I guess this was badly needed page for a very long time…
World War 2 officially started in Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941 when Germany invaded, although politically games started long before Germany attacked Poland. During prewar period Kingdom of Yugoslavia through political and economical pressure started moving away from its natural allies United Kingdom and France towards Axis camp. Loss of Czechoslovakia and breakup of Little Entente only speed up this process which lead to signing of Tripartite pact and finally coup which triggered German invasion.
During invasion Blitzkrieg helped by apathy amongst French style officers' corps which after fall of France lost almost all will to fight Germans together with rebellion of Croats in some units caused quick disintegration of Yugoslav Army and capitulation. Germany quickly dismembered Yugoslav kingdom amongst in neighbors and formed puppet regimes in Croatia and Serbia. Quick redeployment of German units for attack on Soviet Union prevented proper pacification something Germans will regret until the end of the war.
After initial shock from invasion has passed resistance begun to form, at first there was little difference between rebel groups but as ideology come to play they quickly split apart. Royalist Chetniks lacked strong centralized leadership and usually groups identified themselves with there commander although by the war most of them acknowledge Draza Mihailovic's as overall commander and become part of his Yugoslav Army in Fatherland, on the other hand Communists better known as Josip Broz Tito's Partisans had strong prewar structure of party cells which allowed them to coordinate and organize far effective military force which in the end lead them to victory. Caught between two fires Chetnik commanders quickly sided with Axis in exchange for arms deciding that communist were bigger threat then Nazi Germany until Western Allies landed in Balkans so they could join them.
Unfortunately for Chetniks these landing come only in Greece once Germans withdrawal triggered civil war there and with Soviet army arriving all of there hopes were gone. In the meantime Tito's Partisans constantly become stronger and took control of bigger and bigger territory threatening vital communications and interfering with exploitation of natural resources forcing Axis troops to launch numerous operations against them.
Don't be shocked by so many military formations which fought in Yugoslavia during WW2, usually Partisans brigade had strength of standard battalion and Partisan division rarely had more then 3000 fighters, Chetnik formations had even lower strength with brigades of 300 and less. German units were also often understrength with many rear area units being disbanded to replace losses in combat formations. When possible combat strength is mentioned to reflect reality but this information is often missing in official documents.
Overclaim of other side casualties, some to the point of absurdity, was normal practice by all and while Partisans could always use the fact that they had to quickly retreat and could only guess on damaged their ambush did on the enemy, reports of Axis troops reveal grizzly truth. Most axis reports on enemy casualties have drastic difference between Partisans killed/captured compared to weapons found, many killed could be added to category of Partisan sympathizers, which are still unarmed civilians executed without trial, but evidence of random murdering of civilians is plentiful and numerous villages were massacred and torched. Basically any civilian found in Partisan controlled area (and too often even in Axis controlled areas) was in risk of being murdered by passing Axis troops, this even happened to civilians which had proper documents issued by Ustasha authorities of family members serving in NDH forces, working in Germany or even serving in German army. Such actions quickly destroyed most of the support for puppet regimes with many joining Partisans.
Amnesties and desertions
Probably one of most interesting factors and often overlooked (and abused in post war propaganda) was large scale defections and desertions. Difficult combat conditions and poor supply resulted in high desertion rates on all sides especially since forced mobilization become standard as war progressed and completely untrained recruits were thrown into battle suffering heavy casualties, most deserters usually attempted to get to their homes and many spent rest of the war in hiding. Also many soldiers refused to leave their native regions and families unprotected, most drastic example probably being 13th SS Division which once it was ordered to leave Bosnia suffered massive desertion.
By 1944 both Pavelić and Tito offered general amnesties (often extending final date) for anyone who wasn't involved in warcrimes resulting in thousands of defections with many of the defectors defecting back once they found new situation more difficult then old one. Defectors were treated variously from former Partisans being sent as forced labor to Germany to forced mobilization into Ustasha Army (which would usually resulted in certain death if captured by Partisans) to defectors from Axis units being suspected of being spies and simply executed. Heavy losses suffered by Partisans now Yugoslav army during final months of the war resulted in many Axis prisoners being offered a chance to join especially if they had technical knowledge (mechanics, drivers...) although many would be used as cannon fodder in penal battalions.
Various nicknames were used for deserters - škripari, slavuji...
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