Yugoslav Partisans vs. 30,000 SS and Collaborators: Remembering the Final Battle of WWII in Europe

On the evening of May 8, 1945, Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allies, formally bringing the Second World War in Europe to a close. However, thousands of square kilometers of territory and tens of thousands of troops remained concentrated in the remnants of the Third Reich, and some chose to continue to fight rather than surrender.

75 years ago, on May 14, 1945, Joseph Broz Tito’s partisan armies began the final major military operation against Nazi forces in Europe, taking on a group of 30,000 Wehrmacht, SS and collaborator units in what would become known as the Battle of Poljana.

During the battle, which began on May 14 and lasted until the early hours of May 15, units of the 3rd Yugoslav People’s Army fought it out with German troops, as well as Croat, Serbian, Slovene and other fascist formations, preventing them from breaking through to the US occupation sector, where they hoped to receive more lenient treatment.

Nikita Buranov, a specialist in World War II at the Russian Military Historical Society, says there’s a little-known detail of the battle which has received very little attention from historians, namely, the involvement of Soviet officers and instructors.

The historian recalled that by the spring of 1945, German forces in Yugoslavia had been completely immobilized by Yugoslav formations, forcing Wehrmacht Army Group E commander Col. Gen. Alexander Lohr to sign an unconditional surrender after the Yugoslav 3rd and 4th armies met up,…

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