After the capture of Bitola by the Allies in November 1916 the armies of the Central Powers (Germany and Bulgaria) retreated to the surrounding mountains.
Thus, Bitola (Monastir) and the surrounding villages found themselves in the middle of the front line and were subjected to two years of constant bombardment. According some sources, during the two year bombing, just in Bitola were dropped more than 20,000 bombs of various types (1).
The two armies also used gas bombs, and in the middle was the local population, with casualties unknown even today.
The hunger, poor living conditions, diseases and the constant bombarding, had taken its toll and according to many relevant sources Bitola and Verden, were the cities that suffered most during World War I.
But unlike Verden, Bitola and Macedonia preceded the Balkan wars, in which great battles took place precisely in the vicinity of Bitola, as an important center in the Ottoman Empire and the third largest city, after Istanbul and Thessaloniki.
Before the First Balkan War Bitola had a population of approximately 60,000, which after the First World War is reduced to 23,000 (2).
No one knows the exact number of victims, but it is known as fact that in former Serbia, under which occupation was Macedonia, the percentage of the population that died in First World War was largest in the world and accounted for 16.67% (3). Given that Bitola was on the actual front-line, it is safe to say that here the percentage ratio is far higher.
Today in the city can’t be found many places that would witness the horrors of that time, but remnants of the war can be found in the surrounding mountains. One such location is the “Path of the First World War” in the National Park Pelister.
The walk in this path, through the picturesque landscapes of the National Park Pelister, is a great experience for the whole family, and a great opportunity for visitors to learn more about the First World War in Bitola.
The trail starts next to the Info Centre in Pelister, possessing excellent exhibition of the flora and fauna of Pelister and ends near the Hotel Molika, with many rest stations for recreation and education.
National Park Pelister – Photo Gallery
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(1) LIST OF PERSONS KILLED IN MONASTIR – BITOLJ (BITOLA) DURING WW1
Excerpt from the book: THE KINGDOM OF SERBIA – INFRINGEMENTS OF THE RULES AND LAWS OF WAR COMMITTED by the AUSTROBULGARO-GERMANS :: LETTERS OF A CRIMINOLOGIST ON THE SERBIAN MACEDONIAN FRONT By R. A. REISS
(2) „Движење на вкупниот број на население во Битола од најстарите времиња до денес“ БИТОЛА – УРБАНО – ГЕОГРАФСКИ РАЗВОЈ, АВТОР: Μ-Р НИКОЛА Β. ДИМИТРОВ, ДРУШТВО ЗА НАУКА И УМЕТНОСТ БИТОЛА, 1998 Г.
(3) Frédéric Le Moal, La Serbie du martyre à la Victoire 1914–1918, 2008, éditions 14–18 (2013) (ISBN 9782916385181), page 231