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ON September 8th, 1943, the Italians capitulated. The effects in Jugoslavia were far-reaching.

In 1943 there were no less than seventeen Italian divisions in occupation of the Italian zone of Jugoslavia that stretched widely down the literal of the Adriatic from Istria to Montenegro. At the time it happened, the partisans had more or less effective control over "liberated territory" comparable in size with the area of Switzerland; they had recovered from the strain of the last cam­paign in Montenegro and had proved this recovery by a number of successful actions, of which the most outstanding was probably the August 20th raid on the airfield of Raylovats, near Sarayevo, when they knocked out a number of military aircraft designed for use against them by the enemy. They had enlarged the safe area in Central Bosnia by the capture of small key towns, such as Yaytse, Mrkonyiteh Grad, and Bugoyno; and by the end of the month had also taken Kotor Varos and were besieging Banya Luka.

The partisan general staff was not advised by the Allied Com­mand of the coming armistice although it was made known after­wards that the capitulation had been agreed with Badoglio five days before it was made public. The destination of the arms which the seventeen Italian divisions would lay down thus became problematic, since it was obvious that the Germans would do their utmost to seize them. In the event, the partisans were able to reach and dis­arm ten of these divisions before the Germans came on the scene, and in particular they managed to force-march on Split and beat the Germans to its occupation, although, failing the expected Allied help in landings along the Dalmatian coast, they could not expect to hold it for long. The Venezia Division, under the command of General Oxilia, went over en masse to the partisans in Montenegro, and was incorporated into the liberation army as a complete unit.

In a speech at Yaytse in November, shortly after he had moved the general staff there from Petrovo Polje, Tito said of the effects of the Italian capitulation that with it "and the disarming of ten Italian divisions in our country our forces have not only acquired much armament but have increased the number of our troops by 80,000 and liberated large tracts of territory.... At the same time, our army of national liberation has won the reputation in Allied eyes of being a serious factor with which not only the Allies have to reckon as a further Allied power, but also the Fascist aggressors as an adversary holding down a great number of their divisions...."

However hard they might have tried beforehand to blink the threat to their occupation, after the Italian collapse the Germans could no longer afford to treat the partisan army on less than first-class terms. The total number of men that Tito had under arms was not less than 250,000 by this time, and the tide of their successes meant that the number was limited now only by the arms available. It was furthermore clear that the Western Allies would no longer allow reactionary influences on their foreign policy to obscure the real issues in Jugoslavia; and the unacceptable status of General Mihaylovitch was in fact very shortly afterwards recognized by the withdrawal of British liaison officers from the chetniks in Serbia, although the United States representative remained with Mihaylovitch until the end of 1944. The removal of the political obstacle would be accompanied by the arrival of warlike stores on more than token scale now that airfields in Italy and plentiful transport aircraft were available. The Germans began to draft fresh units into the Balkans.

From the partisan point of view the collapse of Italy, as Tito had pointed out, put their army once and for all on the Allied map. They were bitter that they had not been given a better chance to disarm the Italian occupying forces by due warning that capitula­tion was imminent; set alongside the fearfully meagre supplies which were all that available airlift had made possible up to now, this treatment seemed apiece with the ignorance and neglect which they thought characterized the Allied attitude towards them, and con­trasted so strongly with the attitude of the U.S.S.R. Hitherto, they had always believed that democratic influences in England and America would prevail to win them Allied support.

Tito himself wrote (in the partisan review Proleter for December, 1942) that "the peoples of Jugoslavia are firmly convinced that our allies, the American and the British people, will prevent the fulfil­ment of the plans which are being concocted by the reactionaries of their countries...." Now the time had come, they felt, for that conviction to be put to the test, and the democratic sincerity of the Western peoples proved by deliveries of warlike stores.

From this time onwards, too, they felt able to insist upon their appeal to London and Washington that the Anti-Fascist Council should be recognized as the body most representative of the Jugoslav peoples, and the exiled royal government in London, sponsor of the chetniks and enemy of the partisans, should be divested of its powers. They left open the constitutional issue of King Peter's right to return to the country he had fled in 1941, insisting only that he could not do so before a plebiscite had clearly declared the will of the people. At the end of November the second session of the Anti-Fascist Council met at Yaytse, this time with Allied observers present, and the outcome of its deliberations was the creation of a National Committee invested with powers of temporary government; Tito became Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, and Marshal of the new army, and it was felt that the movement was now far advanced in a constructive policy which must win it the support of all genuinely anti-Fascist powers.

"We are convinced," Tito said at the Congress, "that our Allies will not misunderstand this historic step taken by our people, but rather that they will do everything to give our people their moral and material help and backing, and this through the representatives elected by the people themselves in their own country."

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