King Peter II of Yugoslavia to President Roosevelt

Mr. President: I am sorry that I am forced to address myself to you in this way, but I am encouraged by your friendship, for which I am grateful and of which I am proud.

Immediately upon my arrival here, on March 15th, Mr. Eden advised me to change the Royal Government and to abandon the Minister of War General Mihailovich. Two days later the British Ambassador told me that I did not need a Government, that I should organize a Committee of three members, whose sole duty would be to take care of the officials in emigration and that I should thus await the development of events in Yugoslavia and the future organization of the country. On March 18th, Mr. Churchill asked that on the day following my marriage I should no longer have a Government, but only a committee, which would begin negotiation with Tito; thereafter, I should entrust the rule of Yugoslavia to the Committee, which would become the “chief constable” of Yugoslavia.

My reply was that I could not change the Government, that I was very satisfied with it, that it was very popular with the people, and that the head of the Government was the best that I ever had. Mr. Churchill while approving of all this, concluded that the Royal Government had been compromised in the eyes of Tito.

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The crux of the question is the Minister of War General Mihailovich, whom the Government cannot abandon, without betraying the people, which for three years has been fighting under the most difficult conditions, without help, with its own blood and bread. I personally would become the traitor of my people and My Army in Yugoslavia, of which I am Supreme Commander. I told Mr. Churchill that it was too great a responsibility for me to assume and that I would like him to transmit his view in writing. Mr. Churchill replied that all this was not an official conversation, but a friendly suggestion, on which Tito insisted. The reality is murder, under disguise of my personal suicide.

On April 6th, Mr. Eden called on me again, apologizing for his action, since he felt not to have the right to interfere in our internal affairs, but stating that he was acting upon instructions. Again he counselled me to replace the Government with a new one, which de facto would be composed of three persons favorable to Tito.

On April 13th, Mr. Churchill insisted again, this time with an ultimatum-like request and with the menace that he would accuse General Mihailovich of collaboration with the Germans and that he would treat all of us accordingly, Myself as well as the Royal Government. As a proof of the alleged collaboration he even showed me a safe-conduct, in German, for some chetniks in Montenegro, despite my explanation that the term “chetnik” is also being used by Nedich’s detachments in order to create confusion.

We cannot believe that anything could have been decided, without our being consulted, either at Moscow or Teheran, concerning the future of Yugoslavia. If so, why do we have to commit suicide? Even if I should be forced, or worst, capable, of betraying, why provoke one of the greatest scandals in history by libelling as “traitors” our courageous people, who are fighting alone without anyone’s help, drowning in their own blood?

We have been told that there will not be any landing in the Balkans. If such a fatal decision was taken I implore you to change it.

Questioned about what would become of us if the Germans, under pressure from different sides, retreated and evacuated Yugoslavia and the civil war there continued, we were told that the policy of nonintervention would be followed, as in Spain. This in fact would mean that others would have the opportunity to intervene. The case of Tito is not Yugoslav alone. It is the test case for all of Central Europe, and, if successful, it will lead to much more, with no end in sight. Mr. Churchill was indeed correct when he stated that Tito was the “unifying element”, but it is true only in the reverse sense: for Tito has united against himself all Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

My people have always fought for moral principles of humanity, for liberty and independence, never asking the price to be paid with [Page 1361] their blood, carrying on their shoulders the Cross of our Lord. They should be helped and not left alone in their fight in the service of our civilization.

Tito’s following does not exceed thirty thousand men, which is less than a quarter of one per cent of the population of Yugoslavia. It is obvious that Tito, as representative of international communism, is repudiated by our nation, which remains deeply attached to its democratic faith and national tradition. Tito is weak and therefore I have to renounce the only Allied Minister of War in an occupied country, General Mihailovich; therefore I have to turn over to Tito the authority over the country and its future and to await the decision about my throne, a question that the enormous majority of the people has never raised. All this for whose sake? My people and My Army in the country expect me either to come there and fight together with them, or to defend them outside of the country as courageously as they are fighting in the Fatherland.

We cannot accept that the future of Yugoslavia be decided outside of us and without the participation of one of the three great Allies the United States of America, Therefore, I beg you, Mr. President, to intervene that the question of Yugoslavia, if not of all the Balkans, be the subject of a common discussion between ourselves, the United States, Great Britain and Russia, and under their common guarantee.

I, My Government and My Army in the country, as well as my entire people stand ready, as always, to make the greatest sacrifices for the common victory over the enemy and to rise as one man at the chosen and agreed moment.

In these times so difficult for my people, and me being fatherless, I address myself to you, Mr. President, as to a trusted friend, asking you to be good enough and send me, without delay, your advice and opinion.

I remain,

As ever Yours,

Peter II
  1. The copy of this letter in the Department files was prepared by Ambassador Fotich and dated by him as Washington, April 17, 1944.