Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

This new study provides a concise, accessible introduction to occupied Europe. It gives a clear overview of the history and historiography of resistance and collaboration. It explores how these terms cannot be examined separately, but are always entangled.

Covering Europe from east to west, this book aims to explore the evolution of scholarly approaches to resistance and collaboration. Not limiting itself to any one area, it looks at armed struggle, daily life, complicity and rescue, the Catholic Church, and official and public memory since the end of the war.

Table of Contents

1. Hitler’s Empire

Abstract
Because both resistance and collaboration were shaped by the nature of Nazi rule, we begin by discussing three key issues which pertained to people’s experiences of living in Hitler’s empire. Firstly, we outline the methods used by the Nazis to administer and govern the territories that fell under their control. Secondly, we look at the impact of Nazi rule on the everyday lives of Hitler’s subjects. Finally, we explore the terminology and concepts that are used by academics who write about the social history of World War II. By the end of 1941, Hitler’s empire stretched from the Atlantic coast of France to the gates of Moscow, and from the Arctic Circle in Norway to the deserts of North Africa (see Map 1). At its height, some 244 million Europeans lived under its sway, 90 million of whom were ethnic Germans.1 How these people experienced Nazi rule varied considerably. One reason for this was the complexity of the administrative arrangements that were made by the Nazis for ruling their empire. For analytical purposes, we can divide the territories that made up Hitler’s empire into four categories. The first category comprised the lands which were governed directly from Berlin and which the Nazis regarded as the ‘Greater German Reich’. The core of this territory was made up of Germany within the borders established in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles. Between 1938 and 1942, the Nazis extended these borders through the piecemeal annexation of neighbouring lands. These included Austria (annexed in March 1938), the Sudetenland (taken from Czechoslovakia in October 1938), western Poland (October 1939), the French territory of Alsace-Lorraine (June 1940), the Belgian district of Eupen-Malmédy (June 1940), northern Slovenia (April 1941), and Luxembourg (August 1942).
Vesna Drapac, Gareth Pritchard

2. The Evolution of the Historiography

Abstract
Resistance and collaboration in Hitler’s empire are of enduring interest to historians.1 Most general histories of the war rely on the concepts of resistance and collaboration as analytical tools or descriptive terms, and there are thousands of articles and monographs that focus specifically on resistance and collaboration. The resistance/collaboration paradigm dominates the historiographical landscape to the extent that one could easily get the impression that almost everyone in Europe was either a resister or a collaborator. According to Robert Gildea, Olivier Wieviorka and Anette Warring: ‘The only escape from the labelling of resister or collaborator has been to be recognised as a victim.’2 Making sense of the historiography is not easy. It has changed significantly over time, and there are also substantial variations between national historiographical traditions. Nonetheless, there are general patterns, and it is the purpose of this chapter to identify and explain them. Firstly, we discuss the historical context in which the concepts of resistance and collaboration emerged. Secondly, we give an overview of the evolution of the historiography in Western and Communist Europe respectively. Finally, we explore some of the definitional and methodological problems in the historiography, all of which are a legacy of the way it has developed since World War II.
Vesna Drapac, Gareth Pritchard

3. Armed Resistance and Collaboration

Abstract
During World War II, hundreds of thousands of Europeans joined paramilitary armed bands in order to fight the Nazis and their proxies. But many hundreds of thousands of non-German Europeans also served in the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS or fought in militia and police units that were sponsored by the German authorities. Both armed resistance and armed collaboration were mass phenomena. They constitute the extreme poles of the resistance/collaboration paradigm as it is usually applied by historians. In this chapter we provide an overview of the historiography of this much-discussed topic. Building on the critique of the historiography that we outlined in the previous chapter, we argue that, if we set aside the resistance/collaboration paradigm, a new picture begins to emerge of a pan-European ‘war of the armed bands’. Though intimately related to the big war fought between the Allied and the Axis powers, this war of the armed bands had a distinct character and chronology. It was driven by a cycle of paramilitary violence which began in the 1930s and which lasted until the later 1940s. Armed resistance to Nazi rule began at different times in different parts of Europe. In Poland, partisan bands began to form in the forests soon after the German invasion of September 1939.
Vesna Drapac, Gareth Pritchard

4. Resistance and Collaboration in Everyday Life

Abstract
Historians began to write about armed resistance and armed collaboration even before the war was over. But the first generation of historians showed much less interest in resistance and collaboration in everyday life. Only in the 1960s did the social history of Hitler’s empire become a subject of serious scholarly enquiry. In the following decades, a large number of thematic and regional studies reconstructed the social history of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Vichy France. Since the collapse of Communism, the methodology of social history has increasingly been applied to Eastern Europe and the Balkans. However, there are still large gaps in our knowledge, and the question of daily-life resistance and collaboration remains controversial. This chapter will discuss the evolution of the study of non-combatant resistance and collaboration. It examines different approaches to interpreting the relationship between state and society in Hitler’s Europe and how these have influenced the conceptualisation of resistance and collaboration in daily life. In particular, it explores the connection between totalitarian theory and the resistance/collaboration dichotomy. But first it is necessary to look at typical examples of everyday resistance and collaboration in order to provide context for the discussion that follows.
Vesna Drapac, Gareth Pritchard

5. Genocide and Rescue

Abstract
During World War II, between 5.5 and 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis and their local agents.1 In the immediate aftermath of the war, the Allies were horrified by what they had discovered in the camps, and they were aware that Jewish people had been specifically targeted by the Nazi regime. But the victims were usually described in terms of their nationality rather than their Jewishness.2 It was not until the 1960s that historians began to stress the central role of anti-Semitism in Nazi crimes. Two new words began to be widely used to describe what had happened: Holocaust (from the 1960s) and Shoah (from the 1980s). In this chapter, we will explain how ascribing responsibility for this genocide has been incorporated into narratives of resistance and collaboration. It is impossible to consider resistance and collaboration without also discussing the Holocaust. This is because establishing responsibility for the Holocaust has raised the stakes in describing people’s actions as resistance or collaboration. We will begin with a brief overview of the history of the Holocaust and then discuss how historians have attempted to address the question of responsibility. Finally, we will discuss three ways in which this historiography amplifies our understanding of resistance and collaboration as social processes. The Third Reich was the most virulently anti-Semitic regime in history. The mass murder of Jewish people began in 1941, at the time of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
Vesna Drapac, Gareth Pritchard

6. Beyond Resistance and Collaboration

Abstract
So far in this book we have identified many of the limitations of the resistance/ collaboration paradigm. The purpose of this chapter is to outline what might lie beyond it. To this end, we begin by summarising the key observations that we have made about European society under Nazi rule. We then discuss an alternative way of approaching the history of this period, which we call the ‘social history of politics’. Finally, we give an example of what this approach might look like in practice by applying it to a specific topic, namely, the Catholic Church. For convenience, we have brought together all the observations that we have made into seven overarching maxims which we believe are helpful to the study of social behaviour in Hitler’s empire, including resistance and collaboration. The resistance/collaboration paradigm has its uses but it does not have to be our only analytical tool. There were many, varied behaviours which were important to people’s experience of the war but which cannot easily be labelled as either resistance or collaboration. All these behaviours, regardless of the labels that we attach to them, were interconnected. Both resistance and collaboration were thus fundamentally social in nature, and neither can be understood in isolation from a wider matrix of social behaviours and relationships. The rigid application of the resistance/collaboration paradigm, which does not take account of this matrix, is thus an obstacle to the study not only of society in general but of resistance and collaboration as well.
Vesna Drapac, Gareth Pritchard

7. Resistance and Collaboration in Official and Public Memory

Abstract
Although historians have always been in the forefront of constructing the public memory of World War II, other groups have also played an important role, including politicians, political activists, lawyers, public intellectuals, school teachers, museum curators, sculptors, authors, playwrights, and filmmakers. Moreover, millions of ordinary Europeans harboured personal memories of resistance and collaboration that were often different from, and sometimes incompatible with, public narratives. In this final chapter, we shall look at the public and official memory of resistance and collaboration. Our focus here is not on the work of historians, but on other types of public discourse. In recent years there has been a surge of scholarly interest in the relationship between memory, history and identity. This trend has been evident in the disciplines of history, art history, philosophy, literary studies, psychology, sociology, and political science. University programmes and academic journals have been established that focus on the emerging, interdisciplinary field of ‘memory studies’. One of the most important figures in the field of memory studies is the French sociologist and philosopher, Maurice Halbwachs (1877–1945), who was himself a victim of Nazi oppression. A socialist with a Jewish father-in-law, Halbwachs was arrested by the Gestapo in 1944 and died the following year at Buchenwald concentration camp. During his scholarly career, Halbwachs developed the theory of ‘collective memory’.
Vesna Drapac, Gareth Pritchard
Additional information