Battle of Poljana

Last updated
Battle of Poljana
Part of World War II in Yugoslavia
DateMay 14–15, 1945
Location
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
Result

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

  • Axis forces surrender
Belligerents
Axis:
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)
Allies:
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)
Strength
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.

Contents

Background

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

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

Related Research Articles

Carinthia (Slovenia) Traditional region in Slovenia

Carinthia, also Slovene Carinthia or Slovenian Carinthia, is a traditional region in northern Slovenia. The term refers to the small southeasternmost area of the former Duchy of Carinthia, which after World War I was allocated to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes according to the 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain. It has no distinct centre, but a local centre in each of the three central river valleys among the heavily forested mountains.

Chetniks resistance movement

The Chetnik Detachments of the Yugoslav Army, also known as the Yugoslav Army in the Homeland or The Ravna Gora Movement, commonly known as the Chetniks, was a Yugoslav royalist and Serbian nationalist movement in occupied Yugoslavia led by Draža Mihailović, which was anti-Axis in its long-term goals, and engaged in marginal resistance activities for limited periods. They also engaged in tactical or selective collaboration with the occupying forces for almost all of the war. The Mihailović Chetniks were not a homogeneous movement. The Chetnik movement adopted a policy of collaboration with regard to the Axis, and engaged in cooperation to one degree or another by establishing modus vivendi or operating as "legalised" auxiliary forces under Axis control. Over a period of time, and in different parts of the country, the Chetnik movement was progressively drawn into collaboration agreements: first with the Nedić forces in the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia, then with the Italians in occupied Dalmatia and Montenegro, with some of the Ustaše forces in northern Bosnia, and after the Italian capitulation also with the Germans directly.

Draža Mihailović Yugoslav general

Dragoljub "Draža" Mihailović was a Yugoslav Serb general during World War II. A staunch royalist, he retreated to the mountains near Belgrade when the Germans overran Yugoslavia in April 1941 and there he organized bands of guerrillas known as the Chetnik Detachments of the Yugoslav Army.

Dravograd Place in Carinthia, Slovenia

Dravograd is a small town in northern Slovenia, close to the border with Austria. It is the seat of the Municipality of Dravograd. It lies on the Drava River at the confluence with the Meža and the Mislinja. It is part of the traditional Slovenian provinces of Carinthia and the larger Carinthia Statistical Region.

Meža river in Slovenia

The Meža (Slovene) or Mieß (German) is a river in the Austrian state of Carinthia and in Slovenia, a right tributary of the Drava. It is 43 km long, of which 42 km in Slovenia. Its catchment area is 551.7 km2, of which 543 km2 in Slovenia.

The Bleiburg repatriations occurred in May 1945, at the end of World War II in Europe, when tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians associated with the Axis fleeing Yugoslavia were repatriated to that country. They were subjected to forced marches, together with captured columns in Yugoslavia. Tens of thousands were executed and many taken to forced labor camps. The events are named for the Carinthian border town of Bleiburg, where the initial repatriation was conducted.

Yugoslav Partisans Yugoslavian resistance movement

The Yugoslav Partisans, or the National Liberation Army, officially the National Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia, was the Communist-led resistance to the Axis powers in occupied Yugoslavia during World War II.

Sekula Drljević Montenegrin politician

Sekula Drljević was a Montenegrin lawyer and separatist politician who collaborated with the Italian military occupation authorities in Montenegro during World War II.

Battle of Lijevče Field battle

The Battle of Lijevče Field was a battle fought between March 30 and April 8, 1945 between the Croatian Armed Forces and Chetnik forces on the Lijevče Field near Banja Luka in what was then the Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

Italian governorate of Montenegro short-lived territory on the Balkan Peninsula between 1941–1943

The Italian governorate of Montenegro existed from October 1941 to September 1943 as an occupied territory under military government of Fascist Italy during World War II. Although the Italians had intended to establish a quasi-independent Montenegrin kingdom, these plans were permanently shelved after a popular uprising in July 1941. Following the Italian surrender in September 1943, the territory of Montenegro was occupied by German forces which withdrew in December 1944.

Dobroslav Jevđević Bosnian Serb politician and Chetnik commander

Dobroslav Jevđević was a Bosnian Serb politician and self-appointed Chetnik commander in the Herzegovina region of the Axis-occupied Kingdom of Yugoslavia during World War II. He was a member of the interwar Chetnik Association and the Organisation of Yugoslav Nationalists, a Yugoslav National Party member of the National Assembly, and a leader of the opposition to King Alexander between 1929 and 1934. The following year, he became the propaganda chief for the Yugoslav government.

Pavle Đurišić Montenegrin Serb professional officer of the Royal Yugoslav Army

Pavle Đurišić was a Montenegrin Serb regular officer of the Royal Yugoslav Army who became a Chetnik commander (vojvoda) and led a significant proportion of the Chetniks in Montenegro during World War II. He distinguished himself and became one of the main commanders during the popular uprising against the Italians in Montenegro in July 1941, but later collaborated with the Italians in actions against the Communist-led Yugoslav Partisans. In 1943, his troops carried out several massacres against the Muslim population of Bosnia, Herzegovina and the Sandžak, and participated in the anti-Partisan Case White offensive alongside Italian forces. Đurišić was captured by the Germans in May 1943, escaped and was recaptured.

Ernest Peterlin was a Slovene military officer who rose to a senior position in the Royal Yugoslav Army prior to the Second World War.Married to Anja Roman Rezelj. A decided anti-Communist, during the war he became a prominent anti-Partisan military leader and one of the main exponents of the pro-Western faction of the Slovene Home Guard, an anti-Communist collaborationist militia active in parts of German-occupied Slovenia between 1943 and 1945. In 1945, he was tried and sentenced to death by the new Yugoslav Communist authorities and executed in 1946.

Anti-Communist Volunteer Militia

The Anti-Communist Volunteer Militia were local armed auxiliary units composed of Chetniks and Slovene anti-Partisans in Italian-occupied parts of Yugoslavia. The same name was contemporaneously used to designate both similar Slovenian auxiliary units whom sided with the Italian authorities in the Italian-annexed part of Slovenia and also some Montenegrin auxiliaries in Montenegro.

The Montenegrin Volunteer Corps was a collaborationist military formation that was created in the spring of 1944 under Chetnik leader Pavle Đurišić with assistance from the Germans, Milan Nedić, and Dimitrije Ljotić. It was formally a part of the Serbian Volunteer Corps. The Corps consisted of some of Đurišić's former troopers that were released from German captivity, but the majority were Chetniks that remained in Montenegro under the name of "national forces". Đurišić developed the force in Montenegro and Sandžak and it consisted of between 7,000 and 8,000 men.

The Kočevski Rog massacre was a series of massacres near Kočevski Rog in late May 1945 in which thousands of members of the Nazi Germany–allied Slovene Home Guard and their families were executed without formal charges or trial by special units of the Yugoslav Partisans; other victims were Croat, Serb and Montenegrin collaborationists, Italian and German troops.

World War II in the Slovene Lands started in April 1941 and lasted until May 1945. Slovenia was in a unique situation during World War II in Europe, only Greece shared its experience of being trisected, however, Slovenia was the only region that experienced a further step — absorption and annexation into neighboring Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Hungary. The Slovene-settled territory was divided largely between Nazi Germany and the Kingdom of Italy, with smaller territories occupied by Hungary, and the Independent State of Croatia.

Zaharije Ostojić Montenegrin Chetnik leader

Zaharije Ostojić was a Montenegrin Serb military officer who served as the chief of the operational, organisational and intelligence branches of the Chetnik Supreme Command led by Draža Mihailović in Yugoslavia during World War II. He was a major in the Royal Yugoslav Army Air Force prior to the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia, and was involved in the coup that deposed Prince Paul of Yugoslavia on 27 March 1941. After the coup, he escorted Prince Paul to exile in Greece, and was in Cairo at the time of the invasion in April. In September 1941, he was landed on the Italian-occupied Montenegrin coast along with a British Special Operations Executive (SOE) liaison officer and two companions. He escorted the SOE officer to the German-occupied territory of Serbia and introduced him to the Yugoslav Partisan leader Josip Broz Tito then Mihailović. Ostojić soon became Mihailović's chief of staff, and after the German attempt to capture the Chetnik leader during Operation Mihailović in December 1941, brought the Chetnik Supreme staff to Montenegro where they were re-united with Mihailović in June 1942. During the remainder of 1942, Ostojić launched a counter-attack against Ustaše troops of the Independent State of Croatia returning to the eastern Bosnian town of Foča where they were expected to continue their genocidal anti-Serb policies. As many as 2,000 local Muslims were subsequently killed in the town by forces under Ostojić's command. Ostojić later oversaw large-scale massacres of civilians and burning of Muslim villages in the border region between Montenegro and the Sandžak.

The Sandžak Muslim militia was established in Sandžak and eastern Herzegovina in Axis occupied Yugoslavia between April or June and August 1941 during World War II. It was under control of the Independent State of Croatia until September 1941, when Italian forces gradually put it under their command and established additional units not only in Sandžak, but in eastern Herzegovina as well. After the capitulation of Italy in September 1943 it was put under German control, while some of its units were merged with three battalions of Albanian collaborationist troops to establish the "SS Polizei-Selbstschutz-Regiment Sandschak" under command of the senior Waffen SS officer Karl von Krempler.

References

Notes
  1. Channel 4 - History - World War II: A chronology
  2. Thomas, 1995, p.23
  3. Thomas, 1995, p.17
  4. Memorial Room at Topolšica:http://www.culture.si/en/Memorial_Room_at_Topol%C5%A1ica
  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
Bibliography