Germany - Third Reich: An interesting Balkans 1943 probable Yugoslavia Case White January to March 1943 destruction of the Partisan led Bihać Republic Feldgendarmerie Iron Cross 2nd Class award with document to Obergefreiten Schwedt, 1st Company, 501st Feldgendarmerie Motorised Battalion, who from January 1943 operated under Army Group E in the Balkans in Yugoslavia during the fourth offensive against the Yugoslav Partisans, known as Case White, the intention being to destroy the Partisan led Bihać Republic. After just over two months of fighti

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Germany - Third Reich: An interesting Balkans 1943 probable Yugoslavia Case White January to March 1943 destruction of the Partisan led Bihać Republic Feldgendarmerie Iron Cross 2nd Class award with document to Obergefreiten Schwedt, 1st Company, 501st Feldgendarmerie Motorised Battalion, who from January 1943 operated under Army Group E in the Balkans in Yugoslavia during the fourth offensive against the Yugoslav Partisans, known as Case White, the intention being to destroy the Partisan led Bihać Republic. After just over two months of fighting, the operations came to an end in March 1943, and the Germans claimed to have killed about 11,915 Partisans, executed 616, and captured 2,506. Schwedt was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 22nd May 1943.

Iron Cross 2nd Class with accompanying Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Obergefreiten Schwedt, 1./Feldgend.Abt.(mot)501’, dated 22nd May 1943, signed in ink ‘Löhr’ for Alexander Löhr as Generaloberst and C-in-C Army Group E, recipient of the Knight’s Cross on 30th September 1939, the Oakleaves to the Knight’s Cross on 20th January 1945, and executed in Belgrade on 21st February 1947.

Obergefreiten Schwedt, sadly his forename is not now known, saw service with the 1st Company, 501st Feldgendarmerie Motorised Battalion, and was serving with this unit attached to Army Group E in the Balkans under the command of Generaloberst Alexander Löhr when he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 22nd May 1943. It is most probably that Schwedt’s award was made for operations against the Partisans, with fourth offensive against the Yugoslav Partisans, known as Case White, having taken place between 20th January and March 1943. The fifth offensive, known as Case Black occurred from 15th May to 16th June 1943, and Schwedt’s award of the Iron Cross dated 22nd May 1943, would have been too soon to incorporate the operations of the then ongoing Case Black, hence Case White is the sensible conclusion.

Schwedt’s unit was formed on 16th August 1941 from men of the Ordnungspolizei - the Municipal Police in Wehrkreis I at Königsberg. Deployed as Army Troops and took over the duties of its original title of Korück 560 and previously Korück 501, which had been deployed with the 3rd Army back in February 1940 in the West, and stationed in Vienna in September 1940 before moving on the Balkans for service at Sofia from February 1941 before taking part in the invasion of Greece and ending up at Athens. From August 1941 it had been part of the Southern Greece Command, and was officially retitled as the 501st Feldgendarmerie Motorised Battalion as mentioned on 16th August 1941. From late January 1942 it was with the 13th Army, before becoming a part of the Army Group E in the Balkans from 1st January 1943 until the end of the war.

Army Group E controlled all subordinate commands in southeast Europe, including the commanding general in Serbia, the military commander in the Salonika-Aegean area, the military commander in southern Greece, the commander of Crete, the naval commander in the Aegean Sea, the German plenipotentiary general in the Independent State of Croatia, the commanding general of German troops in Croatia, and the military attaché in Sofia, Bulgaria.

For Case White, the background occurred in late 1942, with the Axis Situation in North Africa deteriorating, the German high command became concerned about the possibility of an Allied landing in the Balkans. In such an event, resistance forces in Yugoslavia would be likely to interfere with German defensive operations as well as their economic exploitation of natural resources, including timber, copper and bauxite. As a result, on 16 December 1942 Hitler ordered the Armed Forces Commander in Southeast Europe, Generaloberst Alexander Löhr, to crush the resistance in Yugoslavia. In a meeting of 18th to 19th December, the General Staff decided on the destruction of the Bihać Republic. By the end of March, the Germans claimed to have killed about 11,915 Partisans, executed 616, and captured 2,506. Despite these heavy losses and a tactical victory for the Axis powers, the partisan formations secured their command and the hospital, and were able to continue operations. In fact, once they reached the eastern parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Partisans had to face only the Chetniks, and in turn almost entirely incapacitated them in the area west of the Drina river.