Battle of Poljana

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Battle of Poljana
Part of World War II in Yugoslavia
DateMay 14–15, 1945
Poljana, near the village of Prevalje, Yugoslavia

Coordinates: 46°32′40″N14°52′25.19″E / 46.54444°N 14.8736639°E / 46.54444; 14.8736639

Yugoslav Partisans flag (1942-1945).svg Partisan victory

  • Axis forces surrender
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Flag of Independent State of Croatia.svg  Independent State of Croatia
Flag of the Slovene Home Guard.svg Slovene Home Guard
Flag of Montenegro (1941-1944).svg Montenegrin Volunteer Corps (former Chetniks and the survivors of the Battle on Lijevče field)
Yugoslav Partisans flag (1942-1945).svg Partisans
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom (Limited involvement)
Commanders and leaders
Yugoslav Partisans flag (1942-1945).svg Kosta Nađ
(Commander, 3rd Army (Yugoslav Partisans)
Detachment of mixed 30,000 strong Axis column Elements of the 11th Dalmatian Assault Brigade
Casualties and losses
350 killed
250 wounded (Partisan estimate)
c. 100 killed and wounded

The Battle of Poljana (Monday May 14 – Tuesday May 15, 1945) was a battle of World War II in Yugoslavia. It started at Poljana, near the village of Prevalje in Yugoslavia (now Slovenia), [1] and was the culmination of a series of engagements between the Yugoslav Army and a large retreating Axis column, numbering in excess of 30,000 men. The column consisted of units of the German (Wehrmacht), the Armed Forces of the Independent State of Croatia, the Montenegrin People's Army (former Chetniks and the survivors of the Battle of Lijevče Field), [2] and Slovene Home Guard forces, as well as other fascist collaborationist factions and even civilians who were attempting to escape into British-controlled Austria. It took place after Nazi Germany officially surrendered on 8 May.

World War II in Yugoslavia conflict that took place during World War II

Military operations in World War II in Yugoslavia began on 6 April 1941, when the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was swiftly conquered by Axis forces and partitioned between Germany, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria and client regimes. Subsequently, a guerrilla liberation war was fought against the Axis occupying forces and their locally established puppet regimes, including the fascist Independent State of Croatia and the Government of National Salvation in the German-occupied territory of Serbia, by the Communist-led republican Yugoslav Partisans. Simultaneously, a multi-side civil war was waged between the Yugoslav communist Partisans, the Serbian monarchist Chetniks, the Croatian fascist Ustashe and Home Guard, Serbian Volunteer Corps and State Guard, as well as Slovene Home Guard troops.

Poljana, Prevalje Place in Carinthia, Slovenia

Poljana is a settlement on the left bank of the Meža River in the Municipality of Prevalje in the Carinthia region in northern Slovenia, close to the border with Austria.

Prevalje Town and Municipality in Slovenia

Prevalje is a settlement and a municipality in northern Slovenia. It lies in the traditional Slovenian province of Carinthia. On 1 January 1999 Prevalje became an independent municipality. Prevalje lies in a valley where the Meža River emerges from a narrow gorge, full of fluvioglacial sediments. To the north the settlement is limited by the Strojna, Stražišče, and Dolga Brda hills. To the south are Navrski vrh and Riflov vrh.



The Armed Forces of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) were reorganized in November 1944 to combine the units of the Ustaše and Army of the Independent State of Croatia into 18 divisions, comprising 13 infantry, two mountain, two assault and one replacement division, each with its own organic artillery and other support units. There were also several armoured units. From early 1945, the divisions were allocated to various German Corps and by March 1945 were holding the Southern Front. [3]

Independent State of Croatia Former country, fascist puppet state

The Independent State of Croatia was a World War II fascist puppet state of Germany and Italy. It was established in parts of occupied Yugoslavia on 10 April 1941, after the invasion by the Axis powers. Its territory consisted of most of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as some parts of modern-day Serbia and Slovenia, but also excluded many Croat-populated areas in Dalmatia, Istria, and Međimurje regions.

In the spring of 1945, the German Army and their allies were in full retreat from the Yugoslav Army. In early April, the Yugoslav 3rd Army, under the command of Kosta Nađ, fanned out through the Drava Valley region (Podravina), reaching a point north of Zagreb, and crossed the old Austrian border with Yugoslavia in the Dravograd sector. The 3rd Army closed the ring around Axis forces when its advanced motorized detachments linked up with detachments of the 4th Army in Carinthia. As a result, the German Army Group E was prevented from escaping northwest across the Drava river. Completely surrounded, General Alexander Löhr, Commander-in-Chief of Army Group E was forced to sign the unconditional surrender of the forces under his command [4] at Topolšica, near Velenje, Slovenia, on Wednesday May 9. Nevertheless, some of his troops, along with collaborationist units, namely the Croatian Armed Forces, Slovene Home Guard, Montenegrin People's Army (former Chetniks), and elements of other factions, continued to resist and tried to fight their way west to what they hoped would be the protection of the British at Klagenfurt.

Yugoslav Peoples Army 1945-1992 combined military forces of Yugoslavia

The Yugoslav People's Army, often referred-to simply by the initialism JNA, was the military of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Kosta Nađ Yugoslav general

Konstantin "Kosta" Nađ was a Yugoslav Partisan Army general that fought during World War II.


Podravina or Podravje are Slavic names for the Drava river basin in Croatia and Slovenia.

The battle

Just before 9 am on May 14, a significant force of mostly Croatian Armed Forces units with some Montenegrin People's Army and Slovenian Home Guard troops approached Yugoslav Army positions at the Šurnik farm near Poljana demanding free passage west. This was refused, and firing commenced on both sides. Croatian Armed Forces attacks, including artillery fire support, [5] intensified in the afternoon, evening and overnight, finally ceasing on the morning of 15 May with the arrival of around 20 British tanks. Tense negotiations followed, during which British officers made it abundantly clear that they would not offer protection to the collaborators and that unconditional surrender to the Yugoslav Army was the only option. White flags of surrender were finally raised around 4 pm on 15 May. [6]

White flag neutrality sign

White flags have had different meanings throughout history and depending on the locale.

Casualty estimates by the Yugoslav Army were at least 310 Croatian Armed Forces and Axis dead in the two main locations of fighting, and 250 wounded. On the Yugoslav Army side, losses were considerably lower, numbering fewer than 100 dead and wounded.[ citation needed ]

The surrender of this last area of Axis resistance 8 days after the official end of World War II in Europe, the surrender of the Germans on Monday 7 May 1945, was the last major battle of World War II in Europe.[ citation needed ]

End of World War II in Europe

The final battles of the European Theatre of World War II as well as the German surrender to the Allies took place in late April and early May 1945.

German Instrument of Surrender 1945 historical document

The German Instrument of Surrender was the legal document which effected the extinction of Nazi Germany, and ended World War II in Europe. The definitive text was signed in Karlshorst, Berlin, on the night of 8 May 1945 by representatives of the three armed services of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) and the Allied Expeditionary Force together with the Supreme High Command of the Red Army, with further French and US representatives signing as witnesses. The signing took place 9 May 1945 at 00:16 local time.

On May 15, the Bleiburg repatriations began.

See also

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  1. Channel 4 - History - World War II: A chronology
  2. Thomas, 1995, p.23
  3. Thomas, 1995, p.17
  4. Memorial Room at Topolšica:
  5. "Memories of a Croatian Soldier: Zvonko's Story", Autobiographic annotations prepared by Zvonko Springer (ZS), Anif (Salzburg), 1999
  6. Franci Strle: Veliki Finale na Koroškem (2nd edition, 1977) p322-354