When All Could No Longer Be Equal in Death: A Local Community’s Struggle to Remember Its Fallen Soldiers in the Shadow of Serbia’s Civil War, 1955-1956

Max Bergholz


In the spring of 1956, a plaque was hung in the Orthodox Church in the village of Brezna, located in western Serbia. On it were carved the names of local men who had been killed fighting during the Second World War. However, contrary to Communist policy, the list included not only those who had fought with the Communist-led Partisan resistance movement, but also those they had fought against, the Chetniks. Based on archival documents, the contemporary press, and interviews with local residents, this essay reconstructs the experience of the war years in this region, the factors that led to the hanging of the plaque, and the consequences faced by the village priest for its creation. The purpose is to examine how a local community, composed of combatants and their families from both sides of the wartime and postwar ideological divide, dealt with the mandate to simultaneously remember and forget the war dead. The main argument is that the incident in Brezna was a clash between traditional local practices of inclusive commemoration of the war dead and new exclusionary forms that emerged after the Second World War, due to the fratricidal nature of wartime violence, which were supported by Communist political elites as well as many local villagers.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/cbp.2010.152


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