar-Or: Perhaps the Court would be satisfied with looking at it.

Presiding Judge: You could perhaps photograph it, if you wish. I understand that he wants to keep it.

State Attorney Bar-Or: We shall photograph it and submit the picture.

Witness Arnon: I may have another one at home. I am quite ready to hand it in. In actual fact it must be said that all Jews, even babies in prams, had to wear this sign. We had several cases in Zagreb where officers of the German army were indignant and tore the sign off the children.

According to Arnon’s testimony, “There was latent anti-Semitism actually only in the Croatian part of Yugoslavia.”

In the memoir 1941: The Year That Keeps Returning, Slavko Goldstein described the welcome that Croatians bestowed on the German Wehrmacht troops: “Children were waving small paper flags, while from the ranks of people a jubilant refrain sounded: ‘No war and we have a state!’ ”

What followed was legislation which resulted in the incarceration of Serbs, Jews, and Roma in the Independent State of Croatia, which included Bosnia-Hercegovina, in concentration camps which were set up by the Croat regime itself. The largest camp was Jasenovac. Approximately 32,000 Jews were killed in the NDH during World War II, three quarters of the total prewar population. An estimated 40,000 Roma and 350,000 Serbs were also killed.