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.
Regulations for the SS Collar Tab went through quite an evolution in just a short 16 year period. The first SS Collar Tabs were introduced in 1929 by Heinrich Himmler as part of the newly introduced SS uniform code. Initially, tabs were worn by both lower rank SS men and their senior leaders. Lower ranks would wear a rank tab as well as a numbered unit identification tab, with senior leaders wearing their rank tabs on both collars. In 1933 the well known “SS” runic tab was adopted by Hitler’s personal body guard detachment, the “Leibstandarte” or “LAH”. The LAH used this runic tab in lieu of the numerical unit identification tab to identify them as members of the elite unit protecting the “Führer”. In 1934 the runic “SS” tabs were again adopted for use by the early “SS-VT” units. This adoption eventually led to the wide spread use of SS runic tabs by German Divisions; the later non-German volunteer units would not be permitted to wear the runes, and bore their own unit designed patch instead. SS Collar tabs can be found in an extraordinary variety of numbers, designs, and piping’s depending on unit and rank, from hand-embroidered tabs worn by officers to mass produced embroidered and machine woven types that were used on combat uniforms.