Waffen SS Muslim Divisions
Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the SS, remained true to his racial ideas in the formation of Waffen SS units until 1943. By then, if units composed of foreigners were formed, they were members of nations, embodying at least to some extent the "Germanic ideal." Himmler, who pursued his chimera of the SS empire, agreed in the summer of 1940 to recruit volunteers for Waffen SS units among the German population ( Volksdeutsche ) in southeastern Europe. The second step was the recruitment of volunteers in the Baltic States during 1942, and the last phase began in early 1943, when the admission of Balkan Muslims (ethnically Slavic who converted to Islam during Ottoman rule) meant a definitive resignation to they were to represent the SS Weapons. This decision gave birth to the most bizarre units operating during World War II. The Muslim divisions of the SS, whose members wore traditional fezzes and knelt five times a day with their faces facing Mecca, performed prayers and called on Allah's name. A division with lousy combat value, but famous for committing the worst war crimes. To understand the circumstances of the formation of Muslim SS units, it is necessary to clarify the role of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem al-Hussein, who supported and helped organize the recruitment of Muslim volunteers to the SS.
Muslim SS men in prayer
Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohamed Amin al-Hussein ( 1897-1974 )
A member of a prominent Arab Jerusalem family, he held the office of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (the highest Muslim judge in Palestine ) from 1921 to 1948 and was a leading figure in the resistance to Zionism and the creation of the Jewish state. In 1937, following a visit by a German delegation led by Adolf Eichmann to Palestine, al-Hussein expressed his solidarity with Germany, asking the Third Reich to oppose the creation of a Jewish state, stop Jewish immigration to Palestine, and provide weapons to its Arab militias. In it, the Nazis recognized allies against British influence in the Middle East. All his demands were met, and the Arabs received weapons and money from Germany and Italy for anti-Jewish operations. After the assassination attempt on the Inspector General of the British police, as well as the murders of hundreds, especially Jews, but also Arabs, the position of the Grand Mufti became unsustainable. He lost his post as president of the Arab Supreme Council and was forced to flee to Syria. In Syrian exile, the exiled Grand Mufti limited himself to lively correspondence and personal meetings with his followers and sympathizers in the Arab world, and as a religious leader he also openly interpreted Muslim holy books in favor of Nazism and fascism. He emphasized the ideological harmony of Nazism and Islam. When King Ghazi I of Iraq died in a car accident on April 3, 1939, Rashid Ali al-Kaylai, a sympathizer of Nazi Germany, who maintained very close ties with al-Hussein, became prime minister. The former Grand Mufti arrived in Baghdad in early 1940, and although he was not officially authorized by anyone, he immediately began acting as a representative of the Iraqi government. Germany and Italy were also openly offered supplies of Iraqi oil, along with the dismissal of British companies and the expulsion of British military garrisons. Hitler calculated with the rapid and complete success of the Axis armies in North Africa, and their supply of Iraqi oil seemed very promising. The uprising of the "Free French", who, with British support, quickly occupied the hitherto dominated Lebanon and Syria, put a definitive end to the plans not only of Hitler and Mussolini, but also of the former Grand Mufti al-Husseini. He fled from the British to Italy. In November 1941, his truly memorable meeting with Adolf Hitler took place in Berlin. The "leader" of the German nation accepted the mufti with all honors as the real head of the allied state.Hitler was honored with the title of "honorable Muslim" and was awarded the title of "honorable Aryan" by the mufti. Later, Hitler even called al-Husseini an "leader of the Arab world." He promised Hitler al-Husseini that he would recruit half a million Arab troops for him, but the collapse of the Axis forces in Africa made it impossible for him to fulfill the plan. The "Arab Brigade", made up of several thousand Arab refugees and emigrants, was actually established, but after being sent to the Eastern Front, it disappeared without a trace on the Caucasian front, so it was probably completely destroyed. Thanks to the Mufti's mass propaganda, which he spread throughout Europe through collaborators from reporters, executives to field workers, the German army in southern Russia and the Caucasus was accepted by local Muslim tribes as an ally and liberator. Auxiliary and combat units were also formed at Mufti's call. After Heinrich Himmler appointed him Gruppenführer ( Lieutenant General ) of the SS, he began to personally organize the recruitment of Muslims to the SS. Hussein recruited at least 30,000 troops for Hitler. Some Arabs were even among the last faithful to defend the "leader's" headquarters in Berlin. After the collapse of Nazi Germany in the spring of 1945, Mufti tried unsuccessfully to flee to Switzerland before Hitler's death, but was identified as an undesirable high-ranking official of the Nazi regime and returned to Germany. There he was briefly imprisoned by the French, but soon fled to Egypt, where he was accepted as a national hero. It was in Egypt that the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem had already prepared a safe haven, and it is no coincidence that he was followed here by numerous other Nazi chiefs.
Hitler and al-Husseini
13th Mountain Weapons Division SS "Handschar" ( Croatian No. 1 )
Himmler first expressed his intention to create a volunteer division of Muslims from Croatian territory at the end of 1942. In February 1943, an order was issued to build a unit. The division was to be deployed against the Yugoslav guerrillas. The initial influx of volunteers soon stopped, so the Germans had to move Muslims from the Croatian Armed Forces and eventually conscription.
Unlike the army and navy, the Waffen SS did not serve military chaplains. However, Muslim SS soldiers were allowed to have their spiritual leaders and teachers, mules, and imams in their units, who organized their daily prayers.
Opposition to the establishment of the division was raised by the Croatian Ustashas, so the division had to be moved in the summer of 1943 to form from Croatia to southern France. The trouble started almost immediately. German officers and non-commissioned officers did not hide their contempt for their new charges, who were often in poor physical and moral condition. They did not spare insults or corporal punishment during the training. The situation escalated on September 16, when about a thousand Muslim members of the division revolted and murdered a significant number of officers and NCOs. Insurgent leaders were executed, 250 ended up in a concentration camp and about 500 were sent to forced labor.
The division was gradually moved to training facilities in Silesia and in January 1944 served in its ranks 21,065 men of all ranks. The division was composed of three regiments ( Croatian Volunteer Regiment of Mountain Hunters SS No. 1, 2 and Croatian Volunteer Regiment of Mountain Artillery ).
The division known as the Croatian Volunteer SS Mountain Division was moved to northern Bosnia by mid-February 1944 and deployed in anti-guerrilla operations as part of the 5th SS Mountain Corps.Its members have gained a reputation as rude savages and have committed many serious war crimes, especially against the population of Serbian communities.
Despite cases of violation of discipline and poor results, in May 1944 Himmler awarded the division the honorary title of Handschar ( after the curved Arabian sword ) and allowed its members to wear a sign with a hand holding a curved sword above the swastika.
In September 1944, Romania and Bulgaria fell away from the Axis and German troops withdrew from the Balkans. Earlier, Josip Bros. Tito declared a general amnesty for all Yugoslav citizens fighting against his guerrilla units. Many men in the division used the statement as an opportunity for desertion. During the first three weeks of September, more than 2,000 Bosnians deserted, many with their weapons. Many of them ended up in Ustasha troops, and about 700 of them defected to Tito's guerrillas. When most of the escort company and the regimental treasury deserted in October, an enraged Himmler ordered that all unreliable Muslim members of the division be disarmed and sent to manual labor. After the reorganization, the union was supplemented by ethnic Germans. It was reduced to a mere regimental combat group ( Kampfgruppe ). In this form, it was deployed against Soviet troops in Hungary and proved to be quite successful. The battle group eventually withdrew to Austria and surrendered to British troops. Given the reputation of the members of the Handschar division, its soldiers were lucky not to fall into Soviet or Yugoslav hands. However, 38 officers of the division left luck. After the British extradited them to Yugoslavia, they were executed.
Members of the "Handschar" over the handbook "Islam and Judaism"
21st Mountain Weapons Division SS "Skanderbeg" ( Albanian No. 1 )
Albania has been occupied by Italy since 1939. But almost the entire countryside was under the control of communist guerrillas. When Italy surrendered in September 1943, the Italian occupying forces laid their weapons in the hands of the guerrillas. German troops moved to Albania to secure the country.
Heinrich Himmler wasted no time and in April 1944 issued an order to form the Second Muslim Division of the Waffen SS to combat communist guerrillas. It was named after Iskander Beg, the Albanian national hero of the resistance against the Ottoman Empire. Initial recruits came from ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo area, with German officers and NCOs transferred from the Handschar division to form the command core. The low numbers and poor quality of the volunteers, along with the lack of armaments and equipment, delayed the building of the division. In June, it consisted of two regiments of mountain hunters and a regiment of mountain artillery, but had only about 6,000 men at its disposal. Nevertheless, in July she was deployed in Operation "Draufgänger" against Tito's guerrillas in Montenegro. Subsequently, she was tasked with protecting the chrome mines in Kosovo. After a few weeks, the area was completely taken over by guerrillas and many Albanian members of the division deserted - one of the regiments lost more than 1,000 men. According to the report of the army group "E", the division had "absolutely no combat value". Most Muslims had no interests other than settling accounts with Serbian enemies, and this led to many war crimes.
Despite the division's poor performance, Himmler allowed its members to wear a goat's-head emblem on their crown collars. However, there is no evidence that soldiers ever wore this liner.
At the beginning of October, the division had only 4,500 men, of which less than 1,500 were combat-ready ( Albanians made up about a third of them ). The inclusion of almost 4,000 Kriegsmarine members was supposed to improve the situation. On November 1, the division was officially disbanded.Its remaining members were transferred to the division of Prinz Eugen and as Kampfgruppe Skanderbeg participated in successful retreat battles against Tito's partisans in December 1944 and January 1945.
Recruitment leaflet for the "Skanderbeg" division
23rd Mountain Weapons Division SS "Kama" ( Croatian No. 2 )
In June 1944, the formation of the second "Croatian" anti-guerrilla division began. It was to consist of Bosnian Muslims with a German command staff. The division was to be reinforced by Muslim officers from the Handschar division, who were promoted on the basis of their combat success. It consisted of two regiments of mountain hunters. In order to prevent attacks by Tito's partisans during the formation of the division, the division was relocated to Hungary to the training area of Bács. Even before the "Kama" division was fully formed, it came under pressure from the Red Army advancing into southern Hungary. As disciplinary excesses continued to multiply among the Muslim team and it was clear that in this state the unit could not be deployed to combat, the German command decided in October 1944 to abolish the division. Its German officers and NCOs were transferred to the 31st SS Division and Muslims to the "Handschar" Division.
East Turkish Union SS
Traditionally, the Muslim communities of the southern and eastern parts of the Soviet Union had no reason to be loyal to the communist regime. Among other things, 5,000 Kalmyks, 180,000 Turkmen, 110,000 volunteers from the Caucasus ( Armenians, Georgians, Azerbaijanis and Chechens ), 40,000 Volga and 20,000 Crimean Tatars joined the German armed forces. Since 1941, some of them have served in SS police units. In December 1943, after the meeting of the Grand Mufti al-Hussein with SS officials and three unknown Turkmen officers of the 450th Turkish Field Regiment, a decision was made to support Soviet Muslims' fight against communism and to form the East Muslim Division of the SS. On January 1, 1944, members of the 450th Turkish Field Regiment and the 1st Battalion of the 94th Regiment were transferred to the SS and formed the core of the newly built division. The formation of a new division in the SS training area in Poniatowo, Poland, slowed down as the unit took part in the liquidation of the Warsaw Uprising as part of the "Dirlewanger" brigade. Later, the formation took place in Kaposvár, Hungary. However, this volunteer group did not make much of an impression and had problems with participation, low morale and desertions. The individual units were thus deployed to the guard service rather than in combat operations. As early as the fall of 1944, it was clear that the entire East Muslim division would not be built. Therefore, in October, Himmler decided to move its torso to Slovakia, where it was to be re-formed, or a new volume was to be built from its parts. In the spring of 1945, East Muslim troops moved from Slovakia via Austria to northern Italy, where they provided security mainly against guerrillas. There, too, they eventually surrendered to the Americans.
G. Williamson: Waffen SS
R. Buttler: Black Angels
J. Lucas: Hitler's Mountain Units
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