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THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS [P6]

national-salvation

On 22nd June operation Barbarossa begun, triggering all communist cells in occupied Yugoslavia that were mostly based in Serbia. Work and propaganda of Commissioner Government, police raids and speeches and lectures held by Dimitrije didn’t prevent communist revolt. In early July, communist bandits have begun taking actions against Commissioner Government and Germans in central and western parts of Serbia. They were so sudden and fatal that it caused the government to fall. Ljotić ordered that two of ZBOR members resign from such an incapable government, as he saw it do more damage than good and didn’t want any part in a governing body that was partially responsible for German retaliations.

Serbia was on verge of being under absolute German control. Many of the former participants of Commissioner Government would prefer that, but some, including Ljotić, found out that that wouldn’t be an option. Germans were now busy on Eastern Front and had no time or resources to establish peace and order in occupied Serbia. Under the threat that what was left of Serbia would be given to absolute rule of Bulgarians, Albanians, Ustashe and Hungarians, Serbian politicians were forced to find a man that would take the leading role. Dimitrije Ljotić was the first choice for the Germans of someone to occupy that lead position. He had proven himself capable as a politician, had good relation with the Germans in the interwar period and was generally a man who would be easy to work with. Ljotić denied the offer and instead named army general Milan Nedić for the role. He explained that Serbs needed someone with authority and respect among the common folk, someone without a background in any political party and Nedić was the right person for the job. Germans protested, saying that he was a German enemy as he commanded parts of Yugoslav army during the April War. Ljotić dismissed it saying:

“You declared war to us, you attacked us and Nedić, as former minister of war and commander of army group, had a duty to defend his fatherland. Besides, all of us did that, except for communists.”

This was true as many communists refused or even in some cases greeted German forces, honoring the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Germans had to agree and on 27th of August, Ljotić invited Nedić to accept his new assignment. He was greeted in a presence of 80 representatives of different parties, science, economy and other fields. He demanded that Germans allow them to form an armed force to establish peace and order in the country. It was to be made up of 10 000 gendarme and reinforcement units of 30 000 men. It was also requested that all sick captives, invalids and individuals over 55 years be released from their captivity back to Serbia and for the end of persecution of Serbs in places occupied by Hungarians, Bulgarians and Ustashe. Special request was that the fight against communism be entirely a matter of Serbian people and its government and that in case of sabotage against Germans, innocents must be spared from occupant retaliations. The very next day Germans agreed and the government was formed on the 29th of August. Two ZBOR members took part in it as ministers of justice and economy.

It is safe to say Ljotić was responsible for this Government of National Salvation. In truth Nedić wasn’t really interested in politics, let alone a role of a nation’s leader. But because Ljotić put him on spot, thus facing reality of danger his people found themselves in, he took the responsibility for Serbia.

Fighting the communists was one of the main goals of new government and it begun badly. As city of Šabac was taken by joint communist – “chetnik” attack, Nedić sent the gendarme. Instead of combating them, almost the entire gendarme joined “chetniks” of Dragoljub Mihailović.  This was a total failure and embarrassment for the government. Germans were already planning to dismantle the government and leave Serbia to the mercy of their neighbors. On the 15th of September, Nedić called a session asking for the government to resign, but this catastrophe was prevented by a member of ZBOR and Minister Mihailo Olćan. He proposed that a special anti-communist armed force be formed from ZBOR members. He claimed that in 24 hours he can have up to 500 armed men ready to combat communists everywhere and that those first couple of hundred men will be a core that would later gather more volunteers. Ljotić accepted this idea and more than 200 men answered his call to volunteers. This elite armed force would be named Serbian Volunteer Corps, and their members simply as “Volunteers”.

This was the last chance for Serbs to establish peace and order in their crippled country .

Men of Serbian Volunteer Corps (SDK), members of ZBOR and „students“ of their great Teacher – Dimitrije Ljotić, went to their first combat operation on 17th September 1941. Before their departure to combat, Ljotić held a speech to them:

I feel sorry for your youth, because many of you will die. But more than that, I feel sorry that you have to kill. You were given weapons, but you must know it is powerful and blessed only in the hands of Heroes. Don’t riot with it and never use it as thugs or even worse as murderers. You are fighting to establish peace and order in your country and that your people do not suffer anymore. You must know your place: every morning that you wake up, you must tell yourselves that you are slaves to your fatherland.

Out-gunned, they entered a village of Dražanj that was in grip of communists. Very quickly they have beaten the Partisan unit and declared that the communists are not unbeatable as they claimed to be. This was the beginning of great cleansing in Serbia and civil war has officially begun. Where both German and previous gendarme failed, men of SDK prevailed. They were taught and trained to fight the communists. Many of them combated them on universities before the war. The communists in Serbia finally met their match, an elite armed force dedicated to eradicating Communism in their fatherland!

Village after village was cleansed of red pest: Dubona, Rudnik, Gornji Milanovac, Volunteers were claiming victory after victory. Battle at Varovnica was a major victory against communist partisans, where the Volunteers after 3 hour long combat liberated the place from communists, captured a large amount of ammo and machine guns and many prisoners among whom couple were foreigners and two of them Germans. This would show to the German occupant that the partisans are not made up of pure Serbian population and would have more understanding toward new Serbian leadership and SDK.

In very short time, during September and October of 1941, 12 SDK detachments were created and 4 000 men were armed to combat the reds. Their uniforms were the uniforms of royal Yugoslav army. On the right side of their chest, every volunteer carried a cross with St. George on it, shape inspired by Serbian “Takovo cross”. Around the image of the saint it was inscribed With faith in God, for King and Fatherland – Volunteers. A common Serbian motto. The Cross was always present on their flags which didn’t had Yugoslavian but Serbian colors. The new elite armed force also took St. George as their patron saint and as tradition requires, they commemorated it with Slava. Some special assault squadrons had skull and crossbones badge on their black collars of uniform, inspired by chetnik insignia.

The army was clerical; Svetosavlje was imbued in its men through the spiritual and moral teachings of Dimitrije Ljotić. Officially he had no power or command over the volunteers, but all of them looked up to him as true Christian teacher. The army even received its own priests who would keep the moral and spirit high among the men while simultaneously encouraging the Christian way of life. They were the God’s army, new crusaders that have taken on the new enemy. Serbia has finally joined in the great crusade against Bolshevism!

First victories of the volunteers sparked hope and encouraged other national armed groups such as chetniks of voivode Kosta Pećanac to engage into combat against the communists. Civilians and peasants found hope after getting rid of their Bolshevik oppressors.

But as these victories seemed to mark something big and good for the Serbian people, deep in the Serbian forests, general Draža Mihailović was about to meet with Josip Broz Tito, he will be signing a pact with the Devil himself.

Optimism of Ljotić and Serbs and a relief of Germans was about to be shaken again.

“The one thing that gives me strength to overcome all these troubles is a sense of duty and faith that our fate is still in our hands and that we can and must struggle to make things right! “

THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS
[P1][P2] < [P3] < [P4] < [P5] < [Part 6]

THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS [P5]

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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.

-You must!

-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!”

THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS
[P1] <[P2] < [P3] < [P4] < [Part 5] > [P6]

THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS [P4]

Cover by Omniphi.tv
Cover by Omniphi.tv

Things weren’t looking good for Yugoslavia. On August 26th 1939, Dragiša Cvetković and Vladko Maček came to an agreement to resolve the Croat question. With this agreement, Banate of Croatia was formed – an autonomous province that became a prototype for the independent Croatian state. Only two days later, ZBOR released a statement saying that Vladko Maček could never accept Yugoslavia as his own country, nor could he accept the fact that Croats and Slovenes would lose their independence without Yugoslavia. Dimitrije tried to convince the government of how harmful this agreement could be, and when that failed, he decided to address Prince Paul. Paul refused to accept him. Because of that refusal, Ljotić sent him three open letters which were met with great interest from the public. In his letters he pointed out that Yugoslavia shouldn’t rely on France or Great Britain for protection, since they failed to protect both Finland and Poland. After the last rejection, Ljotić began an aggressive campaign against the prince. He stated :

Your majesty, you did more for bolshevization of Yugoslavia than Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili Stalin!

Ljotić demanded that they put a stop to bolshevization of the country, with the experiment of Croatian autonomy and to immediately reform the military. His confrontation with Paul will have later consequences.

In October of 1940, Italy attacked Greece and Ljotić insisted that the country take a neutral stance. He informed and probably influenced army general Milan Nedić on this issue, and on November 1st he delivered a memo about the state of the Yugoslav military, with demands that the government take a policy of strong neutrality. A few days later, he was forced to resign as a minister and was put on watch. All of this ended with the decision of Prime Minister Dragiša Cvetković to ban ZBOR, on account of a clash between members of ZBOR and Communists in Belgrade University in October.

The Italian aviation bombed Bitol on the 5th of November and the country was close to being involved in war. Anglophile elements in Yugoslavia forced the Prince (who himself was an anglophile) to persecute and eliminate all pro-German elements. They did this out of fear that Ljotić could have strong ties with the Germans, and  be planning a coup with Milan Nedić to form nationalist government. These pro-German elements were of course ZBOR and Dimitrije Ljotić himself. During October and November, police arrested more than 160 members of ZBOR, many of them high profile members, beating and torturing them in prisons and camps. Yet the government wouldn’t dare arrest Dimitrije, fearing the public reaction. Instead they put him on the watch – he was constantly followed. Yet one day Dimitrije got away and hid in the women’s monastery in Srem. Soon the police all over the country were given orders to find him, but with no success. In December 1940, Ljotić sent a letter to the prince saying that he wanted this lawlessness to stop and asked to go to court to settle this. The government would never allow this, since accusing ZBOR and Ljotić would indirectly also be an accusation against Germany, a European power that Yugoslavia was now negotiating with to avoid war and join the Tripartite pact.

On 25th March in Vienna, Yugoslavia officially joined the Pact with honest German guarantees that no Axis military force will cross their borders, respecting their independence, and will not ask of Yugoslavia to participate in war. The Germans were even prepared to offer Salonika to Yugoslavia, which Yugoslav representatives refused. Ljotić viewed this as a last hope for preservation of Yugoslavia and avoidance of the war. Aware that there were many who opposed this pact he quickly spread the word of its importance, saying that if the Pact fails, Yugoslavia would cease to exist. His fears would come true on the 27th of March, when a group of officers with General Dušan Simović conducted a coup and brought down government of Dragiša Cvetković and Vladko Maček. The coup was orchestrated from London in attempt to change Yugoslavian foreign policy and abolishing the Pact.

The first days of the coup Ljotić and members of ZBOR thought this was a coup against Paul. Soon all arrested members of ZBOR were released and Ljotić was called upon to take part in the new government. Once he realized that the new government is changing the course of foreign policy, when he saw the Anglophile blight in the leadership of Yugoslavia, he refused to participate, realizing that Yugoslavia’s days were numbered.

After his refusal to take part in the treasonous government, Ljotić took his uniform and as a reserve lieutenant colonel  went to take command over the regiment that he was assigned to command in case of war. And so he waited for war.

You think that the state is less dangerous than a gun? From one gun, out of negligence, one, two or few more people can die. From poorly thought out state affairs – hundreds of thousands and millions of people can die.

THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS
[P1] <[P2] < [P3] < [Part 4] > [P5] > [P6]

THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS [P3]

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The same year that ZBOR was founded, new elections were announced for 5th May. The leadership of ZBOR decided it will partake in them and was expecting good results considering major discontent among people with the current state of the country. The action committee of the movement used the great authority of Dimitrije, his connections to Karađorđević dynasty, and his honest role in previous government as a minister for their election campaign. But this would not go well for them since the law favored the Yugoslav National Party, which had more resources and members to achieve victory. The elections ended in favor of the Yugoslav National Party, but with much controversy concerning vote theft and the strong-arming of people to prevent them from voting for ZBOR or United Opposition.

On the 24th June of the same year, Milan Stojadinović, now leader of new political party (Yugoslav Radical Union), took the position of Prime Minister. He was one of the people who opposed the 6th of January dictatorship and was regarded as an anti-monarchist, so it comes as no surprise that he and Ljotić couldn’t stand one another. Unfortunately for Dimitrije, Milan was now the one in power. Their animosity culminated on 23rd July 1937, when Stojadinović managed to pass the ratification of Concordat in the parliament. He pushed this in order to please Italy and get Yugoslavia closer to its Fascist ally, as Milan himself started copying Mussolini and the National Fascist Party. This came as a shock for the Yugoslav public, especially the Serbian Orthodox Church. Many political parties opposed this; among them was ZBOR with Dimitrije. As an honest Christian and a loyal Yugoslav, he didn’t want one faith to prevail over others and have special status in the country. This isn’t to say that he was following the interests of Serbian Orthodox Church; many members of ZBOR were Croats and Slovenes, and thus Catholic Christians. Many demonstrations took place, and one would stand out.

When Patriarch Varnava fell sick, news spread that he was poisoned because of his opposition of Concordant and the government. And thus the priesthood of the church held a procession on 19th July, days before the ratification. ZBOR took part in this procession and vocally supported it. The police first tried to ban it and when that failed during the procession, the gendarmerie used force to prevent the procession, which erupted with violence. The attack on the protesters was made on the order of Anton Korošec, a catholic priest and minister for the interior. Many bishops and civilians were harmed by armed gendarmerie officers, and  church banners were torn apart. To make it all worse for Milan and his government, the news of patriarch’s death the next day made the people more furious. This event came to be known as “The Bloody Procession”.

When he received this news, Ljotić gave a speech in his hometown of Smederevo. He condemned the usage of force against the priesthood and civilians, demanding that the government abandon their game with Concordant. The government didn’t pay any attention to the opposition and continued with the ratification.

Since the rise of Stojadinović, there was no doubt that Yugoslavia would become closer with the Axis powers. Although he proclaimed himself as being ideologically on the right, Milan didn’t agree with Ljotić on any key political questions. Since the first day of his reign, Stojadinović persecuted ZBOR and its members. In his brochure to Milan Stojadinović “A letter to the fascist apprentice”, Ljotić wrote:

“The work of ZBOR has indeed been hindered. In the months of June and July, of 212 rallies planned, only two were allowed, while the rest had been banned. Our papers have to be printed in secrecy. It will come as no surprise to us if Stojadinović fulfills his word and bans our movement all together.”

And Milan made clear his intention to ban Dimitrije’s movement, saying:

ZBOR is redundant. Even if you were to fulfill all lawful formalities your work will never be approved. ZBOR must be banned! Everyone else can remain, but ZBOR cannot, because what ZBOR wants is what I want anyway, so there is no place for ZBOR.”

Yet Ljotić always made it clear that ZBOR and Milan pursue entirely different goals. Milan constantly tried to support Fascism and National-Socialism but always for the wrong reasons. He only wanted to mimic great men in uniforms, he dreamed of large rallies where everyone would salute him as an ultimate leader. He failed to grasp the spirit of fascism, thinking it was just another international ideology like communism.

When in May he was preparing to visit Rome and Berlin to study the works of Il Duce and the Fuhrer, Ljotić commented saying:

We are not Fascists. Fascism isn’t our thought. Countless times we showed and proved this. Stojadinović is going to Rome to copy Fascism or to Berlin to copy Hitlerism, he is not adopting our own national thought, but a foreign one.”

Dimitrije always viewed Italian Fascism and German National-Socialsm as something characteristically for Italian or German folk and defended their governments when attacked by other parties in Yugoslavia. But when it came to Serbian and Yugoslavian people he always dismissed these ideas as foreign, and said that only ZBOR embodies the spirit of its people – the Yugoslav people.

The government of Milan Stojadinović and he himself personally accused Ljotić of being an agent of Hitler, spreading German propaganda and working in their interests – a populist move at that time. The government was disbanded in October and new elections were declared. At the wake of the political campaign, Milan ordered that ZBOR should be banned and Ljotić arrested. This happened, but only after the gendarmerie opened fire on a ZBOR rally, wounding many and killing one. Because of public pressure, Ljotić was released from prison, but this didn’t mean persecution of ZBOR and its members would stop. They were constantly interrupted on their rallies. United opposition offered Ljotić to join them, but he refused since no one shared his vision of the new Yugoslavia – no compromise. ZBOR and United Opposition lost, and Yugoslav Radical Union took most of the parliament seats and formed the government, though Milan Stojadinović was replaced by a new political figure: Dragiša Cvetković, a man who promised to solve the “Croatian question” and fix the nation’s foreign policy.

Dimitrije opposed this new government just like he did the former one. He saw no change coming for Yugoslavia. The partisans would continue to leech off the country and he couldn’t do anything about it.

The new government would be harder still on both the movement and its prominent leader. Unfortunately for the nation, Dimitrije Ljotić was among the few who saw the War slowly coming, aware that it will play differently than the last one. But no one would listen to him.

“We don’t go on elections to pick up mandates, but to gather all the right people in one circle, so that we can begin with purification and liberation from this unbearable state.”

THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS
[P1] <[P2] < [Part 3] > [P4] > [P5] > [P6]

THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS [P2]

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This is the second part of the series about the man named Dimitrije Ljotić, dealing with his early political life and creation of unprecedented nationalist movement ZBOR, whose spirit is slowly being revived by loyal men and women from the ruins in the rocky Balkan.

Dimitrije Ljotić was from a well known monarchist family, so his passionate views on monarchy don’t come as a surprise. In his adulthood he was very respected by the King Aleksandar I and had a friendly relationship with him. This relationship would benefit him some time later.

Prior to the King’s dictatorship, Ljotić’s political life revolved around People’s Radical Party, claiming it was „God’s will“ to join it, regardless of his view on the uselessness of political parties. Only after six years in the party, in 1926, did he become a dissident in both his and the eyes of the party. He failed to change the party and the party failed to change him. After parliamentary elections in 1927 he will end his political activity as a member of a political party.

On the 6th of January 1929, King Aleksandar disbanded the worthless parliament, banned the work of all political parties and declared a dictatorship, relaying on military and loyal monarchists, and Ljotić was among them. A strong advocate for centralised state and real monarchy, Ljotić greeted this as a good move on the King’s part and seen this as an opportunity to finally steer the nation on a different path.

After the 6th of January dictatorship many political parties and organisations were banned and their leaders and members expelled, arrested or killed. Many parties of liberal-democratic nature became afraid and demoralized, some arrest were made here and there but for the most part they stayed silent, while the more extreme groups had to be dealt with violence. Such was the case with communists, ustashe, albanian and „macedonian“ separatists. Around 400 communists were murdered between 1929 and 1932, mainly because communists have been preparing for an armed rebellion. Ustashe had the same plan that will, regardless of persecution of their leaders such as Ante Pavelić from Yugoslavia, actually happen in early September 1932, but it ultimately failed only after two days of action. All of this Ljotić, as well as many ordinary folk, met with approval, claiming that “we actually have a king!” Unfortunately, Dimitrije soon realized how things were not going the way they were supposed to. People who just yesterday used to be part of the decaying body of parliamentarism, today found themselves in positions of power as ministers and high officials. Failure of this dictatorship could be clearly seen in Ljotić’s classes. Namely he began teaching in universities about the failures and truths of French revolution, but the district inspector hearing of this forced the universities to end his lectures. One time he had to change the name of his lecture to just have it approved. Ljotić realized that the King didn’t prepare good authority for this new regime and there was a need for new ideas and people.

Valuing Dimitrije’s patriotism and his sympathies for the monarchy, the King appointed him for the position of Minister of Justice. Dimitrije made sure his ministry was well organized, with enough employees, everyone doing their jobs and there was no exploitation of their positions. In his eyes, he had one role: changing the system of government. In the same year, Ljotić presented the King with his version of a new constitution that the country needed. Main point of the draft was that the people should elect their representatives based on professions who would replace the parliament of political parties and become a direct line between the people and the King. The constitution meant to transform the country into an organic monarchy, rid of parasitic political parties. The constitution didn’t pass and Ljotić resigned from the ministry.

After this he returned to his lawyer office in Smederevo and soon enough begun working on a movement project called “Fatherland”. This was one of the movements that were tolerated during the dictatorship, along with Yugoslav Action, association of chetniks for freedom and honor of Fatherland and Slovene organization BOJ (Yugoslav Combat Organization). Many people will gather and form a group around Dimitrije Ljotić and the journals “Fatherland” and “Zbor”. All of these organizations and movements had two things in common: nationalism and loyalty to the King’s dictatorship.

Movement ZBOR formed right after the assassination of the King Aleksandar. Even before, people from different organizations talked about unifying into something new, but after the loss of the King there was a dire need of a unified and strong nationalist movement with new spirit. Yugoslav Action, BOJ and people gathered around Dimitrije Ljotić adopted and signed principles of new movement named “Yugoslav National Movement ZBOR”. One of the founders, Ratko Parežanin, explained that ZBOR stands for Združena Borbena Organizacija Rada (United Militant Labor Organization).

The movement was officially founded on the 6th of January 1935, a date that had a symbolic meaning for the movement, as it’s mission was to continue the deeds started on that day 6 years prior – to reform the country and the system. Main principles of the movement were integration of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes into a new Yugoslav community that is bound in blood and destiny and faith in God as the most important spiritual value of Yugoslav people, along with the preservation of traditional values, agrarianism, continuation of the state and maintaining the purity of Yugoslavian people.

Their appearance on the social and political scenes made a huge impression on the public. Dozens of independent newspaper that had no connection to ZBOR published this news on the front page and even some foreign media talked about the movement as a new organization led by nationalists that wants to set the country on a different path.

Days later some of the members of BOJ and Yugoslav Action decided to leave ZBOR for other, now legal parties, some of the founders of the movement left because they thought ZBOR should merge with stronger political elements, something that was contradictory to the very reason why ZBOR was even formed.

But that was a good thing and time became somewhat of a filter for members, because people in ZBOR had to be people of the same spirit and the same thought. ZBOR had to be a new force that will challenge the new order that came after the death of King Aleksandar, to expose it and bring it down.

ZBOR and it’s leader Dimitrije Ljotić had hard times ahead as people who were put down on the 6th of January back in 1929 had come back and in the next six years they will face real political struggle, but more on that in the next articles of this series.

And all of our work from then on was to realize that, which we’ve presented to him [the King] so many times, and which in the end he approved of – now that He is gone, those ideas live on in ZBOR as our goals, for the good of our Fatherland, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS
[P1] < [Part 2] > [P3] > [P4] > [P5] > [P6]

THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS [P1]

crosspolitician

Dimitrije Ljotić is an unfamiliar name outside of Serbia. Before you is the first article in a series dedicated to this man, his teachings and his work, all in chronological order beginning with his short, but comprehensive biography dealing with his background and early years. The Series will deal with his political life, his role as founder and teacher of a political movement and later armed forces in World War 2, his relation to specific people and specific events.

By the end of this series you’ll know why he was called the “Politician with the Cross“.

Ljotic

Dimitrije Ljotić was born in 1891 in Belgrade. Most of his life he spent in his hometown of Smederevo. His oldest known ancestors Đorđe, known as Ljota and Toma Dimitrijević came from the village of Blac, now in Greek Macedonia, in first half of 18th century. First they settled in a village of Krnjevo, close to town of Smederevo. Around 1750’s these two brothers built a wooden church in Krnjevo and dedicated it to saint George, their patron saint. At the end of 18th century, they resettled to Smederevo. According to legend, in their house the leader of the First Serbian Uprising, Đorđe Petrović Karađorđe, received the keys of Smederevo fort from the Turks. The family of Ljotić stayed loyal to the Karađorđević dynasty till the end. Dimitrije’s father, Vladimir Ljotić, had to leave Serbia in 1868, because he was wanted as conspirator against Obrenović dynasty, a rival dynasty to Karađorđević. He returned only after the abdication of of king Milan Obrenović in 1889, when first radical government of Sava Grujić was formed. Already in 1890 he was appointed as Serbian consul in Salonika. Later, Vladimir Ljotić was the president of Smederevo municipality and member of parlament. Between 1904 and 1909 he was again a consul in Salonika. He died in 1912.

As stated before, Dimitrije Ljotić was born in 1891 in Belgrade. He finished grade school in Smederevo, where he enrolled in high school. Upon relocation of his family to Salonika, Dimitrije Ljotić, barely 16 years old, graduated from the Serbian high school of Salonika, approved by the ministry of foreign affairs. In his early youth, in part because of his parents’ influence and partly because of the books he read, Dimitrije became very religious. He was thinking of becoming a priest and dropping out of faculty of law, but because of his father’s disapproval he gave up on that idea. His understanding of Christianity partially matched that of Tolstoy, in context of total refusal to defy evil. He became a vegetarian, abstainer, devoted with his whole being to the purity of Christ. He was so devoted to this path that when recruitment for the Balkan war begun, he was determined to refuse giving the military oath. Luckily for him, the time for giving the oath never came as he was underage. However, in order to express his patriotism, Dimitrije Ljotić volunteered to the medical service. During Balkan wars he worked in quarantines and healed the people infected with typhus.

In autumn of 1913. he went to Paris, where he stayed until the break of World War 1. His trip to Paris was the idea of King Peter the Ist who wanted to prepare him for diplomatic service, and education in France was a thing of prestige. In Paris, his commitment to monarchism and his rightist spirit developed more and more. He often visited the meetings of French royalists, and on one of those meetings he said: “All the more we should be monarchists, because we have our own national dynasty!

On his return to Serbia on September 1st 1914, he received a call to the army. With it, as one of 1300 corporals, he survived the Albanian Golgotha and recovered from it on island of Corfu. During the pursuit of Germans and Bulgarians through Serbia, Dimitrije was wounded on Ovčije field. After all his combat experience, Dimitrije lost the sense of pacifism he had before. After the end of the war he was appointed commander of the railway station in Bakar (between Rijeka and Zadar). His observation of Croat peasants from Bakar and Serbs in military was interesting, seeing how in first days Croats were more for Yugoslavia than the Serbs were. That changed dramatically very quickly. For that drastic change in Bakar, Ljotić blamed the Jews who through usury begun to get rich, exploiting the hunger that was present in first days of new country.

On 16th of April 1920, a railwaymen strike broke out, orchestrated by the Communist party of Yugoslavia. Their intention was to on the one hand prevent the delivery of ammunition that was intended against (((Bela Kun)))’s Hungary, and on the other hand with prevention of demobilization to instigate riots in the military among reservists. Dimitrije broke the strike in Bakar in a single day, arresting 36 railwaymen, sending them all to the authorities. He was demobilized on June 17th 1920. In Bakar he found his future wife Ivka with whom he had three children.

After demobilization he returned to Smederevo where he opened his lawyer office after he graduated in Belgrade in 1921. He joined the People’s Radical Party and soon became president of it’s youth wing. From 1926 he was considered a dissident by some circles in the party because of his deep religious stances. As a party dissident, Dimitrije Ljotić ran for parlament in 1927. In these elections he won 5614 (19,7% of) votes and it wasn’t enough for him to win a seat, while in his hometown of Smederevo the Democratic party won. This was the last time he ran as a candidate of the regime’s party. In his later political life he would deal with criticism of Yugoslavian regime and it’s work and even form his own political movement.

Today he is most remembered for his role in warn-torn Serbia during the Second World War, trying to salvage anything he could from the mistakes of his predecessors.

THE POLITICIAN WITH THE CROSS
[Part 1] > [P2] > [P3] > [P4] > [P5] > [P6]