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‘Germany is your friend now’: Outgoing US ambassador insults Serbia at memorial for schoolboys executed by Nazis

Nebojsa Malic
Nebojsa Malic

is a Serbian-American journalist, blogger and translator, who wrote a regular column for Antiwar.com from 2000 to 2015, and is now senior writer at RT. Follow him on Telegram @TheNebulator and on Twitter @NebojsaMalic

is a Serbian-American journalist, blogger and translator, who wrote a regular column for Antiwar.com from 2000 to 2015, and is now senior writer at RT. Follow him on Telegram @TheNebulator and on Twitter @NebojsaMalic

‘Germany is your friend now’: Outgoing US ambassador insults Serbia at memorial for schoolboys executed by Nazis
Seeking to honor schoolboys and other Serbian civilians murdered in a mass execution by Germans in 1941, the US ambassador in Belgrade spoke about progress towards a peaceful, united Europe – just like the Nazis did back then.

On Thursday, Ambassador Anthony Godfrey visited the monument in Kragujevac, dedicated to some 2,800 civilians the Nazi occupiers executed on October 21, 1941. Bowing to the “tragic victims” and even referencing a poem memorializing the massacre of an entire class of schoolboys, Godfrey then pivoted to milking the event for political purposes.

“Germany today stands with Serbia as a great friend, which speaks of the strength of reconciliation and the need to walk forward together towards a united Europe, ruled by peace and unity,” he tweeted.

First off, this is simply not true. Secondly, it’s far too close for comfort to rhetoric the Nazis themselves used in the 1940s, as they massacred their way across Serbia and elsewhere.

“Serbia” is a bit of a misnomer here, as that was the designation given by the Axis powers to the German occupation zone after Adolf Hitler personally ordered Yugoslavia be “wiped off the map” in April 1941. Restored in 1945, Yugoslavia was again obliterated in 1991, with the eager participation of the reunited “democratic” Germany. The 1999 air war NATO waged on the last entity by that name – which damaged the Kragujevac monument – was the first combat mission for the Luftwaffe since WWII. After the occupation of Kosovo and the secession of Montenegro, all that remains is a “Serbia” that almost matches the borders of Hitler’s occupation zone.

These days, Germany loves to bring up its “investments” in Serbia. So did the Reich of yore, with posters proclaiming “Germany has jobs for everyone” depicting smiling men and women – as opposed to the grim reality of slave labor factories for Slavic “subhumans.” 

The first time I saw that poster was in a monograph about Nazi wartime propaganda, which I picked up on a visit to Belgrade in 2004. It’s now available online, though it helps if you can read Cyrillic. As an aside, it’s ironic that the Nazis respected the Serbs’ language even as they murdered them en masse and endorsed a genocide of them in the “Independent State of Croatia,” while NATO these days uses the Croatian script, as evidenced by Godfrey’s tweet. 

Other posters in the collection feature Nazi rhetoric about “European unity” that reminds me so much of Godfrey’s. One declares June 22 – the day on which Hitler’s invasion of the USSR began – to be “Europe’s national holiday” and a “day of liberation from Bolshevik aggression.” 

Another poster describes “what will happen once national-socialism wins,” and it has to be read to be believed.

“The Serbian people will become a member of the great European family,” it declares. “There will be no fear of future wars, and the people will devote themselves to improving their own and general well-being, supported by a united Europe.” Sound familiar? But there’s more: “A new, better life will begin. In the blood of Europe's finest sons, a new era will dawn for Serbia as well – an era of peace and prosperity for the people.”

The EU, NATO and the US “messaging” to Serbia these days harps on the same things: prosperity, unity, peace… if only they submit. Uncanny, isn’t it?

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Well, back in 1941, the Serbs refused to submit. A number of royalist officers retreated to the forests and the mountains, waging an insurgency through sabotaging roads and railways and making hit-and-run attacks on German garrisons. In June, after the Axis invasion of the USSR, the Communists launched their own insurgency. The two factions initially worked together, before falling out in a struggle for postwar supremacy.

Western Allies would end up playing a shameful role in that civil war, betraying the royalists to side with the Communists – and carpet-bombing Serbian cities in 1944 on their behalf, killing many innocent civilians – even as the royalists organized the largest rescue of downed Allied airmen in history, known as Operation Halyard.

Last month, Ambassador Godfrey and General David Tabor, commander of the Special Operations Command Europe, attended a ceremony commemorating the Halyard rescue. Except they thanked “Serbian farmers” and completely erased the royalist troops that were involved.

Back in October 1941, the Communists and royalists still worked together. They struck the garrison in Gornji Milanovac, killing 10 and wounding 26 Germans. The occupation command responded by ordering a reprisal: 100 Serb civilians would be shot for every Wehrmacht soldier killed, and 50 for every wounded. The nearly 3,000 hostages shot in Kragujevac worked out to about a tenth of the town’s population – a literal decimation. 

Among those executed were 144 schoolboys, shot to death alongside their teachers – one of whom is said to have exclaimed, “Shoot, but I am still giving my lesson.”

This is what Ambassador Godfrey wants the Serbs to forgive and forget, for the sake of “walking forward together towards a united Europe, ruled by peace and unity”? What’s the State Department thinking? Oh. Never mind.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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