Lepa Svetozara Radić, was a Bosnian Serb member of the Yugoslav Partisans who was posthumously awarded the Order of the People’s Hero on 20 December 1951, for her role in the resistance movement against the Axis powers—becoming the youngest recipient at the time.
She was executed in February 1943 at the age of 17 for shooting at German troops during World War II. As her captors tied the noose around her neck, they offered her a way out of the gallows by revealing her comrades’ and leaders’ identities. She responded that she was not a traitor and that they would reveal themselves when they avenged her death.
Lepa Radić was born on 19 December 1925 in the village of Gasnica near Bosanska Gradiska. After graduation from the elementary school in the nearby Bistrica, she attended the first grade of Women’s School of Crafts in Bosanska Krupa and completed the remaining grades at school in Bosanska Gradiška.
As a pupil, Lepa emphasized the hard work, seriousness and also interested in reading advanced literature. She developed her core positions under the strong influence of her uncle Vladeta Radić , who was involved in the labor movement. Starting with becoming a member of the League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia, SKOJ. she eventually joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia in 1941 at the age of 15.
On 10 April 1941, after the successful invasion of Yugoslavia, the Axis powers established on its former territory the puppet state Independent State of Croatia , which, in particular, consisted of Bosanska Gradiška and its surroundings.
In November 1941, Lepa Radić, father Sveto, 15 year old brother Milan and other family members were arrested by the Ustase, but with the help of undercover partisan associates, she, along with her sister Dara, managed to escape from prison on 23 December 1941. Right after the release, Radić decided to serve as a fighter in the 7th partisan company of the 2nd Krajiški Detachment. In February 1943 Lepa Radić was responsible for transporting the wounded in the battle of Neretva to a shelter in Grmech. During the fight against the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division “Prinz Eugn” under command of SS-Gruppenführer Arthur Phleps she was captured and moved to Bosanska Krupa where, after torture for several days in an attempt to extract intel, was sentenced to death by hanging.
“Papa” Phleps had been listed as missing in action since 22 September 1944, age 62, when he did not show up for his meeting with Heinrich Himmler, who had issued a warrant for Phleps’ arrest.
With the noose around her neck, she cried out: “Long live the Communist Party, and partisans! Fight, people, for your freedom! Do not surrender to the evildoers! I will be killed, but there are those who will avenge me!” In her last moments at the scaffold, the Germans offered to spare her life, in return for the names of the Communist Party leaders and members in the shelter, but she refused their offer with the words: “I am not a traitor of my people. Those whom you are asking about will reveal themselves when they have succeeded in wiping out all you evildoers, to the last man.” Lepa Radić was only 17 years old when she was publicly executed.