Partisan-German contacts and March Negotiations 1943

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G. Trifkovic
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Partisan-German contacts and March Negotiations 1943

Post by G. Trifkovic » 22 May 2005 20:29

Greetings,

This contoversial episode took place in March 1943,during the operation "Weiss".In Yugoslav literature first mentioned in the first half of the 80s,since 90s main argument of Chetnik supporters in attempts to discredit the Yugoslav National Liberation Movement.Both attachments here are downloaded from pro-chetnik site http://www.pogledi.co.yu and I would realy like to know if they are authentic. Can somebody identify any of the people on the picture or verify that the signatures on the document are genuine? One is beyond doubt: negotiations definitely took place; what was really behind the partisan motiv to enter them is debatable.
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Post by Larry D. » 23 May 2005 13:08

All I can say is that I remember seeing this prisoner exchange protocol document in the microfilmed German records when I went through them many years ago. There were fairly frequent prisoner exchanges with the Partisans, although usually at a much more local level with far fewer prisoners involved. If this is the document I remember seeing in the T-120 (Kasche embassy) or the T-501 (Glaise von Horstenau) records, then it must be authentic since there would have been no way for the Chetniks to have some how surreptitiously inserted it into those records, which were in German custody until May 1945 and then in U.S. custody. The U.S. did the microfilming in Alexandria, Virginia, and then returned the paper originals to Germany in the 1960's.

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Post by G. Trifkovic » 23 May 2005 22:41

Thanks for verification.Yes,examples of prisoner exchange are abundant and aknowledged by ex-Yu history (even a film was made about a fictional(?) one). However,article nr.3 and beyond caused the controversy- Vladimir Velebit,one of the tree partisan negotiators claims in his book "Svjedok historije" how he believes Tito was just trying to buy time and was bluffing-nothing of a long-standing agreement would have been made,altough I read the Germans in the field were "hot" for the idea.What were their true motives is also hard to say. Hitler solved the whole case saying something like "Mit Banditen wird nicht verhandelt-sie werden niedergeschossen!"

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Post by G. Trifkovic » 26 Oct 2005 20:24

Another information,not connected to the March negotiations,but interesting in regard to the partisan-German contacts:

"For more than a year negotiations took place between OB Suedost (Heeresgruppe F) and Yugoslav side over prisoner exchange.Using this channel, at the beginning of April,OB Suedost (Heeresgruppe E) made it known that the HG destroyed only as many buildings and infrastructure as it was dictated by local situation. After the Yugoslav envoy made it clear that the standpoint of the Yugoslav GHQ in regard to this question basicaly corresponds to the German one,colonel Von Selchow was given the assigment to make concrete steps, namely in the direction of sparing the city of Zagreb. Altough these negotiations reached no conlusion,OB Suedost ordered that in Zagreb no demolitions are to take place and that the bridges should be cleaned of explosive charges."


These lines were written by the ex-Chief of Staff of "Heeresgruppe E" ("Endkampf auf dem Balkan",Heidelberg,1955, p.141) Erich Schmidt-Richberg and this information is totaly new for me. If true,it means that the conntacts were kept almost to the very end. Why would the Germans make such a statement? As if though somebody felt that the good part of the HG would be taken prisoner by the Yugoslavs and wanted to appease future victors...

Any opinions?

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Gaius

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Post by G. Trifkovic » 16 Mar 2006 16:21

Here is a brief chronology of German-NOVJ contacts (compiled using: Milan Basta-Djurica Labovic:"Partizani za pregovarackim stolom",Zagreb,1986; Vasa Kazimirovic:"Njemacki general u Zagrebu",Kragujevac-Beograd,1996):

* 7th of August-5th of September 1942:In Livno,one of the captured employees of "Hansa Leichtmetall" Hans Ott is released and sent to German authorities with Partisan proposals on prisoner exchange.On 23rd,Marijan Stilinovic travels to Zagreb for further talks.On 5th of September exchange is made at Studeno Vrelo (near Posusje,west-Herzegovina).49 Partisans were exchanged for Ing. Ott,seven other germans captured at Livno,and a group of 24 Croats;

*25th of September-17th of November 1942:In Jajce,4 German civilians were captured,including Ing. Ottmar Siegelhuber (of "Elektro-Bosna").HQ of the 1st Proleter brigade released one of them,one Franz Leinschütz.He went to Banja Luka with the exchange proposal.German authorities agreed,and the negotiations "were succesefuly led" on 17th of November,again at Livno. German delegation was composed of Hpt. Hans Heyss,Ing.Hans Ott and StBF Heinrich.NOVJ was represented by Vladimir Velebit and Mihovil Tartalja Misa.

*11th of March-1st half od April 1943: Hardly pressed with 4000 wounded in the Neretva valley,Tito offers prsioner exchange,truce and disscusion on some political questions and demands recognition of NOVJ as a regular fighting force. 24 German soldiers,including Major Arthur Strecker,CO of 2/738.IR were offered in exchange for Ivan Marinkovic of KPH,Hertha Hass and others.Negotiations were led by Vladimir Velebit and partly by Milovan Djilas and Koca Popovic from NOVJ side; German side was represented by Hans Ott,Edmund Glaise von Horstenau and partly by Gen.Benignus Dippold of 717.ID.Talks were held in G.Vakuf,Sarajevo and Zagreb.Prisoners were exchanged,railway sabotage in Croatia ceased for a while,but neither recognition of NOVJ nor deal on political questions were achieved (nor was any agreement signed).

*23rd of August-? 1943: 3rd Vojvodina brigade captured 24 Germans on 8/23 near the village Nestina (Ilok).Main HQ for Vojvodina authorised Vukasin Bivolarevic Volf to go to Ruma and propose exchange.Certain Volksdeutscher Felinger from village of Besenovi took the message to Wehrmacht colonel,commander of Ruma."All patriots in Ruma camp were offered;others could be brought from local prison"...Deal was made in the "Adler" inn,and the prisoners were exchanged on Jezovacki gat channel,between Ruma and Stejanovac.

*Summer of 1943-beginning of 1944: Contacts which began in March were maintained trough corspondence and trough visits of Marijan Stilinovic of Main HQ for Croatia to Zagreb.Siegrfried Kasche gave impulse for the new talks.Stilinovic met Ott in Zagreb in November 1943,and according to Kasche economical questions were disscused (such as shipping of chlorine from "Elektro-Bosna" to Germany),among others (recognition on NOVJ).

*Beginning of February 1944- early 1945:Pisarovina,30 km SW from Zagreb was agreed upon by both sides (late November-late December) to be an art of "neutral zone" (and 5km in all directions from Pisarovina) where prisoner exchanges could be made.NOVJ was mostly represented by Josip Brncic and than by Boris Bakrac.Sonderfuehrer Wilibald Nemecek (of Horstenau's staff) was representing the Germans.
Brncic remembers being in Zagreb 5 times,organising 5 exchanges thereby releasing some 200 partsians (50-60 were female).He exchanged his last group on 3/6/1944.
Bakrac travelled to Zagreb some 25 times.12-15 exchanges were made without his presence.Some 800-900 prisoners were exchanged.Here are some dates and numbers of partisans released (based on Bakrac's memory and notes he made at the time;published in "Zbornik 8 Historijskog instituta u Karlovcu",Karlovac 1977):

"12/12/1943:32 comrades,of which 7 members of KPJ,2 members of SKOJ,others simphatisers...
2/10/1944:57 fighters of which 1 brigade commissar,1 company commissar,2 corporals.All in all 9 KP members,,4 SKOJ members,other simphatisers...
4/25/1945:32 fighters of which 2 company Cmdrs,1 bat. commissar,1 com.commissar,all in all 11 KP members,2 SKOJ members,other simphatisers..."

Highest number (30) of partisans was asked for Gen.Karl Krebs Dewitz,captured in Banja Luka by 13th Krajina Bde in September 1944.Exchanges continued in Pisarovina until very late in the war.

*Late June-late July 1944: Upon capture of two soldiers of 369.ID (Kroat.),namely Unterfeldwebel Ewald Aulke and corporal Gerhard Wilcajc,South-Herzegovina NO detachment sent a letter to German command at Stolac,offering the two in exchange for Salko Mrgan (political worker) and Danilo Miletic. Meeting took place at Drenovac or Hill 286 south of Stolac,on June 29th 1944.One prisoner was exchanged. Germans were interested in continuing the talks.On July 31st,two other NCOs and three soldiers were exchanged on the Hill 286. Corespondence continued and "the prisoners were regulary exchanged,like in Pisarovina..."

*October 1944:Upon capture of 30 "Polish"(?) legioneers of 392.ID (Kro.) by 43.Istra division,German command in Ogulin proposed an exchange.OZNA officer Zvonko Barac was NOVJ representative.Talks were held at Sv.Jakov's church near Ogulin.30 persons wanted by NOVJ were transfered to Karlovac,and the exchange could not be made at the spot. However,in the next two days they were brought to Pisarovina and exchanged.

*End of February 1945: 16 officers and political workers of the 1.bat of 3.Zumberak Bde. captured at village of Jamnice were,after some problems,exchanged for 24 German officers.

*20th of February 1945-beginning of March 1945:Colonel Eberlein along with his son Major Eberlein of the 104th Jaeger division were captured when units of 6th Krajina Bde. attacked their armoured train between Busovaca and Lasva (central Bosnia).Talks were held with the German command in Vitez; for the two,5th NOVJ corps asked for partisans and equippment captured earlier in Vitez.Germans aparently agreed and the exchange was made.

*12th-16th of March 1945:Bakrac is in Zagreb,holding talks with Ott and Major(?) Stephani of Loehr' staff.Germans ask for a free passage for HG "E" to Austria.

*6th of May 1945:At 2200,Bakrac arrives for the last time in occupied Zagreb.He is taken to Zrinjevac,to German HQ. Oberst Selchow >see last post< meets him,announcing that Zagreb will spared of demolition,but also asks for a free passage to Austria.Bakrac declines.

During the night,Germans leave Zagreb,and next time they face the Partisans at the negotiation table,in Slovenia severak days later,it will be to disscuss surrender terms.

P.S. Corrections and suggestions are most welcomed.

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Post by Larry D. » 16 Mar 2006 16:53

Excellent information, Gaius! I don't recall all of those from the microfilm, but a number of them look familiar. I'm sure the information is accurate.

--Larry

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Post by G. Trifkovic » 16 Mar 2006 17:07

Dear Mr.D,

Most of the info on lesser known exchanges in Labovic/Basta book comes from Yugoslavia,namely from articles,occasional quote from "Zbornik" and statements given by those who took part in negotiations.For example,in the "Eberlein episode",only references given are those to statements (given in April 1984.) by three senior partisan officers of 6th Krajina Bde.
I included the episode,because it won't be that hard to establish whether KG "Eberlein" of 104.JD ever existed and whether it was used in defence of Travnik,15-19th of February 1945. For Col.Eberlein it is stated that he was the CO of 639. "puka za osiguranje".If not,we'll struck it from the list.

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Gaius

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Post by Klemen L. » 16 Mar 2006 18:53

Yes, there were prisoner-of-war exchanges between Germans and Yugoslav (Communist) partisans. There were even some truce agreements between both parties by which the partisans restrained themselves from attacking some vital German railway and road communications, while the Germans left them alone on their liberated areas. Some info (with a map) about these POWs exchanges you can find in the book ZUR GESCHICHTE DER DEUTSCHEN KRIEGSGEFANGENEN DES ZWEITEN WELTKRIEGES: DIE DEUTSCHE KRIEGSGEFANGENE IN JUGOSLAWIEN 1941-1949, BAND I/1, p.80-87. There is included a short testimony of Unteroffizier Hans-Ernst Schilling, who was at the time an Adjudant in the Headquarters of the 173rd Reserve-Division in Ruma, where he recalls such an exchange during August - September 1943, when some 60 captured Partisans were exchanged for 30 captured German soldiers on the southern slope of Fruska Gora. Another German eyewitness a Stabsartzt in a German military hospital in Zagreb (Agram) claims that from October 1943 to January 1945 around 300-400 people were exchanged.

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Post by G. Trifkovic » 16 Mar 2006 21:46

There were even some truce agreements between both parties by which the partisans restrained themselves from attacking some vital German railway and road communications, while the Germans left them alone on their liberated areas.


Could you post some details?

Gaius

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Post by G. Trifkovic » 20 Mar 2006 02:34

Mr.D.,

I did some checking on "Eberlein episode". In your articles on anti-partisan operations in NDH (Operation "Lawine"),I found the

104. Jäger-Div. (main force)

Kampfgruppe Eberlein with:

Stab/Sicherungs-Rgt. 639...


engaged in central Bosnia.Capture came month later,which is I believe sufficiently proved by the extract from "Lageberichte des OKW aus dem Führerhauptquartier" for February 27nd 1945:

Südosten
Bei Serajewo Abnahme der Kampftätigkeit. Die Straße nach Nordwesten ist freigekämpft. Der Oberst Ritter von Eberlein wird vermißt.


http://www.people.freenet.de/helmut.ramm/lage_feb_5.htm

Cheers,

Gaius

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Post by G. Trifkovic » 24 Mar 2006 16:14

Here are the scans of the letters both sides sent each other just prior to the first Hill 286 exchange (Source:Basta-Labovic,"Partizani...):
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Post by G. Trifkovic » 24 Mar 2006 16:38

Official authorization issued to the "representative of the Supreme HQ of YPLA" Koca Popovic,just prior to Gornji Vakuf talks.
At the bottom,the piece of paper which the Germans issued to Popovic for a safe passage back to partisan lines. (same source):
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Post by pavle » 24 Mar 2006 18:09

Why is the whole letter written in the yugoslave language, except for the heil hitler at the bottom :?

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Post by G. Trifkovic » 25 Mar 2006 17:59

pavle wrote:Why is the whole letter written in the yugoslave language, except for the heil hitler at the bottom :?


What are you actualy aiming at?

Gaius

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Post by Lt.-Colonel » 28 Mar 2006 12:12

Uskoplje (G.Vakuf) and Zagreb negotiations between the Partisans and the Germans are well known fact, but I never found scientifically based explenation of their goal. However, I like Dušan Bilandžić's explanation, which is geostrategically and geopolitically logical, but by no means without doubts.

By the spring of 1943 it was clear to the most of the people that the Axis powers will lose the war, so the Germans in YU and the NDH forces will be dealt with as a part of the greater picture. The most fearsome (political) opponents of the KPJ remained in the Chetnik movement. At the time, Chetniks were still considered as "Allies" by the Western powers, and the were "under control" of the YU Government in London.
Bilandžić explains how Tito wanted to secure his "flanks" by negotiating a cease-fire with the Germans, in order to destroy the Chetnik movement without the interference of the Germans/NDH. If I remember well Kasche and Horstenau supported that motion, bur Berlin refused it. According to Bilandžić it all ended with the agreement on PoW/KIA exchanges that were maintained almost until the end of the war.

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