the ugly truth about Nazi collaborators

75 years after the end of the Holocaust, virtually all of the countries whose populations collaborated with the Nazis to massacre Jews have yet to take responsibility for what they did.

The Holocaust wouldn’t have been possible without the widespread collaboration of the local populations in Nazi-occupied territories.

This list is nowhere near exhaustive. There were Nazi collaborators in every territory the Germans touched. 

 

 

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

The Catholic Church has long been considered to have had a mixed legacy regarding their relationship with the Nazis, but new information has come to light about its complicity with the Holocaust.

As early as 1942, the Vatican received information from the Jewish Agency about the mass killing of 100,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, as well as 50,000 Jews massacred in Lviv, Ukraine. A memo from a Vatican staffer warned against believing such reports, claiming that “Jews easily exaggerate.”

Jewish groups have long criticized pope Pius XII for staying silent during the Holocaust. 

Despite the fact that the German Catholic Church was deeply suspicious of Hitler, secret documents have now established that pope Pius XII helped squash any opposition to Hitler from within the German Church. 

After the war, prominent members of the Church helped thousands of Nazis escape to South America, utilizing routes known as “rat lines.” 

It wasn’t until this year that the Church admitted to any wrongdoing during the Holocaust. 

 

POLAND

The Nazis considered Poles an inferior race and sought to methodically tear away at Polish society to destroy any opposition. Nevertheless, when it comes to the Holocaust, the Polish legacy is one of extensive collaboration with the Nazis.

Antisemitism in Poland long preceded the Nazis. However, with the Nazi occupation of Poland, many Polish antisemites were emboldened. One particularly devastating example is that of the town of Jedwabne, when hundreds of Jews were burned alive in 1941 at the hands of their neighbors. In 1942, in the village of Gniewczyna Lancucka, non-Jewish neighbors held between 20-40 Jews hostage, raping them and torturing to death. 

The Nazi death camp system in Poland relied on the collaboration with the Polish police force and transportation personnel. Many Poles blackmailed and sold out Jews in hiding — including a sizable portion of non-Jewish Poles fighting against the Germans in the Polish resistance. 

Today, the Polish government refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing.

 

UKRAINE

Ukraine is infamous for its collaboration with the Nazis during the Holocaust. An independent Ukrainian state was briefly established following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, before Ukraine was swallowed by the USSR. Ukrainians widely hoped that in collaborating with the Nazis, the Germans would eventually support their aspirations for an independent Ukraine.

As in Poland, the Ukrainian police was heavily involved in implementing the Final Solution. Many willingly cleared out ghettos, engaged in house-to-house searches, and committed mass shootings, such as the massacre at Babi Yar, when nearly 34,000 Jews were massacred in two days. Even regular Ukrainian civilians engaged in the violence, murdering 4000 Jews during the 1941 Lviv pogrom. 

Ukraine only commemorated the Holocaust for the first time in 2005. 

 

LATVIA & LITHUANIA

After the Germans occupied Latvia in 1941, the sought the collaboration of local recruits to put their plans to exterminate the Jewish People into action. The Germans created the Latvian Auxiliary Police, a paramilitary group consisting of local Latvian volunteers. Most notable was the Arajs Kommando, which committed multiple atrocities against Jews, Roma, and mentally ill patients. The Arajs Kommando murdered some 26,000 Jews, including mass executions in Riga, and were complicit in the Rumbula Massacre, when 25,000 Jews were murdered in the span of two days. 

Lithuania is an even grimmer story. Once considered “the Jerusalem if the north” for its vibrant Jewish life, 95% of the Lithuanian Jewish population was murdered in the Holocaust — thanks to the enthusiastic hands of their non-Jewish neighbors.

Lithuanians saw the Nazis as their liberators from the Soviet regime. As such, they formed right-wing paramilitary organizations before the Nazis even established themselves in Lithuania.  

To this day, the Latvian and Lithuanian governments still honor their Nazi collaborators, considering them freedom fighters against the Soviets. 

 

PALESTINE

Following the outbreak of the 1936-1937 Great Arab Revolt in British-occupied Palestine, the Arab Higher Committee was formed. The Committee was the main political organization representing the Palestinian Arab clans and political parties. It was headed by Han Amin al-Husayni, the British-appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

The AHC vehemently opposed Jewish immigration to Palestine in the years leading up to WWII. After a British leader was assassinated in Nazareth, the British outlawed the AHC. However, in 1938, they allowed the AHC leaders to return to Palestine, believing that this would help settle communal disputes. 

Al-Husayni, however, spent the wartime years in Europe, actively collaborating with Hitler and Mussolini. He worked closely with the Axis powers to enact an antisemitic propaganda campaign in the Middle East and consistently blocked attempts to allow Jewish refugees into Palestine and the rest of the region. 

He wrote a pamphlet for the SS that stated: “The Day of Judgment will come, when the Muslims will crush the Jews completely: And when every tree behind which a Jew hides will say: ‘There is a Jew behind me, Kill him!” The pamphlet had a deep impact on the persecution of Bosnian Jews during the Holocaust. 

Additionally, in 1944, al-Husayni was on the air on Nazi radio, stating, “Arabs, rise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you.”

 

CROATIA & GREECE

The Croatian Ustasha regime not only collaborated with the Nazis, but actively persecuted and murdered Jews out of their own initiative, even going so far as to creating their own concentration camp system. By 1942, the Croatian government had murdered 2/3s of Croatia’s Jews.

To this day the Croatian government is notorious for Holocaust revisionism, massively downplaying their crimes against Jews and Serbs, even going so far as to glorify the Ustasha regime. This has caused serious tensions between the government and Croatia’s tiny Jewish minority (only between 500-2500 Jews remain). 

In 1941, Greece also formed a collaborationist government with the Nazis and Italians, known as the Hellenic State. The Jewish community in Greece, the longest continuous Jewish community in Europe (dating all the way back to 300 BCE), was all but destroyed, with 86% of them perishing in the Holocaust. Many Jews were even forced to pay for their own train tickets to death camps. 

However, unlike the Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church refused to collaborate with the Nazis — and neither did the Greek people as a whole. This prevented the complete extermination of Greece’s Jewry. 

 

HUNGARY

Hungary joined the Axis powers in October of 1940. 

In Hungary, the Arrow Cross Party was responsible for murdering 10,000-15,000 Jewish and Romani civilians. Between 1920-1944, the Hungarian government passed more than 300 antisemitic laws. In 1944, when it was clear that the Axis powers would lose the war, Hungary pulled out of the Axis alliance, prompting the Nazis to invade Hungary. Once under Nazi occupation, the Hungarian government assisted with the deportation of Jews. Within 56 days, nearly 440,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz, where the majority were murdered.

As of 2004, since Hungary became a democracy in 1989, they have not prosecuted a single Nazi collaborator. However, in 2017, the Hungarian prime minister apologized to Israel for their role in the Holocaust.

 

ROMANIA & SLOVAKIA 

Romania joined the Axis powers in 1940. The Iron Guard party encouraged Romanian citizens to beat up and murder Jews in their homes or businesses or even while walking down the street. They also enacted many antisemitic laws. Starting in 1941, the Romanian government created its very own concentration camp system. 420,000 Romanian Jews died in the Holocaust, 40,000 of them at the hands of the Romanian government.  

Following the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia, the First Slovak Republic was formed in modern-day Slovakia. The Slovak Republic was a client-state of Nazi Germany. Because they desired autonomy from Czechoslovakia, the Slovakians widely collaborated with the Nazis.

The Slovakian government made a deal with the Germans, deporting their Jews in exchange for workers that could help with the Slovak economy. Additionally, the Slovak government paid the Nazis for each Jew that was deported as a “resettlement” fee. 

After the end of the war, Jewish survivors were attacked by Slovakian civilians, causing most of them to flee to Israel. 

 

FRANCE & NORTH AFRICA

France surrendered to the Germans in 1940. From 1940-1944, the Vichy regime persecuted the Jewish and Roma populations, enacted eugenics policies, and created its very own concentration camp system. Though widely considered a Nazi puppet government, the Vichy regime voluntarily pursued these policies. In fact, historians assert that the regime enacted antisemitic policies long before the Germans asked them to do so. 

Collaborationists were not limited to the Vichy government, however, and in fact had existed in France since before the Germans invaded. Initially, the French public was highly supportive of the Vichy regime, but support waned throughout the course of the war. 

Though not widely known, the Holocaust extended to North Africa, where 10,000 Jews were sent to labor camps, mostly to work on the trans-Saharan railway. The Vichy regime continued its collaborationist policies in countries such as Algeria and Morocco. As with the Middle East, the Nazi’s propaganda campaigns had an effect on the North African population, though the reaction among the Muslim majority was mixed.