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1941: Sixteen Yugoslav partisans and one German soldier

August 20th, 2011 Headsman

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.)

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Germany,Guerrillas,History,Known But To God,Martyrs,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Public Executions,Serbia,Shot,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions,Yugoslavia

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6 Responses to “1941: Sixteen Yugoslav partisans and one German soldier”

  1. 1
    Michael Sjoeberg Says:

    “A German soldier was widely reported to have been executed along with the partisans for refusing to take part in the action. However, in actuality he died from wounds he suffered the previous day”


  2. 2
    Headsman Says:

    Nice catch. (And I fixed the link for you.)

    Post updated. Thank you.

  3. 3
    Leo Says:

    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.

  4. 4
    Leo Says:

    I just found out that there is an article on Wikipedia about the alleged incident:


  5. 5
    Headsman Says:

    Wow, did I miss the story on this one. Thanks, Michael and Leo.

  6. 6
    ExecutedToday.com » Executed Today’s Fourth Annual Report: Wrung, Wan and Quartered Says:

    [...] Aug. 20, 1941: Yugoslav partisans was a pretty light post by me, but the commenters unearthed a whole different angle on war historiography [...]

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