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Armed resistance Culture and arts Memorialisation

Salvatory slap on the face

In the film Walter Defends Sarajevo”, one scene plays out as a clever ploy: Walter himself, dressed in a german “Sicherheitsdienst” uniform walks into a railroad switch outpost alongside his armed aide. Inside, the switch operator was held by two police agents. The operator was a communist informer, so Walter needed to get him out. Pretending to be an SS officer who found his suspect, Walter slapped the operator, and then told the agents that he was taking him into custody. While the agents tried to challenge this decision, Walter and his aide waited for a locomotive to whistle by. Using the deafening noise, they fired their machine gun and killed the policemen.

 

Cinema often gained inspiration from retold histories. A similar slap on the face actually happened to Aleksandar Mezić. He and his wife Dobrila Šiljak enlisted as doctors in the International Brigades.They managed to evade French internment and settled in Marseilles. They were soon joined by Dimitrije Koturović, a former Spaniard and a metalworker from Rakovica (Serbia), who was released from compulsory labor service with the help of the Yugoslav Consulate. He soon became known as “Commandant Cot,” the “inter–regional” command technical chief in the FTP–MOI. As of late 1942, Koturović arranged several successful bombing attacks on the German installations. He was also instrumental in reestablishing armed groups in Var and Alpes–Maritimes, where he directed several Armenian and Bulgarian communists, after a series of arrests that fell on the Italian anti–fascist groups throughout mid–1943.

 

Mezić recalls how he was walking back from a medical intervention and stumbled into an ongoing police raid. He was placed against the wall alongside other detainees. “All of a sudden,” he writes, “I thought I was seeing Cot, ten meters in front of me.” He reckoned he was hallucinating from sleeplessness, but Koturović was indeed there, “with his hat tilted in agent–style, and gun and handcuffs lurking from underneath his coat.” Cot was pretending to be a police agent and walked into the comotion. He approached Mezić and shouted a few words of German he managed to remember: “Swine, communist, bandit… I got you now… forward!” He slapped him and took him away. Unsuspecting policemen conducting the raid laughed at the scene and went about their business. Mezić was free.

 

Koturović died in April 1944 in Marseille while dismantling a bomb in his workshop. A commemorative plaque in his honor was placed in that location, on Traverse au Moulin de la Vilette, by the “Friends of the FTPF.” “He died so France could live,” says the inscription.

 

Vladan Vukliš

Sources
  • Aleksandar Mezić, “Marselj,” in: Španija 1936–1939, ed. Čedo Kapor (Beograd: Vojnoizdavački zavod, 1971), IV, 482–511.
  • Grégoire Georges–Picot, L’innocence et la ruse: des étrangers dans la Résistance en Provence (Paris: Tirésias, 2000).
  • David Coquille, “Dimitri Koturovic, héros serbe des FTP–MOI tombé dans l’oubli,” in: La Marseillaise, 18 Septembre 2016.
Further reading
  • Otmar Kreačić, “Dimitrije Koturović Kot,” in: Španija 1936–1939, ed. Čedo Kapor (Beograd: Vojnoizdavački zavod, 1971), V, 116–119.
  • “Dokumenti i vreme: Komandant Kot (Dimitrije Koturović),” documentary film by Milutin Stanišić (Beograd: RTV Beograd, 1968).
  • Stéphane Courtois, Denis Peschanski, Adam Rayski, Le sang de l’étranger. Les immigrés de la MOI dans la résistance (Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard, 1989).
  • Denis Peschanski, Des étrangers dans la Résistance (Paris: Atelier, 2002).

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