THE RAPE OF SERBIA: The British Role in Tito's Grab for Power by Michael Lees

THE RAPE OF SERBIA: The British Role in Tito's Grab for Power

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Revisionist history with a vengeance, as Lees details a sordid story of British favoritism toward the communist resistance movement in Yugoslavia during WW II. In his acknowledgements, Lees thanks his brother-in-law for ""coercing"" him ""to write more soberly"" about historical events in which Lees was an active participant as a British Liaison Officer and commando with the Resistance under General Mihailovi in Serbia. If this is a more sober and balanced treatment, the original draft must have been as wild as they come. Of primary concern to Lees is the exposure of a complex trail of misinformation about the Serbian situation, starting from British intelligence and leading to Prime Minister Churchill. The presence of Red Sympathizers and Soviet agents in the Cairo office of Special Operations Europe (SOE), the military secret service and intelligence unit, made it possible for reports coming in from Yugoslavia to be falsified and distorted in order to give the impression that the communist partisans were doing the lion's share of the sabotage, while the guerrillas under Mihailovi were collaborating with the Nazi enemy. In fact, nearly the reverse was tree. Churchill gave the nod, however, based on this stream of erroneous data, and the Mihailovi fighters were denied further arms and supplies from 1943 on, while their cause was undermined in BBC broadcasts. When the Germans withdrew in late 1944, a brutal civil war erupted between the rival factions, which Tito's better-equipped men won handily, and the political fate of the country was sealed. Based largely on evidence in declassified government documents that Lee unearthed in London in the mid-1980's, and on personal recollections, the ""received wisdom"" of the official accounts is challenged at great length here, with certain SOE officers being held primarily responsible for the Serbian betrayal. No secret caches hidden in pumpkins, but still a vendetta, thinly veiled as the task of setting the record straight. What might otherwise be a solid case is tarnished by a rambling, redundant argument and relentless invective.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1990
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich