I think the internet has rewired my brain. Nowadays when I’m reading a book (you know, the things made of bound paper), I’m constantly distracted by passing references or random facts because some part of me immediately knows I could look it up. One recent example occurred while I was reading about Jewish/Zionist terrorism in Palestine after WWII, which was mainly focused on forcing the colonial British to leave. There was a fleeting mention that the Mufti of Jerusalem had been involved in recruiting Muslims into the Nazi SS. Obviously there’s “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” to consider, but Nazi Muslims? Outside of the crazed, ignorant, hateful imaginations of certain Republicans in the US, I mean?
It’s true. The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar didn’t actually operate in Palestine, but they were mostly recruited in 1943 from Bosnian Muslims to fight on the Axis side against Yugoslav partisans. A combination of naive orientalism, pseudoscience and the good old standby of Nazi hypocrisy allowed Heinrich Himmler to convince himself and his racist idiot cronies that Bosnian Muslims fit into the nonsensical genealogy of the so-called Aryan race. They definitely had nothing to do with Slavs, oh no, definitely not. The hardline Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni– fairly indiscriminately opposed to the British and to Jews no matter where they came from– was brought in to convince and legitimise Bosnian Muslims into defying their own Islamic clerics, who had expressly and unanimously (and wisely) forbidden their communities from getting involved with nationalist causes or the Nazis.
In common with all their other Schutzstaffel colleagues, the 13th Waffen distinguished themselves mainly for their indiscriminate brutality both in battle and against unarmed non-combatants. In this case it was mainly Serbian civilians who bore the brunt of war crimes that were punished afterwards with executions of the perpetrators. And of course, much like the rest of the SS with their Hugo Boss uniforms, the horror of what they did was somehow accentuated by the fact that they always turned up for mass murder, genocide and hatred immaculately styled, covered in logos… and in the case of the 13th Division, wearing a fez.