The 1944 Battle for Belgrade on Film

44docThe battle for Belgrade from October 14 to 20, 1944 was filmed for a documentary by the Central Documentary Film Studio, CSDF, in 1944 based in Moscow. This was the name of the studio in 1944. It began as an offshoot of Sovkino in 1927. In 1931 it was reorganized as the All-Union Newsreel Factory – Soyuzkinochronicle. From 1936 it was known as the Moscow Newsreel Studio and since 1940 as Central Newsreel Studio. Sergei Gerasimov was the head of the studio from 1944-1946. The studio had received the Order of the Red Banner award, Ordena Krasnogo Znameni.


The documentary opens with a panning shot from right to left showing a battlefield with Soviet troops and vehicles on the outskirts of Belgrade. There is billowing black smoke and flames from destroyed vehicles on the road. A Soviet T-34/85 tank is seen moving to the right across the road. Soviet trucks with troops with artillery attached are shown heading into Belgrade past burning vehicles.


The next scene shows tank commander Major General Vladimir I. Zhdanov of the IV Mechanized Corps with two other Soviet officers going over the plan of attack at the side of a road as a column of Soviet T-34/85 tanks pass by overhead.

A column of Soviet T-34/85 tanks slowly drive into Belgrade along a street with infantry troops on the tanks with Spagin or PPSh-41 submachine guns wearing long overcoats.

Soviet troops are shown moving up a Belgrade street as they near the city center. They are running past Soviet trucks which are pulling artillery guns in tow. Some are carrying machine guns.

In the next scene Zhdanov is being briefed on German positions by Yugoslav officers. Peko Dapcevic is pointing out a location for Zhdanov. There is a Yugoslav officer and a Soviet officer.

In the next scene Soviet officers are shown on a building overlooking the city. They are observing tank attacks in the city as T-34/85 tanks advance into the center of the city.


One scene features a long distance, high angle camera shot of Soviet tanks moving slowly up a deserted street, followed by trucks.

Soviet tanks are seen on a wooded street as Soviet troops move behind on the sidewalk. Incorporating tanks into infantry assaults in street battles in cities had become a hallmark of Soviet offensives.

Soviet artillery gunners are shown from a height scanning the Belgrade skyline to locate and pinpoint German targets.

There is a long panning shot from right to left showing the Belgrade skyline and a bridge.

A street is shown with a concrete German pillbox. Then Soviet artillery is shown blasting away at German fortified positions on the street.

A Soviet tank also fires shells at the fortified German defenses. A gaping hole is shown in a brick defensive position.

There is a return to the street scene where Soviet troops have brought up an artillery piece on the sidewalk. Machine gun crews are shown firing. A large machine gun is fired. The tank is shown firing another shell.

Soldiers shoot with rifles from a window. Wounded and killed Soviet soldiers are shown being evacuated in stretchers with a Soviet truck in the background. One unconscious Soviet soldier is carried in a stretcher by two women and a man.

Soviet officers are shown telling a Yugoslav officer where the attacks are going to occur and the positioning of forces.

A Serbian Orthodox Church is shown with a cross on top. A Soviet soldier is shown breaking down a wooden fence with the butt of his rifle. He has a tankman’s hat on.

The narrator announces in Russian that infantry are now approaching the center of Belgrade as troops are shown moving up the tree lined street. The troops on the sidewalk are wearing Soviet Red Army helmets and long coats. They have rifles with bayonets for hand-to-hand, house-to-house fighting, combat at close quarters, typical of urban warfare. Guerrillas are not going to be engaged in this type of warfare. The bayonets are clearly visible. This is a clue that the front line, first echelon combat troops are Russian Red Army infantry. They are now moving into the center of Belgrade.


There is a return to the Soviet tankman at the wooden fence where he has placed a machine gun and is firing through the opening. There is another soldier with a Soviet helmet. Another soldier is holding the belt for the machine gun. Then Soviet troops are shown moving horse-drawn artillery into the city center as they move rapidly up the street.

Soviet T-34/85 tanks are shown moving across the deserted streets of Belgrade. Then there is artillery support. Soviet troops are shown loading shells as they fire artillery at German positions. Needless to say, Russian troops were very good and effective at this type of urban, house-to-house, street warfare.

Infantry advances. Then Katyusha rocket launchers are shown firing rockets. These are the smaller BM-13 Katyushas for close quarter combat. The first Katyusha trucks fire from a grass field. The second group fires from a Belgrade street.

Destroyed German vehicles are shown. Troops are shown entering captured German bunkers and defensive positions. One German bunker has the Nazi swastika covered over with a Soviet red star or crvena zvezda.

The battle for the city is over. German POWs are shown being marched through the streets of Belgrade. A decorated Soviet officer wearing a cap is at the front of the group of German POWs being marched through the streets. Civilians are watching on the side of the road. One German POW is wearing a German helmet. The others have caps on. Soviet guards can also be seen on the side.

Then military personnel from the Milan Nedic regime are marched as POWs through the street.

Then Yugoslav Partisan troops can be seen marching in the street with weapons being cheered by a crowd. A Soviet soldier with a cap can be seen in the corner. Partisans distribute papers to the crowd.

A Soviet plane flies over Belgrade filming the city after it was taken at the Palata Albanija building in the background. The narrator announces in Russian that the city is now free.

This ends part 1 of the documentary on the battle for Belgrade. The second part is on the victory parade and the speeches made by Soviet and Yugoslav commanders at the Vuk Karadzic Monument in Belgrade.


The Vuk Karadzic Monument in Belgrade was where the podium for the victory celebration was located. Four flags were draped beneath it:  From left, the American flag, the Soviet flag, the Yugoslav flag with the Soviet red star or crvena zvezda in the center, and the British flag. These four countries participated in the Belgrade Offensive of 1944. The U.S. and UK provided air support.


The first scene in the second part on the parade and victory celebration shows a banner with an image of Joseph Stalin. In Russian is written: “Glory to the Red Army!” “Krasnaya armiya slava!” It is not in Serbian. So the victory parade is for the Soviet or Russian Red Army not for the Yugoslav Partisans.

The first vehicle is a personnel carrier like a jeep with Soviet troops. The overflow crowd cheers them on. The crowd shouts “Zhiveli!” “Long life!” Then a Soviet truck with three soldiers standing passes by. The windshield has two cracks in it.


Then five signs appear on the right in Serbian Cyrillic and in Latin. “Death to fascism! Freedom for the people (narod).” “Ziveli Crvena Vojska.” “Long live the Red Army!” “Long live the united youth!” “Zhiveo Marshal Stalin.” “Zhiveo Marshal Tito.”


The crowds are overflowing with civilians raising their hats, raising their hands, and clapping. A group of Soviet officers are shown passing by on a vehicle as they salute. One Soviet soldier is holding a Red Army banner as he passes by. Soviet trucks pass carrying artillery.

Women are shown cheering the Soviet troops. A column of Red Army soldiers march past with their rifles. Yugoslav Partisans can be seen by the crowd cheering the Soviet troops. The Soviet troops are wearing long overcoats and Red Army caps that can easily be confused with Yugoslav Partisan caps.


Soviet troops march in a column wearing Soviet Red Army helmets holding a banner with garlands of flowers and carrying rifles.


A Soviet T-34/85 tank slowly passes in the parade among a sea of people. One Soviet tankman is riding on the front of the tank and shakes hands with people along the parade route. Belgrade residents cheer on the Soviet tank crew. Then a Soviet truck pulling heavy artillery is shown.

Horse-mounted Soviet troops are shown on three horses, the first one is white, with the soldier carrying a banner. Then a column of Soviet troops on horses march past.


A Soviet soldier with a mortar being pulled in a horse-drawn cart is seen laughing. A woman is shown clapping. Then a group of army cooks are shown. One cook is shown wearing an apron and chef’s hat in a wagon with a stove.

The cameraman films from a vehicle in the parade. Soviet troops on horses are shown. The massive cheering crowd can be seen along the parade route. This ends the victory parade.


The next segment shows Red Army Major General Vladimir I. Zhdanov holding a wreath walking to the podium. This segment is on the speeches at the Vuk Karadzic statue. Again, the crowds are overflowing and at capacity. A Yugoslav Partisan soldier introduces Zhdanov. Zhdanov makes a speech to the crowd waving flags. Then Peko Dapcevic speaks. He then embraces Zhdanov. They shake hands and Dapcevic salutes. Then there is a shot of the crowds with flags.


The final scene is in Russian script noting that the commander of the Yugoslavian Army of National Liberation is Josip Broz-Tito. This ends the documentary.

Tito is not in the documentary and was not in Belgrade during the operation.

The portrayal and assessment of the battle has changed over time based on political and ideological considerations. From 1944 to 1948 the event was depicted in a positive light in Yugoslavia. Following the 1948 Stalin-Tito Split, however, the Soviet Union and the battle for Belgrade were seen in negative terms. Following the 1955 rapprochement with Nikita Khrushchev, a modus vivendi was achieved. The battle was re-evaluated in 1964 following the deaths of Vladimir Zhdanov and Sergey Biryuzov in a plane crash while en route to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the battle. Another re-evaluation occurred in 1997 when once again streets named after the Red Army and Soviet commanders were removed. In 2009, there was a move to commemorate Soviet commanders again. In 2016, the announcement was made that streets in the western New Belgrade or Novi Beograd section of Belgrade would be named after Fyodor Tolbukhin and Vladimir Zhdanov.

The 1944 documentary presents a filmed account of the battle as it occurred. It thus gives one of the clearest glimpses of what happened.

World War II in Film: The Ninth Circle (1960)


In 1960, the Yugoslavian film Deveti krug or The Ninth Circle was released on the Holocaust in Croatia during World War II. The film was directed by Slovenian-born France Stiglic. It was made in Croatia by Jadran Film based in Zagreb. The film starred Boris Dvornik as Ivo Vojnovic, Dusica Zegarac as Ruth Alakalaj, Desanka Loncar as Magda, and Dragan Milivojevic as Zvonko.

The film is on the Independent State of Croatia, the NDH, during World War II. The NDH existed from 1941 to 1945. The title of the film, Deveti krug, The Ninth Circle, refers to a Croatian Ustasha concentration camp known by that name. The allusion is to Dante’s Inferno from The Divine Comedy, consisting of Nine Circles of Hell. The Ninth Circle is Treachery. The camp is based and modeled on the real Jasenovac concentration camp complex but the word “Jasenovac” is not used.

The screenplay adaptation was written by France Stiglic and Vladimir Koch based on the original story by Zora Dirnbach.

The glaring and fatal flaw of the film is that it does not refer to Jasenovac or any of the other Croatian camps that made up the system. By using the vague and obtuse term “Deveti krug” the film engages in misdirection and obfuscation. By omitting the context, the film becomes too generalized and too generic to have any meaning. The concentration camp in the film becomes a generic concentration camp, one that could be based on Auschwitz, or any of the other German camps. Without the term “Jasenovac”, the film has no meaning either within the Yugoslav context or internationally.

There is not enough elucidation or background to explain the camp. The concentration camps in Croatia were unique and remarkable historically because they were set up by the Croatian government itself. They were not German, but Croatian concentration camps. The film does not explain this crucial fact. The camp guards are Croats and wear Croatian uniforms who speak Croatian. This is evidence that they are Croatian camps. But then the slogan at the camp is ambiguous. It could imply that the camp is Auschwitz or another German camp. A slogan on the entrance to the Croatian Ustasha concentration camp named The Ninth Circle, modeled on the Jasenovac camp system, is “Rad oslobadja” or “Work makes you free”. In German, it is translated as “Arbeit macht frei”. This was the slogan not only at Auschwitz, but also at Dachau, Gros-Rozen, Zahsenhauzen and Therezienstadt. The slogan at Jasenovac was “Rad. Red. Stega.” “Work. Order. Discipline.” There is no question that the camp guards are Croatian Ustasha. This is clearly a Croatian concentration or death camp that is depicted in the film.


The plot focuses around Serbian-born Dusica Zegarac as Ruth Alkalaj, a Croatian Jew living in the Independent State of Croatia. Croatia has enacted racial laws based on the Nuremberg Race Laws in Germany.

The film opens with Ivo and Ruth playing a board game on the floor. Boris Dvornik is Ivo Vojnovic, a 19-year-old Roman Catholic Croat. His father is played by Branko Tatic. His mother is played by Ervina Dragman. Ruth Alkalaj is a 17-year-old Jewish Croat. Her father is played by Bozo Drnic. Her mother is played by Djurdjica Devic. Their families are in the room. A boy playing the game puts on his coat which has the yellow armband with the Star of David and the letter “Z”, the Croatian word for “Jew”.

The setting is Zagreb, the capital during World War II of the Nazi allied country of the Independent State of Croatia, which also consisted of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Adolf Hitler has created the NDH which was proclaimed on April 10, 1941. Ante Pavelic was installed by German forces as the new leader or Poglavnik.


The Croatian Ustasha regime immediately promulgates anti-Jewish race laws modeled on the German Nuremberg Race Laws. Serbs and Roma also targeted for elimination by the new regime. The film does not explore this issue but focuses solely on the anti-Jewish legislation.

Croatian Jews become the targets for elimination. As the NDH regime cracks down on Jewish citizens, Ruth’s parents get arrested. Ruth would be arrested next. Ivo’s parents concoct a plan to save her. They convince Ivo to marry Ruth. The marriage would be bogus and temporary to prevent Ruth from being apprehended and sent to the camps.


Ivo has a relationship with Magda, played by Serbian-born Desanka Beba Loncar. In one scene, they ride on a bicycle through the streets of Zagreb. Another concern is the stigma and embarrassment. At school, Ivo is ridiculed by fellow students for marrying in his teens.

In the next scene, Ruth is shown wearing the NDH yellow badge with a Star of David and the letter “Z”, Croatian for “Zidov” or “Jew”, as she walks with Ivo’s father. A child in the street throws her a ball. She is spotted by a Croatian Ustasha officer who notices the yellow badge. He gazes at her suspiciously.


She sees Ustasha troops put a prisoner in a truck. She sees a poster that Ustasha forces have put up of a racist caricature of a Jewish man. It reads in Croatian: “Measures against Jews can never be too harsh. Jews are worthy to be eradicated before birth.” It is an “Oglas” or “Announcement”. Ruth is shocked. Behind her German military vehicles are shown being transported by rail. The NDH Operation Barbarossa poster for the Eastern Front can be seen on the kiosk: “United Europe Against the East”. The poster reads: “Rame uz rame”. “Shoulder to shoulder.” Croatia is shoulder to shoulder with Germany and Italy in the invasion of the Soviet Union.


Ivo puts a wedding ring on Ruth’s finger as they are married at a Roman Catholic Cathedral. They celebrate at Ivo’s parents’ house by dancing. They are committed of going through the ruse.


Ivo continues to see Magda. Ruth notices that Ivo goes to take Magda on a bike ride. She is distressed. Ruth realizes that the marriage is causing problems for Ivo and his relationship with Magda. She decides to run away. She runs through the streets of Zagreb, past the Oglas poster and the War Against the East poster. Ivo runs after her and desperately seeks to find her.

It is Ivo’s father who locates her and brings her back. Ivo walks home dejectedly but finds Ruth in bed. They re-establish their relationship. They are shown playing the board game. He clutches her hand to reassure her.


As Ivo and Ruth walk through the streets of Zagreb the Ustasha officer recognizes her. He throws down the flowers she is carrying and forces her to clean his boots. He pulls the scarf from her neck and forces her to kneel down and wipe his black leather boots with it. Ivo notices what is going on. Ivo is able to intercede and to diffuse the situation because one of the Ustasha soldiers, Zvonko, played by Montenegrin actor Dragan Milivojevic, recognizes him and can vouch for him. They are allowed to walk away.

The experience bonds their relationship and they grow closer to each other. They both come to accept the necessity of continuing the relationship. But they also develop a close interpersonal bond.

Ivo witnesses armed Ustasha forces rounding up Jews as they lead them down stairs. They are wearing the yellow Zidov badge. Their IDs are checked. One of the Jews has a Croatian medal which the Ustasha soldier rips from his chest. They are hauled into trucks.

Ivo attends a rally where an Ustasha officer speaks to a crowd. The podium is draped with a Croatian flag. Zvonko and Ivo fight on the stairs. Zvonko pulls out a knife. They are pulled apart.

Ruth runs down the same stairs where the Jews were rounded up. She walks past the fountains. She throws the ball. There plaza is deserted. She goes on the swing. She plays hopscotch.

She suddenly notices a poster on the kiosk. “Oglas: Na smrt vjesanjem.” “Announcement: Hanged to Death.” She read the name: Alkalaj Daniela, Jew. She is devastated. She breaks down. She surrenders to two Ustasha policemen.

Ivo tells his parents that he is committed to look for her. He goes to a train with wagon cars. Behind the grate are prisoners, including children. The train moves on. He hangs on the sides of the train.

In the next scene he is in a swamp. He sees female prisoners digging.

He is getting closer to the concentration camp. He encounters an Ustasha in a horse drawn cart. His next stop is the camp.

He reached the entrance which has a slogan on top: “Rad Oslobadja”. “Work Makes You Free”. He meets Zvonko at the camp. There are armed guards. There is also an electrified barbed-wire fence. Zvonko takes him on a tour of the camp. They see female prisoners. There is a watchtower with a searchlight.


A gas van enters the camp. A driver opens the back door of the van. The Croatian Ustasha camp guard induces children at the death camp to enter a gas van. Children are shown before being put in a gas van to be gassed to death. There is a skull and crossbones symbol on the bottom rear fender of the van. This reveals that the van is, indeed, a gas van to kill the children.


Croatian NDH camp guards push the other children away as the gas van is filled up with children.


Ivo sees female prisoners at the camp. Camp guards grotesquely dance with them. The female inmates are dazed. Ivo notices Ruth and calls to her. Zvonko intercedes and takes him away. He confronts Zvonko, punches him in the mouth. Zvonko is knocked out. Ivo escapes.

He finds Ruth and they make a run for it. They make their way through the camp unseen by the camp guards at night.

They watch as a female inmate runs to the fence where she is electrocuted on the barbed wire fence. The searchlight from the watchtower scans the camp as they move around it trying to find an escape route.

They finally reach the fence and both climb it. Ivo helps Ruth climb the fence. She reaches the top. They appear to be able to escape. But then the guards turn on the electricity and they are both electrocuted. There is a flash of white light. This is the final scene.


The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 33rd ceremony. It was also entered into the 1960 Cannes Film Festival where it was nominated for the Palme d’Or. The film won the Velika Zlatna arena award for best film at the 1960 Pula Film Festival. The film was also released in the U.S., the Soviet Union, France, Argentina, and Hungary.

The film is an effective dramatization of the World War II period in the NDH. The major flaw of the film is that nowhere does it make any reference to the real Croatian concentration camps. The word “Jasenovac” does not appear in the film. This distances the film too much from the historical reality and the context of the events. The term “Deveti krug” is a meaningless designation that functions to distort and to obscure the actual facts. If one can get over this fatal flaw, the movie remains a powerful evocation of the NDH period.

Peter II in Detroit: The Second Visit


Peter II first visited Detroit in 1942, at the height of World War II, when the U.S. had entered the war. The U.S. was then gearing up for total war. Peter visited Detroit as part of an official state visit to the U.S. as the exiled leader of German-occupied Yugoslavia. He was an ally who was shown the industrial capability of the country with a stopover in Detroit, the Arsenal of Democracy. Wearing a military uniform, he had been accompanied by the Yugoslav ambassador to the U.S., Constantin Fotich. He was upbeat with an expectation of eventual victory of the Allied Powers who would restore him to power.

The second visit occurred in 1959 at the height of another global conflict, the Cold War. The Josip Broz Tito post-war Communist government of Yugoslavia had abolished the monarchy in 1945. Peter was made a king without a country. He was now known as the exiled ex-king of Yugoslavia. Moreover, after the 1948 split between Josip Broz Tito and Joseph Stalin, the U.S. welcomed Yugoslavia as a potential ally against the Soviet Union in the the Cold War. Peter was forced to walk a fine line. In the second visit, the theme was support for the U.S. in the Cold War. The expectation was regime change in Yugoslavia with the return of the monarchy.


Miodrag Mijatovich, Peter, Bishop Dionisije, and Rudy Kordich.

He arrived in Detroit on Saturday, March 14, 1959 and left on Thursday, March 19, for a tour of Windsor and Toronto, Canada. He arrived at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. He was greeted at the airport by V. Rev. Miodrag “Pop Micho” Mijatovich, the pastor of the Ravanica Serbian Orthodox Church in Detroit, Bishop Dionisije of the Serbian Orthodox Church of America, and Rudolph “Rudy” Kordich, the Ravanica Church President.


Bishop Dionisije of the Serbian Orthodox Church of America, right, and Peter.

His tour was sponsored by the Serbian Orthodox Church of America. The event was in the context of the Cold War conflict against Communism and the overthrow of the Communist governments of Eastern Europe. At that time, Peter was living in Monaco.

A press conference was held at the Sheraton-Cadillac Hotel after his arrival. He later attended a dinner sponsored by Detroit Edison president Walker L. Cisler on Saturday at the Detroit Athletic Club.

On Friday, March 13, 1959, the day before his arrival, The Detroit News featured an anticle, “Yugoslavia’s Ex-King to Begin Visit in City”, by James K. Anderson, which detailed his itinerary in Detroit. He is to begin a five day visit as “a geust of the city’s Serbian community”. This is his second visit to Detroit. He visited during World War II “before he abdicated in favor of the Communist leader of Yugoslavia, Marshal Tito.” The term “adbdicated” is incorrect. Peter did not give up the throne. The Communist government abolished the monarchy in 1945.

On Saturday, after his arrival at 4PM at Detroit Metro Airport and a press conferance at the Sheraton-Cadillac Hotel at 5PM, he will attend a meeting at the Detroit Athletic Club hosted by Walker L. Cisler, the President of the Detroit Edison Company. On Sunday, he will go to the American Serbian Hall for mass at the Ravanica Serbian Orthodox Church. On Wednesday afternoon he will attend a dinner as the guest of honor at the Detroit Press Club. Then he will leave for Windsor and Toronto.

Peter “is the last of his Karageogevich dynasty to rule Yugoslavia.” The goal of his 1959 tour of America and Canada sponsored by the Serbian Orthodox Church in America “is to create goodwill for him and the anti-Red Yugoslav forces he represents.”


Peter was photographed dancing the “King’s kolo” in the basement hall at the American-Serbian Memorial Hall in Detroit, Michigan, at Van Dyke and Outer Drive with Mrs. Rudy Kordich, the wife of Rudy Kordich. The photograph appeared in the Detroit Times newspaper in the Monday, March 16, 1959 issue. He was also photographed with Detroit Police Officer Stanley Perich. He was also photographed at the banquet at the Ravanica Hall, at the dinner at the Detroit Athletic Club, in the back seat of a car as he traveled in the city, and on his arrival at Metro Airport.


Detroit Police Officer Stanley Perich and Peter.

Detroit was a highlight of his North American tour. Of his 1959 Detroit visit, Peter II said: “This is the greatest assembly I ever saw of Serbs in America. … This will live in my memory.” Peter toured the Henry Ford River Rouge plant, Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, the Chrysler Plymouth engine plant on Mound, the Palmer Park Greek Orthodox Church, and the Detroit Press Club.

The banquet in his honor at the American Serbian Hall was attended by members of the Detroit Serbian community and prominent Detroit and Windsor political leaders. The attendees included Bishop Dionisije, head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North America, Rev. Miodrag Mijatovich, the pastor of the Ravanica Serbian Orthodox Church in Detroit, Walker L. Cisler, the president of the Detroit Edison Company, the mayor of Windsor, Canada, Michael Patrick, Mitchell S. Jachimski, the Secretary of the Detroit Welfare Commission and the representative of Detroit mayor Louis Miriani, Detroit City Council President Mary V. Beck, Rudy Kordich, and President Bronislaw M. Stachura and Wladislaw Rylko of the Michigan Chapter of the Polish American Congress. The attendance was 1,500.


Peter’s visit was detailed in The Detroit News in the Monday, March 16, 1959 issue, in the story “Ex-King Peter Calls U.S. Autos Much ‘Too Big'” on page 20, by James K. Anderson. The article provided a biographical sketch as well as his view on American cars. As on his 1942 visit, Peter toured the major automobile plants in Detroit.

Peter said that American cars would be much too big for the roads in Monaco. During his tour of the Ford Motor Company Rouge plant, Anderson reported that he looked so much like “an ordinary American tourist” that workers asked: “Which one is the king?” Peter stated: “Too big, too big” as the cars rolled off the assembly line. The next day he toured the GM Tech Center in Warren and a Chrysler plant.

He had arrived in Detroit on Saturday. The speech at the American Serbian Hall was on Sunday night. He toured the Ford Rouge plant on Monday. On Tuesday he toured the GM Tech Center and a Chrysler plant.

He noted that his 1959 American and Canadian tour was sponsored by Serbian religious, fraternal, and civic organizations to raise money for “Yugoslavian refugees from communism.”


The highlight of his visit was a speech delivered at the American-Serbian Hall which was quoted in the Detroit newspapers. He thanked the Serbian community of Detroit for their support. He castigated the Communist regime of Josip Broz Tito, framing his criticisms within the larger Cold War conflict against the Soviet block and Communist ideology. Paradoxically, the U.S. government was economically and militarily backing the Tito regime as a bulwark against the USSR. By 1959, however, Yugoslav dependence on the U.S. had lessened due to the rapprochement between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union after meetings between Tito and Nikita Khrushchev. Peter’s supporters were now primarily Serbian. The appeal was thus to Serbian religious, cultural, and political customs and traditions. He upheld the legacy of Draza Mihailovich and the Chetnik guerrillas of World War II. Chetnik songs were sung at the ceremony.



At the American Serbian Hall on Van Dyke and Outer Drive, he saw dances and singing “reminiscent of the days when Peter’s great-great-granfather expelled the Turks from old Serbia.” Peter sang and “applauded lustily” after each performance. The “high point was reached” when Milan Tomcic, a “former Belgrade singing star, broke out with the Chetnik song, ‘Mother, I am coming home without my right hand, but my left hand will still bring death to Tito’.” Peter and the audience sang along. There were shouts of “zivio”. Everyone clapped “furiously” when the song was over.

Then Ravanica priest Pop Micho and Momcilo Golubovich, a former member of the Yugoslav Royal Guard living in Detroit, escorted Peter to the stage. Peter opened his speech by praising the Detroit Serbian community: “Thank you for keeping alive our church and religion in this blessed country. … Be good Serbs, but above all be good Americans.”

The Ravanica church choir then sang “an ancient song” that honored dignitaries with the hope of a long life. Then he danced the “King’s kolo” with the wife of Rudy Kordich. Finally, the Polish American Congress representatives presented him with a resolution.


Speaking in Serbian and wearing glasses, Peter said: “I tried always to be one of you. I love you more, than you love me. … This is the greatest assembly I ever saw of Serbs in America. I saw rich America and her beautiful cities and I saw and felt the hearts of the people. … This will live in my memory. … I saw people united against this enemy [Communism]. … And in a democracy the people have the last word. If your leaders are not united you should elect new leaders.”

A member of the audience shouted: “All they want is money.”

Peter smiled and continued: “Be good Serbs but above all be good Americans.”

Members of the audience shouted “zivio” during his speech.

Peter stated: “I will write in our national paper and maybe the American press of my impressions. … I’m going to tell you then how and what to do in our common fight against communism.”

The program lasted two hours and featured singing and dancing.


Walker Lee Cisler, the President of the Detroit Edison Company, right, and Peter.

The newspaper accounts focused on Peter’s unpretentious demeanor. When offered a cigarette which fell on the floor, Peter picked it up, saying “That’s all right.” The Detroit Times reporter Bernard Mullins in the story “King Peter has ’53 car. He’s a humble fellow” noted that he was “a humble fellow”. He looked more like a “mild-mannered bookkeeper”. Peter owned a 1953 Jaguar at the time with 135,000 miles on it. After a tour of the Ford Ford Company Rouge plant, Peter insisted that he was not interested in buying a new American car in Detroit: “No sir, I couldn’t afford it. In fact, I couldn’t even afford a trip like this. I’m a guest. Otherwise I couldn’t be here.”

Bernard Mullins wrote in the Detroit Times news article “King Peter Makes a Promise. I’ll tell how to fight Reds” that his speech at the American Serbian Hall was “the most spirited speech of his American tour.”

His financial assets and his family were described. He has savings and trust funds to support his wife Alexandra and his son Alexander. Peter recounted: “They’re both wonderful skiers. I just got a letter from my boy in which he told me he’d won a medal for skiing. I’m very proud of him. But I can’t ski myself. My hobby is skin diving.” He lived in Monte Carlo in Monaco at the time.

The Michigan chapter of the Polish American Congress presented Peter with a resolution welcoming him to Detroit and espoused the “fervent hope that both our nations will attain freedom and full sovereignty.” The snag was that Poland was a Communist “Captive Nation” but Yugoslavia, on the other hand, was a Communist nation that was an ally and a proxy of the U.S. This is missing in the news accounts of the visit.


Peter’s speech at the Hall was covered in a news article in The Detroit News, “Ex-King Peter Hailed by 1,500 at Serb Rally” by James K. Anderson. Peter was described as the “35 year old former monarch who has become to them a symbol of the hope that Red-ruled Yugoslavia will again be free.”

The activities that night were detailed: “They saw Balkan national dances and heard ancient Serbian songs.” Serbian singer Milan Tomcich sang. There were “jubilant cries” of “Zhivio Kralj”, “Long live the King”. One song sung “dated from ancient times when men like Peter’s ancestor Black George fought for their land.” Another song hailed the Chetniks. “Spremte se spremte, Chetnici”. “Prepare, prepare, Chetniks”, a song that “was revived during World War II when Gen. Drazha Mihailovich’s Chetniks were fighting in Yugoslavia.” Another song sung was “The King’s Guards Are Getting Ready” on the death of a family in the war. Peter sat in front of the stage during the festivities. The Polish American Congress presented him with a reoslution read in Polish by Wladyslav Rylko, a former Polish colonel, and in Serbian by former Draza Mihailovich adjutant Jaksa Djelevich.


Earlier that day 600 had attended a dinner held in Peter’s honor. Peter had toasted President Dwight D. Eisenhower and “this land of liberty that has been so hospitable to all our people and has given them a chance for a new life.”

Detroit political leaders portrayed Peter as an avatar of the conflict against the Soviet block and the expansion of Communism into Eastern Europe. Mitchell J. Jachimski, secretary of the Detroit Welfare Commission and the representative of Detroit Mayor Louis Miriani, called Peter “a symbol of free nations fighting communism and an important figure for freedom for all oppressed nations.” Detroit City Council President Mary V. Beck said: “I hope the dark cloud of oppression will disappear and liberty will return to the world.”

Rudy Kordich recalled meeting Peter on his first visit to Detroit in 1942. Kordich stated: “America always has a heart that beats for freedom and democracy.”


Peter and the other speakers espoused the Cold War objectives of rolling back Communism in Eastern Europe and in the Balkans. This meshed well with U.S. Cold War policy overall but was inapplicable to Communist Yugoslavia which was buttressed by the U.S.

Peter remained confident that the Tito regime would collapse and the prewar status quo would be reinstated. This, however, would not happen. Tito and his regime would outlive Peter.

World War II in Film: Night Over Belgrade (1942)


In 1942, a Soviet film short was released on the German occupation of Belgrade in 1941. The film was entitled Night Over Belgrade, Noc nad Belgradom in Russian, Noc nad Beogradom in Serbo-Croatian. The film was pro-Peter II and the new Yugoslav regime that had emerged after the overthrow of the pro-German Regent Prince Paul government. The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were allies during the war. Like Greece, Yugoslavia was resisting the German expansion into southeastern Europe. After the German occupation and dismemberment, Serbia and Montenegro remained as centers of resistance. The Soviet film highlighted this resistance to the Axis.


The film presented an anti-German perspective, showing the Germans as aggressive and brutal occupiers while emphasizing the Yugoslav guerrilla resistance. The film short was part of a Soviet film series that featured short films for the Armed Forces of the USSR, Boyevoy kinosbornik No. 8 in Russian. The director was Leonid Lukov. The writer was Iosif Sklyut. The film starred Tatyana Okunevskaya, Osip Abdulov, Pyotr Aleynikov, Ivan Novoseltsev, and Boris Andreyev. The second segment was entitled Three Tankmen featuring a trapped Soviet tank crew that is able to hold out until they are rescued.

The film was made at the Tashkent film studio in the Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan in September, 1941 as German troops were advancing across the USSR and two resistance movements had emerged in German-occupied Serbia. It was released on February 7, 1942.

The first scene is of a Soviet foxhole with Soviet armored troops. They are huddled during a lull in the fighting with advancing German troops. A soldier is eating from a can on his knees with a spoon. A Soviet soldier asks that he be given bread. He announces that he is a Serb named Kotic. Another Soviet soldier is talking over the phone. “I’m listening. So. So. Yes.” The Serbian soldier was forcibly conscripted into the German Army as a “Serbian volunteer”. He has defected. He recounts to the Soviet tank crews the story of the underground resistance in Belgrade.

Billows of white smoke drift across the screen in the foreground. Belgrade appears in the background. Buildings can be seen in the distance. A song is sung in Russian over the opening credits. “For pity, Belgrade is destroyed.”

In the first scene in Belgrade, a German staff car stops at the top of stairs on a Belgrade street. A German occupation soldier opens the back door as a civilian exits the automobile and starts walking down the stairs. As he does so, he is shot dead in the back by the German officer who comes out of the car and fires a revolver. The car drives off. The prisoner dies on the steps.

In the next scene, two German soldiers are shown on patrol on a Belgrade street at night while it is raining with rifles over their shoulders with bayonets. Then three German Wehrmacht soldiers are shown walking behind two prisoners down a Belgrade street with their rifles pointed at them. The third soldier has a revolver. They then stop and execute the two prisoners by shooting them in the back of the head at point blank range. The scenes are at night. These scenes show the nature of the German occupation of Belgrade, emphasizing the brutality and the elimination of all resistance and opposition.


The three German soldiers run into two other soldiers. The first three depart while the camera follows the two as they walk down a deserted street in Belgrade.


They enter a Belgrade restaurant or cafe. They try to intimidate the proprietor Mirko. One soldier breaks off the ends of wine classes. One goes to the wine rack but the bottles are empty. Mirko brings out a wine bottle. They drink the wine. One tells Mirko that the Serbian people are swine and that the Germans are a superior race. They say that the Fuehrer has explained this. One draws his rifle and points it at Mirko threatening to shoot him. Mirko tells him that Oberleutnant Fischer, the German commanding officer in Belgrade, is a patron of the restaurant. The two German soldiers leave.

A resistance fighter enters the cafe through an opening in the cabinet bringing a message. The second resistance fighter that emerges is Kotic. They read from a proclamation. German fascism seeks the physical destruction and extermination of the Slavic peoples. This is the goal of the German war. The Germans have set up concentration camps.


In the next scene a German officer, Oberleutnant Fischer, the commander in Belgrade, who looks like Adolf Hitler, is in a room where a violinist plays for him. The song is sorrowful. The Hitler-like character complains that the song is about of crying. There is a close-up of the violinist’s face. The Hitler-like character blows smoke into his face from a cigarette to bring real tears to his eyes.

There are continuity issues with the Nazi swastika armband. In the earlier scenes, the Nazi swastika is reversed. In the later scenes, the Nazi swastika is not reversed on his left arm.

The resistance are able to infiltrate the restaurant and to seize Fischer’s gun. They are able to capture Fischer and to use him to gain entrance in the Radio Beograd studio.

The entrance gate to Radio Beograd is shown in an exterior shot with a German sentry at the gate. Mirko and the other resistance fighters are able to get past the German guard at the Radio Beograd studio because they recognizes Fischer. They enter the building and seize the German soldier at the studio wearing headphones and a reversed Nazi swastika armband.


The Joseph Stalin-like character Mirko makes a speech over the radio exhorting Serbs, Croats, and Montenegrins to resist the German occupation in a radio address. The German fascist plan is the extermination of all the Slavic peoples, Russians, Ukrainians, and White Russians. Hitler and Mussolini seek to destroy the Slavic peoples. The Soviet Union and the Red Army are now fighting Hitler. “Krov za krov, smert za smert.” “Blood for blood, death for death.”

A German truck transporting troops is shown hitting a land mine and being blown up.


The Tatyana Okunevskaya character sings a song over Beograd Radio exhorting the people to resist. German troops and Fischer hear the message. German troops are sent to take the radio station. Tatyana Okunevskaya is shown next to the studio microphone singing. In the background, German troops can be seen through the glass window as they enter the studio to stop the broadcast. One soldier shoots the Tatyana Okunevskaya character in the back. Her eyes close as she falls back dead. Her corpse is then seen horizontally across the floor. German troops are shown looking on in the back through the glass window.


A woman carrying a lifeless child in her arms is shown moving towards the camera with billowing black smoke in the background. A girl is shown beside the body of her dead mother.


In the next scene, Serbian guerrillas are shown with rifles emerging from the debris. A man in civilian clothes is shown with a rifle. A woman is shown joining the resistance carrying a rifle. One woman is shown carrying a child in her left arm and a rifle in her right which she has slung over her shoulder. Serbian guerrillas are shown advancing with rifles over their shoulders.


Fischer is taken out of a car by Kotic and another resistance fighter. He is told that for the crimes committed by German troops the “people” or “narod” of Yugoslavia have decreed the death penalty. They both shoot him dead. He falls forward.


In the next scene a guerrilla takes off his hat. He then crosses himself. The Serbian guerrilla makes the sign of the cross by touching his forehead, then the center of his chest, then the right side to the left side. This is a custom of Serbian Orthodox Christianity. This religious imagery is unusual in a Communist or Soviet film.

The last scene shows Serbian guerrillas armed with rifles moving across a ledge as they head into the mountains.


Then there is a return to the Soviet foxhole in the USSR as Soviet troops are listening to the account by the Serbian soldier Kotic as he finishes the story of the Belgrade resistance in 1941. Then a shell blast is heard. Then the troops leave the foxhole as shells crash all around. The film ends here.

The film was made at a time when Operation Barbarossa was in full swing and the German forces were advancing all across the front towards Moscow. In the earlier Soviet film short on Yugoslavia, A Hundred For One, made in August, 1941, the emphasis was on the guerrilla resistance and German reprisals against civilians in Yugoslavia. In Night Over Belgrade, the theme of resistance is continued. As a Soviet ally, Yugoslavia, particularly Serbia and Montenegro, was supported and shown in the most positive aspect. In turn, Yugoslavia was also shown as an example of resistance and implacable determination. The Soviet Union was not alone and isolated. Yugoslavia, in Serbia and Montenegro, was portrayed as a model. The movie was made to instill solidarity and to encourage resistance in a common struggle.

World War II in Film: A Hundred for One (1941)


In 1941, a Soviet film short was released on Yugoslavia entitled A Hundred for One, 100 za Odnogo or Sto za Odnogo in Russian, Sto za Jednog in Serbian, Hundert für Einen in German, by Austrian-born Soviet director Herbert Rappaport. The film drama was on the German occupation of Yugoslavia. The plot revolved around the German policy of shooting 100 civilians for the death of a German soldier in Yugoslavia. The film was released on August 11, 1941 in the Soviet Union. This film was also released in the United States on July 3, 1942 under the title This is the Enemy as part of an anthology. The film was also released in Mexico as Este es el enemigo on February 17, 1943. This segment was part of the series Boyevoy kinosbornik from 1941 as No. 2. This was a film collection for the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union approximately an hour in length usually consisting of two approximately thirty minute film shorts.


In the prologue to the segment, the following appears on the screen in Russian: “Son for father, brother for brother, bitter is the German retribution.” The scene is a town in Yugoslavia under fascist occupation. The back of the helmet of a German soldier on sentry duty is shown. Then German troops are patrolling a street in the town. A man and his two children peer out of a window and then close the shutters.


In a German occupied town in Yugoslavia, a couple is walking on a deserted street. They are stopped by two German soldiers. They are accused of violating the 10:00 PM curfew. The German soldier is shown moving the hands of the clock to 10:10 PM. One soldier accosts the woman. They both eventually sexually assault her. One of the soldiers is knocked out cold. Her companion attacks the other soldier. The soldier wrestles him to the ground and pulls out his dagger. The woman takes the gun from the other German soldier and shoots the soldier attacking her companion in the back. He is killed. They then flee. The other soldier rouses himself and fires his weapon to alert other German troops.


The commanding German officer decrees that for the death of the German soldier, one hundred civilians will be executed. German troops begin rounding up civilians in the town, men, women, and children. A woman nursing a child is also taken into custody.


The civilians are being shown marching off to the execution site in the woods led by German troops. In two scenes, a German officer is heard counting off the number of civilians to reach the number of one hundred. The commanding officer follows the civilians to the execution site in a vehicle.


The couple who killed the German soldier witness the plight of the hostages and surrender. They both confess to the killing. The commanding German officer strikes down the man. He is determined to go through with the executions.


The civilians take shovels from the truck and begin digging their own graves. Making prisoners dig their own graves was something German troops did routinely in the Soviet Union but was not a feature of the Yugoslav conflict. They devise a plan to attack the German troops. They use the shovels to attack the soldiers. One of the German soldiers shoots the elderly man. He is then shot by the woman with a rifle. The hostages are able to kill the German troops. They shout slogans of defiance as they battle against fascism, emerging victorious. A guerrilla war is to be conducted. The Russian word for “guerrilla” is used, “Partisan”. In the final scene, the woman who appeared earlier is shown nursing her child. The film has a triumphant and a victorious ending.


The segment was written by Yevgeni Ryss and Vsevolod Voyevodin. The film featured Lev Bordukov, Boris Poslavsky, Larisa Yemelyantseva, and Elena Kirillova. The cinematography was by Khecho Nazaryants. The art direction was by Semyon Mejnkin. The sound was by Ilya Volk. The film was made by Lenfilm Studio. The alternate title was Victory Will Be Ours, Part 2, or Pobeda budet za nami, seriya 2. A translation of the Russian title of the series is: A Collection of Films for the Armed Forces #2.


The Yugoslav segment A Hundred for One was released in the U.S. on July 3, 1942 as part of the anthology This is the Enemy. Two U.S. posters for the 1942 American release were also produced as 14″ x 22″ theatrical window cards. The segment on Yugoslavia, A Hundred for One, was illustrated in the top right corner of one of the posters and was featured extensively in the second. Archer Winsten, the film critic of the New York Post, wrote a positive review for the film: “It is the immediate duty of every American to see this film”.


The anthology featured seven Soviet directors: Yevgeni Chervyakov, Viktor Eisymont, Vladimir Feinberg, Ivan Mutanov, Aleksei Olenin, Tamara Sukova, and Herbert Rappaort, as Gerbet Rappaport. The other segments included “Meeting”, “At the Old Nurse’s/Saboteur”, “One of Many/Air Raid”, and “Three in a Shell Hole”. The goal of the film was to expose what the enemy was like. “What does the enemy look like? …. How does he treat women and children? See Europe’s little people holding the Hitler beast at bay!” The film starred Boris Chirkov, Vladimir Lukin, Boris Blinov, Aleksandr Melnikov and Ivan Kuznetsov. The film consisted of eight re-edited short segments from the Soviet series illustrating the Nazis, including a lead off segment called “The Hitler Beast”, which was an animated cartoon by Russian animator Ivan Ivanov-Vano. The final segment was a fantasy with the spirit of Napoleon sending a telegraph to Adolf Hitler telling him what happened when he invaded Russia in 1812. The movie was shown and promoted in the U.S. in 1942 with the tagline “The Soviet Mrs. Miniver” because both contained similar scenes and because they both sought to mobilize the country for total war against Nazi Germany depicting the enemy as ruthless and without any mores.


Mrs. Miniver came out on June 4, 1942 in the U.S. This is the Enemy came out on July 3, 1942. The Soviet segments were filmed earlier. Mrs. Miniver was an American movie by MGM directed by William Wyler about World War II in Great Britain. The Soviet segment “Saboteur” has a similar theme. An elderly woman lets in a guest into her home who is a German agent. He has a gun with him that a sleeping child in the house is able to take and hide. Eventually, the woman is able to expose the guest and to capture him. This is similar to a major scene in Mrs. Miniver where a German pilot is able to enter her home.


The Soviet Union had signed a treaty of alliance with the royalist Yugoslav government of Peter II in 1941. The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were allies during World War II. The Soviet film short A Hundred for One supported the royalist Yugoslav government’s resistance against Nazi Germany. A second Soviet film short in support of the Peter II Yugoslav government would be released in 1942 entitled Night Over Belgrade or Noc nad Belgradom. A Hundred for One demonstrated the Soviet Union’s commitment to Yugoslavia as an ally during the war.

World War II in Film: People in the Storm (1941)


In 1941, a German film, Menschen im Sturm, People in the Storm, Ljudi u oluji, an anti-Yugoslavian and anti-Serbian film, was made in Germany to justify the invasion, destruction, and subsequent dismemberment of Yugoslavia. The film starred Olga Chekhova or Tschechowa and Gustav Diessl. The plot of the movie centered around the alleged persecution of the German minority, volksdeutsche, in Yugoslavia by the Yugoslav, particularly Serbian, leaders during the March Crisis in 1941. It was in German and Serbo-Croatian, made by the German production company Tobis Filmkunst. It was directed by Fritz Peter Buch. The screenplay was by Georg Zoch from an idea by Karl Anton and Felix von Eckardt.

The film is set in Yugoslavia in March, 1941. It is during the period of the crisis with Germany. The film opens with a scene of Yugoslav leaders meeting behind closed doors in Belgrade. The pro-German Regent Prince Paul government is overthrown in the March 27 coup. Peter II is proclaimed king. Yugoslav leaders wish Peter II (Petar drugi) a long life as they stream out of the room.


The major scenes take place along the Slovenian border with Austria in the Upper Cariola region of Slovenia. Austria was annexed to the Third German Reich in 1938. Until now, the Slovenian landowner Alexander Oswatic, played by Gustav Diessl, and his ethnic German wife Vera, played by Olga Chekhova, have never experienced any conflict or been in danger in Yugoslavia. But when their region is plagued by clashes between Serbs and ethnic Germans, they feel threatened and are concerned for the German minority. Everything changes for the worse.


Olga Chekhova plays the protagonist in the film. She was a major German film star in the Third Reich during the 1930s and 1940s. She was born in Russia. He father was an ethnic German. Her husband was the nephew of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov.

Siegfried Breuer played Yugoslav Hauptmann or Army Captain Rakic. Franz Schafheitlin was the Yugoslavian Commissioner or Kommisar Subotic. Kurt Meisel plays Yugoslav Oberleutnant Dusan.


Yugoslav troops are shown harassing an ethnic German farming family. The soldiers sieze livestock and intimidate the ethnic Germans. This is all in the wake of the new anti-German policies of the Yugoslav regime controlled by Serbs.

Vera and her family begin to experience the anti-German measures. In one scene, her daughter, Marieluise Kornberg, played by Hannelore Schroth, is listening to a radio program from Vienna but is pressured to turn it off.

Yugoslav royalist troops wearing French Adrian helmets are shown marching against the volksdeutsche community in one scene. The film depicts the charged atmosphere following the March 27 coup when an anti-German regime under Peter II replaced the pro-German regime under the Regent Prince Paul. There were news accounts at the time of ethnic Germans fleeing to Austria as refugees because of the anti-German government. There were expressions of anti-German sentiment in Yugoslavia. The film exaggerates and magnifies these cases.

Yugoslav troops are shown searching ethnic German houses in Yugoslavia. Ethnic Germans in Yugolavia are forced to flee towards the Austrian border.


Vera decides to help Yugoslav citizens of ethnic German origin, the volksdeutsche, who are threatened with persecution. Her daughter accuses her of being a “cosmopolitan”, a euphemism for a Communist. Vera lacks any ethnic consciousness about her own people. She turns into a champion for the German cause after witnessing the persecution of the ethnic German population in royalist Yugoslavia. She manages to seduce a Serbian captain to such a degree that she is able to extract confidential plans and information from him. She is able to turn the information over to the ethnic German community.

Vera joins forces with the teacher of the local ethnic German school, Hans Neubert, played by Heinz Welzel, and together they help numerous ethnic German citizens escape from Yugoslav forces. In one scene, an elderly Croatian druggist, Paulic, played by Rudolf Blumner, is depicted as friendly and tolerant, wishing peace for everyone. He is subsequently brutally murdered by Serbian thugs because of his support of Germany.

The Serbian commanders grow suspicious and put out a spy to determine the source of the leaks in their own ranks. Only by a hair does Vera escape discovery. She is finally found out and flees in a horse-drawn coach with her daughter. They are pursued by Yugoslav military forces on a motorcycle. The Yugoslav pursuer is killed just before they reach the German border. Vera herself had been struck by gunfire and is seriously wounded. She dies as they reach the German border but she dies happy as a German patriot and savior of the persecuted German community in Yugoslavia. The film ends here on a note of triumph and national victory.


The film is similar to the 1941 German film Heimkehr or Homecoming which focused on the alleged persecution of the German community in Poland. The film sought to rationalize and to justify the German destruction of Poland in 1939 by alleging that the Polish government sought to destroy the ethnic German minority in the country. This was the same paradigm used in Menschen im Sturm.


Part of the film was shot in Croatia. The German film crew and cast arrived in Zagreb in July, 1941 to begin shooting the film. The NDH was allied to Germany and was part of the Axis. The NDH thus highly supported the production of the film. NDH Poglavnik Ante Pavelic reportedly met with the German film crew. Ustasha NDH Education Minister Mile Budak was photographed on the set of the film, which was entitled Ljudi u oluji in Croatian. Budak was photographed with Olga Chekhova and other cast and crew of the film.


The film had its premiere in Zagreb in March, 1942. The film was a huge box office hit in the NDH. Ante Pavelic reportedly claimed that a character in the film was based on him. There is a Croatian character in the film named Paulic. Paulic is the Latin form of the name, the root being “Paul”, or “Pavle”. In Croatian and Slavic, the name is Pavelic. Paulic is the pro-German druggist in the film who is murdered by Serbian thugs. The NDH regime highly endorsed the movie.


The film was released on December 19, 1941 in Germany. In Italy, it was entitled Uomini nella tempesta. It was a popular movie in Germany, Italy, and the NDH. It was banned after the war in Communist Yugoslavia.


The film was not much different from the wartime movies made in the United States, Great Britain, or the Soviet Union. They were all Manichean, black and white, and one-sided, subjective movies that divided the world into Us and Them. “We” were always good. The “enemy” was always evil. It was always Good versus Evil. And those that made the movies were always on the side that represented good. In this respect, Menschen im Sturm is the same as the movies made in the Allied countries, only from a German perspective. The film presents a view of Yugoslavia from the perspective of Nazi Germany.