While Bosnia-Herzegovina was west of Serbia, ethnic Serbs lived there and were targetted by the Croat-NDH administratuion. Bosnia was a province annexed by Austria-Hungary (1909). This angered Serb nationalists and eventually set off World War I when Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand was assasinated there (1914). It was a province with an ethnically diverse population, including Orthodox Serbs, Catholic and Muslim Croats, Volkdeutsche, gypseys and Jews. Large areas of Bosnia had no Axis garison. The IItalians were concentrated along the coast. The relatively small German force concentrated on the road and rail links between Belgrade and Bulgaria. This thus presented almost limitless possivility for NDH Ustache mahem. And they turned the region into an almost unimaginable killing field. The Ustache set about creating a Croatian Bosnia. Non-Croats were targeted in a series of bloody ethnic cleansing incidents. An estimated 750,000 Serbs, Jews and Gypsies were killed. Thosands of Serbs fled west into Serbia proper controlled where the NASIs set up a pupet state by Milan Nedish. Even the German occupation authorities were shocked by the savagery of Ustashi attrocities. Croat Muslims in Bosnia volunteered to form a SS division.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has mostly been ruled by foreign monarchies including the Romans, Byzantines, Hungarians, Ottomans, and Austro-Hungarians, before bring made a part of the Yugoslavain monarchy after World War I. There was an independent Bosnian monarchy in the 12th-15th centuries.
While Bosnia-Herzegovina was west of Serbia, ethnic Serbs lived in Bosnia. It was a province with an ethnically diverse population, including Orthodox Serbs, Catholic and Muslim Croats, Volkdeutsche, gypseys and Jews.
Bosnia was annexed by Austria-Hungary (1909).
This angered Serb nationalists and eventually set off World War I when Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand was assasinated there (1914).
World War I had been initiated by terrorists and they fact achieved their goal. Serbian was overrin by the Austrain Army, but the Allies in the post-war Versailles Peace Treaty created a new unified South Slav nation as Serbian nationalist had dreamed. Serbia's king was crowned King of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, of the newly-created greater South Slav statewhich was renamed Yugoslavia ("yugo" means south). As the original name of Yugoslvia indicates, there was to be no special provision made for people who considered themselves neither Serbs, Croats, or Slovenes and in the interwar years Bosnia's Muslim Slavs were pressured to register as either Serbs or Croats. The Muslims became pawns in the contending political ambitions of Serb and Croat nationalists. The Yugoslav Government in the 1920s and 30s became increasingly dictatorial and centralist. Many non-Serbs who had initially welcomed the creation of Yugoslavia became critical of the new state. The Croats were particularly disappointed. They had enjoyed a considerable degree of autonomy within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many thought that they would be equal partners with the Serbs in Uugoslavia. It gradually became claer that this was not what Serb nationalist had envisioned for Yugoslavia. This became clear for many Croats when in 1928, the popular Croat Peasant Party leader Stjepan Radich was shot in the Yugoslav parliament in Belgrade by a radical Serbian deputy. King Alexander I in 1929 staged a royal coup in 1929 to prevent Civil War. He dissolved parliament suspended the country's constitution. The internal provincial borders within Yugoslavia were redrawn to eliminate historical boundaries, especially Croatia and Bosnia. The new provinces were placed under control of mostly Serbian military governors who did not hesitate to use force. Some Croats joined anti-Serbian extremist organizations, especially the Fascist Ustasha movement which received support from Italy which wanted Yugoslavian territory. King Alexander was assassinated in 1934 by a Macedonian terrorist working with Croatian extremists, reportedly with Hungarian and Italian support. He was killed in Marseilles while on a state visit. The French Foreign Minister, Louis Barthou, also died in the attack. The Kings' 11-year old son, Crown Prince Peter, succeeded his father. The Government launched a new crackdown. The unresolved natioanlity issues as well as social and economic issues, combined with the local effects of the global economic depression during the 1930s increasingly polarized Yugoslav political life. Extremist groups of the right and the left grew in influence, including the still rekatively small Yugoslav Communist Party.
German Führer Adolf Hitler was by 1941 intent on his invasion of the Soviet Union. He thought he had the Balkans sorted out to provide a secure southern front. He had to be concerned with the vital Ploesti oil fields in Romania. Hitler forced the Yugoslav governent to adhere to the Axis. A popular revolt occured in Belgrade against joining the NAZI-dominated Axis. The revolt led by students overthrew the regency under Prince Paul. They installed the youthful King Michael and rejected the treaty that Prince Paul had signed with the NAZIs. Hitler was enraged with the coup. He decided to punish and cow the Serbs by desrtoying Belgrade by a Luftwaffe terror bombing. Wehrmact and Luftwaffe military units had already been positioned in the Reich and and allied states (Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria) for such an intervention, although the target was believed to be Greece. Hitler called the invasion, occupation and dismemberment of Yugoslavia “Operation Punishment” or “Operation 25.” Belgrade was subjected to Luftwaffe terror bombing for rejecting the alliance with the NAZIs. Unlike World War I, militart resistance in Yugodlavia quickly collapsed and in some areas the NAZIs were treated as liberators. Mussolini's actions at complicated Hitler's plans in the Balkans. The attack on Yugoslavia provided the excuse for attacking Greece as well. The quick collaose of the Yugoslave Army allowed the NAZIs to concentrate in Greece. The Wehrmact called the invasion and occupation of Greece “Operation Marita. Unlike Yugoslavia, the Wehrmacht had to fight in Greece, primarily because Churchill had rushed troops from Egypt to support his Greek Ally. Even so, Greece fell within only a few weeks. Hitler followed his Balkan victories with a successful, but costly parachute assault on Crete.
The Croatian NDH administratuion set u by Dr. Ante Pavelic. and the Ustachi party militia targeted ethnic Serbs living in Bosnia. Large areas of Bosnia had no Axis garison. The IItalians were concentrated along the coast. The relatively small German force concentrated on the road and rail links between Belgrade and Bulgaria. This thus presented almost limitless possivility for NDH Ustache mahem. And they turned the region into an almost unimaginable killing field. The Ustache set about creating a Croatian Bosnia. Non-Croats were targeted in a series of bloody ethnic cleansing incidents. An estimated 750,000 Serbs, Jews and Gypsies were killed. Thosands of Serbs fled west into Serbia proper controlled where the NASIs set up a pupet state by Milan Nedish. Even the German occupation authorities were shocked by the savagery of Ustashi attrocities.
Hitler personally authorized the formation of a SS division from Muslims in Bosnia and Hercegovina (February 1943). It is a little difficult to describe the nationality of this division. It is probably best described as a Croatian SS division. While there were no Croatian Christians in the division, there were Croatian Muslims from Bosnia and ethnic Germans from Croatia. I am not entirely sure why Croatian Christians (both in Bosnia and Croatia) were excluded by the Germans. The Wehrmacht had already formed Muslim units in the Soviet Union. Recruitment began shortly (May 1943). The Division had a mixed composition. About 60 percent was Bosnia Muslims, mostly ethnic Croatians. The remaining 40 percent were ethnic Germans from Croatia. There was also a small number of Albanian Muslims. The Albanians later became the core of the 21. SS "Skenderbeg" Division. Theleadership of the Division camf from the Germans. Most of the ranking officers and half of non-commissioned officers were Germans. I believe the officers were mostly Reich Germans, but I am not yet positive about this. The unit was trained in Germany and France. A mutiny began among the men in the pioneer battalion occurred during the training in France. It spread to the entire division (September 16, 1943). The men apparently were upset over mistreatment and belittling by the German officers training the unit. The mutiny was quickly supressed. The Germans executed every tenth soldier by firing squad. The Germans then continued the training. The Division was initially designated the "Hrvatska SS Volunteers Mountain Division". It was then renamed the "13, SS Volunteers Bosnian-Hercegovine Mountain Division / Croatian/" (13. SS freiwilligen b-h Gebirgs-Division /kroat/) (October 1943). . It is better known as the Handzar Division. This eventually became the official designation--13. SS gorska divizija Handzar" (13. SS Gebirgs-Division 'Handzar') (August 4, 1944). SS-Oberfuehrer Sauberzweig was assigned to command the unit (September 1943). [Mikulan and Pogacic]
Mikulan, Krunoslav and Sinisa Pogacic. Hrvatske Oruzane Snage, 1941-1945 (Croatian Armed Forces) (Zagreb 1999).
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