The Chetniks’ Atrocities
Over the course of World War II in Yugoslavia members of the Chetnik movement / Yugoslav Army in the Homeland committed numerous mass atrocities. Some of these crimes were motivated by ideological reasons (targeting Partisans and their sympathisers), some by ethnic hatred (targeting Muslim and ethnic Croat civilians). At the end of 1941 and beginning of 1942, in western Serbia the Chetniks murdered several hundred captured Partisans and handed over a similar number of Partisans to the Germans, to be shot. By the end of the war, the Chetniks would murder another several hundred civilians across Serbia, accusing them of collaboration with the Partisans. The most notorious case occurred in late 1943 in the village of Vranić near Belgrade, where Chetniks murdered 67 civilians. Most of them were elderly people, women, and children, including two babies. The biggest mass crimes against Muslim civilians were committed in the area of Sandžak and eastern Bosnia. There was the notorious ‘instruction’ from Draža Mihailović, which he sent on 20 December 1941 to Chetnik commanders in Montenegro and Sandžak, citing the creation of an ethnically pure Greater Serbia (within a Greater Yugoslavia) as the aim of the Chetniks’ struggle. To accomplish that, Mihailović stressed the need ‘to cleanse Sandžak of its Muslim population and Bosnia of its Muslim and ethnic Croat population’. In line with the instruction, during late 1941 and early 1942 the Chetniks murdered around 2,000 Muslims in the eastern Bosnian town of Foča and the vicinity. In early 1943, the Chetnik forces commanded by Pavle Đurišić resumed mass killings of Muslim civilians and burnings of Muslim-populated villages around Priboj (Serbia), Pljevlja (Montenegro), and Foča. In a report to Draža Mihailović sent on 13 February 1943, Đurišić himself wrote that they had killed ‘around 1,200 fighters and up to 8,000 other victims: women, old people, and children’. There had been no recorded mass crimes committed by Muslim militias or Ustaše units against Serb civilians in the area, so this was obviously not a punitive expedition. In October 1943, Chetniks, i.e. troops belonging to the Drina Corps of the Yugoslav Army in the Homeland, murdered several hundred Muslim civilians in the eastern Bosnian town of Višegrad. One of the main killing grounds that witnessed mass atrocities on this occasion was the famous bridge in Višegrad, ćuprija, over the river Drina. Likewise targeted by the Chetniks were many ethnic Croat civilians, especially in Lika, Dalmatia, and Herzegovina. One of the most notorious mass crimes committed against ethnic Croats was the massacre of around a hundred people from the Dalmatian village of Gati and the vicinity, perpetrated in October 1942 by Chetniks under the command of Father Momčilo Đujić.
The exact number of Muslims and ethnic Croats killed in Chetnik mass crimes has not been accurately determined. According to estimates by the demographer Vladimir Žerjavić, over the course of World War II in Yugoslavia the Chetniks killed around 33,000 Muslim and 32,000 ethnic Croats.
Image 21 – The Chetniks’ atrocities 01
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