Polemics & Exchanges

On the Ghost of Islam

Tomislav Sunic’s useful reminder of the dark legacy of Islam in the Balkans (“The Ghost of Islam in the Balkans, Vital Signs, June) is in need of a few corrections.

While most members of other SS units were volunteers, the Yugoslav “Schwaben” belonging to the Prinz Eugen Division were not.  Heinrich Himmler wanted to turn the Balkans into an SS sphere of interest, and this was manifested in his imposition of exclusive authority over the Volksdeutsche in the southeast.  The fall of Yugoslavia provided an opportunity for unbridled SS recruitment of ethnic Germans, not only in German-occupied Serbia (Banat) but also in the “Independent State of Croatia.”  This enlistment was not voluntary for the Volksdeutsche in the former Yugoslavia: Their leaders made a collective declaration on behalf of the membership that was binding on all.

Dr. Sunic’s speculation about Kemal Ataturk’s Slavic origins is off the mark.  Mustafa Kemal was probably of Jewish ancestry.  He denied this for reasons easy to understand at the time of his radical onslaught against Islamic traditions in Turkey, but it appears that his family belonged to the Sabbetaians, Turkish Jews who took Muslim names and outwardly behaved like Muslims but kept carefully guarded prayers and...

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