The Ustaše Militia (Croatian: Ustaška vojnica) was military branch of the Ustaše, established by the fascist regime of Ante Pavelić in the Axis puppet state the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in Yugoslavia during World War II.
The Ustaše militia went through a series of re-organisations during its existence, during which it expanded to include all armed elements of the NDH government outside of the Croatian Home Guard, navy and air force. It amalgamated with the Home Guard in December 1944 – January 1945 to form the Croatian Armed Forces (Hrvatske oružane snage, HOS), although the amalgamation did not result in a homogeneous organisation, and former Ustaše militia officers dominated its operations and held most HOS command positions.
The Ustaše militia were responsible for some of the most egregious atrocities committed during World War II, including performing a key role in the establishment and operation of about 20 concentration camps in the NDH. It included such notorious units as the Black Legion (Crna Legija) commanded by Jure Francetić and Rafael Boban and the Ustaša Defence Brigades commanded by Vjekoslav Luburić.
Badge of the Ustaše Militia
|Active||11 April 1941 – January 1945|
|Country||Independent State of Croatia|
|Type||volunteer party militia|
|Role||anti-Partisan operations and operation of concentration camps, mostly under German command|
|Size||approximately 76,000 in December 1944|
The Ustaše militia was created on 11 April 1941 when Marshal Slavko Kvaternik appointed a separate staff to control the various volunteer armed groups that had risen spontaneously throughout the NDH as the Yugoslav Army collapsed in the face of the Axis invasion. On 10 May 1941, Ante Pavelić issued a special order which detailed its formal organisation. However, some of the groups that formed early in various locations were irregular or 'wild' Ustaše units that were not included in the formal organisation, which initially numbered only 4,500. The number of irregular or 'wild' Ustaše across the NDH was reportedly as high as 25,000–30,000. Both formal and irregular Ustaše units were soon involved in atrocities against Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and all alleged and actual opponents of the Ustaša regime.
The militia consisted mostly of volunteers, and only 25% of the officer corps were professionally trained. It was indoctrinated in Ustaše ideology and was committed to defending Pavelić and the Ustaša regime. Whilst Pavelić was its titular commander-in-chief, he exercised no practical control over its military operations, as Ustaše formations and units in the field were placed under command of Home Guard or Axis forces. The militia included a significant number of Muslims, although this reduced after mid 1943, and there were no Muslim militia leaders and few promoted to higher rank. The Ustaše militia also included the small Volksdeutsche militia (German: Einsatzstaffel der Deutschen Mannschaft) which was created in July 1941, and which grew to a strength of 1,500 regular and 1,200 reserve troops by June 1942. The main task of the Einsatzstaffel was to protect Volksdeutsche communities, mainly in Slavonia and Syrmia.
In August 1941, the Ustaša Surveillance Service (Ustaška nadzorna služba) was created to combat anti-Ustaša activities throughout the NDH. The Surveillance Service consisted of four elements, the Ustaša Police, Ustaša Intelligence Service, Ustaša Defence Brigades, and Personnel. The head of the Surveillance Service was appointed by, and accountable directly to Pavelić.
The lawless behaviour of the Ustaše in general attracted some criminal elements to the Ustaše militia. This was even recognised by Pavelić, although he used these elements as a convenient scapegoat for actions committed by the core of the Ustaša movement itself.
In late 1941, an Ustaše militia unit known as the Black Legion (Crna Legija) was formed mostly from Muslim and Croatian refugees from villages in eastern Bosnia, where the Chetniks and Partisans had already committed large-scale massacres. The Legion, which had a strength of between 1,000 and 1,500 men, created a fierce reputation in fighting against both Chetniks and Partisans, and were also responsible for large-scale massacres of Serb civilians. It was initially commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Jure Francetić, and after he was killed by the Partisans in December 1942, by Major Rafael Boban. It was used in different areas across the NDH, and became part of the HOS 5th Division in December 1944, with Boban promoted to general to command the division.
The other special force was the Ustaša Defence Brigades, commanded by Vjekoslav Luburić, who quickly attracted a reputation for extreme brutality. The Brigades ran the string of concentration camps established by the Ustaše regime. Like the Legion, they also fought the Chetniks and Partisans, and were responsible for large-scale atrocities and mass terror against the Serb population.
On 18 March 1942, a law decree on the armed forces organised them into the Home Guard, navy and air force, the gendarmerie and the Ustaše militia. By special decree on 26 June 1942, the gendarmerie, which had previously been a part of the Home Guard, became part of the Ustaše militia and was placed under the command of a young Ustaše colonel, Vilko Pečnikar. In July and August 1942, the militia took control of all armed forces of the NDH other than the Home Guard, navy and air force. The militia then consisted of the regular militia, Pavelić's personal guard, the railroad security troops, the gendarmerie, the regular police, the Ustaša Surveillance Service, the Ustaša educational establishment, the Ustaša preparatory service and the disciplinary court. The Ustaša Surveillance Service included the Ustaša Defence Brigades, which had been established in late 1941. The Defence Brigades engaged in operations against both the Chetniks and Partisans, engaged in mass terror against the Serbian, Jewish and Romani segments of the NDH population, and administered the Ustaša concentration camps, including Jasenovac.
Following the dismissal of Marshal Kvaternik from his positions of Minister of the Army and commander-in-chief in October 1942, relations between the Ustaša militia and the Croatian Home Guard deteriorated further, to the detriment of the Home Guard.
In May 1943, there were about 30 regular militia battalions of varying strength. At the time, 12 were deployed in the Italian zones of occupation, primarily in Zone III, while the remainder were working with the Home Guard light infantry and mountain brigades and the German-Croatian SS police. This pattern of deployment applied until the amalgamation of the Home Guard and militia in December 1944. In June 1943, the Ustaša Surveillance Service was abolished, and its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Interior. However, the Ustaša Defence Brigades under Luburić continued to operate independently. By September 1943, shortly after the Italian surrender, the Ustaše militia included 25 battalions (22,500 men) of the regular militia, plus Pavelić's personal guard of about 6,000 men, and the gendarmerie of about 18,000 men as well as many other smaller armed groups.
In October 1943, the German commander-in-chief in south-eastern Europe, Generalfeldmarschall Maximilian von Weichs made a proposal to the Wehrmacht operations staff which included the merging of the Ustaša militia into the Croatian Home Guard. The proposal effectively recommended removing the Ustaše from power as part of sweeping changes to the administration of the NDH. Although the proposal was considered by Hitler, the decision was made not to proceed with it due mainly to the additional German troops that would have been required to implement it.
On 1 December 1944, the Ustaše militia and the Croatian Home Guard were amalgamated and organised into 16 divisions across three corps. At the time, the Ustaše militia consisted of about 76,000 officers and men. This figure did not include the Ustaša Defence Brigades, numbering about 10,000, who remained outside the armed forces. Ustašas with appropriate experience along with some professional military officers with strong loyalty to Pavelić were placed in all key positions.
The new force was named the Croatian Armed Forces (Hrvatske oružane snage, HOS), but the amalgamation consisted only of the combining of existing formations such as Ustaše militia brigades and Croatian Home Guard regiments as separate elements under divisional command. Uniforms, equipment and supply appear to have remained as they were prior to the amalgamation. In March 1945, the Ustaša Defence Brigades were incorporated into the HOS.
When the Italians reoccupied Zones II and III in XXX 1941, they assumed control of about one third of the territory of the NDH, and ordered all Ustaše militia units (who they accused of excesses against the Serb population of the NDH) and most Home Guard units to withdraw from those zones. The NDH government protested vigorously, but the Italians would not relent, and used auxiliary Chetnik units to maintain the peace in those zones instead. In fact, even in September 1942, no more than about 1,000 Ustaše militia members were in Zone II, and even they were under close Italian command and supervision.
In mid-1942, the Germans took full command of any NDH troops operating with them north of the German-Italian demarcation line.
The Ustaše militia was different in almost all respects from the mostly conscripted Croatian Home Guard. While the Home Guard was poorly equipped and subject to mass desertions from late 1942 onwards, the Ustaše militia consisted of young, well equipped and indoctrinated volunteers who were loyal to Pavelić and the NDH. Although they were ill-disciplined, they liked to fight and were tough combat soldiers. It was not until mid 1944 that Ustaše militia units began to suffer from significant numbers of desertions, although these were never on the scale suffered by the Home Guard. As a result of their greater reliability, Ustaše militia units were used on the flanks of suspect Home Guard units fighting Partisans in order to discourage mass desertions during action.
Ustaše militia committed many abuses and atrocities against the Serb population living in the territory of the NDH. In May 1941, in the town of Glina, only 50 kilometres from Zagreb, Ustaše from the surrounding areas herded about 260 local people into a church, killed them then set the church on fire. By September 1941, over 118,000 Serbs had been expelled from the NDH, many Orthodox churches had been destroyed or desecrated, and many of the Orthodox clergy had been killed or expelled. Promises of conversion were used by Ustaše militias to gather Serb peasant together so they could be killed more easily.
In late July 1942, all concentration camps in the NDH were officially transferred from the Ministry of Interior to the Ustaše Surveillance Service, which had been running the camps since August 1941. There were about 20 large and medium-seized camps, the largest of which was a cluster of camps near the confluence of the Sava and Una rivers at Jasenovac. The camps there were notorious for the brutality, barbarism and large number of victims. Even after the Service was disestablished in January 1943, Vjekoslav Luburić remained in charge of the camps through most of the war.
In August 1942, elements of the Ustaše militia, along with Croatian Home Guard and German forces, conducted a major anti-Partisan operation in Srijem. During this offensive, Ustaše militia units perpetrated large-scale atrocities against the Serb population of the region, then along with German units, sent thousands of Serb civilians, including women and children, as well as some Partisans, to the concentration camps at Jasenovac, Sisak, Stara Gradiška and Zemun.
Anti-Serbian sentiment or Anti-Serb sentiment (Serbian: антисрпска осећања / antisrpska osećanja) and also Anti-Serbism (антисрбизам / antisrbizam) or Anti-Serbdom (антисрпство / antisrpstvo) or Serbophobia (србофобија / srbofobija) is a generally-negative view of Serbs as an ethnic group. Historically it has been a basis for the persecution of ethnic Serbs.
A distinctive form of Anti-Serbism is Anti-Serbianism which can be defined as a generally-negative view of Serbia as a nation state for Serbs, while another form of Anti-Serbism is a generally-negative view of Republika Srpska, the Serb entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The best-known historical proponent of anti-Serb sentiment was the 19th- and 20th-century Croatian Party of Rights. The most extreme elements of this party became the Ustaše in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, a Croatian fascist organization that came to power during World War II and instituted racial laws that specifically targeted Serbs, Jews, Roma and dissidents. The World War II persecution of Serbs included the mass ethnic cleansing of Serbs and other minorities that lived in the Independent State of Croatia (1941–1945).Communist purges in Serbia in 1944–45
The communist purges in Serbia in 1944–1945 are atrocities that were committed by members of the Yugoslav Partisan Movement and post-war communist authorities after they gained control over Serbia, against people perceived as war criminals, quislings and ideological opponents. Most of these purges were committed between October 1944 and May 1945. During this time, at least 55,973 people died of various causes, including death by execution or by illness in retention camps. The victims – vast majority of them deliberately murdered, without a trial – were of different ethnic backgrounds, but were mostly Germans, Serbs and Hungarians. The critics who oppose the naming of the purges a deliberate mass killing, among other things claim that the events were not officially planned out, but were simply unorganised vendetta of individuals due to post-war chaos. There is even a notion that the purges are a forgery, as many supposedly innocent victims from the proposed lists died in battles against partisans.The exact number of victims remains controversial, as the ongoing investigation is not finished and probably never will. So far different sources provide different estimates regarding the number of victims. According to one source, at least 80,000 people were executed in the whole of Serbia, while another source states that the number of victims was more than 100,000. In Central Serbia there was some 30,000 victims, while the number of victims in northern Serbian province of Vojvodina includes about 56,000 Germans, between 20,000 and 40,000 Hungarians, and some 23,000–24,000 Serbs. The names of about 4,000 individual Germans who were killed by the Partisans are known, but it is estimated that many more ethnic Germans were executed. These events during the fall of 1944 are referred to as "bloody autumn" by some sources. In 2009, the government of Serbia formed a State Commission to investigate the secret burial places of victims after 12 September 1944. The Commission compiled a registry of names, basic biographical data, and details of persecution. The registry contains a total of 55,973 names, including 27,367 Germans, 14,567 Serbs and 6,112 Hungarians.Dido Kvaternik
Eugen Dido Kvaternik (29 March 1910 – 10 March 1962) was a Croatian Ustaše General-Lieutenant and the Chief of the Internal Security Service in the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi puppet state during World War II.Far-right politics
Far-right politics are politics further on the right of the left-right spectrum than the standard political right, particularly in terms of extreme nationalism, nativist ideologies, and authoritarian tendencies.The term is often used to describe Nazism, neo-Nazism, fascism, neo-fascism and other ideologies or organizations that feature ultranationalist, chauvinist, xenophobic, racist, anti-communist, or reactionary views. These can lead to oppression and violence against groups of people based on their supposed inferiority, or their perceived threat to the native ethnic group, nation, state or ultraconservative traditional social institutions.Independent State of Croatia
The Independent State of Croatia (Croatian: Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH; German: Unabhängiger Staat Kroatien; Italian: Stato Indipendente di Croazia) was a World War II fascist puppet state of Germany and Italy. It was established in parts of occupied Yugoslavia on 10 April 1941, after the invasion by the Axis powers. Its territory consisted of most of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as some parts of modern-day Serbia and Slovenia, but also excluded many Croat-populated areas in Dalmatia (until late 1943), Istria, and Međimurje regions (which today are part of Croatia).
During its entire existence, the NDH was governed as a one-party state by the fascist Ustaša organization. The Ustaše was led by the Poglavnik, Ante Pavelić. The regime targeted Serbs, Jews and Roma as part of a large-scale campaign of genocide, as well as anti-fascist or dissident Croats and Muslims.Between 1941–45, 22 concentration camps existed inside the territory controlled by the Independent State of Croatia, two of which (Jastrebarsko and Sisak) housed only children and the largest of which was Jasenovac.The state was officially a monarchy after the signing of the Laws of the Crown of Zvonimir on 15 May 1941. Appointed by Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, Prince Aimone, Duke of Aosta initially refused to assume the crown in opposition to the Italian annexation of the Croat-majority populated region of Dalmatia, annexed as part of the Italian irredentist agenda of creating a Mare Nostrum ("Our Sea"). He later briefly accepted the throne due to pressure from Victor Emmanuel III and was titled Tomislav II of Croatia, but never moved from Italy to reside in Croatia.From the signing of the Treaties of Rome on 18 May 1941 until the Italian capitulation on 8 September 1943, the state was a territorial condominium of Germany and Italy. In its judgement in the Hostages Trial, the Nuremberg Military Tribunal concluded that NDH was not a sovereign state. According to the Tribunal, "Croatia was at all times here involved an occupied country".In 1942, Germany suggested Italy take military control of all of Croatia out of a desire to redirect German troops from Croatia to the Eastern Front. Italy however rejected the offer as it did not believe that it could handle the unstable situation in the Balkans alone. After the ousting of Mussolini and the Kingdom of Italy's armistice with the Allies, the NDH on 10 September 1943 declared that the Treaties of Rome were null and void and annexed the portion of Dalmatia that had been ceded to Italy. The NDH attempted to annex Zara, which had been a recognized territory of Italy since 1919 but long an object of Croatian irredentism, but Germany did not allow it.L3/33
The Carro Veloce 33 (CV 33) or L3/33 was a tankette originally built in 1933 and used by the Italian Army before and during World War II. It was based on the imported British Carden Loyd tankette (license-built by Italy as the CV 29). Many CV 33s were retrofitted to meet the specifications of the CV 35 in 1935. In 1938, the CV 33 was renamed the "L3/33" while the CV 35 became the "L3/35s."
The original CV 33 carried a two-man crew protected by 12 mm of welded armour and was armed with a single 6.5 mm machine gun.
The L3/33 saw action in China, Spain, France, the Balkans, North Africa, Italian East Africa, Italy, and Russia.Lazar Bačić
Lazar Bačić (Serbian Cyrillic: Лазар Бачић; January 1865 – 12 May 1941) was a Croatian Serb merchant and philanthropist.
Ustashe used his property and industrial facilities to open the Jasenovac concentration camp III (Ciglana camp).Operation Gvardijan
Operation Gvardijan was covert action of Yugoslav State Security Administration (UDBA) from 1947 and 1948. It prevented an attempt by Ustasha emigrants to carry out terrorist and diversionary actions in Yugoslavia and unite anti-communist križari (crusader) formations in the country, in an uprising against the new authorities.
Infiltration of the Ustashas (called Operation April 10) was initiated with the consent of Ante Pavelić (after its failure, he distanced himself from it). The action was led by Božidar Kavran. The first group was arrested on Mount Papuk. UDBA launched Operation Gvardijan to lure the escaped Ustashas by sending false messages, during which a total of 19 Ustasha groups were arrested. The operation ended with Kavran's arrest. The Ustashas were tried in August 1948. Most were sentenced to death, while others were sent to prison. A total of 96 Ustashas were arrested or killed, including Ante Vrban and Ljubo Miloš.Panzer III
The Panzerkampfwagen III, commonly known as the Panzer III, was a medium tank developed in the 1930s by Germany, and was used extensively in World War II. The official German ordnance designation was Sd.Kfz. 141. It was intended to fight other armoured fighting vehicles and serve alongside and support similar Panzer IV which was originally designed for infantry support. However, as the Germans faced the formidable T-34, more powerful anti-tank guns were needed, and since the Panzer IV had more development potential with a larger turret ring, it was redesigned to mount the long-barrelled 7.5 cm KwK 40 gun. The Panzer III effectively swapped roles with the Panzer IV, as from 1942 the last version of Panzer III mounted the 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 that was better suited for infantry support. Production of the Panzer III ceased in 1943. Nevertheless, the Panzer III's capable chassis provided hulls for the Sturmgeschütz III assault gun until the end of the war.Panzer IV
The Panzerkampfwagen IV (PzKpfw IV), commonly known as the Panzer IV, was a German medium tank developed in the late 1930s and used extensively during the Second World War. Its ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz. 161.
The Panzer IV was the most numerous German tank and the second-most numerous German armored fighting vehicle of the Second World War, with some 8,500 built. The Panzer IV chassis was used as the base for many other fighting vehicles, including the Sturmgeschütz IV assault gun, Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyer, the Wirbelwind self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, and the Brummbär self-propelled gun.
The Panzer IV saw service in all combat theaters involving Germany and was the only German tank to remain in continuous production throughout the war. It received various upgrades and design modifications, intended to counter new threats, extending its service life. Generally, these involved increasing the Panzer IV's armor protection or upgrading its weapons, although during the last months of the war, with Germany's pressing need for rapid replacement of losses, design changes also included simplifications to speed up the manufacturing process.
The Panzer IV was partially succeeded by the Panther medium tank, which was introduced to counter the Soviet T-34, although the Panzer IV continued as a significant component of German armoured formations to the end of the war. The Panzer IV was the most widely exported tank in German service, with around 300 sold to Finland, Romania, Spain and Bulgaria. After the war, Syria procured Panzer IVs from France and Czechoslovakia, which saw combat in the 1967 Six-Day War. 8,553 Panzer IVs of all versions were built during World War II, with only the StuG III assault-gun/tank destroyer's 10,086 vehicle production run exceeding the Panzer IV's total among Axis armored forces.Renault FT
The Renault FT (frequently referred to in post-World War I literature as the FT-17, FT17, or similar) was a French light tank that was among the most revolutionary and influential tank designs in history. The FT was the first production tank to have its armament within a fully rotating turret. The Renault FT's configuration – crew compartment at the front, engine compartment at the back, and main armament in a revolving turret – became and remains the standard tank layout. Consequently, some historians of armoured warfare have called the Renault FT the world's first modern tank.Over 3,000 Renault FT tanks were manufactured by French industry, most of them during 1918. Another 950 of an almost identical licensed copy of the FT (the M1917 light tank) were made in the United States, but not in time to take part in World War I.Sd.Kfz. 251
The Sd.Kfz. 251 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug 251) half-track was a World War II German armored fighting vehicle designed by the Hanomag company, based on its earlier, unarmored Sd.Kfz. 11 vehicle. The Sd.Kfz. 251 was designed to transport the Panzergrenadier (German mechanized infantry) into battle. Sd.Kfz. 251s were the most widely produced German half-tracks of the war, with at least 15,252 vehicles and variants produced by seven manufacturers. Some sources state that the Sd.Kfz. 251 was commonly referred to simply as "Hanomags" by both German and Allied soldiers after the manufacturer of the vehicle. However, that commonly accepted designation has come into question, perhaps only being a postwar label.
German officers referred to them as SPW (Schützenpanzerwagen, or armored infantry vehicle) in their daily orders and memoirs.Sturmgeschütz III
The Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III) assault gun was Germany's most-produced fully tracked armoured fighting vehicle during World War II, and second-most produced German armored combat vehicle of any type after the Sd.Kfz. 251 half-track. It was built on the chassis of the proven Panzer III tank, replacing the turret with an armored, fixed superstructure mounting a more powerful gun. Initially intended as a mobile assault gun for direct-fire support for infantry, the StuG III was continually modified, and much like the later Jagdpanzer, was employed as a tank destroyer.TKS
The TK (TK-3) and TKS were Polish tankettes developed during the 1930s and used in the Second World War.Zlatko Hasanbegović
Zlatko Hasanbegović (Croatian pronunciation: [zlâtko xǎsanbeɡoʋit͜ɕ]; born 14 June 1973) is a Croatian historian and politician who has served as a member of the Croatian Parliament since 2016. He served as Minister of Culture in the Cabinet of Tihomir Orešković from 22 January to 19 October 2016. Hasanbegović is also a member of the Zagreb Assembly and one of the founders of the Independents for Croatia party.
As a historian, Hasanbegović's interests are relations between the modern Croatian ideologies, especially pravaštvo (Croatian nationalist ideology) and its relations towards Islam in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 19th and 20th centuries. He researches Muslim elements of the Croatian bourgeois culture until 1945 and relations of political parties as well as religious and national relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the Austrian-Hungarian occupation until the communist takeover. He was an associate of the Institute of Humanities Ivo Pilar.
see also Yugoslav Front and People of the Yugoslav Front