Draza Mihailovich in film: “A Trap for the General” (1971)

General Draza Mihailovich with the people during the WWII. Contrary to General Mihailovich, Communist leader “Marshall” Josip Broz Tito posses no one photograph with the people of Yugoslavia from the wartime

In 1971, the movie Klopka za generala, A Trap for the General, was released in Yugoslavia directed by Miomir “Miki” Stamenkovic starring Rade Markovic, Ljuba Tadic, and Bekim Fehmiu. The screenplay was by Dragan Markovic and Luka Pavlovic. The film was produced by the Sarajevo-based company Bosna Film of Yugoslavia and featured a cast made up of Serbian, Bosnian Muslim, and Albanian Muslim actors. The film was released in Serbian in color. The film was also released internationally, as Der Doktor stellt eine Falle, The Doctor Sets a Trap, in East Germany, and as Pulapka na generala in Poland.

Serbian actor Rade Markovic played the General, a character based on General Draza Mihailovich. Ljuba Tadic was Ras, cetnicki vojvoda, the Chetnik commander modeled on Nikola Kalabic. Bekim Fehmiu was the Doctor, obavestajac OZNE, an agent of the Communist Yugoslav intelligence service, OZNA. Jelena Jovanovic-Zigon was Vera, a schoolteacher, the companion of Ras. Voja Miric, played Pjer, or Pierre, an undercover agent of OZNA. Tomanija Djuricko played the doctor’s mother. Viktor Starcic played the doctor’s father. Zoran Rankic was an OZNA operative. Dragomir Felba was Vidoje, vodenicar, the man who ran the water mill. Sima Janicijevic was the Minister, an advisor to the General. Svjetlana Knezevic played Lela, the doctor’s companion. Abdurrahman Shala was Perun, a Chetnik commander. Zaim Muzaferija played Jovan, a Chetnik soldier. Husein Cokic was Zivotic. Alenka Rancic played the mother. Ljiljana Sljapic was Vidoje’s daugther. The other actors were Ljubo Skiljevic, Dusan Janicijevic, Jovan Rancic, and Rastislav Jovic.

The original music for the film was composed by Vojislav Kostic. The cinematography was by Ognjen Milicevic. The film editor was Katarina Stojanovic.

The movie was released during the height of the Communist era in Yugoslavia when the Tito dictatorship released state-funded, high-budget movies glorifying the Partisans and Communist Yugoslavia. This is one of the hardcore Communist propaganda films of the Titoist era, made at the height of the Tito dictatorship. This movie is crucial in analyzing and deconstructing the way the image of Draza Mihailovich was manufactured and constructed in Communist Yugoslavia and in the Communist bloc.

The movie is a largely fictionalized account of the apprehension of Draza Mihailovich in 1946 by agents of OZNA, the Yugoslav Communist intelligence agency. The movie shows how the tropes and negative stereotypes about Draza Mihailovich and the Chetnik guerrillas were manufactured and perpetuated by the Yugoslav Communist government. The characterizations were based on deceptions and falsehoods. The central theme of the movie revolves around the allegation that Nikola Kalabic, Ras, betrayed the General, General Draza Mihailovich. This has been challenged and disputed. Recent evidence and testimony has been offered based on eyewitness accounts that Kalabic was killed by OZNA agents two months before the apprehension of Draza Mihailovich.

The goal of the Communist government and the filmmakers was to, moreover, emphasize the brutality, criminality, and, above all, lack of belief or commitment of the Chetnik leaders. The Chetniks do not believe in the movement themselves. So why should you? The Chetniks do not respect each other. So why should you? The Chetniks turn on each other. They are not true believers in themselves or their cause. Maintaining the narrative that Kalabic betrayed Mihailovich, thus, was crucial in Communist government efforts to destroy the morale and the resistance of those who opposed the Communist dictatorship and its criminality. The ends justified the means. Resistance is futile because there is nothing to believe in. The only alternative is Communism. That was also why it was important to apprehend Draza Mihailovich alive and to put him through a sham Stalinist and Communist show trial. Only by discrediting the movement and its leaders could the Communist dictatorship hope to eliminate opposition and resistance.

A negative image of the Chetnik movement must be manufactured. Draza Mihailovich and the Chetnik guerrillas must be shown to be brutal and opportunistic. Invariably, they are rapists and cutthroats who have no respect for themselves or others. How could anyone support them?

The movie opens with a mustachioed man wearing a cap with a star on the front attacking a woman. We see close-ups of their faces. He tears her blouse open and begins to kiss her neck. On the screen appear the opening credits: “Rade Markovic i Ljuba Tadic u filmu Klopka za generala”, “A Trap for the General”.

Then the scene shifts to a room with the General, modeled on Draza Mihailovich, played by Rade Markovic, Ras, and other Chetnik leaders. Draza is in uniform, bearded, and wearing glasses. He begins with a speech to the assembled company. The movie does not mention Draza Mihailovich by name but uses the term “the General” to refer to him.

“Gentlemen, you know the situation we find ourselves in,” he tells them. “The Germans have retreated. We have lost the conflict militarily. But all is not finished. If God permits, a conflict will break out between Russia and America. The Reds hold power in Yugoslavia now.” He tells them what their first objective should be. “Our friends outside Yugoslavia are disorganized but they can help us in two ways. First, they can give us material help and act as a diversion.”

The General tells them: “We have to create uncertainty in the people.” They need to create a diversion. They need to kill those associated with the current regime in power, by killing officers, by sabotage. “We have to destroy quicker than they can build.”

Ras, played by Ljuba Tadic, wearing a large black shubara with the double-headed white eagle crest of royalist Yugoslavia, asks him if they should flee Yugoslavia. The General tells him that doing so would mean that they surrender. Ras tells him that they have to return to Serbia. Ras then leaves.

The General then discusses Schwartz who is in Austria. He tells them that the Schwartz group has already infiltrated Yugoslavia. The General tells them that he is our striking fist against the Communist regime.

After the others leave, the General talks with an elderly person seated against the wall drinking liquor with a cat on his knee. The General refers to him as “Minister”. He tells the General: “If you listened to me in time you would have fared better. This way you have lost your army and the war. Not even the Greater Reich can help you now. You have this comical illusion that you can achieve something. How? We have killed. We have butchered this people. We have terrorized it. Now you want it to help you?” He tells the General that all his plans are “zabluda”, a delusion.

Janko tells him that the army is near. They then disperse.

The dialogue is not very believable or even probable or plausible. It sounds more like a Communist Party declaration or decree more than it does movie dialogue. There is not even an attempt made to be realistic or historically accurate or to try to delve into Draza Mihailovich’s motives and objectives. Instead, it is as if we are hearing a speech from the head of the Yugoslav Communist Party. They reuse the same tropes over again.

A poster for the American action  movie on General Mihailovich’s Chetnik’s freedom fighters made during the WWII. Americans never made any similar action movie on Tito’s Partisans during the wartime

Nikola Kalabic, known as “Ras-Ras”, ”cika Pera”, ”Perun”, and ”Enrih”, was the commander of the Gorska kraljeva garda, the royalist Mountain Guard. The Ras character is based on him. Did he betray Draza Mihailovich? This is how the Yugoslav Communist Party line had it. But this has never been definitely or conclusively shown. Nevertheless, it remained ingrained as part of the Communist Party orthodoxy and a shibboleth of the Tito era. In 2011, a Serbian court found that Kalabic was killed by OZNA agents of the Yugoslav Communist government on January 19, 1946, two months before Mihailovich was apprehended by Communist agents. The Valjevo General Court found that Nikola Kalabic was killed by OZNA agents in an ambush in a cave in a canyon of the Gradac river near Valjevo. The hideout had been discovered and surrounded by OZNA agents. Kalabic was killed in the ensuing attempted breakout and shootout. The court based its conclusion on the testimony of Mijailo Danilovic, a retired priest from Gornji Milanovac. Danilovic was told by two survivors of the shootout who escaped and joined the Kopaonik Chetnik Detachment, of which Danilovic was a part. Danilovic’s account corroborated the eyewitness acccounts. The circumstances of Kalabic’s death had earlier been explained the same way by Kalabic’s companions Boza Bozanovic, Veljko Kostovic, and Radomir Petrovic Kent, who were eyewitnesses. Moreover, the Communist government seized the property of Kalabic’s family after the war, persecuted them, and deprived them of their civil rights in Yugoslavia.

The next scene is in an office at OZNA where an agent points to a map of Bosnia. He tells other agents that OZNA has received information that the Chetniks are on the terrain of Bosnia, hiding in the mountains. The Yugoslav army has not been able to surround and to capture the General, General Draza Mihailovich. Over half a year had passed and Mihailovich had still not been apprehended. This is not a job for the army he tells them: “We have to accomplish this task.” He is asked: What is your thinking on this question? How can we do this when the army or military has been unable to do this so far.

The OZNA officer makes the key point: We need the General, General Draza Mihailovic, alive. Not killed by the army, but captured alive. So he can openly (“javno”) admit in a court of law the crimes and atrocities committed by the Chetniks during the war in collaboration with the occupier.

When we catch the head, the body will be “liquidated” consisting of 20,000 Chetniks who are still hiding in Serbia and Bosnia. We need to find the type of person able to accomplish this task. “I think I may have that type of person” he is told by another agent.

OZNA was the Department of National Security, Odjeljenje za zaštitu naroda, the security agency of Yugoslavia that existed between 1944 and 1946. It was founded as a security agency on May 13, 1944 by Aleksandar Rankovic. In March, 1946, OZNA was divided into military and civilian arms, the Administrative Directorate for Security of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA), KOS, Kontra-Obaveštajna Služba, and the Administrative State Security Directorate, UDBA, Uprava državne bezbednosti, formed on March 13, 1946.

The film then cuts to a scene of Vera in the hospital. She was the one who was raped in the opening scene. She tells the doctor about the rape attack. She tells him her attacker wore on his cap a star. He was short, dark. She tells him: I will always remember his eyes. I will remember him until I die. The doctor is shown in the operating room with music over the scene. He then is shown talking to Vera and showing her photographs of himself with other soldiers. He tells her about his days as a Condor. The Condors were a special unit during the war deployed on foreign assignments outside of Yugoslavia.

The film then cuts to a statue of Christ on the cross, a panning shot down the statue to a scene of Serbian civilians dancing the kolo in a field outside a village as an accordionist plays.

Ras rides in on horseback with other Chetnik guerrillas. They are armed and he is wearing a black shubara with royalist Yugoslav insignia on the front consisting of a double-headed white eagle crest. The dancing and music abruptly stop. He is welcomed. He tells them: Is this a Serbian slava? Come on. Enjoy yourselves. Ras crosses himself and sits down to eat. Ras asks the host about one of the young men dancing the kolo. He asks who his father is. He is told: The son is not guilty. Ras confronts him: Come here. You dance. You are joyous, young man. Where is your father? Is he with us? Who pays him? Ras is accused by the youth of being in the pay of the “Shvabe”, the Germans. Ras knocks him down as an armed gunman shoots him. Ras then shoots and kills the host who condemns him for killing the people. Another Chetnik announces: “The army!” They then all flee.

Ras goes to the house of Vera, a schoolteacher. She tells him about the doctor she has met, a Red, and tells him that he wants to establish contact with him. Ras refuses.

The Schwartz group is shown crossing a bridge as they seek to infiltrate Yugoslavia from Austria. They are ambushed by Yugoslav troops who lie in wait for them. They are killed while two are taken prisoner.

Perun and his group of Chetniks attack a Yugoslav building with a large picture of Tito on the wall. These are supporters of the Yugoslav Communist government. One of the Chetniks sexually attacks one of the female workers. Outside the building, the Chetniks have killed several people who lie dead on the grounds. On the wall of the building are a large Communist star and the words in Cyrillic Serbian: Smrt fashizmu, sloboda narodu. Death to fascism. Freedom to the people. This was the Yugoslav Communist motto during the war.

In the room, flags hang with the hammer and sickle along with a Yugoslav flag with the red Communist star in the center. In the middle, there is a photo of Tito. The words ” narodna vlast”, “people’s government”, is written on the wall.  Another Chetnik, the one who attacked Vera, sexually attacks the woman and takes her away.

Ras arrives and asks Perun: “Why?” He answers: Because they would not listen to them. Ras tells Perun that the people do not support us. They argue. Ras states that he can make it without the General but that the General cannot make it without him.

Vera welcomes the doctor and they ride a buggy led by a single horse. Perun meets the doctor. The doctor crosses himself, breaks bread and eats it at a table with Perun. Perun takes him to a house to take care of a wounded Chetnik. Perun asks the doctor to execute a boy who had not joined the Chetniks. The doctor shoots and kills the boy.

The doctor, who is conscious-stricken after the cold-blooded murder, is told by an OZNA agent that he sometimes must perform heroic actions and sometimes actions that are tragic. The doctor says that an agent cannot be heroic or a hero. The doctor is told that OZNA has lost track of the General, General Mihailovich. Until we catch him they will terrorize the people. Ras will lead us to the General.

The General and his men cross the bridge that Schwartz crossed earlier. Yugoslav agents train their guns on them but have orders not to shoot them. The Communist dictatorship of Yugoslavia wants to catch the General alive so that he can be used to discredit both himself and the Chetnik resistance movement.

The doctor meets with his father and mother along with Lela his companion.

The doctor and Pierre meet with Perun and Felix in a house. Pierre, an undercover OZNA operative posing as a foreign agent, seeks contact with the General. Perun and Felix agree to kill them. They drink. There is a shootout.  Perun and Felix are killed.

Vera recognizes her attacker who sexually attacked and raped her at the beginning of the film. He wore the star on his cap to incriminate the Communist regime. He is one of Ras’s Chetniks. Ras then kills him.

Driving in an American jeep with the top up, the doctor meets with Ras on a mountain pass. They go to a house where Pierre soon arrives. They kill Ras’s companion, his guard. OZNA now has captured Ras. Ras is told: “We want the General.” The doctor tells Ras: You have killed and burned in the name of the King and of Serbdom (Srpstvo) but in fact had betrayed Serbia. The proposal to Ras is to betray the General. This is how he can save himself. Ras then is shown training and rehearsing OZNA agents to pass as Chetnik fighters.

The Chetnik operation “Halyard Mission” led by General Draza Mihailovich

With three American jeeps, Ras, along with the doctor, goes to Janko and tells him to take them to the General.

Ras runs away and kills Vera. He then returns to the group.

They then travel to the General’s hideout in the mountains. “The General’s waiting for you” Ras is told by one of the Chetnik soldiers. The General tells Jovan to shoot him if anything happens. The General suspects a betrayal. Ras and the doctor are led to the General’s hideout in a cave. Ras tells the General: I can take you to a safe place. The General voices concerns about being betrayed.

The General confronts Ras: He says Ras is the betrayer. He asks: How much were you paid? The doctor begins laughing and confides to the General that he exposed the betrayer. Ras is shot and killed after the General orders his men to shoot him.

The General believes an unknown doctor over Ras, a close confidant. How believable is this? The doctor tells the General: I killed Felix. He betrayed Vilija, Perun, and Schwartz. Felix was with the Reds from the start. He befriends the General and tells him he will lead him to safety.

As they are traversing the woods, the doctor shoots and kills the Chetnik who is leading the group which leads to a shootout and battle between OZNA agents and the Chetniks. The General orders a Chetnik, Jovan, to shoot him to prevent his capture. The doctor, however, confronts the Chetnik who hesitates and is then killed. The Chetniks are killed and taken prisoner and the General is captured.

The doctor is asked: Are you wounded?

He replies that he will sleep it off. The film ends with this scene.

The film moves at a TV movie pace. The musical scoring is also at a TV movie pace with a crescendo or swell in the music just before the commercial break. The movie was made at a time when World War II and espionage films were in vogue. Communist countries such as Yugoslavia discovered the value of film in propagating the Communist values, ideology, and the manufactured history of the regimes. Films glorified the leader and exalted the past. They became ways to control the masses, to dictate in a subtle way what everyone needed to think. Not surprisingly, the Yugoslav Communist regime invested vast sums in the production of such movies. These movies were not only meant for domestic consumption, but were also exported internationally, especially in the Communist or Soviet bloc. Movies became another way in which to manipulate and indoctrinate the population.

Two of the General’s closest aides, Perun and Jovan, were played respectively by Yugoslav Albanian Muslim actor Abdurrahman Shala and Bosnian Muslim actor Zaim Muzaferija.

The General was played by Serbian actor Rade Markovic who was a prominent Yugoslav actor during the Communist period. He appeared in over a 100 theater roles, was in 77 Yugoslav and international film productions, and acted in over 60 dramas and series made by TV Belgrade. He was married to Olivera Markovic, who appeared in the 1946 Soviet-Yugoslav co-production, In the Mountains of Yugoslavia, which also featured a negative portrayal of Draza Mihailovich, played by Croatian actor Vjekoslav Afric. He was also in Valter brani Sarajevo (Walter Defends Sarajevo)  (1972), The Battle of Sutjeska (1973), and Tito i ja (Tito and Me) (1992).

Ljuba Tadic appeared in A Bloody Tale, or Krvava Bajka (1969), The Battle of Sutjeska (1973), and The Battle of Kosovo (1989). He began his film career in the early 1950s, making his first film appearance in 1953, and was also a prominent Yugoslav actor during the Communist period.

Bekim Fehmiu was a Yugoslavian actor who was an ethnic Albanian born in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Hercegovina, who grew up in Prizren in Kosovo. He represented the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural ethos of Communist Yugoslavia. He was popular in Yugoslavia and also achieved some international recognition with appearances in foreign films. He was married to Serbian actress Branka Petric. He was found dead on June 15, 2010 in his apartment in Belgrade. His death was ruled a suicide from a self-inflicted gun-shot wound.

Draza Mihailovich was captured by OZNA agents on March 13, 1946 in Drazevina near Visegrad in eastern Bosnia. He was put through a sham Communist show trial and executed on July 17, 1946 in Belgrade. When the movie was released in 1971, it marked 25 years since Mihailovich’s death. This was the height of the Josip Broz Tito Communist dictatorship in Yugoslavia and the cult of personality that he had established. In 1974, Tito would make himself President for Life. He died on May 4, 1980 at the age of 87.

In 1991 and 1992, the Communist Yugoslav system disintegrated as Yugoslavia collapsed. Josip Broz Tito and “Titoism” are discredited today. They went much the way of Marxism-Leninism, Communism, and bratstvo i jedinstvo. Josip Broz Tito and his legacy are in the garbage heap of history. They are failed experiments that showed the futility of Communist social engineering. Through lies, deception, intimidation, propaganda, murder, and force, Josip Broz sought to create a new vision in history by means of lies and murder. The verdict of history has been harsh. That is a verdict that cannot be appealed.

Klopka za generala is a failed attempt to falsify history and to create a national foundation based on a delusional house of cards. Ironically, the only reason this movie has any interest for anyone today is because of its falsified portrayal of Draza Mihailovich. The movie shows that lies and deceptions are like lines written in the sand. They cannot withstand the scrutiny of time. In the final analysis, history renders its own verdict and judgment.


By Carl K. Savich

Source: Serbianna

The Chetniks of General Dragoljub Draza Mihailovich