Map Study Trip "Commemorating Wars" in Bosnia and Herzegovina
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Study Trip Commemorating Wars.
The Commemoration of the Second World War and the War of 1992-1995 in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Route and Destinations:

1. Zagreb 8. Jablanica
2. Jasenovac 9. Mostar
3. Donja Gradina 10. Sutjeska
4. Kozara 11. Gorazde
5. Prijedor 12. Srebrenica
6. Banja Luka 13. Sarajevo
7. Sarajevo
Sarajevo 2SrebrenicaGorazdeSutjeskaMostarJablanicaSarajevoBanja LukaPrijedorKozaraDonja GradinaJasenovacZagreb


Page Contents


The town of Jablanica is home to the museum "Bitka za ranjenike na Neretvi" (“Battle for the Wounded on Neretva River”), which was founded in the 1970s and has in the meantime been substantially redesigned. On the memorial premises and in the museum still today the so called Battle of the Neretva (1943) is commemorated. A couple of years ago a new permanent exhibition was added dealing with themes of the war of 1992-1995 (exhibition “Fourth Corpus of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina”), thus changing the general approach of the memorial complex. By visiting both exhibitions, not only the entanglement of interpretation concerning both wars in today’s commemoration, but also current conflicts of memory in BiH become clear – the new exhibition focuses one-sidedly on „the“ Bosniak view of the recent war.

Official Website of the Museum:

Enver Hasanović: The Battle of the Neretva/Bitka na Neretvi

(In Yugoslavian history books it was also often referred to as the “Battle for the 4000 Wounded Soldiers”. [Bitka za ranjenike])

Brücke in JablanicaThe battle took place in February and March of 1943. About 18,000 Partisans, their wounded, and the fleeing civilian population were surrounded by a huge number of enemy forces (about 150,000 soldiers), consisting of formations of Germans, Italians, Croatian Ustaše, and Serbian Chetniks, in the valley of Neretva near Jablanica.

The large number of soldiers involved on the side of the axis powers makes clear how important the elimination of the Partisans was to Nazi Germany. Codenamed “Operation White”, the operation started at the end of January 1943. The campaign was triggered by rumours about a planned Allied invasion of the Balkans. Moreover, reports of the German Secret Service had revealed contacts between the British and Josip Broz Tito and considerations on the side of the British to acknowledge the Partisan movement under Tito’s command as an ally against Nazi Germany.

Tito’s order, to have the four bridges on the Neretva and one on the river Rama destroyed, led the axis powers to believe wrongly that the Partisan forces would evade north to the Vrbas valley. That was why a large number of their forces, consisting of about 150,000 men, were deployed in the Vrbas valley. However, Tito had one bridge near Jablanica provisionally repaired so the Partisans, together with the civilian population, and their wounded, could break away cross the Neretva towards the east and the river Drina. On the eastern bank of the Neretva the Partisans only had to face the 20,000 strong Chetnik forces which, however, had hardly any military organisation and were quickly defeated.

Stein mit Zitat von Tito.Although the axis powers eventually saw through Tito’s plan, they were unable to react fast enough and relocate their troops in order to prevent the flight towards the east. Thus, Tito had held his word, as it was written in Yugoslavian history books, of saving the wounded.

Even though the outcome of the battle became a military success for Nazi Germany and its allies, the aim of eliminating the Partisans, however, did not succeed. For the Partisans, on the other hand, the events of Jablanica were of profound significance from a moral point of view. In that sense even today the outcome of the battle is often called a moral victory or the turning point of the war respectively.

It remains disputable, however, if the battle owed its outcome to Tito’s military genius or to a situation combining lucky fortune with adequate improvisation on the side of the Partisans.

The inscription on the stones means:
„We may not leave behind the wounded. TITO"
In the event of a systematic destruction of the bridge, this course of action would understandably have been met with incomprehension among the Partisans – and Tito would have had to face considerable opposition from within his own ranks. This plan, however, was after all the only realistic way out of the encirclement.

Since more than 200 aircrafts were on duty on the side of the axis powers, resulting in a number of air strikes, an accidental bombing of the bridge could also serve as a possible explanation.

History is written by the winners. That is why the rescue of the Partisans was coined as Tito’s great achievement in socialist Yugoslavia, a memory that was staged in a very detailed and heroic way.

Picture Gallery Jablanica

Museum: The Battle of the Neretva.

More Pictures ...

Marion Forster, Julia Merl and Birte Richardt: Travel Diary Entry, 26 May 2010

Museum zur Schlacht an der Neretva.Today, visits by whole groups of schoolchildren are considered rare occasions. What a shame. We have come to Jablanica, to the museum. Our arrival is unannounced. Even so, we are welcomed by the director, who kindly gives us his time to show us around the three exhibitions of the museum.

Concerning the exhibition on the battle of 1943 we hear the following:

April 1943: Germans, Italians, Ustaše and Chetniks are advancing, campaigning against the Partisans led by Tito, a desperate situation. They are surrounded. Tito knew no other way out but to destroy the five bridges. His opponents thought he would turn north. But Tito had a wooden bridge built, within 19 hours, which was used to carry the wounded across; it took them eight days. The Germans were still waiting on the mountain in the north, but the Partisans had long vanished. They destroyed the wooden bridge after having reached the other side so the Germans would not be able to use it. Hitler made a wrong estimation of the situation, and did not order his army to march on.

The Partisans continued to the southwestern border region. Some months later what in Yugoslavia is called the „Fifth Offensive“ followed – „Operation Black“ as it was called by the axis powers – the Battle of Sutjeska …

A story, which the director recounts in an utterly fascinating manner. Lively. As if he had been part of it himself. The bridge which one can see today – crashed into the Neretva – is not the bridge that was destroyed during the Second World War. It is a reconstruction, built and blown up in the post war era, so the event could be captured on film. I feel inspired by the landscape, the mountains, the turquoise river. It is hot, though one can spot snow on top of the mountains. A scenery from a dream.

We continue on to Mostar. At last.

Continue with the Diary ...