Handschar Division

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Peiper

Handschar Division

Post by Peiper »

The formation of the 13th Waffen SS Mountain Division "Handschar"

The end of 1942 saw Himmler and SS General Gottlob Berger approach Hitler with the proposal
to raise an SS Bosnian Mountain Unit.
This idea came about after fierce fighting broke out between the "Ustase" who were a
Croatian anti Yugoslav seperatist movement and the main group of Serbian partisians, Himmler
saw the amount of untapped anti communist fighting men and decided it would be an idea to
use it for the German nations own ends.
The anti Yugoslav feeling from the local Bosnian Ustase stemmed from the fact that most of
its members were Muslim and they were unhappy with Serbian rule which disfavoured the
Muslim religion.
By New year 1943 over 100,00 Bosnian Muslims had been killed mostly by Serb Chetniks, at
this point, the Muslim population had reached breaking point so when news reached them of
a new formation of Muslim soldiers, the Germans had no problem in recruitment in the
beginning.
Handschar pic 8 (Recruitment poster).jpg
Handschar pic 8 (Recruitment poster).jpg (35.98 KiB) Viewed 12483 times
Himmler thought that the Muslims would make excellent soldiers after he had observed their
fanatical belief in their religion which he thought suited a soldier perfectly, especially their
ideas of a "Warrior-code" and the habit of taking last rites before engaging in combat, which
basically showed they were not afraid to be killed in action.
Himmler was also inspired by the success of the Bosnian Infantry of WW1 and tried to restore
an old tradition by reviving the former Austro/Hungarian Units of the First World War in the
form of a new SS Division.
Handschar pic 2 (recruits).jpg
Handschar pic 2 (recruits).jpg (16.43 KiB) Viewed 12494 times
Hitler formally approved the project on the 10th Feb 1943 and SS Obergruppenfuhrer Arthur
Phleps, an ethnic Roumanian was tasked with forming the new Division.
The 13th Waffen SS Mountain Division was born, as the majoity of its recruits were Muslim
and were from Bosnian/Croat backgrounds, a small percentage were catholics.
Handschar SS Unterscharfuhrer.jpg
Handschar SS Unterscharfuhrer.jpg (27.3 KiB) Viewed 11550 times
The Divisional name "Handschar" came from the local word for Turkish Scimitar sword
"Handzar", hence the collar insignia which came in the form of a hand holding a curved sword.


(continued on next page)

Peiper
Last edited by Peiper on Thu Mar 18, 2010 12:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Peiper

Re: Handschar Division

Post by Peiper »

The 13th Waffen SS Mountain Division "Handschar" (continued)

The Handschar uniform was the standard field/grey SS type but with the addition of special
insignia, this consisted of the curved Scimitar unit collar patch (already described on page 1.)
which was worn in the place of the normal Waffen-SS Sigrunes patch.
A red and white checkerboard armshield which took the form of the Bosnian National flag was
worn beneath the SS eagle on the left sleeve, no cufftitle was ever issued.
Headgear consisted of a red or grey fez which bore the SS eagle and skull insignia and usually
was adorned with a black tassel affixed to the crown, although these were sometimes
removed in combat, the red fez was worn for walking out dress or parade duties whilst the
grey type was strictly worn in combat.

The fez was Himmlers idea which came from the Austro/Hungary headress of WW1, it also
suited the Muslim members because it could still be worn while praying in the Muslim fashion
(head touching the floor), also because it had no peak apparantly did not hinder the wearers
eyes when facing towards Mecca in the east, Officers who were not Muslim had the choice
of wearing Officer type Schirmutze's or the Mountain cap (Bergmutze).
Handschar pic 9 (Combat equipment).jpg
Handschar pic 9 (Combat equipment).jpg (35.7 KiB) Viewed 12491 times


The Handschar's main form of operations were to subdue the Mountainous regions of Croatia,
basically conduct "anti partisan warfare" against the Communist Serbian elements.
These operations continued from Feb to Sep 1944 and because of the terrain suited the
Handschar Div very well as they had been trained and equipped as a Mountain Infantry
formation, similar to the Wehrmacht equivalent (Gebirgsjager).
The Division was mostly commanded by German Officers recruited from other SS units with the
promise of promotion and also a cadre of experienced NCO's, the OR's consisted of native
Germans from Croatia (booty-Germans) and Muslims from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It was the largest Muslim orientated Division with only approx 10% from other religious groups,
the Division had a religious Iman for each Battalion and a Mulla (religious men) for each
Regiment which in total consisted of 21.065 recruits, Officers and men.
Handschar pic 6 (soldiers).jpg
Handschar pic 6 (soldiers).jpg (28.47 KiB) Viewed 12449 times
In the spring of 1943 the Germans recruited the "Mufti of Jerusalem" Mohammad Amin al
Husayni in a bid to boost recruitment, he successfully convinced the Bosniaks to go against
the declarations of the Sarajevo Muslim clerics that had forbade Bosnian Muslims from
collaborating with thethe Ustase and Nazi's.
However his orders were that the Handschar Division must not leave Bosnia and must remain
to protect their homeland and families, but as the War progressed and rumours spread that
the Division was going to fight the Soviets the Muslims deserted in droves. At the end of
1944 the "Kama" Division was merged into the Handschar to boost manpower back to full
strength
Handschar pic 1 (Grand Mufti).jpg
Handschar pic 1 (Grand Mufti).jpg (21.74 KiB) Viewed 12444 times
.

In August 43 the Handschar Division were sent to Villefranche in France to retrain and refit,
while their on the 17th Sept a group of Communist infiltrators staged a mutiny led by Ferid
Dzanic.
The mutineers captured most of the German members of the Unit and executed five German
Officers, apparantly they believed that once started the Mutiny would encourage the other
members to join them and they could then desert to the Allies.
The revolt was put down by the rest of the Division and the local Gestapo/SD units and 20
rebels were caught and put on trial for mutiny then later executed.
Afterwards there was a purge of the Unit and those deemed unsuitable were sent back to
Germany for labour service and around 800 members were removed, in November 43 the Unit
was sent back to Bosnia.
When Villefranche was liberated in 1944 the people decided to pay tribute to the mutineers
by naming one of its streets "Avenue des Croates"
On their return the Handschar participated in operation "Maibaum" which was intended to be
the largest anti Partisan sweep in Bosnia where the Unit joined forces with the 7th SS Prinz
Eugen Regiment.
Later the Handschar Division participated in eight other operations from Feb to Sept 1944
called Operation Wegweiser, Save, Osterei, Maiglockchen, Vollmond, Fliegenfanger, Heidrose
and Hackfleisch.
Eventually in 1945 with the push of the Soviets from the East the Handschar Division later
disintergrated and those not captured went back to their farms and homeland.
Last edited by Peiper on Sat Aug 08, 2009 4:44 pm, edited 4 times in total.

User avatar
Tychsen
Posts: 1672
Joined: Sat Mar 01, 2008 6:37 pm

Re: Handschar Division

Post by Tychsen »

The standard Nazi tactic of divide and conquer , use one ethnic group against another.

Peiper

Re: Handschar Division

Post by Peiper »

Handschar Division Pictures.
Handschar pic 4 (parade).jpg
Handschar pic 4 (parade).jpg (33.75 KiB) Viewed 12433 times
Handschar pic 5 (Sauberzweig).jpg
Handschar pic 5 (Sauberzweig).jpg (27.62 KiB) Viewed 12436 times
The Commander, Obergruppenfuhrer Sauberzweig
Handschar pic 7 (Artillery in colour).jpg
Handschar pic 7 (Artillery in colour).jpg (24.25 KiB) Viewed 12436 times
Regards Peiper.

Peiper

Re: Handschar Division

Post by Peiper »

Handschar Insignia
Handschar collar insignia..jpg
Handschar collar insignia..jpg (25.44 KiB) Viewed 12343 times
Handschar Unterscharfuhrer collar insignia
Featuring "scimitar" collar tab and Uschar rank insignia with NCO
rank tresse.
Handschar sleeve insignia.jpg
Handschar sleeve insignia.jpg (24.38 KiB) Viewed 11499 times
Handschar sleeve shield and SS eagle.
Featuring checkerboard Bosnian/Croatian National flag shield and sleeve
eagle.
Handschar anti partisan badge.jpg
Handschar anti partisan badge.jpg (30.33 KiB) Viewed 12341 times
Handschar Anti Partisan badge in bronze.
This is a genuine personal example from my collection, this version was
awarded for thirty combat days/operations and came in three grades,
gold, silver and bronze.

This badge was instituted on 30th Jan 1944 by Hitler to award troops
involved in security/anti partisan operations in the Balkans/Yugoslavia
regions, Bronze 30 combat days (as stated above), silver 75 combat
days and Gold for 100 combat days, (for Army/Police personel).

Luftwaffe personel were also issued this award but the gold grade was
for 150 combat sorties/operations instead of days, being shot down
counted as three sorties, the first few gold grades awarded were all
presented by Hitler personally.

Regards Peiper 8)
Last edited by Peiper on Wed Apr 07, 2010 7:54 am, edited 2 times in total.

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jonboy 85th
Posts: 58
Joined: Wed May 07, 2008 8:22 pm
Location: In bed

Re: Handschar Division

Post by jonboy 85th »

Peiper wrote:Handschar Insignia
Handschar sleeve insignia.jpg
Handschar sleeve shield and SS eagle.
Featuring checkerboard Bosnian National flag shield and sleeve
eagle.


Regards Peiper 8)
Hi Peiper
The sleeve shield is Croatian not Bosnian they just had a war over it :(

Peiper

Re: Handschar Division

Post by Peiper »

Thanks Jonboy

But at the beginning of the War Bosnians and Croatians were classed as one Nation,
before their problems began, i think you are referring to Serbians!

The recruitment poster below was aimed at the Independant State of Croatia which includes
Bosnia/Herzegovina, also see the beginning post which explains some of the civil problems the
Nation experienced at the beginning of the War.
gx1m9wsi.jpg
gx1m9wsi.jpg (11.89 KiB) Viewed 12323 times
Cheers Peiper.

Peiper

Re: Handschar Division

Post by Peiper »

Handschar headgear
Handschar grey fez.jpg
Handschar grey fez.jpg (30.61 KiB) Viewed 12308 times
An original fez, made in soft grey felt for combat duties.
Handschar grey fez, pic3.jpg
Handschar grey fez, pic3.jpg (41.76 KiB) Viewed 11496 times
Another soft grey type Handschar fez, worn in action, this
is an original.

Handschar red fez..jpg
Handschar red fez..jpg (18.47 KiB) Viewed 12308 times
A red type fez, these were usually stiffened versions worn
for parade or walking out duties, this one is from my collection
which had been purchased in Turkey and converted


(Edited due to picture distortion)
Peiper.
Last edited by Peiper on Wed Apr 07, 2010 4:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Peiper

Re: Handschar Division

Post by Peiper »

Handschar recuitment.

A few more recruit posters, which was asking for recruitment from the
Independant State of Croatia, which included Bosnia/Herzegovina.
Handschar recruitment poster 1..jpg
Handschar recruitment poster 1..jpg (69.58 KiB) Viewed 12303 times
Handschar recruitment poster 2..jpg
Handschar recruitment poster 2..jpg (50.72 KiB) Viewed 11497 times
(Edited due to picture distortion)
Peiper.
Last edited by Peiper on Wed Apr 07, 2010 4:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Jeppsson |11.SS|
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed May 06, 2009 6:52 pm

Re: Handschar Division

Post by Jeppsson |11.SS| »

Great Info, really ! :)

Just soemthing about this Division, I dont like it at all. lol

Peiper

Re: Handschar Division

Post by Peiper »

Handschar pics.
Handschar and motorcycle.jpg
Handschar and motorcycle.jpg (53.18 KiB) Viewed 12272 times
Handschar pic 7.jpg
Handschar pic 7.jpg (17.35 KiB) Viewed 12269 times
handschar-soldiers-reading.jpg
handschar-soldiers-reading.jpg (24.16 KiB) Viewed 12270 times
Peiper.

Peiper

Re: Handschar Division

Post by Peiper »

Some more Handschar pics.
Handschar 1b.jpg
Handschar 1b.jpg (63 KiB) Viewed 12257 times
Group of Handschar Officers
Handschar with local..gif
Handschar with local..gif (143.57 KiB) Viewed 12256 times
Handschar SS-Sturmann with local peasant
Arthur Phelps.jpg
Arthur Phelps.jpg (127.91 KiB) Viewed 12254 times
SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Phelps who had been charged
with forming the Handschar Division on 10th Feb 1943.


Peiper.

Peiper

Re: Handschar Division

Post by Peiper »

Handschar Operations.

Part one, Operation Wegweiser.
Operation Wegweiser which took place on March 10-13th 1944, the main target was to pin-
point part of the Syrmia region which was held by the partisans who were a constant threat
to the Zagreb-Belgrade railway, in particular the forests around Bosut and the villages around
the Sava river. This was the first major operation for the newly formed Handschar Division
where as previously only small groups were employed in "penny packets" which tried to
combat the partisan forces in minor offensive actions, Wegweiser was the first "major"
operation.

The action was considered a success with only a few Handschar minor casualties and around
50 partisan prisoners taken, compared to other Operations this seemed a low number of
prisoners, this was due to the fact the Partisans had got to hear of the assault and had
managed to withdraw most of their units before the Operation began.
In later planned actions security was more controlled as Units of the SD were employed in
securing the nearby zones/areas.
Handschar group.jpg
Handschar group.jpg (89.67 KiB) Viewed 12241 times
Peiper 8) .
Last edited by Peiper on Wed Aug 12, 2009 3:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Peiper

Re: Handschar Division

Post by Peiper »

Handschar Operations

Part 2, Operation Sava.
This began on 15th Mar 1944 with the goal of clearing the partisans from the Semberija
region, in North-East Bosnia and across the Sava River.

The action was led by SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Sauberzweig who wrote a pre-operation
message to the soldiers of the Handschar Div wishing them good luck in their mission, part of
the "good-will" message he wrote : "We have now reached the Bosnian frontier and will soon
begin the march back into our homeland, the Fuhrer has provided you with the best weapons
and equipment available and not only do you have these in your hands but above all you have
an idea in your hearts to liberate your homelands...."

Sauberzweig also ordered that while the Handschar units crossed the Save river each
company commander was to read a prepared message to their men which emphasized the
event and the liberation of Muslim from the vice of Communism.

The Handschar 27th Regiment crossed the Sava river at Sremska Raca on 15th Mar 1944 and
advanced across the Pannonian Plain through Velino Selo to Brodac.
Seperate sources say that Bijelijna was taken between 16th-17th Mar 1944 at around noon
then the 27th Regt strengthened its position in the City whilst the 28th Regt bore the brunt
of the fighting as it advanced through Pukis and Celic and then reached as far as Koraj in the
Majevica mountains.

Sauberzweig later recorded that the 28th Regt stormed the partisan defences at Celic with a
new Battalion Commander at point (SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Hans Hanke), and the much larger
partisan force withdrew after running out of ammunition and sustaining heavy casualties.
Handschar combat pic.jpg
Handschar combat pic.jpg (32.78 KiB) Viewed 12205 times
A photograph of men of the 28th Handschar Regt, taken near the City of Celic 1944

Peiper.
Last edited by Peiper on Wed Aug 12, 2009 3:52 pm, edited 3 times in total.

John Wilson
Posts: 2058
Joined: Mon Jan 15, 2007 12:44 pm
Location: Britain
Contact:

Re: Handschar Division

Post by John Wilson »

Peiper wrote:Handschar Insignia
Handschar collar insignia..jpg
Handschar Unterscharfuhrer collar insignia
Featuring "scimitar" collar tab and Uschar rank insignia with NCO
rank tresse.
Handschar sleeve insignia.jpg
Handschar sleeve shield and SS eagle.
Featuring checkerboard Bosnian/Croatian National flag shield and sleeve
eagle.
Handschar anti partisan badge.jpg
Handschar Anti Partisan badge in bronze.
This is a genuine personal example from my collection, this version was
awarded for thirty combat days/operations and came in three grades,
gold, silver and bronze.

This badge was instituted on 30th Jan 1944 by Hitler to award troops
involved in security/anti partisan operations in the Balkans/Yugoslavia
regions, Bronze 30 combat days (as stated above), silver 75 combat
days and Gold for 100 combat days, (for Army/Police personel).

Luftwaffe personel were also issued this award but the gold grade was
for 150 combat sorties/operations instead of days, being shot down
counted as three sorties, the first few gold grades awarded were all
presented by Hitler personally.

Regards Peiper 8)
Unfortunately you have been misled my man, this was only ever awarded to SS and Polizei kameraden who trashed commie scum
94-87 Ich bedauere nichts
57-93 Either put me in jail or kill me

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