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Letter from Prof. Jovanovic to Emperor's Clothes editor Jared Israel


[During a brief Internet exchange concerning the Rohde debate, Prof. Drasko Jovanovic mentioned that as a child in Yugoslavia during World War II he had lived through real Nazi genocide. I asked if I could interview him and he sent me the following note, which I found both gracious and moving. You should know that Drasko Jovanovic is a most distinguished scientist, Senior Physicist, Emeritus, Fermilab and visiting professor at UIUC. - Jared Israel ]

Dear Jared,

Yes, I would be glad to give you an interview. Before you decide to spend time with me let me briefly outline my life story so you can better decide whether it is worth your time.

I was born in 1930 in Belgrade. My father was a physics professor, ( he studied under Marie Curie in Paris for 10 years and got a Ph.D. at Sorbonne) and we were moderately well off. In 1941 I was 11, a fifth grader, ( first year gimnazium). Some of my father’s German friends alerted him that the attack on Yugoslavia is imminent. He hired a taxi and we left Belgrade just that morning as the bombing started. My father stayed in Belgrade.

Taxi took us through Kragujevac where one aunt lived but continued to Jagodina to another aunt who had more room. We were three: my mother and my brother, 7 year old. That was 6th of April 1941. The German troops entered Jagodina on the 14th of April. The Germans were a sight. Polished, motorized, elegant, playing accordions. Supermen in comparison to dusty, poor looking Yugoslav soldiers. As we moved along the road I had a white handkerchief wrapped around my arm and repeated silently a phrase: " Ich bin ein schuler, Ich fahre nach Jagodina". Along the road I saw the dead Serbian soldiers in a ditch.

My favorite older cousin, Mita ( Demitrius) was living in Kragujevac. He was 15 at the time. I visited them, Uncle Aunt and cousin Mita at the beginning of October. Just then it was rumored that there was an attack on German truck and a hand grenade killed some Germans. The collecting of males started two or three days later. The news spread through the town.: "Get off the streets, Germans are collecting everybody off the street and taking them to Banjica. My uncle layed in bed and pretended to be sick, as did my cousin and I. Next day the shooting can be heard. The news spread through the town : "They are killing them all!" Women rushed to the place and the lamentation and whine ( a custom in Serbia) started to be heard from almost every courtyard. We were spared, miraculously. The shooting lasted three days.

There is a book, "The German Army and Genocide" published by New Press. New York which has mostly pictures of these killings. I have seen with my own eyes the posting glued on telephone poles which said:

ANNOUNCEMENT ( Bekantmachung )

  • "Cowardly attacks of the past week on German soldiers resulted in killing 10 and wounding 26. These attacks must be punished. Because of that, for every dead German soldiers, 100 were shot, and for every wounded 50 were shot. These were mostly communists, bandits and their helpers, altogether 2300. In the future there will be the same result for any similar act or sabotage. - Commander of the town"

Now keep in mind that I have not seen the shooting or the dead. I was 11. They kept me away from that. But my uncle who was 55 at that time and my aunt have seen the dead. Rumor has it that in fact Germans shot more likely 7000. ( Simple research of the church books would reveal the exact number).

The rest of the war we spent in a small town, Sokobanja, population 2500. Off the railroad tracks and less often visited by Germans. My father hid during the war. Mostly spending a week or so in Belgrade, Kragujevac, Jagodina and Paracin. He was wanted by the Gestapo- but that is another story.

Sokobanja was a "free" territory. First occupied by Draza Mihajlovic cetniks until August 1944 and then by Partisans. During the Ploesti bombing by US bombers from Bari, the flight path was directly overhead and we counted the number of fortresses going and coming back. Many pilots bailed out from damaged planes over our territory. I vaguely remember talking ( poorly ) to one named Jackson from Cincinnati.

In October 1944 Russian troops were pushing Germans from Bulgaria and again a retreat route was through Sokobanja. As a 14 yr old I was given a machine gun and along with 20 other boys "defended" a main route of German retreat. Early one morning, we seemed to detect German advance unit and I fired all three magazines of bullets in that direction and then fled into the woods.Our group must have made quite the racket for no Germans ever showed up. Two days later Russian Red Army marched through. Believe it or not, they had camels!

My most poignant impressions of the war were a bunch of sixteen boys who joined our middle school class, sometimes in November 1941. These were escapees from Bosnia, who lost their parents during the early pogrom of Serbs in the months from April 1941. Their heads were shaven and they had some flimsy uniforms. They were joyful and played with us, but at some moment if somebody mentioned parents, they would stop playing and start crying. Every town in Serbia has taken on a group of "izbeglicas" - refugees - and even Sokobanja, a small town, of 2500 was supporting a hundred or so. I have lost track of what happened to them.

Food was very scarce or nonexistent for my family during the war. We tended our own four goats for milk, fed a pig or two for meat and had a few chickens. But the main staple was beans and corn. No sugar and amazingly salt was also in short supply.

Now the rest of my life: I finished high school in Belgrade,1949, got into the University same year and graduated, B.Sc in physics in 1953. Had to serve in the Army, ( another story) and in 1954 came straight to the University of Chicago where I got Ph. D in 1959. So there. If you think that one can get some valuable information from me, I am ready. But if not, I will not be offended.

And now my sincere thanks for communicating with me on the subject of Srebrenica. I believe that Srebrenica as well as several other propaganda ploys of the US press were instrumental in swaying public oppinion.

My heartfelt greetings,
Drasko Jovanovic