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Logusz, Michael O. Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th Grenadier Division, 1943-1945. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 1997.
Introduction; photos; OBs; Notes; Bibliography; Index.
Lepre, George. Himmler's Bosnian Division: The Waffen-SS Handschar Division, 1943-1945. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 1997.
Preface; photos; maps; documents; OBs; Conclusion; Works Cited; Index of Names.
Appendices: Order of Battle; Award Winners; Insignia; Officer Casualties; The Division Song; Rank Conversion Chart; Glossary.
We have here a very nice pair of books from Schiffer covering two of the more esoteric and interesting divisions of the Waffen-SS, both raised to fill the insatiable German need for manpower to simultaneously fight a multi-front war and ensure the tranquility of occupied territories. In both cases, however, many of the men who volunteered to serve in the divisions did so for their own reasons-- reasons not always entirely compatible with German intentions.
The Galicia Division drew large numbers of troops who were less pro-German than anti-Bolshevik. Similarly, the Handschar Division attracted many volunteers who were determined to raise a German-sponsored combat unit to protect the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovinia from Croatian dominance. The Handschar was further seen by certain elements -- notably the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, living in exile in the Reich and actively recruiting for the division -- as a symbol of armed Islamic brotherhood capable of igniting the fires of revolt across the Arab world. Likewise, Logusz reports that the 14th SS was thoroughly infiltrated by UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) operatives who intended to establish an independent Ukrainian state free of both Germans and Soviets. (On the other side of the coin, Titoist partisans infiltrated the Bosnian Division in order to instigate a mutiny.)
In these larger goals both divisions failed, but the stories told by Logusz and Lepre are fascinating as the non-Germanic troops serve within the framework of the Waffen-SS and the absurd racial philosophies of its highest leadership. Can there have been a more incongruous sight during the war than Handschar officers in SS uniforms topped by fezzes?
While the Galicia Division is engaged on the Russian Front -- notably at Brody (where much of the division is destroyed) then Modlin -- the Bosnian Division engages Tito's partisans in the rugged terrain of Yugoslavia. The Handschar is transferred to the Russian Front at the end of 1944 and crosses into Hungary where it defends along the Danube and in the vicinity of Lake Balaton against Soviet and Bulgarian offensives. In April 1945 soldiers of the Galicia Division, renamed "1st Ukrainian Division" swear allegiance to the Ukrainian nation and transfer to the "Ukrainian National Army". For both divisions, though, time runs out in May 1945.
Approximately 9000 Ukrainians surrender to the British and American armies advancing from the west. An unknown number of these men are forcefully repatriated as part of Operation Keelhaul to the Soviet Union where they faced the misery of the slave-labor camps or outright execution. At the beginning of May the Bosnian division begins to disintegrate; many of the men who try to return home are captured and killed by the partisans. The remnants of the division end up in British POW camps in Rimini and Taranto where some are coerced into returning to Bosnia and others eventually settle throughout the world.
Both authors utilize interviews and correspondence with members of the two divisions and have uncovered voluminous archival material not previously mined in Western literature. Logusz includes well over 100 pages of detailed endnotes that document and amplify his text. Despite the many similarities in sources and presentation, Logusz's book seems to focus more on personal experiences while Lepre's book -- which certainly doesn't ignore first-hand accounts -- seems to take a broader, more academic approach to the subject. Without criticizing Logusz, it looks like Lepre would also score higher marks for his overall style of writing.
But this is not a contest between books or authors. In the end, both titles are likely to appeal to anyone with an interest in unusual combat formations comprised of men caught between idealism and desperation.
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from Schiffer.
Thanks to Schiffer Military History for providing these review copies.
Reviewed 28 December 1997
Copyright © 1997 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone
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