Handschar

Handschar

Contemporary Muslim World

Handschar
13th SS MOUNTAIN DIVISION

Author(s): Mario Werhas & Božidar Mikulčić

Reviewed by: Abdullah Drury, University of Waikato, New Zealand

 

Review

This book will be a significant asset to anyone interested in military history, or anyone with a fetish for fezes. During World War Two the Nazis invaded Yugoslavia and between 1943 and 1945 they recruited thousands of wellintentioned young Muslim men to serve in three distinct Waffen-SS divisions in order to fight Marxism. Both parties were thinking of the old Austrian-era, Bosnian-Muslim infantry units that had fought with great distinction during World War One. Consequently, the Waffen-SS divisions were dressed in fezes rather than standard German army caps, and allowed a mullah rather than a chaplain to accompany them. However, their military performance was mixed and ultimately, as the German forces retreated, the men either deserted or were left to fight alone. In the final analysis German protection proved conditional, tentative and illusory. Following the swings and roundabouts of Communist victory in the Balkans, most of the men were gaoled and many murdered. In either case their reputation and latent motives were tarnished by a deliberate obfuscation of the real history of the unit, often mired in lucid accusations of atrocities. The limited paperwork available and the demise of most participants (either through execution or old age) have left modern scholars with limited options for precise research. There remains indeed a serious paucity of information.


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