Collaboration with the Axis powers

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Within nations occupied by the Axis powers in World War II, some citizens and organizations, prompted by antisemitism, nationalism, ethnic hatred, anti-communism and opportunism, collaborated with the Axis Powers. Collaborators committed some of the worst atrocities of the Holocaust.[1]

Collaboration has been defined as cooperation between elements of the population of a defeated state and representatives of the victorious power.[2] Stanley Hoffmann subdivided collaboration into involuntary (reluctant recognition of necessity) and voluntary (exploitation of necessity).[3] According to Hoffmann, collaborationism can be subdivided into "servile" and "ideological"; the former is deliberate service to an enemy, whereas the latter is deliberate advocacy of cooperation with a foreign force which is seen as a champion of desirable domestic transformations.[3] In contrast, Bertram Gordon uses the terms "collaborator" and "collaborationist", respectively, about non-ideological and ideological collaborations.[4]

Collaboration by country in Africa

French North Africa

The German Wehrmacht forces in North Africa established the Kommando Deutsch-Arabische Truppen; which comprised two battalions of Arab volunteers of Tunisian origin, an Algerian battalion and a Moroccan battalion. The four units made up a total of 3,000 men; with German cadres.[citation needed]

British Somaliland

During the successful Italian invasion of British Somaliland, some Somalis volunteered to fight alongside Fascist Italy, in contrast to the majority of Somalis, who volunteered to fight for the Allies of World War II.[5]

Collaboration by country in Asia


At least four, and possibly five, Australian prisoners of war in Axis custody volunteered for the British Free Corps (BFC), a Waffen-SS unit. Three of the four men whose identity is known were members of the Second Australian Imperial Force's 2/32nd Battalion, and the other was a merchant seaman. Following the war, the three soldiers claimed that they had joined the BFC as part of attempts to escape from German custody, and the merchant seaman stated that he had been given a choice of either signing up for the Corps or being imprisoned in a concentration camp after a relationship with a German woman was revealed. One of the soldiers and the seaman were convicted of aiding the enemy and imprisoned after the war, and the other two soldiers were not punished.[6]


The Japanese invasion was assisted by Burmese nationalists known as Burma Independence Army, who hoped for independence. They were later transformed into the Burma National Army as the armed forces of the State of Burma. Minority groups were also armed by the Japanese, such as the Arakan Defense Army and the Chin Defense Army.[7]


The Japanese set up several puppet regimes in occupied Chinese territories. The first of which was Manchukuo in 1932, followed by the East Hebei Autonomous Government in 1935. Similar to Manchukuo in its supposed ethnic identity, Mengjiang (Mengkukuo) was set up in late 1936. Wang Kemin's collaborationist Provisional Government of the Republic of China was set up in Beijing in 1937 following the start of full-scale military operations between China and Japan, another puppet regime was the Reformed Government of the Republic of China, set up in Nanjing in 1938. The Wang Jingwei collaborationist government, established in 1940, "consolidated" these regimes, though in reality neither Wang's government nor the constituent governments had any autonomy, although the military of the Wang Jingwei Government was equipped by the Japanese with planes, cannons, tanks, boats, and German-style stahlhelm (already widely used by the National Revolutionary Army, the "official" army of the Republic of China).

The military forces of these puppet regimes, known collectively as the Collaborationist Chinese Army, numbered more than a million at their height, with some estimates that the number exceeded 2 million conscripts. Great numbers of collaborationist troops were men originally serving in warlord forces within the National Revolutionary Army who had defected when facing both Communists and Japanese as enemies. Although its manpower was very large, the soldiers were very ineffective compared to NRA soldiers due to low morale for being considered as "Hanjian". Although certain collaborationist forces had limited battlefield presence during the Second Sino-Japanese War, most were relegated to behind-the-line duties.

The Wang Jingwei government was disbanded after the Japanese surrendered to Allies in 1945, and Manchukuo and Mengjiang were destroyed in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria.

French Indochina

On 22 September 1940, an agreement was signed between Vichy France and the Empire of Japan, which allowed the Japanese to station no more than 6,000 troops in French Indochina, and never have more than 25,000 transiting the colony. Rights were given for three airfields, with all other Japanese forces forbidden to enter Indochina without Vichy's consent. Vichy signed Joint Defense and Joint Military Cooperation treaty with Japan on 29 July. It granted the Japanese eight airfields, allowed them to have more troops present, and to use the Indochinese financial system, in return for a fragile French autonomy.

The French colonial government had largely stayed in place, as the Vichy government was on reasonably friendly terms with Japan. The Japanese permitted the French to put down nationalist rebellions in 1940.

The Japanese occupation forces kept French Indochina under nominal rule of Vichy France until March 1945, when the French colonial administration was overthrown, and the Japanese supported the establishment of Empire of Vietnam, Kingdom of Kampuchea and Kingdom of Laos as Japanese puppet states. Vietnamese militia were used to assist the Japanese.[8] In Cambodia, the ex-colonial Cambodian constabulary was allowed to continue its existence, though it was reduced to ineffectuality. A plan to create a Cambodian volunteer force was not realized due to Japanese surrender.[9] In Laos, the local administration and ex-colonial Garde Indigène (Indigenous Guard, a paramilitary police force) were reformed by Prince Phetsarath who replaced its Vietnamese members with Laotians.[10]

British Hong Kong

Hong Kong was a British crown colony before its occupation by the Japanese. During the Japanese rule, former members of the Hong Kong Police Force including the Indians and Chinese were recruited into reformed police called the Kenpeitai with new uniforms.[11]


Troops of the Legion Freies Indien, France, February 1944.

The Legion Freies Indien, or Indische Freiwilligen Infanterie Regiment 950 (also known as the Indische Freiwilligen-Legion der Waffen-SS) was created in August 1942, drawing its recruits chiefly from disaffected Indian prisoners of war from the British Indian Army who had been captured by Axis forces in the North African campaign. The majority of Indian POWs who switched sides to fight alongside Nazi Germany against the Allies were supporters of the exiled nationalist and former president of the Indian National Congress, Subhas Chandra Bose. The Royal Italian Army formed a similar unit of Indian prisoners of war, the Battaglione Azad Hindoustan. A Japanese-supported nominally sovereign state, the Azad Hind, was also established with the Indian National Army as its military force.


Among Indonesians to receive Japanese imperial honours from Hirohito in November 1943 were Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta. Sukarno actively recruited and organised Indonesian Rōmusha forced labour.[12] They succeeded respectively to become the founding President of Indonesia and Vice President of Indonesia in August 1945.

British Malaya

After occupying British Malaya, the Japanese occupational authorities reorganized the disbanded British colonial police force and created a new auxiliary police. Later on, a 2,000-men strong Malay Volunteer Army and a part-time Malay Volunteer Corps were created. Local residents were also encouraged to join the Imperial Japanese Army as auxiliary Heiho. There was a Railway Protection Corps as well.[13]


The Second Philippine Republic was a puppet state established by Japanese forces after occupying the Philippines. The puppet state relied on the reformed Bureau of Constabulary[14] and the Makapili militia to police the occupied country and fight the local resistance movement and regular troops of the Philippine Commonwealth Army. The president of the republic, Jose P. Laurel, had his presidential guard unit that was recruited from the ranks of the collaborationist government. When the Americans were closing in on the Philippines in 1944, the Japanese began recruiting Filipinos to augment their losses. Most of the Filipino recruits served in the Imperial Japanese Army and fought actively until Japan's surrender. After the war, members of Makapili and other civilian collaborators were subject to harsh treatment by both the Philippine government and civilians sympathetic to the Allied cause. This was due to their pro-Axis involvement and actions which led to the capture, torture, and execution of many Filipinos.[15]

Portuguese Timor

Portugal was neutral during the war, but its colony Timor was occupied by the Japanese. Local militiamen were organized into Black Columns to help Japanese forces fight Allies.[16]

Straits Settlements

The British territory of the Straits Settlements came under Japanese occupation after the fiasco suffered by Commonwealth forces of the Fall of Singapore. The Straits Settlements Police Force came under the control of the Japanese and all vessels owned by the Marine Police were confiscated.[17]

Collaboration by country in Europe


After the Italian invasion of Albania, the Royal Albanian Army, police and gendarmerie were amalgamated into the Italian armed forces in the newly created Italian protectorate of Albania. The Albanian Fascist Militia was also formed, and in the Yugoslav part of Kosovo, they established Vulnetari (or Kosovars), a volunteer militia of Albanians from Kosovo. Ethnic Albanian elements of the Italian armed forces participated in the Italian invasion of Greece, and the German-led Axis invasion of Yugoslavia. After Italy's capitulation, the Germans stepped in and established more collaborationist units such as police volunteer regiments and a national militia. In annexed Kosovo, the Germans established the Kosovo Regiment out of Balli Kombëtar forces. In April 1943, Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler created the 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian) manned by Albanians and Kosovo Albanians. By June 1944, its military value against the Albanian and Yugoslav Partisans was considered poor, after the German occupation of Albania and the creation of the Albanian client state, by November 1944 it had been disbanded. The remaining cadre, now called Kampfgruppe Skanderbeg, was transferred to the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen where they successfully participated in actions against Josip Broz Tito's partisans in December 1944.[18] The emblem of the division was a black Albanian eagle.[19]


A Vlaams Nationaal Verbond (VNV) meeting in Ghent in 1941

Belgium was invaded by Nazi Germany in May 1940 and remained under German occupation until the end of 1944.

The political collaboration took separate forms across the Belgian language divide. In Dutch-speaking Flanders, the Vlaamsch Nationaal Verbond (Flemish National Union or VNV), an authoritarian party and part of the pre-war Flemish Movement, became a major part of the German occupation strategy and VNV politicians were promoted to positions in the Belgian civil administration. VNV's comparatively moderate stance meant that it was increasingly eclipsed later in the war by the more radical and pro-German DeVlag movement. In French-speaking Wallonia, Léon Degrelle's Rexist Party, a pre-war authoritarian and Catholic Fascist political party, became the VNV's Walloon equivalent, although Rex's Belgian nationalist stance put it at odds with the Flemish nationalism of VNV and the German Flamenpolitik. Rex became increasingly radical after 1941 and declared itself part of the Waffen-SS. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Rex helped support the creation of a military unit to fight alongside German troops on the Eastern Front, the Walloon Legion, and a similar Flemish Legion was created in Flanders. Both began as formations in the German regular army but would eventually become part of the Waffen-SS.

Although the pre-war Belgian government went into exile in 1940, the Belgian civil service was left in place for much of the occupation. The Committee of Secretaries-General, an administrative panel of civil servants, was created to coordinate the state's activities and, although it was intended to be a purely techocratic institution, has been accused of helping implement German occupation policies. The Belgian police have also been accused of collaborating during the occupation, especially in The Holocaust in Belgium.


With the German annexation of Czechoslovakia between 1938 and 1939, the country was divided. Most of the Czech part of pre-war Czechoslovakia was reconstituted into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, a protectorate of Nazi Germany. The Protectorate had its own military forces, including a 12-battalion 'Government Army', police and gendarmerie. The majority of the 'government army' was sent to Northern Italy in 1944 as labour and guard troops.[citation needed] Whether or not the Government Army can be considered a collaborationist force has been debated. Its commanding officer, Jaroslav Eminger, was tried and acquitted on charges of collaboration following World War II, some members of the force engaged in active resistance operations simultaneous with their service in the army, and – in the waning days of the conflict – elements of the army joined in the Prague uprising.[20]

The Slovak Republic (Slovenská Republika) was a quasi-independent ethnic Slovak state which existed from 14 March 1939 to 8 May 1945 as an ally and client state of Nazi Germany. The Slovak Republic existed on roughly the same territory as present-day Slovakia (except for the southern and eastern parts of present-day Slovakia). The Republic bordered Germany, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, German-occupied Poland, and Hungary.[citation needed]


Members of Free Corps Denmark leaving for the Eastern Front from Hellerup Station in Copenhagen

At 04:15 on 9 April 1940 (Danish standard time), German forces crossed the border into neutral Denmark, in violation of a German–Danish treaty of non-aggression signed the previous year. After two hours the Danish government surrendered. The German authorities were inclined towards lenient terms with Denmark for several reasons which allowed Denmark a favourable relationship with Nazi Germany. German officials claimed that they would "respect Danish sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as neutrality."[21] The Danish government remained intact and the parliament continued to function more or less as it had before, maintaining control over domestic policy.[22] Danish public opinion generally backed the new government, particularly after the fall of France in June 1940.[23]

Throughout the war the Danish government enacted a number of policies to satisfy Germany and retain the social order. Newspaper articles and news reports "which might jeopardize German-Danish relations" were outlawed and on 25 November 1941, Denmark joined the Anti-Comintern Pact.[24] The Danish government and King Christian X repeatedly discouraged sabotage and encouraged informing on the resistance movement, an activity which resulted in resistance fighters being imprisoned or executed during the war and informants being sentenced to death for after the war.[25][26][27]

Prior to, during and after the war Denmark enforced a restrictive refugee policy and handed Jewish refugees that managed to get over the border over to German authorities. 21 such incidents are known and 18 of the people transferred to German custody later died in concentration camps, including a woman and her three children.[28] In 2005 prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen officially apologized for these policies.[29]

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, German authorities demanded that Danish communists be arrested. The Danish government complied and directed the police to arrest 339 communists using secret registers. 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 of Denmark and also communist activities, in another violation of the Danish constitution. In 1943, about half of the imprisoned communists were transferred to Stutthof concentration camp, where 22 of them died.

HQ of the SS-Schalburgkorps in Copenhagen in 1943

On 29 June 1941 Free Corps Denmark was founded as a corps of Danish volunteers to fight against the Soviet Union. Free Corps Denmark was set up at the initiative of the SS and National Socialist Workers' Party of Denmark (DNSAP) who approached Lieutenant-Colonel C.P. Kryssing of the Royal Danish Army shortly after the invasion of the USSR had begun. According to Danish law, it was not illegal to join a foreign army, but active recruiting on Danish soil was illegal. German authorities disregarded this law and began recruiting efforts and ultimately 12,000 Danish citizens volunteered for German army duty of which 6,000 were approved for service.[30] After the war, it was retroactively made illegal to have served in the German army and many of the returning soldiers were given long prison sentences.[31]

Industrial production and trade were, partly due to geopolitical reality and economic necessity redirected towards Germany. Many government officials saw expanded trade with Germany as vital to maintaining social order in Denmark.[32] It was feared that increased unemployment and poverty could lead to civil unrest which would result in a crackdown by the German authorities.[33] The structure of the Danish unemployment system meant that unemployment benefits could be denied if jobs were available in Germany and this practice was widely followed resulting in an average of some 20,000 Danes working in German factories through the 5 years of the war.[34]

In return for these concessions, the Danish cabinet rejected German demands for legislation discriminating against Denmark's Jewish minority. Demands to introduce the death penalty were likewise rebuffed and so were German demands to allow German military courts jurisdiction over Danish citizens and demands for the transfer of Danish army units to German military use.


The recruiting center for the Waffen-SS Estonian Legion

Although the Estonian Self-Administration did not have complete freedom of action, it exercised a significant measure of autonomy, within the framework of German policy, political, racial and economic. Thus, the Directors exercised their powers pursuant to the laws and regulations of the Republic of Estonia, but only to the extent that these had not been repealed or amended by the German military command. The Director's position was voluntary. The Self-Administration's autonomy enabled it to maintain police structures that cooperated with the Germans in rounding up and killing Jews and Roma and in seeking out and killing Estonians deemed to be opponents of the occupiers, and it was ultimately incorporated into the Estonian Security Police and SD. It also extended to the unlawful conscription of Estonians for forced labor or for military service under German command.[35]

The Estonian Security Police and SD,[36] the 286th, 287th and 288th Estonian Auxiliary Police Battalions, and 2.5–3% of the Estonian Omakaitse (Home Guard) militia units (approximately between 1,000 and 1,200 men) were directly involved in criminal acts, taking part in the rounding-up, guarding or killing of 400–1,000 Roma people and 6,000 Jews in the concentration camps in the Pskov region, Russia and the Jägala, Vaivara, Klooga and Lagedi concentration camps in Estonia. Guarded by the above-listed formations, 15,000 Soviet POWs died in Estonia: some through neglect and mistreatment and some through execution.[35]


Leader of Vichy France Marshal Philippe Pétain meeting Hitler at Montoire, 24 October 1940
Waffen-SS recruiting center in Calais, Northern France photographed shortly after liberation by the Allies.

The Vichy French government, headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain and Pierre Laval, actively collaborated in the extermination of the European Jews. It also participated in Porajmos, the extermination of Roma people, and the extermination of other "undesirables." Vichy opened up a series of internment camps in France where Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and political opponents were interned. Directed by René Bousquet, the French police helped in the deportation of 76,000 Jews to the extermination camps. In 1995, President Jacques Chirac officially recognized the responsibility of the French state for the deportation of Jews during the war, in particular, the more than 13,000 victims of the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of July 1942, during which Laval decided, of his own volition (and without being requested by the occupying German authorities), to deport children along with their parents. Only 2,500 of the deported Jews survived the war. The 1944 Battle of Marseille was another event during which the French police assisted the Gestapo in a massive raid, which included an urban reshaping plan involving the destruction of a whole neighbourhood in the popular Old Port. Some few collaborators were tried in the 1980s for crimes against humanity (Paul Touvier, etc.), while Maurice Papon, who had become after the war prefect of police of Paris (a function in which he illustrated himself during the Paris massacre of 1961) was convicted in 1998 for crimes against humanity. He had been Budget Minister under President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. Other collaborators, such as Émile Dewoitine, managed to have important functions after the war (Dewoitine was eventually named head of Aérospatiale, the firm which created the Concorde plane). Debates concerning state collaboration remain very strong in France.

Leaders of the main collaborationist parties in France. From left to right: Pierre Costantini (French League), Marcel Déat (National Popular Rally), Eugène Deloncle (MSR) and Jacques Doriot (PPF), extract from the front page of Le Matin, October 10, 1941.

French workers at naval bases provided the Kriegsmarine with an essential workforce, thereby supporting Nazi Germany in the Battle of the Atlantic. By 1939, the Kriegsmarine's planning had presumed that they had time to build up resources before the war started. When France fell and the ports of Brest, Lorient and Saint-Nazaire became available, there were insufficient Germans to man these repair and maintenance facilities, so huge reliance was made on the French workforce. At the end of 1940, the Kriegsmarine requested 2,700 skilled workers from Wilhelmshaven to work in bases on the Atlantic coast, but this was out of a total available workforce of only 3,300. This same request included 870 men skilled in machinery and engine building, but there were only 725 people with these skills in Wilhelmshaven. This massive deficit was made up of French naval dockyard workers. In February 1941, the naval dockyard at Brest had only 470 German workers, compared with 6,349 French workers. In April 1941, French workers replaced defective superheater tubes on the Scharnhorst, carrying out the work slowly but, in the opinion of Scharnhorst's captain, to a better standard than could be obtained in the yards in Germany. An assessment commissioned by Vizeadmiral Walter Matthiae in October 1942 of the potential effect of withdrawal of French dockyard workers (considered possible after 32 French fatalities in an air raid at Lorient Submarine Base) stated that all repairs on the surface fleet would cease and U-boat repairs would be cut by 30 per cent. Admiral Darlan stated, on 30 September 1940, that it was useless to decline German requests for collaboration. In September 1942, Rear Admiral Germain Paul Jardel, commander of the French navy in the occupied zone stated "We have a special interest in that the workers at our arsenals work, and that they work in the arsenals and not in Germany." From a practical point of view, French workers needed employment and could be conscripted to work in Germany (as happened to one million of them).[37] A small number objected to carrying out war work but the majority were found by the Germans to be willing and efficient workers.[38]

Légion des Volontaires fighting with the Axis on the Russian front.

French volunteers formed the Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism (LVF), Légion impériale, SS-Sturmbrigade Frankreich and finally in 1945 the 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne (1st French), which was among the final defenders of Berlin.


Breton nationalists such as Olier Mordrel and François Debeauvais had longstanding links with Nazi Germany because of their fascist and Nordicist ideologies, linked to the belief that the Bretons were a "pure" Celtic branch of the Aryan-Nordic race. At the outbreak of the war, they left France and declared support for Germany. After 1940, they returned and their supporters such as Célestin Lainé and Yann Goulet organized militias that worked in collaboration with the Germans. Lainé and Goulet later took refuge in Ireland.


After the German invasion of Greece, a Nazi-held government was put in place. All three quisling prime ministers, (Georgios Tsolakoglou, Konstantinos Logothetopoulos and Ioannis Rallis), cooperated with the Axis authorities. Although their administrations did not directly assist the occupation forces, they collaborated with the German forces, creating armed "anti-communist" and "anti-gangster" paramilitary organisations such as the Security Battalions and others. Greek National-Socialist parties, like the Greek National Socialist Party of Georgios Merkouris, the ESPO organization or openly anti-semitic organisations, like the National Union of Greece, helped German authorities fight the Greek resistance, and identify and deport Greek Jews.[39] It was also the Organization BUND, with her leader Aginor Giannopoulos, who trained a battalion of Greek Volunteers, who fought with German Uniforms in SS and in Brandenburgers.

About one thousand Greeks from Greece and more from the Soviet Union, ostensibly avenging their ethnic persecution from Soviet authorities, joined the Waffen-SS, mostly in Ukrainian divisions. A special case was that of the infamous Ukrainian-Greek Sevastianos Foulidis, a fanatical anti-communist who had been recruited by the Abwehr as early as 1938 and became a Wehrmacht official, with extensive action in intelligence and agitation work in the Eastern front.[40]

During the Axis occupation, a number of Cham Albanians set up their own administration and militia in Thesprotia, Greece, subservient to the Resistance Balli Kombëtar organization, and actively collaborated first with the Italian and, subsequently, the German occupation forces, committing a number of atrocities.[41] In one incident, on 29 September 1943, Nuri and Mazzar Dino, Albanian paramilitary leaders, instigated the mass execution of all Greek officials and notables of Paramythia.[42]

An Aromanian political and paramilitary force, the Roman Legion, was also established on the territory of Greece, collaborating with Italian forces in the country. It was led by the Aromanian nationalists Alcibiades Diamandi and Nicolaos Matussis.


Latvian Auxiliary Police assemble a group of Jews, Liepāja, July 1941.

In the days before the capture of Riga by German forces, the deportations and murders of Latvians by the Soviet NKVD had reached their peak.[43] Those that the NKVD could not deport in time before the arrival of the Germans were shot in the Central Prison.[43] RSHA's instructions to their agents to unleash pogroms fell on fertile ground.[43] After the entry of Einsatzkommando 1a and part of Einsatzkommando 2 into the Latvian capital[44] contact between Viktors Arājs and Einsatzgruppe A's commander Franz Walter Stahlecker was established on 1 July. Stahlecker instructed Arājs on that same day to set up a commando unit that obtained an official name Latvian Auxiliary Security Police or Arajs Kommando.[45] The group was composed of students and former officers of far-right orientation; all the members of this group were volunteers, and free to leave at any time.[45] The following day on 2 July Arājs learned from Stahlecker during a conference that the Arājs Kommando had to unleash a pogrom that looked spontaneous[43] and these pogrom-like disorders were to break out before German occupation authorities had been properly established.[46]

The Einsatzkommando influenced[47] mobs of former members of Pērkonkrusts and other extreme right-wing groups began mass arrests, pillaging and murders of Jews in Riga, which led to death of between 300 and 400 Jews. Killings continued under the supervision of SS Brigadeführer Walter Stahlecker and ended when more than 2,700 Jews had been murdered.[43][46] The activities of the Einsatzkommando were constrained after the full establishment of the German occupation authority, after which the SS made use of select units of native recruits.[44] German General Wilhelm Ullersperger and Voldemārs Veiss, a well known Latvian nationalist, appealed to the population via a radio address to attack "internal enemies". During the next few months, activities of the Latvian Auxiliary Security Police were primarily focused on killing Jews, Communists and Red Army stragglers in Latvia as well as in neighbouring Byelorussia.[45] The group alone murdered almost half of Latvia's Jewish population,[48] about 26,000 Jews, mainly in November and December 1941.[49]

The creation of the Arājs Kommando was "one of the most significant inventions of the early Holocaust",[48] that marked a transition from German organised pogroms to the systematic killing of Jews by local volunteers (former army officers, policemen, students, Aizsargi).[46] This helped resolve a chronic problem with German personnel shortages and provided the Germans with relief from the psychological stress of routinely murdering civilians.[46] By the autumn of 1941, the SS deployed Latvian Auxiliary Police Battalions to Leningrad, where they were consolidated as 2nd Latvian SS Infantry Brigade.[50] In 1943, this brigade, which would later become the 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian), was consolidated with the 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian) to become the Latvian Legion.[50] Although formally the Latvian Legion was a volunteer Waffen-SS military formation; it was voluntary only by name because approximately 80–85% of personnel were conscripted into the legion.[51]


Lithuanian LSP policeman with Jewish prisoners, Vilnius, 1941

Prior to the German invasion, some leaders in Lithuania and in exile believed Germany would grant the country autonomy along the lines of the status of the Slovak Republic. German intelligence Abwehr believed it had control of the Lithuanian Activist Front, a pro-German organization based in the Lithuanian embassy in Berlin.[citation needed] Lithuanians formed the Provisional Government of Lithuania on their own initiative, but the Germans did not recognize it diplomatically and did not allow Lithuanian ambassador Kazys Škirpa to become the Prime Minister and actively thwarted his activities. The Provisional Government disbanded itself as it had no power and it became clear that the Germans came as occupiers instead of liberators from Soviet occupation, as initially thought. Units under Algirdas Klimaitis and supervised by SS Brigadeführer Walter Stahlecker started pogroms in and around Kaunas on 25 June 1941.[52][53] Lithuanian collaborators would become involved in the murders of hundreds of thousands of Jews, Poles and Gypsies.[54][55][56] Lithuanian-American scholar Saulius Sužiedėlis points to the increasingly antisemitic atmosphere clouding Lithuanian society, and the presence of antisemitic LAF émigrés who "needed little prodding from 'foreign influences'".[57] Overall, he concludes that Lithuanian collaboration was "a significant help in facilitating all phases of the genocidal program . . . [and that] the local administration contributed, at times with zeal, to the destruction of Lithuanian Jewry".[58] Elsewhere, Sužiedėlis has similarly emphasised that Lithuania's "moral and political leadership failed in 1941, and that thousands of Lithuanians participated in the Holocaust",[59] though warned that,

"[u]ntil buttressed by reliable accounts providing time, place and at least an approximate number of victims, claims of large-scale pogroms before the advent of the German forces must be treated with caution".[60]

In 1941, the Lithuanian Security Police, subordinate to Nazi Germany's Security Police and Nazi Germany's Criminal Police, was created.[61] Of the 26 Lithuanian Auxiliary Police Battalions that were formed, 10 were involved in the Holocaust.[clarification needed] The Special SD and German Security Police Squad in Vilnius killed 70,000 Jews in Paneriai and other places.[61] In Minsk, the 2nd Battalion shot about 9,000 Soviet prisoners of war, in Slutsk it massacred 5,000 Jews. In March 1942 in Poland, the 2nd Lithuanian Battalion carried out guard duty in the Majdanek concentration camp.[62] In July 1942, the 2nd Battalion participated in the deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka extermination camp.[63] In August–October 1942, some of the Lithuanian police battalions were in Belarus and Ukraine: the 3rd in Molodechno, the 4th in Donetsk, the 7th in Vinnytsa, the 11th in Korosten, the 16th in Dnepropetrovsk, the 254th in Poltava and the 255th in Mogilev (Belarus).[64] One battalion was also used to put down the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943.[62]

The participation of the local populace was a key factor in the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Lithuania[65] which resulted in the near total destruction of Lithuanian Jews[a] living in the Nazi-occupied Lithuanian territories that would, from 25 July 1941, become the Generalbezirk Litauen of Reichskommissariat Ostland. Out of approximately 210,000[66] Jews, (208,000 according to the Lithuanian pre-war statistical data)[67] an estimated 195,000–196,000 perished before the end of World War II (wider estimates are sometimes published); most from June to December 1941.[66][68] The events happening in the USSR's western regions occupied by Nazi Germany in the first weeks after the German invasion (including Lithuania – see map) marked the sharp intensification of the Holocaust.[69][70][71]

Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force

The Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force, composed of volunteers, was formed in 1944. Its leadership was Lithuanian, whereas arms were provided by Germans. The purpose of the Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force was to defend Lithuania against the approaching Soviet Army and to defend the civilian population in Lithuanian territory from actions by Soviet and Polish partisans. The LTDF disbanded itself after it was ordered to act under direct German command[72] and refused to swear the Hitler Oath. Shortly before it was disbanded, the LTDF suffered a major defeat from Polish partisans in the battle of Murowana Oszmianka.[62]


Luxembourg was invaded by Nazi Germany in May 1940 and remained under German occupation until early 1945. Initially, the country was governed as a distinct region as the Germans prepared to assimilate its Germanic population into Germany itself. The Volksdeutsche Bewegung (VdB) was founded in Luxembourg in 1941 under the leadership of Damian Kratzenberg, a German teacher at the Athénée de Luxembourg.[73] It aimed to encourage the population towards a pro-German position, prior to outright annexation, using the slogan Heim ins Reich. In August 1942, Luxembourg was annexed and became a region of Nazi Germany, meaning that Luxembourgers were given the same legal obligations as German citizens. Luxembourgish men were conscripted into the German military.


During the Nazi occupation of Monaco, the Monaco police arrested and turned over 42 Central European Jewish refugees to the Nazis while also protecting Monaco's own Jews.[74]


SS Recruiting Poster for the Netherlands, urging Dutch people to "join the fight against Bolshevism"

The Germans reformed pre-war Dutch police and established a new Communal Police, which helped Germans fight resistance and deport Jews. The National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands (NSB) had its militia units, whose members were transferred to other Paramilitaries like the Netherlands Landstorm or the Control Commando. A small number of people greatly assisted the German in their hunt for Jews, including some policemen and the Henneicke Column. A large part of them were members of the NSB.[75] The column alone was already responsible for the arrest of about 900 Jews.[76]

Several thousands of Dutch volunteers joined German units. Among them:

During the war famous actor and singer Johannes Heesters made his career in Nazi Germany, befriending high-ranking Nazis such as Joseph Goebbels and living in houses stolen from wealthy Jews.[77]


In Norway, the national government, headed by Vidkun Quisling, was installed by the Germans as a puppet regime during the German occupation, while king Haakon VII and the legally elected Norwegian government fled into exile. Quisling encouraged Norwegians to volunteer for service in the Waffen-SS, collaborated in the deportation of Jews, and was responsible for the executions of members of the Norwegian resistance movement.

About 45,000 Norwegian collaborators joined the fascist party Nasjonal Samling (National Union), about 8,500 of them being enlisted in the collaborationist paramilitary organization Hirden. About 15,000 Norwegians volunteered for combat duty on the Nazi side with 6,000 joining the Germanic SS. In addition, Norwegian police units like the Statspolitiet helped arrest many of Jews in Norway. All but 23 of the 742 Jews deported to concentration camps and death camps would be murdered or die before the end of the war. Knut Rød the Norwegian police officer most responsible for the arrest, detention and transfer of Jewish men, women and children to SS troops at Oslo harbour was later acquitted in two highly publicized trials during the legal purge in Norway after World War II that remain controversial to this day.[78]

Nasjonal Samling had very little support among the population at large[citation needed] and Norway was one of few countries where resistance during World War II was widespread before the turning point of the war in 1942–43.[citation needed] After the war, Quisling and some other collaborators were imprisoned, fined or executed. Quisling's name has become an international eponym for traitor.


Polish resistance poster announcing the execution of several Polish and Ukrainian collaborators and blackmailers (szmalcowniks), September 1943

Unlike the situation in other German-occupied European countries, where the Germans installed collaborationist authorities, in occupied Poland there was no puppet government.[79][80][81][82][83][84] Poland as a polity never surrendered to the Germans, instead evacuating its government and armed forces via Romania and Hungary and by sea to allied France and Great Britain,[85] while German-occupied Polish territory was either annexed outright by Nazi Germany or placed under German administration as the General Government.[86]

Shortly after the German Invasion of Poland, the Nazi authorities ordered the mobilization of prewar Polish officials and the Polish police (the Blue Police), who were forced, under penalty of death, to work for the German occupation authorities.[87] The primary task of the officials was to run the day-to-day administration of the occupied territories; and of the Blue Police, to act as a regular police force dealing with criminal activities. The Germans also used the Blue Police to combat smuggling and resistance and to round up (łapanka) random civilians for forced labor and to apprehend Jews (in German, Judenjagd, "hunting Jews").[88] While many officials and police reluctantly followed German orders, some acted as agents for the Polish resistance.[89][90]

The Polish Underground State's wartime Underground courts investigated 17,000 Poles who collaborated with the Germans; about 3,500 were sentenced to death.[82][91] Some of the collaborators – szmalcowniks – blackmailed Jews and their Polish rescuers and assisted the Germans as informers, turning in Jews and Poles who hid them, and reporting on the Polish resistance.[92]

Many prewar Polish citizens of German descent voluntarily declared themselves Volksdeutsche ("ethnic Germans"), and some of them committed atrocities against the Polish population and organized large-scale looting of property.[93][94]

The Germans set up Jewish-run governing bodies in Jewish communities and ghettosJudenrat (Jewish council) that served as self-enforcing intermediaries for managing Jewish communities and ghettos; and Jewish Ghetto Police (Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst), which functioned as auxiliary police forces tasked with maintaining order and combating crime.[95] The Germans used the Judenrats to register Jews for deportation to ghettos;[96] and the Jewish ghetto police, to disrupt Jewish resistance in the ghettos and to facilitate deportation of Jews to German concentration camps.[95] Additionally, Jewish collaborationist groups such as Żagiew and Group 13 worked directly for the German Gestapo, informing on Polish resistance efforts to save Jews.[97][98]

Soviet Union


Joint Wehrmacht and Red Army parade in Brest at end of invasion of Poland. Center: Maj. Gen. Heinz Guderian. Right: Brig. Semyon Krivoshein.

During the German invasion of Poland and Western Europe (1939–1941) the Soviet Union presented a friendly stance towards Germany with Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, a joint military parade, several German-Soviet commercial agreements and Gestapo–NKVD conferences in suppressing of resistance on the occupied territories.

After 1941

Following Operation Barbarossa, Germany occupied large areas of western Soviet Union, parts of which remained under German control until late 1944. Soviet collaborators included numerous Russians, Ukrainians and members of other ethnic groups that inhabited the USSR. The Waffen-SS recruited from many nationalities living in the Soviet Union and the German government attempted to enroll Soviet citizens voluntarily for the Ostarbeiter program; originally this effort worked well, but the news of the terrible conditions they faced dried up the flow of new volunteers and the program became forcible.[99]

Central Asia

Volunteer freiwillige troops of the Turkestan Legion in France, 1943

Although Turkic peoples had been perceived initially as "racially inferior" by the Nazis, this attitude officially already changed in autumn 1941, when, given the difficulties faced in their invasion of the Soviet Union, the Nazis attempted to harness the anti-Russian sentiment of Turkic peoples in the Soviet Union for political gain. The first Turkestan Legion was mobilized in May 1942.

The Ostlegionen contained between 275,000 and 350,000 "Muslim and Caucasian" volunteers and conscripts.[100]


Commanders of the Kaminski Brigade, which committed numerous war crimes during Warsaw Uprising, August 1944. They were hanged in the Soviet Union in 1946.
Nazi Russians with POA (Russian Liberation Army) shoulder patches, 1944

In Russia proper, ethnic Russians governed the semi-autonomous Lokot Autonomy in Nazi-occupied Russia. On 22 June 1943, a parade of the Wehrmacht and Russian collaborationist forces was welcomed and positively received in Pskov. The entry of Germans into Pskov was labelled "Liberation day" and the Russian tricolor flag was included in the parade inspiring "scenes of moving patriotism.[101]

Numerous military groups composed of ethnic Russians were formed under Nazi command, such as the notorious Waffen-Sturm-Brigade RONA, infamous due to its atrocities in Belarus and Poland, and the 30th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS.[102] Many ethnic Russians enlisted in the numerous German auxiliary police units and local civilians, Russian POWs and Red Army defectors were encouraged to join the Wehrmacht as Hiwis. The Wehrmacht's 6th Army which fought in the Battle of Stalingrad, included over 50,000 Russian auxiliaries attached to its front-line divisions, representing over a quarter of their strength.[103] Some Russians also served in so-called Ostlegionen, of which several units defended the French coastline against the Allied invasion. In July 1941, the White émigré and Russian nationalist Boris Smyslovksy formed an Abwehr Training Battalion (Lehrbattalion) for anti-partisan and warfare duties under Wehrmacht Group North and by December had recruited more than 10,000 Russians into 12 reconnaissance battalions, unified into Special Div-Russians (Sonderdivision R).[104] Smyslovsky's units were eventually elevated to the status of an independent allied army known as the 1st Russian National Army, and on 3 May 1945, the army's remnants retreated to Leichtenstein; they had fought directly in the war.[104] Pro-German Russian forces also included the anti-communist Russian Liberation Army (ROA, Russian: POA: Русская Освободительная Армия). However, on 1 May 1945, ROA turned against the SS and fought on the side of Czech Resistance during the Prague uprising.

The head of the Soviet Army's political directorate Aleksandr Shcherbakov was informed that

"On some parts of the front there have been cases of former Russians who put on Red Army uniform and penetrate our positions for the purpose of reconnaissance and seizing officer and soldier prisoners for interrogation".

The number of Russians that were accused of collaborating with the Germans led to the creation of the term 'former Russian' that was used to sentence hundreds of thousands of Russian collaborators.[105]


In May 1943, German General Helmuth von Pannwitz created a Cossack Division consisting of two brigades from Don and Kuban Cossacks, including former exiled White Army commanders such as Pyotr Krasnov and Andrei Shkuro. However, in September 1943, instead of fighting the Red Army, the division was ordered to fight Communist Yugoslav Partisans. In the summer of 1944, the two brigades were increased to the 1st Cossack Cavalry Division and 2nd Cossack Cavalry Division. From the beginning of 1945, these divisions were combined into the XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps.


The Kalmykian Cavalry Corps was composed of about 5,000 Kalmyks who chose to join the retreating Germans in 1942 rather than remain in Kalmykia as the German Army retreated before the Red Army.


"Hitler, the Liberator", in Ukrainian—German propaganda poster, December 1942
German police ("Orpo"), Ukrainian collaborationist Schutzmannschaft troops, December 1942
Nazi Ukrainian personnel, 1943

Before World War II, the territory of present-day Ukraine was divided primarily between the Ukrainian SSR of the Soviet Union and the Second Polish Republic. Smaller regions were part of Romania and Hungary. Only the Soviet Union recognised Ukrainian autonomy,[citation needed] and large numbers of Ukrainians, particularly from the East, fought in the Red Army.

The negative impact of Soviet policies implemented in the 1930s was still fresh in the memory of Ukrainians. These included the Holodomor of 1932–33, the Great Terror, the persecution of intellectuals during the Great Purge of 1937–38, the massacre of Ukrainian intellectuals after the annexation of Western Ukraine from Poland in 1939, and the introduction and implementation of collectivization.

The Ukrainians also remembered that their country's brief independence from 1917 to 1920 was helped by a treaty with the Central Powers and intervention by German forces.

As a result, the population of whole towns, cities and villages greeted the Germans as liberators, which helps explain the unprecedented rapid progress of the German forces in the occupation of Ukraine.

Even before the German invasion, the Nachtigall and Roland battalions were set up and trained as Ukrainian battalions in the Wehrmacht and were part of the initial invading force.

With the change in regime ethnic Ukrainians were allowed and encouraged to work in administrative positions with the auxiliary police, post office, and other government structures, taking the place of Russians and Jews.[citation needed]

During the period of occupation, Nazi-controlled Ukrainian newspaper Volhyn wrote that

"The element that settled our cities (Jews) ... must disappear completely from our cities. The Jewish problem is already in the process of being solved.[106]

There is evidence of some Ukrainian participation in the Holocaust.[107] Kyiv's auxiliary police participated in rounding up of Jews who were directed to the Babi Yar massacre.

Ukrainians participated in crushing the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943[108] and the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 where a mixed force of German SS troops, Russians, Cossacks, Azeris and Ukrainians, backed by German regular army units—killed up to 40,000 civilians.[109][110]

The Ukrainian collaborationist forces were composed of an estimated number of 180,000 volunteers serving with units scattered all over Europe.[111]

Ukrainian Liberation Army oath to Adolf Hitler

The Ukrainian Liberation Army (Ukrainian: Українське Визвольне Військо, Ukrainske Vyzvolne Viisko, UVV) was formed by the German Army in 1943 to collect the Ukrainian volunteer units that came into being during World War II. It was composed of former Ukrainian Hiwis, Ostbataillonen, and other Soviet prisoners of war (POWs) or volunteers.

Headed by Ukrainian general Mykhailo Omelianovych-Pavlenko, the unit grew to the size of 50,000 by 1944 and peaked at some 80,000 towards the end of the war.[112] The army comprised a collection of units scattered all over Europe. In April 1945, remnants of the UVV were attached to the Ukrainian National Army, commanded by general Pavlo Shandruk.

On 18 September 1941 in Zhytomyr, 3,145 Jews were murdered with the assistance of the Ukrainian People's Militsiya (Operational Report 106). In Korosten, Ukrainian militia rounded up 238 Jews for liquidation (Operational Report 80) and carried out the killings by themselves – similar to Sokal, where on 30 June 1941 they arrested and executed 183 Jews. At times, the assistance was more active.[113] Operational Report 88 informs that on 6 September 1941, for example, 1,107 Jewish adults were shot by the German forces while the Ukrainian militia unit assisting them liquidated 561 Jewish children and youths.[114]

On 28 April 1943, German Command announced the establishment of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician).[115] It has been accounted that approximately 83,000 people volunteered for service in the Division.[116] The Division was used in Anti-partisan operations in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, and in the fight against the Soviet forces during the Brody offensive and Vienna offensive. Those that survived surrendered to the Allies and the bulk emigrated to the West, primarily England, Australia and Canada.


In Byelorussia under German occupation, the local pro-independence politicians attempted to use the Nazis to reestablish an independent Belarusian state. A Belarusian representative body – the Belarusian Central Council – was created under German control in 1943 but did not receive any real power from the German administration and concentrated mainly on managing social issues and education. Belarusian national military units (the Byelorussian Home Defence) were only created a few months before the end of the German occupation.

Some Belarusian collaborators participated in various massacres of Jews and Belarusian villagers, however, most of these massacres had to be carried out by Baltic and Ukrainian collaborators because of a relatively small willingness of Belarusians to participate.

Many of the Belarusian collaborators retreated with German forces in the wake of the Red Army advance. In January 1945, the 30th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Belarussian) was formed from remainders of Belarusian military units. The division participated in a small number of combats in France but demonstrated active disloyalty to the Nazis and saw mass desertion.


Armenian soldiers
Aserbaidschanische Legion in combat gear. The unit helped suppress the Warsaw Uprising, August 1944

Ethnic Armenian, Georgian, Turkic and Caucasian forces deployed by the Nazis consisted primarily of Soviet Red Army POWs assembled into ill-trained legions. Among these battalions were 18,000 Armenians, 13,000 Azerbaijanis, 14,000 Georgians, and 10,000 men from the "North Caucasus."[117] American historian Alexander Dallin notes that the Armenian and Georgian Legions were sent to the Netherlands as a result of Hitler's distrust of them, many of which later deserted.[118] According to author Christopher Ailsby, the Turkic and Caucasian forces formed by the Germans were "poorly armed, trained and motivated", and were "unreliable and next to useless".[117]

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (the Dashnaks) was suppressed in Armenia when the First Republic of Armenia was conquered by the Russian Bolsheviks in Red Army invasion of Armenia in 1920 and thus ceased to exist. During World War II, some of the Dashnaks saw an opportunity in collaboration with the Germans to regain Armenia's independence. The Armenian Legion under the leadership of Drastamat Kanayan participated in the occupation of the Crimean Peninsula and the Caucasus.[119][120] On 15 December 1942, the Armenian National Council was granted official recognition by Alfred Rosenberg, the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories. The president of the Council was Professor Ardasher Abeghian, its vice-president Abraham Guilkhandanian and it numbered among its members Garegin Nzhdeh and Vahan Papazian. Until the end of 1944 it published a weekly journal, Armenian, edited by Viken Shantn who also broadcast on Radio Berlin with the aid of Dr. Paul Rohrbach.[121]


On 25 March 1941, under considerable pressure the Yugoslav government agreed to the signing of the Tripartite Pact with Nazi Germany, guaranteeing Yugoslavia's neutrality. The agreement was extremely unpopular in Serbia leading to massive street demonstrations.[122] Two days later on 27 March, Serb military officers lead by general Dušan Simović overthrew the regency and placed 17-year-old King Peter on the throne.[123] Furious at the temerity of the Serbs, Hitler ordered the invasion of Yugoslavia.[124] On 6 April 1941, without a declaration of war, combined German, Italian, military armies invaded. Eleven days later Yugoslavia capitulated and was subsequently partitioned among the Axis states.[125]

The Central Serbia region and the Banat were subjected to German military occupation in the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia, Italian forces occupied the Dalmatian coast and Montenegro; Albania annexed the Kosovo region and part of Macedonia; Bulgaria received Vardar Macedonia (today's North Macedonia); Hungary occupied and annexed the Bačka and Baranya regions as well as Međimurje and Prekmurje; the rest of Drava Banovina (roughly present-day Slovenia) was divided between Germany and Italy; Croatia, Syrmia and Bosnia were combined into the Independent State of Croatia a puppet state under the direction of Croatian Fascist Ante Pavelić.[126]

Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia

Serbia was placed under German military occupation, at first administered under complete Nazi control then under the screen of a puppet government led by quisling General Milan Nedić.[127] The main function of the government was to maintain internal order, under the authority of the German Command, with the use of local paramilitary units.[128] The Wehrmacht Operations Staff never considered raising a unit to serve in the German armed forces.[129] By mid 1943, the collaborationist forces in Serbia, (Serbian and ethnic Russian units), numbered between 25,000 and 30,000.[129][130]

Serbian units

Serbian collaborationist organizations the Serbian State Guard (SDS) and the Serbian Border Guard (SGS) reached a combined peak size of 21,000 men, the Serbian Volunteers Corps (SDK), the party militia of the fascist Yugoslav National Movement lead by Dimitrije Ljotić reached 9,886 men, its members helped guard and run concentration camps and fought the Yugoslav Partisans and the Chetniks alongside the Germans. In October 1941, the Serbian Volunteer Corps participated in the notorious massacre of Serbian civilians at Kragujevac by providing assistance in the arrest and delivering of hostages to the German Wehrmacht.[131] The members of the Serbian Volunteer Corps had to take an oath stating that they would fight to death both Communists and Chetniks.[129]

Collaborationist Belgrade Special Police assisted German units in rounding up Jewish citizens to deport them to concentration camps. By the summer of 1942, most of the Jews of Serbia had been exterminated.[132] By the end of 1942 the Special Police had 240 agents and 878 Police guards under the command of the Gestapo.[130] After the liberation of the country in October 1944, the various collaborationist forces retreated out of the country with the German army and were later absorbed into the Waffen SS.[133]

Collaborationist Chetniks with German soldiers

Almost from the start, the two rival guerrilla movements, the Chetniks and the Partisans, engaged in a bloody civil war against each other, in addition to fighting against the occupying forces. Some Chetniks collaborated with the Axis occupation to fight the rival Partisan resistance, whom they viewed as their primary enemy, by establishing modus vivendi or operating as "legalised" auxiliary forces under Axis control.[134][135][136][137]

In August 1941 Kosta Pećanac put himself and his Chetnik Association at the disposal of Milan Nedić's government, becoming the occupation regime's ‘legal Chetniks'[138] At the peak of their strength in mid-May 1942, the two legal Chetnik auxiliary forces numbered 13,400 men, these detachments were dissolved by the end of 1942.[129] Pećanac was captured and executed by forces loyal to his Chetnik rival Draža Mihailović in 1944. As no single Chetnik organization existed,[138] other Chetnik units engaged independently in marginal[139] resistance activities and avoided accommodations with the enemy.[134][140] Over a period of time, and in different parts of the country, some Chetnik groups were drawn progressively[139][141] into opportunist agreements: first with the Nedić forces in Serbia, then with the Italians in occupied Dalmatia and Montenegro, with some of the Ustaše forces in northern Bosnia, and after the Italian capitulation also with the Germans directly.[142] In some regions Chetnik collaboration reached "extensive and systematic"[143][144] proportions, the Chetnik groups involved referred to this policy of collaboration[144] as "using the enemy".[142]

Ethnic Russian units

The Auxiliary Police Troop and the Russian Protective Corps were paramilitary units raised in the German-occupied territory of Serbia, composed exclusively of anti-communist White émigrés or Volksdeutsche from Russia, under the command of General Mikhail Skorodumov (around 400 and 7,500 men respectively by December 1942).[145] The force reached a peak size of 11,197 by September 1944.[146] Unlike the Serbian units, the Russian Protective Corps was part of the German armed forces and its members took the Hitler Oath.[129]

The 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen manned by Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) primarily from the Serbian Banat

Between April 1941 and October 1944, the Serbian half of the Banat was under German military occupation as an administrative unit of the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia. Its daily administration and security were left up to its 120,000 Volksdeutsche who represented 20% of the local population. In the Banat, security, anti-partisan warfare, as well as border patrols, was done exclusively by the Volksdeutsche in the Deutsche Mannschaft. In 1941, the Banat Auxiliary Police was created as police for concentration camps, which had 1,553 members by February 1942.[147] It was affiliated with the Ordnungspolizei and included some 400 Hungarians. The Gestapo in the Banat employed local ethnic Germans as agents under the command of a German officer from the Third Reich. The Banat Jews were deported and exterminated with the full participation of the Banat German leadership, the Banat Police and many ethnic German civilians.[147]

According to German sources, as of 28 December 1943, the Volksdeutsche minority of the Banat had contributed 21,516 men to the Waffen SS, the auxiliary police, and the Banat police.[125]

700,000 Volksdeutsche lived in Yugoslavia,[148] they were the basis for the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen which towards the war's end include other ethnicities. The division's soldiers are known to have brutally punished civilians accused of, or proven to be working with partisans in both occupied Serbia and the Independent State of Croatia, going so far as to raze entire villages with no buildings being exempt from destruction.[149]

Due to the collaboration, Josip Broz Tito, leader of the post-war Communist regime, declared the rights of ethnic Germans to be null, seized all of their property and expelled hundreds of thousands of them with no fair trial.


The Italian governorate of Montenegro was established as an Italian protectorate with the support of Montenegrin separatists known as Greens. The Lovćen Brigade was the militia of the Greens who collaborated with the Italians. Other collaborationist units included local Chetniks, police, gendarmerie and Sandžak Muslim militia.[150]


The greatest part of Kosovo along with the western part of Southern Serbia (Juzna Srbija, included in Zeta Banovina) was annexed to Albania by the Axis powers, fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.[151] Kosovar Albanians were recruited into Albanian paramilitary groups known as the Vulnetari set up to assist Italian fascists in maintaining order,[152] many Serbs and Jews were expelled from Kosovo and sent to internment camps in Albania.[153]

The Balli Kombëtar militias or Ballistas was a volunteer Albanian nationalistic group which, after starting as a resistance movement, collaborated with the Axis Powers. Their agenda was Greater Albania's creation.[154] Military formations were formed within the militia, among them the notorious Kosovo Regiment, raised in Kosovska Mitrovica as a Nazi auxiliary military unit after Italian capitulation.[155] According to German reports, the Albanian guerrillas led by Xhafer Deva fighting the Partisans alongside the Wehrmacht in Albania and Kosovo, numbered 20,000 in early 1944.[125]

On 1 May 1944, the 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg was raised under Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler's orders. The division was manned by Albanian and Kosovo Albanian Muslim volunteers, 9,000 volunteers were accepted out of 11,000 recruits, the officers were German or Volksdeutsche.[151] The division also included the Albanian contingent from the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian).[125] In 1944, shortly before German withdrawal from Kosovo, the Skanderberg division rounded up local Jews and delivered them to the Nazis.[156] The unit was found responsible of atrocities raping, pillaging, and massacring innocent Serbian Christian villagers in Kosovo and was judged unreliable and corrupt by the representative of the Reichsführer-SS in Albania Josef Fitzthum.[157]

On 24 October 1944, following its poor performance, the division was disbanded and reorganised.[125] A new, regimental-size Kampfgruppe called SS Kampfgruppe Skanderbeg was raised and transferred to the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen where they fought against Tito's partisans. The division's emblem was a black Albanian eagle.[19]


In Bulgaria-annexed Macedonia, the Ohrana was organized by the occupation authority as auxiliary security forces. On 11 March 1943 Skopje's entire Jewish population was deported to the gas chambers of Treblinka concentration camp in Poland.[158]

Slovene Lands

Italian-sponsored Slovene Anti-Communist Volunteer Militia

The Axis powers divided the Slovene Lands into three zones. Germany occupied the largest, northern part; Italy annexed the southern part; and Hungary annexed the northeast part, Prekmurje.[159] Like in the rest of Yugoslavia, the Nazis used the Slovene Volksdeutsche to further their aims, in groups like the Deutsche Jugend (German Youth) which was used as an auxiliary military force for guard duty and fighting the Partisans, and the Slovenian National Defense Corps.[159]

The Slovene Home Guard (Domobranci) was a collaborationist force formed in September 1943 in the area of the Province of Ljubljana (then a part of Italy). It functioned like most Axis collaborationist forces and was led by former general Leon Rupnik but had limited autonomy, and at first, functioned as an auxiliary police force that assisted the Germans in anti-Partisan actions.[160] Later, it gained more autonomy and conducted most of the anti-partisan operations in the Province of Ljubljana. Much of the Guard's equipment was Italian (confiscated when Italy dropped out of the war in 1943), although German weapons and equipment were used as well, especially later in the war. Similar, but much smaller units, were also formed in the Littoral (Primorska) and Upper Carniola (Gorenjska). The Blue Guard also known as the Slovene Chetniks was an anti-communist militia led by Karl Novak and Ivan Prezelj.[161]

The most notorious collaborative force was the Anti-Communist Volunteer Militia (MVAC) under Italian authority, one of the biggest components of the MVAC was the Civic Guards (Vaške Straže),[160] a Slovene volunteer military organization formed by the Italian Fascist authorities to fight the partisans as well as some collaborationist Chetniks units. The Legion of Death (Legija Smrti), was another Slovene anti-partisans armed unit formed after the Blue Guard joined the MVAC.[159]

Independent State of Croatia

On 10 April 1941, a few days before Yugoslavia's capitulation, Ante Pavelić's Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was established as an Axis-affiliated state, with Zagreb as capital.[162] Between 1941 and 1945, the fascist Ustaše regime carried out government-led collaboration with Nazi Germany, as well as extensive persecution independent of them. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum this resulted in the murder of approximately 30,000 Jews, between 25,000 and 30,000 Roma (also known as Gypsies), and between 320,000 and 340,000 ethnic Serb residents of Croatia and Bosnia,[163] in camps like the infamous Jasenovac concentration camp.[164][165]

The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian), created in February 1943, and the 23rd Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Kama (2nd Croatian), created in January 1944, was manned by Croats and Bosniaks as well as local Germans. Earlier in the war, Pavelić formed a Croatian Legion for the Eastern Front and attached it to the Wehrmacht. Volunteer pilots joined the Luftwaffe as Pavelić did not want to get his army directly involved for both propaganda reasons (Domobrans/Home Guards were a "chieftain of Croatian values, never attacking and only defending") and due to a safeguarding need for political flexibility with the Soviet Union.

Pavelić proclaimed Croats as descendants of Goths in order to eliminate the leadership's inferiority complex as well as to be better viewed by the Germans. The Poglavnik stated that "Croats are not Slavs, but Germanic by blood and race".[166] Nazi German leadership was indifferent to this claim.

Bosnian Muslims
Haj Amin al-Husseini gives the Nazi salute while reviewing a unit of Bosnian SS volunteers in 1943 with Waffen-SS General Sauberzweig.

In 1941 Bosnia became an integral part of the Independent State of Croatia. Bosnian Muslims were considered Croats of Islamic confession.[167]

The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian), manned by Bosnian Muslims and commanded by German officers, was created in February 1943 and operated until December 1944. The division participated in anti-guerrilla operations in Yugoslavia.[19]

United Kingdom

Channel Islands

The Channel Islands were the only British territory in Europe occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II. The policy of the Island governments, acting under instructions from the British government communicated before the occupation, was one of passive co-operation.[168] These measures were administered by the Bailiff and the Aliens Office.[169]

Following the liberation of 1945 allegations against those accused of collaborating with the occupying authorities were investigated. By November 1946, the UK Home Secretary was in a position to inform the UK House of Commons[170] that most of the allegations lacked substance and only 12 cases of collaboration were considered for prosecution, but the Director of Public Prosecutions had ruled out prosecutions on insufficient grounds. In particular, it was decided that there were no legal grounds for proceeding against those alleged to have informed the occupying authorities against their fellow citizens.[171]

In Jersey and Guernsey, laws[172][173] were passed to retrospectively confiscate the financial gains made by war profiteers and black marketeers, although these measures also affected those who had made legitimate profits during the years of military occupation.

British Free Corps uniform tunic

During the occupation, cases of women fraternizing with German soldiers had aroused indignation among some citizens. In the hours following the liberation, members of the British liberating forces were obliged to intervene to prevent revenge attacks.[174]

British Free Corps

The British Free Corps (German: Britisches Freikorps) was a Waffen SS unit consisting of British and Dominion prisoners of war recruited by the Nazis. Research by British historian Adrian Weale identified 54 men[175][176] who belonged to this unit at one time or another, some for a few days. At no time did it reach more than 27 men in strength.[175]

Foreign volunteers


Although official Nazi policy barred non-Germans from joining the regular German army, the Wehrmacht volunteers from most occupied countries and even a small number from some Commonwealth countries. were permitted to join the ranks of the Waffen-SS and the auxiliary police (Schutzmannschaft). Overall, nearly 600,000 Waffen-SS members were non-German, with some countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands contributing thousands of volunteers.[citation needed] Various collaborationalist parties in occupied France and the unoccupied Vichy zone assisted in establishing the Légion des volontaires français contre le bolchevisme (LVF). This volunteer army initially counted some 10,000 volunteers and would later become the 33rd Waffen-SS division, one of the first SS divisions composed mostly of foreigners.

Following is a list of the 18 largest Waffen-SS divisions composed mostly or entirely of foreign volunteers (note that there were other foreign Waffen-SS divisions composed mostly of forced conscripts).

Deutsch-Arabische Legion (Arab volunteers), 1943

Apart from frontline units, volunteers also played an important role in the large Schutzmannschaft units in the German-occupied territories in Eastern Europe. After Operation Barbarossa recruitment of local forces began almost immediately mostly by the initiative of Heinrich Himmler. These forces were not members of the regular armed forces and were not intended for frontline duty, but were instead used for rear echelon activities including maintaining the peace, fighting partisans, acting as police and organizing supplies for the front lines. In the later years of the war, these units numbered almost 200,000.

By the end of World War II, 60% of the Waffen-SS was made up of non-German volunteers from occupied countries.[citation needed] The predominantly Scandinavian 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland division along with remnants of French, Italian, Spanish and Dutch volunteers were the last defenders of the Reichstag in Berlin.[citation needed]

The Nuremberg Trials, in declaring the Waffen-SS a criminal organisation, explicitly excluded conscripts, who had committed no crimes.[177] In 1950, The U.S. High Commission in Germany and the U.S. Displaced Persons Commission clarified the U.S. position on the Baltic Waffen-SS Units, considering them distinct from the German SS in purpose, ideology, activities and qualifications for membership.


The Japanese also recruited volunteers from several occupied regions and from among POWs.

Jewish collaboration

Though Germany was trying to murder all Jews in the Holocaust, a minority of Jews chose to collaborate with the Germans.[178] The collaborators included individuals such as Gestapo collaborators Abraham Gancwajch[179] and Stella Kubler,[178] concentration-camp kapos like Eliezer Gruenbaum,[180] Judenrat (Jewish council) members and bosses such as Chaim Rumkowski,[178] and organizations such as Żagiew or Group 13 in the Warsaw Ghetto.[179] Similar Jewish individual and group collaborators of the Gestapo operated in other cities and towns across German-occupied Poland—Alfred Nossig in Warsaw,[181][182] Józef Diamand in Kraków,[183] Szama Grajer in Lublin.[184] Around early 1940s, Gestapo has been estimated to have had around 15,000 Jewish agents in occupied Poland.[185]

Jewish agents helped the Germans in return for limited freedom and other compensations (food, money) for the collaborators and their relatives, or simply under the threat of "collaborate or die".[186][187] One of their assignments was to hunt down Jews who were in hiding; one of the most infamous cases involved about 2,500 Jews being lured out of hiding and subsequently captured by the Germans in the aftermath of the Hotel Polski affair in which Żagiew agents were involved.[185] Jewish collaborators also informed Germany's Gestapo of Polish resistance, including on its efforts to hide Jews.[188] and engaged in racketeering, blackmail, and extortion in the Warsaw Ghetto.[189][190][187]

During the war, some Jewish collaborators were executed by the Polish underground and the Jewish resistance.[185][191] After World War II, a number of others were tried in Jewish transition camps and in Israel, though none of them received sentences of more than 18 months' imprisonment.[178][192]

Business collaboration

Dehomag (German IBM subsidiary) D11 tabulating machine, used by Germany in implementing the Jewish Holocaust
1945 poster of the French Communist Party, claiming that "the men of the trusts sold the country to Hitler," and urging that their wealth be confiscated and their businesses nationalised; this did not happen.

A number of international companies have been accused of having collaborated with Nazi Germany before their home countries' entry into World War II, though it has been debated whether the term "collaboration" is applicable to business dealings outside the context of overt war.[193] American companies that had dealings with Nazi Germany included Ford Motor Company,[194] Coca-Cola,[195][196] IBM,[197][198][199] Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.,[200] and the Associated Press.[201]

In December 1941, when the United States entered the war against Germany, 250 American firms owned more than $450 million of German assets.[202] Major American companies with investments in Germany included General Motors, Standard Oil, IT&T, Singer, International Harvester, Eastman Kodak, Gillette, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Westinghouse, and United Fruit.[202] Many major Hollywood studios have also been accused of collaboration, in making or adjusting films to Nazi tastes.[193]

German financial operations worldwide were facilitated by banks such as the Bank for International Settlements, Chase and Morgan, and Union Banking Corporation.[202] Robert A. Rosenbaum writes: "American companies had every reason to know that the Nazi regime was using IG Farben and other cartels as weapons of economic warfare"; and he notes that "as the US entered the war, it found that some technologies or resources could not be procured, because they were forfeited by American companies as part of business deals with their German counterparts."[203] After the war, some of those companies reabsorbed their temporarily detached German subsidiaries, and even received compensation for war damages from the Allied governments.[202]

Political collaboration

French milice and résistants, in July 1944

The Vichy puppet regime in France is one of the best known and most significant examples of collaboration between former enemies of Nazi Germany and Nazi Germany itself. When the Vichy government emerged at the same time as that of the Free French in London, there was much confusion regarding the loyalty of French overseas territories and colonies and the respective military forces both stationed there and directly recruited from there, such as the Army of Africa (France). The reluctance of Vichy authorities to defy Germany's demands, and either disarm or surrender their naval fleet in North Africa to the British, resulted in the attack on Mers-el-Kébir on 3 July 1940. Other minor engagements occurred between late 1940 and 1943, the most significant of which was the six months long British-led campaign in 1942 known as Battle of Madagascar, in which Allied forces seized the French colonial possession under Vichy jurisdiction in order to deny the potentiality of the Japanese Navy's use of Madagascar's seaports, preventing the loss or impairment of the Allied shipping routes to India, Australia and Southeast Asia. Defections from captured French soldiers to the Allied cause and a half-hearted defence led to an Allied victory, at a cost of fewer than 400 casualties, and resulted in the November 8th transfer of administration of the island to Free France from Vichy France .[204][205]

Denmark's government cooperated with the German occupiers until 1943[citation needed] and actively helped recruit members for the Nordland and Wiking Waffen-SS divisions and helped organize trade and sale of industrial and agricultural products to Germany.

In Greece, the three quisling prime ministers (Georgios Tsolakoglou, Konstantinos Logothetopoulos and Ioannis Rallis) cooperated with the Axis authorities. Agricultural products (especially tobacco) were sent to Germany, Greek "volunteers" were sent to work in German factories, and special armed forces (such as the Security Battalions) were created to fight along with German soldiers against the Allies and the Resistance movement. In Norway, the government successfully managed to escape to London but Vidkun Quisling established a puppet regime in its absence—albeit with little support from the local population.[citation needed]

See also

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Works cited

Further reading

  • Birn, Ruth Bettina, Collaboration with Nazi Germany in Eastern Europe: the Case of the Estonian Security Police. Contemporary European History 2001, 10.2, 181–198.
  • Christian Jensen, Tomas Kristiansen and Karl Erik Nielsen: Krigens købmænd, Gyldendal, 2000 ("The Merchants of War", in Danish)
  • Hirschfeld, Gerhard: Nazi rule and Dutch collaboration: the Netherlands under German occupation, 1940–1945 Berg Publishers, 1988
  • Jeffrey W. Jones "Every Family Has Its Freak": Perceptions of Collaboration in Occupied Soviet Russia, 1943–1948Slavic Review Vol. 64, No. 4 (Winter, 2005), pp. 747–770
  • Kitson, Simon (2008). The Hunt for Nazi Spies: Fighting Espionage in Vichy France. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Klaus-Peter Friedrich Collaboration in a "Land without a Quisling": Patterns of Cooperation with the Nazi German Occupation Regime in Poland during World War IISlavic Review Vol. 64, No. 4 (Winter, 2005), pp. 711–746
  • Morgan, Philip (2018). Hitler's Collaborators: Choosing Between Bad and Worse in Nazi-occupied Western Europe. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199239733.

External links