SS formations in the Balkans during World War II PART IV
|Symbol of the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen|
7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division "Prinz Eugen"
The 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division "Prinz Eugen" (11. SS-Freiwilligen Gebirgs-Division "Prinz Eugen")was a German mountain infantry division of the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the German Nazi Party that served alongside but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht during World War II in Yugoslavia. Formed in 1941 from Volksdeutsche (ethnic German) volunteers and conscripts from the Banat, Independent State of Croatia (NDH), Hungary and Romania, it fought a counter-insurgency campaign against communist-led Yugoslav Partisan resistance forces in the occupied Serbia, NDH, and Montenegro.
|Soldier from 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen|
It was given the title Prinz Eugen after Prince Eugene of Savoy, an outstanding military leader of the Habsburg Empire who liberated the Banat and Belgrade from the Ottoman Empire in the Austro-Turkish War of 1716–18. It was initially named the SS-Freiwilligen-Division Prinz Eugen (SS-Volunteer Division Prinz Eugen).
|7 SS division Prinz Eugen|
Waffen SS offered to establish a volunteer division from the Danubian Germans, who on the eve of the war was mostly in Banat, Backa and Erdelj, in Romania. The division was founded in March 1942 in Bela Crkva, in southern Banat, where a parade was organized. Most volunteers came from Backa 16,527 volunteers. The division was named Prince Eugen by the Austrian military commander Eugene Savoy, who defeated the Turks near Vienna, expelled them from Hungary and conquered Belgrade.
|Soldiers of 7 SS with captured Partisan|
In its composition, the Division had two jager regiments with three battalions and one artillery regiment, plus additional units. In order to act as efficiently as possible on mountain and impassable terrain, the division is trained as a mountain (alpine). Oficirksi when the division was mainly from Germany (Reich).
|Otto Kumm as an SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) in March 1943. Kumm commanded the 7th SS through some of its hardest fighting in 1944, and ended the war with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross w|
They were issued with a significant amount of non-standard German weapons and used captured equipment such as Czech machine guns like ZB-53 and French light tanks. They were provided with excellent German-made mountain artillery such as the 10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 howitzer and 7.5 cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36 mountain gun.
When the division was formed, it was assigned to the Balkans as an anti-Partisan mountain division.
Units of the 7th SS Division committed numerous war crimes during their campaign. The captured Partisans were usually shot, including wounded.This division also committed a large number of crimes against civilians. Its units are usually in a combat zone, carried out reprisals against civilians. These routine reprisals against civilians ranged from several dozen to more than a thousand victims. During the three-day massacre in the Sinjska Krajina March 1944, where the battalion of the 7th SS division took part, about 1,500 civilians were killed.
|Soldiers of the 7 SS Prinz Eugen division in Austrian armored car The Steyr ADGZ|
Hundreds of civilians were killed in the massacres of the 7th SS division in Kriva Reka in October 1942, in Piva in June 1943, in Arzan in September 1943, in Lug, Tomislavgrad / Duvno December 1943 and in the village of Velika jula in 1944. Even war criminal General Jozef Kibler (Joseph Kübler), commander of the 118th Jager Division, during the investigation, said that the SS troops were known for their overly harsh actions against the people.
|Soldiers of 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division 'Prinz Eugen',|
Second in Commander of the 7th SS Division Prince Eugen (((SS SS Brigadier Karl von Oberkamp)) was sentenced to death by hanging from a military court in Belgrade on May 4, 1947 for crimes committed by his division. Commander of the 2nd (14th) SS SS Smituber (SS-Brigadeführer August Schmidhuber), later the commander of the 21st SS Division and then the entire 7th SS Division, was sentenced to death by hanging at a trial in Belgrade from February 5th to February 16th 1947.
|Insignia of 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian)|
13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian)
The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS "Handschar" (1st Croatian) was a mountain infantry division of the Waffen-SS, an armed branch of the German Nazi Party that served alongside but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht during World War II. From March to December 1944, it fought a counter-insurgency campaign against the Yugoslav Communist-led Yugoslav resistance forces in the Independent State of Croatia, and a fascist puppet state of Germany that encompassed almost all modern-day Croatia, all of modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as parts of Serbia.
|13th SS Division's area of responsibility (in green)|
It was given the title Handschar after a local fighting knife or a sword carried by the Ottoman police during the centuries that the region was part of the Ottoman Empire. It was the first non-Germanic Waffen-SS division, and its formation marked the expansion of the Waffen-SS into a multiethnic military force. Composed of Bosnian Muslims with some Catholic Croat soldiers and mainly German and Yugoslav Volksdeutsche (ethnic German) officers and non-commissioned officers, it took a pledge of loyalty to both Adolf Hitler and Croatian leader Ante Pavelić.
|Fes as part of a uniform in SS units modeled on the First World War|
The division fought briefly in the Syrmia region north of the Sava River before crossing into the north-eastern Bosnia. After crossing the Sava, it established a designated "security zone" in north-eastern Bosnia between the Sava, Bosna, Drina and Spreča rivers. It also fought outside the security zone several times, and earned a reputation for brutality and savagery, not only during combat operations, but also through the atrocities committed against Serb and Jewish civilians.
|Members of the division at prayer during their training at Neuhammer in November 1943.|
In late 1944, parts of the division were briefly transferred to the Zagreb area, after which non-German members began to desert in large numbers. Over the winter of 1944-45, it was sent to the Baranya region where it fought against the Red Army and Bulgarians throughout southern Hungary, falling back through a series of defensive lines until they were inside the Reich frontier.
|Poster NDH for recruitment in Handschar Division|
Most of the remaining Bosnian Muslims left at this point and tried to return to Bosnia. The rest was retreated further west, hoping to surrender to the Western Allies. Most of the remaining members became prisoners of the British Army. Subsequently, 38 officers were extradited to Yugoslavia to face criminal charges, and 10 were executed. Hundreds of former members of the division fought in the Civil War 1947-48 in Mandatory Palestine and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
|Symbol of the 21. Waffen Division SS Skanderbeg|
21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg
The 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS "Skanderbeg" (1st Albanian) was a German mountain infantry division of the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the German Nazi Party that served alongside, but was never formally part of, the Wehrmacht during World War II.
|Soldiers of 21 SS Skenderbeg division|
The division was developed around the nucleus of an ethnic Albanian battalion which had briefly seen combat against the Yugoslav Partisans in eastern Bosnia as part of the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian). Composed of Muslim Albanians with mostly German and Yugoslav Volksdeutsche (ethnic German) officers and non-commissioned officers, it was given the title Skanderbeg after medieval Albanian lord George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, who defended the region of Albania against the Ottoman Empire for more than two decades in the 15th century.
Skanderbeg never reached divisional strength, being at most a brigade-sized formation of between 6,000 and 6,500 troops. In May 1944, members of the division arrested 281 Jews in Pristina and handed them over to the Germans, who transported them to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where many were killed. The division itself was better known for this action and for murdering, raping, and looting in predominantly Serb areas than for participating in combat operations on behalf of the German war effort. Its only significant military actions took place during a German anti-Partisan offensive in the German-occupied territory of Montenegro in June and July 1944.
|Soldier on the right is a Skanderbeg officer|
Following those operations, the unit was deployed as a guard force at the chromium mines in Kosovo, where it was quickly overrun by the Partisans, leading to widespread desertion. Reinforced by German Kriegsmarine personnel and with fewer than 500 Albanians remaining in its ranks, it was disbanded on 1 November 1944. The remaining members were incorporated into the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen.
|SS-Standartenf Karl von Krempler|
During the Andrijevica operation in July 1944, this division, along with parts of the 7th SS Division, committed a massacre in the village of Velika near Plava, where more than 500 civilians were killed. Division commander August Schmidhuber was convicted in 1947 in Belgrade to death for war crimes and executed.
|Insignia of 23rd Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Kama|
23rd Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Kama (2nd Croatian)
The 23rd Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Kama (2nd Croatian) was a German mountain infantry division of the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the German Nazi Party that served alongside but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht during World War II. It was composed of German officers and Bosnian Muslim soldiers. Named Kama after a small dagger used by Balkan shepherds, it was one of the thirty-eight divisions fielded by the Waffen-SS during World War II. Formed on 19 June 1944, it was built around a cadre from the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian) but did not reach its full strength and never saw action as a formation.
|SS Oberführer Gustav Lombard commanded an ad hoc force that fought the Red Army in southern Hungary. It included Bosnian Muslims previously belonging to the 23rd SS Division|
Kama was the second Croatian Waffen SS Division. The new division received the honorary title "Kama". Recruitment to the "Kama" division began on June 10, 1944, and the largest number of officers and non-commissioned officers were Germans.
Croatian officers were also transferred from the Handzar Division to "Kamu", including the entire reconnaissance unit. This was the second Croatian-Muslim division. Interestingly, "Kama" has never been in the size of the division. In September 1944, the division numbered 3,793 soldiers. Fearing partisan impediments in training the recruits, the training area of the division was the Backa region. Backa was annexed from Hungary in April 1941, and was sufficiently separated from the partisan influence.
|23. Waffen-Gebirgs-Division der SS Kama (kroatische Nr. 2)|
"Kama" was anticipated as an anti-partisan unit, but the situation in Europe forced the German military leadership to abolish the division, and the division was never fully formed or in combat.