Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Unfulfilled Hope: The Story of Bosnian SS 'Kama' Division

During World War II, tens of thousands of Bosnian best youths joined with Himmler's private army, the Waffen SS. Reichführer SS believe that as Muslims they would became great fighters. But the truth was disappointed him.

During spring 1944, Yugoslavian Partisan under Tito became stronger than before. Although the Germans, with their's Bulgarians, Hungarians, and local peoples allies, still occupied more than half of Yugoslavia, the Partisan strength had been rose up to 300,000 men and women. Beside, the British and the American supported them by sending almost 3,000 tons weapons and other equipment a month.

While the Partisan become stronger and more confident, the Germans become arduously. To overcome the Partisan threat, the Germans need more troops than they had. But crisis at other fronts made the German High Command could not spare more troops to Yugoslavia. The only solution was to recruit more pro-Nazi elements from local people to help their cause. The pro-Nazi Croatia Independent State was a good spot for that objective, and the Croat Muslims from Bosnia were the best potential recruits. After all, they had been formed into an SS division that specialized to fight the partisan. So, Hitler ordered the formation of the second Waffen SS division from Croatia.

The Formation of SS 'Kama' Division

Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler was known as Islam most willing promoter and collaborator among the Nazi leadership. Himmlers hatred the soft Christianity was equal for his liking for Islam, which he saw as a masculine, martial religion based on the SS qualities of blind obedience and readiness for self-sacrifice, untainted by compassion for ones enemies. His admiration for Islam made him ready to throw-out his racial Aryan pure fantasies to receive more Muslim volunteers for his private army, Waffen SS.

Yugoslavia furnished him a great pool of Muslim volunteers. After formed two Muslim divisions from local people (13.Waffen Gebirgsdivision der SS 'Handschar' from Bosnia and 21. Waffen Gebirgsdivision der SS 'Skanderbeg' from Albanian Kosovo), Himmler thirsty for more men became irrepressible. In his letter that he wrote on May 22, 1944 to SS-Obergruppenführer Artur Phleps, Himmler stated: "My goal is clear: The creation of two territorial corps, one in Bosnia, the other in Albania. These two corps, with the Division 'Prinz Eugen', as an army of five SS mountain divisions is the goal for 1944."

The Reichsführer SS came one step closer to the realization of his plan on May 28, 1944 when Hitler ordered a second "Croatian" division to be formed. Himmler's recruitment chief, SS-Obergruppenführer Gottlob Berger, traveled to Croatia and met with the government officials at Novi Dvori on 13 August to work out the particulars. He conceded that this new division could not be an all-Muslim formation, reporting to Himmler that "the induction of 10,000 Croatian citizens of the Islamic faith (was) not possible, for such a number of reliable youngsters (was) simply not available, and thus Catholic Croatians will be (accepted)."

Approval was giving for the raising of the division on June 17, 1944. The new division was given the honorary title 'Kama', according the word for a short Turkish sword that used as fighting knife. Later, the division got the full name as 23.Waffen Gebirgsdivision der SS 'Kama' (kroatische nr. 2). In addition, a corps headquarters element, the IX.Waffen-Gebirgs-Korps der SS (kroatisches), was to form to assume tactical command of the two divisions from Croatia.

Although the order to raise the 'Kama' Division had been made on 17 June, actual transfers and recruitment for the cadre personnel had already begun on 10 June. A sizeable number of German officers and NCOs were available to the division. To reinforce them, orders were issued directing 'Handschar' Division to hand over cadres for the new division, a slew of personnel, including three NCOs from every company. To this core of troops was added a new batch of Croatian Muslim recruits.

The Training

At first, Hitler planned to form the 'Kama' Division in northern Croatia, but then he changed his mind. Fearing the Partisan would do everything in their power to disrupt and destroy the newly forming division, the Fuehrer decided to move the assembly site to the Bacska Region, a Yugoslavia area that had been annexed by Hungary. The area was far enough from Partisan influences on the troops but was close enough with their homeland to made them calm.

The large regimental units of the 'Kama' were located in the following areas: 1) Recruit Depot – Sambor; 2) Recruit Depot – Bosujaci; 3) 55.Waffen-Gebirgsjaeger-Regiment der-SS (kroatische Nr. 3) and 56.Waffen-Gebirgsjaeger-Regiment der-SS (kroatische Nr. 4) were located between Sambor and Verbas; Waffen-Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regiment der-SS (kroatische Nr. 2) was located around Kula, between Sambor and Verbas (Vrbas); the old 13.SS-Aufklärungs-Abteilung, now redesigned the 23.SS-Aufklärungs-Abteilung, initially located at Centamas.

This area encompassed the Danube-Tiza Canal. During its brief history, the division's area of operations would change only slightly, ending just southeast, between Vrbas and Novi Sad.

Like its sister, majorities of 'Kama' recruits were Bosnian Muslims. So, once again, the division was Croat in name only - although the Bosnian Muslims were NDH citizens. As what had happened in 'Handzar', frictions between cultures were also appeared in 'Kama'. Fredo Gensicke, a Reichdeutsche SS sergeant who was transferred to the 'Kama' on July 20, 1944, described the Bosnian Muslim soldiers in his unit as follows: "There were forever complications with the Bosnian soldiers...On the other hand, there were those Muslims so fanatical in their religion that one could get a knife stuck in the back if you would twist your hand around, forcing the tassel on the Fez hat to move around".

The division began to take shape in earnest in July and August 1944. 'Kama' Division was to be structured identically to 'Handzar' with two regiments gebirgsjäger, each with four battalions; an artillery regiment, also of four battalions; battalions of engineers, flak and reconnaissance, and the customary support units. However, 'Kama never received enough men to flesh out any of its units. At its peak strength in September 1944, it only had 3,793 men within its total ranks. The main reason of this was the decline of the Third Reich positions on all fronts.

Inglorious End

During the months of August and September1944, the Red Army made some dangerous advances in the Balkan and Hungary. The training bases for the 'Kama' Division was suddenly precariously close to the front lines. The SS-FHA attempted to get the division ready for combat, citing the unrealistic date of September 24th as when the unit readies for frontline service. It would have been sheer suicide to commit the division to the front line service, especially since it had always been intended for service against Yugoslavian partisan and not the crack troops of a victorious Red Army.

Meanwhile, the disaster that struck Germany made Bosnian soldiers morale wane in the division itself. As they entered the final phase of their training, one German reported: "(our) company was quartered in a Stiechowice school. I bunked with (two NCOs), Werner Rauner from Thuringia and a Muslim. One day this Muslim departed; he had been given a furlough. His last words to us were that he would not be returning. We took it as a joke. We in fact never saw him again".

SS-Gruppenführer Karl-Gustav Sauberzweig, the commander of the IX.Waffen Gebirgskorps (kroatisches) that command both 'Kama' and 'Handzar' divisions, was alarmed with the mass desertions of his Bosnian soldiers. He suggested the Reichsführer SS to disarm the Bosnian and to dissolved their's divisions. Himmler rejected the plea but agree to make some changes to the corps, insisted that the Bosnians remain in service.

According an order that issued on 24 September, the Bosnians of the 'Kama' (about 2,000 men) under SS-Standartenführer Hellmuth Raithel were to be transported to Bosnia, where they and the 'Handzar' Division would be reorganized into two small divisions of about 10,000 men each. These 'Kama' elements were to be moved by rail to the area between Gradiste, Zupanja, and Bosnjaci, where the "new" division of 'Kama' was to be formed.

To reinforce the moral of Bosnian troops, Himmler send the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem to address imams of the corps. The mufti planned to meet all IX.Waffen Gebirgskorps imams near Budapest on 11 October. But the 'Kama' Division imams were unable to attend due the heavy fighting on the Tisza River. And so the Mufti.

Meanwhile, the unrealistic date of committal 'Kama' Division passed. If all of this wasn't bad enough, the Bosnians of the division, who had been disengaged from the front line in Hungary and had begun the planned move into Bosnia, mutinied on 17 October. One German officer allegedly killed. Raithel managed to gain quick control of the situation but for all practicals purposed this spelled the end of his division. Thereafter, the SS-FHA realized that no time was left for the 'Kama' Division to form.

As the Red Army moved into Hungary, the German military leaders decided to disband the unit and make as much use of the already formed personnel as possible by transferring them as replacements to other divisions. The decision was made in October 1944, and most of the divisional elements went to help form the 31.SS Freiwilligen-Grenadier Division. The Muslims of 'Kama' were ordered to report to the 'Handzar' Division. Some of them deserted on the way the 'Handzar' headquarters, but most reported for duty. The divisional number 23 were then handed over to the newly forming Dutch SS.Freiwilligen Panzergrenadier Division 'Nederland'.

During its brief five-month life, the 'Kama' commanders were SS-Standartenführer Hellmuth Raithel and SS-Oberführer Gustav Lombard. The SS was supposed had been prepared a symbol for the divisions collar tab and vehicle identification shield, depicting a round sun with its rays radiating from the center.

Copyright © Nino Oktorino 2004

Hitler's Soviet Muslim Legions

During World War II, hundreds of thousands of foreign peoples joined with Hitler's legions to bring theirs people into special status in Hitler's New Order. Tens of thousands among them were Muslims, where the majority of them came from Soviet Union. Under the banner of the crescent and the swastika, these Soviet Muslims believe to become holy warriors to liberated theirs land. But the end of this unholy alliance was a disaster for them.

The Pro-Nazi Soviet Muslims

When the German Army invaded Soviet Russia on June 22, 1941 they saw many of their opponent inhabitants welcomed them as liberators. One o
f the group of Soviet citizens that felt had reason to rejoiced the coming of the Teutonic legion invaders were Soviet Muslims.

Many of Soviet Muslims hates domination of Russians upon them. They still remembered theirs golden age under the Muslim khans, emirs, and sultans before they fall into Russian Czardom between 17th and 19th centuries. Actually, when the Czardom liquidated during Bolshevik Revolution, the Muslim Soviet got a chances to liberated themselves from theirs Russian masters and formed some independent states with help from theirs Turkish brothers and her German allied. Even for a while they thought to b
uild a Greater Turkey Sultanate like Pan-Turanian longing.

In Caucasus, an all-Islam army, composed of Azeris, Ajars, and other Caucasian Muslims, assist the Turkish army under Nuri Pasha, who was known for his Pan-Turanian ideas. They besieged many non-Muslims towns in Caucasus that refused surrender to them and starved it into submissions. Some of them implicated with the massacres of Armenians.

The same thing developed in Central Asia. In Kokand, a free government of Turkestan was proclaimed, while the emirs of Khiva and Bukhara asserted their independence. The Turkish-Tartar peoples in Crimea and Volga also arise against the Russians.

Unfortunately, after succeeded consolidated their power in Russia, the Bolshevist penetrated these areas. One by one centers of Musli
m resistance to communism fell. The attempt to free these Muslim areas from Russian rule had failed, and the Soviet government succeeded in reestablishing its authority over the whole Caucasus and Turkestan. But the native peoples rejected this Russian-Communist authority. Some of them rise against the Moscow rule when the communist forced collectivized farms and atheistic attitudes upon them. One of the uprisings erupted in Chechnya, where the Cechens under an ex-communist named Hasan Israilov rise against the Soviet regime.

The unrest of these Muslim peoples didn't escape from Hitler intention. When many of Muslim Soviet POWs enthusiastic wished to join with the victorious Wehrmacht against theirs ruler, theirs aspirations get a green light from the German dictator. On December, 1941 a top secret memorandum ordered that the OKW was to create two Muslim units: the Turkestanisch Legion, consisted Muslim volunteers from Central Asia, like Turkomans, Uzbeks, Kazak
hs, Kirghizs, Karakalpaks, and Tadjiks; and Kaukasisch-Mohammedan Legion from Caucasian Muslims volunteers, like Azeris, Daghestans, Chechens, Ingushes, and Lezghins. Beside a separated unit consisted Muslim Tartars, Wolgatatarische Legion, was formed in Poland on January 1942.

The German courting of the Soviet Muslims was part of Hitler's lunatic schemes for bringing Turkey into his side and for advancing to control the oil fields in Middle East and Baku. The Soviet Muslims fighting units were supposed to take part in bringing the whole Middle East into the German orbit. As Hitler sai
d in December 1942, "I consider only the Muslims to be reliable...I see no danger in the establishment of purely Muslim units." As propaganda tools the Nazis attempt to revive and encourage Pan-Turanian tendency in Turkey and within Soviet Muslims population.

The Nazi's Muslim Project

When the German army marches into Caucasus, they bring with them theirs Muslim supporters to fire rebellions within Soviet Muslim peoples. That move made a great-worried within Soviet leadership. As Konstantin Oumansky, Soviet ambassador in Washington, said on one of the blackest days of the Black Summer of 1942: "I must said that I am a little worried about the Caucasus...The Tartars in the Crimea are, to a large extent, disloyal... they never liked us. It is well known that during the Crimean War they gladly 'collaborated', as we'd now say, with the English and the French. And, above all, there are religious factors, which the Germans have not failed to exploit. Nor do I trust the mountain peoples of the Caucasus. Like the Crimean Tartars, they are Muslims, and they still remember the Russian conquest of the Caucasu
s which ended not so very long ago - 1863."

The Soviet authorities were, indeed, rather worried about the Caucasus Muslim nationalists there. The uneasiness extended, to some extent, also to certain Muslim nations of Central Asia, particularly the Uzbeks, among whom Muslim traditions were still strong.

The German did make contact with some of the Muslim nationalities in the Northern Caucasus. Toward the predominantly Muslim mountaineers of the Northern Caucasus - the Chechens, Ingushi, Karachai, and Balk
arians - the German army adopted a 'liberal' policy. Promises were made for the abolition of the kolkhozes; mosques were to be reopened; requisitioned goods were to be paid for; and the confidence of the people was to be won by 'model conduct', especially in respect of women. Beside the local national committees got permission to be formed to help Germany Army in organize administration and law and order.

In Karachai region a 'Karachai National Committee' was set up under an anti-Soviet named Kaki Baieramukov. The high point of German-Karachai collaboration was the celebration of Bairam, the Muslim holiday, in Kislovodsk in October 1942. During the celebration, German high officials were presented with precious gifts by the local committee. Then the German announced the formation of a Karachai volunteer squadron of horsemen to fight with the German Army.

The same policy also applied in Kabardino-Balkhar area, although the Muslim Balkars were more outspokenly than the mostly non-Muslim Kabardinians. A national committee was formed under a local leader named Selim Shadov and has responsible to arrange the fields of religion, culture, and economy. The collaboration reached a highest-point during the Kurman ceremonies that held at Nalchik, the seat
of the local administration of the Kabardino-Balkar area, on December 18. Again gifts were exchanged, with the local officials giving the Germans magnificent steeds and receiving in return Korans and captured weapons. An official from Reich Eastern Ministry named Bräutigam made a public address about lasting bonds of German friendship with the peoples of the Caucasus.

These pro-Muslim policies in Crimea and Caucasus gave Germany a trump card of major importance in her relations with Turkey. The Reich Foreign Ministry invited some Turks to aid in the administration as expert advisers. Germany showed a disposition to negotiate with Turkey about the future status of the areas in question. By conceding to Turkey the right to organize the liberated Turko-Tartar areas of the Soviet Union into a federation, German ambassador in Ankara, von Papen, and an influential group in the German Foreign Office hoped to secure Turkish collaboration during the war.

Actually, these inducements profoundly impressed Turkish Pan-Turanians and attracted the attention of some military leaders, including Marshal Cakmak. Unfortunately, the disaster in Stalingrad destroyed the German plan. The Turks changed theirs mind and continued embracing their neutr
al position while the German army retreat as quickly as possible from Caucasus to prevent another Stalingrad. Many Muslims collaborators followed them. The grandiose scheme for the conquest of the Middle East with the help of Soviet Muslims was off.

Nazi Muslim Legions at War

Although Hitler's ambitious plan for Soviet Muslims political role failed after the Stalingrad debacle, he still had tens of thousands of them to assist him militarily. The most numerous of the Soviet Muslims that served the Germans were the Turkestanis. First Turkestanis volunteers were integrated as one battalion of the 444.Sicherungs Division in November 1941 and became auxiliary to help the Germans to fight the partisan.

According Hitler's secret order on December 1941, a formation named Turkestanisch Legion was formed to command the Turkestanis volunteers. But it must be explained that name of a 'legion' in German's Eastern Legions was not synonym with a tactical formation. In fact, it only a training center where national units. mostly battalions, were organized and trained. During the war, 70,000 Turkestanis volun
teers served within the German forces: 40,000 soldiers and 30.000 military workers. In 1943, the Turkestanis had 15 battalions and one year later grew-up to 26 battalions. Those battalions mainly were integrated as independent battalions within German divisions.

But there was also
a full division of the Turkestanis volunteers: the 162.Turkestanisch Infanterie Division. Composed of Germans, Turkomans, and Azeris, the division commanded by General Oskar von Niedermayer, a self-stylish German's Lawrence of Arabia and a former military attaché in Persia. The division trained at Kruszyna in Poland and was transferred to Yugoslavia to fought Tito's partisan. Then they were moved to Italy in 1943, where at a moment fought an American-Japanese regiment. According its commander, it was as good as a normal German division.

Crimean Tartar was not only gladly collaborating with the Germans, but was also supplying the Wehrmacht with 20,000 soldiers. These descendants of Mongols especially infamous during anti-partisan operations. In July-August 1943, Yalta mayor V.I. Maltzev formed a Tartars punitive battalion in
Yevpatoria. Known as 'Khimi', the battalion fought the partisan in Yaila Mountains, where they burned several partisan bases and killed many civilians.

Impressed with theirs action, the Germans later transferred the battalion to northwestern France to fought the French maquis. Once again, their atrocious behaviors become well known so that feed fears to French civilians. An example of theirs cruelty occurred in Dortan in Ain on July 21, 1944 where the Tartars soldiers punished the village because its hospitality to the Maquis. According the reports of eyewitnesses, they raped women that fall into theirs hand collectively, burned the village, and laugh wild while playing in the front of the flames with children bicycles.

The Germans tried hard to court these Muslim volunteers. One of Nazi officials gave a report about the perfect condition of Turkestanisch Legion camp. The commander of the legion himself has learned the Turkestan language, and the Turkestanis have accepted German military terms and have an anti-Bolshevist attitude. The legions of the Muslim Caucasians and Tartars have modeled on similar lines.

To raise morale of the Soviet Muslim volunteers, the Germans also issued some publications for them, like Gazavat (Holy War), Svoboda. Ezenedel'naja gazeta legionerov (Freedom. Weekly Newspaper for the Legionnaires), Milli Turkistan (The National Turkestan), Yeni Turkistan (The New Turkestan), Milli Adabijat (National Literature), Idel-Ural (Volga-Ural), Tatar Adabijat (Tartar Literature), and Azerbaican (Azerbaijan). These newspapers and magazine were edited by local journalists and only loosely controlled by the Germans from the Eastern Ministry and Wehrmacht's propaganda division.

The Soviet Muslims performance in the front lines itself different in one front to others. On Western Front, many of them disappointed theirs German master: like many of theirs Eastern colleague, Soviet Muslim volunteers didn't show any eagerness to fight the Western Allied. In contrast, in Eastern Front they show the tenacious fighting qualities. As an example, three Turkic battalions had fought to the last man at Stalingrad. The other saw how a Turkic battalion that had broken out of a pocket near Kharkov, reentered it again just to recover the body of their beloved German commander.

But, whatever their performance, the existence the Soviet Muslims in the rank of the German army got attention of the second most powerful man in the Third Reich, Heinrich Himmler. The Reichsführer SS decided to recruited them into his private army, the Waffen-SS.

Soviet Muslims in the Himmler's Black Legion

Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler was known as Islam most willing promoter and collaborator among the Nazi leadership. Himmler's hatred the 'soft' Christianity was equal for his liking for Islam, which he saw as a masculine, martial religion based on the SS qualities of blind obedience and readiness for self-sacrifice, untainted by compassion for one's enemies. His admiration for Islam made him ready to throw-out his racial 'Aryan pure' fantasies to receive more Muslim volunteers for his sinister legion.

When the mass of Soviet Muslims collaborators followed the retreating German armies to avoid the reprisals that awaited them from the Russians, Himmler would probably not have objected to procuring them for the Waffen SS. He had decided that it was only the Slav and the Jews in the Russian stock who were sub-humans. There was a superior element in the Russian nation which come from Asia and which had produced Attila, Jenghiz Khan, Tamerlane, Lenin, and Stalin. The Soviet Muslims themselves were suited with these criteria. Many of them came from Caucasus (just like Stalin origin) or descendants and relatives of the Mongols (like Tartar and Turkestan peoples).

In November 1943, a certain Heer major name Andreas Meyer-Mader meet Himmler to offering his service to help raise and command a Turkic SS unit. Himmler approved the major plan and then transfers him into the ranks of the Waffen SS and promoted him to the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer. On 14 December, another meeting was held in Berlin in present of the Grand Mufti of the Jerusalem, Hajj Amin el-Husseini. The Grand Mufti approved the plan to raise a Turkic-Muslim SS division and give his "spiritual leadership" to influence the Muslim volunteers.

Osttürkischen Waffen-Verbände der SS was formed on January 1944 as 1.Ostmuslemanische SS-Regiment. (Actually, the Reichsführer SS plans to expand it into a division, Muselmanischen SS-Division Neu-Turkestan, but the plan never realized.) This new formation formed form the Turkic units in the Heer that was disbanded, i.e., 450th, 480th, and I/94 Turkic battalions, plus some new recruits from German POW camps. The recruits not only Turkestanis, but also Azeris, Kirghiz, Uzbek, and Tadjiks volunteers. The unit was formed in Trawniki, Poland, before they were transferred to Belorussia for further training. SS-Obersturmbannführer Andreas Meyer-Mader was appointed as its first commander.

Unfortunately, this unit suffered from poor discipline and poor morale, especially after theirs beloved commander, Meyer-Mader, killed during a skirmish with partisans in Yuratishki, near Minsk, on March 28, 1944. The situation became worse when the replacement commander, SS-Hauptsturmführer Billig executes 78 unit members for insubordination. This incident made Himmler angry and Billig relieved.

On July 1944, the unit transferred back to Poland. When the SS tried to quell the Warsaw Uprising, the unit attached to the notoriously SS Dirlewanger Brigade, where they were participated in brutal actions that killed 200,000 Polish civilians.

Himmler decision to appointed SS-Standartenführer Harun-el-Raschid-Bey, an Austrian officer who converts to Islam, didn't made many good progression within the formation. In contrary, during his leadership the morals of the Turkestanis drop until a low ebb. Even a mutiny broke-up when on Christmas Eve 1944, 450 members of the 1st Battalion, led by Waffen-Obersturmführer Gulam Alimov and Waffen-Untersturmführer Asatpalvan, killed some NCOs and went over to the partisans. Himmler's reaction was fired Harun-el-Raschid-Bey and reorganized the formation, where the Azerbaijan contingents in the formation transferred to the Kaukasicher Waffen-Verbände der-SS.

Meanwhile, another Soviet Muslim SS formation came into being during the summer of 1944, when all of the Crimean Tartar Schuma battalion were gathered together and formed into a new unit, Waffen-Gebirgs-Brigade der-SS (Tatarische Nr.1). But because the shorts of weapons and equipment, the unit was disbanded on December 1944, and the men were ordered to join with Osttürkischen Waffen-Verbände der SS.

In the final days of the war Osttürkischen Waffen-Verbände der SS operated in Slovenian-Italian borders. There were possibility that the unit participated in some anti-partisan operations in Slovenia, serving under HSSPF Adriatic Coast. During April-May 1945, the unit stationed in Lombardy, Italia. They stayed in there until the end of the war.

The Bitter End

The disaster that fell into the Third Reich began to take a turn for the worse and made a worse impact among the Soviet Muslims that served within the Germans armies. When Himmler finally tried to assembled a united front against the Bolshevik among the Soviets dissidents under General Vlasov, many of non-Russians voiced against it.

One of the oppositions came from Turkestani National Committee which longing independence of Turkestan. The committee that headed by Veli Kayum Khan, head of the Turkestani "government in exile", had been in charge of the political and national leadership of Turkestani volunteers. It had successfully raised the morale of the Turkestani volunteers by supporting independence for Turkestan and, with the aid of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the SS-FHA, setting up schools at Dresden and Götingen to train religious imams for the Muslim military units in the Waffen SS and the Wehrmacht. His stand were supported by some Muslim leaders from Caucasus, like Kantimer, Alibegow, and Tschamalja.

But the situation in front lines decided their fate, not the Germans. The Allied high tides sweeps and swallow the Third Reich. Hitler killed himself on April 30, 1945. One week later, Germany surrenders. Like many of theirs Eastern comrade-in-arms that supported the Nazis, Soviet Muslim volunteers who surrender to Western Allied were shipped back to Soviet Union, where many of them were executed or dumped into the Gulags as traitors.

Even Stalin ordered deportations to the east some of Soviet Muslim nationalities whose representatives had fraternized with the Germans - like Chechens, Balkars, Ingushi, Karachais, and Crimean Tartars. The first four of these nationalities - or what was left of them - were allowed to return to their homes after Stalin's death, while the Crimea Tartars - the most notoriously collaborator - could return only after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Copyright © Nino Oktorino 2004
Further reading
Sebastian Cwiklinski, Wolgatataren im Deutschland des Zweiten Weltkriegs: deutsche Ostpolitik und tatarischer Nationalismus. Schwarz, 2002.
Iskander Giliazov, Legion "Idel-Ural" : predstaviteli narodov Povolzhia i Priuralia pod znamenami "tretego reikha". Tatarskoe knizhnoe izd-vo, 2005.
N. Hidayat, Legiun Muslim Hitler. Nilia Pustaka, 2007.
Joachim Hoffmann, Die Ostlegionen 1941 – 1943: Turkotartaren, Kaukasier und Wolgafinnen im deutschen Heer. Freiburg, 1976.
Joachim Hoffmann, Kaukasien 1942/43 - Das deutsche Heer und die Orientvölker der Sowjetunion. Freiburg, 1991.
Albert Jeloschek, et.al., Freiwillige vom Kaukasus. Georgier & Tschetschenen auf deutscher Seite. „Der Sonderverband Bergmann“ unter Theo Oberländer. L. Stocker, 2003
Patrik von zur Mühlen, Zwischen Hakenkreuz und Sowjetstern. Droste Verlag, 1971.
Antonio J. Munoz, Forgotten Legions: Obscure Combat Formations of the Waffen-SS. Axis Europa, 1991.
Antonio J. Munoz, The East Came West: Muslim, Hindu, And Buddhist Volunteers In The German Armed Forces 1941-1945. Axis Europa, 2001.
Bakhyt Sadykova, Istoriia Turkestanskogo legiona v dokumentakh. Kaĭnar, 2002.
Nasiman Yakublu, Azerbaycan Legionerleri. Baku, 2006.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Count Christian Frederick von Schalburg

Count Christian Frederick von Schalburg born in Ukraine on 15 April 1906. His father, August Theodor Schalburg, was a Danish landowner and director of several dairy plants in Siberia while his mother, Elena Vasiljevna, was a Ukrainian. He grew up to a large extent in a German-Danish-Ukrainian community and learned to speak fluent Russian. He later joined the Czarist cadet corps, but fled the country with his family after the Bolshevik takeover.

Taking refuge in Denmark, von Schalburg enlisted in Den Kongelige Livgarde (Royal Life Guard) and worked his way up to the rank of Captain. He married with Helle von Schalburg and has a son, Alex. In fact, his marriage with a member of German nobility gave him an opportunity to add the ‘von’ title to his name. In the late 1930s von Schalburg was attracted to the Danish National Socialist Workers Party (DNSAP) and served as the leader of its youth branch—a move that cost him his position in the Den Kongelige Livgarde because his superior described him as “unstable and for the army possibly a dangerous man.” Frustrated and thought himself as a victim of Jewish slander, when the Russo-Finnish War broke, he organized a Danish volunteer battalion to fight on the side of the Finns. It had barely entered the country in March 1940, when Finland forced to capitulate. In deep frustration, he and other volunteers returned to Denmark.

After the German occupation of Denmark in April 1940, von Schalburg became one of the first volunteers for the new SS-Standarte ‘Nordland’. He was later aattended training at an SS Officers Academy in Germany from November 17, 1940 to December 10, 1940. He subsequently serves as ‘Wiking’ divisional O1 (a position for prospective General Staff trainees).

During the first nine months in Russia, he came under fire many times and led kampfgruppen in several engagements. Since von Schalburg spoke fluent Russian, he actually served more like the Ic, or Intelligence Officer. While his post was O1, he in practice made himself useful on the staff by carrying out various other tasks such as interrogating prisoners and serving as the unofficial spokesman for the Scandinavian volunteers in the division. As a result he was quickly awarded both classes of the Iron Cross as well as a high Danish medal for bravery. The ‘Wiking’ commander, SS-Gruppenführer Felix Steiner, considered him one of the most capable, intelligent and totally courageous men in the division.

When the Russo-German war broke, the Danish Government formed a volunteer formation as theirs military contribution to the war with Russia. Named as ‘Frikorps Danmark’, the Danish War Ministry selected a senior artillery officer, Lieutenant Colonel Christian Peter Kryssing to command the unit. A fierce anti-communist, however, Kryssing was also a known Danish nationalist and patriot. Soon he clashed with his German commanding-officer and removed from the command as a result. The SS-FHA later named von Schalburg as his successor to lead the ‘Frikorps Danmark’.

The SS gave von Schalburg this command mostly because of his political reliability and willingness to provide his corps with the required ideological training. Starting immediately, von Schalburg, now an SS-Sturmbannführer, initiated a rigorous of combat readiness training, complete with integrated heavy weapons utilization and defensive improvisation techniques. Evenings were given over to discussing military problems and Kriegspiel (war game) outings in the sand tables. As part of his responsibility for the unit's training, he introduced lessons in German and Russian for his men. Von Schalburg selected the 2nd Company commander, a fanatical Nazi SS-Hauptsturmführer Knud Borge Martinsen as his protégé and second-in-command.

On 8 May 1942 von Schalburg and his men were flown by Luftwaffe into the Demyansk Pocket to reinforce the surrounded German troops in the area. On 2 June 1942, von Schalburg initiated the first offensive operation of Frikorps Danmark. In an attempt to monitor the progress of the battle, against the advice of a company commander, von Schalburg advanced towards the front line. But he stepped on a mine and was moments later killed by shrapnel from a Russian shell.

His poor judgment, which paid dearly by his own life, could indicate that he may not have been a competent commander. It must, however, be noted that in the SS this behavior was not uncommon and that the losses of commanders in the SS were exceptionally high, including von Schalburg's successor who fell just two days after arriving at the corps.

A day after his death, Schalburg's body was transported in a coffin draped in Dannebrog to the cemetery of the corps located in the small village Biakovo in the Demyansk area. Regimental commander Becker from SS Division ‘Totenkopf’ spoke at the funeral. On the same day (but effective June 1) Reichsführer SS Himmler posthumously promoted von Schalburg to SS-Obersturmbannführer. A Danish medal, the Schalburg Cross was named after von Schalburg. His widow founded Schalburgs mindefond (memorial fund), which sent packages to Danish volunteers on the Eastern Front.

Aside from gloriously memorials, there were also some darkest pages to memorized von Schalburg death. Von Schalburg was a popular commander among his subordinates. Thus, his death apparently enraged his men. A Danish officer wrote home “no prisoners were taken” on the day of von Schalburg death. Later, his protégé and successor as Frikorps Danmark commander, Knud Borge Martinsen, formed an infamous Schalburg Korpset which mainly served against Danish guerillas. The unit brutality against their compatriots created a new term with bad meaning in Danish vocabulary, schalburgtage, which mean “to kill, rob, and destroy”.

Copyright © Nino Oktorino 2008

Fawzi el-Kaukji

Born 1894 in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, Fawzi el-Kaukji graduated from the military academy in Istanbul. During WWI, as a lieutenant in the Ottoman army, he fought with the Germans of General Otto von Kreiss against British in Palestine and earned the Iron Cross second class—the only mark of a true warrior in his opinion. Since then he had been an unqualified admirer of things German.

A true type of mercenary, when the Ottoman Empire began to crumble, he went to work spying on the Turks for the British. Then, successively, he spied on the French for the British, on the British for French, on the French and the British for Germans. Involved in nationalist movement in French mandated-Syria, Kaukji later escape to Hejaz and became a military adviser to Abd el-Aziz el-Saud, king of the Saudi Arabia. The high point of his military career had come during the Arab revolt against the British and the Jewish in Palestine in 1936. There he got some of the 80-odd wounds which sometimes make his popeyes water with pain and also won him fame among the Arab population. However, his popularity and supports for Nashashibi clan were not altogether to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, liking. The mufti prized servility and loyalty above all else in his aides, and Kaukji had failed on both counts. Since then, both of Arab leaders became rivals.

When the British put down the Arab rebellion, both Kaukji and the Mufti fled to Iraq. Both of them later involved in Rashid Ali al-Gaylani attempt to thrown British influence in Iraq on 1941. Served as an Iraqi captain, Kaukji, equipped with arms and money, got an order to foment a support for Rashid Ali regime in northern Iraq. Instead of promoting an uprising, the Mufti’s aides later claimed, “he swallowed up the arms, the money, and the rebellion.”

During a retreat to Syria after the fall of Rashid Ali government, a British plane strafed, and almost killed Kaukji. He went to Germany to recuperate.

After his health was restored, he was sent to Greece, to help build up the "Deutsch-Arabische-Lehrabteilung" under the supervision of General Helmuth Felmy. There, in capacity as a head of propaganda in Athens, he also helped stir up the Arab world against the British. He got a colonel rank in German army.

During his stay in Berlin, the rivalry of Kaukji and the Mufti of Jerusalem continued. The relations between them were cool and soon deteriorated to a deep mutual dislike. Driven by Kaukji’s military reputation to the fear that Hitler might place him rather than the Mufti in charge of the attempt to organize Arab resistance to the Allied in the Middle East, Haj Amin el-Husseini constantly whispered into the ears of German intelligence that Kaukji actually was a British spy!

Like the blue eyes and red hair el-Husseini, with his scarred face, his thick neck and his closely cropped red hair, el Kaukji bore a closer resemblance to a Prussian officer than to an Arab chief. However, although he likes to become a German general, his battles had ended in defeats: by the French in Syria, by the British in Palestine, and in Iraq (where he fought with Nazi help). But, if he could not be a German general he could at least be a German husband. An unqualified admirer of things German, his sentiment had been affirmed by marrying a German girl—his third wife—he met in Berlin during WWII.

El-Kaukji and his German wife were captured by the Red Army when the Third Reich collapsed. They were held by Russians until February 1947, when Stalin released them as a Soviet Union good gesture for Arabs. Returned to Middle East, Kaukji later appointed by Arab League as the commander of the Arab Liberation Army with one mission, to destroy the Jewish State. However, he never accomplished the mission. Defeating by Jewish fighters during the First Israeli-Arab War of 1948, Kaukji later retired and lived in private till his death in Beirut in 1977.

Copyright © Nino Oktorino 2009

Hussein Djozo

Born in Bare, Ilovaca, Gorazde County, Bosnia, in 1912, Hussein Djozo was a very well educated young man. After studied Islamic theology and law in Foca and Gorazde, he went to Cairo, where he graduated in theology at the Al-Azhar University. As a scholar, he was fluent in several languages, including Arabic. He later served in the pre-war Yugoslavia Kingdom army as a military imam and captain.

Djozo was a leading member of El Hidaja Organization in Bosnia before volunteering for the SS ‘Handschar’ Division in June 1943. As a Muslim formation, the ‘Handschar’ Division needs a cadre of imam-preachers, an Islamic military chaplain. Thus, by Himmler order, a new institute for imams was established in the town of Guben, some 100 km southeast of Berlin. Waffen Sturmbannführer der SS Hussein Djozo, was appointed to directed this course for Bosnian imams from ‘Handschar’ and, later, ‘Kama’ divisions. He was known made some anti-Semitic, anti-Capitalist, and anti-Communist speeches and writings

After the ‘Handschar’ Division Imam, Abdulah Muhasilovic, deserted with 101 his men to join the Partisans, Djozo had taken his position. He served with the division until the end of the World War II.

After amnestied in July 1946, Djozo eventually regained his university teaching post and was elected as President of the Ilmis (Muslim clerics) Association in the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1964. Even he served as Tito's interpreter during the latter's state visits to the Arab world.

In 1968, Djozo stirred a controversy in Yugoslavia after he supported former Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj-Amin el-Husseini, an old friend from his ‘Handschar’ old days, “jihad calling” against Israel during a Muslim cleric’s congress in Cairo. Even he promised that Muslim religious community of Yugoslavia would recruit volunteers from its ranks and contributed money for the sake of Palestinian struggle.

Hussein Djozo died in 1982.

Copyright © Nino Oktorino 2009