Yugoslavia was in war. Majority of Croats and other minorities deserted the already demoralized royal army. The air force sacrificed itself in the skies over Serbia and those who betrayed Yugoslavia on 27th of March fled the country, taking the 17 year old king Peter II with them. They decided that their little adventure was over and didn’t want to share the fate with its own people. Dimitrije however, just like in second Balkan war and in First World War, voluntarily went to his command post in Bjeljina and called all his followers and members of ZBOR to do the same and for the movement to stop all its activities. The fatherland was to be defended! Unfortunately Yugoslavia fell in 11 days and the Axis have occupied it. Germans, Hungarians, Italians, Albanians under the protectorate of Italy and Bulgarians all took the parts they deemed historic or useful for their nation. But another state was created, as a capital punishment for the Serbs. On the lands of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Srem, Slavonia, Dalmatia and Croatia rose the Independent State of Croatia or commonly known as NDH. Ante Pavelić succeeded in creating Ustasha state.
After the ending of April War, Ljotić went to his home in Smederevo. Since the defeat of Yugoslavia, all governing bodies were shut down and new one was needed to take care of the occupied Serbia. German head of civil staff, Harald Turner, began establishing the contacts with Yugoslav politicians who were in occupied Serbia to form a civil governing body. Among those politicians was Dimitrije Ljotić. He and other prominent people and politicians, on Dimtirije’s demand, wrote a memo to the Turner, containing demands from their side for German command in order for this government to be formed. Among them were the respect of international law, to keep current civil and criminal laws, to allow Serbian Orthodox Church to continue its work and to allow government to provide any help if needed, to allow the name of king Peter II to be spoken in church services and to allow his portraits in households, to allow courts to pronounce the judgment in the name of the king Peter II and other. Turner accepted all of these, the Germans will respect the international law, the Church will continue its work, but the courts will not be allowed to deliver the verdicts in the name of the King. On 30th of April 1941 when the Commissioner government was formed, Ljotić refused to participate; instead he let two notable ZBOR members to take part. Turner was determent to have him in government, especially as minister of agriculture, but Ljotić refused, claiming he would be more of use among people. He knew that the communists would spread their propaganda against the Government and he was to spread truth among common folk about this. He was determent to teach the people and introduce to them this new situation in which they found themselves in.
His relations to Germans and occupation is best portrayed in his conversation with Karl Kraus, Chief of Gestapo Command group and SD for Serbia, and adviser to Harald Turner, where he demanded that Dimitrije go with him back to Belgrade:
–Even if our people were defeated in war and even if with one international treaty, treaty of truce and capitulation it recognized its own defeat, according to the international law, the beaten and occupied don’t lose all their rights. Are German occupant authorities willing to respect the rights which Yugoslavs have under the provisions of international law?
Kraus said without a doubt that the Germans are determined to respect all international laws in the occupied country.
–If it is like that, then the situation becomes serious for us, because now it’s not only about our will, but about our duty, yet I cannot go with you.
-I’d have to only as your slave, which I might be. But as a man who has a conversation with the occupant on the basis of international law I don’t have to, because it’s not up to the occupant to decide. However, since the situation is serious I will have to consult with my friends.
Dimitrije was not an adventurer and he fully realized the situation that he and his people found themselves in. He treated the Germans as occupants, rarely, if it all, as friends. These were foreign soldiers fighting for foreign interests, but soon enough they would find the common language against the red pests.
The work of commissioner government was not good, since it was pressured by the Germans a lot. Both the administration and Ljotić sent memos to German officials to stop mass murders of Serbs in occupied parts held by Bulgarians, Ustashe and Hungarians. They would reply that nothing could be done. Germans pressured the administration to pass a law against the Jews, something that the administration refused to do. Similarly it also refused to sell Pančevački rit to the Germans. Ljotić also succeeded in releasing of 1200 Serbian prisoners from German prison in Panečvo, most of them nationalists. Government had no power over villages and small settlements, where people started organizing into militias to prepare for the rebellion. There were three different groups that began to organize; most notable was the militia around General Dragoljub Mihailović, whose actions began on 13th of May on mount Ravna Gora. One Chetnik movement was organized around Vojvoda Konstantin Pećanac, a more rational soldier than Dragoljub.
First big challenge the government faced was the huge explosion of ammunition in Smederevo fort. The government named Dimitrije commissioner for reconstruction of the city. Without a question Ljotić went to work, calling in all ZBOR members and other patriots to help in with reconstruction of the city and care for the people. Work force of 350 young men was formed, mostly out of locals and ZBOR members. This was to be a future core of Serbian anti-communist military. The man responsible for the explosion was arrested, a soviet agent named Mustafa Golubić. He was shot on 29th of July.
Fatal 22nd of June was drawing near and something far worse than Axis invasion was about to happen to the already crippled Serbian nation. The threat that both the deceased king and Ljotić though will come out and cause chaos.
“Without Kosovo, we are facing something much worse than [Battle of]Kosovo!”