MAY 17 - 19, 2011
By Saimir Lolja
Laid out below is an inclusive analy-sis on the specifics of the “21. Waffen-Gebirgs Division der SS Skanderbeg”.The elucidation on this subject utilizes Albanian archival data presented by Shaban Sinani in his publication inthe Albanian language, “Jews in Alba-nia: The Presence and Salvation, Nai-mi, Tirana, 2009”. This study has become necessary due to an oscillationin the “number of Jews deported or victimized in Kosova by SkanderbegDivision”, as reported in the publica-tions of different authors. The oscilla-tion itself is a corroboration of the lack of a comprehensive research in the Albanian archives and the full story of Skanderbeg Division, not to mentionthe perspectives of some authors whospent sleepless nights propagandizingagainst Albanians and anything Alban-ian. The cases wherein the “deeds” of Skanderbeg Division have beenassigned outside the time limits of itsexistence and the cases of assigningphotographs to Skanderbeg Divisionmust be addressed.From the time of the invasion of Yugoslavia by the German, Italian andHungarian armies in April 1941 toNovember 1944, most of the Alban-ian-inhabited areas that had been pre- viously taken away from Albania andgiven to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia joined Albania. The province of Kosova was organized in the Prefectures of Mitrovica, Prishtina, and Prizren. Thecounty of Ulqin in Montenegro becamepart of the Prefecture of Shkodra; thecounty of Tetova in Western Macedo-nia became part of the Prefecture of Prishtina, and so on. Only the Southern Albanian Province of Çamëria, occu-pied by Greece in March 1913, did not become yet part of Albania throughout WW2.In direct involvement and relyingon intelligence work of previous Yugoslav consulates in Albania, Yugoslav communist emissariesformed the Communist Party of Alba-nia (CPA) on 8 November 1941. Theseeds that Yugoslav communist envoysplanted in Albania and the intelligencenetworks they established in the openuntil 1948 were so malicious that evennow their fruits and buds leak poisonand blood. On its side, the Britishorganization known as the SpecialOperations Executive (SOE) operatedin wartime Albania in accordance withBritish intelligence operations in pre- war Albania. The first group of BritishSOE officers entered Albania in late April 1943 and directly joined the par-tisan (communist) forces. In wartime Albania, the communist forces begangaining strength due to support andguidance by Yugoslav and British SOEemissaries. That assistance includedcontinuous military supplies, weapons,clothes, training, and money providedto them by British SOE.On 2 August 1943, the CommunistParty of Albania and the NationalFront (Balli Kombëtar) met at the vil-lage of Mukja in respect to the contin-uation of war against the occupyingforces and the future of ethnic Albania. As advised, the CPA objected to theinclusion of Kosova into Albania atthe end of WW2. However, for thesake of unity, a compromise wasreached by allowing the population of Kosova after the war to decide by ref-erendum which to join. As a result of advice from both Yugoslav and BritishSOE agents, the CPA denounced theagreement some days later and then,immediately, communist forces beganattacking nationalist forces. After that,the nationalist forces and the Germanarmy had a common enemy: the com-munist forces.In such an atmosphere of nationaldisunity and treachery, the Congressof the Second Albanian League of Prizren (2nd ALP) took place in Prizrenfrom 16-19 September 1943. The Italianarmy had just capitulated on 8 Sep-tember 1943 and the 2nd ALP wasagainst Nazi-Fascist occupiers. The2nd ALP was on the same course asthe First Albanian League of Prizren(10 June 1878 – 1881), which wasformed by Albanians representing all Albanian lands. The 1st ALP foughtfor the protection of Albanian landsand population against the decisionsof the Congress of Berlin (13 June - 13July 1878) and the attacks by neighborsdirectly helped by the Russian Empire.Due to restrictions in time, the organ-izers of the 2nd ALP were mostly fromKosova, Sanxhak and Western Mace-donia. The Albanian situation in 1944 was similar to that of 1878 and the2nd ALP had as the first article in itsprogram the permanent unification of all Albanian regions and their protec-tion by the use of arms. The head of the organizing council of the 2nd ALP,Musa Shehzade, condemned the atroc-ities committed in Albania by the Ital-ian occupiers and acknowledged the Albanian political and armed resistanceagainst that occupation. Then, hedefined the German army as an occu-pying force in transit and requestedthat it work to the benefit of the Alban-ian national cause. Other speakers fol-lowed suit. After the capitulation of the Italianarmy on 8 September 1943, a provisory Albanian administration was estab-lished in Tirana. Its delegation, com-posed of Bedri Pejani, Rexhep Mitro- vica, Xhafer Deva, Rrok Maloku, XhelalMitrovica, Mazhar Sopoti, etc., took part in the Congress of the 2nd ALPand delivered speeches. Rexhep Mitro- vica underlined that the German occu-pation would end soon and called Albanians to be prepared politically for the peace conference that wouldfollow the end of WW2. Tahir Zajmi brought fresh insight as to how grave was the danger coming from Yugoslav factions, no matter what the politicalforce they belonged to. He recalled themassacre carried out in January 1943 by Serb-Montenegrin Chetniks whenthey burnt the town of Bihor and killed4700 Albanians of all ages. In the end,the Congress elected the Central Com-mittee of the 2nd ALP with ChairmanRexhep Mitrovica, Deputies Musa She-hzade and Kolë Margjini, and activemembers Sheh Hasani, Asllan Boletini,Tahir Zajmi and Qazim Bllaca. Thefirst mandate of the Committee would be to establish an organized military force that was critical for the protectionof Albanian lands and population.On 16 October 1943, a NationalCongress began in Tirana. It reestab-lished the Independence of Albania,declared Albania to be neutral and on8 November 1943 it elected RexhepMitrovica as the Prime-Minister of Albania. As a result of that, BedriPejani was elected the Chairman of the 2nd ALP. Bedri Pejani, primarily anationalist, also corresponded withComintern. The Italian army had BedriPejani jailed in South Albania until 13September 1943. Xhaferr Deva wasthe Internal Minister in the govern-ment of Albania between October 1943and June 1944. The book “Rescue in Albania: One Hundred Percent of Jewsin Albania Rescued from Holocaust,Brunswick Press, 1997” by Harvey Sarner confirms that Xhaferr Devarefused to give the list of thousands of Jews to Nazis when they so requestedand even reminded them that such arequest was interference with the inter-nal affairs of Albania.The nationalists knew well whatthe Yugoslav emissaries, under thepatronage of British OSE officers, wereconspiring with the Albanian commu-nists against the Albanian nationalcause. From collected intelligence,including Comintern channels throughBedri Pejani, they were also aware of the aims of the Soviet Union and itsmotive for helping the southern Slavsand moving 12 million Soviet soldiersinto the heart of Europe. The events before and after the end of the bloody war confirmed their worries. Immedi-ately after WW2 ended for Kosovaand with the help of Albanian com-munist divisions, the Yugoslav com-munist divisions massacred 50000 Albanians in Kosova, first those who were directly involved with the 2nd ALP. Their massacres did not differfrom those reported by journalist LeoFreundlich in 1913 in his series “Alban-iens Golgotha”, at the time when Yugoslavia Nr. 1 was being brewed.The British Foreign Service bro-kered Yugoslavia Nr. 1 before WW1and Yugoslavia Nr. 2 in 1929 [thatceased to exist in 1941], and then bro-kered Yugoslavia Nr. 3 all through WW2. The first group of SOE agents was dispatched to ex-Yugoslavia on20 September 1941. To reach the objec-tive, Albanians had to be kept insidethe borders prior to the invasion by the Italian army in April 1939 and all Albanian efforts for unifying Albanianprovinces in one entity had to be shat-tered. The responsibility for imple-menting that policy was assigned toBritish investment entities in SoutheastEurope. In Yugoslavia Nr. 3 and Alba-nia the communist forces executed thetask, whereas in Greece the NationalRepublican Greek League (EDES) led by Napoleon Zervas carried out the work. A meeting of Joseph Stalin,Franklin D. Roosevelt and WinstonChurchill took place between 28November and 1 December 1943 inTehran, Iran. British and Soviet Armieshad already occupied Iran between 25 August and 17 September 1941. Here,combined with the enthusiasm of Stal-in, Churchill made possible the firstdecision of the Tehran Conference tosupply equipment and commandooperations to aid the partisans of Yugoslavia. On 24 May 1944, in directconsultation with Yugoslav emissariesand British OSE officers, the CPA helda Congress in Përmet with the sameorganizing model and purpose as com-munists did in Yugoslavia. It laid thefoundations for the future communist Albania in complete imitation of whatthe Communist Party of Yugoslavia inconsultation with British OSE haddone in Jajca, Bosnia, on 29 November1943 [simultaneously with the TehranConference] for the future communist Yugoslavia or Yugoslavia Nr. 3. Amongother decisions, the Congress of Përmetannounced that the future communist Albania would recognize the borderspreceding the occupation by the Italianarmy on 7 April 1939. For any nation-alist, that was the seal of nationaltreachery by communists, because allthe Albanian lands chopped off in 1913 would be left outside the Albanian border again.Hence, the 2nd ALP fervently needed support in the form of astrong military force for the sole in-tention of the defense of Kosova.However, the options and time forthat purpose were too thin. The only solution was to establish a military force with the help of the Germanarmy. The 2nd ALP assigned itsChairman Bedri Pejani to negotiate with German representatives forthis. After intense negotiations, it was concluded that Germans wouldform a division of the SS named“Skanderbeg” that would be armed,fed, dressed, trained and com-manded by the Waffen-SS. Its orderof formation was issued in Berlinon 17 April 1944. Bedri Pejani triedto convince Germans that 150000 volunteers 18-24 years old would be ready to enlist into the Skander- beg Division. The German authori-ties did not believe him becausesuch a number was demographi-cally impossible. In a communiquéof 5 May 1944, Herman Neubacher,the Reich III representative in theregion, called Bedri Pejani “not anormal person” and noted “the only intention of Albanians was to defeatSerbs and Montenegrins”.The Skanderbeg Division wasone of the 44 divisions fielded dur-ing WW2 as part of the Waffen-SS,out of which 28 were composed of non-German recruits. At the time when Skanderbeg Division beganforming, there were already in op-eration three other Waffen-SS Di- visions in ex-Yugoslavia filled withlocal recruits: “7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs Division Prinz Eugen” witha majority of German recruits from Vojvodina along with Serbs, Croat-ians, Hungarians and Romanians,totaling 21120 men; “13. Waffen-Gebirgs-Division der SS Handschar(Kroatische Nr. 1)” with 90% of re-cruits from Bosnia and 10% fromCroatia, totaling 21065 men; and“23. Waffen-Gebirgs-Division derSS Kama (Kroatische Nr. 2)” withrecruits from Bosnia, totaling 2199men. In Greece, the German army had recruited, equipped, dressedand trained 22000 Greeks and or-ganized them in units known as theSecurity Battalions. These were ex-tensively engaged both in the holo-caust and fighting against commu-nist forces known as the Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS).SS-Brigadeführer Josef Fitzhumcommanded the Skanderbeg Divi-sion from mid to end of April 1944and SS-Brigadeführer AugustSchmidthuber and his Deputy SS-Obersturmbannführer Alfred Graf commanded it from early May toearly November 1944, at which timethe Skanderbeg Division was dis- banded. Though Skanderbeg Divi-sion was under the complete au-thority and direct command of
The Skanderbeg Divisionand Yugoslavia Nr. 3
Cuff Title of the 21. Waffen-Gebirgs-Division der SS Skanderbeg.Arm-Patch Insignia of the 21. Waffen-Gebirgs-Division der SS Skanderbeg.