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The Serbs Choose War by Ruth Mitchell

The Serbs Choose War by Ruth Mitchell

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Published by vuk300

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Published by: vuk300 on Nov 09, 2011
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AT TEN-FIFTEEN on the morning of March 25, 1941, the news flashed:"Yugoslavia has signed the Axis pact." It was a moment of destiny for Europe, forthe world. It was a moment when the flame of freedom guttered so perilously lowthat many of the bravest spirits of our time averted their eyes, sure that it was nowfinally to be extinguished.Yugoslavia had apparently fallen an easy victim to Germany. Everyone withany knowledge of Balkan affairs was amazed. For Yugoslavia was the land of theSerbs, the leading race of the South Slavs, the Fighting Serbs who through thecenturies had battled ceaselessly, uncompromisingly for unconditional liberty andat last had won their independence alone and unaided.But prudent- and craven-policy had apparently prevailed. Two Serbs hadactually used their fingers to sign away Serbian liberty: the Prime Minister and theForeign Minister of Yugoslavia. The country of the Serbs, Croats, and Sloveneshad signed the Axis pact.Then an almost incredible thing happened, a thing so important to the historyof the world that freedom-loving men will speak of it with admiration and withgratitude down through the centuries.The Serbs rose. A little race of not more than eight million souls deliberately,sternly decided to die rather than to submit to Axis vassalage. They were the onlysmall race of Europe to come in openly on the side of the Allies before they werethemselves attacked and while they still had promises of complete security of frontiers, of lives, and of property; the first and only small race themselves todeclare war- a war they knew to be absolutely hopeless- against the invincibleGerman war machine.And today, in 1943, the Serbs, alone in Europe west of Russia, are fightingwith an organized army the greatest war machine in history. With terrain no moresuitable for guerrilla fighting than the French Alps and the Carpathians in Poland,Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, they are still fighting indomitably.
Why did they do it? What caused their decision? What has enabled them tosucceed when other, larger, much better equipped peoples failed or didn't even try?These are important questions, important to our own present war effort,important to the future of Europe, very important to future world peace.I was there and had been there for over three years. I watched what led up to itand what took place. I had made it my business to try to understand.Those two days after the signing of the pact will never be erased from mymemory.The people of Belgrade, the Serb capital of Yugoslavia, behaved as if stunnedby incredible calamity. I had friends of all classes in the city. On the day the pactwas signed several of them telephoned briefly but none came near me that first dayuntil late in the afternoon. Then one after another slipped in, furtively, crushed.Their expressions, their very words, had an extraordinary similarity. Their faceswere distorted with an inexpressible, breathless fury."I shall tear up my passport," they muttered in bitter shame. "I shall never goout of the country again. I can never look another foreigner in the face. We- we tolet them through to stab the Greeks, our allies, in the back!" For that was part of thetreaty, and to this race loyalty to a friend is a password, a touchstone. No charge of treachery has ever been brought against the Serbs as a race, the only Balkan racewith such a record."But other, bigger nations have given way to German might and have done thesame," I said, terribly grieved for them. "What does it matter to us what othernations do?" they flared up fiercely. "We are the Serbs!" Into this atmosphere of strained gloom and misery arrived Yanko. A Chetnik, like myself, of the purelySerb organization of guerrilla fighters, Yanko was in a different group with adifferent leader. He appeared about four o'clock, bright and cheerful, obviouslyquite pleased with life. He came in humming the great Chetnik marching song:"Ready, now ready, Chetnik brothers! Mighty the coming battle-"Yanko broke off the song in the middle and smiled at me. He was in a hurry."Listen," he said, "it's for tomorrow night." I knew very well what he meant. "Not

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