Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

News & Supplemental  

Islam Under the Swastika

The Grand Mufti and the Nazi Pro­tec­torate of Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina, 1941–1945

by Carl Savich

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem: Haj Amin el Hus­sei­ni

Haj Amin el Hus­sei­ni arrived in Europe in 1941 fol­low­ing the unsuc­cess­ful pro-Nazi coup which he orga­nized in Iraq. He met Ger­man for­eign min­is­ter Joachim von Ribben­trop and was offi­cial­ly received by Adolf Hitler on Novem­ber 28,1941 in Berlin. Nazi Ger­many estab­lished for der Gross­mufti von Jerusalem a Bureau from which he orga­nized the fol­low­ing: 1) radio pro­pa­gan­da on behalf of Nazi Ger­many; 2) espi­onage and fifth col­umn activ­i­ties in Mus­lim regions of Europe and the Mid­dle East; 3) the for­ma­tion of Mus­lim Waf­fen SS and Wehrma­cht units in Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina, Koso­vo-Meto­hi­ja, West­ern Mace­do­nia, North Africa, and Nazi-occu­pied areas of the Sovi­et Union; and, 4) the for­ma­tion of schools and train­ing cen­ters for Mus­lim imams and mul­lahs who would accom­pa­ny the Mus­lim SS and Wehrma­cht units. As soon as he arrived in Europe, the Mufti estab­lished close con­tacts with Bosn­ian Mus­lim and Alban­ian Mus­lim lead­ers. He would spend the remain­der of the war orga­niz­ing and ral­ly­ing Mus­lims in sup­port of Nazi Ger­many.

Haj Mohammed Effen­di Amin el Hus­sei­ni was born in 1893 in Jerusalem, then the cap­i­tal of Pales­tine, which was then a part of the Turk­ish Ottoman Empire. His grand­fa­ther Mustapha and his half-broth­er Kemal had been the Muftis of Jerusalem in the 1890s. Hus­sei­ni attend­ed the Al Azhar Uni­ver­si­ty in Cairo, Egypt, where he stud­ied Islam­ic phi­los­o­phy, but he nev­er com­plet­ed his stud­ies and left after a year. In 1914, he obtained a com­mis­sion in the Ottoman Turk­ish Army as an artillery offi­cer, sta­tioned in Smyr­na.

On Novem­ber 2, 1917, British For­eign Sec­re­tary Arthur James Bal­four declared that Britain was com­mit­ted to estab­lish­ing a Jew­ish home­land in Pales­tine, the so-called Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion of 1917. The Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion was ini­tial­ly con­tained in a let­ter to Lionel Wal­ter Roth­schild, 2nd Baron of Roth­schild, of the Jew­ish bank­ing fam­i­ly, who was the leader of British Jew­ry. Chaim Weiz­mann and Nahum Sokolow, promi­nent Jew­ish Zion­ist lead­ers in Lon­don and the World Zion­ist Orga­ni­za­tion, sought to obtain such a com­mit­ment in exchange for Jew­ish sup­port of British war aims. The glob­al Zion­ist move­ment had pres­sured the British gov­ern­ment to sup­port a Jew­ish home­land at the expense of the indige­nous Mus­lim Arab Pales­tini­ans, dis­missed as “Arab inhab­i­tants”. The pow­er­ful and influ­en­tial Jew­ish bank­ing house Roth­schild and Chaim Weiz­mann demand­ed a quid pro quo for glob­al Jew­ish sup­port of the British war effort against Ger­many. The mod­ern plat­form for the Zion­ist move­ment was estab­lished at the World Zion­ist Con­gress held in 1897 in Basel, Switzer­land by Hun­gar­i­an Jew Theodor Hert­zl.

In 1917 the British occu­pied Pales­tine and estab­lished the British Man­date for Pales­tine.

The Mufti reject­ed the British pol­i­cy of set­tling Pales­tine with Euro­pean Jews. At the time of World War I, there were only approx­i­mate­ly 60,000 Jews in Pales­tine com­pared to approx­i­mate­ly 800,000 Pales­tin­ian Mus­lims. Hus­sei­ni saw Jew­ish immi­gra­tion and set­tle­ment in zero-sum terms. Each Jew­ish set­tler dis­placed a Pales­tin­ian Mus­lim, dilut­ed the Pales­tin­ian pop­u­la­tion, and in time, would lead to the geno­cide of the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple. Hus­sei­ni per­ceived the issue in these terms. He reject­ed both the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion and the British Man­date over Pales­tine, which was meant to lead to the imple­men­ta­tion of the Bal­four Zion­ist agen­da. Hus­sei­ni devot­ed his entire life and career to the preser­va­tion of a Pales­tin­ian state and opposed the estab­lish­ment of a pro­posed Jew­ish home­land on Pales­tin­ian land and sought to pre­vent Jew­ish immi­gra­tion into Pales­tine.

He formed a Soci­ety of Pales­tin­ian Youth and wrote arti­cles in Arab news­pa­pers argu­ing against the British Man­date occu­pa­tion and British immi­gra­tion poli­cies. On April 4,1920, he was accused of incit­ing riots against Jew­ish crowds in Jerusalem. He was tried by a mil­i­tary court with incite­ment to vio­lence. He sub­se­quent­ly abscond­ed from his bail and was tried in absen­tia and sen­tenced to ten years impris­on­ment.

On July 1,1920, Sir Her­bert Samuel, him­self a British Jew, appoint­ed the first British High Com­mis­sion­er for Pales­tine, assumed con­trol. Samuel sought to rec­on­cile with the Pales­tin­ian pop­u­la­tion by par­don­ing Hus­sei­ni. Sir Robert Storrs, the then gov­er­nor of the city, appoint­ed him Mufti of Jerusalem. He was also the pres­i­dent of the Supreme Mus­lim Coun­cil, and, lat­er, the Arab High­er Com­mit­tee. He was thus the reli­gious and polit­i­cal leader of the Pales­tin­ian Mus­lims. Hus­sei­ni was one of the most influ­en­tial and pow­er­ful lead­ers in the Islam­ic world because of the fact that Jerusalem was a holy city and con­tained many Islam­ic holy sites, includ­ing the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem, the third most sacred Islam­ic site in Islam after Mec­ca and Med­i­na.

Hus­sei­ni detest­ed the deca­dent mod­ern Euro­pean mate­ri­al­is­tic way of life and mod­ern sec­u­lar West­ern civ­i­liza­tion. He was then what would today be called a Mus­lim fun­da­men­tal­ist and was the pre­cur­sor of Iran­ian Aya­tol­lah Ruhol­lah Hen­di Khome­i­ni, Egypt­ian Sheik Omar Abdel Rah­man, the mas­ter­mind behind the first World Trade Cen­ter bomb­ing in 1993, planned with the assis­tance of Bosn­ian Mus­lims, but ini­tial­ly blamed by the FBI on the so-called Ser­bian Lib­er­a­tion Army, Afghani Tal­iban leader Mul­lah Mohammed Omar, and Sau­di Ossama Bin Laden. Hus­sei­ni can just­ly be cred­it­ed for being a vision­ary Islam­ic fire­brand and one of the founders of the Mus­lim resis­tance to the British-French, lat­er US, colonial/imperial/economic occu­pa­tion and exploita­tion of the Mus­lim Arab world.

Hus­sei­ni was at the fore­front of Islam­ic mil­i­tan­cy and “ter­ror­ism” direct­ed against the British/French/US occu­pa­tion. Has­san el Ban­na formed the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Egypt in 1928. The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood had links to the Grand Mufti and worked with him in Pales­tine, send­ing vol­un­teers in sup­port of the Pales­tin­ian upris­ings in 1936, 1939, and dur­ing the 1948 war. The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood sought to estab­lish Mus­lim states based on the Sharia, Islam­ic law, and the Caliphate sys­tem of polit­i­cal rule, where­in each Islam­ic state would be ruled by a Caliph. Islam is “creed and state, book and sword, and a way of life.” In Pak­istan, Syed Abdul Ala Maudu­di found­ed the Jamaat Isla­mi move­ment with the goal of estab­lish­ing Mus­lim theo­crat­ic states based on Koran­ic law. Egypt­ian Sayed Qutb of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood con­tin­ued the move­ment after World War II. The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood had off­shoots: the Egypt­ian Islam­ic Jihad and Hamas. Haj Amin el Hus­sei­ni, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, Jamaat Isla­mi, Islam­ic Jihad, all form the roots and his­tor­i­cal back­ground for the emer­gence of the Al Quae­da net­work, the muja­hedeen of Afghanistan, and Ossama Bin Laden. Aya­tol­lah Khome­i­ni and Bosn­ian Mus­lim leader Ali­ja Izetbe­gov­ic would be influ­enced by the anti-sec­u­lar, anti-West­ern, rad­i­cal Mus­lim nation­al­ist move­ments. In his book The Islam­ic Dec­la­ra­tion, (Islam­s­ka Deklaraci­ja, 1970; repub­lished, 1990), Izetbe­gov­ic reject­ed the sec­u­lar con­cep­tion of an Islam­ic state espoused by Kemal Ataturk. Izetbe­gov­ic sought to cre­ate an Islam­ic state based in the Sharia, a state where reli­gion would not be sep­a­rate from the state, i.e., an Islam­ic theo­crat­ic state. Ize­be­gov­ic estab­lished close links to Ossama Bin Laden and al-Qea­da and invit­ed mujad­edeen forces to join the Bosn­ian Mus­lim Army. Izetbe­gov­ic lat­er would give Ossama Bin laden a spe­cial Bosn­ian pass­port and the muja­hedeen “free­dom fight­ers” would receive Bosn­ian cit­i­zen­ship and pass­ports. One of the hijack­ers of the sec­ond attack on the World Trade Cen­ter on Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001, pos­sessed a Bosn­ian pass­port.

Yass­er Arafat was intro­duced to Mufti and the Mufti would sub­se­quent­ly become the role mod­el and men­tor for Arafat. In biogra­phies of Arafat, whose re
al name is Mohammed el Hus­sei­ni, the Mufti is stat­ed to be a “dis­tant rel­a­tive” of Arafat, although this claim has been denied as well. For two years, begin­ning at the age of 16, Arafat worked for the Mufti and his covert ter­ror­ist net­work and orga­ni­za­tion, help­ing to smug­gle and buy weapons in the war against Jew­ish set­tlers of Pales­tine. Sheik Has­san Abu Saud, the mufti of al-Sha­faria, was worked with the Mufti. The Grand Mufti was a pre­cur­sor of both the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Orga­ni­za­tion (PLO) and of the Pales­tin­ian nation­al strug­gle and move­ment to main­tain a Pales­tin­ian state. The ter­ror­ism, fanati­cism, and ruth­less­ness of that move­ment reflect the endur­ing lega­cy and influ­ence of the Grand Mufti.

At the 1921 Cairo Con­fer­ence, Britain and France divid­ed up the Arab lands to suit their colonial/imperialist objec­tives by form­ing spheres of influ­ence, in a region for­mer­ly ruled by Mus­lim Turkey. In the Sykes-Picot Treaty, nego­ti­at­ed by Sir Mark Sykes and Charles Picot, these British-French colo­nial spheres were for­mal­ly estab­lished. Since 1875 when Britain gained the Suez Canal, the Mid­dle East was regard­ed as a key strate­gic region in safe­guard­ing naval routes in the British colo­nial empire.. The British/French cre­at­ed Jor­dan under Emir Abdul­lah and installed King Faisal in Iraq. Syr­ia was placed under French con­trol. The Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion was endorsed. The Islam­ic Arab Mid­dle East was placed under British/French imperial/colonial occupation/control. The British had occu­pied Pales­tine since 1917. On July 7, 1922, the League of Nations approved the British Man­date which had the goal of set­tling Mus­lim Arab Pales­tine with Euro­pean Jew­ish set­tlers.

The Mufti insti­gat­ed and orga­nized Mus­lim riots against Pales­tin­ian Jews in 1920, 1921, 1929, and 1936. In 1921, the Muft orga­nized the feday­een, Mus­lim sui­cide squads. Fol­low­ing the 1936 riots, fear­ing impris­on­ment, he fled to Lebanon. In 1939, the Mufti estab­lished his head­quar­ters in Bagh­dad, Iraq, where he set up a “polit­i­cal depart­ment” that main­tained ties to Ger­many and Italy. Ger­many sought to cre­ate a Berlin-Bagh­dad Axis and insti­gat­ed a pro-Nazi coup. Iraqi Gen­er­al Rashid Ali el Gailani, a mil­i­tant Mus­lim nation­al­ist, and the Gold­en Square, a group of pro-Nazi Iraqi offi­cers, took over the Iraqi gov­ern­ment. The Mufti sent rep­re­sen­ta­tives to Berlin and a let­ter to Adolf Hitler. In a reply by Ger­man State Sec­re­tary Frei­herr von Weizsaeck­er, the Mufti was told that “the Fuehrer received your let­ter dat­ed Jan­u­ary 20th He took great inter­est in what you wrote him about the nation­al strug­gle of the Arabs Ger­many is ready to coop­er­ate with you and to give you all pos­si­ble mil­i­tary and finan­cial help Ger­many is pre­pared to deliv­er to you imme­di­ate­ly mil­i­tary mate­r­i­al.” Abwehr, Ger­man intel­li­gence, estab­lished con­tacts with the Mufti at this time.

Nazi Ger­many sent arms and air­craft to the Mufti’s forces in Iraq but the British were able to reoc­cu­py Iraq, forc­ing the Mufti and el Gailani to flee to Teheran. The Mufti then flew to either Afghanistan or Turkey “where he is known to have many friends”. From there he arrived in Alba­nia and on Octo­ber 24 he reached south­ern Italy. On Octo­ber 27, 1941, the Mufti arrived in Rome. The Mufti would sub­se­quent­ly play a major role in orga­niz­ing Mus­lim sup­port for Nazism in Europe.

On May 9, 1941, the Mufti broad­cast a fat­wa announc­ing a jihad, an Islam­ic holy war, against Britain and he urged every Mus­lim to join in the strug­gle against the “great­est foe of Islam”: “I invite all my Mus­lim broth­ers through­out the whole world to join in the holy war for Allah to pre­serve Islam, your inde­pen­dence and your lands from Eng­lish aggres­sion.” The Mufti envi­sioned a vast Arab-Mus­lim union which would unite Iraq, Sau­di Ara­bia, Syr­ia, Pales­tine, Trans-Jor­dan, and Egypt with Ger­many and Italy cre­at­ing a Pan-Mus­lim/Arab Bloc of coun­tries.

In Decem­ber, 1931, the Grand Mufti orga­nized an All-Islam­ic Con­fer­ence in Jerusalem. This would be the first time the Mufti would come in con­tact with Bosn­ian Mus­lim polit­i­cal and reli­gious lead­ers. Present at the Mufti’s All Islam­ic Con­fer­ence were Bosn­ian Mus­lim leader Mehmed Spa­ho, the pres­i­dent of the Yugosla­vian Mus­lim Orga­ni­za­tion or JMO, Uzeira­ga Hadz­i­hasanovic, and hadzi-Muja­ga Mer­hemic. The Mufti was elect­ed pres­i­dent of the Con­fer­ence.

Franz Reichert, the direc­tor of the Pales­tine branch of the Deutsches Nachricht­en Buro (Ger­man News Bureau) from 1933 to 1938, estab­lished the first con­tacts between Nazi Ger­many and Mus­lim lead­ers in the Mid­dle East. The Mufti approached rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Nazi regime and sought coop­er­a­tion on July 21,1937, when he vis­it­ed the Ger­man Con­sul in Jerusalem. He lat­er sent an agent and per­son­al rep­re­sen­ta­tive to Berlin for dis­cus­sions with Nazi lead­ers.

SS Ober­grup­pen­fuehrer Rein­hard Hey­drich was sec­ond in com­mand to Hein­rich Himm­ler in the SS hier­ar­chy and was the chief of the Reich Secu­ri­ty Head Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt,RSHA) and was the head of the Sicher­heits­di­enst (SD), the SS Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice. In Septem­per, 1937, Hey­drich sent two SS offi­cers, SS Hauptschar­fuehrer Adolf Eich­mann and SS Ober­schar­fuehrer Her­bert Hagen on a mis­sion to Pales­tine, one of the main objec­tives being to estab­lish con­tact with the Grand Mufti. Dur­ing this peri­od Hus­sei­ni received finan­cial and mil­i­tary aid and sup­plies from Nazi Ger­many and fas­cist Italy.

After meet­ing Hitler and Ribben­trop in Berlin in 1941, the Mufti was approached by Got­t­lob Berg­er, head of the SS Main Office in con­trol of recruit­ing, and by Reichs­fuehrer-SS Hein­rich Himm­ler, who made him a part of the SS appa­ra­tus. In May, 1943, the Mufti was moved to the SS main office where he par­tic­i­pat­ed in the recruit­ing of Mus­lims in the Balka­ns, the USSR, the Mid­dle East, and North Africa. The Grand Mufti was instru­men­tal in the orga­ni­za­tion and for­ma­tion of many Mus­lim units and for­ma­tions in the Waf­fen SS and Wehrma­cht. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of Mus­lims fought for Nazi Ger­many in the fol­low­ing for­ma­tions and units: Two Bosn­ian Mus­lim Waf­fen SS Divi­sions, an Alban­ian Waf­fen SS Divi­sion in Koso­vo-Meto­hi­ja and West­ern Mace­do­nia, the 21st Waf­fen Gebirgs Divi­sion der SS “Skan­der­beg”, a Mus­lim SS self-defense reg­i­ment in the Rash­ka (Sandzak) region of Ser­bia, the Arab Legion (Ara­bis­ches Frei­heit­sko­rps), the Arab Brigade, the Ost­mus­sel­man­is­che SS-Reg­i­ment, the Ost­turkischen Waf­fen Ver­band der SS made up of Turk­ista­nis, the Waf­fen­gruppe der-SS Krim, for­ma­tions con­sist­ing of Chechen Mus­lims from Chech­nya, and a Tatar Reg­i­ment der-SS made up of Crimean Tatars, and oth­er Mus­lim for­ma­tions in the Waf­fen SS and Wehrma­cht, in Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina, the Balka­ns, North Africa, Nazi-occu­pied areas of the Sovi­et Union, and the Mid­dle East.

The SS Mus­lim State: The Nazi Pro­tec­torate of Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina

On April 10, 1941, Slavko Kvater­nik pro­claimed the cre­ation of the Inde­pen­dent State of Croa­t­ia, Neza­v­is­na Drza­va Hrvats­ka, NDH, a Great or Greater Croa­t­ia, Veli­ka Hrvats­ka, fol­low­ing the Ger­man inva­sion and occu­pa­tion of Yugoslavia. Iron­i­cal­ly, Croat and Mus­lim pro­pa­gan­da and pol­i­cy sought to cre­ate for their respec­tive nation­al­i­ties what they accused the Serbs of seek­ing, Greater Croa­t­ia and Greater Mus­lim Bosnia. The NDH con­sist­ed of the ter­ri­to­ries of Croa­t­ia, Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina, and parts of Ser­bia and was a Nazi-fas­cist pup­pet state cre­at­ed by Adolf Hitler and Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni, and ruled by the Ustashi (“insur­gents”), Croa­t­ian Catholic nation­al­ists and Bosn­ian Mus­lims. The Vat­i­can-sup­port­ed NDH embarked upon a mas­sive and sys­tem­at­ic pro­gram of geno­cide and eth­nic cleans­ing against the Ser­bian Ortho­dox pop­u­la­tions, the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tions, and the Gyp­sy or Roma pop­u­la­tions. The Ustasha regime doc­trine was based on the intol­er­ant fanati­cism of Roman Catholi­cism and the racist pre­cepts of the 19th cen­tu­ry Croa­t­ian nation­al­ist Ante Starce­vic, regard­ed as the “father of his coun­try”, he called for the exter­mi­na­tion of the Serbs in Croa­t­ia and Bosnia, “a race fit for the slaugh­ter­house”. The Pres­i­dent or Pogla
vnik of the NDH was Ante Pavel­ic, born in Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina, and the Vice-Pres­i­dent, from Novem­ber, 1941 to April, 1945, was Dzafer Kulen­ovic, a Bosn­ian Mus­lim born in Bihac. From April to Novem­ber, 1941, the Vice-Pres­i­dent had been his broth­er, Osman Kulen­ovic. The Min­is­ter of the Inte­ri­or was Andri­ja Artukovic, born in Ljubus­ki, Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina. The Min­is­ter of Jus­tice was Mirko Puk; Slavko Kvater­nik was Min­is­ter of the Army; Mile Budak was Min­is­ter of Edu­ca­tion and Cults. Artukovic and Budak per­son­al­ly received the Grand Mufti in Zagreb when Hus­sei­ni was en route to Sara­je­vo to over­see the for­ma­tion of the Bosn­ian Mus­lim Waf­fen SS Divi­sion in 1943.

Dzafer Kulen­ovic, the Bosn­ian Mus­lim Vice-Pres­i­dent of the NDH, had been the pres­i­dent of the Yugosla­vian Mus­lim Orga­ni­za­tion (JMO, Jugosloven­s­ka Mus­li­man­s­ka Orga­ni­zaci­ja) and was the polit­i­cal leader of the Bosn­ian Mus­lims. Eleven Mus­lim polit­i­cal lead­ers of the JMO were invit­ed to be part of the Ustasha NDH par­lia­ment in Zagreb. The Ustasha Com­mis­sion­er for Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina was Bosn­ian Mus­lim Hak­i­ja Hadz­ic. The NDH was a Croa­t­ian Catholic and Bosn­ian Mus­lim state which sought the exter­mi­na­tion or geno­cide of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox, Jew­ish, and Roma pop­u­la­tions. The Ser­bian Ortho­dox pop­u­la­tion was referred to as grkois­toc­n­ja­ka in the NDH and were de-rec­og­nized as a nation­al­i­ty group. On April 25, 1941, under Decree Law, No. XXV-33Z, the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Cyril­lic alpha­bet was out­lawed and Ortho­dox Serbs were forced to wear a blue band with the let­ter “P” for Pravoslavac, Ortho­dox. In Belo­var, Serbs were forced to wear a red arm­band with the word “Serb”. The NDH adopt­ed the Nurem­berg racial laws and began the incar­cer­a­tion of Jews., who were forced to wear a yel­low band with the let­ter “Z”, for Zidov, Jew.

On Sep­tem­ber 25,1941, under decree-law, No. 1528–2101-Z-1941, the cre­ation of “assem­bly or work camps for unde­sir­able and dan­ger­ous per­sons” was autho­rized, which was the basis for the estab­lish­ment of the Jasen­o­vac con­cen­tra­tion camp in Croa­t­ia.

From the begin­ning of the Ger­man inva­sion of Yugoslavia, the Bosn­ian Mus­lims had sought to con­vince the Ger­mans that Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina should be a Nazi Pro­tec­torate, that is, have an autonomous polit­i­cal exis­tence, a Greater Islam­ic Bosnia, a Greater Mus­lim State. In 1941, over 100,000 Bosn­ian Mus­lim con­scripts were avail­able to fight in the mil­i­tary for­ma­tions of the Third Reich. Roman Catholic Croa­t­ian and Bosn­ian Mus­lim sol­diers were in the Ustasha death squads, the Domo­bran­ci (Home Guards), and the Croa­t­ian Army.

Bosn­ian Mus­lim sol­diers were in the Nazi-Ustasha Ger­man-Croa­t­ian “Legion” units, the 369th, 373rd, and 392nd Infantry Divi­sions. The 369th Ger­man-Croa­t­ian Infantry Divi­sion, formed in 1942, was known as the Vraz­ja Diviz­i­ja or Dev­il Divi­sion com­mand­ed by Gen­er­alleut­nant Fritz Nei­d­holt. The 373rd Ger­man-Croa­t­ian Infantry Divi­sion was known as the Tigar Diviz­i­ja or Tiger Divi­sion. The 392nd Ger­man-Croa­t­ian Infantry Divi­sion was known as the Pla­va Diviz­i­ja, or Blue Divi­sion. The 369th Rein­forced Croat Infantry Reg­i­ment, made up of Croats and Bosn­ian Mus­lims, fought at Stal­in­grad where it was destroyed. The NDH also sent the Ital­ian-Croat Legion, attached to the Ital­ian 3rd Mobile Divi­sion, to the Russ­ian front where it was destroyed dur­ing the Don retreat. The 369th Rein­forced Infantry Reg­i­ment, formed at Varazdin, con­sist­ed of three bat­tal­ions, two from Croa­t­ia, one from Sara­je­vo. The Reg­i­ment left Zagreb on July 15, 1941 for the Doeller­sheim Train­ing Camp near Vien­na, Aus­tria. From here, the troops were trans­ferred by rail­road to the USSR. The Reg­i­ment was deployed on var­i­ous points on the Russ­ian Front: Kre­mentchug, Jasy, Kirovo­grad, Per­mo­maysk, Polta­va, the Dnieper Riv­er, Kharkov, Stal­i­no. On May 15, 1942, the Reg­i­ment was deployed on the Voronezh Front. On Sep­tem­ber 27, the Bosn­ian Muslim/Croat troops deployed to Stal­in­grad where they fought to take the city. By Feb­ru­ary, 1943, the Reg­i­ment was total­ly anni­hi­lat­ed and oblit­er­at­ed by the Russ­ian Red Army. The German/Axis forces were encir­cled and sur­ren­dered en masse in Stal­in­grad.

The Bosn­ian Mus­lims formed pure­ly Mus­lim for­ma­tions as well, the most impor­tant of which was the Mus­lim Vol­un­teer Legion, led by Mohammed Hadzi­ef­fen­dic. Oth­er Mus­lim for­ma­tions were the Zeleni Kadar/Kader (Green Cadres), Nazi for­ma­tions cre­at­ed by desert­ers from the Home Guards (Domo­bran­ci), led by Neshad Top­cic, the Mus­lim nation­al­ist group, the Young Mus­lims (Mla­di Mus­li­mani), Hus­ka Miljkovic’s Mus­lim Army, and the Gorazde-Foca mili­ci­jas (polic­ing units). Ali­ja Izetbe­gov­ic was a key mem­ber of the Young Mus­lims (Mla­di Mus­li­mani) group.

The Bosn­ian Mus­lim polit­i­cal and reli­gious lead­ers, known as Mus­lim auton­o­mists, con­tin­ued to argue for the estab­lish­ment of a autonomous Nazi Pro­tec­torate for Mus­lim Bosnia. They wrote Adolf Hitler a Mem­o­ran­dum and inter­ced­ed with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in Berlin to sup­port their goal of cre­at­ing a Nazi pro­tec­torate for Bosnia. The Ger­man com­man­ders in Croa­t­ia, the NDH, For­eign Min­is­ter Siegfried Kasche and Gen­er­al Edmund Gleise von Horste­nau, how­ev­er, opposed the cre­ation of a Pro­tec­torate for Bosnia, sup­port­ing instead a uni­tary NDH.

On Octo­ber 15,1942, Bosn­ian Mus­lim reli­gious and polit­i­cal lead­ers sent a del­e­ga­tion from Mostar to a meet­ing in Rome with the Grand Mufti and Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni, who sought to gain influ­ence in the Mus­lim coun­tries and who assumed the title of “Pro­tec­tor of Islam”. The Bosn­ian Mus­lim del­e­ga­tion con­sist­ed of the grand mufti of Mostar, Omer Dzabic, Ibrahim Fejic, hadzi-Ahmed Karabeg, and Oman Sehic. The goal of the del­e­ga­tion was to con­vince Mus­soli­ni to spon­sor a Fas­cist Pro­tec­torate for Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina, an Ital­ian-spon­sored Greater Islam­ic State, like the Greater Alba­nia made up of Koso­vo and West­ern Mace­do­nia, which Italy did spon­sor. A Fas­cist Pro­tec­torate for Bosnia, how­ev­er, did not result.

The Bosn­ian Mus­lim lead­er­ship remained deter­mined to secure polit­i­cal auton­o­my for Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina by inter­ced­ing with the Grand Mufti to use his influ­ence to cre­ate a Pro­tec­torate By 1943, the Mufti and the Reichs­fuehrer-SS Hein­rich Himm­ler became con­vinced that the Bosn­ian Mus­lims could be orga­nized in Nazi for­ma­tions to advance the objec­tives of the Third Reich and of Islam. Himm­ler became a spon­sor of the Mus­lim auton­o­mists, the Greater Mus­lim Bosnia ide­ol­o­gy, and their move­ment to achieve auton­o­my for Mus­lim Bosnia. Bosn­ian Mus­lim Reis-el-Ule­ma Hafiz Mohammed Pandza was a key recruiter for the divi­sion and was him­self a promi­nent Mus­lim auton­o­mist, a key pro­po­nent of the Great or Greater Mus­lim State of Bosnia, even though the Ser­bian Ortho­dox were the largest pop­u­la­tion in Bosnia. Himm­ler explained how he decid­ed to form the Handzar Divi­sion as fol­lows:

I decid­ed to pro­pose to the Fuehrer that we estab­lish a Mus­lim Bosn­ian Divi­sion. Many believed the notion to be so nov­el that they scoffed at it Such is the fate of all new ideas. I was told, “You’re ruin­ing the for­ma­tion of the Croa­t­ian state” and “No one will vol­un­teer” . Ger­many and the Reich have been friends of Islam for two cen­turies, owing not to expe­di­en­cy but to friend­ly con­vic­tion. We have the same goals.

Himm­ler want­ed to re-estab­lish the con­ti­nu­ity with the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­i­an Hab­s­burg Empire, which had formed Bosn­ian Mus­lim mil­i­tary for­ma­tions. Himm­ler sent the Mufti to Zagreb and to Sara­je­vo to pre­pare for the for­ma­tion of the Bosn­ian Mus­lim units. Himm­ler’s SS rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the NDH, Kon­stan­tin Kam­mer­hofer, was told to begin recruit­ing a Bosn­ian Mus­lim Waf­fen SS Divi­sion of 26,000 men, which if real­ized, would make it the largest of all the SS Divi­sions.

In form­ing the Bosn­ian Mus­lim Waf­fen SS Divi­sion, Himm­ler over­ruled the objec­tions of the Pavel­ic regime, which con­sid­ered such for­ma­tions and infringe­ment on the sov­er­eign­ty of the NDH. Himm­ler, as the sec­ond most pow­er­ful leader in the Third Reich after Hitler, was able to cre­ate a de fac­to Pro­tec­torate for Bosnia. He want­ed to cre­ate an “SS recruit­ing zone”, an SS State admin­is­tra­tion in nor
theast­ern Bosnia to “restore order”. Two Bosn­ian Mus­lim Waf­fen SS Divi­sions would be cre­at­ed by 1944 to serve this pur­pose.

Geno­cide in Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina

On July 22,1941, Mile Budak declared that the goal of the NDH was to cre­ate a Croat Catholic and Bosn­ian Mus­lim state by the exter­mi­na­tion of for­eign ele­ments, which were Ortho­dox Serbs, Jews, and Gyp­sies (Roma). His state­ment is as fol­lows: “The basis for the Ustasha move­ment is reli­gion. For minori­ties such as Serbs, Jews, and Gyp­sies, we have three mil­lion bul­lets.” He empha­sized in a speech on July 6,1941, that the Bosn­ian Mus­lims were to be an inte­gral part of the NDH: The Croa­t­ian state is Chris­t­ian. It is also a Moslem state where our peo­ple are of the Mohammedan reli­gion. Ortho­dox church­es and syn­a­gogues were plun­dered and destroyed and Ser­bian Ortho­dox priests and Jew­ish rab­bis were mur­dered.

On August 14,1941, Ante Pavel­ic, a “Bosn­ian” by birth, in a speech in Vuko­var, in Srem, announced the offi­cial pol­i­cy of the NDH:

This is now the Ustashi and Inde­pen­dent State of Croa­t­ia, it must be cleansed of Serbs and Jews. There is no room for any of them here. Not a stone upon a stone will remain of what once belonged to them.

Pavelic’s speech and the law passed in Srem were pub­lished in the Ustasha Hrvats­ki Nar­od news­pa­per of August 15 and 16,1941.

In 1941, Pavel­ic declared:The Jews will be liq­ui­dat­ed with­in a very short time. Fol­low­ing the Wannsee Con­fer­ence of Jan­u­ary 20,1942, where the “Final Solu­tion to the Jew­ish Ques­tion” was for­mu­lat­ed, the Ger­man regime pro­posed through SS Sturm­ban­n­fuehrer Hans Helm that the Croats trans­fer Jew­ish pris­on­ers to Ger­man camps in the East. Eugen Dido Kvater­nik, chief of the NDH secu­ri­ty ser­vices, agreed that the NDH would arrest the Jews, take them to rail­heads, and pay the Ger­mans 30 Reichs­marks per per­son for the cost of trans­port to the exter­mi­na­tion camps in the east. The Ger­mans agreed that the prop­er­ty of the Jews would go to the NDH gov­ern­ment..

SS Haup­sturm­fuehrer Franz Abromeit was sent to super­vise the depor­ta­tions to Auschwitz-Birke­nau (Oswiec­im-Brzez­i­na). From August 13–20,1942,5,500 Jews from the NDH were trans­port­ed to Auschwitz of five trains from the NDH con­cen­tra­tion camps at Ten­je and Lobor­grad and from Zagreb and Sara­je­vo. Reichs­fuehrer-SS Hein­rich Himm­ler was on a state vis­it to Zagreb in May, 1943 when two trains on May 5 and 10 trans­port­ed 1,150 Jews to Auschwitz.

The largest con­cen­tra­tion camp in Bosnia was the Krus­ci­ca camp near Travnik, estab­lished in April-May, 1941, where many of Bosni­a’s Jews were killed.

On Feb­ru­ary 26, 1942, NDH Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Andri­ja Artukovic, gave a speech before the NDH Par­lia­ment or Sabor in Zagreb in which he claimed the Jew­ish ques­tion had been set­tled in the NDH:

The Croa­t­ian peo­ple, hav­ing re-estab­lished their inde­pen­dent state of Croa­t­ia, could not do oth­er­wise but to clean off the poi­so­nous dam­agers and insa­tiable par­a­sites ‑Jews, Com­mu­nists, Freema­sons. The inde­pen­dent state of Croa­t­ia, as an Ustashi state...settled the so-called Jew­ish ques­tion with a deci­sive and healthy grasp.

The Ser­bian Ortho­dox pop­u­la­tion was the largest eth­nic group n Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina. Accord­ing to the 1931 Yugoslav cen­sus, out of a total pop­u­la­tion of 2,487,652, 40.92% were Ser­bian Ortho­dox, 36.64% were Mus­lim, and 22.44% were Roman Catholic Croats. The total Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion of Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina was approx­i­mate­ly 14,000 in 1941, 10,500 of whom lived in Sara­je­vo. In the 1931 cen­sus, there were 73,000 Yugoslav Jews; in 1941,there were 80,000 Jews, includ­ing over 4,000 Jew­ish refugees from Ger­many, Aus­tria, and oth­er coun­tries. The Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion was bro­ken down as fol­lows: 60% were Ashke­naz­ic and 40% were Sephardic. Due to the Ser­bian Ortho­dox pol­i­cy of fos­ter­ing mul­ti-eth­nic and reli­gious diver­si­ty and reli­gious and eth­nic tol­er­ance, inter­war Yugoslavia had a thriv­ing and vibrant Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. Ger­man-occu­pied Ser­bia had a pop­u­la­tion of 16,000 Jews. The NDH had a total pop­u­la­tion of 40,000 Jews, 11,000 of whom lived in Zagreb.

On April 16, Ger­man forces occu­pied Sara­je­vo and with local Bosn­ian Mus­lims, loot­ed and destroyed the Sephardic syn­a­gogue.

Entire Ser­bian Ortho­dox and Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties in the Sara­je­vo region were destroyed and Ser­bian, Jew­ish, and Roma, men, women, and chil­dren were mas­sa­cred by Bosn­ian Mus­lims and Croats. Numer­ous mas­sacres occurred in the Bosn­ian towns of Bihac, Brcko, and Doboj. Even the Ger­mans began protest­ing the bes­tial­i­ty and bru­tal­i­ty of these mas­sacres against Ortho­dox Serbs, Jews, and Roma. Ser­bian Ortho­dox church­es and Jew­ish syn­a­gogues were plun­dered and destroyed and Ser­bian Ortho­dox priests and rab­bis were tor­tured and bru­tal­ly mur­dered.

A large per­cent­age of the Bosn­ian Ser­bian, Jew­ish, and Roma com­mu­ni­ties was deport­ed between Sep­tem­ber and November,1941, to Jasen­o­vac, and Djako­vo, and the Lobor­grad camp for women from the Krus­ci­ca camp, locat­ed south of Zeni­ca and Travnik in cen­tral Bosnia. From the Krus­ci­ca con­cen­tra­tion camp, which func­tioned as a col­lec­tion and tran­sit camp, Ortho­dox Serbs, Roma, and Jews, most­ly from Sara­je­vo, were trans­port­ed to the north­ern exter­mi­na­tion camps of the NDH, Jasen­o­vac, Lobor­grad, Stara Gradiska. Sur­vivors were lat­er trans­ferred to Auschwitz where they were gassed. Those who remained alive in the NDH con­cen­tra­tion camps were lat­er trans­ferred to Auschwitz-Birke­nau.

Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina dur­ing World War II

In April, 1943, the Grand Mufti came to Sara­je­vo, where he was greet­ed by cheer­ing crowds and where he was pho­tographed on the bal­cony of the pres­i­den­cy build­ing with Bosn­ian Mus­lim lead­ers, to orga­nize the for­ma­tion of the Mus­lim SS Divi­sion. Hus­sei­ni met with promi­nent Bosn­ian Mus­lim lead­ers Uzeira­ga Hadz­i­hasanovic and hadzi-Muja­ga Mer­hemic and spoke in the Bego­va Djami­ja or Beg Mosque, exhort­ing Mus­lims to join the Waf­fen SS. Bosn­ian Mus­lim muftis and imams, such as Mustafa and Hal­im Malkoc, harangued Mus­lims in front of mosques to vol­un­teer to join the pro­posed Mus­lim Waf­fen SS Divi­sion.

The Bosn­ian Mus­lims formed two Nazi SS Divi­sions dur­ing World War II, the 13th Waf­fen Gebirgs Divi­sion der SS “Handzar” (or “Hand­schar” in Ger­man) from the Turk­ish hanch­er, “dag­ger”, from Ara­bic khangar, “dag­ger”, and the 23rd Waf­fen Gebirgs Divi­sion der SS “Kama”, from Turk­ish kama, “dag­ger, dirk”. Dur­ing the war, Reichs­fuehrer-SS Hein­rich Himm­ler, the “archi­tect of the Holo­caust”, reviewed the Handzar Divi­sion in a Ger­man news­reel in 1943 while the divi­sion was being formed and trained in Sile­sia, at the Neuham­mer Waf­fen SS Train­ing Camp in Ger­many. The Bosn­ian Mus­lims had approx­i­mate­ly 20,000–25,000 men in the Waf­fen SS and police, rough­ly 4% of their total pop­u­la­tion, one of the high­est ratios of mem­ber­ship in the Nazi ranks as a per­cent­age of total pop­u­la­tion dur­ing the war.

The Schutzstaffel or SS, mean­ing “pro­tec­tive rank” or “defen­sive squadron” in Ger­man, was a branch of the Ger­man Nation­al Social­ist Work­er’s Par­ty (Nation­al Sozial­is­tis­che Deutsche Arbeit­er Partei),the NSDAP,or Nazi par­ty. The SS was orig­i­nal­ly formed in 1925 as an elite body­guard to Hitler and the oth­er Nazi lead­ers and was a part of the SA or Sturmabteilung (“storm troop­ers” in Ger­man) which was head­ed by Ernst Roehm. In 1929,Himmler became the leader of the SS. On June 30,1934, the “Night of the Long Knives” (“die Nacht der lan­gen Mess­er”), Himm­ler’s SS troops exe­cut­ed Roehm and the top lead­ers of the SA, destroy­ing the pow­er of the SA while mak­ing the SS the key orga­ni­za­tion in the Nazi Par­ty. The SS was a com­plex evolv­ing orga­ni­za­tion divid­ed into the All­ge­meine (Gen­er­al) Group, and the Waf­fen (Armed) Group. The Waf­fen SS, estab­lished in 1940, was the com­bat wing of the SS. The Inter­na­tion­al Mil­i­tary Tri­bunal at Nurem­berg, which tried war crim­i­nals after the war, declared the SS a crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tion and every indi­vid­ual mem­ber of the SS to be a war crim­i­nal guilty of “plan­ning a
nd car­ry­ing out crimes against human­i­ty.”

Each mem­ber of the SS was sup­posed to rep­re­sent the paragon of Nazi racial puri­ty and had to demon­strate a pure Aryan ances­try since 1750. The Race and Set­tle­ment Office (Rasse­und Sied­lung­shaup­tampt) head­ed by Richard Darre inves­ti­gat­ed prospec­tive mem­bers for racial puri­ty. The two Bosn­ian Mus­lim Waf­fen SS Divi­sions, Handzar and Kama, were rad­i­cal depar­tures from the racial the­o­ries hereto­fore applied by the SS. Before Handzar, SS mem­bers had been either Ger­man or Ger­man­ic, that is, Aryan or Nordic, the her­ren­volk or her­ren­men­sch (the mas­ter race), and were Chris­tians. Thus, inclu­sion of the Slav­ic Mus­lims rep­re­sent­ed a rad­i­cal depar­ture for the SS at that time, although Bosn­ian Mus­lim lead­ers argued that they were of Goth­ic, not Slav­ic, ori­gins.

The Bosn­ian Mus­lim troops in the 13th Waf­fen SS Gebirgs Divi­sion Handzar and the sev­er­al thou­sand in the 23rd Waf­fen SS Gebirgs Divi­sion “Kama” wore a field-green fez, while offi­cers wore a red or maroon fez. On the fez itself appeared the Totenkopf (Death’s Head) insignia of the SS and the Hoheit­sze­ichen (a white or sil­ver eagle and the Nazi swasti­ka). While Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Kemal Pasha, had out­lawed the fez in 1925 for Turkey in the Hat Law, the Bosn­ian Mus­lims, con­tin­ued to wear the fez.

The Mus­lim Handzar and Kama Divi­sions were orga­nized on the mod­el of the Bosn­ian Mus­lim reg­i­ments of the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­i­an Army. The divi­sion­al names are derived from the Turk­ish words “hanch­er” and “kama”, which in Turk­ish mean “dag­ger”, were sym­bol­ic of Islam and Islam­ic military/political pow­er and the Islam­ic state. The Turk­ish word “hanch­er” is derived from the Ara­bic word “khangar”, “dag­ger”. The handzar and kama were usu­al­ly curved Turk­ish dag­gers which the Mus­lim Ottoman Turk­ish Zap­tiehs or police cus­tom­ar­i­ly car­ried as weapons when Bosnia was under Turk­ish Ottoman rule. Thus, the names of the divi­sions were meant to revive the Islam­ic his­tor­i­cal tra­di­tions of the Bosn­ian Mus­lims as the rulers and mas­ters (begs or aghas) of Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina over the non-Mus­lim rayah or unter­men­schen or mist­men­schen, the sub­hu­mans, Ortho­dox Serb Chris­tians, Jews, and Roma. This was the mean­ing and sym­bol­ic sig­nif­i­cance of the names “handzar” and “kama”. Usu­al­ly the Waf­fen SS Divi­sions were named after hero­ic local polit­i­cal or mil­i­tary lead­ers. The Bosn­ian Mus­lims lacked any his­tor­i­cal fig­ures in their his­to­ry.

While the offi­cial, final des­ig­na­tion of the Handzar or Hand­schar Divi­sion was 13th Waf­fen Gebirgs Divi­sion der SS (the 13th Armed Moun­tain Divi­sion of the SS), the Divi­sion was known by oth­er names dur­ing its for­ma­tion stages,when it was under the con­trol of SS Stan­darten­fuehrer Her­bert von Obwurz­er: Croat SS Vol­un­teer Divi­sion (Kroat­is­che SS Frei­willi­gen Divi­sion), SS Divi­sion “Bosnien-Herzegowina”(SS Div.BH), Musel­ma­nen Divi­sion (Mus­lim Divi­sion), 13.SS-Bosniaken-Gebirgs-Division, Bosnisch-Herze­gowinis­che SS Gebirgs­di­vi­sion “Kroa­t­ien”.

These two Mus­lim SS Divi­sions were con­ceived as the armed forces of the de fac­to Nazi pro­tec­torate which the Mus­lims sought to cre­ate for Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina, a Greater Islam­ic State, Greater Mus­lim Bosnia, Juden frei and Ser­bi­en frei. Adolf Hitler ordered the cre­ation of the Handzar Divi­sion of Feb­ru­ary 10,1943. The Handzar Divi­sion would be com­mand­ed by SS Brigade­fuehrer and Gen­eral­ma­jor of the Waf­fen SS, Karl-Gus­tav Sauberzweig, a dec­o­rat­ed Pruss­ian World War I vet­er­an who had been a Colonel in the Ger­man Army. At its peak strength by the end of 1943, the divi­sion would con­sist of 21,065 men, approx­i­mate­ly 18,000 of whom were Mus­lims, mak­ing it the third largest of the approx­i­mate­ly 40 SS Divi­sions formed dur­ing the war.

In June, 1944, Sauberzweig was pro­mot­ed to Gen­er­alleut­nant and assumed com­mand of the IX SS Moun­tain Corps. SS Brigade­fuehrer and Gen­eral­ma­jor of the Waf­fen SS Desiderius Ham­pel replaced him as com­man­der of the Handzar Divi­sion.

The Divi­sion had at least nine Bosn­ian Mus­lim offi­cers, the high­est rank­ing of whom was SS Ober­sturm­ban­n­fuehrer Hus­sein Bis­ce­vic-Beg, who had been a Mus­lim offi­cer in the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­i­an Army when Bosnia was under occu­pa­tion. Ini­tial­ly, the Handzar Divi­sion was formed around the core of the Mus­lim Vol­un­teer Legion, led by Mohammed Hadzi­ef­fen­dic, which was close to divi­sion­al strength itself. There were approx­i­mate­ly 300 Alban­ian Mus­lim troops in the Handzar divi­sion pri­mar­i­ly from Koso­vo-Meto­hi­ja in Reg­i­ment 28, I/28. These Alban­ian Mus­lims would in 1944 be trans­ferred to the 21st Waf­fen Gebirgs Divi­sion “Skan­der­beg” to occu­py Koso­vo and West­ern Mace­do­nia. Alban­ian Mus­lim squad leader Nazir Hod­ic was a promi­nent mem­ber of Handzar. Alban­ian Mus­lim Ajdin Mah­mu­tovic was sev­en­teen when he joined the Handzar SS Divi­sion: “I was only sev­en­teen years old when I joined the SS. I found the phys­i­cal train­ing to be quite easy.”

Kama Divi­sion

Hein­rich Himm­ler sought to cre­ate two Bosn­ian Mus­lim SS Divi­sions and two Alban­ian Mus­lim SS Divi­sions for Koso­vo and West­ern Mace­do­nia. In a May 22. 1944 let­ter to Artur Phleps, Himm­ler stat­ed:

My goal is clear: The cre­ation of two ter­ri­to­r­i­al corps, one in Bosnia, the oth­er in Alba­nia. These two corps, with the Divi­sion ëPrinz Eugen,’ as an army of five SS moun­tain divi­sions are the goal for 1944.

Adolf Hitler approved the for­ma­tion of the sec­ond Bosn­ian Mus­lim Waf­fen SS Divi­sion, 23rd Waf­fen Gebirgs Divi­sion der SS “Kama”, on May 28,1944, although trans­fers and recruit­ments for the cadre per­son­nel had been begun on June 10.The objec­tive was to recruit a Waf­fen SS Divi­sion of over 19,000 troops but by Sep­tem­ber 10,1944,the num­ber of men in the still form­ing divi­sion was 126 offi­cers, 374 NCOs, and 3,293 men, 3,793 men in all. The Kama Divi­sion was com­mand­ed by SS Stan­darten­fuehrer Hel­mut Raithel, who had ear­li­er com­mand­ed the 28th Reg­i­ment of the Handzar Divi­sion. The Kama Divi­sion was formed and trained in the Bacska/Bachka region, for­mer­ly part of Yugoslavia, at that time annexed by Hun­gary. The region for the ini­tial for­ma­tion of the divi­sion was in the area between the Sava, Bosna, and Speca rivers. Lat­er, the divi­sion was trans­ferred to the Bac­s­ka region of the Vojvo­d­i­na region of Ser­bia. The Kama SS Divi­sion was made up of Bosn­ian Mus­lim and Ger­man troops. Fre­do Gen­sicke, a Reichdeutsche SS sergeant who was trans­ferred to the Kama Divi­sion on July 20,1944, described the Bosn­ian Mus­lim troops in Kama as fol­lows:

There were for­ev­er com­pli­ca­tions with the Bosn­ian sol­diers. ..On the oth­er hand, there were those Mus­lims so fanat­i­cal in their reli­gion that one could get a knife stuck in the back if you would twist your head around, forc­ing the tas­sel on the Fez hat to move around.

The sub­se­quent advance of the Russ­ian Red Army and the retreat of the Ger­man forces in Yugoslavia forced the Ger­mans to dis­band the Kama Divi­sion by Sep­tem­ber-Octo­ber, 1944, after a rough­ly five month exis­tence. The Kama Divi­sion saw lit­tle if any actu­al com­bat and came too late in the war to have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on the out­come.

Handzar Divi­sion

In Jan­u­ary, 1944, the Mufti made a sec­ond vis­it to and spent three days with the Handzar Divi­sion, which was depart­ing from Ger­many for Bosnia by rail. In a speech to the Divi­sion, he made the fol­low­ing dec­la­ra­tion of prin­ci­ples which was to guide not only Bosn­ian Mus­lims, but all Mus­lims through­out the world:

This divi­sion of Bosn­ian Mus­lims estab­lished with the help of Greater Ger­many, is an exam­ple to Mus­lims in all coun­tries. There is no oth­er deliv­er­ance for them from impe­ri­al­is­tic oppres­sion than hard fight­ing to pre­serve their homes and faith. Many com­mon inter­ests exist between the Islam­ic world and Greater Ger­many, and those make coop­er­a­tion a mat­ter of course. The Reich is fight­ing against the same ene­mies who
robbed the Mus­lims of their coun­tries and sup­pressed their faith in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Ger­many is the only Great Pow­er which has nev­er attacked any Islam­ic coun­try. Fur­ther, Nat
ion­al- Social­ist Ger­many is fight­ing against world Jew­ry. The Koran says: “You will find that the Jews are the worst ene­mies of the Mus­lims.” There are also con­sid­er­able sim­i­lar­i­ties between Islam­ic prin­ci­ples and those of Nation­al-Social­ism, name­ly in the affir­ma­tion of strug­gle and fel­low­ship, in stress­ing lead­er­ship, in the idea of order, in the high val­u­a­tion of work. All this brings our ide­olo­gies close togeth­er and facil­i­tates coop­er­a­tion. I am hap­py to see in this divi­sion a vis­i­ble and prac­ti­cal expres­sion of both ide­olo­gies.

Hus­sei­ni referred to the Bosn­ian Mus­lims as the “cream of Islam” and in a speech to the imams in the Handzar Divi­sion, explained why the Muslim/Arab world should sup­port the Axis/Nazi Ger­many:

Friend­ship and col­lab­o­ra­tion between two peo­ples must be built on a firm foun­da­tion. The nec­es­sary ingre­di­ents here are com­mon spir­i­tu­al and mate­r­i­al inter­ests as well as the same ideals. The rela­tion­ship between the Mus­lims and the Ger­mans is built on this foun­da­tion. Nev­er in its his­to­ry has Ger­many attacked a Mus­lim nation. Ger­many bat­tles world Jew­ry, Islam’s prin­ci­pal ene­my. Ger­many also bat­tles Eng­land and its allies, who have per­se­cut­ed mil­lions of Mus­lims, as well as Bol­she­vism, which sub­ju­gates forty mil­lion Mus­lims and threat­ens the Islam­ic faith in oth­er lands. Any one of these argu­ments would be enough of a foun­da­tion for a friend­ly rela­tion­ship between two peo­ples. My ene­my’s ene­my is my friend.

You, my Bosn­ian Mus­lims, are the first Islam­ic divi­sion, and serve as an exam­ple of the active col­lab­o­ra­tion between Ger­many and the Mus­lims. I wish you much suc­cess in your holy mis­sion.

Huse­jin Dzo­zo, a key imam in Handzar, wrote a let­ter to Himm­ler thank­ing him for cre­at­ing an imam school, for increased bread rations, and for Himm­ler’s dona­tions to Bosn­ian Mus­lim fam­i­lies of the Divi­sion’s mem­bers:

These deeds sig­ni­fy the great benev­o­lence for us Mus­lims and for Bosnia in gen­er­al. I there­fore con­sid­er it my duty to extend our thanks to the Reichs­fuehrer SS in the names of the divi­sion’s imams as well as in the names of the hun­dreds of thou­sands of Bosni­a’s poor in I pledge that we are pre­pared to lay down our lives in bat­tle for the great leader Adolf Hitler and the New Europe.

The imams in Handzar all spoke Ara­bic and argued that Bosnia belonged racial­ly to the Ger­man­ic world, but spir­i­tu­al­ly to the Arab world, main­tain­ing the argu­ment that the Bosn­ian Mus­lims were of Goth­ic, that is Germanic/Nordic/Aryan ori­gins, even though they spoke a Slav­ic lan­guage, Ser­bo-Croa­t­ian. Each bat­tal­ion and reg­i­men­tal staff was assigned an imam. The imams orga­nized the Jumah, Islam­ic prayer ser­vices, and the cel­e­bra­tions of the Islam­ic hol­i­days. Every month on Fri­day after­noon, each mem­ber of Handzar was allowed to take part in a mass Jumah ser­vice. The imams washed the bod­ies of Mus­lims who had died in com­bat accord­ing to Mus­lim cus­tom. Himm­ler stat­ed that the imams were the “ide­o­log­i­cal teach­ers in the bat­tal­ions.

Imam Dzo­zo out­lined his goals for the Bosn­ian Mus­lim SS sol­dier as fol­lows:

Bosni­a’s best sons are serv­ing in the SS After vic­to­ry is achieved, a new, impor­tant task must be completed—the imple­men­ta­tion of the New Order . Through the Ver­sailles-Dik­tat, Europe was thrust into a total­ly sense­less foun­da­tion, and under the name of democ­ra­cy, Jews and Freema­sons played key roles in polit­i­cal and soci­etal life .It will not be easy to lib­er­ate Europe from these ene­mies, but the SS man shall build a bet­ter future for Europe.

After the Islam­ic Ramadan hol­i­day, a Bairam cel­e­bra­tion was con­duct­ed at which time Imam Abdu­lah Muhasilovic spoke to the troops:

The world’s Mus­lims are engaged in a ter­ri­ble life-or-death strug­gle. Today, a war of enor­mous mag­ni­tude is being waged; a war as human­i­ty has nev­er before expe­ri­enced. The entire world has divid­ed itself into two camps. One stands under the lead­er­ship of the Jews. About whom Allah says in the Koran, “They are your ene­my and Allah’s ene­my.” And that is the Eng­lish, Amer­i­cans, and Bol­she­viks, who fight against faith, against Allah, against moral­i­ty, and a just order.

On the oth­er side stands Nation­al Social­ist Ger­many with its allies, under the lead­er­ship of Adolf Hitler, who fight for Allah, faith, moral­i­ty, and a fair­er and more right­eous order in the world, as well as for a fair­er dis­tri­b­u­tion of all goods that Allah has pro­duced for all peo­ple.

The Mufti expressed his sup­port for Japan, send­ing Emper­or Hiro­hi­to a mes­sage which praised Japan as a “cham­pi­on of the lib­er­a­tion of the Asi­at­ic peo­ples from the yoke of the British and Jew­ish cap­i­tal­ist.” In a broad­cast of Sep­tem­ber 20,1944, he declared:

We desire vic­to­ry for Ger­many and Japan .We can expect noth­ing from the Allies who are con­trolled by world Jew­ry.

On Novem­ber 11, 1943, over Radio Bari, the Mufti “my peo­ple” to fight the British and the Jews to the death:

If Amer­i­ca and Eng­land win the war the Jews will dom­i­nate the world.

On March 1. 1944, the Mufti attacked Amer­i­can pol­i­cy in the Mid­dle East in a radio broad­cast from Berlin:

No one ever thought that 140,000 Amer­i­cans would become tools in Jew­ish hands How would the Amer­i­cans dare to Judaize Pales­tine? The wicked Amer­i­can inten­tions towards the Arabs are now clear, and there remain no doubts that they are endeav­or­ing to estab­lish a Jew­ish empire in the Arab world.

The Donauzeitung (The Danube Times) news­pa­per of Decem­ber 31, 1942 report­ed that the Mufti had donat­ed over 240,000 Kuna, the cur­ren­cy of the NDH regime, to the Mus­lim char­i­ty orga­ni­za­tion in Sara­je­vo from Ger­man gov­ern­ment sources. Himm­ler donat­ed 100,000 Reichs­marks. The SS bought cloth­ing which was donat­ed to the Mer­hamed welfage orga­ni­za­tion, a Mus­lim char­i­ty.

In the spring of 1944, in a Ger­man radio broad­cast from Zit­tau, Ger­many, the Mufti issued a call to Bosn­ian and Yugoslav Mus­lims to hold Islam­ic prayer ser­vices for sev­en days to pray that the Ger­man mil­i­tary forces may achieve suc­cess.

The Bosn­ian Mus­lim Handzar and Kama Divi­sions fought main­ly against Ortho­dox Serbs, who made up the bulk of the guer­ril­la and resis­tance move­ments, and who were asso­ci­at­ed with the ene­mies of the Third Reich, Com­mu­nism and Eng­land, or as Hein­rich Himm­ler termed it, the “com­mon Jew­ish-Anglo-Bol­she­vik ene­my”. On March 1,1944, the Grand Mufti issued from Berlin the fol­low­ing call to all Mus­lims: “Kill the Jews wher­ev­er you find them. This pleas­es God, his­to­ry, and reli­gion. This saves your hon­or. Allah is with you.” More­over, the Mufti called upon Bosn­ian Mus­lims to “take revenge and to pun­ish” Bosn­ian Serb Ortho­dox Chris­tians. Numer­ous eye­wit­ness accounts tes­ti­fied that the Handzar Divi­sion com­mit­ted the “worst atroc­i­ties against the Ser­bian pop­u­la­tion.” In a pho­to­graph of troops of the Divi­sion, mem­bers are seen read­ing the pam­phlet Islam und Juden­tum (Islam and Jew­ry), which explained the Nazi posi­tion on the Jew­ish Ques­tion and how it relat­ed to Muslims.These were pre­pared from the Mufti’s schools and train­ing cen­ters in Ger­many the Dres­den school for Mus­lims in the Waf­fen SS, and the Goet­tin­gen school for Mus­lims in the Ger­man Wehrma­cht.

Hein­rich Himm­ler was deter­mined to cre­ate the two Bosn­ian Mus­lim Waf­fen SS Divi­sions, although he met with oppo­si­tion from the NDH regime and from sources with­in the SS itself. In a let­ter to Kon­stan­tin Kam­mer­hofer, his SS rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the NDH, he urged that “strong steps” be tak­en to con­vince the NDH regime that is was sup­posed to be a pup­pet regime: “I expect to receive, by August 1, 1943, your report that the divi­sion, at a strength of about 26,000 men, is com­plete­ly ready.” Himm­ler ordered Got­t­lob Berg­er to send Kam­mer­hofer two mil­lion Reichs­marks to fund the recruit­ing effort for the Handzar divi­sion. Unlike most SS offi­cials, Himm­ler was con­vinced of the fight­ing abil­i­ty of the Bosn­ian Mus­lims, part­ly from his under­stand­ing of the role of the Bosn­ian Mus­lims as sol­diers in the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­i­an Impe­r­i­al Army before and dur­ing World W
ar I and his belief that Islam was an ide­al reli­gion for a sol­dier. Himm­ler stat­ed to Joseph Goebbels that he had “noth­ing against Islam because it edu­cates the men in this Divi­sion for me and promis­es them heav­en if they fight and are killed in action; a very prac­ti­cal and attrac­tive reli­gion for sol­diers!” Himm­ler’s pol­i­cy of using Islam as a bul­wark against Ortho­dox Ser­bia and Ortho­dox Rus­sia would lat­er be the pol­i­cy of Zbiniew Brzezin­s­ki, Madeleine Albright, the Pen­ta­gon, and the CIA. Ossama Bin Laden and the muja­hedeen forces in Afghanistan would be armed, trained, and sup­plied by the US gov­ern­ment. This pol­i­cy would then be applied in the Balka­ns. Like Hitler, Mus­soli­ni, and Himm­ler, the US pol­i­cy was to use the Bosn­ian and Alban­ian Mus­lims as a bul­wark against the Ser­bian Ortho­dox pop­u­la­tions. Like Himm­ler’s pol­i­cy, the US pol­i­cy was divide and con­quer, manip­u­late eth­nic and reli­gious groups to attack and kill each oth­er so that a for­eign mil­i­tary pow­er can occu­py the region, whether it is the Waf­fen SS or NATO. His­tor­i­cal­ly, the dynam­ics are iden­ti­cal.

The Bosn­ian Mus­lim troops in the Waf­fen SS Divi­sions were accord­ed the same priv­i­leges they had enjoyed in the Impe­r­i­al Aus­tro-Hun­gar­i­an Army: spe­cial rations and the obser­vance of Islam­ic reli­gious rites. Each bat­tal­ion in the Divi­sions had an Imam and each reg­i­ment a Mul­lah. Fol­low­ing the 1878 occu­pa­tion of Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina by the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­i­an Empire, four infantry reg­i­ments were recruit­ed from the Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion: the Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina Reg­i­ment No. 1, recruit­ed around Sara­je­vo; the Reg­i­ment No. 2, recruit­ed around Ban­ja Luka; the Reg­i­ment No.3, recruit­ed around Tuzla; and, the Reg­i­ment No.4, recruit­ed around Mostar. Fol­low­ing the out­break of World War I, these Mus­lim reg­i­ments in the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­i­an Impe­r­i­al Army would be thrust against the Ser­bian Army. The Handzar and Kama Divi­sions were mod­eled on the ear­li­er Aus­tro-Hun­gar­i­an Mus­lim reg­i­ments. As Ger­ald Reitlinger explained in The SS: Ali­bi of a Nation: “These Moslems were the tra­di­tion­al ene­mies of the Chris­t­ian Serbs, and in 1941 their reli­gious zeal had urged them to join in the mas­sacres of Serbs... As pil­lage was fol­lowed by dis­ci­pline, the ener­gy of the Mujos was canalised into the Waf­fen SS. The Mujos were organ­ised on the lines of the Bosn­ian reg­i­ments of the old Impe­r­i­al Aus­tri­an army, with offi­cers and even N.C.O.s of Ger­man race, but they wore the Turk­ish fez with their SS runes and ... each bat­tal­ion had an Imam.

On June 23, 1943, Himm­ler pre­pared a spe­cial SS oath for the Bosn­ian Mus­lim troops which read as fol­lows:

I swear to the Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, as Supreme Com­man­der of the Ger­man Armed Forces, to be loy­al and brave. I swear to the Fuehrer and to the lead­ers whom he may des­ig­nate, obe­di­ence unto death.

Himm­ler includ­ed a clause pledg­ing the Mus­lims to swear to “always be loy­al” to the NDH and to Ante Pavel­ic, which was meant to pre­vent any con­flict between Mus­lims and Croats and the NDH regime, which opposed the for­ma­tion of the Divi­sion. The Handzar and Kama Divi­sions were list­ed as “Kroat­is­che No.1 and No.2” respec­tive­ly to appease the Ustasha NDH regime. Himm­ler ini­tial­ly envi­sioned a divi­sion made up entire­ly of Mus­lims. Sauberzweig stat­ed that “over 90% of the divi­sion’s sol­diers were Mus­lims” on Novem­ber 5, 1943. Himm­ler had to com­pro­mise on this issue and allowed Croat troops to join the divi­sion. The esti­mate of Roman Catholic Croats in the divi­sion ranged from “300 or so” to 2,800. After a vis­it to Zagreb on May 5, 1943, Himm­ler stip­u­lat­ed that the ratio of Roman Catholics to Mus­lims “was not to exceed 1:10.” The divi­sions were Croat in name only, that is, nom­i­nal­ly. Some Ger­man offi­cers even wore the Ustasha checker­board sym­bol, but Mus­lim lead­ers and the troops in the divi­sion per­ceived the divi­sions as Bosn­ian Mus­lim.

Berg­er ordered the Croa­t­ian gov­ern­ment to release all the Mus­lim NCOs and enlist­ed troops in the NDH for­ma­tions for ser­vice in the Handzar Divi­sion. The Mus­lims were to be released from the I Ustasha Brigade and the 9th Infantry Reg­i­ment of the Croa­t­ian Army. This infor­ma­tion from the Waf­fen SS files is sig­nif­i­cant because it demon­strates that Bosn­ian Mus­lims were inte­gral parts of the Usta­ha for­ma­tions and NDH mil­i­tary forces, for­ma­tions and units that were engaged in the mass mur­der and eth­nic cleans­ing of Bosn­ian Ortho­dox Serbs. Impor­tant­ly, it dis­proves the pro­pa­gan­da posi­tion that the Bosn­ian Mus­lims were “vic­tims” and did not par­tic­i­pate in the geno­cide against the Ser­bian Ortho­dox pop­u­la­tions. The Bosn­ian Mus­lims played an inte­gral and essen­tial role in the exter­mi­na­tion of Bosn­ian Serbs, Jews, and Roma.

In a 1943 report pre­pared by the Ser­bian East­ern Ortho­dox Dio­cese for the US and Cana­da, the fol­low­ing descrip­tion of the Bosn­ian Mus­lim role in the mas­sacres appeared:

The behav­ior of the Mus­lims was tra­di­tion­al­ly treach­er­ous. As always, they were in the camp of those who were momen­tar­i­ly in pow­er. More than 95% of Mus­lims joined the Ustashi and par­tic­i­pat­ed very active­ly in the mas­sacre of the Serbs, as, for instance, in the city of Mostar, where great num­bers of killings were done per­son­al­ly by Hure­movich, a Mus­lim. The Ustasha ter­ror began in Mostar. The Ustashi, the major­i­ty of them local Mohammedans, are arrest­ing, loot­ing and ship­ping off Serbs or killing them and throw­ing their bod­ies in the Neret­va Riv­er They are throw­ing Serbs alive into chasms and are burn­ing whole fam­i­lies locked in their homes Out­side of Zagreb the strongest Ustasha hotbed is Sara­je­vo The Mus­lims com­mit­ted unbe­liev­able bar­bar­i­ties for they mur­dered women and chil­dren even with scis­sors.

Gen­er­al Draza Mihailovich described the Mus­lim mas­sacres as fol­lows:

Entire dis­tricts were dev­as­tat­ed by the Mus­lims, The Dri­na Riv­er car­ried many bod­ies from one bank to the oth­er.

The pro­pa­gan­da posi­tion that the Bosn­ian Mus­lims were inno­cent “vic­tims” and had no com­plic­i­ty in the geno­cide against Bosn­ian Serbs was devel­oped after World War II to main­tain the Com­mu­nist pol­i­cy of “broth­er­hood and uni­ty” and to gain patron­age with the Muslim/Arab coun­tries The post-war Yugoslav Com­mu­nist dic­ta­tor­ship paint­ed an erro­neous, inac­cu­rate, and false pic­ture of Islam to gain favor and economic/political advan­tages with Muslim/Arab coun­tries. But all the evi­dence proves that the Bosn­ian Mus­lims par­tic­i­pat­ed active­ly in the geno­cide against the Ortho­dox Ser­bian pop­u­la­tion and were not “vic­tims” at all.

Her­bert von Obwurz­er recruit­ed Alban­ian Mus­lims from Koso­vo-Meto­hi­ja and Sandzak for the Divi­sion. The I/2 bat­tal­ion con­sist­ed of approx­i­mate­ly 300 eth­nic Alban­ian Mus­lims. Got­t­lob Berg­er stat­ed that “when the divi­sion returned to Croa­t­ia, addi­tion­al vol­un­teers would be recruit­ed, and the Alba­ni­ans would be returned to their home­land, where they would form the cadre for an Alban­ian divi­sion.” The Alban­ian divi­sion would be the 21st Waf­fen Gebirgs Divi­sion der SS “Skan­der­beg”, con­sist­ing pri­mar­i­ly of Alban­ian Mus­lims from Koso­vo-Meto­hi­ja. Himm­ler planned to form a sec­ond Alban­ian SS Divi­sion but the war end­ed before this could be done. The Waf­fen SS recruit­ing of Alban­ian Mus­lims in the Greater Alban­ian state, which includ­ed Koso­vo and West­ern Mace­do­nia was object­ed to by Her­mann Neubach­er, who was the Ger­man Plenipo­ten­tiary in Alba­nia because they vio­lat­ed the sov­er­eign­ty of Alba­nia.

When Handzar occu­pied east­ern and north­ern Bosnia in the spring and sum­mer of 1944, to “restore order”, it assumed con­trol over its own muni­tions, with­out con­sult­ing NDH offi­cials, placed civil­ian author­i­ty under Mus­lim con­trol, and “liq­ui­dat­ed” organs of the NDH Ustasha regime. There was a direct chal­lenge and con­flict to and nega­tion of the sov­er­eign­ty of the NDH.

On August 6,1943, Himm­ler wrote the fol­low­ing let­ter to his rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the NDH, SS Grup­pen­fuehrer and Gen­er­alleut­nant der Polizei Kon­stan­tin Kam­mer­hofer and to Artur Phleps, com­man­der of the Vth SS Moun­tain Corps out­lin­ing guide­lines for the enlist­ment of Mus­lims in the Waf­fen SS and police:

All Moslem m
embers of the Waf­fen SS and police are to be afford­ed the unde­ni­able right of their reli­gious demands nev­er to touch pork, pork sausages nor to drink alcohol...I hold all commanders...and oth­er SS offi­cers, respon­si­ble for the most scrupu­lous and loy­al respect for this priv­i­lege espe­cial­ly grant­ed to the Mus­lims. They have answered the call of the Moslem chiefs and have come to us out of hatred for the com­mon Jew­ish-Anglo-Bol­she­vik ene­my and through respect and fideli­ty for he who they respect above all, the Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler... There will no longer be the least dis­cus­sion about the spe­cial rights afford­ed to the Moslems in these cir­cles.

Heil Hitler
(signed) H. Himm­ler

The Handzar and Kama Divi­sions, sta­tioned in the Bosn­ian towns of Brcko, Bijelji­na, Tuzla, Grada­cac, and Zvornik, engaged in a pol­i­cy termed by the Nazis as “paci­fi­ca­tion” of the pop­u­la­tion, which con­sist­ed of geno­cide and eth­nic cleans­ing of Serbs and Jews in east­ern and north­ern Bosnia. Sauberzweig wrote that the objec­tive of Handzar was as fol­lows: The divi­sion is to lib­er­ate Bosnia. The Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion is bound to this land.” The Mus­lim SS Divi­sions fol­lowed a pol­i­cy of eth­nic cleans­ing (cis­cen­je, in Ser­bo-Croat), “cleans­ing the land of ban­dits and eth­nic ene­mies” from a direc­tive for the divi­sions. In the Brcko and Bijelji­na regions of north­ern and east­ern Bosnia, units of the Handzar Divi­sion “butchered every­one not wear­ing a fez” (“klali su sve sto nije nosi­lo fes”) based on eye­wit­ness accounts. The Mus­lim Waf­fen SS troops, raped, pil­laged, and mas­sa­cred Ortho­dox Serbs and Jews with­out regard for age or sex. The Divi­sions were exhort­ed in their 1944 direc­tives to “exter­mi­nate ene­mies, exter­mi­nate the com­mu­ni­ty, but leave intact the hous­es, land and effects of the ene­mies.” Unarmed Serbs and Jews, not mur­dered in the first great wave of geno­cide, were mas­sa­cred and eth­ni­cal­ly cleansed in Rogat­i­ca, Vlaseni­ca, Sre­breni­ca, and Viseg­rad. Eth­ni­cal­ly pure Mus­lim set­tle­ments were cre­at­ed (“cis­tih nar­o­d­nih nasel­ja” in Ser­bo-Croat, from a 1944 report).

The two Mus­lim SS Divi­sions were assist­ed in their “paci­fi­ca­tion” pro­gram by the Nazi for­ma­tion, Zeleni Kadar (“Green Cadres” in Ser­bo-Croat), con­sist­ing of at least 6,000 Bosn­ian Mus­lim desert­ers from the Ustasha Domo­bran­ci. The Zeleni Kadar was led by Neshad Top­cic, a rabid­ly pro-Nazi Mus­lim who advo­cat­ed the exter­mi­na­tion of the Ser­bian pop­u­la­tion of Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina. Top­cic advo­cat­ed the cre­ation of a “unit­ed Mus­lim pha­lange” or pha­lanx orga­nized against Ortho­dox Serbs, Ortho­dox Mace­do­nians, Jews, and Roma, con­sist­ing of a union of Bosnia, Alban­ian, and Rash­ka (Sandzak) Mus­lims, form­ing a Great or Greater Islam­ic union, a Greater Pan-Mus­lim alliance.

A Greater Pan-Islam­ic State was advo­cat­ed by the Alban­ian Bedri Pejani, the Mus­lim leader of the Alban­ian Nation­al Com­mit­tee, who pre­sent­ed a plan to the Grand Mufti call­ing for the exter­mi­na­tion of the Ser­bian pop­u­la­tion of Koso­vo-Meto­hi­ja and a union of Greater Alba­nia, con­sist­ing of Koso­vo-Meto­hi­ja, West­ern Mace­do­nia, and south­ern Mon­tene­gro, Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina, and the Rash­ka (Sandzak) region of Ser­bia into a Greater Islam­ic State, a Pan-Islam­ic State in the Balka­ns. The Grand Mufti approved the Pejani plan as being in the inter­est of Islam, but the Ger­mans reject­ed the plan.

The Mus­lim Waf­fen SS Divi­sions were known for their atroc­i­ties against civil­ians and for their bes­tial acts against anti-Nazi gueril­las. Himm­ler’s liai­son offi­cer at Hitler’s head­quar­ters, SS Brigade­fuehrer Her­mann Fegelein, who had com­mand­ed the 8th SS Kaval­lerie Divi­sion “Flo­ri­an Gey­er” in Rus­sia and Hun­gary, described to Hitler the fanati­cism and bes­tial­i­ty of the Bosn­ian Mus­lim troops, which even appalled the SS lead­ers, as fol­lows:

The ene­my takes off with all its things when they [the Bosn­ian Mus­lims] move in. They kill them only with their knives. There was one man who was wound­ed. He allowed his arm to be ban­daged and then went on to fin­ish off 17 more of the ene­my with his left hand. Cas­es also occur where they [the Bosn­ian Mus­lims] cut the heart out of their ene­my.

Hitler was dis­mayed at this graph­ic account which inter­rupt­ed a high-lev­el mil­i­tary con­fer­ence. Hitler dis­missed Fegelein’s account with, “Das ist Wurst” (Ger­man, lit­er­al­ly, “that is sausage”, mean­ing, “that is non­sense”). Her­mann Schif­fer­deck­er, an offi­cer who served on the Handzar divi­sion staff, dis­missed these accounts in 1992, stat­ing that Her­mann Fegelein “had obvi­ous­ly read too much Karl May dur­ing his youth.” This state­ment is con­tra­dict­ed by the fol­low­ing: The bru­tal­i­ty, bes­tial­i­ty, and Islam­ic reli­gious fanati­cism of the Mus­lim troops as shown by Kama Divi­sion mem­ber Fer­do Gen­sicke who stat­ed that the Mus­lims in Kama would knife you in the back if the tas­sel on their fez was moved around and by the mas­sacre of the entire Ser­bian Ortho­dox pop­u­la­tion of Bela Crk­va dur­ing Oper­a­tion Sign­post.

Bela Crk­va Mas­sacre

Himm­ler set as the goal of the divi­sion to secure north­east­ern Bosnia, the area between the Sava, Bosna, Spre­ca, and Dri­na rivers which was a vital agri­cul­tur­al region set­tled by eth­nic Ger­mans in Srem and Ortho­dox Serbs. Before Handzar could advance into this sec­tor, the Bosut would have to be occu­pied under Oper­a­tion Sign­post. Before the oper­a­tion began, the Bosn­ian Mus­lim troops in Handzar cel­e­brat­ed the Mus­lim hol­i­day of Mevlud on March 7, which cel­e­brat­ed the life of the prophet Mohammed. Under Sauberzweig’s orders, the com­man­ders and the imams in the divi­sion dis­trib­uted Islam­ic food rations and con­duct­ed Islam­ic reli­gious rites.

On March 12, 1944, the Handzar Divi­sion was advanced into the Bosut region to cross the Sava Riv­er. Spear­head F entered the Ser­bian Ortho­dox vil­lage of Bela Crk­va (White Church). In his diary entry for that day, Jorg Deh report­ed that it found “the ene­my gone, hav­ing mur­dered all of the town’s inhab­i­tants.” In fact, Spear­head J of Task Force A.A. 13 of the Handzar Divi­sion was ordered to seize the town on March 10. The Bosn­ian Mus­lims troops mur­dered every Ser­bian Ortho­dox res­i­dent of the town, man, woman, and child. Ger­man offi­cers report­ed that all the Ser­bian inhab­i­tants of Bela Crk­va had been mur­dered and that noth­ing alive remained in the town. The Ger­man offi­cers denied respon­si­bil­i­ty for the war crime and act of geno­cide, blam­ing it on “the ene­my”. But why would the Yugoslav resis­tance groups, com­posed most­ly of Ser­bian troops them­selves, mas­sacre their own? The only hos­tile units in the area were units of the Bosn­ian Mus­lim Handzar Divi­sion. Karl-Gus­tav Sauberzweig, in his Oper­a­tion Sign­post ( Unternehmen Weg­weis­er) orders, had writ­ten that “restraint was only nec­es­sary in deal­ing with the local eth­nic Ger­man pop­u­la­tion” because the Bosut was “not inhab­it­ed by Mus­lims.” Dur­ing Oper­a­tion Sava (Unternehmen Save), the Handzar Divi­sion crossed the Sava Riv­er in north­ern Bosnia and occu­pied north­east­ern Bosnia.

Mus­lim Geno­cide

The num­ber of Bosn­ian Ortho­dox Serbs mur­dered dur­ing World War II in Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina is esti­mat­ed at over two hun­dred thou­sand. Of the 10,500 Jews of Sara­je­vo before the war, only about 800 sur­vived the Holo­caust. Of the approx­i­mate­ly 14,000 Jews of Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina, 12,000 would be killed.

In con­junc­tion with the exter­mi­na­tion of the Ortho­dox Serbs of Bosnia, as we have seen, Jews, as well as Gyp­sies (Roma), were also vic­tims of a planned and sys­tem­at­ic pro­gram of geno­cide. This fact is cru­cial in ana­lyz­ing the Bosn­ian civ­il war of 1992–1995.The Holo­caust in Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina, from 1941 to 1945 revealed the frag­ile and pre­car­i­ous eth­nic, reli­gious, and cul­tur­al bal­ance and the incom­pat­i­ble and con­flict­ing eth­nic, reli­gious, nation­al­ist, and polit­i­cal agen­das of the pop­u­la­tion of Bosnia.

The Pol­ish jurist Raphael Lemkin, who devel­oped the con­cept of “geno­cide” and was instru­men­tal in post-war efforts to cre­ate inter­na­tion­al leg­is­la­tion that would pre­vent and pun­ish geno­cide, sought to ded­i­cate his effo
rts so that mankind would learn from the expe­ri­ences of his­to­ry. The Geno­cide Con­ven­tion of 1948 result­ed.

The word “geno­cide” was coined by Raphael Lemkin in Axis Rule in Occu­pied Europe (1944) because “mass mur­ders” and “dena­tion­al­iza­tion” did not encom­pass the mag­ni­tude of the crime. In 1933, Lemkin pro­posed at the Fifth Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence for the Uni­fi­ca­tion of Crim­i­nal Law, spon­sored by the League of Nations, that geno­cide be regard­ed an inter­na­tion­al crime. His pro­pos­al was reject­ed. Lemkin described how he coined the word “geno­cide” as fol­lows:

This word is made from the ancient Greek word genos (race, clan) and the Latin suf­fix cide (killing)....Genocide is the crime of destroy­ing nation­al, racial or reli­gious groups... The con­science of mankind has been shocked by this type of mass bar­bar­i­ty.

Lemkin argued that geno­cide must be made an inter­na­tion­al crime because “a state would nev­er pros­e­cute a crime insti­gat­ed or backed by itself.”

In August, 1941, British Prime Min­is­ter Win­ston Churchill lament­ed in describ­ing the Ger­man sys­tem­at­ic destruc­tion and mass mur­ders of Euro­pean pop­u­la­tions as fol­lows: “We are in the pres­ence of a crime with­out a name.” Today, that crime is called geno­cide. What occurred dur­ing 1941–1945 in Bosnia-Herce­gov­ina, the sys­tem­at­ic and planned mass mur­ders and exter­mi­na­tion of the Bosn­ian Ortho­dox Serb and Bosn­ian Jew­ish and Roma pop­u­la­tions, would be termed geno­cide under present inter­na­tion­al law and the Geno­cide Con­ven­tion.


No comments for “Islam Under the Swastika”

Post a comment