Introduction to the Anti-Partisan Operations in Croatia
- Published: 17 January 2011 17 January 2011
- Last Updated: 07 April 2012 07 April 2012
The bloody guerrilla or anti-partisan warfare that raged throughout Yugoslavia from 22 June 1941 to May 1945 was more extensive and cost more lives than its counterpart that was waged in the Soviet Union from 22 June 1941 to July 1944, primarily in Belorussia. The communist Partisans under Josip Broz Tito had to fight not only the German Army, but also the Italian Army, the Bulgarian Army, the Hungarian Army, the Croatian armed forces, the Chetniks and countless thousands of other collaborators in various armed militias and groups. It is the 3-way nature of this war between the occupiers, the collaborator nationalists and the resistance that made the struggle so bitter and costly. It was all at one time a civil war, a war of revolution and a war of pacification.
It is not the intention of this brief introduction to summarize World War II in Yugoslavia because there are plenty of books in a variety of languages that cover the subject. Summaries and details can also be found on-line by searching the internet. The purpose here is to introduce the 135 anti-Partisan operations that follow in terms of scope and limitations. They are provided to accompany the histories of the individual units of the Croatian armed forces because they are repeatedly referred to in these histories, but without elaboration. Since they are keyed to the Croatian armed forces, they are limited to just those anti-Partisan operations that were carried out within the territory of the Independent State of Croatia and exclude the dozens of others that were conducted in Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Slovenia and other parts of the country.
Additionally, they generally cover only the medium size and larger operations that were carried out by a mix of forces beyond those that belonged to a single division and that lasted three days or longer. The small operations have been excluded because of their relative insignificance and lack of detailed information. They also cover only those to which a name was assigned. There were many offensive and defensive engagements across Yugoslavia during the war that were just part of the day-to-day fighting and were not viewed as an operation and assigned a name.
A word or two must be said about the casualty and loss figures found in most of the operations described. Wherever possible, German figures have been used because they are believed to be more accurate than the numbers found in the postwar Yugoslav literature for several reasons. In almost all cases the Germans were advancing across the terrain and the Partisans withdrawing, and this fact gave the Germans a much better opportunity to count dead enemy bodies as they came upon them. The German figures all come from their primary source documents written at the time of the operation and are thus less susceptible to being “massaged” for political purposes. The postwar Yugoslav literature is reasonably accurate in relating the course of the fighting, but conveniently omits details on battles the Partisans lost and casualty figures in cases where they lost more than the enemy. Their claims or estimates of enemy losses are also grossly overstated. The German figures, on the other hand, represent both enemy combatants killed together with Partisan sympathizers and other civilians massacred or executed during the operation, but conveniently fail to make this important distinction or even refer to it. In one case involving some 1,200 “counted enemy dead” where a comparison could be made to Yugoslav figures, it was found that only about 150 of that number were Partisan combatants. The rest were villagers and farmers, men women and children, shot down for being “Partisan sympathizers” who were suspected of giving shelter and food to the enemy.
At the time of this writing, the following is the only unpublished or published, on-line or off-line, reasonably comprehensive and complete record of these operations in existence.