- Second League of Prizren
The Second League of Prizren was an organisation founded by leading Albanian officials in the southern Serbian province of
Kosovoin 1943to 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 Yugoslaviaand ethnic Albanians in Kosovo faced forced evacuation by the Yugoslav government to Albania or Turkey. As a result, the Italian occupation of Albania in 1939encouraged 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 1943stymied these dreams temporarily and attention was turned to the Germans who had occupied Debarand Western Macedonia. Bedri Pejani, a militant and extremist supporter of Greater Albania, wrote to ReichsfuehrerSS Heinrich Himmlerto request his assistance in establishing a Greater Albania and in return offered to raise an Albanian fighting force to work with the German Wehrmachtto 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 1878to 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 Mitrovicaas 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 OrthodoxSlavic 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.
* Malcolm, N. (2000) "Kosovo: A Short History", New York University Press, New York. ISBN 0814756425
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