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.
On 18 October 1912, King Peter of Serbia issued a declaration 'To the Serbian People', proclaiming:
How have the Serbs understood the declaration of their monarch, which is not even half a year old?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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 Skopje, a returning Serbian officer explained quite seriously to me the justice of burning down eighty villages in Luma territory.
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."
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.
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 letter ends with the words, "May God have mercy upon us, and may Europe come and save us. Otherwise we are lost!"
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."
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.
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).
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 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.