April 6-7, 1941: Destruction of Serbian Library


On the sixth of April 1941, the Germans bombed Belgrade heavily for two days. Hitler called it “Operation Punishment” for the Serbs for not becoming an Axis satellite in World War II. The Germans wanted to use Yugoslavia as an area for industry and agriculture and setting up military bases. They controlled much of it, but the Serbs chose the high road and suffered greatly.

Above is a photo of the wreath and flowers placed at the site of the former National Library of Serbia. The bombing of Belgrade by the Nazis targetted not only military targets, but civilian as well. Tragically, thousands of civilians died in the carpet bombing. The library was also destroyed, taking with it valuable 900 year old documents and a treasure trove of the history of the Serbian people.

The bombing was made worse by the ex-Yugoslavian pilots in Croatia, an ally of Germany during the war. They knew where to strategically hit the Serbian part of the Yugoslavian military infrastructure.

I visited the site yesterday with Owen and Oliver and gave them a history lesson about Germany’s ambitions in World War II. The site contrasts well with the buildings left from the NATO bombing of 1999. It would be good for Belgrade to leave one of the sites like this as a physical memory. I wonder if the Yugoslav Defense Ministry building will look like this in 70 years.

Visiting the site also made me think of the long battle the Serbs have had with the German/Austrian people. One reads much about the 500 years of subjugation of the Ottomans, but throughout the years, the Austro-Hungarians and Germans have also inflicted much pain on the Serbs. Hitler could have eliminated the Serbs in World War II if they would have won the war.

I would like to see the site made more into a museum. On the site within the ruins, they could set up rooms with photos and memorabilia from World War II or perhaps a bit on the type of documents that were lost.

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