Serbia in the 1940’s

After the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, in 1941 (see below and Yugoslavia: History, in this App.), On 7 June 1941 its borders with Croatia were established and on the following 29 August the appointment of the Serbian Prime Minister took place.

Serbia in the period 1941-45 broadly included the territory of Serbia prior to the Balkan wars, therefore without an outlet to the sea; towards Bulgaria it possessed a section of the Morava valley in less, while it also had a part of the former sangiaccato of Novi Bazar. The Banat, wedged between Hungary and Romania, remained attached to Serbia, but dependent on the German military command, and was granted a certain autonomy, given the presence of a large German ethnic group (200,000 residents 640,000). Including Banat, Serbia extended over 59,000 sq km, and counted 4,800,000 residents The capital was Belgrade which, badly damaged by the air attacks in April 1941, in 1942 had 335,000 residents Niš (35,000 residents) And Kragujevac (27,000) followed in importance. From an administrative point of view, Serbia was divided (December 29, 1941) into 14 districts: Banat (cap. Petrovgrad); Belgrade; Valjevo; Zaječar; Kruševac; Kragujevac; Kraljevo; Leskovac; Mitrovica; Morava (chap. Ćuprija); Niš; Požarevac; Užice; Šabac.

The cultivable territories are relatively scarce, limited to the funds of the valleys, while in the elevated areas the pastures prevail. Agriculture, in addition to cereals, particularly cultivates tobacco, vines, beets, flax and hemp. More fertile and better cultivated is the western part of the country, especially the one facing the Sava and the Danube; here the most common tree is the plum, which allows a vast export of dried and preserved plums; their distillation also gives rise to the production of a well-known alcoholic beverage (slivoviz). The woods were mostly cleared in the northern part to extend the crops, while they are still well preserved in the southern districts. Pastoralism and livestock farming have a great importance everywhere in the economy of the Serbian peasant. The oaks (with their acorns) allow the breeding of pigs on a large scale, which in the past gave rise to a large export of meats, fats and cured meats. In regards to mines, Serbia is especially known for the copper mines (of Bor and Majdanpek), for which it is among the major European producers. Coal is also not lacking (Senje area). The rather limited industry is not concentrated in a single district, but is distributed here and there throughout the country.

Political order. – Serbia now forms one of the six Yugoslav federated republics and also includes two autonomous provinces, Vojvodina and Kosovo-Metohija. Including these two regions, which have quite mixed populations (Serbs, Croats, Slovaks, Magyars, Romanians in Voivodina; Albanians, Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo-Metohija), Serbia now extends over 89,777 sq km. and has 5,800,000 residents about (density about 64.6).

History. – The flight of the Simović government in April 1941 under the blows of the Germans left Serbia in bewilderment and anarchy. Germany’s aim was simply to establish an administration that would allow it not to have too many concerns about its military security. For this reason the military commander gen. von Denkelmann created a Provisional Civil Committee which retained control functions; but a Serbian “Quisling” was later found in gen. M. Nedić who formed, on 29 August 1941, with second-rate personalities, a government of large national concentration, around which Ljotić’s pro-Nazis gathered, and some followers of Stojadinović.

This government proclaimed its loyalty to King Peter, although he fled abroad, under the protection of the English. Serbia was made up of pieces: Croats, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Albanians took pieces of the national territory. Nedić hoped that the Germans, faced with a loyal observance of the commitments made to Germany, would guarantee, within the framework of their “new order”, the independence of Serbia, within its traditional borders. Thus panserbe tendencies were reborn, which soon degenerated into civil war. The general exasperation of the population favored the endemic phenomenon of the bands of Chetniks, which often acted for personal and local impulses and purposes. The Chetniks of the old nationalist Kosta Pećanac rose again; those of the Serbian and Montenegrin nationalist forces of gen. D. Mihajlović; the “anti-communist volunteers” of Nediče were formed after the USSR entered the war (June 1941), the “communist partisans” of Josip Broz (Tito). The Chetniks, partly out of spontaneous impulse, partly out of the necessities of life, partly through suggestions from abroad, collaborated now with the Italians, now with the Germans until, in the autumn of 1941, rupture between “Chetnique” nationalists and “partisan” Communists. Hideous massacres were provoked by the application of the retaliatory measures of the Germans: 100 Serbs shot for every German killed and 50 hostages for every wounded. In 1941 a large part of Serbia was devastated; in Kragujevac and Kraljevo 11,000 Serbs were shot in one day, including two full classes of a high school, headed by teachers.

The decisions of the AVNOJ (Yugoslav Anti-Fascist Council, Jajce, November 1943) and the Subašić-Tito agreement of June 1944 did not directly affect the Nedič government, which lasted until the arrival of the Red Army in Belgrade (October 18, 1944). In essence, his action was characterized by an attempt, ultimately absurd, to stand up to both the Croatian Ustashas, ​​communism and, quietly, also the German occupiers.

Serbia in the 1940's