Very few human acts are more inspiring than courage and defiance in the face of insuperable evil. While such defiance and courage might appear foolish and futile, they may be decisive for beating evil and building a better world.

A compelling example is the defiance of Nazi rule by Yugoslavia in 1941. This defiance infuriated Adolf Hitler to the point of initiating Operation Punishment (Unternehmen Strafgericht) and diverting his mighty army from the planned invasion of Russia, termed Operation Barbarossa, to the invasion of Yugoslavia. The diversion brutally crushed the Yugoslav army and crucially delayed the commencement of Barbarossa by several weeks according to deputy chief of the German General Staff in 1941 Friedrich Paulus, the German Naval War Diary, and Gerd von Rundstedt. These several weeks were the time period by which the German army came short of conquering and ferociously subduing Russia before the Russian winter of 1941 set in.

Many historians, including William Shirer, have made compelling arguments that the delayed invasion of Russia due to Operation Punishment was among the decisive events in World War II that led to the defeat of Hitler and Nazism. We can never rigorously prove what the world would have been in case that a significant historical event did not occur when it did. Still, I find the arguments compelling and the defiance of Yugoslavia inspiring. I think the world will be a better place if we had more such examples of valor, more courage in defending what is right against overwhelming might.

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