This unusual set of original 3D card drafts for printing plates and printed proof states of caricatures was made in New York during WWII. It is composed of 5 drafts on pink cards and 4 black and white impressions. These images, given to the Royal Yugoslavian Information Center in New York, present the Yugoslav royalist army of Chetniks as the main resistance against the Nazis in the occupied Yugoslavia, supported by the Americans.
World War II in Yugoslavia was not only an Axis invasion of the country, but a multi-faceted civil war. One of the key players was the Chetniks, a monarchist, Serbian nationalist militia, led by Draža Mihailović, whose role in the conflict is incredibly complicated and remains controversial. Importantly, not all Chetniks were Serbs, some individuals from other nationalities, either due to their conservative convictions or to the wartime necessity of ‘picking a team’. In the end, the Chetniks made an alliance of convenience with the Germans to battle their mutual arch-nemesis, the Partisans, what would automatically make them the enemies of the Allies.
The images are not dated, but were probably made in early 1942, after the U.S. joined World War II, but while the Chetniks were still considered to be the official Yugoslavian army resisting Nazi Germany. Moreover, the image 4, naming the king of the Independent State of Croatia as Duke of Spoleto dates the prints before March 3rd, 1942, when the Prince Aimone inherited the title Duke of Aosta. There is no mention of the Partisans, who were soon after supported by the Allies as the leading opposition of Germans inside occupied Yugoslavia.
The drafts and impressions belonged to the Royal Yugoslav Information Center in New York (812 Fifth Avenue). The king of Yugoslavia, Petar II. Karađorđević, lived at the time in London, as one of the numerous other governments in exile from Nazi-occupied Europe. When he visited the United States in 1942, Roosevelt and Churchill had already engaged the support of the Communist Yugoslav Government.
The survival rate of such card drafts is extremely low, since they would be disposed of after making the printing plates.
After WWII, many Chetniks immigrated through the Allied DP camps to North and South America.
They titles are:
1. The Yanks are Coming!
Separately published print, image: 18 x 15,5 cm / 7 x 6.1 inches. (Very Good, stapled card to the upper left part).
The print shows the Chetniks, the Yugoslav Army in the Homeland, awaiting on the shore the American ships to join them.
2. Christmas… American friends of Yugoslavia
Separately published print and a card draft for the printing plate, image: 19,5 x 15,5 cm / 7.6 x 6.1 inches. (Very Good, stapled card to the upper left part of the print, soft fold in the card)
An image shows Santa with a sign American friends of Yugoslavia, dropping Christmas presents to Yugoslavian children of Muslim religion, imprisoned in a concentration camp, guarded by an armed Nazi soldier.
The American friends of Yugoslavia (later a NJ United Yugoslav Relief Fund) was founded in April 1941, at the beginning of WWII in the country, by a prominent diplomat Frank Polk (1871 – 1943).
3. 300.000 Yugoslavs in Axis Prisons. Brothers! Don’t let us starve!
Separately published print and a card draft for the printing plate, image: 18,5 x 15,5 cm / 7.3 x 6.1 inches. (Very Good, stapled card to the upper left part of the print).
A realistic image shows Yugoslavian men in Chetnik uniforms, partly ill and wounded, with sad, hungry and desperate faces, imprisoned in a German concentration camp behind a barb wire, being rushed and guarded by Nazi soldiers.
4. Welcome to the Duke of Spoleto
Separately published print and a card draft for the printing plate, image: 23 x 15 cm / 9 x 5.9 inches. (Very Good, the upper part of the print stamped with a stamp by the Royal Yugoslav Information Center).
A sarcastic image is showing a throne awaiting the Prince Aimone, the Duke of Spoleto and the king of the Independent State of Croatia, adorned with Fascist insignia and stabbed from the bottom with a dagger, carrying the sign: Forever Yugoslavia. The Croat People.
5. Chetniks, the Vanguard of Liberty
Card draft for the printing plate, image: 22,5 x 15,5 cm / 8.9 x 6.1 inches. (Very Good).
An unusual image showcases a Chetnik, posing with a lifted gun with a bayonet, a symbol of the Chetniks, next to the Statue of Liberty.
6. Yugoslav Chetniks. Serbian David and Nazi Goliath
Card draft for the printing plate, image: 18,5 x 15,5 cm / 7.3 x 6.1 inches. (Very Good).
The draft shows “David” Draža Mihailović, the leader of the Chetniks, stabbing a giant Hitler head, “Goliath”.
The caricatures were made by Hungarian artist of Jewish origins Emery Kelen (1896 – 1978) and Alois Derso (1888–1964), who, before WWII made illustrations for Illustrated London News, Le Rire, Tribune de Genève and Tempo. On October 13th, 1938, they both immigrated to the United States, where they worked for Esquire, New York Times, New York Post, Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post. During WWII they were especially known for their anti-Hitler propaganda.
References: Lorraine M. LEES, Yugoslav-Americans and National Security During World War II, 2007, p. 173.