Serbia under German occupation

Occupied territory
Serbia1941 1944.png

Name of territory Serbia
Occupying power Nazi Germany
Historical era 6 April, 1941 - October, 1944
Supreme authority German Military administration
Puppet governments Commissary Government followed by Government of National Salvation
Capital Belgrade
Languages Serbian, German
Religion Serbian Orthodox,
Roman Catholicism,
Population 3,810,000 (1941)
Currency Serbian Dinar

Serbia under German occupation refers to an administrative area in occupied Yugoslavia established by Nazi Germany following the invasion and dismantling of Yugoslavia in April of 1941. The territory was placed under the authority of the German Military Administration in Serbia (German: Militärverwaltung in Serbien; Serbian: Vojna uprava u Srbiji, Војна управа у Србији), which set up Serbian Quisling civil governments: initially the short-lived Commissary Government (Komesarska vlada, Комесарска влада) under Milan Aćimović and subsequently the Government of National Salvation (Vlada Nacionalnog Spasa, Влада Националног Спаса) under Milan Nedić, which remained in power until 1944. The territory included most of present-day Central Serbia, the northern part of Kosovo (around Kosovska Mitrovica), and Banat, which was an autonomous region governed by its German minority.[1]

In some sources, the territory is known as "Nedić's Serbia".[2][3] Despite the ambitions of the Nedić government to establish an independent state, the area remained subordinated to the German military authorities until the end of its existence.[4][5][6]



Occupation and partition of Yugoslavia, 1941-43.
Occupation and partition of Yugoslavia, 1943-44.

In April 1941, Germany and its allies invaded and occupied Yugoslavia. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was then carved up, the territory that was not annexed by Germany or given to the surrounding Axis neighbors, including the new Nazi-puppet Independent State of Croatia in the west, Italian-occupied territories in the south, Hungarian-occupied territories in the north-west, and Bulgarian-occupied territories in the south-east, became part of a German-created puppet state, governed by a Serbian collaborationist administration. The former Yugoslav King, the teenage Peter II headed the Pro-Allied Royal Yugoslav Government-In-Exile).

On 30 April, a pro-German Serbian administration was formed under Milan Aćimović.[7] During the summer of 1941, two resistance factions were formed: Serb royalist Chetniks, and communist and unionist Partisans. They began small-scale operations and diversions against local loyalist forces and German military. The uprising became a serious concern for the Germans as most of their forces were deployed to Russia; only three divisions of which were in the country.[citation needed] On 13 August, 546 Serbs, including many of the country's most prominent and influential leaders, issued an appeal to the Serbian nation which called for loyalty to the Nazis and condemned the Partisan resistance as unpatriotic.[8] Two weeks after the appeal, seventy-five prominent Serbs convened a meeting in Belgrade where it was decided to form a Government of National Salvation under Serbian General Milan Nedić to replace the existing Serbian administration.[9] On 29 August, the German authorities installed General Nedić and his government in power.[9] Real power resided with the German occupiers rather than under Nedić's government.[10]

The Germans were short of police and military forces in Serbia, and as a result came to rely on armed Serbian formations to maintain order.[11] By October, 1941, Serbian forces under German supervision had become increasingly effective against the resistance.[12] They were armed and equipped by the Germans. Serbian collaborationist forces supported by the Serbian government included the Serbian State Guards, the Serbian Volunteer Corps (whose members were largely members of the Yugoslav National Movement "Zbor" (Jugoslovenski narodni pokret "Zbor") or ZBOR party of Dimitrije Ljotić), and the rogue Chetnik faction of Kosta Pećanac. Some of these formations wore the uniform of the Royal Yugoslav Army as well as helmets and uniforms purchased from Italy, while others from Germany.[13] These forces were involved, either directly or indirectly, in the mass killings of Jews, Roma and those Serbs who sided with any anti-German resistance or were suspects of being a member of such.[14][page needed] According to one single source (Jasminka Udovički, James Ridgeway; Burn This House: The Making and Unmaking of Yugoslavia, 1997), these forces were also responsible for the killings of many Croats and Muslims[15], but this data is not confirmed by other sources. According to other source, the Croats who took refuge in Nedić's Serbia were not discriminated against.[16] After the war, the Serbian involvement in many of these events and the issue of Serbian collaboration were subject to historical revisionism.[17]

The apparatus of the German occupying forces in Serbia was supposed to maintain order and peace in this region and to exploit its industrial and other riches, necessary for the Germany war economy. But, however well organized, it could have not realized its plans successfully if the old apparatus of state power, the organs of state administration, the gendarmes, and the Police had not been at its service.[18]

Several concentration camps were formed in Serbia and at the 1942 Anti-Freemason Exhibition in Belgrade the city was pronounced to be free of Jews (Judenfrei). On 1 April 1942, a Serbian Gestapo was formed. It is estimated that approximately 80,000 people were killed from 1941 to 1944 in the German-run concentration camps in Nedić's Serbia.[19] Serbia was proclaimed one of the Judenfrei (free of Jews) countries in Europe.[20][21][22][23][24]

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In 1941, Harold Turner (1941–1942), Walter Uppenkamp (1942), Egon Bönner (1942–1943), and Franz Neuhausen (1943–1944) were the German military governors.[5] Böhme was given emergency powers to govern the territory since July 1941 and served as a defacto governor of the region even before the administration was solidified in August. Böhme was relieved of the position later in 1941. Staatsrat (privy councillor) Harold Turner and SS Untersturmfuhrer Fritz Stracke handled most of the affairs of the administration while Nedić served as a nominal local leader and as a symbol of legitimization of the German presence there.[25] The regime was unsuccessful in detracting Serbs from rebelling against the occupiers of Yugoslavia and had little support amongst Serbs. This was due to acts of extreme violence and ethnic persecution of Serbs by the German occupiers and Ustashe extreme nationalists in Croatia, most Serbs associated with opposition forces who fought against both the German occupation forces and the Ustashe regime of Croatia. The regime attempted to reduce the large Serbian resistance against the German military occupation of Yugoslavia, but continued atrocities by German occupation authorities.

Internal affairs

The internal affairs of Serbia were affected by Nazi racial laws. These were introduced in all occupied territories with immediate effects on Jews and Roma people, as well as causing the imprisonment of those opposed to Nazism. The region of Banat was ruled by its local minority German population. Despite domination by the German occupiers across the military administration, it maintained its own currency, the Serbian dinar which replaced the Yugoslav dinar which existed until 1945, when the Germans and the collaboratists were defeated and replaced by the Yugoslav communist state, which scrapped the Serbian dinar and other currencies of the Independent State of Croatia and Montenegro in 1945.[26]

The administration's first Serbian government leader was Milan Aćimović.[27] In late August Aćimović stepped down and was replaced by Milan Nedić, who hoped that his collaboration would save what was left of Serbia and avoid total destruction by Nazi reprisals, he personally kept in contact with Yugoslavia's exiled King Peter, assuring the King that he was not another Pavelić (the Croatian Ustashe leader), and Nedić's defenders claimed he was like Philippe Pétain of Vichy France (who was claimed to have defended the French people while accepting the occupation), and denied that he was leading a weak Quisling regime.[1] The Serbian collaborationist government failed to win the favour of Serbs, who largely associated with the two key opposition groups, the Serb nationalist Chetniks and the communist Yugoslav Partisans.

The real power rested with the administration's Military Commanders, who controlled both the German armed forces and Serb collaborationist forces in the administration. In 1941, the administration's Military Commander, Franz Böhme, responded to Serb attacks on German forces by ordering reprisal attacks in which 100 Serbs would be killed for each German killed and 50 Serbs killed for each wounded German. The first set of reprisals were the massacres in Kragujevac and in Kraljevo by the Wehrmacht. These proved to be counterproductive to the German forces in the aftermath, as it ruined any possibility of gaining any substantial numbers of Serbs to support the collaborationist regime of Nedić. Additionally, it was discovered that in Kraljevo, a Serbian workforce group which was building airplanes for the Axis forces had been among the victims.[28] The massacres caused Nedić to urge that the arbitrary shooting of Serbs be stopped, Böhme agreed and ordered a halt to the executions until further notice.[28] Approximately 14,500 Serbian Jews - 90 percent of Serbia's Jewish population of 16,000 - were murdered in World War II.[29]

By late 1941, with each attack by Chetniks and Partisans, brought more reprisal massacres being committed by the German armed forces against Serbs. The largest Chetnik opposition group led by Colonel Dragoljub "Draža" Mihailović decided that it was in the best interests of Serbs to temporarily shut down operations against the Germans until the possibility of decisively beating the German armed forces looked possible. Mihailović justified this by saying "When it is all over and, with God's help, I was preserved to continue the struggle, I resolved that I would never again bring such misery on the country unless it could result in total liberation".[30] Mihailović then reluctantly decided to allow some Chetniks to join Nedic's regime to launch attacks against Tito's Partisans.[2] Mihailović saw as the main threat to Chetniks and, in his view, Serbs, as the Partisans[31] who refused to back down fighting, which would almost certainly result in more German reprisal massacres of Serbs. With arms provided by the Germans, those Chetniks who joined Nedic's collaborationist armed forces, so they could pursue their civil war against the partisans without fear of attack by the Germans, whom they intended to later turn against. This resulted in an increase of recruits to the regime's armed forces.[2] One of Mihailović's closest personal friends and collaborators, Pavle Đurišić, simultaneously held a command for Nedić, and in 1943 tried to exterminate the Muslims, Croats, and pro-Partisans of the Sandžak region.[31] The massacres he carried out were compared to the Croatian Ustashe and Muslim massacres of Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia in 1941.[31]

Notable politicians

See also: Commissary Government and Government of National Salvation.

Prime Ministers of the puppet governments

Other key politicians were

Administrative divisions

Serbia was divided into 14 Okruzi (districts) and 101 Srezovi (municipalities). The Okrug of Veliki Bečkerek (also known as The Banat) was formally part of Serbia, but was effectively run as an autonomous state by the local ethnic German population.

German military commanders

Commanders of the German Military Administration were:

  • Franz Böhme (1941)
  • Harald Turner (1941-1942)
  • Walter Uppenkamp (1942)
  • Egon Bönner (1942-1943)
  • Franz Neuhausen (1943-1944)

Collaborationist armed forces

Aside from German armed forces which were the dominant Axis military in the territory, there were two Serbian collaborationist military forces, the Serbian State Guards (Srpska Državna Straža) and the Serbian Volunteer Command both formed in 1941. In 1943, the Serbian Volunteer Command was renamed the Serbian Volunteer Corps (Srpski Dobrovoljački Korpus), with Kosta Mušicki as the operational leader.[27]

Initially, the recruits were largely paramilitaries and supporters of the fascist Yugoslav National Movement "Zbor" (Jugoslovenski narodni pokret "Zbor", or ZBOR) party of Dimitrije Ljotić. In late 1941, troops from the Mihailović Chetnik formations dispersed following conflicts with Partisan and German forces, and many of those troops join Nedić's legalized Chetnik.[32] Nedić's forces fought Communist Partisans as well as Royalist Chetniks who were not willing to sign an agreement of cooperation.

Recruits to the collaborationist forces increased in numbers following joining of Chetnik groups loyal to Kosta Pećanac. By their own postwar account, these Chetniks joined with the intention to destroy Tito's Partisans, rather than supporting Nedić and the German occupation forces, whom they later intended to turn against.[2]

The Serbian Volunteer Corps were formed in the spring of 1943. At the end of 1944, the Corps and its German liaison staff were transferred to the Waffen-SS as the Serbian SS Corps and comprised a staff from four regiments each with three battalions and a training battalion.

In addition to Serbian collaborations forces, members of the Volksdeutsche (ethnic German minority) from Serbia and Banat were serving in the armed forces of the Reich, most of them in the Prinz Eugen Division.[33] This division was responsible for war crimes committed against the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[34]


The population of this state was composed primarily of the Serbs (up to 3,000,000) and Germans (around 500,000). Other nationalities have been separated from Serbia and included within their respective ethnic states- f.e. the Croats, Bulgarians, Albanians, Hungarians etc. Most of the Serbs however ended up outside the nazi Serbian state, as they were forced to join other states.

Of the 16,700 Jewish people in Serbia and the Banat, 15,000 were killed. In total, it is estimated that approximately 80.000 people were killed from 1941 to 1944 in concentration camps in Nedić's Serbia.[19]


After the collapse of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Serbian civil government had the National bank of Kingdom of Yugoslavia. This was transformed into the Serbian National Bank. It introduced the Serbian Dinar as the only legal currency and disabled the circulation of other currencies in the territories of Serbia occupied by neighboring countries.[35] The traditional Obrenović coat of arms was found on bills and coins minus the royal crown.[36][36][37]


Serbian postage stamps of 1941, issued by the puppet government[38] in German-occupied Serbia. Harold Turner, the chief of German military occupation forces in Serbia, declared in August of 1942, that the Jewish problem in Serbia had been "liquidated". Belgrade was one of the occupied cities to be declared Judenfrei; free of Jews.[39]


With the dissolution of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, many newspapers went out of print while new papers were formed. On 16 May 1941 the first new daily, Novo vreme (New Times), was formed.[40] The weekly Naša borba (Our Struggle) was formed by the fascist ZBOR party in 1941, its title echoing Hitler's Mein Kampf (My Struggle).[40] The regime itself released the Službene novine (Official Gazette) which attempted to continue the tradition of the official paper of the same name which was released in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.[40]


The state of film in Serbia was somewhat improved compared to the situation in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. During that time, the number of cinemas in Belgrade was increased to 21, with a daily attendance of between 12,000 and 15,000 people.[41] The two most popular films were 1943's Nevinost bez zaštite and Golden City which were watched by 62,000 and 108,000 respectively.[42]


With the dissolution of the Yugoslav First League in the spring of 1940, Serbia had its own national football competition. Competing teams included BSK Belgrade, SK 1913 (SK Jugoslavija) and FK Obilić.[43]


The Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade remained open during this time. Works performed during this period included La bohème, The Marriage of Figaro, Der Freischütz, Tosca, Dva cvancika and Nesuđeni zetovi.[44]


The Serbian State Railways (Srpske državne železnice, SDŽ) was the national railway company of the state.[45]


In 2008, the non-parliamentary Serbian Liberal Party launched a proposal to the County Court in Belgrade to rehabilitate the Serbian leader Milan Nedić.[46] This has met no support from any political party and also met opposition from the Jewish community of Serbia.[46]

Concentration camps


Symbols used by the Serbian puppet government were the flag, the coat of arms, and the anthem Oj Srbijo, mila mati (Oh Serbia, dear mother).

See also


  1. ^ a b Wolff, Robert Lee, (1956). Balkans in Our Time Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard University Press. P. 204.
  2. ^ a b c d Bailey, Ronald H. 1980 (original edition from 1978). Partisans and guerrillas (World War II; v. 12). Chicago, Illinois, USA: Time-Life Books. P. 81.
  3. ^ Google Books search on "Nedić regime"
  4. ^ Wolff, Robert Lee, (1956). Balkans in Our Time Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard University Press. p. 203-4.
  5. ^ a b Tomasević, Jozo. (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: Occupation and Collaboration. Stanford University Press.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Cohen, Phillip J., p. 31.
  8. ^ Cohen, Phillip J., p. 32.
  9. ^ a b Cohen, Phillip J., p. 33.
  10. ^ War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: Occupation and Collaboration by Jozo Tomasevich, published 2001 Stanford University Press pg 182 Quote: "Nedic thus headed a government whose powers were strictly limited, one that had no international standing even with the Axis powers. Like its predecessor, it was no more than a subsidiary organ of the German occupation authorities, doing part of the work of administering the country and helping to keep it pacified so that the Germans could exploit it with a minimum of effort, and bearing some of the blame for the harshness of the rule."
  11. ^ Cohen, Phillip J., p. 34.
  12. ^ Cohen, Phillip J., p. 35.
  13. ^ Cohen, Phillip J., p. 38.
  14. ^ Cohen, Phillip J., various pages.
  15. ^ Udovički, Jasminka; Ridgeway, James (1997). Burn This House: The Making and Unmaking of Yugoslavia. Duke University Press. p. 133. ISBN 0822319977. 
  16. ^ Milan Deroc, British Special Operations explored: Yugoslavia in turmoil, 1941-1943, and the British response, East European Monographs, 1988, page 157.
  17. ^ Cohen, Phillip J. Serbia's Secret War: Propaganda and the Deceit of History
  18. ^ Cohen, Phillip J., p. 61.
  19. ^ a b Serbien und Montenegro: Raum und Bevölkerung, Geschichte, Sprache und Kultur by Walter Lukan, Ljubinka Trgovcevic, Dragan Vukcevic
  20. ^ Tasovac, Ivo (1999). American foreign policy and Yugoslavia, 1939-1941. Texas A&M University Press. p. 161. ISBN 0890968977, 9780890968970. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ Final Solution (New York, 1985), p. 77; Walter Manoschek, "Serbien ist judenfrei".
  23. ^,M1
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ Wolff, Robert Lee, (1956). Balkans in Our Time Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard University Press. P. 324.
  27. ^ a b Dobrich, Momcilo. 2001. Belgrade's Best: The Serbian Volunteer Corps, 1941-1945, Axis Europa Books. P. 21.
  28. ^ a b Browning, Christopher H. 2004. The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942 (Comprehensive History of the Holocaust) Jerusalem, Israel: Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heros' Remembrance Authority. P. 344.
  29. ^ Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Macmillan Publishing Company New York 1990.
  30. ^ Bailey, Ronald H. 1980 (original edition from 1978). Partisans and guerrillas (World War II; v. 12). Chicago, Illinois, USA: Time-Life Books. P. 80.
  31. ^ a b c Wolff, Robert Lee, (1956). Balkans in Our Time Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard University Press. P. 213.
  32. ^ Tomasevich, Jozo (1975). The Chetniks: war and revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945. Stanford University Press. p. 200. 
  33. ^ Valdis O. Lumans, Himmler's auxiliaries: the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle and the German National Minorities of Europe 1933-1945, page 235.
  34. ^ Howard Margolian, Unauthorized entry: the truth about Nazi war criminals in Canada, 1946-1956, page 313.
  35. ^ Pavlovic International Bank
  36. ^ a b
  37. ^
  38. ^ Serbia also had a Nazi puppet regime headed by Milan Nedic @ The Balkanization of the West: The Confluence of Postmodernism and Postcommunism - Page 198
  39. ^ "Serbien ist judenfrei": militärische Besatzungspolitik und Judenvernichtung [1]
  40. ^ a b c Olivera Milosavljević - POTISNUTA ISTINA
  41. ^ Miroslav Savković, Kinematografija u Srbiji tokom Drugog svetskog rata 1941-1945. Ibis, Belgrade 1994 (p. 59).
  42. ^ Miroslav Savković, Kinematografija u Srbiji tokom Drugog svetskog rata 1941-1945. Ibis, Belgrade 1994 (p. 46).
  43. ^ History of FC Obilić
  44. ^ Serbian National Theatre, Belgrade
  45. ^ Srpske Drzavne Zeleznice, 1941-1945
  46. ^ a b Milan Nedić and Prince Paul again dividing Serbia

Further reading

  • Bailey, Ronald H. 1980 (original edition from 1978). Partisans and guerrillas (World War II; v. 12). Chicago, Illinois, USA: Time-Life Books.
  • Browning, Christopher H. 2004. The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942 (Comprehensive History of the Holocaust). Jerusalem, Israel: Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.
  • Cohen, Philip J.; David Riesman (1996). Serbia's Secret War: Propaganda and the Deceit of History. New York: Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 0890967601. 
  • Dobrich, Momcilo. 2001. Belgrade's Best: The Serbian Volunteer Corps, 1941-1945, Axis Europa Books. ISBN 1-891227-38-6
  • Kostić, Boško N. Za istoriju naših dana, Lille, France, 1949.
  • Kostić, Lazo M. Armijski đeneral Milan Nedić, Novi Sad, 2000.
  • Wolff, Robert Lee. 1956. Balkans in Our Time. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard University Press.
  • Valter Manošek, Holokaust u Srbiji, Beograd, 2007.
  • Аleksandar Nedić, Milan Nedić - majka ili maćeha, Beograd, 2009.
  • Venceslav Glišić, Užička republika, Beograd, 1986.
  • Dr Rajko Đurić - mr Antun Miletić, Istorija holokausta Roma, Beograd, 2008.
  • Miloslav Samardžić, Krvavi vaskrs 1944 - Saveznička bombardovanja srpskih gradova, Beograd, 2011.
  • Bojan Đorđević, Srpska kultura pod okupacijom, Beograd, 2008.
  • Simo C. Ćirković, Ko je ko u Nedićevoj Srbiji: 1941-1944, Beograd, 2009.
  • Olivera Milosavljević, Potisnuta istina - Kolaboracija u Srbiji 1941-1944, Beograd, 2006.

External links

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