Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

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MrHolmes32
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Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

Post by MrHolmes32 » 12 May 2022 15:58

An unverified claim exists that a small number of Orthodox (likely Serb) volunteers or conscripts were enlisted into the 13. Waffen-Gebirgs-Division der SS "Handschar".
For example, George Lepre's book - " Himmler's Bosnian Division" mentions mustering of the Orthodox troops. Sadly I do not have access to the book at the moment so I cannot post the specific quote.

Is there more information about Orthodox soldiers in this Division and if so, how many of them served in it?

Attached picture shows a poster of the SS-Division "Handschar" addressing Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox people of Bosnia.


Cheers,
Mr. Holmes
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balkanguy44
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Re: Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

Post by balkanguy44 » 12 May 2022 17:06

MrHolmes32 wrote:
12 May 2022 15:58
An unverified claim exists that a small number of Orthodox (likely Serb) volunteers or conscripts were enlisted into the 13. Waffen-Gebirgs-Division der SS "Handschar".
For example, George Lepre's book - " Himmler's Bosnian Division" mentions mustering of the Orthodox troops. Sadly I do not have access to the book at the moment so I cannot post the specific quote.

Is there more information about Orthodox soldiers in this Division and if so, how many of them served in it?

Attached picture shows a poster of the SS-Division "Handschar" addressing Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox people of Bosnia.


Cheers,
Mr. Holmes
Hello Mr. Holmes, :welcome:

As far as I know, I think that there was an idea to recruit Orthodox volunteers, but I am not aware that such posters were actually used.

Lepre mentions in his book that there was cooperation between the "Handschar" and the Chetniks, but he does not mention any recruitment attempts (at least I did not find anything in the book!).

Maybe Ivan Z. can help us out.

PS: A few Orthodox men from Ukraine served in the "Handschar".

Cheers
Cheers,
BG44

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Re: Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

Post by Blanusa » 12 May 2022 18:14

Hello,

Found in a footnote in the book by George Lepre:
A planned mustering set for 28 April 1944 in Brčko failed - the Serbian Orthodox refused to report (13. SS-Division, Ic 1092/44 geheim, dated 1 May 1944, "Ic-Nachrichtenblatt Nr. 5"). Erich Braun later stated that mustering of the native Catholic and Serbian Orthodox males was postponed until "after the war" (Interview with Erich Braun conducted on 3 June 1993)

Best regards
Blanusa

MrHolmes32
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Re: Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

Post by MrHolmes32 » 12 May 2022 18:25

Greetings Blanusa,


Thanks a lot, this was the quote I was looking for.
I cannot figure out from the context whether the "mustering" is referring to mobilization of Catholic and Orthodox men or something else. Perhaps I was mistaken to understand it as "mustering of the Orthodox troops".


Cheers,
Mr. Holmes

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Re: Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

Post by Blanusa » 13 May 2022 17:08

Hello,

Mustering means the Serbian Orthodox men were called for to appear in Brčko where they would be examined and tested and if found suitable, they would have then been recruited, or enlisted or pressed into service if you will. As the text makes clear, they refused to report. I have seen a similar development with the mustering of Estonian swedes in Estonia, where many simply ignored the orders to appear or escaped to Sweden after having already signed up for service, but before being gathered to be shipped off to training.


Best regards
Blanusa

MrHolmes32
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Re: Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

Post by MrHolmes32 » 13 May 2022 17:37

Hello Blanusa,


Thank you for the explanation. That does indeed make sense.
Even though the recruitment of Orthodox men obviously failed terribly, this proves that there was an idea, at the very least. While this is not supported by any factual information, I personally find it very likely that at least a few Orthodox men did make their way into the Division.

I believe that if anyone knows something about this, it would be George Lepre... :D


Cheers,
Mr. Holmes

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Re: Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

Post by George Lepre » 14 May 2022 13:54

Hi Mr. Holmes -

Back in the 1990s, when I was interviewing former Handschar division members, I recall the pioneer battalion's physician, Dr. Wilfried Schweiger, stating that there were a few Orthodox men in his unit, Pi. Btl. 13.

George

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Re: Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

Post by FlyingStukas » 20 May 2022 23:09

George Lepre wrote:
14 May 2022 13:54
Hi Mr. Holmes -

Back in the 1990s, when I was interviewing former Handschar division members, I recall the pioneer battalion's physician, Dr. Wilfried Schweiger, stating that there were a few Orthodox men in his unit, Pi. Btl. 13.

George
Thanks for the valuable input, George!

All the best :thumbsup:
Cheers,
Filip

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Re: Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

Post by balkanguy44 » 26 May 2022 10:02

Hello, -

While reading a book, I came across something interesting. According to the book by Xavier B. (about the ‘Handschar’), in May 1944, about 2% of the soldiers were Serbs (Orthodox Christians). He refers to a document of the partisans.

Here it is, '17. divizija, 3. korpusa, 28 maj 1944, ATK, fond NOR, jedinica 14, dok. 842.'

PS: to add, according to the same document, 91% Muslims (including Albanians) and 7% Croats. It just refers to regular soldiers, not the officers, or any other higher ranks.
Cheers,
BG44

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Ivan Ž.
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Re: Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

Post by Ivan Ž. » 26 May 2022 13:32

Hello, everyone

Once again, a reminder: while the Croatian authorities generally referred to their Serbian citizens as the Orthodox (in an attempt to create a one-nation state, with three religions), it doesn't mean that all the Serbs were Orthodox nor that all the Orthodox were Serbs. As I recently wrote in another thread, regarding Yugoslav Germans, people did change their religion (usually for marital reasons) and surnames as well. So one's religion (or surname) does not automatically determine their ethnicity.

Cheers,
Ivan

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Re: Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

Post by balkanguy44 » 26 May 2022 14:04

Ivan Ž. wrote:
26 May 2022 13:32
Once again, a reminder: while the Croatian authorities generally referred to their Serbian citizens as the Orthodox (in an attempt to create a one-nation state, with three religions), it doesn't mean that all the Serbs were Orthodox nor that all the Orthodox were Serbs. As I recently wrote in another thread, regarding Yugoslav Germans, people did change their religion (usually for marital reasons) and surnames as well. So one's religion (or surname) does not automatically determine their ethnicity.

Cheers,
Ivan
I agree with you, Ivan. In this case, Xavier B. used ‘Serbs’ (I added ‘Orthodox Christians’). Interestingly, Xavier B. did also point out that quite a few of the so-called ‘Albanian’ volunteers (of the ‘Handschar’) were, in fact, (Slavic) Muslims (from the Novi Pazar area).

Again, thank you for pointing out an important issue!
Cheers,
BG44

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Ivan Ž.
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Re: Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

Post by Ivan Ž. » 26 May 2022 14:59

Yes, besides the territory of the NDH, the initial divisional manpower was also recruited in Sandžak (Novi Pazar area), and Germany (Nachr.Abt.). There's a document with early volunteers' statistics and I remember the Novi Pazar volunteers being listed separately there. But I can't remember the document's signature, and my attempt to find it just now failed miserably (if Dmitrii reads this, he'll probably know & tell us where it is).

An excerpt from a similar document, stating that by 25.04.1943, about 8000 to 10000 men were recruited in Sandžak (1/3 of the div. manpower).
T175 R70 2587174.jpg
Source: NARA, T-175, r. 70, 2587174.

Cheers,
Ivan
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Re: Orthodox Volunteers in the SS-Division "Handschar"

Post by balkanguy44 » 26 May 2022 23:23

Interesting, Ivan. Well, ‘Bosniaken’, in this case, must be men from northeastern Bosnia.
Cheers,
BG44

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