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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Thursday 3 January 2013

Terror in the Balkans

I have just finished reading Ben Shepherd's, Terror in the Balkans published by Harvard University Press.

This is a study of German armies and partisan warfare in Yugoslavia during WW2, with a focus on the early 1941-43 period. This is not a narrative history of the campaigns although there is a decent overview in the introduction. Instead the author looks at the main occupation divisions with a focus on the divisional and regimental commanders. He argues that many of these were actually Austrian and their actions were influenced by their experience on the Eastern Front during the Great War.
Terror in the Balkans: German Armies and Partisan Warfare
The occupation divisions were generally second line troops and poorly equipped for the terrain they had to fight in. The strategy was conditioned by the German abhorrence of irregular warfare to which was added Nazi ideology. Shepherd argues that the commanders experience and training made them more receptive to this strategy. It resulted in widespread terror with massive reprisal shootings, destruction of whole villages and in some cases deportation. The concept of winning hearts and minds featured only rarely and then only at higher echelons when they realised that the strategy was driving the population into the partisan camp. In particular little was done to address the actions of the Axis allies in the Croatian Ustasha.

This is a well written study taking a very different approach to the conflict in Yugoslavia and is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the German approach to what was a major area of operations in WW2.


  1. WoW!
    I am a wargamer living in Scandinavia but fled from the Balkans in the 90´s. Thought I was alone being interested in the military history of the Balkans:)
    Thank you for this blog, consider it followed!

    1. Thanks. Hope you find it interesting. Sorry you had to flee, it's a lovely part of the world (when peaceful!) and I have enjoyed my travels there.