by Gaius Trifković
Here is a brief chronology of contacts between the German forces and the Yugoslav partisans, the Narodnooslobodikicka vajska Jugoslav ije (NOVJ).
7th of August-5th of September 1942
In Livno, one of the captured employees of "Hansa Leichtmetall" Hans Ott is released and sent to German authorities with Partisan proposals on prisoner exchange. On 23rd, Marijan Stilinovic travels to Zagreb for further talks. On 5th of September exchange is made at Studeno Vrelo (near Posusje, west-Herzegovina). 49 Partisans were exchanged for Ing. Ott, seven other Germans captured at Livno, and a group of 24 Croats;
25th of September-17th of November 1942
In Jajce, 4 German civilians were captured, including Ing. Ottmar Siegelhuber (of "Elektro-Bosna"). HQ of the 1st Proleter brigade released one of them, one Franz Leinschütz. He went to Banja Luka with the exchange proposal. German authorities agreed, and the negotiations "were successfully led" on 17th of November, again at Livno. German delegation was composed of Hpt. Hans Heyss, Ing. Hans Ott and StBF Heinrich. NOVJ was represented by Vladimir Velebit and Mihovil Tartalja Misa.
11th of March-1st half of April 1943
Hardly pressed with 4000 wounded in the Neretva valley, Tito offers prisoner exchange, truce and discussion on some political questions and demands recognition of NOVJ as a regular fighting force. 24 German soldiers, including Major Arthur Strecker, CO of 2/738. IR (of 118. Jäger-Division) were offered in exchange for Ivan Marinkovic of KPH, Hertha Hass and others. Negotiations were led by Vladimir Velebit and partly by Milovan Djilas and Koca Popovic from NOVJ side; German side was represented by Hans Ott, Edmund Glaise von Horstenau and partly by Gen. Benignus Dippold of 717. ID. Talks were held in G. Vakuf, Sarajevo and Zagreb. Prisoners were exchanged, railway sabotage in Croatia ceased for a while, but neither recognition of NOVJ nor deal on political questions were achieved (nor was any agreement signed).
23rd of August-? 1943
3rd Vojvodina brigade captured 24 Germans on 8/23 near the village Nestina (Ilok). Main HQ for Vojvodina authorised Vukasin Bivolarevic Volf to go to Ruma and propose exchange. Certain Volksdeutscher Felinger from village of Besenovi took the message to Wehrmacht colonel, commander of Ruma. "All patriots in Ruma camp were offered;others could be brought from local prison". . . Deal was made in the "Adler" inn, and the prisoners were exchanged on Jezovacki gat channel, between Ruma and Stejanovac.
Summer of 1943-beginning of 1944
Contacts which began in March were maintained trough correspondence and trough visits of Marijan Stilinovic of Main HQ for Croatia to Zagreb. Siegrfried Kasche gave impulse for the new talks. Stilinovic met Ott in Zagreb in November 1943, and according to Kasche economical questions were discussed (such as shipping of chlorine from "Elektro-Bosna" to Germany), among others (recognition on NOVJ).
Beginning of February 1944- early 1945
Pisarovina, 30 km SW from Zagreb was agreed upon by both sides (late November-late December) to be an art of "neutral zone" (and 5km in all directions from Pisarovina) where prisoner exchanges could be made. NOVJ was mostly represented by Josip Brncic and than by Boris Bakrac. Sonderfuehrer Wilibald Nemecek (of Horstenau's staff) was representing the Germans.
Brncic remembers being in Zagreb 5 times, organizing 5 exchanges thereby releasing some 200 partisans (50-60 were female). He exchanged his last group on 3/6/1944.
Bakrac travelled to Zagreb some 25 times. 12-15 exchanges were made without his presence. Some 800-900 prisoners were exchanged. Here are some dates and numbers of partisans released (based on Bakrac's memory and notes he made at the time;published in "Zbornik 8 Historijskog instituta u Karlovcu", Karlovac 1977):
12/12/1943:32 comrades, of which 7 members of KPJ, 2 members of SKOJ, others symphatisers. . .
2/10/1944:57 fighters of which 1 brigade commissar, 1 company commissar, 2 corporals. All in all 9 KP members, , 4 SKOJ members, other symphatisers. . .
4/25/1945:32 fighters of which 2 company Cmdrs, 1 bat. commissar, 1 com. commissar, all in all 11 KP members, 2 SKOJ members, other simphatisers. . .
Highest number (30) of partisans was asked for Gen. Karl Krebs Dewitz (Divisions-Gruppe 137), captured in Banja Luka by 13th Krajina Bde in September 1944. Exchanges continued in Pisarovina until very late in the war.
Late June-late July 1944
Upon capture of two soldiers of 369. ID (Kroat. ), namely Unterfeldwebel Ewald Aulke and corporal Gerhard Wilcajc, South-Herzegovina NO detachment sent a letter to German command at Stolac, offering the two in exchange for Salko Mrgan (political worker) and Danilo Miletic. Meeting took place at Drenovac or Hill 286 south of Stolac, on June 29th 1944. One prisoner was exchanged. Germans were interested in continuing the talks. On July 31st, two other NCOs and three soldiers were exchanged on the Hill 286. Correspondence continued and "the prisoners were regularly exchanged, like in Pisarovina. . . "
Upon capture of 30 "Polish"(?) legionnaires of 392. ID (Kro. ) by 43. Istra division, German command in Ogulin proposed an exchange. OZNA officer Zvonko Barac was NOVJ representative. Talks were held at Sv. Jakov's church near Ogulin. 30 persons wanted by NOVJ were transferred to Karlovac, and the exchange could not be made at the spot. However, in the next two days they were brought to Pisarovina and exchanged.
End of February 1945
16 officers and political workers of the 1. bat of 3. Zumberak Bde. captured at village of Jamnice were, after some problems, exchanged for 24 German officers.
20th of February 1945-beginning of March 1945
Colonel Eberlein along with his son Major Eberlein of the 104th Jaeger division were captured when units of 6th Krajina Bde. attacked their armoured train between Busovaca and Lasva (central Bosnia). Talks were held with the German command in Vitez; for the two, 5th NOVJ corps asked for partisans and equipment captured earlier in Vitez. Germans apparently agreed and the exchange was made.
12th-16th of March 1945
Bakrac is in Zagreb, holding talks with Ott and Major(?) Stephani of Loehr' staff. Germans ask for a free passage for HG "E" to Austria.
6th of May 1945
At 2200, Bakrac arrives for the last time in occupied Zagreb. He is taken to Zrinjevac, to German HQ. Oberst Selchow meets him, announcing that Zagreb will spared of demolition, but also asks for a free passage to Austria. Bakrac declines.
During the night, Germans leave Zagreb, and next time they face the Partisans at the negotiation table, in Slovenia severak days later, it will be to discuss surrender terms.
Gaius Trifković - Making Deals with the Enemy: Partisan- German Contacts and Prisoner Exchanges in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945 (Global War Studies, Volume 10, Number 2, 2013, pp. 6-37(32))
Milan Basta & Djurica Labovic - "Partizani za pregovarackim stolom", Zagreb, 1986
Boris Bakrac - Zbornik 8 Historijskog instituta u Karlovcu", Karlovac 1977
Vasa Kazimirovic - Njemacki general u Zagrebu", Kragujevac-Beograd, 1996