The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar was a Muslim combat formation created by the Germans to restore order in Yugoslavia. It was given the title Handschar after a local fighting knife or sword carried by Turkish policemen 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 multi-ethnic military force. The division under command of SS Obergruppenführer Arthur Phelps Phleps had been listed as missing in action since 22 September 1944, age 62, when he did not show up for his meeting with SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, who had issued a warrant for Phleps’ arrest.
was composed mostly of Bosnian Muslims (ethnic Bosniaks) with some Catholic Croat soldiers and mostly German and Yugoslav Volksdeutsche (ethnic German) officers.
The division was initially sent to southern France for formation and training. On the night of 16/17 September 1943, while the 13th SS Division was training in France, a group of pro-Partisan soldiers led by Muslim and Catholic junior officers staged a mutiny. They captured most of the German personnel and executed five German officers. The mutineers believed that many of the enlisted men would join them and they could reach the western Allies. Soon the revolt was put down and as a result the division was moved to the Neuhammer training grounds in the Silesian region of Germany (present-day Poland) to complete its training. During the training phase, the German officers, pleased with its progress, coined the term Mujo for the Bosnian Muslims. The members of the division swore an oath of allegiance to both Adolf Hitler and Ante Pavelić (Croatian leader).
Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Hadschi Amin Al Husseini visits Bosnian soldiers of SS division,
The division fought briefly in the Syrmia region north of the Sava river prior to crossing into northeastern Bosnia. After crossing the Sava, it established a designated “security zone” in northeastern Bosnia between the Sava, Bosna, Drina and Spreča rivers. In late 1944, parts of the division were transferred briefly to the Zagreb area, after which the non-German members began to desert in large numbers. Over the winter of 1944–1945, it was sent to the Baranja region where it fought against the Red Army and Bulgarians throughout southern Hungary, falling back via a series of defensive lines until they were inside the Reich frontier. Most of the remaining Bosnian Muslims left at this point and attempted to return to Bosnia. The rest retreated further west, hoping to surrender to the western Allies.