Indictment of the Exterminators
of the Albanian People
'Albania's Golgotha', originally published in German, is a compilation of rare news reports which seeped out of Kosova at the time of the Balkan wars. The Ottoman Empire, which had ruled Kosova for five centuries, was in disarray. Filling the vacuum, Serb troops invaded the territory to claim and occupy it for Serbia, and to cleanse it of its Albanian population.
The author of the moving document, Leo Freundlich (1875 - 1953), was a Jewish publicist living in Vienna. The following is known about him. Freundlich was born of a wealthy Jewish family in Bielitz-Biala in the then Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Bielsko-Biala in southern Poland) and was early to develop a passion for the ideals of socialism. He worked as an editor in Aussig (now Ústí nad Labem in the Czech Republic) where he met his wife, Emmy Kögler, daughter of the former mayor of the town. The couple were married in Gretna Green in Scotland in 1900 and later settled in Mährisch-Schönberg (now Šumperk) where, in 1907, Leo became a member of the Reichsrat. Now with two children, Hertha (1901-1979) and Gertrud (1902-1985), Emmy and Leo Freundlich were both politically active, participated in the founding of the cooperative Konsumverein, and gave public lectures in the cause of socialist advancement. Leo Freundlich also edited the left-wing newspaper 'Volkswacht', in which his attacks against the Catholic Church got him into trouble, at one point even three weeks in jail. With the newspaper and the Konsumverein facing financial difficulties, he was forced to resign from the Reichsrat in 1910 after the defeat of the German socialists in northern Bohemia. Shortly thereafter, the couple divorced in Merano in southern Tyrolia, and had no more contact with one another, although Leo maintained links with his children, whom he visited regularly. With her contacts among leading Social Democrats in Vienna such as Karl Renner, Emmy Freundlich (1878-1948) went on to become a noted writer and political figure of the Austrian cooperative movement, and president of the International Cooperative Women's Guild (1921-1948).
Leo Freundlich, for his part, after the publication of 'Albania's Golgotha' in 1913, had first direct contacts with Albania as a soldier with Austro-Hungarian forces in the country in World War I. He later joined the service of Ahmet Zogu (1895-1961), subsequently King Zog of Albania (r. 1928-1939), as honorary consul of the Kingdom of Albania in Vienna. In this capacity, in the 1930s, he was involved in promoting Albania's trade relations with the German Reich. It is reported that, when confronted with the Nazi salute 'Heil Hitler', which he despised, he would respond with a sarcastic 'Heil Zogu' salute, and would amuse himself at seeing the confusion of his German counterparts, who believed this to be a standard Albanian greeting.
When life in Vienna became intolerable for the Jews, Freundlich moved to Switzerland, where he headed the Albanian mission to the League of Nations in Geneva. In 1939, his children were also forced to flee Vienna and initially took refuge with their father in Geneva, before carrying on to London and America. Leo Freundlich, who had married a second time, remained in Geneva during the Second World War, where he lived in relative poverty and was supported financially by his children.
After the communist takeover in Albania, he is known to have written a letter to Koçi Xoxe (1917-1949), deputy prime minister from 1946-1948, requesting - unsuccessfully - to be made honorary consul in Vienna once again.
On the eastern banks of the Adriatic, a mere three days journey from Vienna, live an autochthonous people who for centuries have been fighting for their freedom and independence against enemies and oppressors of all types. This nation has clung steadfast to its roots through countless wars and the cataclysms of history. Neither the great migrations nor wars with the Serbs, the Turks and other invaders have hindered the Albanians from maintaining their nationality, their language, and the purity and originality of their customs.
The history of this nation is an unbroken chain of bloody battles against violent oppressors, but not even the most unspeakable of atrocities have managed to annihilate this people. Intellectual life has flourished among the Albanians even though their oppressors endeavoured to cut off all cultural development at the root. This nation produced great generals and men of state for the Ottoman Empire. Albanians were among the best judges in Turkey and among the greatest authors of Turkish literature. Almost all the merchants of Montenegro were Albanian, as were many fine businessmen in the major cities of Romania. The Albanians played an important role in Italy, too. Crispi was one of them. Greece's bravest soldiers were of Albanian blood.
In the wake of the cataclysms wrought by the Balkan War, the ancient dream of freedom and independence for this people is now becoming a reality. The Great Powers of Europe have decided to grant Albania its national autonomy.
But the Serbian thirst for conquest has now found a means of destroying the fair dream of this courageous and freedom-loving people before it can be realized. Serbian troops have invaded Albania with fire and sword. And if Albania cannot be conquered, then at least the Albanian people can be exterminated. This is the solution they propose.
* * *
On 18 October 1912, King Peter of Serbia issued a declaration 'To the Serbian People', proclaiming:
"The Turkish governments showed no interest in their duties towards their citizens and turned a deaf ear to all complaints and suggestions. Things got so far out of hand that no one was satisfied with the situation in Turkey in Europe. It became unbearable for the Serbs, the Greeks and for the Albanians, too.
By the grace of God, I have therefore ordered my brave army to join in the Holy War to free our brethren and to ensure a better future.
In Old Serbia, my army will meet not only upon Christian Serbs, but also upon Moslem Serbs, who are equally dear to us, and in addition to them, upon Christian and Moslem Albanians with whom our people have shared joy and sorrow for thirteen centuries now. To all of them we bring freedom, brotherhood and equality."
How have the Serbs understood the declaration of their monarch, which is not even half a year old?
The thousand and thousands of men, women, children and old people who have been slain or tortured to death, the villages marauded and burnt to the ground, the women and young girls who have been raped, and the countryside plundered, ravaged and swimming in blood can give no answer to this question.
The Serbs came to Albania not as liberators but as exterminators of the Albanian people. The Ambassadors' Conference in London proposed drawing the borders of Albania according to ethnic and religious statistics to be gathered on site by a commission. The Serbs have hastened to prepare the statistics for them with machine guns, rifles and bayonets. They have committed unspeakable atrocities. The shock and outrage produced by these crimes are outdone only by the sense of sorrow that such vile deeds could be committed in Europe, not far from the great centres of western culture, in this twentieth century. Our sorrow is made all the heavier by the fact that, despite the reports which have been cabled home for months now by the journalists of many nations, and despite the impassioned indictment launched to the world by Pierre Loti, nothing has been done to put an end to the killings.
A courageous people full of character is being crucified before the eyes of the world and Europe, civilized Christian Europe, remains silent!
Tens of thousands of defenceless people are being massacred, women are being raped, old people and children strangled, hundreds of villages burnt to the ground, priests slaughtered.
And Europe remains silent!
Serbia and Montenegro have set out to conquer a foreign country. But in that land live a freedom-loving, brave people who despite centuries of servitude have not yet become accustomed to bearing a foreign yoke. The solution is obvious. The Albanians must be exterminated!
A crazed and savage soldateska has turned this solution into a gruesome reality.
Countless villages have been razed to the ground, countless individuals have been butchered. Where once the humble cottages of poor Albanians stood, there is nothing left but smoke and ashes. A whole people is perishing on Calvary cross, and Europe remains silent!
* * *
The aim of this work is to rouse the conscience of European public opinion. The reports gathered here are but a small portion of the material available. More than what they contain is already known by the governments of Europe from official consular and press reports.
Up to now, however, the governments have chosen to remain silent. Now, any further silence means complicity.
The Great Powers must tell the crazed barbarians once and for all to keep their 'Hands off!' This wave of extermination must be ended with all possible rapidity. An international commission must be set up to investigate accusations made against the Serbian government.
Most important of all, Serbian and Montenegrin troops must withdraw from Albanian territory at once and the Greek blockade, which has cut the country off from all food supplies, must be lifted.
I call upon the governments of the Great Powers, I call upon European public opinion in the name of humanity, in the name of civilization, in the name of the wretched Albanian people.
I turn to the British public, to the nation which raised its voice so virtuously to protest against the Armenian massacres.
I direct my appeal to the French public which has shown so often that it will defend humanity and human rights.
A poor nation, suffering a horrible fate, appeals from the cross for help. Will Europe hear its call?
Vienna, Easter Sunday 1913
The Albanians Must Be Exterminated!
In connection with the news report that 300 unarmed Albanians of the Luma tribe were executed in Prizren without trial, the Frankfurter Zeitung writes: In the case in question, it seems to have been regular Serbian troops who committed the massacre. But there is no doubt whatsoever that even the heinous massacres committed by irregulars were carried out with the tacit approval and in full compliance with the will of the Serbian authorities." At the beginning of the war we ourselves were told quite openly by a Serbian official: "We are going to wipe out the Albanians." Despite European protests, this systematic policy of extermination is continuing unhindered. As a result, we regard it as our duty to expose the intentions of the Serbian rulers. The gentlemen in Belgrade will then indignantly deny everything, knowing full well that journalistic propriety prevents us from mentioning names.
It is evident that we would not make such a report if we were not fully convinced of its truth. In the case in question, the facts speak louder than any full confession could do. One massacre after another has been committed since Serbian troops crossed the border last autumn and occupied the land inhabited by the Albanians.
A War of Extermination
Professor Schiemann published an article in Kreuzzeitung, writing: "Despite the rigorous censorship of Balkan allies and the pressure exerted upon war correspondents, private letters which have managed to reach us from the region in which the Serbs and Greeks are conducting their war offer an exceptionally sorry picture." The Serbs, as the article notes, are conducting a war of extermination against the Albanian nation which, if they could, they would eradicate completely.
The Daily Chronicle reported on 12 November 1912 that it was true that thousands of Arnauts (Albanians) had been massacred by the Serbs. 2,000 Moslem Arnauts were slaughtered near Skopje and a further 5,000 near Prizren. Many villages have been set on fire and their inhabitants slaughtered. Albanian householders were simply slain during house to house searches for arms, even when no weapons were found. The Serbs declared quite openly that the Moslem Albanians were to be exterminated because this was the only way of pacifying the country.
The war correspondent of the Messaggero of Rome reported heinous Serbian massacres of Albanians in the vilayet of Kosovo. After Albanian resistance, the towns of Ferizaj / Uroševac, Negotin / Negotino, Lipjan / Ljipljan, Babush / Babuš and others were completely destroyed and most of the inhabitants slaughtered. A Catholic priest reported that fierce fighting around Ferizaj / Uroševac had lasted for three days. After the town was taken, the Serbian commander ordered its fleeing inhabitants to return peacefully and lay down their arms. When they returned, three or four hundred people were massacred. There remained only half a dozen Moslem families in all of Ferizaj / Uroševac. Destitute Serbian families hastened to take possession of the homes of the wealthy families.
The Humanité of Paris published an official report submitted to a consulate in Salonika. The report described the activities of the Serbs in Albania: plundering, destruction, massacres. The number of Albanian villages totally or partially but systematically destroyed by the Serbs was estimated at thirty-one. The Kristos of Kumanova / Kumanovo, the Siro Diljovs of Skopje, the Alexandrovos of Štip and other leading guerrilla bands looted all the villages in the districts of Kratovo and Kocani, set them on fire and killed all the Moslem inhabitants. All the Moslems of Zhujova / Žujovo and Mešeli were slaughtered, as were a further two hundred people in Vetreni. In Bogdanc / Bogdanci, sixty Turks were locked in a mosque. They were then let out and slain, one by one. Thirty-four of the ninety-eight villages in the district of Kavadarci have been destroyed. The Turks, some of whom had made payoffs to one guerrilla band hoping to save their lives, were then butchered by another band of guerrillas. All the inhabitants of Drenova / Drenovo were put to death. Between this village and Palikura, a number of graves were found with the heads sticking out of the earth. These are the graves of wretched individuals who were buried alive!
Fritz Magnussen, war correspondent for the Danish newspaper Riget, who is generally known for his pro-Serbian sympathies, described the crimes committed by the Serbs against the Arnaut population in a telegramme that he had to send by special courier from Skopje to Zemun to avoid the rigorous censorship:
Serbian military activities in Macedonia have taken on the character of an extermination of the Arnaut population. The army is conducting an unspeakable war of atrocities. According to officers and soldiers, 3,000 Arnauts were slaughtered in the region between Kumanova / Kumanovo and Skopje and 5,000 near Prishtina. The Arnaut villages were surrounded and set on fire. The inhabitants were then chased from their homes and shot like rats. The Serbian soldiers delighted in telling me of the manhunts they had conducted.
The situation in Skopje is equally appalling. Rigorous searches of Arnaut homes are carried out and if anything vaguely resembling a weapon is discovered, the inhabitants are shot on the spot. It is very dangerous to travel the roads because of the constant shooting in and out of the houses.
Yesterday, 36 Arnauts were sentenced to death by a military tribunal and shot on the spot. No day passes without Arnauts being put to death in the most barbarous manner. The river upstream is full of corpses. Hunting expeditions take place every day in the surrounding villages. Yesterday, a Serbian officer invited me to take part in such a hunt and boasted that he had put nine Arnauts to death the previous day with his own hands!
The Reichspost received a dossier about the massacres committed by Serbian guerrilla bands and regular troops in Albania from a person whose name and high rank is guarantee enough of the authenticity of the reports it contains. In the dossier we find the following information:
The city of Skopje and the surrounding district have been witness to inhuman crimes committed against the Albanians. For days on end, I saw manhunts conducted by armed Serbian bands and regular troops. For three days I could see the flames of burning villages in the sky. When the horrors were over, five villages in the direct vicinity of Skopje lay in ruins and their inhabitants were almost all slain, even though the Albanians offered no armed resistance to the invading Serbs. Behind the fortress of Skopje is a ravine which is still filled with the corpses of over one hundred victims of this campaign. Eighty Albanian bodies are also to be found in the ravine of Vodno / Vistala Voda near Skopje. Shortly after the invasion, a reliable informant of mine, whom I spoke to myself, visited the hospital in Skopje and encountered during this first visit 132 Albanians patients. The next day he could find only 80 and a few days later a mere 30 of them. The treatment meted out to these wounded Albanians is beyond imagination. They were refused food and drink, such that, according to witnesses, some of them died of starvation. Many of the patients, it is alleged, were still alive when they were thrown into the Vardar. The river flows through the town and is carrying with it twenty to thirty corpses a day. There were a number of Serbian volunteers quartered in my hotel in Skopje who boasted quite candidly of their marauding and manhunts, in particular when the wine got their tongues. One evening, they went out onto the street and shot a couple of unarmed Albanians who were simply passing by and minding their own business. The two murderers, who thereafter returned to the hotel and got drunk, were not bothered by the military authorities at all, even though everyone in town knew that they were guilty of the crime. A bloody scene also occurred in town at the Vardar bridge. Three Albanians who tried to cross into town to go to market were attacked by Serbian soldiers and simply murdered without trial. Digging graves seemed to be a problem for the soldiers, in particular since the earth is frozen over, so bodies have been thrown into wells. An informant counted 38 wells around Skopje which have been filled with Albanian corpses. Bandits play an important role in the pogroms, too. I myself was witness to a Serbian soldier who was showing off the two watches and 150 Turkish pounds he had taken as booty. When he saw a well-dressed Albanian pass by, he shouted in an almost genuine show of sympathy, "Pity there are so many of them. Otherwise, I would gladly spend a bullet on him." The Albanians are considered fair game and are protected by no law or court. Many of the excesses are, however, committed under the influence of drink. The most outrageous crimes were, indeed, committed by bands of drunken soldiers breaking into homes.
As I speak Serbian fluently, many Serbian officers and soldiers regarded me as one of theirs. And so it was that a Serbian soldier boasted to me of their attack on an Albanian village near Kumanova / Kumanovo. "Many of the villagers who were not able to flee, hid in their attics. We smoked them out, and when their houses were in flames, they came out of their hiding places like moles, screaming, cursing and begging for mercy. We shot them at the doorways, sparing our bullets only with the children on whom we used our bayonets. We destroyed the whole village because shots had been fired out of one of the houses bearing a white flag." The military authorities did nothing to hinder these bloodbaths and many officers took part in the atrocities themselves. There was no Serb to be found who had not acted in the full conviction that, with these atrocities, he was doing his country a great service, and one which his superiors wanted of him.
* * *
Eighty-five Albanians were slain in their homes in Tetova / Tetovo and the town was looted without sign of an armed uprising beforehand. The heinous deeds committed against the women and girls, including twelve-year-old children, are indescribable. To top off such horrors, the fathers and husbands of the victims were forced by revolver to hold candles and be witness themselves to the outrages committed against their daughters and wives in their own homes. The town of Gostivar was only saved by paying off the Serbian commander with a sum of 200 Turkish pounds. Here only six Albanians were shot.
In Ferizaj / Uroševac, as opposed to the above-mentioned towns, the Albanians offered organized armed resistance. Fighting continued here for twenty-four hours, during which a woman whose husband had been slain seized a rifle and shot five Serbs before she was killed herself. Over 1,200 Albanians fell victim to the carnage in Ferizaj / Uroševac. The town is almost devoid of inhabitants now. There are only three Moslem Albanians over the age of fifteen left. In Gjilan / Gnjilane, too, where the Albanians put up no defence, almost all the inhabitants were killed by fire and sword. A very small number of fugitives survived the carnage. Now only ruins are left as witness to the destruction of Gjilan / Gnjilane.
The Serbian occupation of Prishtina was even bloodier. The Albanians estimate the number of their dead at 5,000. In all fairness, it must be noted that the flag on the parliament building was severely misused. After the white flag had been hoisted, Turkish officers suddenly opened fire on Serbian troops, apparently with the intention of thwarting the latters' cease-fire negotiations with the Albanians. Hundreds of Albanian families, even babies in their cradles, paid for this deed with their lives.
In Leskovac near Ferizaj / Uroševac, eight unarmed Albanians were stopped by Serbian soldiers and shot on the spot.
* * *
The town of Prizren offered no resistance to Serb forces, but this did not avert a bloodbath there. After Prishtina, Prizren was the hardest hit of the Albanian towns. The local population call it the 'Kingdom of Death'. Here the Serbian bands did their worst. They forced their way into homes and beat up anyone and everyone in their way, irrespective of age or sex. Corpses lined the streets for days while the Serbian victors were busy with other atrocities, and the native population which had survived did not dare to venture out of their homes. The attacks continued night after night throughout the town and region. Up to 400 people perished in the first few days of the Serbian occupation. Despite this, the commander, General Jankovic, with rifle in hand, forced notables and local tribal leaders to sign a declaration of gratitude to King Peter for their 'liberation by the Serbian army.' As Serbian troops were about to set off westwards, they could not find any horses to transport their equipment. They therefore requisitioned 200 Albanians, forcing them to carry goods weighing up to 50-60 kilos for seven hours during the night along bad roads in the direction of Luma. Seeing that the wretched group of bearers had managed to reach their goal, though most of them collapsed under the inhumane treatment they had suffered, the Serbian commander expressed his satisfaction and approval of the action.
A Fani woman called Dila took the road to Prizren with her sons, another relative and two men from the village of Gjugja in order to buy goods for her daughter's dowry. Before reaching Prizren, she applied for a laisser passer for herself and her companions from the command post of General Jankovic in order to proceed unimpeded. She was given the passes. When the group of five arrived in Suni, about four hours from Prizren, they were robbed of their possessions and the four men were tied up and thrown into a pit. Soldiers then shot the men from the edge of the pit. The mother, who had witnessed this scene, called out in desperation to her son. Seeing that he was no longer alive, she threw herself to the feet of the soldiers, begging them to kill her, too. They had tied her to a tree by the time some officers came by, having heard the shooting. The soldiers showed the officers a loaf of bread they had seized from the women, in which they had pressed two Mauser bullets as proof that the men had been trying to smuggle ammunition. The officers thereupon ordered the soldiers to go their way. The poor woman remained tied to the tree at the edge of the pit, in full view of her slain son, from Monday afternoon until Wednesday. On Wednesday, starving and exhausted by the chill of the late autumn nights, she was taken to Prizren. She was locked up that night and presented to the commander the next day. Although General Jankovic must have known that the poor woman standing before him was innocent, she was still not released. Instead, she was taken to the residence of the Serbian bishop where she remained in custody until the following day when she was given over to the Catholics, taken to a church and tended to.
In Prizren, there lived a baker named Gjoni i Prek Palit who supplied the Serbian troops with food. One day, a sergeant came by to order bread for the troops and happened to leave his rifle in the bakery. When soldiers later entered the bakery and saw the rifle, they arrested the baker for violating the weapons ban. He was taken to a military tribunal and executed. When Gini, the baker's brother, heard of the arrest, he ran to the sergeant and took him to the military police where the latter admitted the rifle was his and that he had only left it in the bakery for a short time. He knew the number of the rifle and recognized it immediately. Gini and his Serbian witness were then beaten up and chased away. Gini learned nothing of the fate of his arrested brother. Ten days later, the mother of the dead baker, who had been searching day and night for her son, came upon the body outside of town. She requested to be given the corpse so that she could give her son a Christian burial. This request was refused. A Catholic priest then hastened to the commander and in the name of religious freedom requested that the body be buried in the Catholic cemetery. He, too, was refused, and they were obliged to bury the body on the spot where they found it.
Officers also took part in the atrocities. It is said in Prizren that a soldier asked his officer for shoes or sandals. The officer replied he should confiscate the sandals from the next Albanian who happened to pass by. "Why else do you carry a rifle?" asked the officer, pointing to his own sandals.
* * *
Three Albanian villages in the vicinity of Prizren were totally destroyed and thirty local officials slain. They were accused of being pro-Austrian. In one of these villages, the soldiers forced the womenfolk out of their homes, tied them to one another and forced them to dance in a circle. They then opened fire and amused themselves by watching one victim after another fall to the ground in a pool of blood.
When it was reported to General Jankovic that the Luma tribe was preventing Serbian troops from advancing westwards towards the Adriatic, he ordered his men to proceed with extreme severity. All in all, twenty-seven villages on Luma territory were burnt to the ground and their inhabitants slain, even the children. It is here that one of the most appalling atrocities of the Serbian war of annihilation was committed against the Albanians. Women and children were tied to bundles of hay and set on fire before the eyes of their husbands and fathers. The women were then barbarously cut to pieces and the children bayoneted. My informant, a respected and thoroughly reliable man, added in his report: "It is all so inconceivable, and yet it is true!" 400 men from Luma who gave themselves up voluntarily were taken to Prizren and executed day after day in groups of forty to sixty. Similar executions are still being carried out there. Hundreds of bodies still lie unburied in the Prizren region. Gjakova / Djakovica is also in ruins and its population decimated.
Sixty Albanians were slain in Tërstenik / Trstenik, thirty-two in Smira, twenty in Vërban / Vrban, nineteen in Ljubishta / Ljubište and all the males in Kamogllava / Kameno Glava, which is home to fifty families. In the latter village, the men were forced to appear for roll call and to salute. They were then tied up and executed without trial. Not very many survived in Presheva / Preševo either.
The total number of Albanians slain in the vilayet of Kosovo is estimated at 25,000, a figure which is by no means exaggerated.
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On 20 March 1913, the Albanische Korrespondenz published this item: We have received the following report from reliable Albanian sources in Skopje. Serbian troops and volunteers are committing unspeakable atrocities in the vicinity of Skopje against the population of the territories they have occupied. European circles have been particularly outraged by the following events which were reliably recorded. The Serbian army took the village of Shashare at the end of February. Having removed all men and boys from the village, the soldiers then proceeded to rape the women and girls. Serbian soldiers committed the same heineous crimes in the village of Letnica. It must be stressed that both Shashare and Letnica have an exclusively Slavic and Catholic population. Serbian troops, thus, do not even stop at committing such degenerate acts against their own Christian people. Shashare is a settlement of over one hundred families.
These savage troops have committed even worse crimes in other areas. Two hundred eighty farms belonging to Albanian Moslems were set on fire in twenty-nine villages in the Karadag (Black) mountains and all the male inhabitants who had not flown fell under a hail of bullets and under the bayonets of the soldiers. The Serbs marauded like the Huns from village to village. Other such pogroms have been carried out in the villages of Tërstenik / Trstenik, Senica, Vërban / Vrban, Ljubishta / Ljubište and Gjylekar / Djelekare. Two hundred thirty-eight men were pitilessly slaughtered here. In Sefer, an old women was burnt alive together with her Catholic servant. The suffering of the population knows no limits. In the village of Ljubishta / Ljubište, the atrocities have reached such a point that Moslem Albanian women have sold themselves to surviving Moslem men to serve them more or less as slaves. The Serbs took a man, an old woman and two children captive and burnt them alive in this village. In Gjylekar / Djelekare a pregnant women had her belly slit open with a bayonet and the offspring wrenched out of her body. In Prespa, an Albanian women whose husband had been taken away shot five Serbian soldiers. The Serbs then set the whole settlement aflame, ninety farms in all, and let it burn to the ground.
The Serbs are laying waste to whole regions and slaughtering their inhabitants. Their fury is directed against both the Moslems and the Catholics. The survivors remain behind in unspeakable misery and despair.
In a report published on 19 February 1913 by the Deutsches Volksblatt, we read: Few towns and villages (in the occupied areas) have escaped the attention of the Serbs completely and there are many Albanians who now press to take vengeance for the deaths of their wives and children. When the order was issued in the towns for the immediate surrender of all weapons, only very few people complied. Most of them hid their weapons at home or fled with them, for it is easier to separate an Albanian from his whole farm than from his rifle. In order to enforce the order, patrols were sent out to search homes. A gruesome fate awaited those caught with weapons. The military tribunal came to its findings within a matter of hours. One spectacular case took place in Tirana. Serbian soldiers went to the shop of a local merchant to buy goods. As they had no money with them, one of them left the merchant his rifle as security. Petrified at his own deed, the soldier subsequently went to his commander and brought charges against the merchant for stealing the rifle. A patrol was sent out in search of the Albanian and found him with the rifle in question. He was taken to a military tribunal and, despite his protestations that the rifle had only been left as security, was shot.
An Albanian from the village of Zalla, west of Kruja, shot a Serb who had broken into his home and was assaulting his wife, and took to flight. When the Serbs subsequently arrived at the scene of the crime and could not find the culprit, and - such is the sad truth - they slaughtered all the inhabitants, over one hundred persons including women and children, and set the village on fire.
* * *
The Serbian Thirst for Blood
The special correspondent of the Daily Telegraph reported the following: All the horrors of history have been outdone by the atrocious conduct of the troops of General Jankovic. On their march through Albania, the Serbs have treacherously slaughtered not only armed Albanians, but in their savagery even unarmed individuals - old people, women, children and babies at their mother's breasts.
Drunk with victory, Serbian officers have proclaimed that the only way of pacifying Albania is to exterminate the Albanians. They slaughtered 3,000 people in the region between Kumanova / Kumanovo and Skopje alone. 5,000 Albanians were murdered by the Serbs in the Prishtina area. These people did not die with honour on the battlefield, but were slain in a series of gruesome raids. The Serbian soldiers have found new methods of butchery to satisfy their thirst for blood. Houses were set on fire in several villages and the inhabitants slaughtered like rats when they tried to flee the flames. The men were slain before the eyes of their wives and children. The wretched women were then forced to look on as their children were literally hacked to pieces.
Executions were a daily entertainment for the Serbian soldiers. All inhabitants who had been found with weapons in their homes were executed. They were either shot or hanged. Up to thirty-six executions took place a day. How strange it is that the Serbian nationalists living in Hungary should complain about massacres in Albania. Mr Tomic, the former secretary to the Serbian Prime Minister Pašic, reported on his trip from Prizren to Peja / Pec that on both sides of the road he saw nothing but the remnants of burnt-out villages which had been razed to the ground.
The roads were lined with gallows from which the bodies of Albanians were hanging. The road to Gjakova / Djakovica had become a Boulevard of Gibbets.
The Belgrade newspapers reported quite without shame on the heineous atrocities of the Serbs. When Colonel Osbic's regiment took Prizren, he commanded his compatriots, "Kill!" When his order was heard, so the Belgrade papers report, "the Serbian soldiers stormed into homes and slaughtered every human being they could lay their hands on."
The Daily Telegraph then gives the authentic statement of an Albanian notable: Anyone who denounces an Albanian to the Serbs can be sure that the Albanian will be executed. There were people who owed money to Moslem Albanians. They went and denounced them to the Serbs as traitors. The wretched Albanians were immediately hanged and the informers later found ways of acquiring the home and land of their victims for a ridiculously low price.
In Skopje, unarmed Albanians were simply shot and killed by Serbian officers. If even a hunting knife was found in a home, its owner was executed.
In Ferizaj / Uroševac, the Serbian commander invited Albanian fugitives to return to their home and surrender their weapons. When over four hundred of them did return, they were slaughtered. There were no more than a dozen Moslem families left alive in Ferizaj / Uroševac. The war correspondent of the Messaggero has confirmed this report.
In Pana, the Serbs killed their prisoners, in Varosh / Varoš and Prishtina the population was literally decimated. Serbian officers admitted themselves that they were on the 'hunt' for Albanians, and one of them boasted having killed nine Albanians in one day with his own hands.
A doctor working for the Red Cross reported, according to the same source: The Serbs have been massacring throughout Albania with no sign of mercy. Neither women nor children nor old people have been spared. I have seen villages burning in Old Serbia every day. Near Kratovo, General Stefanovic had hundreds of prisoners lined up in two rows and machine gunned down. General Živkovic had 850 Albanian notables put to death in Senica because they had offered resistance.
The Albanische Korrespondenz reported from Trieste on 12 March: A letter from Kruja near Durrës (Durazzo) dated 27 February of this year was read out at the Albanian congress here. It read: All the buildings as well as the villas of Mashar Bey and Fuad Bey (n.b. who were taking part in the congress at the time) have been burnt to the ground. Ali Lam Osmani's brother was caught by the Serbs in Vinjoll near Kruja, buried to his thighs in the earth, and then shot. The letter concludes with the words: We shall never see one another again. Farewell until we meet in the other world!
The Marauding Serbs!
Ahmed Djevad, secretary of the Comité de Publication D. A. C. B. reports, according to several witnesses: The most incredible amounts of valuables have been robbed and stolen by the Serbs in Strumica. Major Ivan Gribic, commander of the fourth battalion of the fourteenth Serbian line regiment alone had eighty wagons filled with furniture and carpets transported back to Serbia. All the young women and girls of Strumica have been raped and forcibly baptized. The rest of the wretched Moslem population is dying of starvation, destitution and disease...
The Albanische Korrespondenz reported from Trieste on 21 March 1913: The suffering in Albania has reached an unspeakable zenith. The Serbian troops who took Durrës (Durazzo) were immediately ordered to proceed into the countryside although no provision had been made for their food and drink. They were therefore forced to rely on food they confiscated from the population, which they did with exception cruelty. They took nine-tenths of all the stocks available, and refused to give written receipts for the goods they requisitioned.
The Serbian troops not only confiscated goods for their own usage. They seized or destroyed all the food that fell into their hands. Ancient olive trees which had been planted in the Venetian period and had provided sustenance to generations were cut down by the Serbs. Farm animals were slain. No sheep, no chickens, no corn which the Serbs could get their hands on remained untouched. They conducted extensive raids and looted wherever they could. In Durrës (Durazzo), the Serbs loaded ships with carpets and other stolen goods for transportation to Salonika whence the cargo was transferred back to Belgrade. Even antique benches from the government offices in Durrës were confiscated and loaded onto the booty ships.
Fazil Toptani Pasha, to whom we showed this report for confirmation, stated: Everything written in this report is true. These facts are but a small portion of the outrages committed in our country by these barbarians. They flooded into Albania slaughtering, looting and burning, and have caused more destruction than anyone could possibly imagine.
Dervish Hima told us: Tell the public that a good proportion of the Albanian people is on the verge of starvation. Spring has come, the time to sow the land, and the Serbs have stolen all the seed. Even if the Albanians had seed, they would not sow it, for they now have a saying: "Even if something manages to grow, the Serbs will destroy it." Such is the fear of the Serbs among our people!
A Romanian doctor, Dr Leonte, reported in the Bucharest newspaper Adevarul on 6 January 1913 that the horrors he saw committed by the Serbian army far outdid his worst fears. That hundreds of Moslem captives were forced to march a hundred kilometres was the least of what these wretches were to suffer. Whenever any of these poor individuals collapsed of hunger and exhaustion at the roadside, they were simply bayoneted by the first soldier passing, and the corpses were left to rot. The fields were still strewn with the bodies of slaughtered men and women, young and old, even children. When Serbian troops marched into Monastir / Bitola, all Turkish patients being treated in the hospitals were slain in order to make room for wounded Serbs. The soldiers stole whatever they could get their hands on. Even banks were robbed. A Bulgarian professor who made himself unpopular by proposing a toast to King Ferdinand has disappeared without a trace since the evening of the toast. Dr Leonte gives other reports of atrocities similar to those committed in Kumanova / Kumanovo, Prizren etc.
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The well-known war correspondent Hermenegild Wagner reported from Zemun on 20 November 1912: During my three-day stay in Nish, I heard shocking details of the inhumane acts committed by Serbian troops. I wish to note in this connection that I have respected witnesses for all details referred to.
In the fortress of Nish was a fifty-year-old Albanian woman being held on suspicion of having thrown bombs at Serbian troops marching into Ferizaj / Uroševac. Instead of bringing the accused before a military tribunal, she was given over to Serbian soldiers who literally shattered her skull with the butts of their rifles.
A Turkish lieutenant named Abdul Kadri Bey was beaten to death in the fortress of Nish. The autopsy showed a broken nose and a traumatized liver. The victim was kicked to death.
An Albanian who attempted to escape was bayoneted to death. The body was dreadfully battered about by the soldiers even while it was being taken to the morgue.
In the hospital of Nish, a number of Serbs entered a ward where Turkish patients were being treated. One of the Serbs called out, making a joke, "That's the one who wounded me!" Thereupon, a whole group of Serbs attacked the helpless patient and kicked him to death.
A Red Cross doctor told me with horror that the prisoners and injured patients one encountered in Nish and Belgrade were only there for show. "The Serbs," he added, "know no mercy. All Albanians caught, whether armed or not, are butchered on the spot. Women, children, old people. Dreadful things are happening down there (in Old Serbia). I don't know how many villages have been razed to the ground by Serbian troops. I saw them burning day after day... Near Kratovo, General Stefanovic had hundreds of Albanian prisoners lined up in two rows and mowed down with machine guns. The general then declared: This brood must be exterminated so that Austria will never find her beloved Albanians again.
General Živkovic massacred 950 Albanian and Turkish notables near Senica when ten thousand Albanians slowed down the advance of Serbian troops.
The Serbs took very few of the wounded prisoner after the Battle of Kumanova / Kumanovo. King Peter himself visited the field hospital in Nish. One of the injured Serbs complained that the Albanians were firing upon the Serbs with rifles stolen from the Serbs themselves, and that he, too, had been wounded in this manner, to which King Peter replied: "The swine will pay for it!"
Serbian witnesses who were present at the battle told me with smiles on their faces how after the battle, all of the dead and injured Turks and Albanians were hurled into a shallow grave. The battlefield looked frightful after a heavy rainfall because the Turkish mass grave collapsed, leaving the hands, feet and skulls of distorted bodies sticking out of the mud.
In Skopje, a returning Serbian officer explained quite seriously to me the justice of burning down eighty villages in Luma territory.
On 14 February, the Deutsches Volksblatt published a report from southern Hungary, warning: The Serbian government must come to realize that their official denials only serve to destroy Serbian credibility even further. We saw examples of such rallies following the murder of the king. At that time, the government solemnly and officially denied that King Alexander and Queen Draga had been murdered by the perjured officers, insisting instead that they had been quarrelling and had killed one another...
With regard to the Albanian massacres, it is extremely sad to note that the description of events which has filtered through to the public is indeed in full accord with the facts and has only one shortcoming, that it is incomplete. Many Serbs have confirmed the events themselves, often with great pride. Let it suffice for us to quote a statement made by someone who himself took part in the first stages of the war and who, though a Serb from the Kingdom, prefers to exercise his profession in southern Hungary for the moment, under Austrian 'oppression', in order to avoid as far as possible the 'cultural and religious liberality' reigning in his native land. This classic witness took obvious satisfaction in declaring that Serbian soldiers had ruthlessly mowed down whole groups of Albanian farmers, whose only 'crime' was that weapons had been found in their homes. When I expressed my astonishment at his statement, he replied placidly, "Should we have wasted our time escorting these people to some distant garrison town? It was much less work this way. We were then free and could go for a drink!" This pragmatic attitude seems to be extremely widespread among Serbian soldiers. An injured patient at a Belgrade hospital told a visitor, "We left the Turks alone but slaughtered the Albanian dogs wherever we could get our hands on them." Another indication is to be seen in the letter by a Serbian officer, published in the journal Magyarorszag, whose Balkan correspondent was Ivan Ivanovic, Austrian deserter and former head of the Royal Serbian Press Office. In this letter, the officer declares that, after the occupation of Monastir / Bitola, he had with his own eyes seen his soldiers seize ten Turkish men, women and children each and burn them alive. Such statements can be heard from all the Serbs returning from the war. To their misfortune, they have not read the official Serbian denials published in the foreign press...
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An Albanian from near Skopje reported: "When we saw the Serbian soldiers approaching our village, everyone ran back home. I myself was not afraid and, wanting to get a look at the strangers, came out in front of the house. There they were already. I offered one of the soldiers a small coin. He struck me on the head and I fell to the ground, where the soldiers left me. Storming into the house, they murdered my mother and father, set the house on fire, and proceeded to slaughter everyone else. When I finally got back up on my feet, everything was in flames."
In Sefer in the region of Gjilan / Gnjilane, the Serbs set fire to a cottage and hurled its two elderly owners, who had not had time to flee, alive into the conflagration. They tied the hands of one man together, told him to run away, and then shot him as he ran off.
Varying explanations were given this month for the burning down of the following towns and villages: Limbishte, Koliq / Kolic, Tërpeza / Trpeza and Gjylekar / Djelekare. In the last three villages, everyone was slaughtered, including women and children.
In the village of Bobaj in the district of Gjakova / Djakovica, four Serbian soldiers who had been caught trying to rape the women, were beaten up. This was enough for a punitive expedition to be sent in and Bobaj was put to the torch. All the inhabitants were slaughtered. When they had finished their work, the soldateska came upon seventy Catholic Albanians from Nikaj, who were going to market. Here, too, the soldiers carried out their bloody handwork.
In Peja / Pec, Serbian soldiers carried off three women. The Montenegrins also carried off three girls.
In Luma territory, thirty-two communities were burnt to the ground, and anyone who was captured there was slain.
In Dibër / Debar, too, Serbian soldiers committed dreadful atrocities. They stole whatever they could get their hands on. Then fresh troops arrived and set twenty-four villages on fire, killing all the inhabitants...
In Prizren, the Catholic priest was not allowed to administer communion to the dying. Whoever approached the parish priest was brought before a military tribunal.
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The following report was received from Durrës (Durazzo) on 6 March: Serbian troops have burnt the following villages to the ground: Zeza, Larushk, Monikla, Sheh and Gromni. In Zeza, twenty women and girls were locked in their homes and burnt alive.
The inhabitants of the village of Kruja-Kurbin have taken to the mountains, in order to save their lives, leaving behind all their possessions.
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On 12 March, the Albanische Korrespondenz reported from Trieste: Letters from Tirana inform us that Serbian troops have recently been committing atrocities in the vicinity. The inhabitants of Kaza Tirana had offered accommodation to a unit of Albanian volunteers and given them food and drink. When the Serbian military commander got word of this, he had his troops encircle the village, whereupon all the houses, including the estate belonging to Fuad Toptani Bey, were burnt to the ground. Seventeen people died in the fire. Ten men and two women were executed.
The Serbs Are Also Murdering Christians
On 20 March, the Reichspost published a letter from Albania, reading as follows:
The parish priest of the sanctuary of Cernagora or Setnica, Don Tommaso, was robbed by Serbian soldiers of all the funds belonging to the church. The soldiers drew their bayonets, forced him to open the safe and took out all the money belonging to the pilgrimage site.
The parish priest of Gjakova / Djakovica was threatened with death. He was told, "Either you give up your links with the Austrian protectorate or we will roast your brains!" The courageous reaction of the priest blew the wind out of their sails, however.
For three months now, the Serbs have been hindering the parish priest of Ferizaj / Uroševac in his freedom to exercise his office. They have been jailing anyone who talks to him or who goes to mass or confession. The same thing has happened to two priests from Prizren.
All imaginable pressure has been exerted against the Catholics of Janjeva / Janjevo (four hundred families, almost all of whom are ethnic Slavs) to convert to the schismatic church.
For hundreds of years now, about 8,000 Catholics, so-called Laramans or secret Catholics, have been living in this archdiocese. Because of Turkish persecution, they did not profess their faith openly. When the Serbs arrived, several hundred of these Laramans wanted to declare openly that they were Catholic. When a representative of the new government got word of this, they were ordered, "Either Moslem or Orthodox. Not Catholic!"
Near the sanctuary of Letnica is the village of Shashare (ninety families, all of them Catholic). Serbian soldiers took the village, assembled the men on a field and tied them up with ropes. They then looted the homes and brutally raped the women and girls.
Countless Albanian Catholics have been murdered. In Ponoshec / Ponoševac, for instance, thirty men were slaughtered one day while they were going about their business in the village. Their only crime was to admit that they were Albanian Catholics.
Near Zhur / Žur, entire families of innocent Catholic tribesmen who had come down to Prizren to purchase salt, oil, sugar etc. were treacherously murdered on their way. The same thing happened near Gjakova / Djakovica where a further seventy Catholics from the parish of Nikaj were slaughtered. The Catholics are persecuted, whereas the native Orthodox are left alone.
In the vicinity of Dibër / Debar and Monastir / Bitola, as well as in Kosovo, many villages have now been burnt to the ground. The looting is unspeakable. It is sufficient to note that sheep are now being sold at a price of two francs each because nobody knows what to do with them all. So many have been stolen from the Albanians by the Serbs and Montenegrins.
They are now trying to stop us from speaking Albanian. A number of schools teaching Albanian have already been closed down.
The letter ends with the words, "May God have mercy upon us, and may Europe come and save us. Otherwise we are lost!"
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In its issue of 21 March, the Neue Freie Presse reports: We have been told by informed sources that, according to recent reports, Catholics and Moslems are being persecuted both in the district of Gjakova / Djakovica and in the district of Dibër / Debar. Many deaths occur every day. The population has fled, leaving behind all their possessions. It is not only the Albanians who are the object of such persecution, but also Catholic and Moslem Slavs.
On 20 March, the Neue Freie Presse reported: On 7 March, the soldateska joined fanatic Orthodox priests in and around Gjakova / Djakovica to forcefully convert the Catholic population to the Orthodox faith. About 300 persons, men, women and children, among whom Pater Angelus Palic, were bound with ropes and forced under threat of death to convert. An Orthodox priest pointed to the soldiers standing by with their rifles in hand and said, "Either you sign the declaration that you have converted to the one true faith or these soldiers of God will send your souls to hell."
All the prisoners then signed the forms prepared for them which contained a declaration of conversion to the Orthodox faith. Pater Angelus was the last. He was the only one of them who had the strength, in a calm and dignified manner, to refuse to give up his faith. Pater Angelus stood by his word, even when ordered three times to convert and even when entreated by the other forcefully converted Catholics. The result was one of the most appalling scenes imaginable in twentieth-century Europe.
After a sign from the Orthodox priest, the soldiers fell upon the Franciscan, ripped off his tunic and began beating him with the butts of their rifles. Pater Angelus collapsed after several of his bones and ribs had been fractured. At this moment, the Orthodox priest stopped the soldiers and asked him if he was now willing to convert. Again he shook his head and said placidly, "No, I will not abandon my faith and break my oath." Pater Angelus was beaten with the rifle butts again until one of the soldiers plunged a bayonet through the priest's lungs and put an end to his suffering.
A Serbian Decree For More Bloodshed
A decree was issued to the local authorities in the district of Kruja in western Albania, reading: "If anything occurs in the future or if but one Serbian soldier is killed in the town, in a village or in the vicinity, the town will be razed to the ground and all men over the age of fifteen will be bayoneted." The decree was signed: Kruja, 5 January 1913. Commanding officer: A. Petrovic, Captain, first class.
Kruja is the birthplace of Scanderbeg, the national hero, whose castle still stands in the town. It is a place venerated by all Albanians!
The Deutsches Volksblatt reported on 8 February: The Serbian Minister of Culture and Education, Ljuba Jovanovic, has published a declaration in a Slav newspaper, stating: "The Moslems will of course be treated the same as everyone else with regard to their rights as citizens. As to their religious affairs, the Vakuf properties (belonging to religious foundations) will remain under Moslem jurisdiction and their monasteries will be held in the same respect as are the Christian ones. With the exception of the regular troops, the Moslems have not put up any resistance to Serbian occupation and, as a result, were not harmed by Serbian forces. The Albanians, for their part, have resisted the Serbian occupation and even shot at soldiers after having surrendered. Such shootings have taken place not only outdoors but also from within houses in occupied villages. This has led to what happens everywhere when non-combatants oppose a victorious army" (i.e. the massacre of the Albanians).
The Belgrade newspaper Piemont, which serves as the mouthpiece of radical circles within the army, dealt in its issue of 20 March with the problem of Shkodër (Scutari) and declared that Shkodër must fall to Montenegro. "If this does not happen," continued the newspaper, "the town must be razed to the ground."
Serbian Officers Boast of their Vile Deeds
The Albanische Korrespondenz reports from Durrës (Durazzo): The carnage perpetrated by the Serbs in Albania is outrageous. Serbian officers boast openly of their deeds. Serbian troops have acted infamously in Kosovo in particular. A Serbian officer reported here: "The womenfolk often hid their jewellery and were not willing to hand it over. In such cases, we shot one member of the family and, right away, were given all the valuables." Particularly shocking was the behaviour of the Serbs on Luma territory. The men were burnt alive. Old people, women and children were slaughtered. In Kruja, the birthplace of Scanderbeg, a good number of men and women were simply shot to death and many houses set on fire. The Serbian commander, Captain Petrovic, published an ukaz officially announcing the evil deeds. In Tirana, several Albanians were sentenced to corporal punishment. The Serbs thrashed the wretched individuals until they died. In Kavaja and Elbasan, people were also officially beaten to death by the soldiers. A well-known, respected and wealthy gentleman, son of a Turkish officer, was shot in Durrës (Durazzo). The Serbian command later made his sentence known by wall posters on which they wrote that he had been accused of theft and sentenced to death. The Serbs have destroyed Catholic churches, saying that they are Austrian constructions and must disappear from the face of the earth. Serbian soldiers and officers harass the population day and night.
A Serbian soldier was recently found murdered. The Serbian commander ordered the immediate arrest of five Albanians who had nothing to do with the murder and had them shot.
A Bloodbath in Shkodër (Scutari)
The Albanische Korrespondenz reports from Podgorica: After the battle of Brdica, which resulted in a sound defeat for the Serbs, Serbian forces entered the village of Barbullush on their retreat. The terrified inhabitants came out of their homes with crucifixes in their hands and begged for mercy, but to no avail. The crazed troops attacked the unarmed villagers and slaughtered men, women, old people and children. The maimed body of an eight-year-old child was found to contain no less than six bayonet wounds.
The Serbian Denials
In recent times, the Serbian government has countered most reports of atrocities with official denials. Such disavowals have always been issued promptly, but all too often they lacked any semblance of credibility. Such grave and detailed accusations cannot be repudiated by a simple statement that the events in question did not occur.
The present and by no means complete selection of reports from various sources, not only Austrian, but also Italian, German, Danish, French and Russian, should have more weight in any court of human justice than all the formal denials issued by the Royal Serbian Press Office.
In an official denial dated 8 February, the Serbian Press Office declared that, "Such atrocities alleged to have been perpetrated by the Serbian army are simply unthinkable today on the part of a people who are exceptionally religious and tolerant." We can only answer: An army whose officers assault their king and queen in the middle of the night, murder them, maim their corpses with fifty-eight sabre cuts and then throw them out the window is quite capable of such atrocities, in particular since the leader of the bloodbath which took place in the konak of Belgrade was none other than Colonel Popovic, one of the leaders of the Serbian attack on Albania and currently commander of Serbian occupation forces in Durrës (Durazzo).
[Taken from Albaniens Golgotha: Anklageakten gegen die Vernichter des Albanervolkes. Gesammelt und herausgegeben von Leo Freundlich (Vienna 1913). Translated from the German by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie, Gathering Clouds: the Roots of Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo and Macedonia, Dukagjini Balkan Books (Peja 2002), p.11-46.]