A brief mention of the Turkistan Legion over dinner last night led me to a Google search that turned up some surprisingly contemporary reverberations from Hitler's use of Islamist troops during World War II. I think it may explain the failure of US policy in Central Asia. It seems that some US attempts to foster anti-Russian and anti-Chinese sentiment among Chechens, Uighurs, and the like may have been taken from an old German playbook.
No wonder it hasn't worked...
Here are some references:
1. Gates of Vienna
Our Flemish correspondent VH has done some research on the role played by the Muslims of Central Asia in World War 2, in collaboration with the Nazis:2. Wikipedia:
When trying to find out a bit more about the Turkistan Muslims in Xinjiang, I stumbled upon this photo.
Though Muslim Nazi collaboration is mostly known for the notorious Muslim Handschar (Sword) SS division, the Turkistan Muslims were incorporated into the volunteer Östtürkischer Waffen-Verband der SS and fought mainly in France, North Italy, and — like the Handschar — in Yugoslavia. They were involved in the killing of over 800,000 Yugoslav citizens — 750,000 Serbs, 60,000 Jews and 26,000 Roma, with the help of Muslims in Bosnia (Bosnian 13th Waffen Handschar), Kosovo and Albania (Albanian Skanderbeg 21st Waffen SS division).
The first “Turkistan Legion” was mobilized in May 1942, originally consisting of only one battalion but having been expanded to 16 battalions and 16,000 soldiers by 1943 (Öst Battalions).
The all-Muslim “Turkistanische Legion” wore a badge picturing a mosque and the text “BiZ ALLA Bilen, TURKISTAN”: “Allah is with us, Turkistan,” equivalent of Gott mit uns (God with us), which was the German Army motto).
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There is also a film of this Muslim-National Socialists alliance, “Uyghur's army and German troops (Turkistanische legion)”:
The Turkestan Legion (German: Turkistanische Legion) was the name for the military units comprised of the "freiwillige" Turkic peoples who fought in the German Army during World War II. Most of these troops were Red Army POWs, who opted to fight for the Nazis in the hopes of establishing an independent state in Central Asia after the war.3.Axis & Legion Militaria
Although Turkic peoples had been perceived initially as "racially inferior", this attitude officially already changed in the Autumn 1941, when the Nazis attempted to harness the anti-Russian sentiment of Turkic peoples in Russia for political gain. The first "Turkistan Legion" was mobilized in May 1942, originally consisting of only one battalion but having been expanded to 16 battalions and 16,000 soldiers by 1943. Under the Wehrmacht's command, these units were mobilized exclusively on the Western front, isolating them from the Red Army, on the war fronts of France and north Italy.
Much of the Turkestan Legion was ultimately imprisoned by British forces and repatriated into Russia, where they would face persecution and reprisals by the Russian government in the wake of the conflict, for having fought alongside the fascist forces.
Notable members of the legion include Baymirza Hayit, who after the war, settled in Germany and became a historian of the history of Central Asia and Turkestan, and Turkestani nationalist leader Mustafa Chokaev.
Turkistan & Eastern SS Insignia
The Germans formed "Ost" (Eastern) Battalions from recruited prisoners of war and deserters. These Ost Battalions were fitted among the German Regiments and Divisions. The volunteers from the Ost Battalions were used as rear-area police duties.
Most of these Legions were used to fight anti-partisan operations in Russia and later in Yugoslavia.
One of the most distinguishing combat formations were members of the Turkistan Legion. The Legion was formed in the spring of 1942 as part of the German 162nd Infantry Division, referred as the "Turkoman Division." It saw extensive action in Yugoslavia and Italy.
In November 1943, the "Ostmanische SS-Division" was formed comprising of three separate eastern groups: Turkistan, Idel-ural and Crimea.
Reichsführer Himmler was very interested in this Eastern SS formation because his intent was to utilize some of the cadre personal for a training unit with the hope of raising further Eastern volunteer units. Because of volunteer shortages the unit was later designated as "1. Ostmusselmanisches SS-Regiment" in July 1944.
Finaly by October 1944, with more volunteers and conscriptions it was re-named as the "Osttürkischer Waffen-Verband der SS.
By March 1945 the Azerbaijan legion was added.
Below is a sample of insignias worn by members of the Turkistan Legion and Waffen-SS.
On top is a Wolf's Head collar tab with enlisted rank. It was intended to be worn by Crimean Tartar and Volga Tartar volunteers, one of four formations to be used in the creation of the "30. Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS (Westruthenische Nr. 1)."
Another interesting insignia is the German made cuffband with the green color, which represented the ethnic muslims.
The BeVo woven cuffband is made of bright green rayon with white Latin script "Osttürkischer Waffen-Verband der SS." The cuffband is border at both top and bottom edges in vertically woven white thread. The reverse shows the typical salt & pepper patterned found on these BeVo style bands.
Below on your left is a very rare early first pattern Turkistan shield. Oval grey-green backing with a light-grey border; depicting a white mosque with a center coupola in white and blue, two side spires and a large entry gate, all outlined in yellow with light blue shadows. Below the mosque is the inscription "TURKISTAN" and arched above the inscription "BIZ ALLA BILEN." (God with us)
The Germans appear to have believed that "Biz Alla Bilen" was the Arabic equivalent of "Got mit uns" (God with us), which was the German Army motto.
NOTE: Correctly this should have been "Allah biz bilen. There may have been some objection to this both as a grammatical error and to the fact that although five languages "Kazakh, Kirgiz, Turkmen, Uzbeck and Tajik" are spoken in the Turkistan region of what was formerly the USSR, Arabic is not one of them!
On your right is the second pattern shield, issued in September 1943. The angular shape shield has a red and blue horizontal stripes bordered in black with a black field at the top with the inscription "TURKISTAN" in light blue. In the center of the shield is the Legion's emblem a white bow and arrow.
Above is the gold Eastern Peoples first class with swords badge that was awarded for bravery. If you want to find out more information please visit my Eastern People's Awards web page.