Last Battle Of World War II In Europe Fought In Odzak/Croatia

Odzak, Croatia, May 1945 Last Battle of World War II in Europe Croatian soldiers and volunteer defenders assemle

Odzak, Croatia, May 1945
Last Battle of World War II in Europe
Croatian soldiers and volunteer defenders assemle

May 2015 has been the month during which the world remembered the 70th anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe) – World War II victories, defeats, victims and heroes. It was on 8 May 1945 that the Allied forces accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, marking the end of the war in Europe. But it was not the end of WWII – not in Europe. It would also take another three months before Japan surrendered to end WWII elsewhere.
In Europe, World War II ended days later than what the world widely believes – i.e. that it was 8 May 1945. It’s generally considered that the last big battle of WWII in Europe was the so-called Georgian uprising on the Netherlands’ island of Texel, which ended in enormous losses for both sides to finally came to a complete end on 20 May 1945 with the arrival there of the Canadian troops.
Less known is the fact that the very last WWII battle in Europe actually occurred within the territory of WWII Independent State of Croatia – the Battle for Odzak. These days and post-WWII the town of Odzak is situated in Northern Bosnia and Herzegovina.
When commemorating 70th anniversaries of notable WWII events, whether they bring tears of joy or those of sadness to our eyes, it would be remiss not to pay tribute and remembrance to the actual very last battle of WWII in Europe and its heroes who were also its victims – slaughtered Croats.
The Battle for Odzak lasted sixteen days and ended on 25 May 1945.
Besides using the tactics of exhausting the Croatian defenders the “Yugoslav’ army Partisans brought in airplanes. The psychological effects of using powerful and destructive weapons had a significant effect of the morale of Croatian defenders and on the civilians. Tanks were introduced. Bombing ensued all day long, incessantly on 24 May 1945. On the other side of Bosna River the civilians were asking the Croatian soldiers to surrender, that nothing would happen to them. After surrender they were placed in stables at nearby Garevac, which were prepared for such an eventuality in advance. Garevac had already become a centre of horrendous Serb brutality against Croats: given that by end of 1944 they did not manage to take Tuzla, Serb Chetniks on Draza Mihajlovic order attacked Modrica and Garevac. They were severely defeated and then decided to no longer attack the Croatian military positions but instead attack whole Croatian villages in the area, including civilians in them. Murder and rape of Croatian women and children ran rampant. Many Serbs were members of Tito’s Partisans who attacked Odzak.
In late hours of the night of 24 May 1945 the centre of Odzak was attacked, bombed severely and captured by Partisans within two hours.

 

Slaughter and liquidation of Croats (soldiers and civilians) followed swiftly including all the Croatian soldiers who had surrendered prior to the bombing and were placed at Garevac (as mentioned above). The Battle for Odzak and its murderous aftermath was fiercely guarded as a secret by Tito’s Partisans and indeed during the entire time of the existence of communist Yugoslavia. It was only when in 1990’s Croatia’s plight for independence and secession from Yugoslavia picked up on steam that details of the Battle for Odzak and the terrible sufferings and slaughter of Croats gradually became to be known. Yugoslav state archives were finally opening doors for research.

 

In 2012 Stipo Pilic and Blanka Matkovic wrote an extensive research based essay “The Battle for Odzak: The War Ended Twenty Days Later” (PDF) and I have sourced information for this post from it. The article analyses the military operations in the area of Podvucjak (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and the Battle for Odzak at the end of May 1945, which represents the end of World War II in Europe. The first section presents the geographic and demographic characteristics of the area, while the second one describes military operations carried out between 1941 and 1944 with the emphasis on the organisation of defense, but also relations between Partisans and Chetniks. The third part analyses the situation in Podvucjak in 1945, and the fourth one battle for Odzak, which ended with the fall of that town on 27th or 28th May. In the last section the authors tried to identify locations of the POW camps and gravesites, but also the identities of those who committed war and post-war crimes against Croatian population in this area in May 1945.

 

 

There are still details that need to be uncovered as researchers and historians keep working at it and, for now, we owe those who perished so brutally after the Battle for Odzak in May 1945 without a trial, without a crime to their name, our deep respect for they were the last and brave WWII defenders of Croatia from Yugoslavia and even though they lost the war their bravery during those last 16 days of battles stands high among the bravest of the brave. For that and for their terrible deaths we owe them that the full truth of their brutal deaths be investigated and those guilty – condemned. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Comments

  1. Glad it was the last…until the next.

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  2. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    We OWE THEM AN IVESTIGATION.

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  3. This is very informative, Ina. Over here, I was taught that Tito, though feigning neutrality, allowed his people to help Allied soldiers escape to friendly lines. Here – it appears Croatia was dealing with a separate war, a civil war so to speak. Did I miss something or just not understand?

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    • In short, gp, what you saw was what many did too – information channels weren’t all that best as political interests commanded what the world will see. Tito did side with the Allies but Allies did not side with Tito at first, they first went on to support the Serbia’s Chetnik forces who were pro- Serbian ousted King (a cousin to British King George through mother) – anyway in short yes Croatia fought a bitter civil war only it was not civil war in true sense i.e, those who fought against it were Tito led Yugoslav communist Partisan forces. When the Kingdom of Yugoslavia crumbled in 1941, German invasion … beginning of breakup of “Yugoslavia” as put together after WWI. Tito saw a chance to keep Yugoslavia – not a Kingdom but a communist federation…Croatia declared independence but there was opposition to that independence from Tito and his Partisan forces and, hence, the “civil war”. The Ustashi forces were those that were created to support/administer the independence movement led by Pavelic. Croatia also had a regular army/conscription army – Home Guards – that sort replaced the Royal Army that was disbanded once the Kingdom fell – the Home Guards were to protect Croatia’s borders and territory from internal and external enemies. It was towards the end of WWII that Pavelic decided that Home Guards and Ustashe should be joined in one army of the state. At this time Tito’s Partisans invited Home Guards to defect into the Partisan forces and many did but also many stayed part of Croatian state army while significant numbers did not want to have anything to do with either and hid in forests or were arrested by either, imprisoned and executed towards the end of the war i.e. by May 1945 mostly. The facts are complex and Croatian situation was indeed hard – it was faced with two opposing armed forces – one wanting independent Croatia and the other wanting Yugoslavia to continue after the monarchy had left (the royal government existed in exile in London for a while)…there we are, the briefest I can make it

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      • Ina, this is fascinating and insightful information! My mother and grandparents literally lived through all of this, eventually leaving in the middle of the night for fear of assassination. I am currently writing a film screenplay about their story but it takes place during this exact time – towards the end of WWII, when everything in Croatia was a mess – Partisans, Ustashe, Tito, Pavelic, etc. – I have met with Tvrtko Jakovina in Zagreb and got his take on it. My mother and grandfather were always very vocal about this when I was growing up, and as you mentioned, it wasn’t until Croatia’s independence from Yugoslavia that the truth of these stories actually started coming out. I have used the following source “Croatia, Myth or Reality” as a resource for attempting to understand the political climate in the region during that time. Here is a link to an online version of it: http://www.studiacroatica.org/libros/mythe/indice.htm

        I would love to discuss this with you more privately to see if you can recommend more sources for me to dig through. Is there a way to private message you?

        Hvala Lijepa!

        P.S. I have returned from my trip to Croatia and received all the documents I need for Domovnica, so I’m gong to the Los Angeles consulate this week to try again. Thanks for all your advice, I went to the offices in Zagorje and Lepoglava that you listed on the other blog post 🙂

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      • Great news N.M – sounds like a fabulous project you’re on, although the process is sure to resurrect pain but truth must be told. You,re so welcome re citizenship advice. I will get back to you re email to use for communication away from comments section.

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      • I appreciate you taking the time to explain the situation and all the history behind it, Ina. The maps of the world certainly have been rearranged since I went to school!!

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      • Fluidity of maps has been busy indeed, gp – not always bloodless sadly. Cheers

        Liked by 1 person

  4. NewCroatian says:

    Remembering those party meetings I took part in as a youth and Family dinners we used to laugh at the exiled Croats who had no cuts to return and had fled back in 1945

    The Croatian Partisans saved Croatia from the Soviet red army revenge……

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  5. Reblogged this on First Night History.

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  6. WW2 was a violence war. So much hate and death. The last great war was just the beginning. Thank you for the history lesson.

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  7. Rex Croatorum says:

    Rajkovcicu baja, osta tvoja vojska nepridana – Berlin pao, Odzak nije!

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  8. I wish that history would allow for honesty instead of recreation and disinformatiion. It is so blatant. We need to make our voices loud so as to keep the truth out there for all to learn.

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  9. Good Morning, Ina !
    Roland Garros , WTA, Paris 2015 !
    Mirjana Lucic-Baroni ( Croatia ) – Simona Halep ( Romania )
    7-5; 6-1 !!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Forza LUCIC !!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Regards,
    Aliosa.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. CroatianPatriot says:

    It was the last battle for the independent Croatian state and they fought very brave and almost defeated the communists. It was here many Bosniaks who believed in the idea that Croatia should be independent gave their last blow to Yugoslavia. Army Commanders on the Croatian side were Ibrahim Pjanić , Avdaga Hasić, Petar Rajkovačić. But the 25th Serb Division arrived in Odzak commiting crimes very sad. Read more on the Odzak battle in the interesting 1981 book called ” 16th Muslim Brigade”
    they were the last defenders of Croatia.

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  11. Croatian freedom fighters did so well – regretfully ended up losing the war and Croatia was forced back together with those it didn’t want as part of Yugoslavia where the center was Serbia

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  12. Croatianpatriot says:

    almost a month of fighting between 35000 communists / Serb Nationalists and 1, 800 Croatian freedom fighters resulted in the only allowed mention of the Odzak battle in Yugoslavia when the Serbian newspaper NIN in june 1975 wrote “the enemy was much more dangerous and insidious then a German soldier… the Ustaše fought to death in Odzak ”

    This Whole battle was a huge embarrassment for the government of Yugoslavia. Commander of the Croatian defence, Petar Rajkovačić was wounded two times by the air force strike, but refused to surrender.

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  13. Heartafire says:

    Ina, thank you for this most informative article. I am a history buff but know little of the challenges/triumphs of the Baltic states and find your texts most intriguing and have a great admiration for the courage and tenacity of the people of that region. In a side note, Last night I read for the fifth time “The Diary of Anne Frank”, once again I cried over the atrocities and the brilliant journal kept by this young girl, it some how it puts everyday circumstances into perspective.

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    • Thank yo Hollie, if we could only see the full truth of WWII, condemn and praise where each is due we would be a much better and fairer world as to Anne Fran Diary and similar accounts, regardless of who the perpetrators and the victims were they tear my heart out.

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      • Heartafire says:

        I don’t think history has left any doubt as to who the perpetrators were… or the victims

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      • That part is definitely true, Hollie – however given that crimes of those that stood among the allies were as horrendous as those of the losing sides it is time that these victims receive justice and recognition. Victory in war is one thing and war crimes are a separate thing I think

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  14. Heartafire says:

    The deaths of 11 million human beings exterminated by the Nazi’s can hardly be compared to the unsubstantiated suggestion that 0ver 190,000 German women were raped by American soldiers during the period of 1945-1955. My grandfather died in that war, my great grandfather was gassed in France in WW1. Of course I feel very strongly about this issue but am not naïve enough to imagine that this could not happen, I do feel the Professor and others with any knowledge of these horrendous acts need to present the evidence. The penalty for American soldiers for such an act is death.

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    • Indeed, Hollie – but don’t forget that Stalin murdered some 36 + million innocent people and his judges sat in Nuremberg judging Nazi crimes; Yugoslavia’s Tito was on allied side yet murdered during and post war more than a million people out of 15 million, let alone all the other crimes committed by communist forces that were on the side of the victorious… Much evidence exists and much is denied … I do not think that the evidence of rapes is unsubstantiated – there are actual records kept by churches etc of reports of rape etc…I do not subscribe to pinning collective guilt but I do believe many individuals on all sides were guilty of terrible crimes and rape is as bad as murder as far as I am concerned …

      Liked by 2 people

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