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FTR #161 Muslim-Waffen SS Influence in the Balkans

One seg­ment

Though large­ly ignored in most his­to­ries of World War II, Nazi Ger­many’s use of eth­nic Mus­lim pop­u­la­tions sig­nif­i­cant­ly affect­ed the course of events dur­ing the war in a num­ber of areas. Some of the rela­tion­ships that devel­oped between Mus­lim activists and resid­ual ele­ments of the Third Reich have had a last­ing and pro­found effect on the post-war world. In par­tic­u­lar, the Nazis’ for­ma­tion and oper­a­tion of a num­ber of Mus­lim Waf­fen SS divi­sions echoes today in the Balka­ns.

Uti­liz­ing the ver­sa­tile Haj Amin Al-Hus­sei­ni (self-styled “Grand Mufti of Jerusalem,” Nazi espi­onage agent, SS Major and Pales­tin­ian nation­al­ist leader), the Waf­fen SS suc­cess­ful­ly recruit­ed from among Mus­lim pop­u­la­tions in the Balka­ns, Mid­dle East and Sovi­et Union. Stress­ing anti­com­mu­nist and nation­al­ist themes, the Grand Mufti tapped anti­colo­nial sen­ti­ment among Mus­lims in those areas.

In addi­tion, Al-Hus­sei­ni drew on anti-Zion­ist sen­ti­ment among Pales­tin­ian Arabs, whose resent­ment of Jew­ish indig­na­tion meshed effec­tive­ly with Nazi ide­ol­o­gy. In the Balka­ns, the Nazis formed a Bosn­ian Mus­lim divi­sion, the 13th Waf­fen SS Divi­sion (named Han­jar or Handzar.)

Serv­ing in the ranks of Han­jar and recruit­ing for the divi­sion as well, was none oth­er than Ali­ja Izetbe­gov­ic, the first Pres­i­dent of Bosnia. (His par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Han­jar is also dis­cussed in FTRs 2 and 147.) After review­ing infor­ma­tion about Izetbe­gov­ic’s ser­vice with Han­jar, the pro­gram focus­es on his res­ur­rec­tion of the Han­jar divi­sion after becom­ing Pres­i­dent of Bosnia!

Trained by vet­er­ans of the Afghan con­flict and com­posed large­ly of eth­nic Alba­ni­ans, the new Han­jar divi­sion was explic­it­ly named after and specif­i­cal­ly and overt­ly pat­terned on the 13th Waf­fen SS divi­sion of Izetbe­gov­ic’s youth. In addi­tion to serv­ing as a Prae­to­ri­an guard, admin­is­ter­ing to the per­son­al secu­ri­ty of Izetbe­gov­ic and oth­er mem­bers of the lead­er­ship in Sara­je­vo, Han­jar func­tions as a “spe­cial forces” divi­sion, back­ing up oth­er units and work­ing close­ly with Muja­hadeen for­ma­tions.

The dis­cus­sion high­lights obser­va­tions by UN per­son­nel serv­ing with peace­keep­ing forces in areas where the Han­jar oper­at­ed. Not­ing the large eth­nic Alban­ian rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Han­jar, one observ­er expressed the fear in 1993 that the fight­ing might very well spread to Koso­vo. (Sub­se­quent events have borne out his fears.) By 1995, ele­ments of Han­jar were infil­trat­ing into Koso­vo, Alba­nia and Mace­do­nia.

The pro­gram con­cludes by look­ing at the Skan­der­beg Divi­sion, a Waf­fen SS divi­sion com­posed of eth­nic Alba­ni­ans, large­ly from Koso­vo. Many mem­bers of the KLA are the sons and grand­sons of men who fought with the Skan­der­beg Divi­sion, and the KLA has sus­tained much of its fas­cist her­itage.

Nev­er much of a fight­ing unit, Skan­der­beg helped round up Kosovo’s Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion, fought against the Yugosla­vian Par­ti­sans and helped safe­guard the suc­cess­ful Ger­man retreat from Greece and Alba­nia. In light of the fact that Ger­man intel­li­gence active­ly sup­port­ed the KLA in the mid-to late 90’s, it is not irrel­e­vant to ask whether some of the Waf­fen SS con­nec­tions to the area may have fig­ured in the shap­ing of events there. In this con­text, one should bear in mind that the Waf­fen SS has its own branch of the ODESSA net­work, abbre­vi­at­ed FRIAR. (The ODESSA is the post-World II SS under­ground, inex­tri­ca­bly linked with U.S. and Ger­man intel­li­gence, as well as the dead­ly Bor­mann Orga­ni­za­tion.) (Record­ed on 7/11/99.)


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