Victory Day

Late on May 8, 1945 – May 9, Moscow time – remnants of the Nazi regime surrendered to the Soviet forces in the ruins of Berlin. The “Thousand-year Reich” had barely lasted a dozen. A week earlier, Hitler had committed suicide, lacking courage to face defeat and blaming everyone but himself for it. The European nightmare, second in a generation, was officially over.

Almost seventy years hence, however, there are grounds to wonder as to who had really won.

Fetishes and Fantasies

All participants in the war exaggerated their own contribution, while diminishing that of others. The British romanticize North Africa, where it took them two years to finally defeat a handful of under-strength German divisions. Americans play up “D-Day”, the campaign in France, and the Lend-Lease material aid. The Soviets would dismiss the Lend-Lease and glorify Stalin’s alleged strategic genius. The regime of Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia maintained for decades that the brave Communist partisans tied down 25 German divisions and thus somehow turned the tide of the war.

Another fantasy, propagated many years later, was that the Allies fought to stop Hitler’s genocide of Jews. The general public was entirely ignorant of it till the end of the war, while the governments kept whatever information they received under wraps. While modern Western Holocaust narrative makes sure to note the murder of Roma and homosexuals, Slavs – also targeted for mass extermination – are not mentioned at all.

Few in the West today realize that “Nazi” was short for “National Socialist.” The Soviets got around the awkward bit about “socialism” by calling the Nazis “fascist” instead.

At Nuremberg, Nazis were not prosecuted for their genocidal endeavors, but for starting the war – “crime against peace”, as the verdict put it. Today, however, the West believes starting a war not a crime – so long as they do it. Imperial policymakers angrily condemn “appeasement”, then replicate Munich and call it law. Every ruler of a country they wish to invade is compared to Hitler, every ethnic conflict to the Holocaust, and every skirmish to D-Day, to the point where all perspective and meaning are lost.

Specters of 1942

The European Union is an eerie echo of what Nazi slogans described as the “European family of nations” working together for the prosperity of all and against the “scourge of Bolshevism”. It isn’t just the slogans: the whole endeavor has roots in National-Socialism.

Modern managerial state lives up to Mussolini’s definition of fascism: Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” Yet anyone who opposes the wholesale destruction of national sovereignty or social engineering is dismissed as “fascist”. Meanwhile, unelected EU commissars claim powers to do anything, from bizarre – regulating the circumference of carrots and curvature of cucumbers – to revolting, such as declaring Fascism, Nazism and Communism the same.

“Human rights” groups don’t object when Waffen-SS veterans march in Latvia – now a member of the EU and NATO – but are bothered that Russia, a nation grievously harmed by Communism, refuses to dishonor the banner under which it bore the brunt of the fighting against Hitler.

The map of Europe today looks eerily like the one from 1942. May 9 has been designated “Europe Day”. And all of Hitler’s allies in the Balkans are now members of NATO, allies of the American Empire. Not surprisingly, in the sequel to WW2 fought in the 1990s – and continuing still after a fashion –, the Luftwaffe and the panzers were re-cast as the “good guys”.

Walk in Hell

The first Great War began when Austria-Hungary’s decision to invade and crush Serbia escalated quickly. Four years later, there was no more Austria-Hungary, Germany was on her knees, and the Bolsheviks had overrun Russia. Serbia foolishly invested its victory into a country later called Yugoslavia. Driven by grudges from the previous war, Hitler had first gone after Czechoslovakia – the Czech declaration of independence began the collapse of Austria-Hungary. By 1941, it was Yugoslavia’s turn.

The regency government that had signed the Tripartite Pact under great pressure from Berlin was overthrown on March 27, between massive popular protests and a British-backed military coup. In April 1941, Hitler made it a personal mission to “wipe Yugoslavia off the map.”

Parts of its territory were annexed directly to Germany, others given to Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Albania (an Italian protectorate until 1943, a German ally thereafter). An “independent” Montenegro was set up as an Italian protectorate, while most of today’s Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina became the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). The remainder was dubbed “Serbia” and placed under German occupation.

While the Serbs in the NDH faced wholesale extermination (the visceral brutality of which appalled even the Nazis), the brutality of the occupation forces in “Serbia” rivaled that of the Eastern Front. In June 1941, royalist guerrillas (commonly mislabeled “Chetniks”) launched an uprising. The Germans responded by executing up to 100 civilian hostages for every one of their soldiers killed, and 50 for every wounded. The royalists soon had another problem: a Communist insurrection, launched after Hitler invaded the USSR, and as hostile to the royalists as to the German occupation. Communists and royalists fought each other as well as the Axis forces, waiting for the Allies to arrive and tip the balance.

In the end, the Communists prevailed. By 1944, they had secured British backing and successfully lobbied the Allies for massive air strikes against cities in Serbia, which did little damage to the German war effort but caused great loss of civilian life in royalist strongholds. The British betrayal of the royalists is well chronicled in “The Rape of Serbia” by Michael Lees. In September 1944, Soviet forces – reinforced by Bulgarian troops, who had switched their allegiance from Hitler to Stalin – entered Serbia and drove out the Germans.

Insult to Injury

The territory of Nazi-occupied Serbia thus had to deal with four years of brutal repression, a civil war, tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Croatia’s genocide, heavy bombing by the Allies, and a Bulgarian “liberation”. Then the Communists took over.

Long before the war, the Yugoslav Communists had declared Yugoslavia’s destruction as their objective. To them, it was a “prison of nations,” in which the “Greater Serbian bourgeoisie hegemony” oppressed everyone else. Understandably, once they took over Yugoslavia, they were reluctant to destroy it entirely. So they did the next best thing, and made Hitler’s dismemberment more or less official, dividing Yugoslavia into Soviet-style “republics.”

Official history claimed that the multiethnic Communist partisans were the only real resistance movement, which single-handedly defeated both the Axis and the “domestic traitors”, the worst of which were the bloodthirsty-Greater-Serbian-nationalist “Chetniks”. Any suggestion that the royalists had actually helped the Allied war effort was suppressed – and the West went along with it, because Tito was an asset in the Cold War against Stalin.

But the insult to injury was the imposed moral equivalence between the royalists and the Ustasha, the NDH regime that murdered close to a million Serbs in an effort to “purify” Croatia. As one Croat leader later argued, that made the Croats two-time winners of the war – and the Serbs doubly vanquished.

History Repeated

The only thing that held Yugoslavia together for 35 years was its supreme leader, Marshal Josip Broz “Tito”. After his death, the system set up to be dysfunctional performed as intended. With the end of the Cold War, Yugoslavia lost both Western credits and Eastern markets. The newly reunited Germany, the nascent European Union and the rising American Empire all saw an opportunity to profit from Yugoslavia’s demise.

In a ghastly re-run of the 1940s, Hitler’s former allies now sought sponsors in the West, and succeeded where their Waffen-SS forebears failed. Worse yet, they excused their actions by smearing the Serbs as Nazis (!) reborn. The judgment at Nuremberg was made mockery by “judgments” at The Hague. Fifty years after the Nazi surrender, American bombers, German tanks and Communist propaganda came together in service of one of Hitler’s goals: to crush the Serbs as an example to others.

No wonder, then, that only Russia still celebrates Victory Day. Elsewhere, Hitler’s ghost rejoices.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.