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Serbia under the Swastika: A World War II Occupation, by Alexander Prusin

Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017. Pp. xiv, 274. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0252041062.

The German Occupation of Serbia

Prof. Prusin (New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology), a specialist in Eastern Europe, examines the German occupation of Serbia in 1941-1945.

Prusin opens with an overview of the Serb-dominated Yugoslavia that emerged after the Great War, not without some objection for Croatians and other minority communities in the new kingdom. He then gives us a short account of the origins of the Axis invasion, sparked by the sudden overthrow of the pro-Axis Prince Regent, which led to a swift invasion by Germany and her allies, Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria. There followed the dissolution of the South Slav State, with parts annexed to various Axis power and puppet regimes established in Croatia and Serbia, both of which collaborated with the occupiers.

From this point, Prusin confines his account largely to developments in Serbia, although making reference to developments in other parts of the erstwhile Yugoslavia as they impinged on events in Serbia. He covers German and Bulgarian occupation forces and policies, their local collaborators, the emergence of armed resistance, largely by nationalist groups, as with the Communists were initially reined in by Moscow. This initial resisitance faded quickly in the face of massive repression, leading to a period of relative quiescence, until Hitler’s invasion of Russia unleashed the Communist underground in 1941, later abetted by Allied support to varoius groups.

Prusin devoted individual chapters to the Holocaust in Serbia, the ways in which the Serbs coped with the occupation, and the return to massive resistance. He offers some surprising comments about the Royalist Chetnik movement, which appears to have been less inclined to collaboration than is generally thought.

Prusin does a good job of sorting though the many factions of Serb/Yugoslav/Balkan politics, collaboration, and resistance. Serbia Under the Swastika, a volume in the Illinois series “The History of Military Occupation”, a very useful read for anyone interested in the Balkans or the history of military occupation, and particular for its background on contemporary events in the region.


Note: Serbia Under the Swastika is also available as an -book, $30.00, ISBN 978-0-252-09961-8.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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