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PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 11:54 pm 
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THIS WILL BE AN UPDATED SERIES, in-depth study, written in the style of Osprey's Waffen SS soldier.
None of the illustrations are mine.
Alot of the info is from Mr. Lepre's Himmler's Bosnian Division book.
Various sources, some translated.
Illustrations come from Stephen Andrew, Velimir Vuksic and Ron Volstad.
Where some of the pictures came from I dont know, some were just e-mailed to me.



First Chapter
Introduction to the SS-Gebirgsjager, Recruiting and Forming of the 13.SS-Frw.b.h. Gebirgs Division Handschar

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The need for an SS Gebirgsjager
Following the Rohm Putsch in 1934, SS-Reichsfuhrer Himmler had great ambitions for his elite SS formations. The SA coup d-etat was the first step in SS taking over, second step was from SS-Verfugungstrupe to Waffen-SS in 1940. The Wehrmacht, despite difficulties, managed to deploy a succesful mountain troops on all fronts, from the Arctic to Monte Cassino and from the Western Alps to the Caucasus. The more succesful they were, the more determined Himmler was to make his own SS equivalent.
Mountain SS units would soon accompany their brothers in arms in the Wehrmacht on all fronts. Due to recruiting methods, they would always be stronger in manpower and their SS status would usually result in better equipment. Nonetheless, the cooperation was sometimes so strong that Wehrmacht units would be merged into SS battle groups under SS command. Only the coming events would bring to surface the differences between the professional Army mountain soldier and the Waffen-SS Mountaineer.

Terminology and History
Gebirgs-jager...literally Mountain Hunter, light infantry. Usually equipped with more subdued uniforms than regular troops, operating in smaller dispersed but coordinated teams to achieve maximum concealment and effectiveness. In the beginning, Jager troops from alpine areas were pressed into service as mountain troops to combat the enemy's equivalent such as the Italian Alpini and French Chausser Alpins of WW1. Austria-Hungary fared better than its allied German counterparts, and when Italy declared war on it in 1915 it was more than prepared with 14 Gebirgsbrigades. Since the empire posessed large territories of mountainous and Alpine regions it was more than a tradition to have well trained Gebirgstruppen. They would soon show their value in the Italian Alps. Many of the first men were by no means experienced climbers, they did however come from parts of the country where they had experienced rugged terrain and cold weather, whether through skiing, hiking or winter camping trips.

The Balkan SS-Mountain Corps
Early on, Himmler had plans for an SS-Mountain Corps in the South. That process began with the formation of 7th SS-Freiwilligen Gebirgsjager Prinz Eugen Division in march of 1942. It was made up of Volksdeutsche from the Yugoslavian, Romanian and Hungarian territories with a total of 21,500 members at it's peak. It became Handschar's sister division in early 1943, helped out with it's recruitment effort and provided alot of NCOs and officers for the nucleus of the newly established division.

Himmler and the Old Bosnian Tradition:
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1895-Bosnian Infanterie of the Austrian Army
"I hope to reach out to a people who today stand apart from the Croatian State and have a long tradition and attachment to the Reich, which we can utilize militarily."
H.Himmler

Another publication stated:
“During the First World War, the Bosnian - Herzegovinian regiments achieved eternal glory. Their valor was proverbial…now the Fuhrer has provided them with the opportunity to fight in the ranks of the
Waffen-SS for a better future of our continent and our own homeland. They have voluntarily answered the Poglavnik’s call…and shall be armed and equipped to take their place as German soldiers among the other people’s of Europe.”

There were many Bosnians who looked at the era of Austrian rule with a sort of nostalgia, the friendly nature towards the Reich was revealed by the Bosnian Islamic population in 1941 when thousands of Bosnians volunteered for the eastern front, it can be said that most favored political autonomy under the protection of the Germans. Himmler believed the Islamic faith fostered fearless soldiers and was nonetheless fascinated by the religion and sought to create a division of these men. He also subscribed to the idea that Croats and therefore Bosnians were not Slavs, but descendants of 7th century Goths. Muslims autonomists backed this idea by bringing up the radical racial differences between them and the darker haired and darker skinned Serbs and even Croats. One of the many goals was to bring neutral Turkey and 350 million Muslims around the world into the war and to start rebellions and take-over’s in the countries of allied rule. The reason we will focus on in this study is Bosnia's Gebirgsjager tradition, and the revival of the old Bosnian mountain regiments that gained so much fame on the fronts of World War One. 13.SS-Frw.b.h. Gebirgs Division Handschar was probably one of the most political divisions of the Waffen SS, right up there with 1.SS-Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler. This study will focus on it's military aspect.

Recruiting
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One of the first recruiting posters, it shows a German SS-Schutze standing alongside a Bosnian Muslim SS-Rottenfuhrer. Most likely an early 1943 painting, the Schachbrett is incorrectly painted under the chevron.
It reads: “Bosnians! Step into the ranks of the Waffen-SS, protect your beautiful homeland, your wives and children.”
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First volunteers arrive at Aufstellungsstab HQ at Savska Cesta 77, Zagreb.
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Bosnian volunteers. Notice the Croatian Army deserters at the front of the line.
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First meal as SS recruits.

By April 14 1943, 8,000 men had already stepped forward to fill the division's ranks. Recruiting became tougher, different tactics were adopted, and in the end, around 2,800 Croatian Catholics made it into the division, much to Himmler's chagrin. The Croats had their own idea of the Division's name and mission, and have been known to interfere with the recruiting. Ustasa members were reported tearing down recruiting posters at night when the curfew was in effect. The Croats were going to name the Division, "SS Ustasa Division," whose regiments would have Croatian names and would be subjugated under Ustasa command. However the Germans had other plans.

Erich Braun:
..some of these men arrived in clothing that was simply indescribable. When they received their new SS uniforms, they were overjoyed. This caused some problems, for their new appearance in the new uniforms in (Zagreb) left such an impression that troops from Pavelic's own bodyguard began to come in (seeking admission to the division), some even leaving their posts. Eventually, several Ustasa officers arrived to pick them up"
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The first recruits would be issued the SS M43 field jacket/tunic. In the forming stages they would not be issued collar tabs, just shoulder boards and the SS eagle on the left sleeve. NCOs with prior experience did get the rank tab and collar piping by early May. The actual M43 Fez was a later issue.

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First volunteers putting on their uniforms. Notice the SS M40 side cap on the recruit second from right.
During training and field operations many of the recruits would wear the side cap.

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Before and After- new military footwear, Bergschuhe, heavy mountain boots.

one officer commented on the uniform issue:
"Some of the men took their newly issued uniforms and sold them on the black market. They would then report in again the next day as if they were new. Volunteers who had achieved a particular rank in another service were inducted at one grade lower, but it came apparent that for a few thousand kuna, the inductees could obtain certificates from the Ustasa stating that they had served as NCOs in their forces. The men would then be awarded appropriate ranks in the division, altough they have never been soldiers. We eventually learned of these "Balkanism," but it took time."

Prinz Eugen and other SS Divisions now had to provide more non-commissioned officers and officers due to the fact that before the war Muslims occupied very little high military positions, primarily because Serbs dominated most of them, it was their country...same thing would happen in NDH Croatia, Croats would fill the positions of officials and governance. Alot of the would-be high ranking Bosnian SS officers would be the WW1 veterans of the Bosnian regiments with prior experience. The Imams also held an officer position.

May 12 1943, a ceremony was held in Zagreb's Festival Square as a solemn induction of the Bosnians into the Waffen SS. The actual oath was not taken that day as it was not ready. The Germans were confused as to which dictator the Bosnians should swear to, Pavelic or Hitler like the rest of the SS. The enlisted men wore steel helmets, new uniforms without any collar tabs. The officers wore Sig Runes and red fezzes for the first time. Footage of this actual event is actually available.

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Von Obwurzer (current commander, transferred from 6. SS-Division Nord) ended the ceremony labeling the volunteers as "the sons of a people who were soldierly and battle-proven through the centuries."

_________________
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Handzaru Udaraj!


Last edited by 42gunner on Thu Apr 01, 2010 2:07 am, edited 11 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 11:59 pm 
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Hi Gunner :D
Some good pics kamerad but i think this topic (the write up part) has more
or less been covered, still nice to see a new point of view.

Good hunting, Pipes :wink:

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"Stride with proud disdain through the swamp of human inadmissibility" Jochen Peiper 1915-1976
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SS-Gren/Heinrich Stohler, Second Battle Group


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 12:04 am 
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Peiper wrote:
Hi Gunner :D
Some good pics kamerad but i think this topic (the write up part) has more
or less been covered, still nice to see a new point of view.

Good hunting, Pipes :wink:


I've researched the unit for 5-6 years now....never found many quotes or first hand accounts of what happened. Im ignoring alot of the political stuff here and bringing an insight into the firsthand experience of the times...weapons used and everything else.

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Handzaru Udaraj!


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 2:41 am 
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Training and Forming
It can be said that "terrain dictates military operations in mountainous terrain." Such was the case in Bosnia in the counter-insurgency fight that was raging in the early 1940s. A new type of soldier was needed, one who knew the terrain and the people because....at the same time your aim was to win the hears and minds of the people as well as isolate and destroy enemy cells of resistance.
To replicate the mountainous terrain of northern Bosnia, the Division trained in southern France. Six local departments would be prepared to accommodate the training of the division: Puy de Dome, Cantal, Haute Loire, Aveyron, Lozere and Correze. Division's Headquarters being in Le Puy for some time. It was around late June that the actual 5th SS Mountain Corps staff was formed and SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Artur Phelps was chosen to lead it.
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Signal Battalion 1st Company’s arrival to Le Puy, France, 3 July 1943

The first Bosnians to reach the area belonged to an advance party of about 180 men from Wildflecken on 10 July. Five days later the first edition of the division’s newspaper was published, the name of the newspaper was “Handzar” (pronounced Hanjar). The name itself was of high significance. It was a sword carried by Ottoman policemen during their occupation of Bosnia, later on it re-appeared on the coat of arms of Bosnia under Austro-Hungarian occupation. Obergruppenfuhrer Berger discussed the name a month earlier, and everyone knew it had to become the Division’s symbol.
The newspaper was bilingual, prepared by the divisional staff to indoctrinate the men. It contained articles of SS history, history of the old Bosnian regiments of the Austrian army, quotes from everyone from Hitler to Muhammad, photographs and even humor.
Away from the political maelstrom of NDH Croatia, the Bosnians finally swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler.
The text itself would be similar to those of other foreign Waffen-SS volunteers, with the exception of also swearing to Pavelic and the Croatian state.
“I swear to the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, the Supreme Commander of the German Armed Forces, loyalty and bravery. I vow to the Fuhrer and the superiors he designates obedience unto death. I swear to God the Almighty, that I will always be loyal to the Croatian State and it’s authorized representative, the Poglavnik, that I will always protect the interest of the Croatian people and shall always respect the constitution and laws of the Croatian people.”
Signal Battalion 1st Company’s arrival to Le Puy, France, 3 July 1943

The first Bosnians to reach the area belonged to an advance party of about 180 men from Wildflecken on 10 July. Five days later the first edition of the division’s newspaper was published, the name of the newspaper was “Handzar” (pronounced Hanjar). The name itself was of high significance. It was a sword carried by Ottoman policemen during their occupation of Bosnia, later on it re-appeared on the coat of arms of Bosnia under Austro-Hungarian occupation. Obergruppenfuhrer Berger discussed the name a month earlier, and everyone knew it had to become the Division’s symbol.
The newspaper was bilingual, prepared by the divisional staff to indoctrinate the men. It contained articles of SS history, history of the old Bosnian regiments of the Austrian army, quotes from everyone from Hitler to Muhammad, photographs and even humor.
Away from the political maelstrom of NDH Croatia, the Bosnians finally swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler.
The text itself would be similar to those of other foreign Waffen-SS volunteers, with the exception of also swearing to Pavelic and the Croatian state.
“I swear to the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, the Supreme Commander of the German Armed Forces, loyalty and bravery. I vow to the Fuhrer and the superiors he designates obedience unto death. I swear to God the Almighty, that I will always be loyal to the Croatian State and it’s authorized representative, the Poglavnik, that I will always protect the interest of the Croatian people and shall always respect the constitution and laws of the Croatian people.”
Image
Bosnians swear allegiance with the right hand placed over the heart while the Croats swear with a raised right hand. Its July and they still don’t rate collar tabs. The Croatian volunteer, second from right seems to have put on a medal from his prior service.

By the end of July, 15,000 men were available. Berger now boldly demanded the Croatians to release all Muslim NCOs and enlisted men from their forces and place them at the division’s disposal. Four fifths of these men were released and the rest were made available by August 1st. These moves decimated some Croatian units. I Ustasa Brigade sank to a strength of only 600-700 men. At the same time, it also stripped the Muslim population of Bosnia from military aged males to protect the vulnerable villages.
The nucleus, and the best armed and equipped, Albanian SS formation of the war would now also be formed. The I/28 Abteilung of SS-Regiment 28.
3,000 men would be released from Croatian service. Ibrahim Alimabegovic wrote:
“About 40 or 50 of us Ustasa were taken to a German installation in Sarajevo. Later that same day, we were moved to Osijek, and received German SS uniforms. We were taken to Zemun, where we remained for seven or eight days. We were then transferred to Paris…and later on to Le Puy.”

Sauberzweig
At this time the Division received a proper commander, as von Obwurzer proved uncooperative and incapable of his duties. A one eyed Prussian army colonel, World War One veteran by the name of Karl-Gustav Sauberzweig was chosen. He was an experienced leader, planner and organizer, by the age of eighteen he had already received the Iron Cross, First Class. His nickname “Schnellchen” outlived the Third Reich. He treated the young Bosnians as if they were his own children and was ultimately responsible for the Division’s successful formation. 
Image
Change of command ceremony, Mende, August 9 1943

“Soldiers of the Kroatische SS-Freiwilligen Gebirgs Division!

By order of the Reichsfuhrer, I have assumed command of the division on this day. I am proud to be determined to train and lead men of a nationality whose soldiers stand among the best in the world.
In the struggle for freedom of your homeland, with which the Germans have always been allied, your ancestors have sewn immortal glory to your banners on the battlefields of Europe. The heroic deeds of the Bosnian regiments of the old Austrian army have entered into German history…
Comrades, always remember that loyalty and the obedience that emerges from it are the first virtues of the soldier. Bravery, combat readiness, and camaraderie are based upon these foundations…
Comrades, I am aware of the misery in your homeland. I know that you want to return there as quickly as possible and fight as soldiers of the Waffen-SS of the Fuhrer. As soon as you are ready, I shall report to our Reichsfuhrer that my division is prepared for action….The spirit is crucial that you inspire the inner posture of the SS man, which alone produces decisive action and determines the performance of the community. So the following weeks and months shall be hard work. I demand tireless, diligent labor from all of my officers and NCOs. The have my confidence. Be an example in attitude and performance on and off duty, always be a comrade. I shall labor, help, and persist until my division is the prodigal community of the Waffen-SS.
Comrades, I place myself at the disposal of every soldier, day or night. Loyalty to Loyalty! Trust to Trust!
Now forward, soldiers of the Kroatische SS-Freiwilligen Gebirgs Division, faithful to our creed, which lies in the words “Heil Hitler!”

First phase of training was completed on 22 August, second phase was to form 2 Gebirgsjager regiments, an Artillerie regiment, an Aufklarungs Abteilung, a Pionir Abteilung and various other combat and support units. The enlisted men would be quartered in everything from schools, hotels, inns and farmer’s barns.
The Germans were quite suspicious of the French populations. Sauberzweig was concerned about possible sabotage or hostage attempts from the nearby communist or Gaullist forces. He urged cooperation with local forces and made it clear that only the Army commander can order executions of hostages.
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“Duties of the SS man” in Bosnian.

Recruit training began on August 30, Sauberzweig quickly outlined the plan.
-No mass training is to take place, Four to six men were to be taught at a time, so that something is truly learned.
-Every NCO and officer is to get to know his men as quickly as possible and establish personal relationships with them. Many of the men are illiterate, so they should be encouraged to write letters.
-Absence of weapons should not impede training.
-Divisional greeting is to be “Heil Schutzstaffel” which should be answered with “Heil Hitler”
-Orders should be given in both languages.
-Trainers should demonstrate as much as possible and perform the tasks at hand.
-Young officers are to treat orderlies and servants with tact and respect.

Handzar printed a humorous episode called “Er is dort bekannt” (He is known there) involving a German officer asking a group of Bosnians where they wanted to serve. One Bosnian, the son of an Austrian army veteran replied “Budapest!”
“Why Budapest” replied the German officer. “Because my father served in Budapest and everyone there already knows me already”

There was already an officer shortage, eleven infantry companies lacked officers, most artillery officers are unsuitable and platoon commanders are non existent. Within the entire division, there wasn’t a single instructor who was trained on the heavy mortars or infantry howitzers. Most of the vehicles wouldn’t arrive till early 1944.
A lot of individuals already complained that no Croatian Catholics should’ve been taken in. Croatians in turn complained about the Handzar newspaper and it’s biased content, the fact that the word “Croatia” never appears on it. The dissatisfaction is illustrated by the desertion rates.

Formation phase desertions
Germans from the Reich: 4
Volksdeutsche 17
Muslims 13
Croatian Catholics 121

The Division’s name was now changed from Kroatische SS-Freiwilligen Gebirgs Division to:
13.SS-Freiwilligen b.h. Division (Kroatien)
The soldiers were exemplified by their superior physical conditioning, and the presence of the Volksdeutsche eased the language problems. On top of that they would still devote time after training to learning the language.

Sauberzweig further explained:
“The Bosnian is a very good soldier. His strength lies in the use of terrain and in close combat. With the infantry attack he is in his element. In the defense however, he must be led strictly and with caution. During heavy barrages of enemy artillery and air attacks, he must be led very carefully.
He is good natured, but hates the Serbian element. To the officer who wins his heart he will bond himself with an almost childlike loyalty. He has an extreme sense of fairness and feeling of honor.
He loves his Bosnian homeland. This strength must be reinforced repeatedly, must be stressed that the time when the division returns to the Balkans to save the homeland depends on the individual. The sooner he masters his tasks, the sooner the division will be ready for action.”

A German trainer had a similar point of view:
“In general, the Bosnians, were capable soldiers, but they were not Prussians. One had to tune into their mentality, which was influenced by their religion and environment. Anyone who attempted to make the Bosnians into Prussians was in for trouble.”

Rudolf Engler developed a father-son relationship with one of the teenaged Bosnians:
“I knew that one had to sing and speak with the Bosnians just as they did at home…One youth of eighteen immediately took a liking to me and became my orderly. His name was Meho, and was a cobbler from Derventa. He saved me a lot of effort and quickly learned the German language. During the winter of 1943, I was issued several weekend passes. On one occasion I received my battery commander’s permission to take Meho home with me, The joy on the youth’s face was indescribable; his feelings with the passengers on the train and on the station platforms during the long journey and the visit to my home fascinated him. He thanked me repeatedly for showing him the world he had never seen before. He even made my wife a pair of boots out of gratitude.
In combat in Bosnia, Meho always remained loyal. He kept me informed of whether the Bosnians were satisfied with their rations, etc., and always performed his duties well. Unfortunately, I lost track of him after I was transferred to attend an officer training course, but I shall never forget my loyal friend.”

Many Germans revealed great pleasure in leading the Bosnians. They coined the nickname “Mujo (pronounced Mooyo) a common Bosnian name. Himmler took a personal interest in the German-Bosnian relations and issued a special order forbidding Germans to belittle their men or use humor that was at their expense.
One more aspect was new to the Germans, especially the SS. Imams, just like those of the old Bosnian regiments, they would maintain religious customs within the division. According to one SS officer, the induction of these clerics was “a concession that the Christian church had for years striven in vain to obtain for (other)SS units.” Sauberzweig always urged his officers to pray with his men, he couldn’t have been more appropriate for his position as divisional commander.




Phelps visits Handschar
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Phelps at Le Puy, Phelps was generally pleased with what he saw and the division’s current status.
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Phelps inspecting a Bosnian SS recruit.

Infantry Training
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Teamwork and synergism on the battlefield were the cornerstone of every Waffen-SS victory. Here, recruits scale a wall.
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Artur Phelps during his visit, inspecting a crew drill.

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Rifle Platoon at shoulder arms.
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At left is Phelps with another young Bosnian volunteer, on the right is K98 marksmanship training.

_________________
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Handzaru Udaraj!


Last edited by 42gunner on Fri Feb 26, 2010 2:46 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 2:46 am 
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Introduction to Gebirgsjager Small Arms

The Mauser Karabiner 98k was the backbone of Gebirgsjager units. 19th Century design that earned a reputation with Bosnians who nicknamed it “Tandzara.” Mauser and MG42 variants would re-appear once again on Bosnian battlefields during another war for autonomy at the end of the century…but that’s another story.
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Used in most major conflicts from the Spanish Civil War all the way to the current Iraq War, with over 14 million built. It was dependable and accurate, it was perfect for mountain warfare, which sometimes required superior marksmanship as distance to the enemy couldn’t always be shortened. There are no known pictures of snipers from the Handschar division but it is known that they existed and inflicted serious casualties on the partisans.
The SS-Rifleman would carry 12 clips of 5 rounds each, 60 rounds of 7.92 ammunition. In a lot of cases 2 M39 or M24 hand grenades, an entrenching tool and the S84/98 rifle bayonet also made for very good close quarters weapons. In addition to this, he also carried a belt of 7.92 machine gun ammo.

Gewehr 33/40 or Karabina 16/33 was a Czech designed mountain carbine, following the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the rifle was quickly adopted by the Germans and put into mass production and in service of the quickly expanding Gebirgstruppen. 
Image
SS-Gebirgsjager re-enactor with his Gew 33/40
The Gew 33/40s had a metal plate on the left side of the butt stock so it could be used as a climbing aid by the troopers. It had a powerful recoil and a pretty big muzzle flash. Loadout of a SS-Gebirgsjager armed with the Gew 33/40 was similar to that of the K98 rifleman.

Maschinenpistole 40 was the main sub machine gun used by Handschar throughout the war. Many Stens, Italian and Russian SMGs were captured but it was the MP40 that the NCOs, officers and some enlisted men trained with in recruit training.
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Nicknamed the “Smajser” by the Bosnian SS troops, it could do the job at 150+ meters. On the eastern front it was probably the most expensive and the best machined sub machine gun, all others looked crude compared to it. Unlike every other weapon that was used by Gebirgsjagers, the MP40 had very little recoil and it was meant for closer quarters, the Germans and Bosnians loved it for that. It would be strategically placed into the hands of an NCO or officer to encourage his men to close with the enemy. Due to the fact that….riflemen could engage their targets beyond 300-500 yards, while the sub machine gunner could do nothing but direct fires and maneuver his forces to close or flank with the enemy.
MP40 assault man’s load out consisted of 6 magazine, 2 Stielhandgrenades, and sometimes captured pistols.

Maschinengewehr 42, the most influential GPMG design since the FN MAG, it became the terror of the mountains.
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When Handschar would finally return to Bosnia they would find that most of the partisans were armed with old World War One heavy machine guns, Italian Bredas, Russian machine guns, various magazine-fed LMGs and some MG34s. The MG42 outgunned them all. During the summer of ‘44 reports were coming in of Bosnian gunners shooting down allied planes that flew too low. The MG42 used in 1944 and carried off by deserting Bosnian soldiers would be used again to defend Bosnia in the 1990s.
Machine gunners carried a repair kit on the right side of the belt, a holstered P38 on the left side and often 2 or more belts of 7.92. Many SS machine gunners made the impression that they were literally armed to the teeth, with a “spade” entrenching tool tucked into the front of the belt and a rifle bayonet kept handy.
It should be noted here that while Handschar did have shortcomings during the training, but it did get a lot of the newest weaponry. It’s sister division, 7.SS-Prinz Eugen came into service using old Czech LMGs and captured French light tanks.
Nonetheless the Waffen-SS believed it never had enough automatic weapons. PPSh-41s were always cherished possessions of SS men on the eastern front. SVT-40s were also a favorite.
The Walther P38 was the preferred pistol of the Waffen-SS. So admired that SS-Oberfuhrer Heinrich Gartner of the SS-Procurement office tried to divert all of the production to the Waffen-SS. In Handschar, it was the preferred weapon of the machine gunners, NCOs, officers and the Feldgendarmes. It was a great morale booster, due to the fact that a man so armed can force the surrender of several opponents if they are shocked or demoralized. In the SS, carrying a pistol in addition of the issue rifle of sub machine gun. On the eastern front and especially in the occupied territories where little quarter was given, the pistol became the last form of defence.
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Handgranaten

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“VOR GEBRAUCH SPRENGKAPSEL EINSETZEN”
Before use insert detonator
Stielhandgranate 24 was far superior to any grenade of it’s time. The stick itself allowed it to be thrown farther than any pineapple or baseball shaped grenade. The British Mills bomb could only be thrown 15 yards, where as the Stgr. 24 could be thrown beyond 50 yards. It’s design minimized the risk of rolling downhill towards the thrower when used in the mountains or hilly terrain. It also had more HE filling than other grenades, and when that wasn’t enough, a metal sleeve could be fitted on the head to produce more shrapnel on detonation. Operation was simple, by unscrewing the cap on the bottom of the handle, a small ceramic ball would fall out attached to the pull string, pulling the string would arm the grenade.
The Stgr. 24 was also of symbolic significance in relations to the Division. Many badges and illustrations of the World War One Bosnian soldiers show the grenade in use.
Image
“K.u.K. B-H REGT-4 AN ALLEN FRONTEN”
“K.u.K Bosnian and Herzegovinian Regiment 4 (from Mostar) On All Fronts”

The Eihandgranate 39 was similar in shape to Allied grenades but still like the Stgr. 24 in mechanism.
The body is actually in 2 pieces that are screwed together rather than crimped. To use, you would unscrew the ball on top of the “wings” and pull the ball which was itself on a string like with the Stgr. 24.
The other end of the grenade also features a carry ring which would allow the grenade to be attached to gear such as a belt or M1911 K98 cartridge pouches.
Unlike the Stgr. 24 however…this grenade was very versatile and there are many stories of its improvised use as a booby trap on the eastern front. It had many fuses that allowed this.
Red colored fuses lasted 1 second, Blue were standard (as seen above in the illustration) and lasted 4-5 seconds, Yellow ones were 7.5 seconds and Gray fuses would take 10 seconds to detonate the main charge.

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Handzaru Udaraj!


Last edited by 42gunner on Wed Jan 27, 2010 10:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 9:10 am 
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Gunner well done a great article and a good read , if i may just pull you up on on thing The 6th SS Gebrigs Div Nord was the first SS Gebrigs Div ( Sept 1942 ) Prinz Eugn was Oct 1942 I am only saying this as SS Nord is the Division I reenact other wise a very good article like I said please post more like this .
Oh give andy85th a PM as His unit do Handschar as a 2nd impression

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 11:36 am 
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Franz repper wrote:
Gunner well done a great article and a good read , if i may just pull you up on on thing The 6th SS Gebrigs Div Nord was the first SS Gebrigs Div ( Sept 1942 ) Prinz Eugn was Oct 1942 I am only saying this as SS Nord is the Division I reenact other wise a very good article like I said please post more like this .
Oh give andy85th a PM as His unit do Handschar as a 2nd impression


Thanks, this is gonna end up being somewhat a chronological re-enactors guide.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 10:20 pm 
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nice one gunner
this is what the forum was produced for
real info :wink:

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 10:50 pm 
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les hearn wrote:
nice one gunner
this is what the forum was produced for
real info :wink:


thanks for the kind words
I take a personal interest on this subject, being Bosnian...I know propaganda from fact.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 9:05 pm 
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Introduction to Gebirgsjager Equipment

Simply by appearance, a Gebirgsjager can be classified as different or elite from other infantry units.
Climbing gear, bigger packs and better boots are simple examples of what made them different.
Below an illustration of a Wehrmacht Gebirgsjager is used to prove the point

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Both Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht Mountain Troops would wear a cap with the Edelweiss on it, Wehrmacht’s would be metal and the SS’ would be a patch. Bergschuhe were heavier than regular boots with cleats on the soles. In a lot of cases they didn’t wear the “Y” straps, especially when wearing the pack, as most of the gear such as the M1931 bread bag and M1931 mess kit could be packed away. Leaving all combat related gear on the belt within grasp.
In the picture below, the two riflemen are using a two-point sling, that runs from one cartridge pouch D ring, around their necks and to the other one. First one from the left has attached an M39 grenade to the same spot

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A similar sling was used to carry machine gun ammo boxes.

The Ice pick was used as a climbing aid. Crampons would be attached to the Bergschuhe in extreme winter climates to prevent sliding down ice. The M1931 Rucksack was also synonymous with the Gebirgsjager, it had two side pouches and a rectangular pouch on the front under the flap.

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Basic climbing gear consisted of rope, pitons and a piton hammer. Pitons would be driven into the cracks in the rock face by assault climbers, experienced advance party climbers who would secure the rope and a safer climb for the main body. A close up of the Gew 33/40 shows the metal plated butt stock. The 33/40 was a signature Gebirgsjager rifle, it was accurate, loud and intimidating to anyone who went up against it.



Depending on the situation, bigger weapons such as machine guns or mortar tubes would be handed off and pulled up by rope. Lighter cannons were produced just for mountain troops. When it came to crew served weapons …ammunition and re-supply was a serious ordeal.

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The Styrian gaiter was one accessory to see wide use in Handschar more than any other unit. They were considered a specialty item reserved for the Hochgebirgsjagers, high Alpine mountaineers.

Rifleman’s Gear (Advanced)
Gear issue was most of the times weapons and specialty related. The most basic kit was that of the Rifleman.
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The Zielfernrohr 41 was a 1.5x magnification, long eye relief “marksman’s optic.” The advantages of the ZF41 over the regular iron sights were radical: faster target re-acquisition, faster engagement, improved accuracy…It was even better than the full size sniper scopes at closer ranges due to it’s low magnification it could be used as close as 50m with speed and accuracy.
The entrenching tool was often sharpened and used in hand to hand fighting. An old German favorite since WW1, when you could see Sturmtruppen with a Gewehr 98 (bayonet mounted) in one hand and a shovel in the other. It was said that one good hit to the neck could incapacitate a man. When ammo started to run out at the battle of Lopare in the summer of ‘44, spades were unsheathed.

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The Schiessbecher 1942 was an improved 30mm rifle grenade launcher that would be clamped to the muzzle.

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The “Bubble sight” mounted to the left of the rifle’s rear sight, made it possible to accurately shoot targets from 70m out to 150m. Each bag could carry 15 HE rounds, packed in cardboard tubes. Inside were also three stripper clip pouches for special wooden tip cartridges, which would safely launch the grenade.

Field use
Zeltbahn in use
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An NCO and a Sturmmann break boiled eggs (to the right you can see the make-shift stove)

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Soldiers eating lunch out of their M1931 Mess kits on one hot summer day.


Combat uniforms and camouflage
The Waffen-SS was well known for it’s use of camouflage. There were many versions of smocks, helmet covers and field jackets. Towards the end of the war and in 1944, some would be made from whatever material was available. Many times the helmet cover did not match the smock pattern. There were also cases of field caps being made from old jacket fabric, resulting in further absence of uniformity.

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Waffen-SS helmet with a spring pattern cover.

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This is probably the best picture to study Handschar’s camouflage. 1942 spring pattern type II blurred edge smock is being worn here. Helmet pattern might be oak leaf-spring.

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In the summer of 1944, the M44 pea dot field jacket was being issued out to troops on both fronts. A handful sets ended up in the hands of Handschar members. For some officers and NCOs it was a favorite.
Walter Eipel of II/28 could be seen wearing it as early as May 1944.
Many Bosnian volunteers would keep wearing the old M43 jacket.
Interestingly enough there are pictures of brand new recruits from the newly formed 23.SS-Kama sporting the new uniform. A great majority of SS men settled for the pea dot trousers when the whole uniform couldn’t be acquired.

Personal Gear
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Some miscellaneous gear: Esbit stove, cigarettes, butter dish, eating utensils, shaving kit, wool socks, sewing kit…

Marius’ Mules
Nickname given to Roman soldiers (because of Gaius Marius) who were required to carry a lot of their own equipment and supplies to prevent the baggage trains to become too large. One mule was available for each 10 legionaries, 500 to 550 mules a legion.
Hiking and climbing with the M1931 Rucksack, full, up the Bosnian mountains was no easy task for the Bosnian legionaries of the SS, this short section is dedicated to someone else who helped get the guns into the mountains.
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Mule train brings up a taken-apart Gebirgskanone

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Early 1944, Riflemen place and fasten ammo crates onto a pack mule.

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Last edited by 42gunner on Sat Mar 06, 2010 8:37 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 3:39 am 
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A good thread kamerad :D
Im glad to have started the ball rolling,
always good to see extra info and an
idea being put into more detail, especially
on an unusual subject.

Good hunting, Pipes :wink:

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 8:32 pm 
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thanks Pipes

Here's an interesting detail for you Handschar re-enactors. In alot of cases you dont see the Y straps being worn over the camo smock, or with a pack on. The bread bag strap was hooked to the front catridge pouch D rings
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:14 pm 
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The breadbag strap on the ammo pouches wasn't unique to Handschar, a few pictures show it being done. It seems to be a practice left over from 14-18 when y-straps were first given to cavalry units(I think?) and the stormtroops thought it a good idea so they improvised with their breadbag straps.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:07 pm 
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Mutiny

During the Division’s recruiting phase many partisans tried to infiltrate it’s ranks, some were immediately caught and turned over to the military authorities but in the end an unknown number would remain. They were answering Tito’s call to “report for police duty in Croatia” as there they could find weapons, uniforms, equipment and superior training than the partisans could offer them.
Some like Ferid Dzanic, actually volunteered out of captivity still in a prisoner of war camp. In Dresden, during the summer of 1943, he met Bozo Jelenek (under the pseudonym Eduard Matutinovic) and Nikola Vukelic at the pionir leaders course. Their plans were to “either desert or organize an uprising against the Germans” Another lesser known ring leader was Luftija Dizdarevic.
The ambitious plan was to have all of the German officers in the town arrested and executed, disarm all of the remaining Bosnians and Germans, assemble them and depart towards the town of Rodez (1st Regt garrison) with the sympathetic French police and deal with the rest in a similar manner. Further plans called for the liquidation of the entire divisional staff. Dzanic spoke of two options following the success of the mutiny, sailing to Northern Africa and putting themselves at the disposal of the western Allies or crossing the Alps and liberating Croatia.
The evening prior to the mutiny (Sept. 16) Dzanic was chosen as the garrison duty officer, Dizdarevic meanwhile chose sympathetic Bosnians and posted them as guards. Final instructions were issued at 2200.
One German officer later recalled he had no clue of the operation.
The operation started shortly after midnight with the armed mutineers storming into the quarters of the two pionir training companies, disarming all of the German NCOs and men. Following this, the battalion headquarters (in the town of Villefranche) were then secured. Some of the Bosnian enlisted men were told that the war was over and the British and Free French forces were to arrive at any moment.
Unit physician Dr. Willfried Schweiger recalled:
“ At about 0410 hours, I was awakened by the rumbling in the hall. There was then a knock on my door. As I opened it, Jelenek (Matutinovic) and Vukelic entered with pistols in hand, followed by a few guards. They said “Excuse me doctor you are under arrest. Where is your weapon?” They continued, “Do not be afraid nothing will happen to you. We need a doctor and you’re coming with us. Get dressed and come to Room #4 (the commander’s sitting room).” As he spoke, my pistol was taken. While dressing, I asked what was happening. They answered, “Look how the situation can change within twenty-four hours!” Fully armed soldiers occupied the corridor and steps.
As I entered the sitting room, several officers were already present. Others followed. After fifteen minutes we were led to battalion headquarters under guard. There, we were held in the commander’s office, which was guarded by three men. All together the following were present: SS-Ostubaf. Kirchbaum, SS-Hstuf. Kuntz, SS-Ostuf. Kretschmer, Galantha, Michawetz Wolf, SS-Hscha. Fromberg, SS-Strm. Weiss and myself.
We were forced to sin the room for about thirty minutes. A short circuit had put the lights out. SS-Ostubaf. Kirchbaum was them called out of the room and shortly thereafter a rifle and subsequently a pistol shot was heard. The same occurred with SS-Hstuf. Kuntz. Wolf was led out but was brought back in and shortly after. As Michawetz was led out, a lot of shooting could be heard and we in the room were told not to move.
SS-Sturmmann Weiss recalled the scene more vividly:
Kuntz asked (the other German officers present) if they knew the whereabouts of the Imam (Halim Malkoc). When someone answered that he was not present, Kuntz said that he was our last hope.
At about 0530 hours, Kirchbaum was led out by an enlisted man. Once outside, he was asked in Croatian, “Are you with Germany or with us?” After a few minutes we heard a shot and another shortly thereafter. The commander had told them that he was with Germany. Kuntz then said to the other officers, “We’re going to be shot one after the other” and soon the mutineers called him out. He said “Adieu, children” and departed. Not long after he left several shots rang out. Wolf was called out next but was sent back in. Then Michawetz was called. After he left the room, we immediately heard gunfire and assumed that he had escaped.
As Michawetz was led out, he struck the guard to his gront and rear and took off running, followed by a hail
of bullets. He leaped over a low wall into the street and jumped into the Aveyron River and swam to safety.

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SS-Ostuf. Alexander Michawetz, commander of 1./ SS-Gebirgs Pioneer Battalion 13. The man who’s unit was targeted and almost hijacked by communist spies, and more importantly one of the few survivors of the executions that took place in the commander’s office

Following Michawetz’s escape the mutineers shot Galantha and Wolf, sparing Dr. Schweiger.


SS-Ostuf. Imam Halim Malkoc
It was Dzanic that returned to Hotel Moderne to look for the battalion’s Imam.
Malkoc:
“Early on 17. September 1943, Dzanic entered my room. I saw him as I awakened with a pistol in his hand. Surprised, I sprang out of bed. Dzanic said. “Imam, get dressed quickly and come with us. All of the German officers are under arrest and will be shot by the mutinying party. Come with us, for all of them men are on our side.” I asked him just who this “mutinying party” was. He answered “This party consists of Vukelic, (Matutinovic), and Dizdarevic.” He then said “Imam, come with us, for if you don’t you are our enemy.” He was armed with a sub-machine gun, a pistol, and a knife.
Dzanic then left my room. I was well aware what consequences of this action would be and made the decision to hinder further calamity and save the enlisted men. I knew that the enlisted men were with me and that they would follow me. I dressed and went to First Company to find the mood of the men. It was clear to me that they were being deceived and were unaware as to what situation they found themselves in.”

Malkoc reached 1st Company’s courtyard where all the men were assembled ready to depart. While under surveilance the Imam talked to several men he trusted and assured them they were being deceived, they in return offered their loyalty. Imam Malkoc and Dr. Schweiger were then taken to Hotel Moderne by Dzanic where they waited in Michawetz’s office, while the mutineers plotted their next steps. They agreed on a plan in which Malkoc would attempt to bring the Bosnians over to the his side against the mutineers and Dr. Schweiger would attempt to escape in the direction of Toulouse to gather reinforcements. At 0700, both of them slipped out of the hotel unnoticed.
Malkoc recalls his arrival to the 1st Company’s courtyard:
“All of the men looked at me as if they were praying for my help, or hoping that I would protect them. They wanted to hear my word. I stood before them, explained the entire situation, and demanded that they follow me. At this time I took command. I then freed the German men, who were being held in a room. They looked at me with astonished eyes and apparently had little faith in me. I called out to them “Heil Hitler! Long Live the Poglavnik!” and told them that all weapons were to be turned against the communists. They then followed me.”
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(17. September 1943 - Pioneer battalion members hunt down Jelenek)

Dr. Schweiger in the meantime took off with two Bosnian enlisted men, Ejub Jasarevic and Adem Okanadzic, who were orderlies of the murdered officers and outraged by the mutiny.
They encountered a close call when they ran into the ring leaders. Schweiger recalls:
“The ring leaders angrily asked where we were going. I lied that I was en route to the tailor shop to retrieve my clothing. Believing that Jasarevic and Okanadzic were on their side, the rebels told the pair “not to let me out of their sight” and after the clothing was retrieved, we were….to return to 1st Company to move out.”

With 1st Company under Malkoc’s control, Vukelic was soon arrested at Hotel Moderne, Dizdarevic, was killed attempting to raise his pistol at a German NCO who in turn shot and killed him with a rifle. Dzanic was the only one who put up a fight but soon he fell in front of the hotel.
Dr. Schweiger, along with Jasarevic and Okanadzic made it safely to a nearby post office from where he contacted the liaison staff at Rodez, informing them of the situation and requesting reinforcements , who then notified the divisional headquarters at Mende.

Matutiovic was the only ring leader to escape, he was hidden by sympathetic Frenchmen on Rue Marcelin Fabre until the 22nd, once he received his forged identity card he safely reached Toulouse.

The commander of the battalion (Michawetz) who had recently experienced a close call, retreated into the hills above Villefranche, believing the mutiny was successful. He remained hidden until dusk.

“As he was not given any assistance by the French, he began to speak Croatian and made himself out to be Bosnian. He was then hidden in a cloister and provided with civilian clothes, in which he continued on his way (to Toulouse)”

Martial law was declared in Villefranche by Sauberzweig and soon the reinforcements were rolling in to take control of the situation.
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Hans Hanke was appointed as city commander. It was obvious to the Germans that the towns people aided the rebels. Civilian traffic in the streets from 2100 to 0600 was prohibited, anyone found in possession of a weapon would be shot. A surrender of all civilian owned weapons was also requested. In the end it was discovered that the nine rifles, a sub machine gun, and a pistol of the murdered officers were never recovered.

When questioned, Vukelic proclaimed that he and other Croatian members of the Division were fanatical for a new Croatia under Kvaternik, allied with the western Allies. Trials also revealed an interesting fact about the Bosnian mutineers.
Hartmut Schmid:
“….were simple soldiers: they were completely under the influence of the ring leaders and had merely obeyed their orders. I remember that several of the Mujos had even fought previously against the communists in their homeland, and at least one if not two displayed wounds they had received in this fighting to the court. I am now firmly convinced that some of them were in way aware of the consequences of their doings, they were merely obeying orders.”

On the day of the execution, Renner taunted Vukelic, screaming: “You swine, You were to become a German officer? We wont shoot you, you swine, we’ll hang you!”

The following were executed for killing German officers:
Mujo Alispahic
Karamanovic
Jusup Vucjak
Zemko Banjic
Ephraim Basic
Ismet Cefkovic
Zeir Mehicic
Meho Memisevic
Philipp Njimac
Ivan Jurkovic
Alija Beganovic
Mustafa Moric
Sulejman Silejdzic
And…Nikola Vukelic.


The mutineers were buried on the spot, in shallow graves because of the rocky ground. Their remains were unearthed by wild dogs. The mayor’s complaints about the stench brought a group of Germans, almost a month later to fix the problem.

Awards

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SS-Ostuf. Imam Halim Malkoc, Dr. Willfried Schweiger and Schwarz received the Iron Cross, Second Class from Himmler.

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SS-Jager Ejub Jasarevic seen here in Bosnia (1944) and SS-Jager Adem Okanadzic were among five additional soldiers to be decorated for their actions on 17. September 1943.

Conclusion

“I knew there was a chance that a few traitors might be smuggled into the division, but I haven’t the slightest doubt concerning the loyalty of the Bosnians. These troops were loyal to their supreme commander twenty years ago, so why shouldn’t they be so today?”
- Heinrich Himmler

This subject needs further study to fully understand the foreign elements that caused the first mutiny within the Waffen-SS, and how four men with communist ideals nearly hi-jacked an entire battalion. The citizens of Villefranche were never proven of collaborating with the communists but after the war they were known to proudly say that Villefranche was the first city in France to be liberated. Even naming the street the mutiny took place on: “Avenue des Croates”
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Himmler decided that southern France wasn’t best place to train his new division and ordered it’s transfer to a more appropriate place in Germany without all the “outside influences.”

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2010 12:03 am 
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Very interesting story about the munity. Thanks for posting.

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