1941: Sixteen Yugoslav partisans and one German soldier

On this date in 1941, this happened.

These sixteen blindfolded Yugoslav Partisans about to be shot at Smederevska Palanka were joined in death by one conscientious German soldier who refused to help carry out the massacre. (Or not. See comments.)

The Partisans were Tito’s Communist guerrilla movement against the Nazi occupation and while they were up against it at this early date, they would in due time wind up on the winning side and help birth the postwar government.

Their legacy remains in every European sports page as the namesake of the Belgrade sports association Partizan founded immediately after the war. It’s the umbrella entity for the frequent Serbian football and basketball champions as well as a variety of other sports. (Current world tennis no. 1 Novak Djokovic played for Partizan, for instance.)

7 thoughts on “1941: Sixteen Yugoslav partisans and one German soldier”

  1. There was a Yugoslav movie from the 60ies or 70ies, I believe, with a similar story line. Maybe that’s the origin of the urban legend that a German soldier, Josef Schulz, refused to take part in the execution of partisans and was shot himself, together with the partisans.

    It had to be an urban legend because if a Wehrmacht soldier had actually refused to be a member of a firing squad, there would at least have been a court martial, if at all. If I recall correctly, historians researched this topic and concluded that these soldiers did not face serious consequences and were silently transferred to other units.

    1. Incorrect. German military was OFTEN subject to summary execution in the field. 3 actual examples from Holland WW2…. In the Battle of Arnhem – 2 instances during the battle a German soldier shot dead British soldier holding a white flag – a German officer walked up to the shooter and just after chastizing him, shot him dead. In the surrender phase of the battle British POWs were surrendering and in one episode a German soldier simply shot a prisoner for no reason – a German officer approached the shooter and executed him on the spot. In the 3rd incident, if I recall it was in the winter of 1944 a line-up of Dutch civilian hostages were going to be butchered. One of the German soldiers refused and he was shot alongside the poor people. In the field it was typical – by a German soldier’s own account of this practise, that a deserter who was caught would be executed by the rest of his squad. The officer in charge counted the bullet holes to make sure everyone shot their comrade – if not it is alleged further executions among the squad would follow.

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