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Research Of Collaboration In Nazi Germany

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When considering the motivations of those who collaborated with the Nationalist-Socialist occupation of Europe, it is pivotal to first discern the various modes of collaboration. This remains a long debated historical issue, as there is no set definition for what collaboration entails. In 1968, historian Stanley Hoffmann attempted to define this term by suggesting that there is a need for distinctions to be made between two kinds of collaboration; “servile and ideological. ” He argues that both kinds can be voluntary or involuntary, with servile being founded on necessity which often culminates in state collaboration, and ideological being purposeful and individual; intentional actions which are motivated by conviction or due to shared ideas and values. While these distinctions can be helpful, it could be argued that they do not suffice due to the complexity of the issue of collaboration. For this reason, historians such as Alain Michel have taken these definitions further, and included an additional third type; “de facto collaboration” which is achieved through the day-to-day interactions of the occupied and their occupiers.

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To determine whether ideology was the greatest motive behind the collaboration with the Nazis, it is important to recognise other forms of collaboration such as state collaboration and de facto collaboration, which are focused less on ideology, but more on pragmatism and opportunism. Aside from the German people under the Nazi regime, other Nazi-occupied countries in Europe experienced varying levels of collaboration due to ideology, and so the actions of those in Vichy France will be studied, alongside the role of Denmark.

Firstly, there is an argument that to a great extent it was a shared ideology with the Nazis that propelled collaboration in Nazi Europe. This ideology mostly consisted of anti-semitism, as this was one of the Nazi’s key policies that they needed the public to help them enforce, but ideas of other ethnic hatred and anti-communism were also prominent in Europe.

To a certain extent, it cannot be denied that there must have been relatively high numbers of people who ideologically agreed with the Nazis, as Hitler’s rise to power was largely dependent on public support shown through election results such as the March 1933 Federal Election. Although Hitler’s treatment of the Jewish people was not fully radicalised until the late 1930’s, the anti-semitism enforced by the Nazis built on pre-existing ideas in Europe which Hitler attempted to express in his writing where he referred to the Jewish population as a “parasite upon the nations” . For instance, the Jewish people were often used as a scapegoat for economic and social issues that faced countries, and so some people in Germany who agreed with this ideology played key roles in assisting the Nazi genocide.

However, whilst anti-Semitic rhetoric did play a key role in gaining support for Nazis, this was not necessary the only ideology that the German people agreed with, as Nazi policy also aimed to reduce unemployment levels which attracted many.

A case study of the Reserve Police Battalion 101, which was comprised of ordinary German men sent to Poland to work under the SS, can be used to explore levels of collaboration by ordinary men in those exceptional circumstances. Christopher Browning’s findings suggest that only some members of Police Battalion did it out of ideological alignment with the regime, however, collaboration with orders was still very high, and only “a mere dozen men out of nearly 500” refused to participate in executing the Jews. Browning argues that very few of the men ideologically agreed and actually they collaborated for other reasons.

In a more general sense, the membership of the SS and the numbers of people volunteering also suggest that collaboration of this type was due to ideology as the members were not required to do so.

One of the main aspects of Nazi ideology which encouraged collaboration in Denmark was the intense ideas of anti-communism. In June 1941, after Operation Barbarossa, the German authorities demanded that all Danish communists were arrested, and the Danish government assisted by allowing this and providing the secret register which helped them to locate and then arrest 339 people. Of these, 246, including the three communist members of the Danish parliament, were imprisoned in the Horserød camp, in violation of the Danish constitution. On 22 August 1941, the Danish parliament passed the Communist Law, outlawing the communist party and communist activities, in another violation of the Danish constitution. On 25 November 1941, Denmark joined the Anti-Comintern Pact.

The case of Vichy France, led by Philippe Pétain, provides the best example of an instance where the collaboration was largely founded on ideology, and evolved as a result of shared views with the Nazis. Even before France in the 1930’s, there had been a long history of anti-semitism in their country, and so the mode of collaboration that was adopted by Vichy was not a policy that was imposed on them, but rather one that originated in France itself. Robert Paxton argues “incontrovertibly that Vichy had its own anti-Semitic propaganda”, such as the popular, weekly anti-Semitic newspaper, ‘Gringoire. ’ Given the history of anti-Semitism in Europe, Vichy France then expanded these ideas with xenophobic rhetorics, particularly in the 1920s, when “a combination of the demographic deficit and economic growth had given France one of the largest rates of immigration in the world. ” This then led to increasing displays of ethnic hatred, and increasing displays of xenophobia, in which citizens accused the foreigners of taking French jobs and ruining the economy. Ideas such as these were circulated in newspapers like ‘Gringoire’ which had a readership of nearly 650,000, by the end of the 1930s. The popularity of anti-Semitism in France demonstrates one of the ways which Vichy ideology was compatible with the Nazis, and thus made collaboration easier.

An example of this is that the French police participated in arrests and round-ups and other Vichy actions saw them collaborating with the Nazis perhaps in unintentional ways. For instance, the July 1941 Jewish census that Vichy had called for made it much easier for Jewish people to be located and sent it death camps. In August 1932 there was a law passed which limited the numbers of foreigners in certain professions and these laws were “passed independently of German pressure. ” This action taken was likely due to a shared ideology of the status of Jewish people rather than a shared ideology of the Nazi party as a whole which partially accounts for why the French collaborated with the Nazis. When examining the extent to which collaboration was a matter of ideology, it is crucial to emphasise that this depends on the country that was being occupied, as the history of the country and its own ideology plays a large role in determining the extent to which they collaborate. In the case of Vichy, it could even be that collaboration in terms of anti-semtiism went beyond having similar ideology to the Nazis, and instead became due to the self interests of France. </p>

10 October 2020

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