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What does the world owe the people of Serbia? Not too much...

In 1941 the New York Times article that is transcribed below described how the people of Serbia and Montenegro rebelled, demanding war against the ‘unstoppable’ German Nazi juggernaut. The world held its collective breath.

The date mentioned in (some) history books is March 27, 1941.  But perhaps the more important date is March 26th.

In the article "NATO Stages a War Provocation in the Balkans," I wrote that in 1990, as they launched their second effort in 50 years to breakup Yugoslavia, the German establishment and the Vatican were fully aware that it was the Serbs who had opposed their earlier alliances, standing up to the Hapsburg Empire and then to Nazi Germany, whose ability to wage war depended on the support of clerical-fascist parties and movements in the European states - most obviously but not only Croatia, Slovakia and the Baltic states - and outside Europe as well.

In 1990, the German establishment and the Vatican (now supported by the US) knew that if they were going to again mobilize the regional forces that Nazi Germany had relied on to destroy Yugoslavia, they had to 'neutralize' the Serbian people, the glue of Yugoslavia. The Serbs had to be physically attacked and slandered in the world media as the supposed 'new Nazis.' In order to sell this lie, in their endless reporting on the Balkans the media had to omit the complicating fact that the people of Serbia and Montenegro had rebelled against their own government in order to oppose the Nazi alliance early in World War II.

As posted below, the New York Times of March 27, 1941 reported that, on March 26th, following many days of massive demonstrations while the Yugoslav government vacillated over whether and how much to surrender to Nazi Germany, the Serbian and Montenegrin populations rose up. With the active participation of the Orthodox church, they demanded an end to a government that, on March 25th, had finally and entirely caved in to the Nazis. They demanded war against the fascist Axis powers that had, until then, marched unimpeded across Europe. In response to this passionate popular revolt, on March 27th the Yugoslav Air Force overthrew the capitulationist government.

These events electrified a world that had come to fear that the Nazis were unstoppable.  And they infuriated Adolf Hitler, who, on March 26th, had begun critical talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka. As the New York Times reported in several articles [1], Japan was unwilling to declare war on Britain unless Yugoslavia was definitely in the German camp.

Hitler responded to the March 27th coup d'état - and to the mass demonstrations that inspired, accompanied and followed the coup - by ordering the invasion of Yugoslavia.  In order to invade Yugoslavia, he had to postpone the invasion of the Soviet Union. This delay meant that the Nazi army got caught in the deadly Russian winter, a disaster for the Nazis.  Therefore, it is reasonably argued that the events described below - the actions the people of Serbia and Montenegro took in March of 1941- made the defeat of Nazism possible.

So what do we owe these people who shook the world, and who later paid a terrible price in blood? [2] Not too much...

Here is the March 26th report.

-- Jared Israel
Editor, Emperor’s Clothes


The following article was transcribed from the New York Times of March 27, 1941. The scanned text can be read at

Copyright the New York Times Company * Printed for Fair Use Only * For Educational Purposes

[Posted Oct. 19, 2007]



Opposition Leaders Are
Rounded Up in Capital
-- City Heavily Guarded



Opinion at Explosive Pitch in
Central Serbia, Montenegro
-- Army's Stand Uncertain

By Telephone to THE NEW YORK TIMES.

BERNE, Switzerland, March 26 --
The anger aroused in Central Serbia and Montenegro when the Yugoslav Government signed the Tripartite Pact in Vienna [thus officially entering into a relationship of subservience to Nazi Germany - J.I.] seemed tonight to be approaching a condition of revolt at Kragujevac and Cetinje, capital of old Montenegro.

The irate peasantry of Central Serbia and the mountaineers of Montenegro were reported marching into their respective capitals by the thousands, demanding arms and leadership for war against the Germans who already are threatening invasion of Yugoslavia "to save it from itself."

While the secret Yugoslav police, using lists prepared weeks ago by Gestapo [German secret police - NY Times] agents, began rounding up Serbian patriots, komitaji leaders, opposition party members and student leaders, dissension was spreading within the capital. Eight demonstrations were under way in the outskirts of the capital and the crowds, some of them armed with clubs and small caliber pistols, planned a march on the center of the city.

Steel-helmeted policemen rushed in fast trucks to "danger points" about Belgrade as evening fell. The gendarmes were posted beyond the Slabia and the upper end of Belgrade above the University Building, upon the Kralja Alexandra Bridge and the great circle at the Mostar intersection beyond "Government Row" on the Milosa Velikog.

War Songs Are Banned

Alarmed by the spread of dissension, the government forbade the playing and singing of sectional war songs.

Reports tonight from the provinces said the authorities were attempting similar measures outside the capital but with little effect. The threat of heavy fines and jail sentences restrained most musicians in the Belgrade kafanas, but the people sang their forbidden songs with a will and without interference.

This correspondent learned late tonight that a resolution was being prepared by the leaders of the Serbian Patriotic Society, komitajis, the Sokols and others for presentation to Prince Regent Paul tomorrow demanding the expulsion of "the traitorous Cvetkovitch government" and immediate formation of a nationalist government.

On the eve of tomorrow's Episcopal Council of the nineteen Serbian Orthodox Missions called by the Serbian Patriarch, priests and monks appeared in the cafes late today distributing pamphlets calling upon the people to revolt. Serbian priests and monks have conspired and fought with the peasants against suppressors and invaders for nearly 200 years. The present Patriarch is a son of a komitaji leader.

Serbians from Kragujevac reported today that the Patriarch, when asked whether he approved of the nation-wide demonstrations, replied:

"Approve of them? I place myself at the head of them!"

Police Cars Assembled

Police cars were assembled about the Presidency today after the Premier and Foreign Minister had returned from Vienna. The patrol was increased about the Belgrade Terazia, the great diagonal square in the heart of the city.

A Yugoslav revolt, however, if it comes, is expected to start in Central Serbia and Montenegro, where public opinion has already reached explosive pitch, according to telephoned information from eyewitnesses today.

Beginning with the arrival of the provincial editions of the Politika early yesterday exposing the true intentions of the government [to go through with the signing in Vienna - J.I.] in a front page editorial, the Kragujevac population turned protests into action. Komitaji "cells" were organized today and small arms distributed. Road patrols were organized and ambush units formed to fight the enemy as always, in guerrilla warfare.

Down from Veliki Galatch, the jagged mountains of Montenegro, there began to pour today a ser-


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pentine stream of Montenegrin mountaineers, armed with hunting rifles and even old flintlocks, long knifes and pitchforks. They marched into Podgorica, Berane and Cetinje. They gathered in the public square before the Cetinje City Hall and demanded more arms and army leadership to revolt against the Cvetkovitch government. Elsewhere in the provinces, meantime, the anti-German, anti-government demonstrations continued.

"What will the army do?" is the paramount question being asked by all civilian Yugoslavs tonight.

Some of the young army leaders have said that the army never will fire on the Yugoslav people. But foreign military experts in Belgrade insisted today that the Yugoslav Army - one of the best organized in Europe - would follow the orders of the General Staff even to put down a popular revolt.

The sentiment of the General Staff is uncertain. The War Minister, General Peter Pesitch, however, was a compromise appointee of last November when more radical elements of the army were demanding a showdown with Italy over the bombing of Bitolj and the flagrant violations of Yugoslav territory.

Role of Colonels Cited

Leading military experts here say that the staff colonels and the majors will succeed to active command in most General Staff posts if it comes to war with Germany.

In Zagreb and Sarajevo students demonstrated in an orderly manner, quite openly distributing pamphlets deploring the government's action; at Nish and Skoplje [in Serbia and Macedonia, respectively - J.I.] crowds of peasants congregated on the main squares and before the City Hall, calling on the government to resign and chanting Serbian marching songs.

Following Monday's disastrous demonstration at Banja Luka [in Bosnia-Herzegovina, now part of Republika Srpska - J.I.], in which many were hurt, disturbances broke out intermittently yesterday and today.

In Belgrade shortly before noon today some 250 to 300 university students, wearing British, American and Greek flags in the lapels of their blue jackets, swarmed onto Terazia Square, chanting, singing and waving Serbian flags. Allowed to proceed momentarily they attempted to turn into Poincare Street on which is located the German legation.

Large forces of steel-helmeted police charged three times, swinging their batons and slightly injuring a few of the students as well as a few impassive onlookers. Eighteen were arrested.

Another demonstration was reported planned for tonight on the campus near the Technological University. The police apparently learned of this plan for they were exceptionally active throughout the day arresting students and youth leaders in the capital and suburbs.

Another unconfirmed report late this afternoon stated that colleges and universities throughout the country would be closed for a period - variously reported for the rest of this week or until after the orthodox Easter Sunday, April 20, as a retaliatory measure for today's disturbances, which, in most cases, were traced directly to student instigation.

Students Are Punished

Grammar school students in a fashionable school on the outskirts of town today were punished and the school closed when two classes of students walked out of the German class and refused to attend a lecture. German is the second language in Yugoslavia.

Premier Dragisha Cvetkovitch, the Foreign Minister, Dr. Alexander Cincar-Markovitch, and their suite returned from Vienna [from the meeting with the Nazis - J.I.] at 9:06 A.M. today in their special train. Members of the Cabinet, Hungarian, Rumanian and Bulgarian [all of whom were at this point part of the Nazi machine - J.I.] chargés d'affaires and an impressive array of special police were on hand to greet them.

There was no flag-waving from a handful of silent spectators who were the almost continuous receivers of orders to "keep moving." The Premier and Foreign Minister, accompanied by Vice Premier Vladimir Matchek, drove in closed cars first to the Presidency, then to the White Palace on the hill, where they were closeted with Prince Regent Paul for an hour and a half.

Later this afternoon the Premier, accompanied by M. Matchek, returned and had another long talk with the Regent.

Thereafter, reports immediately began to circulate that several political leaders, including Branko Chubrilovitch, had been arrested. Though this could not be confirmed late this evening it was significant that none of these men was seen in their customary haunts and most of their friends had also disappeared.

Reports broadcast on foreign stations and a German radio station announced that "there were enough German soldiers" on the Yugoslav frontier to march in and "maintain order" should disturbances continue, aroused considerable resentment.

Semi-official German sources in Belgrade denied that any such statement had been made, but many listeners claim to have heard one German broadcast which, though not couched in exactly those terms, did make a reference to "sufficient German troops" being present on the frontier.

Police Precautions Taken

Police precautions in the capital are tremendous. Patrols of tin-helmeted policemen repeatedly halt automobiles, investigating their occupants before allowing them to proceed. Some are searching for arms and there are understood to have been many arrests.

Telephone and telegraph censorship is increasing in efficiency. American correspondents can still telephone abroad, though their conversations have been repeatedly cut during the day. British correspondents, however, are experiencing considerably more difficulty. They were all called into the Press Ministry today and informed by an attaché that their copy of last night had been recorded and transcribed.

All were warned that a repetition of this "false news of opposition in the country expanding to demonstrations" would lead to their immediate expulsion. At present writing none has yet been arrested or requested to leave the country, but it is understood many expect this measure soon.

American correspondents, though still somewhat more at liberty to telephone abroad, are also working under tremendous difficulties. A frequent change of  bases of operations has enabled many to reach their foreign bureaus. It has been learned from sources close to the government that many of them will be requested to leave the country in the near future - probably on grounds of spreading "false information."

Army Coup Ruled Out

An army coup is ruled out by foreign military attachés best informed about the state of the Army.

A German invasion, they say, might follow any such action. An Army coup probably would produce General Dusan Simovitch, presently Air Staff chieftain, as Commander in Chief of the forces of the new Yugoslav Government established - probably at Kragujevac or Cetinje - with the immediate accession of King Peter to the throne.

Prince Regent Paul is taking surprisingly little blame for the capitulation. Yet it is known that the Prince Regent is the real dictator of Yugoslavia and simply confers with the government on national issues. It was Prince Paul who acceded to the German demands and first sent M. Cvetkovitch and Dr. Cincar-Markovitch to Germany.

It was Prince Paul who received the Reich's demands from them upon their return to Belgrade. It was Prince Paul who laid the issue before the government and forced the first compromise agreement to a nonaggression pact. It was Prince Paul who received the new German demands - for signature of the Tripartite Pact and surrender upon all but two major German proposals - and it was Prince Paul who forced the patchwork and incomplete government to accept.

Finally, it was Prince Paul who gave the last instructions to the Premier and Foreign Minister and sent them on their way to Vienna and the capitulation which has brought the country clambering to its feet with loud demands for the overthrow of the "government of surrender" and war with Serbia's ancient enemy.

King Regarded Fondly

The majority of the Serbians understand the significance of this apparent oversight in the placing of the blame.

"Prince Paul, after all," one of them said today, "is a Karageorgeovitch [i.e., a member of the dynasty begun by George Petrovic, known as 'Black George' (Kara-George), who led the 1804-1813 Serbian rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. - J.I.]. Whatever he has done he still belongs to the dynasty founded upon the fighting blood of the Serbs and most of us feel that he has made this the greatest mistake of his life because he has been educated and lived too much away from the real life of us."

This is a reference to Prince Paul's Oxford education and gentle mannerisms, so displeasing to Serbian elders.

King Peter is fondly regarded by most Serbs as "the son of his father," meaning that his short temper, his impatience and his imperious manner are direct throwbacks from King Alexander, who was assassinated at Marseille in 1934. The young King, kept in the background, appears only for events of a strictly localized nature - the opening of a new hospital or the beginning of a relief fund campaign.

In the meantime he lives his private life with a group of Serbian young people in their late teens, sometimes motoring into the countroy on week-end visits to Avala, one of his country places. His appearance upon the highways, even when speeding at fifty miles per hour behind four motorcycle escorts, always brings cheers from the peasants, who uncap themselves and stand shouting until the car has vanished over the horizon.

[End of March 27, 1941 New York Times article]


Footnotes and Further Reading


-- For more Emperor's Clothes articles on Yugoslavia, go to

[1] In March 1941, the New York Times published several articles that referred to Tokyo's conviction that Yugoslavia was strategically key and its consequent concern over the events culminating in the coup d'état of March 27, 1941, which occurred while Foreign Minister Matsuoka was in Berlin.  Here is a brief report of what was being said in Tokyo the day after the Yugoslav coup.
-- Jared Israel

[Full transcript of report on Tokyo's reaction to coup d'état starts here]

(C) The New York Times, Reprinted for Fair Use and Educational Purposes Only

Some Dismay in Tokyo

[Published, March 29, 1941, page 6]

TOKYO, Saturday, March 29 -
The dramatic turnabout of Yugoslavia at a moment when  Germany is anxious to demonstrate to Yosuke Matsuoka, Japanese Foreign Minister, how united Europe is against Britain is being viewed in Japan with some dismay, but with all the greater attention. The press agrees that while the ultimate outcome is still in doubt, it might, in the words of the newspaper Asahi, produce "some unforeseen disaster in Southeastern Europe."

The Japan Times-Advertiser explains that the German "Blitz" method has apparently been replaced by a glacier movement that "slowly and inevitably replaces the old order of completely independent States by a Reich union of European nations." But, it adds, the fall of the Yugoslav Government that signed the Axis pact "is extremely important news and likely to change the whole course of events in Asia Minor."

[Full transcript of report on Tokyo's reaction to coup d'état ends here]

[2] See the discussion of the German-authorized Croatian Ustasha terror campaign against the Serbs, following the German invasion in the spring of 1941, in Yad Vashem's Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, published by Yad Vashem in 1990, posted on Emperor's Clothes at
For the role of many Catholic clergy in that campaign, go to

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