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George Lepre
Himmler's Bosnian Division
the Waffen - SS Handschar Division 1943-1945



The Division Song
(Set to the melody of "Bombs on England")
"Sa Pjesmom u Boj"

Pjesma jeci, sva se zemlja trese,
SS-vojska stupa roj u roj,
SS-vojska sveti barjak vije.
SS-vojska sve za narod svoj.

Daj mi ruku ti, draga Ivana,
oj s Bogom sad, oj s Bogom sad, oj s Bogom sad
idem branit, idem branit, idem branit mili,
rodni kraj, rodni kraj.

U boj smjelo vi SS-junaci
pokazite domovini put!
Podjite putem slavnih pradjedova
dok ne padne titan klet i ljut.

Ljubav nasa nek u srdcu plamti,
i sa pjesmom podjimo u boj.
Za slobodu mile domovine
svaki rado datce zivot svoj.

"Into Battle With a Song"

A song is in the air, the entire earth is shaking,
Columns of SS men march in step,
SS men wave the sacred banners.
SS men do everything for the people.

Give me your hand, dear lvana,
Follow God now, Follow God now, Follow God now
I shall defend, I shall defend, I shall defend my beloved
Homeland, Homeland

SS men are heroes in battle
Show our homeland the way
Follow the road of our glorious grandfathers
Until tyranny falls, cursed and bitter

Let love burn in our hearts
And with a song let's enter battle
To liberate our beloved homeland
For which anyone would gladly sacrifice his life.

The Mufti

The chief of the SS Main Office, Gottlob Berger, believed that the exiled Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, could be of help in encouraging Muslims to volunteer for the new division. Once the leader of the Higher Arab Committee in Palestine, the Anglophobic Mufti now maintained a comfortable existence in an elegant Zehlendorf villa while in pay of both the German Foreign Office and the SS, and was instrumental in furthering German-Muslim relations. A conference was held in Berlin on 24 March where Berger, Husseini, and Phleps discussed the matter. The Mufti was well aware of the situation in Bosnia, for in a speech he presented only days before the meeting he said:

"The hearts of all Muslims must today go out to our Islamic brothers in Bosnia, who are forced to endure a tragic fate. They are being  persecuted by the Serbian and communist bandits, who receive support from England and the Soviet Union .... They are being murdered, their possessions are robbed, and their villages are burned. England and its allies bear a great accountability before history for mishandling and murdering Europe's Muslims, just as they have done in the Arabic lands and in India."

Husseini told the Germans of the great influence he wielded "on the Mediterranean coast and throughout the Oriental world," so Berger arranged for him to tour the region and meet with leading Muslim personalities, Croatian government officials, and local German military commanders. "Much was expected from the visit," one SS officer recalled. "The Mufti was to play a key role in the formation of the Bosnian Division." The tour, which took place from 30 March to 14 April, was indeed a success, as a German diplomat wrote:

"The faithful recognized him as a true Muslim; he was honored as a descendant of the Prophets. Friends from his theological studies in Cairo and pilgrimage to Mecca welcomed him. He was presented gifts, old weapons, embroidery, (and the like)."

An SS officer reported on the Mufti's visit to Sarajevo:

Phleps sent von Krempler and me to Sarajevo to assist with the security measures and quartering for the Mufti's visit. He in fact stayed at the former palace of the Austrian governor, where, on 28 June 1914, the bodies of the slain Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were brought and laid in state.

The Mufti was an extremely impressive personality. His reddish blond beard, steady motions, expressive eyes, and charismatic facial features gave him more the look of a philosopher than a revolutionary. I personally was unable to converse with him, for I could not speak Arabic, Turkish, or English, all of which he spoke fluently, but von Krempler spoke Turkish quite well, and the pair had one or two conversations.

The only remarkable figure in Husseini's entourage was his servant. This man, an armed Bedouin dressed in European clothing, stood or sat in front of the Mufti's door throughout the entire day to ensure that his master was not interrupted during his prayers. At night, he laid down in front of the door, wrapped in a blanket, so that the Mufti could sleep in peace. I never did find out when he himself ate, drank, or slept.


Handzaru Udaraj! - Handschar Strike!

Before the division began the long-awaited Unternehmen Save (Operation Sava), the movement into Bosnia, Sauberzweig wrote an open letter to his men:

We have now reached the Bosnian frontier and will (soon) begin the march into the homeland.

I was recently able to travel throughout almost all of Bosnia. What I saw shocked me. The fields lay uncultivated, the villages burned out and destroyed. The few remaining inhabitants live in cellars or underground shelters. Misery reigns in the refugee camps as I've never before seen in my life. This must be changed through swift and energetic action.

The necessity of our task has only become greater through what I have witnessed. The task demands that each and every one of you perform your duty - only then can we carry it out ....

The Fuhrer has provided you with his best weapons. Not only do you (have these) in your hands, but above all you have an idea in your hearts - to liberate the homeland.

I also saw some of your fathers. Their eyes, when I told them that I was your division commander, shined as brightly as yours ....

Before long, each of you shall be standing in the place that you call home, as a soldier and a gentleman; standing firm as a defender of the idea of saving the culture of Europe - the idea of AdoIf Hitler.

I wish every one of you "soldier's luck" and know... that you will be loyal until the end.

To add to the significance of the crossing, Sauberzweig ordered that as the division's units crossed the river, each unit commander was to read a short text he prepared for the event.

As we cross this river we commemorate the great historic task that the leader of the new Europe, Adolf Hitler, has set for us - to liberate the long-suffering Bosnian homeland and through this to form the bridge for the liberation of Muslim Albania.

To our Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, who seeks the dawn of a just and free Europe - Sieg Heil!

This was followed by recitation of the division's motto:

"HANDZARU - UDARAJ!" or "HANDSCHAR - STRIKE!"

Each man was also given a portrait photograph of Hitler as a "personal gift" from him.

Bosnian Imams

The imams visiting Potsdam, July 1943. Standing from left to right Imam Husejin Dzozo, Imam  Ahmed Skaka, unknown, SS-Schiitze Zvonimir Bemwald, SS-Ostuf. Heinrich Gaese, Division Imam Abdulah Muhasilovic, an unknown German, Imam Haris Korkut, Imam Dzemal Ibrahimovic, Imam Hasan Bajraktarevic, Imam  Salih Sabanovic, Imam Fikret Mehmedagic, an unknown partially obscured  German  and Imam Sulejman Alinajstrovic. Kneeling from left to right Imam Muhamed Mujakic, Imam Halim Malkoc, Imam Kasim Maric, Imam Hasim Torlic, and Imam Osman Delic.

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