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The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS "Handschar" (1st Croatian) was a mountain infantry division of the Waffen-SS, an armed branch of the German Nazi Party that served alongside but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht during World War II. From March to December 1944, it fought a counter-insurgency campaign against communist-led Yugoslav Partisan resistance forces in the Independent State of Croatia, a fascist puppet state of Germany that encompassed almost all of modern-day Croatia, all of modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as parts of Serbia. It was given the title Handschar (Bosnian: Handžar) after a local fighting knife or sword carried by Ottoman policemen during the centuries that the region was part of the Ottoman Empire. It was the first non-Germanic Waffen-SS division, and its formation marked the expansion of the Waffen-SS into a multi-ethnic military force. Composed of Bosnian Muslims (ethnic Bosniaks) with some Catholic Croat soldiers and mostly German and Yugoslav Volksdeutsche (ethnic German) officers and non-commissioned officers, it took an oath of allegiance to both Adolf Hitler and the Croatian leader Ante Pavelić.
The division fought briefly in the Syrmia region north of the Sava river prior to crossing into northeastern Bosnia. After crossing the Sava, it established a designated "security zone" in northeastern Bosnia between the Sava, Bosna, Drina and Spreča rivers. It also fought outside the security zone on several occasions, and earned a reputation for brutality and savagery, not only during combat operations, but also through atrocities committed against Serb and Jewish civilians. In late 1944, parts of the division were transferred briefly to the Zagreb area, after which the non-German members began to desert in large numbers. Over the winter of 1944–45, it was sent to the Baranja region where it fought against the Red Army and Bulgarians throughout southern Hungary, falling back via a series of defensive lines until they were inside the Reich frontier. Most of the remaining Bosnian Muslims left at this point and attempted to return to Bosnia. The rest retreated further west, hoping to surrender to the Western Allies. Most of the remaining members became prisoners of the British Army. Subsequently, 38 officers were extradited to Yugoslavia to face criminal charges, and 10 were executed. Hundreds of former members of the division fought in the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestineand the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.