What with starting World War I and massacring Bosnian Muslims, Serbian nationalists don't get a lot of love, but on this anniversary of the invasion of France, let us pause and remember that it wouldn't have happened without the bravery and stupidity of Serbian nationalists.
Lots of other people contributed, too, of course, but had it not been for Serbian nationalist pride, the outcome of World War II might have been different.
Hitler planned to invade Russia in the early summer of 1941, and although there was some confusion about objectives, the plan was to occupy Moscow, the capital and transportation hub of eastern Russia. That almost happened but not quite for a couple of reasons:
First, by September the Russians had beaten the Germans, when they caused the millionth German casualty, one Germany could not replace. After that, all Russia had to do -- not an easy task -- was to hold and on grind out victory. Second, in November the seasonal rains began on schedule, slowing the German logistics train to less even than a crawl.
The Germans still got very close to Moscow, and with a few more days or weeks of dry weather, they might have captured it. The Soviets were evacuating, but it is not certain that the will of the people to keep resisting would have survived the capture of the capital, which was also a key center of munitions production.
Playing history-might-have-been is a mug's game, but in this case a few more days of good weather could only have been a big boost for Hitlerism.
And we all have the Serbs to thank for that.
In April, the nationalists deposed the pro-Nazi regent and installed the teenage King Peter on the throne. The Germans diverted a couple of corps of their Russia invasion force and overran Yugoslavia and also Albania and Greece in a few weeks.
But it delayed the start of Operation Barbarossa until June 22, and weakened the German army and air force somewhat.
If the Germans had not had to keep almost all of their army in Russia, the western allies could never have found a spot weak enough to assault from the sea. There would have been no D-Day, Eisenhower would not have become president . . . .
The Serbians paid a terrible price in blood for their nationalism. We ought to remember that, too.