Second League of Prizren


Second League of Prizren

The Second League of Prizren was an organisation founded by leading Albanian officials in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo in 1943 to campaign for the ethnic unification of Albanians in Albania.

From 1918, Kosovo, as a province of Serbia, was integrated into the newly formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo faced forced evacuation by the Yugoslav government to Albania or Turkey. As a result, the Italian occupation of Albania in 1939 encouraged many leading Albanians to lobby the Italians to incorporate areas with sizeable Albanian populations like Kosovo into Albania and were encouraged by Mussolini's support of the Greater Albania ideology. However, the Italian surrender on 3 September 1943 stymied these dreams temporarily and attention was turned to the Germans who had occupied Debar and Western Macedonia.

Bedri Pejani, a militant and extremist supporter of Greater Albania, wrote to Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler to request his assistance in establishing a Greater Albania and in return offered to raise an Albanian fighting force to work with the German Wehrmacht to achieve this aim. Himmler agreed to the request and ordered the formation of two ethnic Albanian Waffen SS Divisions and sponsored the foundation of the Albanian nationalist organisation which became the Second League of Prizren. Named in honour of the original League of Prizren, founded in 1878 to fight for Kosovo independence, the aim of the Second League of Prizren was to ensure the formation of a greater Albania containing Albania, Kosovo and areas like Debar containing significant Albanian populations. Pejani was appointed President of the League and Albanian Prime Minister Rexhep Mitrovica as chairman of the central committee.

While the Second League of Prizren portrayed itself as purely an anti-communist nationalist organisation, many of the League's membership, which reached as many as 15 000 at its peak, held extremist views similar to that of Nazi Germany, including anti-democratic, anti-Orthodox and anti-Slavic views and the League collaborated openly with the Axis powers.

The Second League of Prizren campaigned unsuccessfully for the transfer of the northern tip of Kosovo to Albania, but raised volunteers to fight against the army and police forces of Yugoslavia. The Second of Lague of Prizren maintained the Albanian Ljuboten battalion initially formed by the Italian occupation forces. In conjunction with the Waffen SS, the Second League of Prizren also formed the Albanian Skanderbeg SS Division to maintain the military occupation of the Macedonian and Serbian Orthodox Slavic populations. As a result, 6,491 ethnic Albanians were drafted into the Waffen SS, as well as an additional 300 ethnic Albanians who were serving with the Bosnian Muslim 13th Waffen Gebirgs Division who were transferred to the Skanderbeg Division.

The Skanderbeg Division was poorly trained and illsuited to warfare and performed poorly. On 30 August 1944, the Skanderbeg Division was forced to retreat from Debar and the League began to lose any influence it had with Germany. The Communist liberation of Albania ensured the end of the League, although Communist officials were methodical in their retribution against League members.

References

* Malcolm, N. (2000) "Kosovo: A Short History", New York University Press, New York. ISBN 0814756425


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