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Collaborationism is cooperation with the enemy against one's country of citizenship in wartime. [1] The term is most often used to describe the cooperation of civilians with the occupying Axis Powers, especially Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, during World War II. Motivations for collaboration by citizens and organizations included nationalism, ethnic hatred, anti-communism, antisemitism, opportunism, self-defense, or often a combination of these factors. Some collaborators in World War II committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, or atrocities such as the Holocaust. [2] More often collaborators simply "went along to get along," attempting to benefit from the occupation or simply survive. The definition of collaborationism is imprecise and subject to interpretation.

Within nations occupied by the Axis powers in World War II, some citizens and organizations, prompted by nationalism, ethnic hatred, anti-communism, antisemitism, opportunism, self-defense, or often a combination, knowingly collaborated with the Axis Powers. Some of these collaborators committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, or atrocities of the Holocaust.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Empire of Japan Empire in the Asia-Pacific region between 1868–1947

The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.


Stanley Hoffmann subdivided collaboration into involuntary (reluctant recognition of necessity) and voluntary (an attempt to exploit necessity). According to him, collaborationism can be either servile or ideological. Servile is service to an enemy based on necessity for personal survival or comfort, whereas ideological is advocacy for cooperation with an enemy power. [3] In contrast, Bertram Gordon used the terms "collaborator" and "collaborationist" for non-ideological and ideological collaborations, respectively. [4] James Mace Ward has asserted that, while collaboration is often equated with treason, there was "legitimate collaboration" between civilian internees (mostly Americans} in the Philippines and their Japanese captors for mutual benefit and to enhance the possibilities of the internees to survive. [5] Collaboration with the Axis Powers in Europe and Asia existed in varying degrees in all the occupied countries. Although the United Kingdom and the United States were never occupied, a British dependency, the Channel Islands near France, was under German occupation and thousands of American civilians in Asia were interned by Japan.

Stanley Hoffmann was the Paul and Catherine Buttenwieser University Professor, emeritus at Harvard University.

Treason Crime against ones sovereign or nation

In law, treason is criminal disloyalty to the state. It is a crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's nation or sovereign. This usually includes things such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor.

A civilian internee is a civilian detained by a party to a war for security reasons. Internees are usually forced to reside in internment camps, often pejoratively called concentration camps and similar to prisoner of war camps or civilian prisons. Historical examples include Japanese American internment and internment of German Americans in the United States during World War II. Japan interned 130,000 Dutch, British, and American civilians in Asia during World War II.

With the defeat of the Axis, collaborators were often punished by public humiliation, imprisonment, and execution. In France, 10,500 collaborators are estimated to have been executed, some after legal proceedings, others extra-judiciously. [6]

The opposite of collaborationism in World War II was "resistance", a term which also has a broad range of meaning and interpretations.

Resistance movements during World War II occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means, ranging from non-cooperation to propaganda to hiding crashed pilots and even to outright warfare and the recapturing of towns. In many countries, resistance movements were sometimes also referred to as The Underground.


The term collaborate dates from 1871, and is a back-formation from collaborator (1802), from the French collaborateur as used during the Napoleonic Wars against smugglers trading with England and assisting in the escape of monarchists, and is itself derived from the Latin collaboratus, past participle of collaborare "work with", from com- "with" + labore "to work". The meaning of "traitorous cooperation with the enemy" [7] dates from 1940, originally in reference to the Vichy Government of France which cooperated with the Germans, 1940–44. [8]

Napoleonic Wars Series of early 19th century European wars

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813), and the Seventh (1815).

Vichy France officially the French State, was France during the regime of Marshal Philippe Pétain, during World War II

Vichy France is the common name of the French State headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain during World War II. Evacuated from Paris to Vichy in the unoccupied "Free Zone" in the southern part of metropolitan France which included French Algeria, it remained responsible for the civil administration of France as well as the French colonial empire.

Public perceptions of collaborators

Heonik Kwon: "Anyone who studies the reality of a modern war, especially life under prolonged military occupation, will surely encounter stories of collaboration between the subjugated locals and the occupying power...The cooperation is often a coerced one; people may have no choice but to cooperate. Since the authority that demands cooperation may have brutally harmed the locals in the process of conquest, collaborating with this authority can be a morally explosive issue...the history of war inevitably involves stories of collaboration..." [9]
Timothy Brook: "On 30 October 1940, six days after meeting with Adolf Hitler in the railway station at Montoire, Philippe Pétain announced on French radio that 'a collaboration has been envisioned between our two countries.' Since then, 'collaboration' has been the word by which we denigrate political cooperation with an occupying force." [10]
Edilberto C. de Jesus and Carlos Quirino. "Collaboration with the Japanese was a necessary evil embraced by the internee government [at Santo Tomas Internment Camp, Philippines] as preferable to a more direct and more oppressive enemy rule." [11]

John Hickman identifies thirteen reasons why occupied populations might hold collaborators in contempt. [12]

World War II

During World War II, collaborationism existed to varying degrees in German-occupied zones.

European countries


In France, many women had their heads shaved as punishment for relationships with Germans. This girl pays the penalty for having had personal relations with the Germans. Here, in the Montelimar area, France... - NARA - 531211.tif
In France, many women had their heads shaved as punishment for relationships with Germans.

In France, a distinction emerged between the collaborateur (collaborator) and the collaborationniste (collaboratorist). Collaborationist is mainly used to describe individuals enrolled in pseudo-Nazi parties, often based in Paris, who had belief in fascist ideology or were anti-communists. [13] Collaborators on the other hand, engaged in collaboration for pragmatic reasons, such as carrying out the orders of the occupiers to maintain public order (policeman) or normal government functions (civil servants); commerce (including sex workers and other women who had relationships with Germans and were called, "horizontal collaborators"); or to fulfill personal ambitions and greed. Collaborators were not necessarily believers in fascism or pro-Nazi Germany. [14] [15]

Recent research by the British historian Simon Kitson has shown that French authorities did not wait until the Liberation to begin pursuing collaborationists. The Vichy government, itself heavily engaged in collaboration, arrested around 2000 individuals on charges of passing information to the Germans. Their reasons for doing so was to centralise collaboration to ensure that the state maintained a monopoly in Franco-German relations and to defend sovereignty so that they could negotiate from a position of strength. It was among the many compromises that the government engaged along the way. [16]

Low Countries

In Belgium, collaborators were organized into the VNV party and the DeVlag movement in Flanders, and into the Rexist movement in Wallonia. [17] There was an active collaboration movement in the Netherlands. [18]


Vidkun Quisling (1887–1945), a major in the Norwegian Army and former minister of defence, served the Nazis as prime minister. He gave his name to the high-profile government collaborator, now known as a Quisling. [19]


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. Small but active Greek National-Socialist parties, like the Greek National Socialist Party, or openly anti-semitic organisations, like the National Union of Greece, helped German authorities fight the Resistance, and identify and deport Greek Jews.

During the last two years of the occupation, the last quisling prime-minister, Ioannis Rallis, created the Security Battalions which were military corps that collaborated openly with the Germans, and had strong anti-communist ideology. The Security Battalions, along with various far-right and royalist organizations, and parts of the country's police forces of that era, were directly or indirectly responsible for the brutal killing of thousands of Greeks during the occupation. Contrary to what happened to other European countries, the members of these corps were never tried or punished for their crimes, due to the Dekemvriana events that erupted immediately after the liberation, followed by the White Terror and the Greek Civil War, two years later.


Main collaborationist regime in Yugoslavia was the Independent State of Croatia, a puppet-state semi-independent of Nazi Germany. Leon Rupnik (1880–1946) was a Slovene general who collaborated as he took control of the semi-independent region of the Italian-occupied southern Slovenia known as the Province of Ljubljana, which came under German control in 1943. [20] The main collaborationist in East Yugoslavia was the axis-puppet Serbian government of Nedić.


German citizen and non-Nazi Franz Oppenhoff accepted appointment as Mayor of the German city of Aachen in 1944, under authority of the Allied military command. He was assassinated on orders from Heinrich Himmler in 1945. [21]


High-profile German collaborators included Dutch actor Johannes Heesters or English-language radio-personality William Joyce (the most widely known Lord Haw-Haw). [22]

Postwar examples

More recent examples of collaboration, according to some, have included institutions and individuals in Afghanistan who collaborated with the Soviet occupation until 1989 and individuals in Iraq and Afghanistan today who continue to work with American forces. In 2014 during the occupation of Crimea and ongoing War in Donbass, some Ukrainian citizens collaborated with the invading Russian forces.

Israeli–Palestinian conflict

In Palestinian society, collaboration with Israel is viewed as a serious offence and social stain [23] and is sometimes punished (judicially or extrajudicially) by death. [24] In addition, during the period of 2007–2009, around 30 Palestinians have been sentenced to death in court on collaboration-related charges, although the sentences have not been carried out. [23]

In June 2009, Raed Sualha, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy, was brutally tortured and hanged by his family because they suspected him of collaborating with Israel. [24] Authorities of the Palestinian territories launched an investigation into the case and arrested the perpetrators. [25] [26] Police said it was unlikely that such a young boy would have been recruited as an informer. [24]

Other contexts

In some colonial or occupation conflicts, soldiers of native origin were seen as collaborationist. This could be the case of mamluks and janissaries in the Ottoman Empire. In some cases, the meaning was not disrespectful at the beginning, but changed with later use when borrowed: the Ottoman term for the sipahi soldiers became sepoy in British India, which in turn was adapted as cipayo in Spanish or zipaio in Basque with a more overtly pejorative meaning of "mercenary".

See also


  1. "Collaborationism", The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
  2. "Collaboration," Holocaust Encyclopedia, , accessed 3 May 2019
  3. Stanley Hoffmann. 'Collaborationism in France during World War II." The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sep., 1968), pp. 375–395
  4. Bertram N. Gordon, Collaborationism in France during the Second World War (Cornell University Press, 1980)
  5. Ward, James Mace (May 2008), "Legitimate Collaboration: The Administration of Santo Tomas Internment Camp and its Histories, 1942-2003," Pacific Historical Review, Vol 77, No. 2, p. 159, 195-200. Downloaded from JSTOR.
  6. Jackson, Julian (2003), France: The Dark Years, 1940–1944, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 577
  7. collaborate in The Oxford English Dictionary Online (2014)
  8. Webster 1999 , p. 70
  9. Kwon, Heonik (2008), "Excavating the History of Collaboration," Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 6, No. 7, p.2
  10. Brook, Timothy (2008), "Collaboration in the History of Wartime East Asia," Asia Pacific Journal, Vol. 6, No. 7, p.
  11. Ward, pp. 160-161
  12. John Hickman. The Occupier's Dilemma: Problem Collaborators. Comparative Strategy, Vol. 36, No. 3 (2017)
  13. George Grossjohann. 2005. Five Years, Four Fronts. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 155
  14. Philippe Burrin, France Under the Germans: Collaboration and Collaboration (1998)
  15. Gerhard Hirschfeld and Patrick Marsh, eds. Collaboration in France: Politics and Culture During the Nazi Occupation 1940–1944 (1989)
  16. Kitson 2008 , p. [ page needed ]
  17. Eddy de Bruyne and Marc Rikmenspoel, For Rex and for Belgium (2004)
  18. Gerhard Hirschfeld Nazi Rule and Dutch Collaboration: The Netherlands under German Occupation, 1940–45, Berg Publishers (1992). Transl. by Louise Wilmot
  19. Hans Fredrik Dahl, Quisling: A Study in Treachery (2008)
  20. Stevan K. Pavlowitch, Hitler's new disorder: the Second World War in Yugoslavia (2008) p. 142
  21. Rempel, Gerhard (1989). Hitler's Children: The Hitler Youth and the SS. UNC Press. pp. 244–245. ISBN   0-8078-4299-0.
  22. "Nederlanderse-entertainer-sin-Duitsland". Die Welt (in Dutch). 17 April 2010. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  23. 1 2 "Woman Convicted as Israeli Abettor". June 15, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-02.
  24. 1 2 3 "Palestinian boy 'hanged for collaboration'". BBC News. June 12, 2009. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  25. Khaled Abu Toameh, Palestinian family kills 15-yr-old son [ permanent dead link ], Jerusalem Post 11-06-2009
  26. Palestinian teen killed by his family, United Press International 12-06-2009

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