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"Handschar, what's the obsession???" Topic

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repaint14 Oct 2017 3:41 p.m. PST

I see from time to time quite a lot of interest in the Handschar waffen ss.

I came to understand the semi-morbid fascination with the ss. They are interesting to paint, they are elite, they get lot's of cool toys and fought some of the hardest battles (with a few murders on the way).

But what's up with the Handschars? Honest question even if it is bordering trolling, I am aware of it.

Personal logo Jeff Ewing Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2017 4:04 p.m. PST

I've often wondered this myself. I can only attribute it to the appeal of the fez.

athun2514 Oct 2017 4:04 p.m. PST

Unique in being a Muslim unit in the SS, with the addition of wearing a fez with their uniform. Also a mountain unit. Most SS units all pretty much look the same; this unit has a different look.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2017 5:38 p.m. PST

I think they are just something different in a sea of WWII sameness.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2017 6:58 p.m. PST

Elite? Hardly. They were counter insurgency "fighters", and they don't rate elite status.
They were good at rounding up and killing peasants. That's about it.

repaint14 Oct 2017 7:59 p.m. PST

Ok, Googled it.

Record show less than impressive "activites" to say the least. Basically Counter insurgency in Yugoslavia against Serbs and various atrocities against minorities.

earned a reputation for brutality and savagery, not only during combat operations, but also through atrocities committed against Serb and Jewish civilians.

I suppose there is some satisfaction to destroy a squad of Handschar in a game but still, I don't get the "appeal" bit. Indeed hardly any elite alibi. I won't model them.

Lion in the Stars14 Oct 2017 9:54 p.m. PST

Different uniform?

christot Inactive Member14 Oct 2017 11:32 p.m. PST

I've never figured it out either, so I've always assumed figure manufacturers make them because they are either a bit different, or because some saddo nazi fan-Bois will buy anything, depends on how charitable your point of view is

bruntonboy15 Oct 2017 1:26 a.m. PST

They are just a little bit different I guess, as you don't see many games set in Yugoslavia provided they encourage people away from the usual campaigns then maybe the fascination may be a good thing. However as others have said like many SS units they are "elite" only in their own eyes and good for internal security duties and massacres- not a nice bunch to game with.

deephorse15 Oct 2017 2:07 a.m. PST

Never seen any on a tabletop near me.

Griefbringer15 Oct 2017 7:15 a.m. PST

How many manufacturers actually make miniatures for these?

I am aware that the just released plastic Waffen-SS boxed set from Warlord contains optional heads for them, but that is the only one I know.

In any case, I presume that they would also be relatively straightforward project for a skilled converter.

christot Inactive Member15 Oct 2017 9:59 a.m. PST

plenty in 20mm… SHQ, Britannia, Battlefield, Ceaser

basileus66 Inactive Member15 Oct 2017 9:23 p.m. PST

Aesthetics, I guess. WWII uniforms are, usually, boring. SS camouflage uniforms are interesting to paint, and if you are a skilled painter they will look good. They come in browns and greens, which contrast nicely with the red colour of the fez.

Otherwise, I have no clue, because they were basically glorified murderers.

TacticalPainter0115 Oct 2017 11:52 p.m. PST

because they were basically glorified murderers.

I think just 'murderers' would probably do it. Nothing to glorify.

deephorse16 Oct 2017 3:04 a.m. PST

There's no accounting for lack of taste. Didn't someone here once talk about making an Einsatzgruppen unit IIRC?

ITALWARS16 Oct 2017 5:43 a.m. PST

i think only because the wear a fez…somebody could even paint it without cover and in red…
but talking about élites and well equipped with performing wps isnt true…even for others SS my view late german Army, above in all in Mediterranean/Balcan theathers were formed with quite a few demotivated troops, drafted in, clerks ecc…equipped also with quite a few captured material (Italian, Yugosavian, French) …i read some first hand sources about a comparable unit..the Italian SS…the reality was a bad trained unit, badly motivated..unreliable in front of the ennemy with a very high desertion rate…i imagine teh Hanschar could be the same..if want to stage anti-partisan wargame scenarios in teh Balkan i would opt, as i did once, for the Royal Italian Army before the armistice..with good loooking uniforms, bersaglieri, alpini and cavalry…

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP16 Oct 2017 12:29 p.m. PST

There is an unfortunate tendency among wargamers to equate the SS with "elite". That is far from the case.

deephorse16 Oct 2017 1:05 p.m. PST

As would be abundantly clear to anyone that did a little reading around the subject.

Fred Cartwright16 Oct 2017 6:13 p.m. PST

I am not sure they were badly motivated Italwars. The Balkans was a particularly hard fought and vicious war. Lots of bad stuff going on from both sides. One only has to look at recent history to see how much hatred and division there still is in the area.

badger22 Inactive Member16 Oct 2017 7:46 p.m. PST

Not only have I never seen them on the table, I have never met anyone who mentioned they owned any. Is there really widespread use of them?


Deadles Inactive Member16 Oct 2017 10:30 p.m. PST

Never encountered them on the table.

And indeed most people tend to ignore the Balkans for morale reasons (though let's face it, the whole Eastern Front was extremely morally horrid – look at the Ukrainian nationalist movement, Kaminsky Brigade or various Baltic native police units or the units of criminal pukebags unleashed by the Germans such as the Direlwanger brigade).

Everything I've read about the Handschar indicates they were badly trained, suffered from poor morale and high desertions and mainly seemed content with looting and endemic human rights violations.

Dragon Gunner17 Oct 2017 6:03 a.m. PST

The Fez is cool!

Until I realized they had no place outside of Yugoslavia after a little research. I have no problem playing 3rd rate units like Handschar or Einsatztruppen when thrown in front of victorious advancing Russians as part of some add hoc late war kampfgruppen.

Deleted by Moderator its not an endorsement of their ideology or their crimes to play them on the tabletop it depends on the context. Deleted by Moderator

Deadles Inactive Member17 Oct 2017 4:10 p.m. PST

Deleted by Moderator I have collected a Waffen SS force based on 2 SS Division "Das Reich". I've had Soviet forces too – y'know the guys who raped their way across Germany.

History is full of horrible stuff, even from our own side.

As a wargamer it'd be hypocritical to get all moral about one group and not another, especially when we're representing combat.

Though some people take it too far – e.g. I heard about 1 wargaming event where some guy dressed up a in a SS uniform with Dirlewanger insignia. That's just pushing buttons and seeking confrontation.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP17 Oct 2017 7:02 p.m. PST

When did Einsatztruppen ever aim the guns in the direction of an actual army?
I hope to never meet anyone who wouldn't think twice about fielding such scum.

Dragon Gunner17 Oct 2017 9:22 p.m. PST

Deleted by Moderator I hope to never meet anyone that is so fragile they can't separate history from a tabletop wargame.

Deleted by Moderator

The Young Guard20 Oct 2017 2:09 p.m. PST

Tis a funny this one. Back in the 90s my father sculpted a diorama of this unit and then felt awful for it and vowed never to make another SS figure again. At the time I tought he was being ridiculously overly sensitive but as I've got older I see his point and as a result, I question if I would game an SS unit.

The paradoxical thing is that people would happily game Vikings, Crusdaers, Romans and all other natures of civilisation that were undoubtably barbaric in their time, but this is accepted and ignored (good job really as who would we game with).

I wonder if it is because the SS are our recent history and the history of our parents or grand parents that we find it hard stomach or tolerate? Do people game the fall of Yugoslavia or ISIS or is this still too raw for most?

I guess at the end of the day, our own morale code are our own but this doesn't mean others are wrong as long as we are not harming others

Lion in the Stars20 Oct 2017 3:01 p.m. PST

I don't game the fall of Yugoslavia (any good battles there, as opposed to random massacres of civilians?)

I will game DAESH. I will even play DAESH on the table, though it's not much fun to get droned to death.

Oh, fun joke-pun for y'all: When ISIS isn'tisn't, then it waswas.

Also, "waswas" is apparently Arabic for "whispers/temptations of Shaytan", so I'm really tempted to start calling DAESH "WASWAS", just to further insult them. I mean, it's not enough that DAESH apparently translates to "cheap thug" (and appending -bag to the end of DAESH gets one DH'd).

deephorse20 Oct 2017 3:38 p.m. PST

It's absolutely normal to want to pit victorious advancing Russians against a late war ad hoc kampfgruppe. By all means staff your kampfgruppe with Volksgrenadiers, Volkssturm, remnants of a static infantry division, a stomach battalion or Hitler Youth. There are plenty of lower grade German formations to choose from. But if you must resort to specifically calling your models Einsatztruppen then there's something wrong with your moral compass.

Dragon Gunner23 Oct 2017 8:43 p.m. PST

"But if you must resort to specifically calling your models Einsatztruppen then there's something wrong with your moral compass."- Deephorse

Care to elaborate? Can you do it without resorting to pop psychology and personal insults?

christot Inactive Member24 Oct 2017 2:54 a.m. PST

Seems pretty self-explanatory to me.

Dragon Gunner24 Oct 2017 7:43 a.m. PST

"Seems pretty self-explanatory to me."- Christot

The question was posed to deephorse and your response was meaningless.

deephorse24 Oct 2017 7:53 a.m. PST

Yes, it's pretty self explanatory.

Bertie24 Oct 2017 8:23 a.m. PST

+1 deephorse.

Dragon Gunner24 Oct 2017 9:35 p.m. PST

Deephorse you have an emotional response to the topic but not one you can justify or rationalize so you decline to articulate your position and that's ok. To the rest of you that respond please show some intellect instead of jumping on the band wagon…

Bertie24 Oct 2017 11:28 p.m. PST

Dear Dragon Gunner,
Since we cannot use "pop psychology or personal insults" to explain things to you, since reasonable comments are "meaningless," and since we have not shown "intellect" by siding with someone that we believe is right when we believe that you are wrong, could we explain things to you by just citing common decency?

Feel free to play a game with your Einsatztruppen if you want. I won't join you and I suspect very few decent chaps would too.

If you feel that there is nothing indecent in playing games with Einsatztruppen then I concur with Deephorse that, in my opinion, there is something wrong with your moral compass.


badger22 Inactive Member25 Oct 2017 7:24 a.m. PST

Bertie +1

Dragon Gunner25 Oct 2017 7:27 a.m. PST

Dear Bertie,

I believe Deadles sums up my position on this issue so I will quote him from earlier in the thread.

"As a wargamer it'd be hypocritical to get all moral about one group and not another, especially when we're representing combat"- Deadles

My issue is gamers that will become suddenly self righteous when it comes to certain topics then become woefully inconsistent and lose their "moral compass" when it suits their whim. Example I won't play SS but I have no problem playing A Soviet unit that committed atrocities. Another example I won't play SS but I have no problem playing Aztecs or Vikings.

If gamers were consistent in their "moral compass" I could take their judgements seriously. If they were true to their beliefs and consistent their would be very few war-game periods they would play. You won't see me accusing anyone that fields Aztecs of lacking a moral compass.


Dragon Gunner

Dragon Gunner25 Oct 2017 7:05 p.m. PST

and silence as I expected…

Bertie25 Oct 2017 8:55 p.m. PST

Dear Dragon Gunner,
Silence indeed….
Caused, I might add, by a 14 hour time difference rather than a stunned appreciation of your logic.

You seem to need "the last word" so you can have it. I won't take further issue with your Aztec straw man argument or your own inconsistencies: " I have no problem playing 3rd rate units like Handschar or Einsatztruppen…" but "…I won't play SS…."

I'll leave the field to you and I'll just go on being self-righteous, in that I think some things are wrong and will say so, rather than give them a pass because other things are wrong too.


Lion in the Stars25 Oct 2017 9:00 p.m. PST

Back to the OP, and in the words of a guy who plays the Krauts in WW2 reenacting: "Well, someone has to play the bad guys."

I have several 15mm WW2 German armies (Panzer Lehr, Fallschirmjager, and even some Weird War armored krauts). I have one Soviet army(Engineer-Sapper Battalion), because I'm not interested in hordes of troops or tanks. I started the Weird War Krauts specifically to play Stalingrad, since the Kerberos Panzer Jager were first deployed there and turned the tide into a German victory (it's from Mamoru Oshii's stories).

I suppose I might play Handschar if I was gaming partisan fights in the Balkans.

But that's not a particularly interesting place to game for me. Too many atrocities, not enough battles.

I won't game atrocities.

Dragon Gunner25 Oct 2017 9:56 p.m. PST

I will have the last word Bertie! What inconsistencies are you talking about? The examples I gave show how hypocritical others can be they were fictional examples not anything I directly attributed to what you said so no strawman arguments. Its called reading comprehension and your last comment was devoid of it. On the other hand you may have cherry picked my words and deliberately taken them out of context. Less emotion Bertie more thought…

"I'll leave the field to you and I'll just go on being self-righteous, in that I think some things are wrong and will say so, rather than give them a pass because other things are wrong too."

Deadle sums it up its called being hypocritical… If you have the capacity to continue please tell me what periods and forces you are willing to game so I can directly apply examples to you!

Swampking29 Oct 2017 3:16 a.m. PST

There is very little evidence that the Handschar or indeed, Prinz Eugen (7th SS) committed mass atrocities against the Serbian Orthodox population. That is a post-war Yugoslav myth that has come to be accepted fact among Western historians who do not read Serbo-Croatian or have taken the time to look at the evidence that has been available since the late 1990s.

a) Handschar a 'third-rate' unit? Compared to what? The 'Leibstandarte SS' – obviously. The unit was organized and trained as a mountain warfare division. However, it was Himmler's idea and the unit had all the trappings of a modern (in WW2 terms) unit- 88cm flak and other anti-aircraft guns, an assault gun company composed of Sturmgeschutz IIIs, and, at the end, MP44s.

b) Massacre of civilians and rounding up of Jews: The primary function of this division was to secure the Bosnian Moslem population of northeastern Bosnia from incursions by the (mostly Serbian) Partisans. The biggest town of the area was Tuzla. The Jews of Tuzla were deported to camps in the NDH or the Reich in 1943, the Handschar division was not involved in those operations, as the division was in training and formation in 1943 in Germany and France. Would the division massacre Bosnian Moslems? No, they were drawn from the Bosnian Moslem population-they would not murder their own brothers, fathers, mothers and sisters. Would they murder Bosnian Croats? No, the Bosnian Croats were protected by the Germans in the area. Would they murder the Serbian Orthodox population? Perhaps. Especially considering that the division was drawn for the most part, from refugees of towns that bordered Serbia and, both the Chetniks (Serbian nationalists) and the Partisans attacked the Bosnian Moslem population before the formation and deployment of the division, this period being known as the "War of the Villages". However, it seems unlikely that massive atrocities occurred as a result of this unit. Mainly, because the Chetniks cooperated with the division against the Partisans in three different anti-Partisan operations. If the Chetniks viewed the division as its enemy, then there would be reports by the division concerning attacks by the Chetniks in retaliation of the division's assaults against civilians-those reports are nonexistent.

c) Rating this unit along with the Einsatzgruppen is laughable. I don't recall any Einsatzgruppen shooting down Allied planes or their leaders being awarded combat badges and Iron Crosses for bravery or can some of you enlighten me?

d) I would hasten a guess that 75% of the reports of atrocities committed during WW2 in Bosnia-Hercegovina are attributable to either the communist Partisans, who were even more ruthless than the supposed 'ruthless' Handschar division or a combination of Ustase [Croatian nationalists] or Chetniks [Serbian nationalists]. The first commander of the division, Sauberzweig, was a stern disciplinarian who had seen service in WW1 and I doubt he would have allowed 'massive' atrocities to occur in his area of operations, especially when he was a 'win the hearts and minds of the inhabitants' kind of commander. It's hard to win the hearts and minds of the inhabitants when you're killing them.

Frankly, I can understand the fascination with the Handschar Division. Himmler nursed the division, made sure it got the best equipment and while the division was always short of NCOs and officers, it seems to have been mentioned favorably in reports, with no mention whatsoever of atrocities, at least in the German archives. Its role in anti-Partisan warfare in tough terrain, with enemies on all sides (the NDH despised any kind of Bosnian Moslem nationalism, with the Chetniks being grudging allies at best) against an implacable foe, makes the unit fascinating; and yes, the fez is really cool.

If anyone wants a non-emotional history of the unit, might I suggest George Lepre's "Himmler's Bosnian Division: The Waffen-SS Handschar Division, 1943-1945"? It was published in 1997 and there has yet to be a history in either German or Serbo-Croat that surpasses it. Also, you will find a translation of Otto Kumm's divisional history of Prinz Eugen (7th SS) very enlightening as well. It's a translation of his "Vorwarts, Prinz Eugen".

Dragon Gunner29 Oct 2017 8:00 a.m. PST

Thank you Swampking!

The source I had was a book about the Waffen SS (currently boxed up getting ready to move) The Handschar division barely gets mentioned and does not receive more than a page. It was summed up as follows…

1. Fought partisans in Yugosalvia
2. Committed numerous atrocities
3. Mass desertions over to the partisans
4. Remnants annihilated by Soviets

Your post intrigued me so I conducted some more research. Handschar actually left Yugoslavia and continued to fight retreating back into Hungary and Germany. Some were even in Berlin to defend the Fuhrer bunker. So the late war kampfgruppen is not an impossibility. Not third rate by any means.

The Fez will be on the table top after all!


Legion 429 Oct 2017 8:41 a.m. PST

I would think in actual combat the Fez would be next to useless. Probably fall off ?

As far the SS, Daesh, etc. those types, etc., should be studied from a historical standpoint. As at the very least so the atrocities, actions, etc. will be remembered and hopefully not happen again. Be repeated, etc. But as we see, e.g. after WWII, with all the war crime trials, etc. in all theaters. That hope it appears was very much in vein … sadly.

Dragon Gunner29 Oct 2017 8:58 a.m. PST

Legion you are probably right about the fez any pictures showing them in "action" were probably staged.

Fred Cartwright29 Oct 2017 10:46 a.m. PST

As far the SS, Daesh, etc. those types, etc., should be studied from a historical standpoint. As at the very least so the atrocities, actions, etc. will be remembered and hopefully not happen again. Be repeated, etc. But as we see, e.g. after WWII, with all the war crime trials, etc. in all theaters. That hope it appears was very much in vein … sadly.

Hasn't happened so far sadly as the fairly recent history of the former Yugoslavia demonstrated. It is difficult to imagine how hatred can run so deep that as soon as the brakes are off people start killing each other.

Legion 429 Oct 2017 2:40 p.m. PST

The Bug hit … but I'll try to post again …

Legion you are probably right about the fez any pictures showing them in "action" were probably staged.
You and I both know running around with all that Infantry equipment, etc., trying not to be a target, etc., etc. A Fez would not only not provide any protection from the various objects that fly around on the battlefield. It would almost assuredly fall off while running, jumping, climbing, etc. The things Infantrymen do in e.g. a firefight, etc.

difficult to imagine how hatred can run so deep that as soon as the brakes are off people start killing each other.
Yes, not only in the former Yugoslavia, but the Mid East, Africa, SW Asia, etc., and the list goes on and on …

andysyk30 Oct 2017 12:19 p.m. PST

This unit mutinied had constant desertion and did commit atrocities.

christot Inactive Member30 Oct 2017 3:09 p.m. PST

"This unit mutinied had constant desertion and did commit atrocities."

well, apparently their commander was a "hearts and minds" commander. Must have been a remarkable fellow.
Unique, I would imagine in the SS…

andysyk31 Oct 2017 5:27 p.m. PST

I'm sure Einastztruppen have been produced in 20mm. Make of it what you will…….
IIRC modelled in the act so to speak..

Oh and on the Handschar in the link provided by Dragon Gunner;

According to Vladimir Dedijer and Antun Miletić, 223 civilians were killed in Bosut, 352 in Sremska Rača, and 70 in Jamena, mostly old men, women and children…

Yea not third rate at all………….????

And you can bet the Partisan casualty rates were all combatants?

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