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Armed resistance Early resistance Forests and mountains

The first partisan squad in Yugoslavia

After hearing the news of the Third Reich’s attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, on their radio receivers, a group of communists from the town of Sisak decided to “go to the woods” and establish the first partisan detachment on Yugoslav soil. The first partisans were known communists who were identified by the Ustasha authorities, and it was likely that they faced imprisonment. That same evening a military camp was formed from which they began organizing the resistance movement. The next day they started sabotaging the Zagreb – Sisak railway, demolishing telegraph poles and engaging in similar acts of sabotage. To strengthen the detachment in terms of military tactics, the leadership of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia sent two experienced fighters from the Spanish Civil War.


The baptism by fire for the detachment took place a month after its establishment. In the morning of July 22, about 500 members of the Armed Forces of the Independent State of Croatia set out towards the forest where the partisans were hiding. In order to force the “rebels” to surrender without a fight their parents were placed at the head of the column as hostages. After a brief clash, the partisans managed to break out of the encirclement. Two partisan fighters were killed during the conflict. The attempt to deal with the detachment, the killed partisans, and the terror carried out by Ustasha authorities in Sisak did not intimidate or deter those who were already in it, nor those who were planning to join. On the contrary, the number of newly arrived fighters increased day by day. Three months after its establishment, the detachment doubled in size, numbering just over seventy members.


Due to the fact that not only did the acts of sabotage not cease, but they intensified further due to the increased numbers, the authorities began considering a new confrontation. The action began on the morning of September 20 with the encirclement and bombardment of the forest where the detachment was located. However, the partisans managed to slip through the enemy soldiers and move to a territory that was not under their control. Three months after its establishment the detachment was disbanded, and its fighters were deployed to other military units, participating in battles on all Yugoslav fronts. By the end of the war exactly half of the members of the first partisan detachment had been killed.


June 22, the day when the first partisan detachment was founded, is celebrated today in Croatia as a national holiday – the Day of Antifascist Struggle.


Hrvoje Klasić

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