Part of the Anti-Partisan Operations in Croatia series by H.L. deZeng IV

Dates: 19 March – 7 April 1943. (1)

Objective: To destroy a large Partisan concentration of over four brigades in the Papuk and Krndija Mountains in Central Slavonia. Some of these Partisans had fled there after evading the sweep of the Dilj Mountains during Operation “Grün”.

Enemy Forces: 4th (Slavonian) Division NOVJ (strength approximately 4,200).

Axis Forces:
Attacking forces were in an overall strength of two divisions – 30,000 men - plus air support.
187. Reserve-Div. (major elements)
Volksdeutsch Bn. “Prinz Eugen”
1st Mountain Division (I and IV Mountain Brigades with divisional support units)
1st Light Tank Co./1st Mountain Div. (one platoon with 5 light tanks)
I, II and III Bn./4th Infantry Rgt.
I Bn./5th Infantry Rgt.
IV Bn./6th Infantry Rgt.
II Assault Bn.
I Bicycle Infantry Bn.
II Bn./Syrmian Brigade
IV Bn./Slavonian Brigade
II Cavalry Replacement Bn.
II Bn./1st Recruit Rgt.
3d Battr./V Artillery Group
IV Engineer Bn.

Conduct of Operations and Results: This was a major operation intended to bring to battle the 4th (Slavonian) Division NOVJ, which had been rampaging throughout Central Slavonia attacking garrisons, ambushing road convoys, sabotaging the railway lines and finally managed to cut off all communication with the key town of Slavonska Požega. The German-Croatian forces surrounded the oval valley basin that is bordered to the southwest by Slavonska Požega and to the northeast by the Papuk Mountains and closed in on the units of the enemy division that were trapped there from the west and east. Fierce fighting developed over the next 10 days as the Partisans tried desperately to extract their men and retreat into the mountains to the east and west of the basin. Although the division was effectively destroyed, enough Partisans got away into the Dilj Mountains to the east that the operation had to be continued there as Operation “Braun II” until 7 April using fresh troops. The operation was a success and even the postwar Yugoslav literature admits that this was so. But there are two sets of loss figures, so the final results depend on who is doing the counting.

Losses (according to the Germans)*
Germans: 45 (39) killed, 59 (20) wounded and 7 (1) missing.
Croatians: 86 (32) killed, 102 (50) wounded and 123 (40) missing.
Partisans: 1,627 (944) killed and 271 (151) captured.
(* The initial higher figure was later reduced to the lower figure, which is said to be the actual body count).

Losses (according to the Partisans)
Germans and Croatians: 214 killed, 225 wounded and 342 missing.
Partisans (4th Division combatants only): 110 killed, 135 wounded and 120 missing.

The postwar Yugoslav accounts state that the operation was accompanied by widespread looting and abusive mistreatment of the civilian population, but there is no mention of any massacres or shootings taking place that might account for the huge disparity between the “number killed” figures (944 vs 110). In 1988, author Colić writes that on the basis of a much more thorough study done many years after the war, the direct and indirect losses attributed to Operation “Braun” from 19 March to mid-April were:

Germans and Croatians: 900 killed, 1,100 wounded and 1,250 taken prisoner (mostly defectors);
Partisans: 191 killed, 309 wounded, 137 missing plus another 710 sick and rendered ineffective from typhus.

1. [Vojnoistorijski institute] - Zbornik dokumenata i podataka o narodnooslobodilačkom ratu jugoslovenskih naroda, Tom V/14, pp.430-43; [Vojnoistorijski institute] - Oslobodilački rat naroda Juooslavije 1941-1945, 2 Vols (Belgrade: 1965), pp.500-01; [Vojnoistorijski institute] - Hronologija oslobodilačke borbe naroda jugoslavije 1941-1945 (Belgrade, 1964), p.443; Colić, Mladenko - Pregled Operacija na Jugoslovenskom Ratištu 1941-1945 (Belgrade: Vojnoistorijski Institut, 1988), pp.109-13; NARA WashDC: RG 242 (T-315 roll 1553/800-982, 1087, 1100-1150, 1164-74).