The Delegate of the Yugoslav Government for the Near and Middle East (Djonovich) to the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

Mr. Secretary: Permit me to thank you most sincerely for the kind hospitality shown me during my visit, made on the recommendation of our Ambassador and my friend, Mr. Fotitch. I am very pleased that you accepted my proposal to put down in writing the main points of my conversation with you regarding the conditions in our country and the help which should be given to our gallant fighters.

This help is needed not only to gain an early victory but also to assure peace after the Nazi collapse. In Europe, and especially in Yugoslavia, so much evil and unhappiness has accumulated that serious peril and anarchy threaten the Balkans and Europe after the war. What I will bring out to you is received mainly from the daily telegraph reports of General Mihailovich, from our agents in Turkey and from our men who succeeded to flee the country. The following is an outlook on conditions in Yugoslavia:

1. The country is ruined economically. The Germans took everything that could be taken. Factories and even work-shops which [Page 979]do not work for the army were removed, especially those in Serbia. Food is taken from the farmer, even the minimum needed for everyday life. All the towns in the country are practically starving. In Serbia, the Germans do not permit the import of foodstuffs to the larger cities as a means of punishment. On the other hand, the farmer, even when he has something to sell, does not willingly take it to the market because the Germans confiscate everything and in exchange give money which is useless since nothing can be bought for it. In Serbia especially, the cities are supplied only by way of the black market and bartering. In exchange for food the people are giving their furniture, linens, clothing and shoes, in as much as they have them.

People everywhere are suffering, especially in those parts of the country where German and Italian punitive expeditions pass through. Almost everything there is ruined or looted. The remaining population is starving and dying of hunger, sickness or cold. The region of the Dinara mountains: Dalmatia, Bosnia, Hercegovina and Montenegro, where cereals have always been lacking, 4,000 to 6,000 wagons of wheat and flour had been sent to this region every year. This import of wheat is now discontinued, and the people are therefore suffering from hunger. Besides, Chetnik troops and other fighters have fled into these mountainous regions where they are waging a fierce struggle against the enemy, thereby making the position of the population even more precarious as regards food. The results are: sickness and starvation. According to reliable reports from Montenegro, there were several hundred deaths due to starvation in the month of December only.

2. The insecurity of civilians has come to paroxysm. A human life is not worth more than a bullet wherever a Serb lives. For the past four months, the Germans have been killing everyone who is against them or against Quisling Nedich. Those suspected as Mihailovich’s sympathizers who are not slaughtered are sent to Germany to forced labor. There are some instances where higher Quisling officials have been executed for being unreliable. For instance, Nedich’s county sheriff, Kalabich, was shot in Požarevac, charged with cooperating with General Mihailovich. According to our data, over 120,000 people were killed in Serbia up to the present time. In 1941 and 1942 about 20,000 people were killed in Belgrade alone. On the Catholic Christmas-Eve and Christmas Day of 1942, 1,300 people were executed, accused of being in the organization of General Mihailovich. In Belgrade, during December 1942 and January 1943, approximately 100 to 150 persons were executed. This massacring of innocent people is continuing mainly because of the fear of a revolt in Serbia due to the Allied victories in Libya and Russia.

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In Voyvodina, occupied by the Hungarians, more than 80,000 Serbs have been killed up to the present.

After the uprising of 1941, the Italians have annihilated about 30,000 persons in Montenegro and southern Hercegovina.

The Albanians, instigated by their Quislings and Italian occupational authorities, killed over 20,000 Serbs in Kossovo and Sandžak.

However, the Serbian population in those parts occupied by the Croats suffered the most. In Bosnia, Croatia and Srem, 600,000 to 700,000 Serbs were slaughtered in the most inhuman way. In Srem, 30,000 persons were killed only at the end of 1942. Men, women and children were slaughtered like beasts by means of guns, knives, axes and dull weapons. Serbs in the “Independent State of Croatia” have been deprived of all civil rights and considered outlaws. Everybody has a right to kill them. One of my close relatives writes: “Everything here is fantastically expensive, only a human life is worth nothing”.

Slovenians have also suffered under the Italians during 1942. Many tens of thousands were killed or taken to concentration camps. Not even one-third of the 150,000 Slovenes under German occupation remained at home. Many fled to Serbia, some to Croatia but the majority was sent to Germany to forced labor.

According to our data, about one million Serbs, men, women and children were killed by the enemies up to now, mainly because they did not wish to bow to them but took arms to fight. The number of people, victims of sickness, hunger, cold and other misfortunes, cannot as yet be estimated. In any case, that number is neither small nor insignificant. At least one-hundred thousand Slovenes have suffered.

3. The largest and only fully military organized forces in Yugoslavia are those of General Mihailovich. Their total strength is over 100,000 men operating in the whole country except in pre-war Croatia. There are a few Croats in the General’s army, which can be noted from General Mihailovich’s telegram, No. 982, 983, 984 and 985, herewith enclosed.33 As a whole, the Croats do not take active part in the struggle against the invaders, but are struggling as much as possible against us and our Allies. The organizing of national forces in the whole country, particularly among the Serbs, has already been carried out. Thus, the armed forces of General Mihailovich can be increased two or three-fold when the deciding moment comes. It will depend on the arms which will be sent to them.

Besides the forces of General Mihailovich, the Communists are taking part in the struggle. There are not very many of them, according to reliable reports from the country as they number about [Page 981]4,000. Their only aim is to help Soviet Russia and to bring Bolshevism to our country; Yugoslavia is to be included in the Soviet Union. Their atrocities committed over the population which did not want to join them incited the people against them and they were chased out of Serbia, Montenegro and Hercegovina. The rest of their shattered detachments had dispersed to the forest regions of Bosnia and Dalmatia. Now they are pressed back in Kapela in the Dinara mountains. Their end is near for the people there do not tolerate them because of their atrocities. They possess a radio station over which they mystify the Russian Communists and through them other leftists in Anglo-Saxon countries. They speak of fighting which they did not carry on, of the strength of their forces which they do not have, of assemblies which were not held, and of governments which do not exist (Bihać).

At present the forces of General Mihailovich are grouped as follows: 30,000 men in the mountain regions of Montenegro, a part of Sandžak and southern Hercegovina; 25,000 men in the Dinaric Alps and vicinity of Lika, Dalmatia and eastern Bosnia; 10,000 divided into two groups in the mountain regions of western Serbia; and a little less than 10,000 men divided into two groups in the mountain regions of eastern Serbia. In South Serbia his forces also number several thousand men in the mountains from the Vardar river to the Albanian frontier. Forces connected with General Mihailovich in Eastern Bosnia and Slovenia number also some tens of thousands of men. In any case, that is the only real military force in the country which [is] tying up thirty-six Axis divisions in Yugoslavia. Therefore, lately, a real hunt is being led in all of Yugoslavia to discover and shoot the men of General Mihailovich, against whom the German occupational authorities and the native Quislings have issued a proclamation, threatening the complete extermination of the people if they join his organization or support him in any way. In addition to those military organized groups of General Mihailovich, at least 80% of all adults in Serbia and Montenegro are organized on a military basis.

4. The perspective of the future appears as follows: If General Mihailovich and his organization are not helped sufficiently and in time, the worst results can be expected. The people who like and respect him can become despondent. The field would then be open for disorder and complete anarchy, not only in Yugoslavia but in all the Balkan states. On the other hand, if the Allies render sufficient aid to General Mihailovich and his forces, they will represent a great force which could give considerable help toward an Allied victory, particularly enough strength to preserve order and prevent anarchy until Allied forces reach Central Europe. Help should be given in [Page 982]arms, clothing, shoes, food and medical supplies. All that can be dropped by parachutes from planes coming from airfields in Syria, Libya and North Africa, in the spring and summer. Special attention should be given first to the sending of concentrated foodstuffs and medical supplies, then clothing, shoes and arms. From spring to the middle of summer the greatest need will be in food, medicines and clothing. American help, particularly if several American officers would parachute into General Mihailovich’s headquarters, would have a great moral effect on the whole population. The prestige of America comes first in our country. Great hope is placed in America and her coming to our aid would make the people feel that the end of the war is not far off.

In order that the things to be dropped reach the hands of those intended for, it is necessary to make contacts immediately by radio with the staff of General Mihailovich. Since certain preparations have been made previously, that could be easily carried out. In that way General Mihailovich would designate places with light signs where everything that is being sent can be dropped by parachute.

Invaluable moral support should be given through a broadcasting station organized by Americans somewhere in North Africa. In that case, I would be able to place the needed well-trained personnel from Cairo at the disposal of the Americans. In [It] would be desirable in any case to have our people know that the Americans have organized a station from which they will speak to them.

5. It would be of great importance if the present negative campaign could be done away with. I think that it is completely inopportune and incomprehensible to our people to attack General Mihailovich and praise the Communist-Partisans. We do not believe that the policy of the Anglo-Saxon people is in favor of them, that Bolshevism win in Yugoslavia and that Yugoslavia and with her all the Balkans be encompassed in the Soviet Union. However, we know the road to Moscow and guides are not needed. But, neither the great masses of our people nor we alone want that road. Therefore, it is not necessary that it be pointed out to us. I think that is much more timely to help General Mihailovich, the democratic forces in our country, by means of propaganda as well as arms, and in that way save Yugoslavia and the Balkans from a possible social revolution after the collapse of Nazism. The campaign against the democratic forces in our country as well as Europe, and the promoting of Communism is probably desired by the followers of the Third International, and likewise by various Quislings and Fascists who believe that under such colors they could find protection against the punishment for the crimes and brutalities committed, and never by the people who struggle for righteousness and freedom. Communism is a dictatorship [Page 983]of the proletariat and the suppression of freedom of mind and thought. All our people, especially the Serbs, do not want any kind or anyone’s dictatorship whether it be by rightists or leftists. We suffered a long time from personal regimes and certainly not little responsibility lies with them for losing our country, and that so quickly. Besides, up to now we have been ruthlessly ruined several times by dictatorial countries.

6. I think it is opportune here to mention the accusations directed against General Mihailovich by some people. That is, that he is in favor of dictatorship, for Greater Serbia and that he cooperates with the enemy. Such accusations are a cruel way of mocking a hero and his fighters. He is fighting under the worst conditions against dictators and for freedom, against separatism and for Yugoslavia. He is mostly accused for dictatorial desires and Greater Serbianism by those whose ideology is either Nazi or proletarian dictatorship, and by others who are pure separatists like Croats of the Pavelich kind. These accusations are accepted among our emigrants by people who are misinformed or by Communists and their followers, or by Croats who think they can free their countrymen of the responsibility for crimes committed in Yugoslavia if they distort the facts and accuse General Mihailovich and his men of cooperating with the enemy, of being in favor of dictatorship and Greater Serbia and against the Croats.

Such accusations, though unfounded, are disclaimed by General Mihailovich in statements and facts,—statements in which he reports that he and the Yugoslav Army under his command are fighting for freedom and democracy, for the unity of Yugoslavia and for a better society, more just and human than the one we had. General Mihailovich has rallied several younger politicians in his staff: Serbs, Slovenes and Croats; likewise several very prominent university professors and writers. These men, well-known, educated and confirmed democrats, lead the political activities among our people as much as conditions permit. General Mihailovich and his men represent that spirit which overthrew the dictatorial regime on March 27, 1941, and accepted war with Germany instead of the shameless Tripartite Pact34 which led us to the camp of the enemies of freedom and democracy.

7. If the Allies give serious help to General Mihailovich, I am confident that it will be possible to change the situation in Bulgaria in favor of the Allies. General Mihailovich is already in contact with representatives of the Bulgarian Peasant Party whose leader Mr. Georgi Dimitrov is in the Middle East with officers of the Officers’ League of Damjan Velcev. Aims in this direction, if aided by America in addition to the English, could establish favorable conditions which [Page 984]would facilitate an eventual invasion of the Balkans. Therefore, help to General Mihailovich imposes itself from the viewpoint of warfare and the future stabilization in the Balkans and in Central Europe.

I have the honor to enclose herewith three telegrams of General Mihailovich which I received by way of London.35

Please accept [etc.]

Yovan Djonovich
  1. Not printed.
  2. Signed at Berlin by Japan, Germany, and Italy, September 27, 1940; for text, see League of Nations Treaty Series, Vol. cciv, p. 386.
  3. None printed.