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Dr Zoran Janjetović
Institute for Recent History of Serbia
Belgrade, Serbia

 

DIMITRIJE LJOTIĆ AND WORLD WAR II

Vol. XXXVI, 1/2018, pp. 93–118
https://doi.org/10.29362/ist20veka.2018.1.jan.93-118

 

ABSTRACT/RESUME: The paper deals with the activity of the controversial right-wing politician Dimitrije Ljotić during the German occupation of Serbia 1941–1944. Ljotić was the leader of the fascist-like movement Zbor that strove to reform Yugoslavia along the authoritarian lines. Its salient features were anticommunism and anti-Semitism. These features, especially anti-Semitism, became more prominent during the late 1930s. Ljotić aimed his political and propaganda activity at keeping Yugoslavia out of the war. To that aim, he suggested a number of authoritarian reforms. Under German occupation the movement was the only that was permitted to operate. Although he shared some of the ideological views of the Nazis, Ljotić collaborated with them in the interest of his people, as he believed. He put the blame for WWII on the Jews who according to him, strove for world dominance. Thus he did nothing to prevent deportation and extermination of his Jewish fellow-countrymen and he indulged in Jew-baiting until the very end of the war. No less rabid was his anti-communism. He fought it ideologically through the press, and with weapons – through the Serbian Volunteer Corps under Zbor’s domination. He also set up a penitentiary re-educational institution for communist youths. In that way he showed he was not a low-brow anti-communist who believed only in violence. Although often termed eminence grise of the collaborationist regime, the extent of his actual influence remains disputed. It seems it was substantial, but not overwhelming: he did help set up the collaborationist governments and had influence on them, but it was not decisive. His adherents were also persecuted by the German and Serbian police, and only part of higher officials were members of the Zbor. The realm of education was in the hands of Ljotić’s opponents. He helped install his relative Milan Nedić as prime minister, but he could not influence him on many points and the rivalry between the two men was obvious. Nedić’s plan for reorganization of Serbia along authoritarian lines did not bear the Zbor’s features but was rather a copy of the Italian political system. By wanting to help his people under occupation, Ljotić fell victim to his own limitations that prevented him from realizing the true meaning of WWII and forced him to put up with people and phenomena that he had so severely criticized before the war.

 

KEYWORDS: Dimitrije Ljotić, Zbor, WWII, occupation, Jews, Germans, Milan Nedić

 

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