CHETNIK GENOCIDAL CRIMES AGAINST BOSNIAKS AND CROATIANS IN BOSNIA AND CROATIA DURING WORLD WAR II (1941-1945)
I. Genocide represents the most serious international crime. Its concept and goal is to totally or partially destroy the national, ethnic, racial or religious identity of a group of people. Recently, this notion has been complimented with new international documents. All signatory countries are obliged to work on preventing genocide. If, however, genocide is committed, the parties are obliged to punish the perpetrators no matter when the crime was committed because the statute of limitations does not apply to such a crime.
The Chetniks not only intended to perform genocide, they carried out several forms of genocidal crimes against Croatians and Bosniaks in Bosnia and Croatians in Croatia during World War II from 1941 - 1945. Until recently, however, this topic was considered taboo and was not allowed to be written about in the former SFRJ (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). It was either kept a secret or incidentally mentioned without any concrete facts or numerical indexes. Contrary to this, the sufferings of the Serbians and the crimes and genocide committed against them in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia by the Ustasa Regime in 1941, were basically the only topics written and spoken about during this time. This served a political purpose with incorrect and malicious claims against the alleged genocidal Croatian people.2 Until now, a more orderly and complete investigation of this problem has been absent. In 1989, with the democratic changes implemented, the genocide against the Croatians and the Bosniaks began being written about along with the correct statistics concerning human casualties in the former Yugoslavian territory from 1941-1945.3 A scientifically based study is required in order to entirely investigate the problem. With this opportunity, I hope to present some of the most significant elements of Chetnik plans and activities during World War II which, according to all characteristics outlined by the international community, represent the crime of genocide against Croatians and Bosniaks.
II. Since its establishment, the Chetnik organization has almost exclusively served as an instrument of nationalistic and expansionist Serbian politics. This was also the case in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918-1941). Through force and terror, the Chetnik organization, together with the army and the police represented a means of getting even with their political rivals and preserving the centralist, Greater Serbian political system headed by the King. For this reason, by the beginning of the war in 1941, some 300 Chetnik and similar organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and about 200 in Croatia were established which were recognized for their terror and barbarity along with the murders of a great number of Croatians and Bosniaks. Through these organizations, the Greater Serbian political goal attempted to be realized. They battled against and suffocated every Croatian and Bosniak aspiration for recognition of their own national values and at the same time, Serbian national values were often emphasized and there were attempts to spread Serbian national consciousness among Bosniaks and some Croatians. After the unification in 1918, with the abolition of the parliament and government, the Croatian guardsmen and police, along with the division of territory into six banovinas (guaranteeing Serbians power within these provinces), Croatia lost its historical identity and statehood which it had preserved for centuries. Bosnia was also divided into four banovinas through administrative means but in such a manner that the Serbs were guaranteed predominance in three of the banovinas. All of this resulted in corresponding counter-actions from the Croatian and Bosniak side. One way was the establishment of the illegal Ustasa movement (1929) whose goal was to create an autonomous and independent Croatian state outside Yugoslavia.. There were also the elections of 1938 which demonstrated the unstoppable strengthening of the Croatian national movement led by the Croatian Peasant Party. The party demanded a solution with respect to Croatia in the framework of Yugoslavia which the Greater Serbian monarchist regime needed to take into consideration due to the intensification of international conditions in Europe where war was drawing close and to save the nation from collapse. Consequently, an agreement on August 26, 1939 allowed the establishment of a separate Croatian Banovina within the Kingdom of Yugoslavia with its own government, parliament, legislative, administrative and judicial autonomy, which could not be taken away or decreased without the permission of the Banovina itself. Thirteen districts from Bosnia and the district of Sid in Vojvodina in which the Croatian population was the majority, were annexed to the Banovina but without the Croatian historical territories of eastern Srijem, Boka Kotorska, Budva and Spic. The Banovina had an area of 65,456 km, with a population of 4,025,601 (according to the 1931 census): 70.1% were Croatians, 19.1% were Serbians and 10.8% were listed as "others". There were many who were against the agreement: on the Croatian side these were the supporters of the Ustasa movement who claimed that the agreement did not solve the Croatian problem, nor did it create a Croatian independent state; on the Bosniak side, the majority of the Bosniaks political leadership wanted Bosnia to become a separate autonomous political territorial unit within its historical borders. Serbian counter measures followed, so that all Serbian parties, except the SDS, all nationalist and Greater Serbian organizations and associations, as well as the army and the Orthodox Church, opposed the establishment of the Croatian Banovina because they perceived it to be dangerous for Serbianism and the existence of the state. They often reacted as chauvinists (who hated Croatians and everything that was Croatian) and as advocates of their Greater Serbianism. The movement "Srbi na okup" was developed with the express purpose of joining the other six banovinas (Vrbaska, Drinska, Dunavska, Moravska, Vardarska and Zetska) into one administrative entity under the title "Serbian lands". All the parts of the Croatian Banovina in which Serbians were the majority, as well as those which Serbians considered of geostrategic and political importance, for resistance preparations (Knin, for example), were to be annexed to the "Serbian lands", all of which intensified international relations. The program to create a "Greater Serbia" at the expense of Croatian historical territories (and others) was to remain a constant orientation of the Greater Serbian and Chetnik political expansionist circle since that time, during the Second World War, up to today and was to remain the principle motive for their genocidal actions against Croatians,Bosniaks and other non-Serbians. For this reason we cannot ignore this pre-war period and the events during the war on the former Yugoslavian territory.
III. THE BASIS OF THE PROGRAM OF THE CHETNIK MOVEMENT SERVED AS THE BASIS OF THE CRIMES AGAINST CROATIANS AND BOSNIAKS WITH CHETNIK UNITS SERVING AS EXECUTORS OF THE CRIMES
The bloody events of the war on the territory of the shattered Kingdom of Yugoslavia during 1941 - 1945 were to a great extent the result and consequence of pre-war conditions and political relations in the new situation on the terrain. The events were expressed in conflicting concepts for the renewal of Yugoslavia on the one hand and the efforts of non-Serbian people, especially Croatians, on the other hand, to preserve the already existing state or endeavor to establish independent national states outside Yugoslavia. This was mainly displayed on the territory of Bosnia and Croatia. Chetniks emphasized that the twelve-day war, their military defeat, as well as the occupation and breaking of Yugoslavia by the fascist states had lost the Serbians their "state and freedom" (since they considered the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to be merely an extended version of Greater Serbia and often acted as if it was). They blamed all other non-Serbian nations primarily the Croatians and Bosniaks. They were particularly displeased with the formation of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) which included Bosnia, eastern Srijem, but not Dalmatia from Zadar to Split, the eastern part of Konavle and Boka Kotorska, then almost all of the Adriatic islands, except Hvar, Brac and Pag and a considerable part of the coast of the Bay of Kvarner and Gorski Kotar which were all annexed by the Italians (zone I.). Medjimurje and Baranja were annexed by the Hungarians. The NDH encompassed an area of 102,725 km2, included a population of 6,640,000 and was administratively divided into 22 large counties with 141 districts, 19 district offices, 31 towns, 1, 005 municipalities, and the city of Zagreb as a separate administrative headquarters. Serbians made up 30% of the entire population. The NDH was divided by a demarcation line to the south of Samobor, Glina, Dvor, Jajce, Fojnica and Visegrad. To the north of this line was German and to the south Italian-occupied territory. The occupied Italian territory in the NDH was divided into zones II and III. Civilian, police and military state authorities were established on NDH territory. The only political organizations allowed to operate in the NDH were Ustasa organizations and separate Ustasa units were formed as well.
The Ustasa regime implemented nationally and racially exclusive politics. The existence and activities of the NDH government were dependent on the concrete situation on a given territory, especially Partisan activities, the activities of Chetnik forces on some territories following the rebellion in 1941, as well as the interests and will of the occupier. The so called "Bosniak question" in Bosnia(i.e. NDH) did not pose a problem to the Ustasa leadership with Ante Pavelic at its head as it adopted Dr. Ante Starcevic`s theory of "Muslims as the purest part of the Croatian people", in which "religious differences do not and should not matter".
Serbian nationalists and expansionists of which the Chetniks, as a military and political organization, were the most well-known and prominent, could never resign themselves to the creation of any kind of Croatian state (NDH included). The reason is fairly simple, namely, they believed that almost 90% of NDH territory (in its maximum program) represented the territory of the so-called "Serbian lands" (including the entire territory of today`s Bosnia and most of the territory belonging to today`s Republic of Croatia), regardless of the fact that these territories had never been a part of the Serbian state, and that Croatians and Bosniaks represented a majority in them. For this reason they believed that the territories of the NDH could only enter into the so-called "Homogeneous or Greater Serbia", as referred to in documents. The principle prerequisite for this was the destruction of the NDH and cleansing of the Croatian and Bosniak population from these territories in order to annex them to Greater Serbia.
This is one of the reasons why immediately following the proclamation of the NDH, we come upon the first massive killings of Croatian and Bosniak citizens by Chetniks and also the burning of a great number of houses and entire villages in some regions of the NDH. In this way, Chetnik units, which were part of the regular army of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and were designated for "special actions", and individual Chetnik commanders, during the Derventa retreat, killed 17 Croatian civilians, five women among them on April 11-13, 1941; killed three Croatian women, a young girl among them on April 11 in Siveric; on April 9, 28-29, killed three Croatian civilians and wounded one near Bjelovar; from April 13-15, killed 20 Croatians, 5 Bosniaks and burned 40 houses near Capljina; on April 15, killed 5 Croatian civilians, one woman among them near Mostar, and burned down the Croatian villages of Cim and Ilici. Such murders occurred in other places indicating what was to soon follow.
After the first shock, as a consequence of the occupation and break down of Yugoslavia, as well as the creation of the NDH, Chetniks in Bosnia and Croatia, often in co-operation with the communists, began to organize a Serbian armed rebellion against the Croatian State, in this case, the Ustasa NDH (communists were against the occupying force), calling on past Serbian traditions. At the same time, they worked on establishing ties with other Chetnik and nationalistic forces on the territory of former Yugoslavia (primarily with those in Serbia). Similarly, they worked towards creating a basis for the movement program in which the genocidal intentions against Croatians and Bosniaks were clearly emphasized. With respect to this, on June 30, 1941, Stevan Moljevic, one of the main Chetnik ideologists and national leaders, formed the project, "Homogeneous Serbia", in which the Chetnik program regarding borders, the social system and foreign policy of Greater Serbia in the re-established Yugoslavia were outlined months before the establishment of the Jasenovac camp. The project proposes that "... today the first and fundamental responsibility is imposed upon Serbians: to create and organize a homogeneous Serbia which will encompass the entire ethnic territory in which Serbians live...." This meant annexing Bosnia and a greater part of Croatia to Serbia through "migration and transfer of inhabitants" and cleansing. All this was expressed cartographically in a special propaganda leaflet together with a corresponding text.
At the same time, a group of Serbian nationalists who had escaped from Bosnia and Croatia into the annexed part of Dalmatia and linked itself with the Italian government, sent the Italian government in Rome a petition asking for the Italian army to occupy and annex Bosnia,and regions of Dalmatia, Lika, Kordun, and Banija, and to overthrow the NDH government there. The Italian government used this for its expansionist pretensions and pressures on NDH in negotiations upon the outbreak of the rebellion, as well as for negotiations, cooperation and organization of Chetniks on its annexed and occupied territory in Bosnia and Croatia.
In July and the beginning of August 1941, a general Serbian rebellion occurred in almost all of the Bosnian and Croatian territory where the population was predominantly Serbian. The chief initiators and leaders of the rebellion were leaders of the Communist Party, and this the CK KP (Central Committee of the Communist Party) in Croatia and the Regional Committee of the KPJ (Communist Party of Yugoslavia) for Bosnia as parts of the CK KPJ, even though there were places where the rebellion occurred spontaneously, and some places where Chetniks themselves headed the rebellion. At that time and in those regions, it was the Serbian population which almost exclusively participated in the rebellion. There were only some individuals and smaller groups of other nationalities, primarily members of KPJ and SKOJ (League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia), who were involved in the rebellion. The crimes of the Ustasa Regime against the Serbian people were stressed as the main reasons for the rebellion with the goal of overthrowing the NDH and the re-establishment of Yugoslavia. While the communists endeavored to give the rebellion an anti-fascist and national liberational character, including all peoples and national minorities on Yugoslavian territories and to establish their communist power during the war, the Chetniks gave the rebellion a principally nationalist and expansionist character, including almost exclusively Serbians and endeavoring to uphold the old pre-war Greater Serbian system of government with the King at its head. This soon resulted in a division into two movements, one headed by the communists in NOP (National Liberation Movement) and the other by the Chetniks. This soon led to armed battles which lasted until the end of the war. From the beginning until the end of the war, members of the Chetnik movement intentionally equated the entire Croatian and Bosniak people with the Ustasa Regime by accusing them of the Ustasa crimes against Serbians in the NDH with an attempt to justify their own crimes using these formal reasons. In fact, throughout the war, the Chetnik movement had distinct genocidal, anti-Croatian, and anti-Bosniak characteristics. In Chetnik documents, it is suggested that the reasons they began the rebellion in the NDH were only formal while the real reasons lie in the aspiration for the establishment of an ethnically cleansed Greater Serbia at the expense of historical and national territories of Croats, Bosniaks and others. This was to be the basic motive for Chetnik terror and genocidal crimes against Croatians and Bosniaks in Bosnia and Croatia .The Chetnik movement was comprised of armed and political organizations which appeared on NDH territory shortly after the capitulation of Yugoslavia and the proclamation of the NDH and was active until the end of the war. By the end of 1941, the entire Chetnik movement was under the command of Draza Mihailovic.
It is necessary to stress that the USA and Great Britain accepted the exiled government of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as a legitimate government in June 1941. In July, the other great force of the anti-fascist coalition, the USSR did the same. Since the Atlantic Charter of August 14, 1941 stipulated the war aims of the anti-fascist coalition, including the re-establishment of all occupied states after the war, including Yugoslavia, its re-establishment was assured. It was precisely at that time, on Yugoslavian territory, especially on the NDH territory, that the civil war began between the Communist and the Chetnik movements to decide what the re-established Yugoslavia would be like. Throughout the entire war, the Chetnik movement was assisted by the government in exile and King Peter II situated in London. At the same time, the Chetnik movement received support and assistance from Western allies, especially Great Britain until 1944, and afterwards the USA. In the program of the Chetnik movement during and after the war, which was delivered by its leader, Draza Mihailovic, to the Yugoslavian King`s government on September 1941 and accepted, Moljevic`s plan was supplemented and the following was stated:"... prepare yourself so that in the days of the collapse, the following actions may be executed....
b) define the "de facto" Serbian lands and allow only Serbian populace to remain in them.
v) especially plan the rapid and radical cleansing of cities and fill them with fresh Serbian elements.
g) develop a plan for cleansing or displacing the peasant population with the goal of a homogeneous Serbian national community.
d) consider the Bosniak question in the Serbian unit as an especially difficult problem and possibly solve it in this phase....
In the "Instructions" of December 20, 1941, regarding the organization, goals and employment of the Chetnik units, Draza Mihailovic, who was promoted to General and soon became the minister for the army in the emigrant government, removed all doubts. According to him, the goal of the battle of the Chetnik movement under the leadership of King Peter was:
"... To create a Great Yugoslavia and in it a Greater Serbia, ethnically cleansed, within the borders of pre-war Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia,and regions of Srem, Banat and Backa..."
"... To cleanse the state territory of all national minorities and national elements..."
"... To immediately create mutual borders between Serbia and Montenegro, as well as between Serbia and Slovenia, cleansing Sandzak of Bosniak inhabitants, and Bosnia of Bosniak Muslim and Catholic inhabitants..."
Included was the punishment of all "Ustasas and Muslims" and those guilty of "our April catastrophe" of 1941, primarily Croatians and Bosniaks, the colonization of Montenegrins in the cleansed territories, as well as the establishment of a "political body" which would ensure all this. The manner in which this was conveyed and explained in the field is seen in a letter by the commander of the Ozren Chetnik corps to the commander of the Zenica military Chetnik unit on February 13, 1943. Along with outline goals of the Chetnik movement according to Draza`s "Instructions", the following is stated:
"... Perhaps these goals appear great and unachievable to you and your combatants. Remember the great battles for liberty under the leadership of Karadjordje. Serbia was filled with Turks .In Belgrade and other Serbian towns, Muslim minarets were prominent and Muslimas performed their foul-smelling cleansing in front of mosques as they are now doing in Serbian Bosnia. At that time our homeland was overflowing with hundreds of thousands of Muslims. Walk through Serbia today. You will not find a Turk anywhere, you will not even find even one of their graves, nor even one Muslim grave stone .... This is the best proof and greatest guarantee that we will succeed in today`s holy battle and that we will exterminate every Turk from these, our Serbian lands. Not one Muslim will remain among us.... Peasants and other "little" people will be moved to Turkey. Our government in London, using the English allied and benevolent government, will endeavor to gain the approval of the Turkish government with respect to this (Churchill spoke about this in Ankara with Mr. Ineni). All Catholics who sinned against our people in our tragic days, as well as all intellectuals and those well off, will be destroyed without mercy. We will spare the peasant people as well as the low working class and make real Serbians of them. We will convert them into Orthodox by hook or by crook.
There, those are the goals of our great battle and when the crucial moment arrives, they will be achieved. We have already achieved them in some parts of our homeland...."
This document directly shows the sources of Chetnik genocidal crimes against Croatians and Bosniaks which originated from the creation of the Serbian national state and its expansionist politics. Draza went further than Moljevic regarding territory, asking for more than 90% of NDH territory for Greater Serbia in which more than 2,500,000 Catholics and over 800,000 Muslims lived, making up 70% of the entire population on that territory, while Serbians comprised almost 30% of the population. From Draza`s "Instructions", all Croatians,Bosniaks, and other non-Serbians would have to disappear from this territory, either during the war or immediately after it. Croatians were given only about 10% of their territory at that time from Karlovac across Zagreb to Varazdin and approximately 1/5 of the NDH population. Accusations and allegations against Croatians and Bosniaks for all the evil and sufferings caused to the Serbians during the war existed for the purpose of constantly motivating Chetniks to execute punishments, that is, crimes of genocide against them. This is clearly stated in Draza`s "Instructions". With respect to this, and with the same goal, is the exaggeration of Serbian victims caused by the Ustasa or, according to the Chetniks, by the "Croatians" i.e. the entire Croatian and Bosniak peoples, starting with the number of 382,000 at the end of 1941, coming to over 518,000 at the end of February 1942, then 600,000 in October 1942, with 800,000 at the end of 1943 and finally, at the end of the war, arriving at the number of one million Serbians killed on NDH territory.This is absurd to any objective researcher and is shown in the work of the Serb, Dr. B Kocovic. Draza`s threats of revenge against Croats and Bosniaks as a prerequisite for life and rights in a future state had the same aim. Also, in other program documents of individual Chetnik leaders and units similar arguments and goals are expressed. The "Elaborat" of the Dinara Chetnik division of March 1942, which was established precisely at that time and encompassed northern Dalmatia, Lika, and the southwestern part of Bosanska Krajina, also presented its aims and arguments. The principle goal was the creation of a "Serbian national state" where "Serbians lived and which Serbians aspire to...", that is, a "Greater Serbia" which would include Bosnia, a parts of the regions of Dalmatia, Lika, and other territories with a pure national system and "King Peter at the head" in which "exclusively the Orthodox populace would live". The rest was to disappear so that on March 25, 1943, the Dinara division gave an order to its units to "cleanse the Croatians and Bosniaks" from their territory. At the same time, "the establishment of a national corridor along the Dinara Mountain to link Herzegovina with northern Dalmatia and Lika", was assigned as one of the primary tasks of this division and the Chetnik movement, which they attempted to achieve, particularly in 1942 and 1943, through the cleansing of the local Croatian and Bosniak population.
Vukasin Marcetic, the commander of the Chetnik unit "Manjaca", stated the following at a conference of the Chetnik units on June 7, 1942: "I believe that Bosnia and Serbia are one nation and I hope that everything that is not Serbian will be cleansed from Bosnia." Milan Santic, a Chetnik leader, was even more direct. In his speech, in Trebinje at the end of July 1942, he stated that the goal of the Chetnik movement was to "establish a Greater Serbia" as stipulated by Draza and then said "Serbian lands must be cleansed of Catholics and Muslims. Only Serbians will live in those lands. The cleansing will be thoroughly executed. We will drive out and destroy them all, without exception and without compassion. This will be the starting point of our liberation". He further stresses that all of this "must be executed quickly and in one revolutionary momentum" and because of this Chetniks will "never formally recognize" the NDH.
All of these documents illustrate that Chetnik crimes of genocide against Croatians and Bosniaks were deliberate and planned. The Bosniaks were even in a greater disadvantage than the Croatians. While Croatians were allowed the possibility of living in their own, albeit decreased, territorial units and in a future Yugoslavia, this possibility, according to Chetnik ideology, did not exist for the Bosniaks. According to the Serbians, Bosniaks were considered "a non-national element," an "internal enemy," and "Turks", and their destruction was considered to be the "most holy of tasks" to the Chetniks. This depended only on the military and given possibilities of the Chetniks and on the strength of the other military camps, as well as the situation in individual regions of this imaginary Chetnik Greater Serbia. In accordance with this, certain areas were cleansed of Croatians and Bosniaks.
The organization of Chetnik military units was proposed in order to accomplish the planned genocidal crimes against Croatians and Bosniaks on the territory of today`s Bosnia and Croatia, the then NDH. They were founded on NDH territory (south of the Sava River extending to the Adriatic Sea) with direct support from Italian and German occupying forces. On the basis of contracts, these forces provided Chetnik military units not only with weapons, ammunition, provisions, and salaries but were also often initiators and protectors of a great number of mass Chetnik crimes against Croatians and Bosniaks.
According to Chetnik documents on their military formations during the war years from 1941 to 1945, there were 14 corps, 76 brigades and 2 regiments on the territory of Bosnia while on Croatian territory, there were 4 corps, 1 division, 32 brigades and 2 regiments. Apart from the military formations there existed numerous authorities on the territories under Chetnik control. The exact number of Chetniks has not yet been established, but according to some indexes, some 100,000 individuals in the army and in the field passed through their ranks in Bosnia and Croatia of whom 98% were Serbian. At this point, it is necessary to stress the assistance the Chetnik leadership directed to these regions from Serbia and Montenegro. All Chetnik units committed crimes, special units, however, existed to whom this was the main task. These ranged from Chetnik three-man groups to troops and brigades.
Program documents, undoubtedly, suggest that Chetnik genocidal crimes were directed against the Croatian and Bosniak people as a whole on the territory of their imaginary "Greater Serbia." Nevertheless, it must be stated that Chetnik terror and crimes were also directed towards the participants of the anti-fascist movement or NOP, as it was called, and against their families, regardless of nationality, although the Chetniks endeavored occasionally to spare the lives of individual captured partisans and members of NOP who happened to be Serbian. Crimes were also directed against the Serbians who displayed various forms of loyalty towards the NDH leadership. There were two main methods of Chetnik genocidal crimes against Croatians and Bosniaks. The first was the direct, physical destruction of people of these two nationalities (and others as well). The second method was indirect, using various threats, physical and psychological violence, the rape of women and young girls, and robbery. Physical destruction took the form of massacres, hangings, decapitation, burning, throwing victims into pits and killing them with various objects. Victims were in most cases tortured before being killed. Indirect methods included Chetnik threats of massacring Croatians and Bosniaks in pamphlets, songs, or speeches; various forms of physical violence ranging from stoning, beating, mutilation, torture by deprivation of food and water, especially in the main Chetnik prison camp in Kosovo, by Knin, and in prisons of corps headquarters; rape of Bosniak and Croatian women and girls so as to nationally and religiously degrade them. There were two especially significant forms of indirect Chetnik crimes. These were robbery and forced conversion of Catholics and Muslims into the Serbian Orthodox faith. Robbery and plundering were carried out on an enormous scale and were often the main motives for setting Chetniks into action. They were practiced mostly during military operations but were also carried out whenever possible. This caused hunger and death in territories through which the Chetniks passed and the massive exodus of the population which was in fact the main Chetnik goal. The forced conversion to the Serbian Orthodox faith aimed at further degrading the victims and destroying that deepest of ties to the Croatian or Bosniak nationality.
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF CHETNIK CRIMES OF GENOCIDE AGAINST CROATIANS AND BOSNIAKS FROM 1941 TO 1945
The actualization of genocidal crimes against Croatians and Bosniaks, according to the proposed plan by the Chetnik leaders and commanders, began immediately after the plans were drawn up and lasted to the end of the war. Their scope depended primarily on their military capabilities, their deployment and the strength of their opponents. From the documents we notice three periods which, according to the number of victims of genocide, were the most massive. The first was the commencement of the rebellion, from the end of July 1941 to February 1942. The second was from August to October 1942 and the third was from January to March 1943. These were the strongest military periods for the Chetnik movement on the territory of Bosnia and Croatia. It was also the time when the movement had the most intensive support of Chetniks from Serbia and Montenegro and the support of the Italian and to a lesser degree the German occupiers. We will mention several distinguishing examples from these periods.
A/ The first period (the end of July 1941 - February 1942
This period consists of two parts: the first, from the eruption of the rebellion until the autumn of 1941, when Chetniks and guerrillas participated in the rebellion together; and the second, which began at the same time as the division of the Chetnik and national liberation movement, namely, the division of the military into Chetniks and Partisans and crimes of Chetnik units may be observed.
In the first part, after the eruption of the revolt, in actions carried out jointly by the Chetniks and communists, the first massive crimes against Croatians and Bosniaks in Bosnia and Croatia were carried out. In this way, on July 27, 1941 and several days afterwards, in Bosansko Grahovo and the surrounding area, 62 Croatians, among whom were five women, nine children, and parish rector Ante Gospodnetic were killed by the rebels while their houses and five villages were burned after being looted. On July 2, in Krenjus and its surrounds, as well as in Vrtoci, several hundred Croatians, the majority being older individuals, women and children and the parish rector Kresimir Baric were massacred. They looted and burned houses and the Roman Catholic Church. Then followed the arrival of 2,500 Croatians from Boricevac and the surrounding area into Bihac. Boricevac itself was looted and completely burned and never rebuilt after the war. As a result, 19 Roman Catholic parishes on the right side of the Una River and ten on the left shore ceased to exist since there was no congregation left. Subsequently, on September 5, 1941, in Kulen Vakuf, 3,000 Bosniaks and a hundred Croatians were slaughtered and the area was looted and burnt. Also, 44 Bosniaks and 12 Croatians were killed in Varcar Vakuf and the surrounding areas. In Glamoc and its surrounds, 45 Bosniaks and two Croatians were killed. In Sanski Most the rebels killed Bosniaks and Croatian peasants and even their families: women and children.
It was the same in other areas. In this way, the "liberated territories" were soon "liberated" from Croatians and Bosniaks who were forced to leave so as not be slaughtered and killed. Their houses and villages were looted and burned. Soon, a river of 50,000 refugees began to flow into Bihac, Jajce, Knin, Sanski Most, Prijedor, Livno, and other towns. The share the Chetniks and their supporters took in executing these crimes was dominant. In eastern Herzegovina, massacres of civilians were carried by out rebels with assistance from Montenegro and this in Avtovac on June 28, 1941 when some 47 Bosniaks were massacred; in Berkovici (Dabar) on August 28, 300 Bosniaks were massacred, predominantly women and children, who were thrown into pits, and the majority into the "Cavkarica" pit, according to Partisan documents. According to the documents of NDH authorities, the number is considerably greater. Some Croatians were killed, while from the entire eastern Herzegovina region, colonies of refugees, flowed into neighbouring towns, predominantly Capljina, Mostar, and Dubrovnik. After being looted, many houses and villages were burned. It was in eastern Bosnia, where Chetnik units, established and assisted by Chetniks in Serbia, and active since the beginning of the revolt, that the first massacres of Bosniaks were recorded and this in Medjedja and Koraj in October and November 1941. Several hundred people were slaughtered.
Since the NDH powers were unable to suppress the rebellion and hinder its spreading, Italian and German occupying forces intervened. The Italians occupied Zones I and II and the Germans brought in new forces. The Italians enabled the organization and supplies for the Chetnik units and their close links from Serbia to Slovenia, who in turn organized, planned, and commenced the genocidal crimes against Croatians and Bosniaks. In this way, Chetniks around Knin and at the three border point started the terror against the Croatian population. On October 7 and 8, 1941, they slaughtered seven Croatians in Donji Ervenik. On July 3, 1941, they ordered "that all Catholics in the village of Stikova be converted to the Orthodox faith." In an attack 16 days later, 11 local Croatians and 1 gendarme were killed. On December 11, in the village of Velika Plana, by Lovinac, six Croatians were massacred and before that, on September 29, 1941, 44 Croatians of Brotinja by D. Lapac were captured and then slaughtered. The majority were women and children. This resulted in a new wave of Croatian refugees.
From December 1941 until February 1942, many massive killings of Bosniaks by Chetniks were carried out in eastern Bosnia where the Italians had handed over authority to them. In this way, 5,000 Bosniaks and a hundred Croatians were killed in Foca and Gorazde according to a statement by a Chetnik commander. At the same time, in the Srebrenica region, 1,000 people were killed, in Vlasenica 2 to 3,000, in Rogatica under 1,000, and in Visegrad over a 1,000 individuals were slaughtered, burned and killed. The situation was similar in the Nevesinje district where Bosniaks were also slaughtered and five villages were burnt to the ground. Most of the victims were tortured, women and young girls were raped, while many were slaughtered and thrown into the Drina River from Foca to Ustipraca. After the looting, many of the houses and villages were completely destroyed along with mosques, three in Foca alone. Thousands of refugees fled towards Sarajevo, Tuzla, and other towns so that the number of refugees increased to 100,000 in the entire NDH territory mostly due to Chetnik terrors and crimes. The arrival of Partisans in this territory temporarily hindered further Chetnik crimes, but made possible the transition of many Chetniks into Partisans, without punishment for the crimes committed.
B/ The second period (August - October 1941
In this period, the majority of Chetnik crimes were again carried out in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Chetniks captured Foca on August 19,1942 in which 8,000 Bosniaks, both native inhabitants and some refugees, lived. Approximately 5,000 Bosniaks succeeded in escaping towards Sarajevo. Some smaller groups of Bosniaks went into hiding while the others were captured and killed. One of the survivors stated:"... As soon as the Chetniks occupied Foca, they captured and killed all the Bosniak men, as well as a great number of women and children, whilst almost all the girls and young women were raped. Altogether, men in hiding survived. Shops and houses were completely looted and some of them were burned". The same source also claimes that there had been about 2,000 innocent victims.On September 5, 1942, P. Bacovic reported to D. Mihailovic that in Foca: "...1,200 Ustasa in uniforms and approximately 1,000 Bosniaks who had compromised themselves have been killed, while we had four dead and five wounded.... We had an enormous booty. Our goal was to secure links with Serbia and this we achieved."
From August 29 until September 4, 1942, during the Italian military operation "Albia" against the Partisans on Biokovo, a group of 1,000 Chetniks from eastern Herzegovia carried out massive looting, arson, and crimes against the local Croatian civilian population. It was on the territory of the Cetina parish alone (in Rascani, Zupa biokovska, Kozica, and Dragljani) that 160 Croatians were slaughtered, shot, or burned. Among them were three priests, Ivan Condic, Josip Braenovic who was decapitated, and Ladislav Ivankovic. On September 5, 1942, Bacovic reported on the "punitive expedition" to D. Mihailovic, stating that the Chetniks had killed over "1,000 Ustasa", and that they themselves had "not one dead or wounded". He went on to state that en route from Ljubuski to Vrgorac, they had "skinned three Catholic priests alive", killed "all the men 15 years of age and older" and that "17 villages had been completely destroyed", after which, with songs and the Serbian flag, they "came to the shores of our Adriatic" to the south of Makarska "and positioned our flag". From May until September 1942, on the basis of an agreement with the Italians, the Chetniks took over power in eastern Herzegovina with the exception of the towns. Subsequently, they killed several hundred Croatians and Bosniaks and a massive exodus of the Croatian and Bosniak population from the left shores of the Neretva River followed. During this period, the exodus was primarily from the Stolac region, in which "from approximately 28,000 Croatians and Bosniaks" (with the exception of a few families in Stolac itself) not a single Croatian or Bosniak remained according to Chetnik documents. During the Italian military operation against Partisans on the territory of Prozor in October 1942, the Chetniks first killed around 200 Croatians and Bosniaks in the Mostar area and then in the Prozor area, they killed, slaughtered, and threw into pits or water 1,716 people (340 Bosniaks and the rest Croatian civilians). Upon their return, they killed twenty Croatians, in the Konjic district, looted their homes and villages, and burned many of them as well. Bacovic sent the following telegram to D. Mihailovic on October 23, 1942: stating that : In the Prozor operations, over 2,000 Croats and Bosniaks slaughtered,and (Chetnik) soldiers returned.
Meanwhile, in northern and central Dalmatia, Chetniks carried out more genocidal crimes against Croatians under directions from the Italians and under their auspices. In this way, at the beginning of October 1942, on the territory of the Cetina parish, Chetniks, under the command of commander M. Rokvic, killed 200 Croatians, looted and burned down houses in the villages of Gata, Naglice, Cisla, Ostrvica, Zvecanji, Dugopolje, Kolenice, Srijani and Dolac Gornji. The Italians reported: "Most of the people killed were the elderly, women and children, who had no ties with the Partisans". Every one was slaughtered when captured. During the killings, the Chetniks would sing: " Petar from London writes us, Oh Croatians, you are no more". On October 21, 1942, in Bitelic, near Sinj, Djujic`s Chetniks, under directions from the Italians, killed 29 Croats and 6 more in Otisic and then burned down 220 Croatian houses. According to the report of the Italian General Berardi from Knin, "every Catholic was tortured and slaughtered and afterwards most of the corpses were mutilated in the most horrible manner", but he did not react. Djujic sent a telegram to D. Mihailovic reporting: " My people killed all those we came upon" On October 3, 1942, Chetniks from Medak killed five Croatians from Ribnik." All documents illustrate that the victims in these massacres were civilians which may be seen by the number of Chetnik casualties. The consequence was a new wave of Croatian refugees from these territories towards the sea and deeper into NDH territories.
C/ The third period (January - March 1943)
Chetnik genocidal crimes against Bosniaks and Croatians in this period correspond with German and Italian operations against NOP forces which began on January 20, 1943, throughout the NDH territory (headquarters in Bihac). Chetniks from the NDH territory, Montenegro and Serbia participated in these operations. They used this for the pre-planned cleansing of the Bosniak and Croatian population, and so, from January 3 until February 7, 1943, Bosniaks were cleansed from the districts of Cajnice, Foca and Pljevlja. The Chetnik Commander P. Djurisic gave the following report to his commander-in-chief on February 13, 1943: "All Muslim villages in the three mentioned districts are completely burned, so that not one of their homes has remained unscathed... The complete destruction of the Muslim population, regardless of sex and age, has been carried out during this operation.
Victims. The number of our victims amounts to 22 killed, of whom two were accidents and 32 wounded.
Of the Muslims, approximately 1,200 combatants and up to 8,000 other victims: women, the elderly and children".The cleansing continued in Sandzak. According to the German General Luters, the aim of these Chetnik actions was "the extermination of the Muslim part of the population, especially in Sandzak and in Herzegovina", because that "Muslim wedge between Serbia and Montenegro must finally disappear". At the same time, he writes to his headquarters: "It is necessary to stress the characteristics of Chetnik warfare, their attacks on the unarmed weaker enemy... Their slaughter of helpless women and children (Bosniaks) is in itself, for the Chetniks, an understandable, honorable and brave act, and the executors consider themselves heroes". This was confirmed by a Chetnik leader, D. Jevdjevic from the time when they "who were heroes in looting and slaughtering women were cowards when the first gun was fired", fleeing 30 km ahead of the Croatian Partisans of Dalmatia. It was precisely the defeat of the Chetniks by the Partisans at the Neretva and the Drina Rivers where the contribution of the Croatian Partisans was most significant which influenced the breakdown of their plans to destroy the Bosniaks and Croatians. According to German verified data from the territory within their zone, in six east Bosnian and four central Bosnian districts, 8,400 Croatians and 24,400 Bosniaks were killed, making a total of 32,800 people.The small remaining groups of Bosniaks were forced by the Chetniks to convert from the Islamic to the Serbian Orthodox faith as was the case in the villages of Potpece and Vikoc near Foca.
At the same time, at the end of January 1943, the Chetniks in Dalmatia, taking advantage of the absence of stronger Partisan forces, engaged in an action, killing over 100 Croatians in the villages of Kijevo, Kosori, Maovice, Vrlika, Ruzic, Otavice, Gradac and Kricke, and raping women and girls, all under the slogan, "burn and slaughter everything Catholic". At that time, they impaled 68 year-old Niko Blazevic and roasted until he died. In Otavice, they threw 86 year-old Ilija Mestrovic, the uncle of the famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, into his burning house. Already on February 1, 1943, D. Mihailovic was informed: " In Kijevo and Vrlica, Bacovic shot 55 Ustasa and in Maovice and Otavice, Djujic killed 48 Ustasa. Afterwards, on February 3 and 4, 1943, Herzegovinian Chetniks, in the Imotski region, slaughtered and killed 32 Croatians, looted and destroyed their property, set their houses on fire and raped the young girls and women. In these actions, the only victims were Croatian civilians, who were all considered Ustasa by the Chetniks. Not one victim was Serbian and not one Serbian village was destroyed. Again, the consequence was the departure of 3,000 Croatians from Sinj alone."
In regard to the news of the horrific massacres of Bosniaks committed under the leadership of D. Mihailovic, on May 1, 1943, the British government brought to his attention that the Chetnik leadership should "moderate their attitude" towards Bosniaks. Meanwhile, C. de Gaulle, shortly afterwards, awarded several Chetniks with the French war cross, to their great satisfaction.
It is necessary to stress that Croatian and Bosniak anti-fascists, activists, fighters, and members of NOP were killed without exception if captured by Chetniks. In this way, from May 25 until June 15, 1942, the Dinara Chetnik division alone in the battle against the Partisans, counted "over 500 Partisan corpses, mostly Croatians". Some time later, in 1942, near Rujiste, the Chetniks captured 23 Croatian Partisans and shot them, for which deed they received 10,000 liras reward from the Italians; yet another method which the Italians used to instigate them to crime. Djujic`s report to D. Mihailovic of December 21, 1943, stated that in the battle against the Partisans, 140 Partisans had been captured, of whom seven were Serbian and the rest Croatian. The Serbians were released and the Croatians were all slaughtered and thrown into a pit. At that time, the commander of the Podrinje Chetnik Brigade wrote in his report, among other things, the following: "I shot 5 Partisans because they were "Turks"..."( that is, Bosniaks.). From other documents, it may be seen that the majority were representatives of various anti-fascist organizations of NOP, as well as the wounded who were without adequate military protection, which the Chetniks used to their advantage.
Outside of these periods and until the end of the war, the Chetniks continued to loot, violate and kill Croatians and Bosniaks, whenever they had the opportunity. We will only mention a few of these crimes. On June 7, 1943, in the Brnjic municipality, 42 Bosniaks were slaughtered, after which 1,060 refugees escaped to Zenica. In February 1944, Dalmatian Chetniks, in the villages of Dubrava, Danilo, Radonici and Goris killed 30 Croats. On April 4, they killed 10 in the Promin village of Necmen, 27 in the Skradin region on September 12, 1944, and 32 in December 1944 in Bribir, Grizani, and Tribalje near Crikvenica, burning 70 houses and the Bribir Church. In May 1944, Chetniks in Gorazde slaughtered about 50 Bosniaks, burning 2 mosques. In northeastern Bosnia, on October 8, 1944, the Trebavska Chetniks killed 25 Croatians in the villages of Tramosnica, Turic, Liporasce and Srednja Slatina. On January 3, 1945, Chetniks "captured, raped, and shot 27 women and children" (Croatians) in the villages of Kladari and Carevac, and ten days later massacred Croatians in the village Pecnik. On December 21, 1944, the Chetniks of Rogatic killed 23 Bosniaks in the village of Vinograd. Up to June 1944, on the territory of the Rogatic district alone, 3,677 homes were burned and 4,635 were Bosniaks killed (among whom were a small number of Croatians) by the Chetniks.
At the end of the war, the Chetniks were militarily defeated but many of them were given the opportunity during the war, most often after being imprisoned, to "voluntarily" join the Partisans.More than 80% took advantage of this opportunity and, almost as a rule, gained legal amnesty from their crimes. Only a few were convicted for their crimes. In this way, they were given the opportunity to plan the revenge which they had constantly stressed during the war, most frequently in the song: " Oh Croatians, are we ever going to slaughter you, when Pero returns from London", even though their King did not return. This was especially revealed during the final operations after the surrender at Bleiburg, with murders and firing squads during "Death Marches", in camps and in places of execution for members of the Croatian defense forces and NDH authorities, as well as civilians throughout the territory of the former Yugoslavia, namely Croatians and Bosniaks.
The number of Chetnik victims of genocide among Croatians and Bosniaks during the war from 1941 to 1945 has not yet been confirmed. The newest demographic research suggests that the possible exact number of casualties on NDH territory is 200,000 Croats and 100,000 Bosniaks. These numbers refer to those killed. According to V. Zerjavic, of this number, 32,000 Croatians (20,000 in Croatia and 12,000 in Bosnia) and 33,000 Bosniaks were victims of the Chetniks.31 To many, Zerjavic`s number appears too small, especially due to larger estimates in some sources and literature. It might be that this is possible, until future research, which is now being conducted, establishes concrete numerical data for these Chetnik genocidal crimes.
Chetnik crimes of genocide against Croatians and Bosniaks in Croatia and Bosnia during the Second World War (1941-1945) were not incidental, rather they were planned and an integral component of the military and political goals of the Chetnik movement. Their origins are in the comprehension of Greater Serbian nationalists and expansionists, of which the Chetnik movement was the most extreme, most organized and most operative part during the war. According to this comprehension, national and historical territories outside of Serbia are also "Serbian" because Serbians live there, regardless of their number. Areas in which there are no Serbians may also be considered "Serbian" if geostrategic or other reasons exist. In this respect, they considered Bosnia and the greater part of today`s Croatia to be "Serbian" and endeavored to "cleanse" them, through crimes of genocide, of Croatians and Bosniaks who formed the majority of the population and then annex them to the ethnically pure "Greater Serbia". It is precisely this constant effort of the Chetnik movement to establish this "Greater Serbia," on the mentioned territories, which is the real reason for the Chetnik terror and genocidal crimes and not religious and national differences, nor terror or counter-terror, as some would have us believe. The Chetniks displayed their genocidal comprehension at all opportunities in numerous documents, maps, speeches, statements and actions before, during and unfortunately even after the Second World War. During this war, they attempted to achieve their genocidal plans with the support of and under the protection of first the Italian occupiers and then the German occupiers, as well as the support of the exiled government of Yugoslavia, Great Britain, and the United States. This is why, along with the Chetniks, the above mentioned participants carry their share of the responsibility for these crimes. In this respect, as we have partially shown, Bosniaks and Croatians in many territories in Croatia and Bosnia, from Serbia, Montenegro to Slovenia were "cleansed". Wherever Chetnik units arrived, horrific crimes were committed, depending only on the relation of forces and the circumstances in a given territory and throughout NDH, Europe, and the world. This resulted in 300 villages and towns, numerous Muslim mosques, Catholic churches, and historical and cultural monuments burned and destroyed and tens of thousands of Croatians and Bosniaks killed. Among them were 67 Muslim imams and hafizs (keepers of the Koran), 52 Catholic priests, and several nuns of whom the most well-known are the so called Drina martyrs, five nuns who were taken by the Chetniks just before Christmas 1941 from the Pale convent to Gorazde where they were tortured, slaughtered, and thrown into the Drina River.
The Chetnik movement did not fulfill its genocidal intentions because it did not possess enough military units.The main reason was the self-organized defense and armed opposition of the Croatian and Bosniak people, which protected them from even more tragic Chetnik crimes in many places and brought about their military defeat. Following the war in 1945, all Chetnik criminals were given the opportunity to answer for their crimes of genocide against the Bosniak and Croatians and their historical, sacred and cultural monuments in court. Many were even given the chance to continue with these crimes under a different symbol (the communist red star?) For this reason, it is not coincidental that such genocidal crimes of greater Serbian nationalists and Chetniks occurred in even more appalling forms, with respect to the number of those killed, the number of refugees, and the destruction, against the Croatians and Bosniaks in the greater Serbian aggression upon the Republic of Croatia in 1991, and then, against the Republic of Bosnia until today. Historical experience shows that the military defeat of the Chetniks renders possible the return of the majority of the surviving Croatian and Bosniak population to their homes, but that is not sufficient. It is necessary to punish all the criminals, because until this is done, there will be no peace on these territories, and the threat of danger, new conflicts and new Chetnik crimes will always exist, which is something all international factors must be conscious of, if they truly want peace and if they do not wish to bear their share of the responsibility for Chetnik genocidal crimes.
"SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE 1918-1995"
An International Symposium
The Chetnik collaboration with Italians, and marginally with Germans, did exist. In occupied Serbia, Nazis have installed under the leadership of Milan Aćimović, and later under former Minister of War, General Milan Nedić, which governed until 1944. The Chetniks had nothing to do with this government, and were fighting the German occupation since the beginning, but later shifted all their efforts to fighting Communists and the genocide perpetrating Ustashe, who included both Croats and muslims (who were considered Croats in the NDH).
Chetniks were operating semi-independenly. One group remained under the pre-war leader, Kosta Pećanac, and started collaborating with the Germans against the partisans, who, as a matter of fact, also did collaborate with Germans in this civil-war, though this fact is much less known. In NDH, Chetniks under comand of Voivoda Đujić in Serbian Krajina region were mostly fighting Ustashe who aimed to exterminate Serbs. To this end, his troups collaborated with Italians, who had an ingenious population in Dalmatia, that was later expelled by Tito's Partisans in foiba massacres.
Still other Chetniks rallied behind Draža Mihailović, a 48 year-old Army officer who had been court-martialed by Nedić and was known to have close ties to Britain. Early in the War Mihailović offered some resistance to the German forces while collaborating with the Italians. By July 22, 1941 the Yugoslav Government-in-Exile announced that continued resistance was impossible. Although Mihailović and his exiled government would maintain a fierce propaganda campaign to convince the Allies that his Chetniks were inflicting great damage on the Axis, the Chetniks did little for the war effort and openly collaborated with the Germans and Italians while fighting Ustaše and Partizans. At its peak, Mihailović's Chetniks claimed to have three hundred thousand troops. In fact they never numbered over thirty-one thousand. Chetnik advocates argue that these were tactical collaborations on a local level, with the main aim to fight their common enemy - the Partisans. Chetniks viewed their ideological struggle against the Partisans as one more important than the fight against the Germans. However this collaboration continued until the end of WWII, and the allies withdrew support from the Chetniks in 1944. Mihailović was executed in 1946 for treason. The extent of Chetnik collaboration with the German and Italian armies as well as their vicious war against the pro-Allied Partisans is well documented in dozens of books, including "The Chetniks."
In the areas of Independent State of Croatia, which included Bosnia and Croatia, a bitter ethnic war was fought. The ruling Ustaše regime had proclaimed as its goal to exterminate one third of the Serbs, expel the other third and convert the rest to the Catholic faith. Chetniks fought both the Ustaše and Partisans in these areas, and retaliated for the crimes against Serbs in the villages populated by Bosniaks and Croats. The areas around Višegrad, Zvornik, Foča, Čajniče, Pljevlja were gravely impacted by this kind of ethnic cleansing until Tito's Partisans arrived at the site in large numbers in 1942. There's one report of 2,000 Bosnian Muslim men killed in Foča and Muslim women mass raped, and another report of 1,200 fighters and 8,000 civilians killed in easternmost Bosnia and Sandžak during this time.