Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia" by Marko Attila Hoare [4]


The breakdown in the Partisan-Chetnik alliance had the effect of moving both movements toward their ideological extremes; the Partisans became a more explicitly Marxist/Communist movement fighting for social revolution as well as liberation, even as the Chetniks virtually ceased all resistance activities, and instead made deals and alliances with the occupying forces while laying the groundwork for an ethnically "pure" future Greater Serbia.

The Chetniks in East Bosnia soon turned to full-fledged genocide against the Muslims of the region (Jews were also targeted), while plans for a "Homogenous Serbia" were drawn up; the ideology of the movement was now fully developed and driving events at least as much, if not more, than the current political situation. This genocide would have been much worse than it was had it not been for the fact that the Chetnik movement was not as centrally organized and controlled as the Partisans were (a fact which would ultimately favor the Partisans, although not yet).

Much of the first pages of this chapter are concerned with the attempts to build this "Greater Serbia" within the confines of Axis occupation, as well as continuing cooperation between the Bosnian Chetnik movement and the Nedic regime (which was never total). Chetnik propaganda at this point stressed the non-Serb nature of the Partisan movement, and was drenched in virulent anti-Semitic rhetoric. The irreligious nature of the Partisans was also stressed, as well as their urban and non-patriarchal ways.

The Partisan leadership came to recognize that Great Serb sentiment was their greatest enemy, and that they would have to combat it with appeals to pan-Bosnian unity and patriotism. They also realized that they had made insufficient efforts to politicize the masses, who were easily swayed by crude nationalist hate-mongering.

For awhile, the Partisan military leadership even became (unrealistically) focused on liberating Sarajevo; aside from the economic desirability of this then-unattainable goal, this fixation on the Bosnian capital revealed how the Bosnian focus of Partisan activity was morphing into a specifically Bosnian Partisan revolution and movement.

As the Partisans increased their efforts to reach out to Croats and Muslims, they also tried to keep the door open to Serbs by setting up "Volunteer" units; military units of Serbs who fought alongside Partisan units without becoming Communists themselves. This effort to allow Serb peasant soldiers to maintain solidarity while fighting the occupation ended up being more trouble than it was worth, as the loyalty and military worth of these units was always questionable; ultimately, most would go over to the Chetniks regardless.

The Partisans also broke with Marxist orthodoxy in one important way--they made great efforts to show sensitivity to and respect for religious traditions, even assigning members of the clergy to units and giving them distinctive religious insignia.


There is a great deal of detail I am bypassing in this extremely brief account of this chapter; in the interests of finishing this review in a timely manner, I will continue to provide bare-bones summaries of the final three chapters as well. I cannot stress enough how substantive and readable the book is. I highly recommend it.

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