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History of
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Coat of Arms of the King Tvrtko I of Bosnia
This article is part of a series
Early History
Roman era
Slavic peoples
Bosnian Kingdom
Ottoman era
(Bosnia Province)
(Herzegovina Province)
Austro-Hungarian era
(Austro-Hungarian condominium of Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
World War II
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
(Socialist Republic of
Bosnia and Herzegovina
War in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina Portal
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A Monument commemorating the Battle of Sutjeska in eastern Bosnia.

After the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis powers during World War II, all of Bosnia was ceded to the newly-created Independent State of Croatia. Croatian rule in Bosnia led to widespread persecution and mass-killings of Serbs and Jews in Bosnia, resulting in the near-total annihilation of the latter population. Many Serbs themselves took up arms and joined the Chetniks; a Yugoslavian nationalist and royalist resistance movement that both conducted guerrilla warfare against the occupying forces and committed numerous atrocities against chiefly Bosnian Muslim civilians in regions under their control.

Starting in 1941, Yugoslav communists under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito organized their own multi-ethnic resistance group, the partisans, who fought against both Axis and Chetnik forces. On 29 November 1943 the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia with Tito at its helm held a founding conference in Jajce where Bosnia and Herzegovina was reestablished as a republic within the Yugoslavian federation in its Ottoman borders. Military success eventually prompted the Allies to support the Partisans, and the end of the war resulted in the establishment of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, with the constitution of 1946 officially making Bosnia and Herzegovina one of six constituent republics in the new state.

During the war, and following the massive deterioration of internal security under the incompetent Ustaše regime, the Nazis tried to create a quisling Waffen-SS unit in Bosnia called the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian) in February 1943. Imam Halim Malkoć was the only Muslim to earn the German Iron Cross during World War Two. The formation was not particularly successful and many men deserted to the Communist partisans, but the concept served as very useful anti-Muslim propaganda after 1945.

Soldiers of the Handschar,1943


  • Lepre, George, Himmler's Bosnian Division: The Waffen-SS Handschar Division 1943-1945. (Atlgen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 1997), ISBN 0-7643-0134-9
  • Munoz, Antonio J., editor., The East Came West: Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist Volunteers in the German Armed Forces. (chapters 2 and 13) Bayside, NY: Axis Europa, 2001 ISBN 1-891227-39-4
  • Hermann Neubacher: Sonderauftrag Suedost 1940-1945, Bericht eines fliegendes Diplomaten, 2. durchgesehene Auflage, Goettingen 1956
  • Ladislaus Hory and Martin Broszat: Der Kroatische Ustascha-Staat, 1941-1945 Stuttgart, 1964
  • Redzic, Enver, Muslimansko Autonomastvo I 13. SS Divizija. (Sarajevo: Svjetlost, 1987).


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