Militia Ustacha

The Militia Ustashe ( Ustaška vojnica in Croatian ) was the host of the party Ustashe , established by the fascist regime of Ante Pavelic in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), puppet state of the Axis in Yugoslavia during World War II .

Throughout its existence, the Ustacha Militia underwent various reorganizations in its structure, which expanded to include all the armed elements of the NDH government that were not part of the Croatian National Guard , Navy and Air Force . It was amalgamated with the National Guard between December 1944 and January 1945 to form the Croatian Armed Forces ( Hrvatske oružane snage, HOS), although the amagalmation did not result in a homogenous organization and the former officers of the Ustacha Militia dominated its operations and maintained The majority of the HOS command posts.

Militia Ustacha was responsible for some of the most notorious atrocities committed during World War II, including playing a key role in establishing and operating about 20 concentration camps in the NDH. Among its most important units were the Black Legion ( Crna Legija ) commanded by Jure Francetić and Rafael Boban , and the Ustacha Defense Brigades commanded by Vjekoslav Luburić .

Formation and organizational changes

The Ustacha Militia was created on April 11, 1941, when Marshal Slavko Kvaternik appointed a separate command to control the various voluntary armed groups that had spontaneously formed in the NDH while the Yugoslav Royal Army collapsed before the Axis invasion. On May 10, 1941, Ante Pavelić issued a special order detailing his formal organization. 1 2 However, some of the groups that had initially formed in various localities were Ustashe units irregular or “wild” that were not included in the formal organization, which initially had only 4,500 men. The number of irregular Ustacha units throughout the NDH was reported as 25,000-30,000 men. 3 Both the formal and irregular Ustacha units soon became involved in atrocities against Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and all real and supposed opponents of the Ustacha regime. 4

The militia was mainly made up of volunteers, and only 25% of its officers were professional military personnel. She was indoctrinated in the Ustacha ideology and committed to defending Pavelić and the Ustacha regime. Although Pavelić was his commanding commander, in practice he did not exercise control over his military operations, since in the field the formations and units Ustacha were placed under the command of the National Guard or Axis forces. 2 The militia had a significant number of Muslims in its ranks, although it declined after mid-1943 and there were no Muslim leaders, as few managed to climb the ranks. 5 Militia Ustacha also included the small German militia ( Einsatzstaffel der Deutschen Mannschaft in German ) which was created in July 1941, which in June 1942 reached a force of 1,500 soldiers and 1,200 reservists. The main task of the Einsatzstaffel was to protect the German communities, especially in Slavonia and Sirmia . 6

In August 1941 the Ustacha Surveillance Service ( Ustaška nadzorna služba ) was created to combat anti-Ustacha activities within the NDH. The Surveillance Service consisted of four elements: the Ustacha Police, the Ustacha Secret Service, the Ustacha Defense Brigades and agents. The head of the Surveillance Service was appointed by Pavelić and was directly answerable to him. 4

In general, the uncontrolled behavior of the Ustacha attracted certain criminal elements to the Militia Ustacha. This was recognized by Pavelić himself, although he used these elements as a convenient scapegoat for the actions committed by the nucleus of the Ustacha movement. 7

Formation of special units

Main article: Black Legion (Croatia)

In late 1941, a unit of the Ustacha Militia known as the Black Legion ( Crna Legija ) was formed mainly from Muslim and Croatian refugees from villages in eastern Bosnia, where the Chetniks and Partisans had already committed large-scale massacres. The Legion, which had a strength of between 1,000 and 1,500 men, gained a fierce reputation by fighting both the Chetniks and the Partisans, and was responsible for large-scale massacres of Serbian civilians. Initially it was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Jure Francetić, and after being eliminated by the Partisanos in December of 1942, by Major Rafael Boban. It was deployed in different areas of the NDH, becoming part of the 5th Division of the HOS in December 1944, with Boban being promoted to General to command the division. Referring to Fig.

The other special force was the Ustacha Defense Brigades, which were under the command of Vjekoslav Luburić, who soon gained a reputation of being extremely brutal. The Brigades administered the series of concentration camps established by the Ustacha regime. Like the Legion, they also fought the Chetniks and Partisans, being responsible for large-scale atrocities and terror against the Serbian population. Referring to Fig.

Reorganization of 1942

On March 18, 1942, a decree law organized the Armed Forces in the National Guard, the Navy, the Air Force, the Gendarmerie and the Ustacha Militia. 9 By special decree of June 26, 1942, the Gendarmerie, formerly part of the National Guard, became part of the Ustacha Militia and was placed under the command of Colonel Ustacha Vilko Pečnikar. 9 In July and August 1942, the militia took control of all the NDH Armed Forces, with the exception of the National Guard, Navy, and Air Force. At that time the militia consisted of regular militiamen, Pavelić’s personal guard, railway security troops, the Gendarmerie, the Police, the Ustacha Vigilance Service, the Ustacha educational center, the Ustacha preparatory service and the disciplinary court. 2 The Ustacha Vigilance Service included the Ustacha Defense Brigades, which had been founded at the end of 1941. The Defense Brigades carried out operations against the Chetniks and Partisans , committed atrocities against the Serbian , Jewish and Gypsies of the NDH And administered the Ustacha concentration camps, including Jasenovac concentration camp . Referring to Fig.

Following the resignation of Marshal Kvaternik as Army Minister and Commander-in-Chief in October 1942, relations between the Ustacha Militia and the Croatian National Guard deteriorated further, to the detriment of the National Guard. 10


In May 1943, there were about 30 regular battalions of militiamen with varying forces. At that time, 12 were deployed in the areas of Italian occupation, mainly in Zone III, while the rest were working with the Light and Mountain Infantry fights of the National Guard, as well as the German-Croat SS police. 2 This pattern of deployment was applied until the merger of the National Guard and Militia in December 1944. In June 1943 the Ustacha Surveillance Service was abolished, with its functions transferred to the Ministry of the Interior. However, the Ustacha Defense Brigades under Luburić continued to operate independently. 8 By September 1943, shortly after the Italian surrender, the Ustacha Militia included 25 regular battalions (22,500 men) plus Pavelić’s personal guard of about 6,000 men and about 18,000 men from the Gendarmerie as well as many other small armed groups . eleven

In October 1943, the German commander-in-chief for Southeastern Europe, Generalfeldmarschall Maximilian von Weichs , made a proposal to the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht which included the merger of the Ustacha Militia with the Croatian National Guard. The proposal effectively recommended removing the Ustacha from power as part of the rapid changes in NDH administration. Although the proposal was taken into consideration by Hitler , it decided not to apply it mainly for the amount of additional German troops that would have been necessary to implement it. 12

Fusion with the Croatian National Guard

On December 1, 1944, the Ustacha Militia and the Croatian National Guard were merged and organized into 16 divisions divided into 3 bodies . At that time, the Ustacha Militia consisted of about 76,000 officers and soldiers. This figure did not include the Ustacha Defense Brigades, with 10,000 men, who remained outside the Armed Forces. 13 The Ustacha with adequate experience and some officers who were military career and very loyal to Pavelić were installed in all key positions. 14

The new force was called the Croatian Armed Forces ( Hrvatske oružane snage , HOS), but the merger only consisted of combining existing foments such as the Ustacha militia brigades and the Croatian National Guard regiments as separate elements under a division command common. The uniforms, equipment and logistics seem to have continued the same as they were before the merger. In March 1945, the Ustacha Defense Brigades were incorporated into the HOS. fifteen

Displigues within the NDH

When the Italians reoccupied Zone II and Zone III in 1941, they took over almost a third of the NDH territory, and ordered all units of the Ustacha Militia (which they accused of excesses against the Serbian population of the NDH ) And most of the units of the National Guard that withdraw from those areas. The government of the NDH protested vigorously, but the Italians did not give in and instead used Chetnik auxiliary units to keep the peace in those areas. In fact, even in September 1942, no more than 1,000 members of the Ustacha Militia were in Zone II, and even they were under Italian command and control. 16

In mid-1942, the Germans took command of any NDH troop operating with them north of the Italo-German demarcation line. 17

Reputation combative

The Militia Ustacha was distinguished in almost all aspects of the Croatian National Guard, whose members were mainly recruited. While the National Guard was poorly equipped and suffered mass desertions from late 1942 onwards, the Ustacha Militia was composed of well-equipped young indoctrinated volunteers who were loyal to Pavelić and the NDH. Despite being badly disciplined, they liked to fight and were determined in combat. It was not until mid-1944 that the units of the Ustacha Militia began to have important numbers of desertions, although these never reached the scale of those in the National Guard. 18 Because of their great confidence, units of the Ustacha Militia were employed on the flanks of suspicious National Guard units fighting Partisans in order to demean mass desertions during the action. 19

Antipartisan operations and atrocities

The Militia Ustacha committed many abuses and atrocities against the Serbian population that lived in the territory of the NDH. In May 1941, in the village of Glina , only 50 km from Zagreb , the Ustacha from nearby areas introduced some 260 people inside a church, killed them and then burned down the church. 20 By September 1941, more than 118,000 Serbs had been expelled from the NDH, were destroyed or desecrated many Orthodox churches and many Orthodox priests were killed or expelled. twenty-one

At the end of July 1942, all NDH concentration camps were officially transferred from the Ministry of Interior to the Ustacha Surveillance Service, which had administered the camps since August 1941. There were about 20 large and medium-sized camps, Jasenovac being the largest of all to be formed by a conglomeration of concentration camps near the confluence of the rivers Sava and Una. The camps were notorious for brutality, barbarism and large numbers of victims. Even after the dissolution of the Ustacha Vigilance Service in January 1943, Vjekoslav Luburić remained in charge of the concentration camps for most of the war. 22

In August 1942, elements of the Ustacha Militia, together with Croatian and German National Guard forces, carried out a major anti-Partisan operation in Sirmia. During this offensive, the Ustacha Militia units carried out large-scale atrocities against the Serb population of the region, and then sent thousands of Serbian civilians, including women and children, as well as some partisans, to the camps. Concentration of Jasenovac, Sisak , Stara Gradiška and Zemun . 2. 3


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