On Monday December 12, 2011, my grandfather H.R.H Prince Paul, Regent of Yugoslavia from 1934 to 1941, was cleared on all counts of war crimes, by the High Court of Serbia. This is a victory for my grandfather and for Serbia – A moment in time, where the light of truth has overturned the condemning distortions of history.
Winston Churchill said that history would be kind to him because he would write it. Well, the opposite was true for my grandfather. His reputation was cruelly destroyed by those who believed, “It is the right of a great power to sacrifice a smaller, neutral state for the sake of ultimate victory” – Winston Churchill again – and who unfortunately had the power to write Paul’s history – Until this past week…
Finally, Paul has been vindicated, his honor restored – 70 years after being branded a traitor and a Nazi collaborator. It seems tragic to me that he will never bask in his own redemption or benefit from knowing that his legacy has been restored. The stigma of these hideous accusations haunted him until the day he died in Paris in 1976.
I wonder how he would feel knowing that his country, Yugoslavia, the country he fought so hard to protect and preserve, the country he was never allowed to set foot in after his exile in 1941, has ceased to exist. A touch of irony, it seems to me.
My mother, Princess Elizabeth is the force behind restoring her father’s legacy. She first returned to Belgrade, Serbia in 1987, the first member of the royal family to do so, and has dedicated the past 20 years of her life to clearing her father’s name. She ran for Presidency in 2004 and my eldest daughter India and I went to help her campaign – she came in 6th out of 16 candidates.
Her battle against the culmination of generations of communist propaganda etched against her father has paid off. After years of disseminating and propagating the facts that had been hidden for so long, the veils of delusion are beginning to loosen their stranglehold.
Her long-time quest will have been fulfilled when Paul, his wife Olga and their son Nicholas’ bodies are exhumed in Switzerland and brought back for an official burial in Serbia.
Mom said she felt both happy and sad – I wondered if it was perhaps because her father couldn’t be here with her – to witness this triumph – this reversal of misfortune. She had succeeded where he had felt hopeless.
“Time reveals truth” was a quote by Seneca I chose as Paul’s dialogue – in the script titled Royal Exile that my husband and I recently wrote. The dialogue was wishful thinking at the time, but now, truth imitates art.
We added dialogue to a pivotal scene between Paul and Hitler, during a 5-hour secret meeting at Hitler’s retreat at Berchtesgaden.
The rest of the dialogue in the scene we transcribed from Paul’s letters, and it was chilling to imagine the actual words being spoken by one of history’s most malevolent figures. This meeting was Paul’s last attempt to negotiate to save his country from being annihilated by the Germans during WW2. According to him, it was the most frightening moment of his life, and he feared, perhaps his last.
Winston Churchill decided that Paul’s policy of neutrality did not suit his needs. He wanted Yugoslavia to invade Germany unprovoked. Paul’s answer,
“Great, then send me troops and reinforcements and we will fight by your side!” Churchill’s reply, “I can’t send any military support, but know that you shall go down in history on the winning side.”
For most men, this might have been a tempting offer, but not for Paul. He knew that this was suicide for his country; they were poorly armed and could never withstand the German war machine. His conscience wouldn’t allow him to sacrifice his people.
Paul refused to attack, predicting that they would be overrun by the Nazis within a week.
The British covertly funded a coup d’etat and Paul was arrested. He was given the choice to abdicate at gunpoint or he and his entire family would be executed. They were given 4 hours to leave the country. My mother was 4-years-old at the time and remembers the horrific events of their exodus. No country would take them and eventually they were sent to Kenya under British house arrest, for the remainder for the war.
Within days of Paul’s departure, Hitler launched Operation Punishment, and as he predicted, Yugoslavia lay in ruins, and over a million countrymen lost their lives. Paul never recovered.
In his memoirs, Churchill later commented that the one thing he regretted was his harsh treatment of Prince Paul.
Now, 70 years later, he is finally being recognized as a peacemaker, visionary and a national hero. He has been exonerated.
If you would like to know more about Paul, you can go to our film, Royal Exile’s website. http://www.princepaulroyalexile.com/
21 Replies to ““Time reveals truth””
Big and well deserved win for serbian royal family, especially for our outstanding princess Jelisaveta. Proud to be Serbian, congrats!!!!
Thank you so very much, Catherine. As a descendant of a Yugoslavian Grandfather who escaped the horrific Nazi regime of WWII I am greatful to hear news of this. Well written and appreciated.
Forever greatful of your writings,
Great post thanks. I really enjoyed it very much.
Love writing? We would love for you to join us!
That is great to hear.
A very powerful story, Catherine, and you must be extremely proud of your grandfather Prince Paul for his courage and his keen ability to “read” people accurately.
His courage is obvious from his refusal to do the Nazi salute in Berlin in 1939, and from his refusal to align his Yugoslavian people with a madman and his followers. And it was also courageous to protect his people from the suicidal invasion of Germany that Churchill requested.
And his ability to correctly read people is perhaps best illustrated by comparison with Britain’s Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain was “conned” by Hitler at Berchtesgaden. He believed Hitler’s assurances, and he returned to England and triumphantly issued the “good news” to the British people by quoting Hotspur from Shakespeare’s Henry the Fourth: “Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.” But shortly thereafter, Hitler betrayed his promises and invaded Czechoslovakia.
And even Churchill later admitted that he was relieved that he had never dealt with Hitler in person, because he may have been “charmed” by him in the same way that Chamberlain had been.
So your grandfather Prince Paul was indeed a great man, courageous and intelligent and perspicacious, and it is wonderful that, at last, “History has absolved him.”
Thomas,thank you so much for your response. I am very proud of him! I was fascinated by your details about Chamberlain. My grandfather went to warn him and Joseph Kennedy – who was at the time Ambassador to England – about the dangers of Hitler in 1939 and as you might expect, was rebuffed by both of them.
This is absolutely most wonderful news. I am so thrilled your Mother’s hard work and dedication has been so successful. Somewhere in Heaven your Grandfather is smiling over you all. Thank you for sharing this news with us. As always your posts are elegant and graceful. May you and your family have a Merry Christmas!
Know those that have gone before us are always with us.
Such a wonderful tribute to you father , your family and your heritage. Well done.
Your grandfather was the most amazingly strong person. To be a clarion against evil and have those in a position to help ignore him…I am truly horrified by what happened to him and I hope that I will be able to see your film one day.
I am so glade to read the nwes about your grandfather. my dearest now is the time to find a produser for your movie go for it good light and luck love you
Michal! You are SO right! WE have some interest a last! xo
I had the chance to see Prince Paul and Princess Olga when I was very young. I knew who they were but was quite unaware of their history. I am so happy to know that after such a long time History recognizes your grandfather as the hero he was and will be for Eternity.
Celestria, you for your lovely comment. I am thrilled to hear that you met my grandparents!
This is off topic, but I read your blog about not using the word “step” when referring to children. It is so refreshing to see children in a blended family with total love and support. I wish my nieces would have had that experience. My brother tried to get full custody, but his ex pulled every, and I mean every, trick in the book and lied through her teeth and the judge bought it.
My brother, though, made us promise that we would never stoop to her level and play her game. We have never said a bad word against her, but she has said plenty against my parent and myself; to the point that the girls are believing and repeating it.
My brother was killed in an accident 11 years ago and was an organ donor. We did the right thing and let his ex be a part of the funeral, only now to have her accuse us of horrible things. She also poisoned the girls against us. I have not seen my nieces in 10 years. My parents and I held out hope for 10 years that maybe things would change, but it has become to painful and have come to the conclusion that we need to let go. It is like losing my brother all over again, but we need to move on.
So, in short, thank you for showing what a blended family can be like. My brother tried his best, and we did too. We just pray that the girls will one day realize that we do love them.
Christy, Let me say that i have experienced an almost identical situation – i won’t elaborate any more. It is always better to take the high road – but it doesn’t make it any less painful. It has taken many years for us to get to this place of being a ‘blended blessing’. Don’t lose hope.
Thank you. I haven’t lost hope, yet. Right now, my nieces aren’t the little girls that I helped my brother raise. The last communication that I had with one of them was so bad I had to change my cell number because she kept texting me – calling me horrible names that involved cursing. Thanks to modern technology (Facebook via relatives) we do know that they both are involved with some questionable groups, but since they are over 20, we can’t do a thing about it.
My parents tried to fight for their rights as grandparents back in 2001, after Todd, my brother died, only to be told that in Wisconsin, they did not have grandparent rights.
The only thing that got us through Todd’s death was faith. We knew he was with God, it was too soon for us since he was only 34, but we knew he was ok. God ha gotten us through this as well. There have been many tears and prayers for the girls. My parents and I will always love them and hope to someday get the chance to tell them the truth about their dad.
For Serbian patriots, monarchists and Serbian Orthodox Christians, Prince Paul the last great ruler of the Serbian people, never needed any legal rehabilitation. He has always worked for the good and benefit of the Serbian people, the people he belonged with and over which he unfortunately ruled very shortly .. Tragic consequences due to violent removal the last ruler of the Serbian people Prince Paul which resulted in a moral, cultural, and territorial destruction of Serbia, lasting to this day ..
Petar, thank you for your powerful perspective. I agree with you entirely and i only wish more people understood how serious the consequences have been to Serbian history.
if you put yourself in his shoes, you’ll see that he had no other choice but to say “no” to both sides. Yugoslavia was not like Germany or Italy. There were no conditions for Yugoslav fascism, because of its ethnic and religious mixture. Fascism could happen only in a purely ethnic and religious environment (as it happened in Croatia). That would automatically mean break-up of Yugoslavia and abolition of the kingdom. The king knew this, and that is why he refused to follow the path of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria into joining the fascist axis.
On the other side, he couldn’t say “yes” to England and France as well, as much as he wanted to. These two countries had no military might to prevent an invasion on Yugoslavia (as they couldn’t not save Poland from being invaded). The king was aware that his army cannot match the mighty German war machine. And there were lots of officers, generals and politicians that would betray him and the country in a case of conflict (and that was what exactly what happened indeed, mostly with the Croatian officers and politicians). Therefore, he had to say “no” to allies as well, in order not to provoke Hitler and thus condemn his country to a cruel and brutal invasion. Speaking of traitors, I once spoke to an old man who was a soldier in the royal army in 1941. His regiment was stationed along the border with Hungary, and when the invasion began he was revolted that most officers ordered their soldiers to surrender without resisting. He was one of the rare to fight, and he was wounded in the leg, made a prisoner of war and sent to Germany for forced labour.
To cut it short – the king was caught in between two fires and he did his best not to get burned by any of them, but both fires burned him without mercy. Such is the justice in this world, where people look at things only in black and white, and simplify history reducing it only as a good vs evil struggle, omitting thus to acknowledge those that are caught in between and are left without a choice. To some he might be a hero, to others a traitor. To me, he was just a man that stood for his principles to the end, even though the end was bitter.
Sy, you are SO right!