The quality of the Handschar division

Discussions on the foreigners (volunteers as well as conscripts) fighting in the German Wehrmacht, those collaborating with the Axis and other period Far Right organizations. Hosted by George Lepre.
sandeepmukherjee196
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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 01 Sep 2016 09:06

Mujo wrote:
...Followed by the "infamous" decorations - in - a- latrine - bucket riposte from Sepp Dietrich!
The supposed reaction taken by the LSSAH to this order is not in question here. Its their lackluster performance which brought it about. Clearly Hitler expected more from them. Men of the Handschar division lost their right to a divisional armband in a similar fall from grace.
Any open combat with significant regular enemy forces anywhere.
Apparently I need to bring up the Apatin and Batina bridgeheads again. Or maybe I should point out the elephant in the room at this point and bring up the fact that the Soviets did not advance further into Yugoslavia past Belgrade (with the intent of knocking NDH Croatia out of the war), that their primary objective was either cutting off the German retreat in Austria or continuing onto Berlin. And that as a result the German strategy was that of general withdrawal out of the Balkans and had hardly ever involved stand and fight orders.

Individuals betrayed at various points. Himmler betrayed, Schellenberg betrayed, Kaltenbrunner betrayed, Fegelein betrayed...so?
Didn't these four individuals also take the 'Meine Ehre Heisst Treue' oath? According to your own criteria they failed as officers of the organization from which they expected undying loyalty. Amusingly enough you've listed the same number of mutineers (or whatever we should call them) as those 4 Croat/Bosnian ringleaders at Villefranche. If you still dont get it, you've proven the trend for disloyal SS men from the top to bottom. And yet it was a similar handful of SS men and NCOs that enacted that company level mutiny within Handschar's engineer battalion.
A better question is, why view Himmler's betrayal as individual and brand an entire division as mutinous based on the conduct of 4 men in a single company? Why all of a sudden look for exceptions when your usual pattern of logic was that of generalizations?
Why not for that same matter judge Handschar based on the 5 officers put up for the Knights Cross? Aren't they representative of their respective unit's courage and performance?
There was some fighting with Russian forces including armoured units...
So the lack of Russian commitment to the stretch of front manned by men of the 13th Division is a fault of the division itself? And yet Handschar was a part of Op. Fruhlingserwachen where Dietrich's own veteran units did little to set the example.

Thanks. This post of yours now gives the opportunity for an objective, issue by issue, factual discussion.

Most military units and certainly all WSS formations have in some point in time turned in a lacklustre performance. But perhaps elite formations are not written off by those off colour days. Neither are lesser formations upgraded to the same elite status by that logic. A formation's reputation gets built up over time and consistency. The famous 4th Indian Division (The Red Eagles of North Africa fame), was routed ignominiously by enemy artillery fire early in the 1965 India-Pakistan war. However within the next few days the same Red Eagles helped destroy (along with other formations) the Pakistani armoured spearhead in the battle of Khemkaran - Assal Uttar, in the largest tank battle since World War II. The 12 SS HJ Div was a shadow of its former self after Normandy.

If one insists on making disproportionate military capital out of anti-partisan combat, then several other SS formations would start jostling for glory. Like the SS Karstjaeger Division/Brigade for example. Or (God forbid !) the Kaminski outfit....

The 4 SS big shots who betrayed their cause at the end havent succceeded in demolishing the image of the countless others who fell for their faith. Colonel Shaedle...Leutenant Steyr and their ilk went down spectacularly in Berlin at about that same time. And there were many many others unnamed who chose "ehre" over life. The Waffen SS as a whole didnt get disgraced by those 4 rats.

You have logically pointed out that the number of Handschar personnel who engaged in mutiny were just 4 too. Hence why should that mark the entire division. True. But I haven't based my assessment of the Division on that one instance. I have read the pattern....which includes the series of significant desertions (with arms and equipment too) when the weather turned bad.

I would repeat that my intention was never to bring down the reputation of those men of the Handschar who stayed steady and loyal till the end. There were brave, loyal capable men in this division. But as a formation it doesnt have the same credibility as that of the elite Waffen SS divisions. Thats all.
Last edited by sandeepmukherjee196 on 01 Sep 2016 15:59, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by Pena V » 01 Sep 2016 11:07

Mujo,

My original question to you was "In your opinion, how good was the 13.D "Handschar" compared to the other Waffen-SS divisions of early and mid war years (1.D "LSSAH - 23.D "Nederland")? You answered this question by saying
Mujo wrote:Why would anyone compare a mountain division to an armored division to begin with?
My answer
Pena V wrote:Why not? But if we agree that the armored divisions were better that still leaves 16 divisions:
- 6 Panzergrenadier (4. D Polizei, 11. D "Nordland", 16. D "RF-SS", 17. D "GvB", 18. D "Horst Wessel", 23. D "Nederland")
- 4 Waffen Grenadier (14. D, 15. D, 19. D, 20. D)
- 4 Gebirgs (6. "Nord", 7. "Prinz Eugen", 13. "Handschar", 21. D "Skanderbeg")
- 2 Kavallerie (8. D "Florian Geyer", 22. D Maria Theresia)
So, in your opinion, how good was the 13.D "Handschar" compared to these Waffen-SS divisions of early and mid war years? If you want to leave the Panzergrenadier divisions out of the comparison because they were at least "semi-armored" and thus better it's OK but others can be compared in spite of different circumstances, different equipment and different manpower.

Regards,

Pena V

sandeepmukherjee196
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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 01 Sep 2016 16:05

Pena V wrote:......................................

So, in your opinion, how good was the 13.D "Handschar" compared to these Waffen-SS divisions of early and mid war years? If you want to leave the Panzergrenadier divisions out of the comparison because they were at least "semi-armored" and thus better it's OK but others can be compared in spite of different circumstances, different equipment and different manpower.

Regards,

Pena V

Hi Pena...

Some of the others also had similar equipment, similar circumstances and similar manpower (non German). For instance the 33 SS Charlemagne Division and its splinters in Pomerania and Berlin; the 15th and 19th SS Latvian Divisions in Courland. The battle odds were impossible for them. The circumstances were Godawful for both. Certain defeat..and near certain death and certain torture in captivity...and of course the opprobrium of being disowned by their native governments after the war.

Cheers
Sandeep

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Mujo
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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by Mujo » 02 Sep 2016 00:26

But perhaps elite formations are not written off by those off colour days. Neither are lesser formations upgraded to the same elite status by that logic.
I won't accept this as an answer, its based on dogmatism and implies that a unit's reputation cannot change. Any Prussian regiment that fled in the face of the enemy in the days of Frederick the Great would be disgraced in any number of ways; to include the loss of a standard, the right to play the regimental marches or the most humiliating measure: the desecration of its uniforms (loss of lapels, plumes, distinguishing emblems). Likewise if a previously routed regiment proved itself, it could be restored to honor. This elite status is in large part also based on armament. Himmler's budget for the W-SS was often disproportional to its own abilities.

It also contradicts with the statement below:
A formation's reputation gets built up over time and consistency.
But even this logic now implies that a division that previously proved itself is now beyond criticism. Which is also a point of contention in this debate.
The famous 4th Indian Division (The Red Eagles of North Africa fame), was routed ignominiously by enemy artillery fire early in the 1965 India-Pakistan war
Units that claim a perpetuated lineage from war to war are not the subject of this comparison. The Waffen SS lasted less than 6 years and had no successors. A careful analysis of the British regimental system shows a good deal of unit bias and exaggerated stories of bravery especially in the aftermath of blunders. Or more importantly, a regiment's previous battle honors somehow being a factor in its espirit de corps in a contemporary conflict. The Romans had the better sense of never re-raising the legions lost at Teutoburg.
If one insists on making disproportionate military capital out of anti-partisan combat
What then about the all-German SS-Fallschirmjager Battalion 500 which was wiped out at Drvar in action with the partisans?
This disdain for the partisans as a legitimate enemy is an insult to their sacrifices and the bravery of the men on both sides.
Handschar was raised as a mountain division with light armament with the intention of fighting partisans in mountainous terrain. This, the division did commendably. The estimations of this unit need to be based on its own parameters which consider 1) purpose and 2) ability to perform designated tasks.
The Waffen SS as a whole didnt get disgraced by those 4 rats.
The Waffen SS is chock full of embarrassments and disgraces than to rely on the reputation of its leadership. The story of a 1943 massacre committed by men of the 7th SS on the families and relations of the Bosnian SS men still in training is embarrassing enough.

which includes the series of significant desertions (with arms and equipment too) when the weather turned bad.
This is down to one's own interpretation of desertion and retreat. The deserters were the ones that wanted to remain in Bosnia. The German order was for a complete pull out. They saw this as disgraceful and for choosing to stay and hold off the enemies of their own country they were branded as deserters from the German cause. The German oath was taken largely as a formality, in the hearts and minds of the division members, the defense of Bosnia was always the real goal. In this case the "weather" only got worse via desertion. Few other W-SS divisions were faced with a similar choice. Considering that most of central and northern Bosnia never fell to the partisans well into 1945, one must re-evaluate the rumors that the former 13.SS men defected to the partisans. Otherwise the same regions would've been in partisan hands earlier.
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ ... tAtlas.jpg

But as a formation it doesnt have the same credibility as that of the elite Waffen SS divisions.
The problem is, that wasn't your original description of the division.

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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by ffbikersar » 07 Nov 2016 19:11

It is possible to download complete pdf file of David Motadel's book " Islam and Nazi Germanys War " at

http://dl.yazdanpress.ir/BOOKS/HISTORY% ... arked).pdf

Quote from the page 231:

"Handžar was mostly used for antipartisan operations in northeastern Bosnia and acquired a grim reputation for its brutality and violent excesses.67 A British liaison offi cer with Tito’s partisans reported on the division’s atrocities: “It behaves well in Moslem territory, but in Serb populated areas massacres all civil population without mercy or regard for age or sex.” 68 After the war, an officer of Handžar gave a graphic report of crimes committed by members of the division: “One woman was killed and her heart taken out, carried around and then thrown into a ditch.” 69 Hermann Fegelein, Himmler’s liaison offi cer at Hitler’s headquarters, reported to Hitler on the atrocities of Handžar during a military briefi ng on 6 April 1944, describing how the Muslim division had spread fear across the Balkans: “They kill them with only the knife. There was a man who was wounded. He had his arm tied up and with the left hand still fi nished off 17 enemies. There are also cases where they cut out their enemy’s heart.” 70 Hitler was not interested. “I couldn’t care less” (Das ist Wurst), he replied, and carried on with the meeting’s agenda. A few months later, an internal Wehrmacht report noted: “Muslims have done very well, and so they must be extensively supported and strengthened by military and civil agencies.” 71 Berger, too, was impressed, declaring that “fi ghting against Tito and the Communists thus becomes for the Moslems a holy war.” 72 When Kersten asked him about Handžar’s military per for mance, he replied: “First class, they are as tough as the best German divisions were at the beginning of the war. They regard their weapons as sacred. . . . The Moslems cling to their fl ag with the same passionate courage, the Prophet’s ancient green fl ag with a white half- moon, stained with the blood of ancient battles, its staff splintered with bullets.” 73"

sandeepmukherjee196
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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 10 Nov 2016 16:24

" ... they are as tough as the best German divisions were at the beginning of the war..." This one is indeed a gem !!

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Mujo
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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by Mujo » 15 Mar 2017 04:39

ffbikersar wrote:It is possible to download complete pdf file of David Motadel's book " Islam and Nazi Germanys War " at

http://dl.yazdanpress.ir/BOOKS/HISTORY% ... arked).pdf

Quote from the page 231:

"Handžar was mostly used for antipartisan operations in northeastern Bosnia and acquired a grim reputation for its brutality and violent excesses.67 A British liaison offi cer with Tito’s partisans reported on the division’s atrocities: “It behaves well in Moslem territory, but in Serb populated areas massacres all civil population without mercy or regard for age or sex.” 68 After the war, an officer of Handžar gave a graphic report of crimes committed by members of the division: “One woman was killed and her heart taken out, carried around and then thrown into a ditch.” 69 Hermann Fegelein, Himmler’s liaison offi cer at Hitler’s headquarters, reported to Hitler on the atrocities of Handžar during a military briefi ng on 6 April 1944, describing how the Muslim division had spread fear across the Balkans: “They kill them with only the knife. There was a man who was wounded. He had his arm tied up and with the left hand still fi nished off 17 enemies. There are also cases where they cut out their enemy’s heart.” 70 Hitler was not interested. “I couldn’t care less” (Das ist Wurst), he replied, and carried on with the meeting’s agenda. A few months later, an internal Wehrmacht report noted: “Muslims have done very well, and so they must be extensively supported and strengthened by military and civil agencies.” 71 Berger, too, was impressed, declaring that “fi ghting against Tito and the Communists thus becomes for the Moslems a holy war.” 72 When Kersten asked him about Handžar’s military per for mance, he replied: “First class, they are as tough as the best German divisions were at the beginning of the war. They regard their weapons as sacred. . . . The Moslems cling to their fl ag with the same passionate courage, the Prophet’s ancient green fl ag with a white half- moon, stained with the blood of ancient battles, its staff splintered with bullets.” 73"
Most of the current books attempting to draw links between Handschar and Jihad are scholarly laughable. They're generally low on information. Even the recent Osprey Men at Arms "Croatian Legionaries" piece on the Handschar division is laughable. The author spends an entire page describing the reasons why the division was formed, motives, agendas etc and then gives only a vague sentence on anti partisan operations in Bosnia lasting over 8 months.

Zija Sulejmanpasic's book on the subject is one the best, it gives voice to both German and Yugoslav accounts operation by operation. Most of the massacres are relegated to the period from Op. Weigweiser into Op. Osterei and can be attributed to the Chetniks, since the same copy-and-paste allegations were later levelled against Draza Mihailovic at his trial. For example, the commanding officer of the 38th E. Bosnia Div. Miloš Zekić correctly attributes the killing of wounded partisans, rape of nurses etc to the chetniks.

The recent wave of Islamophobia hasnt done this topic any good either.

sandeepmukherjee196
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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 15 Mar 2017 09:35

On this I agree with you Mujo. It is a completely contrived premise..to equate the Handschar with Jihad ! Even the Mufti's agenda (his links with the Handschar are often quoted) was not based on Jehad. Xenophobia at Palestine at best (later turned out to be correct?).. but Jehad !!??

Cheers
Sandeep

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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by Geoffrey Cooke » 05 Jan 2021 18:48

I know this thread has been inactive for awhile but....
ffbikersar wrote:
07 Nov 2016 19:11
It is possible to download complete pdf file of David Motadel's book " Islam and Nazi Germanys War " at

http://dl.yazdanpress.ir/BOOKS/HISTORY% ... arked).pdf

Quote from the page 231:

"When Kersten asked him about Handžar’s military per for mance, he replied: “First class, they are as tough as the best German divisions were at the beginning of the war. They regard their weapons as sacred. . . . The Moslems cling to their flag with the same passionate courage, the Prophet’s ancient green fl ag with a white half- moon, stained with the blood of ancient battles, its staff splintered with bullets.”[/b] 73"
Yes, and Motadel, attempting to exaggerate Islams role as much as possible for his books sake, much like those pushing other nishe topics, would qoute this on the Handschar's performance and not the countless putdowns on its dismal performance.

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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by FlyingStukas » 06 Jan 2021 00:53

Geoffrey Cooke wrote:
05 Jan 2021 18:48
I know this thread has been inactive for awhile but....
ffbikersar wrote:
07 Nov 2016 19:11
It is possible to download complete pdf file of David Motadel's book " Islam and Nazi Germanys War " at

http://dl.yazdanpress.ir/BOOKS/HISTORY% ... arked).pdf

Quote from the page 231:

"When Kersten asked him about Handžar’s military per for mance, he replied: “First class, they are as tough as the best German divisions were at the beginning of the war. They regard their weapons as sacred. . . . The Moslems cling to their flag with the same passionate courage, the Prophet’s ancient green fl ag with a white half- moon, stained with the blood of ancient battles, its staff splintered with bullets.”[/b] 73"
Yes, and Motadel, attempting to exaggerate Islams role as much as possible for his books sake, much like those pushing other nishe topics, would qoute this on the Handschar's performance and not the countless putdowns on its dismal performance.
Can you provide any further explanation to your description of 'dismal' ?
Cheers,
Filip

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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by George Lepre » 06 Jan 2021 02:27

Hi all -

Some interesting topics have been raised here.

Regarding the Mufti's political outlook: Haj Amin was an old school Arab nationalist. He was like Nasser, not bin Laden. I still remember speaking to Djemal Ibrahomovic, the Flak Abteilung's imam, after the 9/11 attacks. He was mortified.

Regarding the division's performance in combat: when the division entered northeast Bosnia in March 1944, it was very effective. The proof is how quickly it pushed the Partisans out of the area bordered by the Sava, Bosna, Drina, and Spreca Rivers. By September of that year, after the Allied landings in France, Romania and Bulgaria changing sides, the assassination attempt against Hitler, Operation Bagration on the Eastern Front, and Turkey's continued neutrality, the division suffered from several thousand desertions. The Germans decided to disarm certain elements and sent the men to labor units.

Best regards,

George

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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by balkanguy44 » 06 Jan 2021 08:52

George Lepre wrote:
06 Jan 2021 02:27
Hi all -

Some interesting topics have been raised here.

Regarding the Mufti's political outlook: Haj Amin was an old school Arab nationalist. He was like Nasser, not bin Laden. I still remember speaking to Djemal Ibrahomovic, the Flak Abteilung's imam, after the 9/11 attacks. He was mortified.

Regarding the division's performance in combat: when the division entered northeast Bosnia in March 1944, it was very effective. The proof is how quickly it pushed the Partisans out of the area bordered by the Sava, Bosna, Drina, and Spreca Rivers. By September of that year, after the Allied landings in France, Romania and Bulgaria changing sides, the assassination attempt against Hitler, Operation Bagration on the Eastern Front, and Turkey's continued neutrality, the division suffered from several thousand desertions. The Germans decided to disarm certain elements and sent the men to labor units.

Best regards,

George
If I may add; Until today various authors try to link the division with modern-day Islamism, which is absolute nonsense.
Cheers,
BG44

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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by FlyingStukas » 08 Jan 2021 20:06

That is a great insert, George. Unfortunately, the division has been far too often linked with various rumors or has been the connective tissue for propaganda stories of such. "Muslim Nazi SS" Division is bound to interest more people in this internet age than a sit-down analysis of their operations in north and northeastern Bosnia.
Cheers,
Filip

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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by DFrolov1992 » 17 Jan 2021 02:23

Mujo wrote:
15 Mar 2017 04:39
ffbikersar wrote:It is possible to download complete pdf file of David Motadel's book " Islam and Nazi Germanys War " at

http://dl.yazdanpress.ir/BOOKS/HISTORY% ... arked).pdf

Quote from the page 231:

"Handžar was mostly used for antipartisan operations in northeastern Bosnia and acquired a grim reputation for its brutality and violent excesses.67 A British liaison offi cer with Tito’s partisans reported on the division’s atrocities: “It behaves well in Moslem territory, but in Serb populated areas massacres all civil population without mercy or regard for age or sex.” 68 After the war, an officer of Handžar gave a graphic report of crimes committed by members of the division: “One woman was killed and her heart taken out, carried around and then thrown into a ditch.” 69 Hermann Fegelein, Himmler’s liaison offi cer at Hitler’s headquarters, reported to Hitler on the atrocities of Handžar during a military briefi ng on 6 April 1944, describing how the Muslim division had spread fear across the Balkans: “They kill them with only the knife. There was a man who was wounded. He had his arm tied up and with the left hand still fi nished off 17 enemies. There are also cases where they cut out their enemy’s heart.” 70 Hitler was not interested. “I couldn’t care less” (Das ist Wurst), he replied, and carried on with the meeting’s agenda. A few months later, an internal Wehrmacht report noted: “Muslims have done very well, and so they must be extensively supported and strengthened by military and civil agencies.” 71 Berger, too, was impressed, declaring that “fi ghting against Tito and the Communists thus becomes for the Moslems a holy war.” 72 When Kersten asked him about Handžar’s military per for mance, he replied: “First class, they are as tough as the best German divisions were at the beginning of the war. They regard their weapons as sacred. . . . The Moslems cling to their fl ag with the same passionate courage, the Prophet’s ancient green fl ag with a white half- moon, stained with the blood of ancient battles, its staff splintered with bullets.” 73"
Most of the current books attempting to draw links between Handschar and Jihad are scholarly laughable. They're generally low on information. Even the recent Osprey Men at Arms "Croatian Legionaries" piece on the Handschar division is laughable. The author spends an entire page describing the reasons why the division was formed, motives, agendas etc and then gives only a vague sentence on anti partisan operations in Bosnia lasting over 8 months.

Zija Sulejmanpasic's book on the subject is one the best, it gives voice to both German and Yugoslav accounts operation by operation. Most of the massacres are relegated to the period from Op. Weigweiser into Op. Osterei and can be attributed to the Chetniks, since the same copy-and-paste allegations were later levelled against Draza Mihailovic at his trial. For example, the commanding officer of the 38th E. Bosnia Div. Miloš Zekić correctly attributes the killing of wounded partisans, rape of nurses etc to the chetniks.

The recent wave of Islamophobia hasnt done this topic any good either.
The book Sulejmanpasić is an incoherent set of personal author's conjectures not supported by serious references to archival documents, thereby leaving room for stupid reasoning on the topic of finding convenient persons involved in the recorded acts of violence in Srem and Bosnia in the spring of 1944. In particular, the document of the department Ic 227/44 ( Lagebericht Nr. 8 für die Zeit vom 1.3.-6.4.44) "does not indicate a single Chetnik unit in the areas of operation" Wegweiser "or" Sava "with which the SS men would interact. In this case, how the prolonged presence of the division in this territory could ignore the activities of the Chetnik detachments and who, in your opinion, could be responsible for these crimes? In addition, the degree of control by the Chetniks of the areas of further operations before the start of "Maibaum" is noteworthy, which is clearly seen from document Ic 773/44.

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Re: The quality of the Handschar division

Post by Geoffrey Cooke » 30 Jan 2021 23:51

FlyingStukas wrote:
06 Jan 2021 00:53
Geoffrey Cooke wrote:
05 Jan 2021 18:48
I know this thread has been inactive for awhile but....
ffbikersar wrote:
07 Nov 2016 19:11
It is possible to download complete pdf file of David Motadel's book " Islam and Nazi Germanys War " at

http://dl.yazdanpress.ir/BOOKS/HISTORY% ... arked).pdf

Quote from the page 231:

"When Kersten asked him about Handžar’s military per for mance, he replied: “First class, they are as tough as the best German divisions were at the beginning of the war. They regard their weapons as sacred. . . . The Moslems cling to their flag with the same passionate courage, the Prophet’s ancient green fl ag with a white half- moon, stained with the blood of ancient battles, its staff splintered with bullets.”[/b] 73"
Yes, and Motadel, attempting to exaggerate Islams role as much as possible for his books sake, much like those pushing other nishe topics, would qoute this on the Handschar's performance and not the countless putdowns on its dismal performance.
Can you provide any further explanation to your description of 'dismal' ?
A mass mutiny a few months into their operational service strikes me as ‘dismal’

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