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Islam Under the Swastika

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

by Carl Savich

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 ìArab inhab­i­tantsî. 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.Ý 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 ìter­ror­is­mî 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 ìcreed and state, book and sword, and a way of life.î 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 ìfree­dom fight­er­sî 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 real name is Mohammed el Hus­sei­ni, the Mufti is stat
ed to be a ìdis­tant rel­a­tiveî 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 ìpo­lit­i­cal depart­men­tî 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 ìthe Fuehrer received your let­ter dat­ed Jan­u­ary 20thÖHe took great inter­est in what you wrote him about the nation­al strug­gle of the Arab­sÖ Ger­many Ö is ready to coop­er­ate with you and to give you all pos­si­ble mil­i­tary and finan­cial helpÖ Ger­many is pre­pared to deliv­er to you imme­di­ate­ly mil­i­tary material.î Abwehr, Ger­man intel­li­gence, estab­lished con­tacts with the Mufti at this time.

Nazi Ger­many sent arms and air­craft to the Muftiís 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 ìwhere he is known to have many friend­sî. 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 ìgreat­est foe of Islamî: ìI invite all my Mus­lim broth­ers through­out the whole world to join in the holy war for AllahÖ­to pre­serve Islam, your inde­pen­dence and your lands from Eng­lish aggression.î 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 Muftiís All Islam­ic Con­fer­ence were Bosn­ian Mus­lim lead­erÝ 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:Ý Two Bosn­ian Mus­lim Waf­fen SS Divi­sions, an Alban­ian Waf­fen SS Divi­sion in Koso­vo-Meto­hi­ja and West­ern Mace­do­nia, the 21st Waf­fen Gebirgs Divi­sion der SS ìSkan­der­begî, 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,Ý 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 (ìin­sur­gentsî), 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 ìfa­ther of his coun­tryî, he called for the exter­mi­na­tion of the Serbs in Croa­t­ia and Bosnia, ìa race fit for the slaugh­ter­houseî. The Pres­i­dent or
Poglavnik 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 ìPî for Pravoslavac, Ortho­dox. In Belo­var, Serbs were forced to wear a red arm­band with the word ìSer­bî. The NDH adopt­ed the Nurem­berg racial laws and began the incar­cer­a­tion of Jews., who were forced to wear a yel­low band with the let­ter ìZî, for Zidov, Jew.

On Sep­tem­ber 25,1941, under decree-law, No. 1528–2101-Z-1941, the cre­ation of ìassem­bly or work camps for unde­sir­able and dan­ger­ous per­son­sî 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 ìLe­gionî 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.Ý 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 Miljkovicís 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 ìPro­tec­tor of Islamî. 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.Ý 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 Ö Such is the fate of all new ideas. I was told, ìYouíre ruin­ing the for­ma­tion of the Croa­t­ian stateî and ìNo one will vol­un­teerîÖ. 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. Himm­lerís 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 wan
ted to cre­ate an ìSS recruit­ing zoneî, an SS State admin­is­tra­tion in north­east­ern Bosnia to ìre­store orderî. 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:Ý ìThe basis for the Ustasha move­ment is reli­gion. For minori­ties such as Serbs, Jews, and Gyp­sies, we have three mil­lion bullets.î 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 ìBosni­anî 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.

Pavelicís 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 ìFi­nal Solu­tion to the Jew­ish Ques­tionî 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 Bosni­aís 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.

ÝThe Ser­bian Ortho­dox pop­u­la­tion was the largest eth­nic group n Bosnia-Hercegovina.ÝAccording 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:Ý 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 destroyedÝ 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

ÝIn 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.Ý 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 ìHandzarî (or ìHand­scharî in Ger­man) from the Turk­ish hanch­er, ìdag­gerî, from Ara­bic khangar, ìdag­gerî, and the 23rd Waf­fen Gebirgs Divi­sion der SS ìKa­maî, from Turk­ish kama, ìdag­ger, dirkî. Dur­ing the war, Reichs­fuehrer-SS Hein­rich Himm­ler, the ìar­chi­tect of the Holo­caustî, 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 ìpro­tec­tive rankî or ìde­fen­sive squadronî in Ger­man, was a branch of the Ger­man Nation­al Social­ist Work­erís 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 (ìstorm troop­er­sî in Ger­man) which was head­ed by Ernst Roehm. In 1929,Himmler became the leader of the SS. On June 30,1934, the ìNight of the Long Knivesî (ìdie Nacht der lan­gen Messerî), Himm­lerís 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 orga­ni­za­ti
on and every indi­vid­ual mem­ber of the SS to be a war crim­i­nal guilty of ìplan­ning and car­ry­ing out crimes against humanity.î

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 rep­re­sent­edÝ 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 ìKa­maî wore a field-green fez, while offi­cers wore a red or maroon fez. On the fez itself appeared the Totenkopf (Deathís 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 ìhancherî and ìka­maî, which in Turk­ish mean ìdag­gerî, were sym­bol­ic of Islam and Islam­ic military/political pow­er and the Islam­ic state. The Turk­ish word ìhancherî is derived from the Ara­bic word ìkhangarî, ìdag­gerî. 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 ìhandzarî and ìka­maî. 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 ìBosnien-Herzegowinaî(SS Div.BH), Musel­ma­nen Divi­sion (Mus­lim Divi­sion), 13.SS-Bosniaken-Gebirgs-Division, Bosnisch-Herze­gowinis­che SS Gebirgs­di­vi­sion ìKroa­t­ienî.

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.Ý 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,Ý 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 ìSkan­der­begî 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: ìI was only sev­en­teen years old when I joined the SS. I found the phys­i­cal train­ing to be quite easy.î

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,í as an army of five SS moun­tain divi­sions Ö are the goal for 1944.

Adolf Hitler approved the for­ma­tion of the sec­ond Bosn­ian Mus­lim Waf­fen SS Divi­sion, 23rd Waf­fen Gebirgs Divi­sion der SSÝ ìKa­maî, 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 yourÝÝ 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, Nation­al- Social­ist Ger­many is fight­ing against world Jew­ry. The Koran says: ìYou will find that the Jews are the worst ene­mies of the Muslims.î 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 ìcream of Islamî 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, Islamís 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 peo­plesÖ. My ene­myís 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 Ö 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 Himm­lerís dona­tions to Bosn­ian Mus­lim fam­i­lies of the Divi­sionís 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 divi­sionís imams as well as in the names of the hun­dreds of thou­sands of Bosni­aís poor in I pledge that we are pre­pared to lay down our lives in bat­tle for the great leader AdolfÝ 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.Ý Himm­ler stat­ed that the imams were the ìide­o­log­i­cal teach­ers in the bat­tal­ions.

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

Bosni­aís best sons are serv­ing in the SSÖAfter vic­to­ry is achieved, a new, impor­tant task must be completed—the imple­men­ta­tion of the New OrderÖ. 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 lifeÖ.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 worldís 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, ìThey are your ene­my and Allahís enemy.î 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 ìcham­pi­on of the lib­er­a­tion of the Asi­at­ic peo­ples from the yoke of the British and Jew­ish capitalist.î In a broad­cast of Sep­tem­ber 20,1944, he declared:

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

On Novem­ber 11, 1943, over Radio Bari, the Mufti ìmy peo­pleî 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 hand­sÖHow would the Amer­i­cans dare to Judaize Palestine?ÖThe 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 ì com­mon Jew­ish-Anglo-Bol­she­vik ene­myî. On March 1,1944, the Grand Mufti issued from Berlin the fol­low­ing call to all Mus­lims: ìKill the Jews wher­ev­er you find them. This pleas­es God, his­to­ry, and reli­gion. This saves your hon­or. Allah is with you.î More­over, the Mufti called upon Bosn­ian Mus­lims to ìtake revenge and to pun­ishî Bosn­ian Serb Ortho­dox Chris­tians. Numer­ous eye­wit­ness accounts tes­ti­fied that the Handzar Divi­sion com­mit­ted the ìworst atroc­i­ties against the Ser­bian population.î 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 Muftiís 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 ìstrong step­sî be tak­en to con­vince the NDH regime that is was sup­posed to be a pup­pet regime:Ý ìI expect to receive, by August 1, 1943, your report that the divi­sion, at a strength of about 26,000 men, is com­plete­ly ready.î Himm­ler ordered Got­t­lob Berg­er to send Kam­mer­hofer two mil­lion Reichs­marks to fund the recruit­ing effort for the Handzar divi­sion. Unlike most SS offi­cial
s, 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 War I and his belief that Islam was an ide­al reli­gion for a sol­dier. Himm­ler stat­ed to Joseph Goebbels that he hadÝ ìnoth­ing 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!î Himm­lerís 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 Himm­lerís 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:Ý ìThese 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.î

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 ìal­ways be loy­alî 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 ìKroat­is­che No.1 and No.2î respec­tive­ly to appease the Ustasha NDH regime. Himm­ler ini­tial­ly envi­sioned a divi­sion made up entire­ly of Mus­lims. Sauberzweig stat­ed that ìover 90% of the divi­sionís sol­diers were Mus­lim­sî 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 ì300 or soî to 2,800. After a vis­it to Zagreb on May 5, 1943, Himm­ler stip­u­lat­ed that the ratio of Roman Catholics to Mus­lims ìwas not to exceed 1:10.î 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.Ý 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 ìvic­tim­sî 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. ÖThe 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 RiverÖThey are throw­ing Serbs alive into chasms and are burn­ing whole fam­i­lies locked in their home­sÖOut­side of Zagreb the strongest Ustasha hotbed is Sara­jevoÖThe 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 ìvic­tim­sî and had no com­plic­i­ty in the geno­cide against Bosn­ian Serbs was devel­oped after World War II to main­tain the Com­mu­nist pol­i­cy of ìbroth­er­hood and uni­tyî 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 ìvic­tim­sî 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 ìwhen 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.îÝ The Alban­ian divi­sion would be the 21st Waf­fen Gebirgs Divi­sion der SS ìSkan­der­begî, 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 ìre­store orderî, it assumed con­trol over its own muni­tions, with­out con­sult­ing NDH offi­cials, placed civil­ian author­i­ty under Mus­lim con­trol, and ìliq­ui­dat­edî 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 mem­bers 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 ìpaci­fi­ca­tionî of the pop­u­la­tion, which con­sist­ed of geno­cide and eth­nic cleans­ing ofÝ 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.î The Mus­lim SS Divi­sions fol­lowed a pol­i­cy of eth­nic cleans­ing (cis­cen­je, in Ser­bo-Croat), ìcleans­ing the land of ban­dits and eth­nic ene­miesî from a direc­tive for the divi­sions. In the Brcko and Bijelji­na regions of north­ern and east­ern Bosnia, units of the Handzar Divi­sion ìbutchered every­one not wear­ing a fezî (ìklali su sve sto nije nosi­lo fesî) 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 ìex­ter­mi­nate ene­mies, exter­mi­nate the com­mu­ni­ty, but leave intact the hous­es, land and effects of the enemies.î 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 (ìcis­tih nar­o­d­nih nasel­jaî in Ser­bo-Croat, from a 1944 report).

The two Mus­lim SS Divi­sions were assist­ed in their ìpaci­fi­ca­tionî pro­gram by the Nazi for­ma­tion, Zeleni Kadar (ìGreen Cadresî 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 ìunit­ed Mus­lim pha­langeî 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. Himm­lerís liai­son offi­cer at Hitlerís head­quar­ters, SS Brigade­fuehrer Her­mann Fegelein, who had com­mand­ed the 8th SS Kaval­lerie Divi­sion ìFlo­ri­an Gey­erî 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 Fegeleinís account with, ìDas ist Wurstî (Ger­man, lit­er­al­ly, ìthat is sausageî, mean­ing, ìthat is non­senseî). Her­mann Schif­fer­deck­er, an offi­cer who served on the Handzar divi­sion staff, dis­missed these accounts in 1992, stat­ing that Her­mann Fegelein ìhad obvi­ous­ly read too much Karl May dur­ing his youth.î 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.Ý Under Sauberzweigís 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 ìthe ene­my gone, hav­ing mur­dered all of the townís inhabitants.î 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 ìthe ene­myî. 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 Oper­a­tionÝ Sign­post ( Unternehmen Weg­weis­er) orders, had writ­ten that ìre­straint was only nec­es­sary in deal­ing with the local eth­nic Ger­man pop­u­la­tionî because the Bosut was ìnot inhab­it­ed by Muslims.î 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, nati
onal­ist, and polit­i­cal agen­das of the pop­u­la­tion of Bosnia.

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

The word ìgeno­cideî was coined by Raphael Lemkin in Axis Rule in Occu­pied Europe (1944) because ìmass mur­der­sî and ìde­na­tion­al­iza­tionî 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 ìgeno­cideî 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 ì a state would nev­er pros­e­cute a crime insti­gat­ed or backed by itself.î

In August, 1941, British Prime Min­is­ter Win­ston Churchill lament­ed in describ­ing the Ger­man sys­tem­at­ic destruc­tion and mass mur­ders of Euro­pean pop­u­la­tions as fol­lows: ìWe are in the pres­ence of a crime with­out a name.î 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.


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