Why did so many Europeans collaborate with the Nazi occupiers? As the dust settled in Europe, collaborators were hung, sent running naked down the streets or imprisoned, while the resistance set out to define post-war Europe. The illusion of a clear distinction between Hitler’s henchmen and enemies shaped the psychology, language and power structures that are still present today. Collaboration and resistance, as categories of human behaviour, gained their historical relevance from the weight they carried after the war, rather than the limited part they played in bringing the conflict to an end.
In reality, the decision to collaborate was, as choices always are, the individual’s response to his or hers perceived alternatives. It existed within every stratum, and along the entire scale of what is considered good and evil. It came in endless variations, and due to as many motivations. I will, however, argue that self-interest was the most important motivating factor. To avoid exaggerated emphasis on those in charge, I will return to the so called horizontal collaborators, who were often the first to be punished.
Not only are their stories as personal as they can get, but their motivations can, with a tiny bit of imagination, be applied to every chunk of society. Also, in order to remain focused on the driving force behind collaboration, I will base my argument on the most crucial motivating factors: self preservation; the dissatisfaction with previous institutions; the common enemy; internal conflict; ideological similarities; and self-interest. To many, collaboration was a pragmatic, albeit sometimes misinformed, strategy of self-preservation.
On a national level, the French Vichy government has often been referred to, for instance by Robert Aron, as the shield that kept France safe until De Gaulle’s sword was sharp enough to strike back.  This notion is ridiculous. As Julian Jackson points out, the Vichy government was based on the premise that Germany had won the war. As far as they were concerned, the Germans were in charge, and you simply had to make the best of it. It is, however, apparent that pragmatic measures were taken in an attempt to remain sovereign.
For instance, Pierre Laval gave French copper mines and gold stocks to the Germans in order for France to gain some influence in New Order Europe. This was unsuccessful, both on a national level, and for Laval personally who was sacked less than a month later. He misread Hitler’s intentions for Vichy France, as well as his position within his own party.  His motives were, however, what Julian Jackson refers to as “politico-administrative motives”, and this type of collaboration was only possible in countries where the Germans favoured such collaboration. 3] For the horizontal collaborators, sleeping with a German could be a strategy of survival, “because of the access to food and the protection from daily threat he could provide”.  The basic instinct to survive motivated a lot of Europeans to collaborate. The Nazis overthrew institutions that were unstable and lacked the support of the people, and Hitler was in no way unique in his dictatorship. The Popular Front in France had failed miserably on all accounts, and the promise of socialism had been proved a false prophecy.
Intellectuals, workers and peasants alike were alienated towards the old democratic regimes. The way in which Nazi forces so effortlessly crushed the democratic nations was for many the ultimate proof of the superiority of the authoritarian state. Few wept for democracy.  To many Frenchmen, Marshal Petain appeared better suited for governing than the impotent politicians of the Third Republic. The point is that when there is no clear alternative, resistance becomes difficult to motivate. Some did it in the name of nationalism.
Paradoxically, the same goes for collaboration: To some, France finally had what appeared to be a strong, patriotic leader, serving the interests of the nation and its people; the support for a charismatic leader should not be underestimated as a motivation for wider collaboration. It is clear, however, that the resentment towards the Third Republic, as well as the perceived lack of alternatives, motivated Europeans to collaborate. With the threat of the Soviet Union, many chose to collaborate with what seemed to be the lesser of two evils.
This was of course more urgent on the eastern front; after the war, anti-communism was often quoted as a key motivating factor in these countries. But even in France, anti-bolshevism enthused 10 000 ordinary Frenchmen to volunteer to fight on the eastern front.  Other antagonists also motivated collaboration. The Ukrainian OUN found the common desire to destroy the Polish state to be sufficient grounds for collaboration when the Nazi-Soviet pact was published. 7] In France, the resentment towards Britain, following the latter’s attack on the French navy in Mers-el-Kebir, fuelled collaboration.  The most striking proof of the impact of a common enemy is the behaviour of the Bulgarian government. After Stalingrad, the Bulgarian authorities became desperate to attract the favour of the western allies. They attempted to do this by radically changing their policy on the Jewish question, suddenly trying to save as many Jews as possible from deportation.
There is no doubt that the efforts of people who truly sympathised with the Jews played a big part, but it is nevertheless telling how the policy drastically changed after Hitler no longer seemed a worthy ally; it proves that the fear of the communists in many ways had motivated the collaboration.  Be it Poles, Russians or trigger-happy Brits – a common enemy motivated collaboration. In countries that were torn by internal conflict, the Nazis were potential allies.
For the Slovaks, freemasonry, liberalism and plutocracy was identified with Prague, and antisemitism clung to the stereotype of the Czechs as an economically and intellectually superior minority. Antisemitism was secondary, while expunging Czech influence was the real aim. The fact that this overlapped the Nazi agenda secured a strong and consistent will to collaborate.  Ethnic conflict also stimulated the integral nationalists of the Balkans to seek collaboration, though often without success. It was “another phase of a generation-old struggle”, and the Nazis were “unsatisfactory but indispensable allies”. 11] Internal conflict as a motivating factor becomes even more obvious in the case of the Yugoslavian resistance. Two major movements were engaged in armed resistance against the Nazi occupiers – Josip Tito’s Partisans and Colonel Mihailovic’s Chetnic resistance. When Tito’s communist movement started to gain strength, the former allies became enemies. Because of this, Mihailovic proposed a truce with the Germans in exchange for arms to be used against the Partisans. Even though the offer was ignored, it proves that internal conflict motivated an attempt to collaborate. 12] Another example can be found in The Netherlands, where The Netherland Union was formed. As Gerhard Hirschfeld points out, one of the objectives of the union was to make sure the local fascist party, the NSB, never gained power. This put the organisation in a position where they were forced to give in to Nazi pressure, and in 1941 Jews were banned from the Union. Hitler now had two major organisations desperate to receive his goodwill.  On a very personal level, women slept with German soldiers to “revolt against stifling bonds imposed by parents”.  It is also likely that some did it to annoy previous boyfriends.
However farfetched it might seem, such fraternization was motivated by domestic disagreements. When internal conflict was present, the will get the upper hand motivated collaboration. Some collaborators were motivated by ideological similarities. The collaborationists, such as Marcel Deat’s PPF and Leon Degrelle’s Rexist movement, are the most obvious cases, even though the importance of opportunism and self-interest is notable even there. In most cases, the collaborators only agreed with a fraction of National Socialism. The violent antisemitism in the East is a good example.
Not only was anti-Jewish sentiments endemic in Poland, but even the resisters collaborated with the Germans when it came to the Jewish question. The Church, which often has been praised for its partisan stance, referred to the final solution as “divine providence” in a letter to the government in exile.  Women were seduced by soldiers that were “handsome, well groomed, dressed in uniforms and conducted themselves as true gentlemen”. Other women put out because, simply, “it tied in with ther pro-german or Nazi-Convictions”.  They were not the only ones to be persuaded by what might have seemed like an attractive alternative.
John F. Sweets shows how fascism was strongly rooted in French society, and mentions the left wing leaders Deat, Georges Doriot and Gaston Bergery, who all lost faith in democracy and eventually turned to Fascism. Arhur Koestler summed up the mood already in 1945: “What an enormous longing for a new human order there was in the era between the two wars, and what a miserable failure to live up to it. “ Hitler’s New Order was simply a child of its time, and those sympathetic to its ideals were likely to collaborate. The most important motivation behind collaboration was self-interest.
On the Balkans, integral Nationalists sought collaboration in order to reach their definition of national glory. The Belgium Rexist movement had similar ambitions – to establish a Belgium empire with a strong position in the New Order Europe. In the French case, Julian Jackson refers to such motivations as politico-diplomatic.  Like nations, individuals collaborated when it served their personal interest. Polish people were germanified, so that they could enjoy the privileges offered, and over 80 000 Polish peasants volunteered for work in the Reich during February and March 1940, believing this would serve their interests. 19] Many politicians based their entire careers on collaboration. As for the horizontal collaborators, Annette Warring points out how many women slept with Germans to “gain access to inaccessible goods and amusements”.  Prostitutes are also a telling example. They were motivated by the same impulse as any business trying to profit off the German presence. The importance of self-interest as a motivating factor becomes even more obvious when considering the behaviour at the end of the war. In France, almost a third of the gendarmes left their posts the week following D-day.
As Tony Judt puts it, the “universally shared sentiment was one of urgency-urgency to join the winning side in 1944”.  Even before this, the introduction of mandatory labour had pushed a massive amount of young men into the resistance. The way in which former collaborators abandoned the Nazis – first when they proved not to be gentlemen, and later when they seemed to be losing the war – shows how personal interest was an important motivating factor behind collaboration. In conclusion, the Europeans collaborated with the Nazi occupiers due to a very long list of different motivating factors.
It was often based on the premise that Germany would win the war, and most of the time it was simply people trying to make the best out of this new situation. When interests aligned, most were happy to collaborate. Most likely, the collaborators did not realize in what way their actions would be judged; they were simply making day to day choices. Post-war Europe has distorted our view of collaboration. The myth of collaboration as an absolute evil became a canvas so black that even the darkest grey appeared to glow bright white. However, this black has faded and the white has grown dull.
In some cases, such as the polish Jew-hunts, the brutality cannot be denied. In others, the gruesome results of collaboration overshadow the motives: The man driving the trains to Auschwitz was probably only doing his job. In most cases, people were just living their lives. After all, ordinary life is usually hard enough without occupation, and we all have to pay the mortgage. Bibliography Books • Martin Conway, Collaboration in Belgium: Leon Degrelle and the Rexist movement, 1940-1944, (New Haven: Yale university Press 1993). • 0. Misha Glenny, The Balkans 1804-1999: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers, (London: Granta Publications 1999). • Julian Jackson, France: The Dark Years 1940-1944,(New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). • H. R. Kedward, Occupied France: Collaboration and Resistance 1940-1944, (Oxford:Blackwell Publishers Ltd 1985). Journals • John A. Armstrong, ‘Collaborationism in World War II: The Integral Nationalist Variant in Eastern Europe’, The Journal of Modern History, 40/3 (1968), pp. 396-410. • John Connelly, ‘Why the Poles Collaborated so Little: And Why That Is No Reason for Nationalist Hubris’, Slavic Review, 64/4 (2005), pp. 71-781. • Martin Dean, ‘Where Did All the Collaborators Go? ’, Slavic Review, 64/ 4 (2005), pp. 791-798. • Klaus-Peter Friedrich, ‘Collaboration in a “Land without a Quisling”: Patterns of Cooperation with the Nazi German Occupation Regime in Poland during World War II’, Slavic Review, 64/4 (2005), pp. 711-746. • Gerhard Hirschfeld, ‘Collaboration and Attentism in the Netherlands 1940-41’, Journal of Contemporary History, 16/ 3 (Jul. , 1981), pp. 467-486. • Tony Judt, ‘”We Have Discovered History”: Defeat, Resistance, and the Intellectuals in France’, The Journal of Modern History, 64, (1992), pp.
S147-S172. • Rene Marcq, ’Collaboration under Enemy Occupation’, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 247 (1946), pp. 69-72. • John F. Sweets, ‘Hold That Pendulum! Redefining Fascism, Collaborationism and Resistance in France’, French Historical Studies, 15/ 4 (1988), pp. 731-758. ———————–  John F. Sweets, ‘Hold That Pendulum! Redefining Fascism, Collaborationism and Resistance in France’, French Historical Studies, 15/ 4 (1988), p. 745.  Ibid. pp. 174-175.  Julian Jackson, France: The Dark Years 1940-1944,(New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) p. 68.  Robert Gildea, Olivier Wieviorka, Anette Warring, Surviving Hitler and Mussolini: daily life in occupied Europe, (New York: Berg 2006) p. 95.  Tony Judt, ‘”We Have Discovered History”: Defeat, Resistance, and the Intellectuals in France’, The Journal of Modern History, 64, (1992), p. 147.  Julian Jackson, France: The Dark Years, p. 194.  John A. Armstrong, ‘Collaborationism in World War II: The Integral Nationalist Variant in Eastern Europe’, The Journal of Modern History, 40/3 (1968), p. 408.  H.
R. Kedward, Occupied France: Collaboration and Resistance 1940-1944, (Oxford:Blackwell Publishers Ltd 1985), p. 34.  Misha Glenny, The Balkans 1804-1999, pp. 506-510.  John A. Armstrong, ‘Collaborationism in World War II’, p. 408.  Ibid. p. 410.  Misha Glenny, The Balkans 1804-1999, pp. 490-498.  Gerhard Hirschfeld, ‘Collaboration and Attentism in the Netherlands 1940-41’, Journal of Contemporary History, 16/ 3 (Jul. , 1981), pp. 479-480.  Robert Gildea…, Surviving Hitler and Mussolini, p. 95. 15] Klaus-Peter Friedrich, ‘Collaboration in a “Land without a Quisling”: Patterns of Cooperation with the Nazi German Occupation Regime in Poland during World War II’, Slavic Review, 64/4 (2005), pp. 718-737.  Robert Gildea…, Surviving Hitler and Mussolini, p. 95.  Tony Judt, ‘”We Have Discovered History”’, p. 152.  Julian Jackson, France: The Dark Years, p. 168.  Klaus-Peter Friedrich, ‘Collaboration in a “Land without a Quisling”’, p. 740.  Robert Gildea…, Surviving Hitler and Mussolini, p. 95.  Tony Judt, ‘”We Have Discovered History”’, p. 164.