With laying wreaths, Belgrade marks the 71st anniversary of the bombing which started German aggression against the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in World War Two. The exact number of victims has never been established, but it is estimated that 4,000 Belgraders were killed in the raid. The day when the Serbian National library was destructed commenced with laying a book at the Kosancicev Venac, the original location of the Library. Jelena Simic has more.
The attack of Hitler’s Third Reich against Belgrade, an open city at the time, included the destruction of hospitals, densely populated city quarters, as well as complete destruction of the Serbian National Library, housed in a building from in Kosancicev Venac Street, which was built in 1832. It was the only national library which was deliberately destroyed in WWII, with 350,000 books, including priceless medieval manuscripts, were lost in fire set off by incendiary bombs. The library also kept collections of Turkish manuscripts, over 200 old books printed from the 15th to the 17th century, ancient maps, engravings, fine art paintings and journals, as well as all books printed in Serbia and neighboring countries since 1832. Minister of Culture Predrag Markovic placed a copy of Ivo Andric’s Bridge on the Drina against the ruins of the library, thus reminding that this book symbolizes all kinds of bridges connecting not only walls but people too. In addition, Markovic placed the Serbian Prose journal dedicated to Radoslav Petkovic, thus supporting the preservation of the periodical slowly disappearing, and the book A gate to the Balkans by Svetlana Velmar Jankovic to remind not only of destruction of the library but of all cases of destruction Belgrade suffered during its long history.
The fate of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was decided in a coup and protests staged in Belgrade on March 27, 1941 against the Tripartite Pact, which was signed two days earlier by the then Government of Prime Minister Dragisa Cvetkovic and Deputy Prime Minister Vlatko Macek. Based on Hitler’s order, the German Army Headquarters adopted Directive 25, which envisaged complete destruction of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, as well as Greece. The German 4th Air Fleet prepared the Operation Punishment under the command of lieutenant general Alexander Loehr.
A delegation of the Serbian Army and Defense Ministry, headed by Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac, laid a wreath at the Monument dedicated to pilots who died defending Belgrade in April 1941.
Other cities in Serbia were also attacked and the then Yugoslavia capitulated after only 11 days, whereas the king and the government fled the country three days earlier. Yugoslavia was disintegrate, whereas Croatia with Ante Pavelic at its helm and the support of Musolini’s Italy, proclaimed the so-called Independent State of Croatia, adding B-H and Srem to its territory in the process. This Nazi creation produced a system of death camps where over 600.000 Orthodox Serbs, 80.000 Roma and 48.000 Jews were liquidated. Some 20,000 citizens of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia died on April 6, 1941, which was just the beginning of the four-year liberation battle during which some 1.7 million people lost their lives throughout the territory of the then Kingdom of Yugoslavia.