Sarajevo was annexed as part of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), whereupon a reign of terror was unleashed on its citizens, with confiscation of property, imprisonments, deportations to concentration camps, torture, murder….
Not long after Sarajevo was occupied, a resistance movement began under the leadership of the Communist Party. The members were engaged in sabotage, collecting funds so they could fight in combat and organizing escapes into the forests to join the Partisans.
On several occasions, the police and Gestapo managed to infiltrate the illegal Sarajevan group, causing serious losses, but the gains made by the Sarajevo resistance movement during the war continued unabated.
Vladimir Perić (better known by his code name, “Walter”) assumed leadership of the underground movement in mid-1943 and within about two years he would prepare the Sarajevo resistance movement to liberate the city from fascist occupation.
By the beginning of 1945 the end of WWII was already imminent, but German forces, with help from their collaborators, the ustaše and domobrani, had no intention of leaving Sarajevo; rather, they considered it a suitable base to use while withdrawing their severely weakened “E” army troops from Greece.
On February 15, 1945, a directive came from Adolf Hitler, ordering that Sarajevo must be held onto “for political reasons”.
That same month, Vjekoslav “Maks” Luburić arrived in Sarajevo. This notorious Ustaša commander was sent by Ante Pavelić, leader of the NDH, with a single objective: to brutally eradicate the Sarajevo resistance.
Days around liberation
This butcher took over the Berković mansion in Skenderija and commenced his bloody reign, during which he brutally killed 323 people. One of the darkest evenings in Sarajevo history was the night of March 27, 1945, when he had 50 Sarajevans hung along the tree-lined street that stretched from Tilava Tavern (where SCC is today) to the National Museum.
At the beginning of April, the 3rd Unit of the Yugoslav Army arrived in Sarajevo and the resistance received the following orders from headquarters: “Protect the buildings, especially the power station and the post office. Prepare to defend them. Don’t let the archives be destroyed.”
By April 4, Sarajevo’s anti-fascist movement had decided to engage the enemy directly. Task forces were revived throughout the mahalas (city neighborhoods), plans were made for combat, weapons were distributed….
The Women’s Anti-fascist Council (AVŽ) coordinated food and accommodation for the fighters and, since they knew that the city would be liberated in a matter of days, or even hours, these ladies started sewing new Yugoslavian flags and formed a choir that would sing songs of freedom after liberation.
On the afternoon of April 5, the first Partisan troops began to arrive in Sarajevo through the Višegrad Kapija up in Vratnik and a great celebration got underway on Vratnik’s mejdan.
Sarajevo was fully liberated from fascism on April 6, 1945 and, in order to commemorate this great event, April 6th is now celebrated as the Day of the City of Sarajevo.