On This Day – Yugoslavia Surrenders to the Axis Powers

Yugoslavian Infantry Surrendering. Photo courtesy of Gofferjé, Leander.
Yugoslavian Infantry Surrendering. Photo courtesy of Gofferjé, Leander.

_On this day in 1941, Yugoslavia surrendered to the Axis Powers after being invaded by Germany and after just eleven days of fighting. Foreign Minister Aleksander Cincar-Markovic and General Milojko Jankovic signed the armistice that unconditionally surrendered all Yugoslav troops and went into effect the next day at noon.

The invasion of Yugoslavia by the Axis Powers began on 6 April, and commenced with a huge overwhelming air attack on Belgrade known as Operation Castigo. On this one day alone, 17,000 civilians were killed and the invasion was over much quicker than was anticipated, largely due to Yugoslavia being unprepared for the violent assault. The reasons for the invasion seem to lie in Yugoslavia’s announcement that it would not honour its ‘obligations’ to join the Axis Powers and allow transit through its territory for German troops heading to Greece. Instead, it desired to side with the Allied forces.

After the surrender, Yugoslavia was divided between Germany, Hungary, Italy and Bulgaria, with most of Serbia being occupied by Germany. Once the war had ended, the Yugoslav Union was reestablished under Communist rule, though relationships with the Soviet Union had all but disintegrated by 1948. Between 1991 and 1992, it dissolved again, this time as the result of an impending civil war that led Slovenia and Croatia to declare their independence.