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 Collaboration during occupation

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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Collaboration during occupation   Sun 21 Jun 2015, 21:54

Due to some research that I first had destinated for this board, but finally introduced to the Waterloo thread on Historum about the changing attitudes during the 20 years French occupation of the Austrian Netherlands.
http://historum.com/european-history/91848-anniversary-battle-waterloo-2.html

I intended to start a thread overhere about the difficult position of people occupied by a foreign country, sparked by the sentence of Michael Mills in the message 11:
"There was a program on the battle of Waterloo on the History Channel here, which depicted Belgian troops in Netherlands units as hostile to their Dutch officers and pro-French"
See also my message 12 and 13.

I start with the recent history of WWII, because I know a lot about the Belgian situation in that context and the difficult aftermath, which was perhaps not that nasty as in France, but nevertheless also not that smootly...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaboration_with_the_Axis_Powers_during_World_War_II

I found this book, which if you look at the "Look inside" give some good picture about the problems:
http://www.amazon.com/Europe-Trial-Collaboration-Resistance-Retribution/dp/0813347890

I listened not to the whole session about the book, as my English for a rapid recognition of the difficult language isn't good enough...but for the native English speakers... they can perhaps hold on for the whole session Wink...
https://alumni.columbia.edu/multimedia/europe-trial-story-collaboration-resistance-and-retribution-during-wwii

To emphasize for example how difficult it is to speak about guilt, amnesty and the collective remembering of what happened a specific example from Belgium where due to a different approach between Dutch speaking and French speaking communities about the guilt question is different although collaboration as it is now researched was more equally over the whole territory, but immediately after the war everybody pointed more to the Dutch speaking Flemish community, because of the "language question" from the war period, perhaps intentially propagated by the Nazi occupier...
You have not to read the whole article from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, but I give it only to clarify how complex some attitudes are...:
http://cultcenter.net/journals/index.php/culture/article/view/62
http://cultcenter.net/journals/index.php/culture/article/view/62/49


Kind regards, Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Collaboration during occupation   Mon 22 Jun 2015, 07:55

It's a thorny one, isn't it Paul? And an issue that defies satisfactory explanation or analysis as it recedes generationally, rather than in any sense becoming simpler to understand with time. In Norway the issue has received quite belated attention in my view - the wounds were still considered all too raw to reopen right up to the end of the century and beyond, it seems. It is really only now that people generally can disassociate families from the actions of individual members over 70 years ago, and even then they tend to bring little analysis to bear on the reasons why certain people collaborated or the extent to which they did. What is clear is that without an analysis of motivation and extent there is a valid inferrable statistic that earmarks quite a sizeable percentage of the population at the time as collaborationist in outlook, much bigger than that which has been traditionally inferred through the legal and social policies pursued in the aftermath of war that addressed this issue, and upon which textbook histories have tended to be based.

As a child who walked past open IRA recruitment outside my school gate on many occasions at an age when I was not equipped as yet with enough understanding of contemporary events to separate real threat from perceived threat, propaganda and misinformation from good intelligence, or even to successfully calculate my actual role in society, I can somewhat understand the intellectual ambivalence and ignorant calculations that can lead to such tragedy later in terms of behaviour that can be interpreted by others as evidence of allegiance, even when such was never the intention. Caution decided my views and actions in the end, but this was not a given in my case and nor did it prove to be in the case of others. In a period when public opinion was being directed by mounting atrocity many people were just one interpretation of events prompted by such an action away from a profound commitment to what would prove personally disastrous and lamentable choices, for them and for so many others later affected by their actions.

It is of course unfair to attempt to generalise about human emotive reactions and actions in societies traumatised and drastically disrupted by warfare and aggression. However my own unfair stab at such a generalisation is that there will always be found opportunists who - ideologically deluded or cynically exploitative - will attempt to profit materially from the situation they find themselves in. But in terms of collaboration with an occupier these, though they exist, are far outnumbered by those who, rightly or wrongly, in their analysis of what represents the safest course of action for them and their dependents will also support the occupier through obeisance and civil cooperation. What makes the issue malignant and festering after the event is the failure to adequately distinguish between these motives when issuing punishment, the range of which stretches far beyond legal sanction or sentence. This injustice resists close examination introspectively from society afterwards and the effect is a continuation through generations of punishments that can only become all the more cruel and unjust as they perpetuate.

Reconciliation as a political process requires at the outset a huge gesture from all the parties in dispute. The framework within which such a mutual gesture can be extended is often the very thing that was first destroyed by the aggression leading to occupation and the last thing to re-emerge in its aftermath. This is why, even 75 years later, we can identify tangible issues within society today that can be directly traced back to those events in lands occupied by Nazi Germany and its allies, lands in which such a gesture was all but impossible when it most needed to be made.
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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: Collaboration during occupation   Mon 22 Jun 2015, 12:58

Looking around the web, I cam across this book. It is not the entire book, of course, but from what I've read looks to contain some interesting material.

Reader Preview:

http://www.amazon.com/Europe-Trial-Collaboration-Resistance-Retribution/dp/0813347890#reader_0813347890
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Anglo-Norman
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PostSubject: Re: Collaboration during occupation   Mon 22 Jun 2015, 21:09

As far as the Channel Islands during the German Occupation are concerned, the issue of collaboration has only recently been more widely discussed, and is still a controversial issue for some. The Jersey War Tunnels (formerly known as the Underground Hospital - a massive network of tunnels initially created as air-raid/coastal bombardment shelters for the garrison, then converted into a hospital as the War began to swing in favour of the Allies, now the largest museum about the Occupation) took a major risk when it tackled the subject in a new exhibition.

There was little in the way of political sympathy for the Germans. Most 'collaboration' was in the form of lack of real resistance. Military resistance was impossible - there weren't the hiding places, the supplies of arms etc available on the Continent, and the garrison grew to equal two soldiers to every civilian. There was more passive resistance - refusing to aid the Germans, widespread use of illegal crystal sets once radios were banned, the occasional escape attempt, painting of the 'V' for Victory sign over German notices, and even a few cases of hiding escaped slave workers. One of the most striking surviving examples of this passive resistance which survives is the massive 'V' hidden amongst the paving in the Royal Square (the site of the centre of government and justice), which was put in place when the Square was repaved towards the end of the War!

The civilian governments were allowed to continue, after a fashion, and some could accuse them of them of collaborating. However, they were stuck between a rock and a hard place: there was little they could do to defy the Occupying Powers, and at least they tried to mitigate some of the worst effects of foreign military rule. Baron Von Aufsess, head of the Civil Branch of the Military Administration, recorded in the diary his mixture of frustration with and admiration for "the old fox", then then Bailiff of Jersey, Alexander Coutanche, who he frequently found himself in a battle of wills with.

There were girls who had liaisons with the garrison: some for personal gain, some for a bit of fun with these handsome young soldiers in their smart uniforms, at a time when local young men were in fairly short supply. There were a few genuine romances. Soon after the Liberation many of these girls suffered brutal retribution as "jerrybags".

Probably the worst cases of collaboration were the (often anonymous) notes sent to the Germans informing on neighbours, generally concerning acts of defiance. Archives of records recovered from the Germans show this was much more common than usually realised. It's thought that this was generally done out of hope for reward, or revenge for some personal quarrel, rather than real support for the Germans. The informants may not always have realised how ruthless the punishments could be, especially if the information fell into the hands of the Secret Field Police, wannabe-Gestapo types widely feared and despised by soldiers and civilians alike.

In the end, I think most Islanders neither collaborated nor resisted; rather they just kept their heads down and tried to survive.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Collaboration during occupation   Tue 23 Jun 2015, 21:25

Triceratops wrote:
Looking around the web, I cam across this book. It is not the entire book, of course, but from what I've read looks to contain some interesting material.

Reader Preview:

http://www.amazon.com/Europe-Trial-Collaboration-Resistance-Retribution/dp/0813347890#reader_0813347890

 Triceratops,

you didn't read my message don't you? Wink
But it is proof that "honest" people (like we Wink ) come exactly to the same sites if they do research about a subject on the internet Wink ...
While we are on the subject, if you want to comment the 2 hours session about the book that I mentioned in my previous message...? For me with my poor understanding of that rapid American and English from foreigners it is nearly impossible to  hear the session to the end... Embarassed  and to make some conclusions about it... Embarassed
https://alumni.columbia.edu/multimedia/europe-trial-story-collaboration-resistance-and-retribution-during-wwii

Kind regards from your friend Paul and esteem for the manner by which you support this small history messageboard from Nordmann, for whom, as I read again his reply in this thread, I have the greatest respect.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Collaboration during occupation   Tue 23 Jun 2015, 21:45

nordmann wrote:
It's a thorny one, isn't it Paul? And an issue that defies satisfactory explanation or analysis as it recedes generationally, rather than in any sense becoming simpler to understand with time. In Norway the issue has received quite belated attention in my view - the wounds were still considered all too raw to reopen right up to the end of the century and beyond, it seems. It is really only now that people generally can disassociate families from the actions of individual members over 70 years ago, and even then they tend to bring little analysis to bear on the reasons why certain people collaborated or the extent to which they did. What is clear is that without an analysis of motivation and extent there is a valid inferrable statistic that earmarks quite a sizeable percentage of the population at the time as collaborationist in outlook, much bigger than that which has been traditionally inferred through the legal and social policies pursued in the aftermath of war that addressed this issue, and upon which textbook histories have tended to be based.

As a child who walked past open IRA recruitment outside my school gate on many occasions at an age when I was not equipped as yet with enough understanding of contemporary events to separate real threat from perceived threat, propaganda and misinformation from good intelligence, or even to successfully calculate my actual role in society, I can somewhat understand the intellectual ambivalence and ignorant calculations that can lead to such tragedy later in terms of behaviour that can be interpreted by others as evidence of allegiance, even when such was never the intention. Caution decided my views and actions in the end, but this was not a given in my case and nor did it prove to be in the case of others. In a period when public opinion was being directed by mounting atrocity many people were just one interpretation of events prompted by such an action away from a profound commitment to what would prove personally disastrous and lamentable choices, for them and for so many others later affected by their actions.

It is of course unfair to attempt to generalise about human emotive reactions and actions in societies traumatised and drastically disrupted by warfare and aggression. However my own unfair stab at such a generalisation is that there will always be found opportunists who - ideologically deluded or cynically exploitative - will attempt to profit materially from the situation they find themselves in. But in terms of collaboration with an occupier these, though they exist, are far outnumbered by those who, rightly or wrongly, in their analysis of what represents the safest course of action for them and their dependents will also support the occupier through obeisance and civil cooperation. What makes the issue malignant and festering after the event is the failure to adequately distinguish between these motives when issuing punishment, the range of which stretches far beyond legal sanction or sentence. This injustice resists close examination introspectively from society afterwards and the effect is a continuation through generations of punishments that can only become all the more cruel and unjust as they perpetuate.

Reconciliation as a political process requires at the outset a huge gesture from all the parties in dispute. The framework within which such a mutual gesture can be extended is often the very thing that was first destroyed by the aggression leading to occupation and the last thing to re-emerge in its aftermath. This is why, even 75 years later, we can identify tangible issues within society today that can be directly traced back to those events in lands occupied by Nazi Germany and its allies, lands in which such a gesture was all but impossible when it most needed to be made.


Nordmann,

thank you very much for this elaborated and balanced reply. Thank you also for mentioning the Norway situation, which is seemingly as worse or even worser than overhere in Belgium. You seems to have read completely the essay from the Université Libre de Bruxelles...what is not mentioned overthere is the situation after the war from the Ost-Kantone Eupen and Malmédy, which as the same in the French Alsace-Lorraine were sees again as part of Germany and whose inhabitants had to fight in the German army...and all those twilight situations which originated from this situation...
As a side note: Tomorrow travels the grandson a week  to Oslo to met a neighbour from Bruges, who is married to a girl from Oslo since some years and lives there...

I particularly find the paragraph about your Irish past highly valuable and it sets the discussion on a general level.

Your two last paragraphs about the phenomena and about reconciliation are really the words which have to be said.

Kind regards and with the greatest respect,

Paul.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Collaboration during occupation   Tue 23 Jun 2015, 21:52

Anglo-Norman,

thank you very much for explaining the situation of the Channel Islands. As you remember I was there for one day with the catamaran from France and visited the hospital. Due to your messages about Jersey I got interested in the island and did a lot of research about it, among others about the occupation ...

Kind regards from your Belgian friend Paul.
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Vizzer
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PostSubject: Re: Collaboration during occupation   Sun 26 Jul 2015, 17:51

nordmann wrote:
In Norway the issue has received quite belated attention in my view - the wounds were still considered all too raw to reopen right up to the end of the century and beyond, it seems. It is really only now that people generally can disassociate families from the actions of individual members over 70 years ago, and even then they tend to bring little analysis to bear on the reasons why certain people collaborated or the extent to which they did. What is clear is that without an analysis of motivation and extent there is a valid inferrable statistic that earmarks quite a sizeable percentage of the population at the time as collaborationist in outlook, much bigger than that which has been traditionally inferred through the legal and social policies pursued in the aftermath of war that addressed this issue, and upon which textbook histories have tended to be based.

The Norwegian drama series The Saboteurs (Kampen om tungtvannet) concluded this week on British television. It went quite far in showing how previously simplistic concepts one might have held regarding 'collaboration' v 'supporting the resistance' were anything but simplistic. I had thought that I knew the story from such things as the 1965 feature film The Heroes of Telemark only to discover (as is so often the case) that the issues involved were seemingly much more complicated than any Boys' Own adventure story would have one believe.
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PostSubject: Re: Collaboration during occupation   Sun 26 Jul 2015, 19:51

Vizzer,

thank you for mentioning the series.
I have seen "The Herous of Telemark too", nice film but a bit the American way...


Did some research on the net, hoping to find fragments on Youtube Wink ...
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3280150/

" It went quite far in showing how previously simplistic concepts one might have held regarding 'collaboration' v 'supporting the resistance' were anything but simplistic."

Can you expand a bit about that? The difficult decisions as here in Belgium during WWII between collaboration and resistance? And what was collaboration and what was resistance? In both the cases the fear for family, for compatriots, for one's own death? The difficulties about the abandoning of one's former adherences, beliefs?

To come back on Belgium. One of the first resistance groups were in fact a far right Belgian Legion from former military (a bit the Pétain way, but with Léopold III instead of Pétain)
There was first a difficult collaboration with the Belgian government in exile in London, while everybody knew about their far right sympaties. It was only after the old leaders were murdered by the Germans, that the lower echelon at last got recognition from the Belgians in London...and the whole war it remained a difficult coordination...
I found only this in English:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%A9gion_Belge_(resistance)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arm%C3%A9e_secr%C3%A8te_(Belgium)

But the Dutch language wiki says a lot more and is very detailed about the difficulties and animosities:
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geheim_Leger


Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Collaboration during occupation   Mon 27 Jul 2015, 10:18

Supporting the resistance was perilous. Because a young Belgium friend of that time had joined  a forest resistance group his father was sent to Dachau. Mercifully he survived that but from what I saw, their relationship had been strained by his ordeal there though the son was praised for his exploits. And it must have been very difficult for the mother then and afterwards.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Collaboration during occupation   Mon 27 Jul 2015, 21:15

Priscilla wrote:
Supporting the resistance was perilous. Because a young Belgium friend of that time had joined  a forest resistance group his father was sent to Dachau. Mercifully he survived that but from what I saw, their relationship had been strained by his ordeal there though the son was praised for his exploits. And it must have been very difficult for the mother then and afterwards.

 Yes, Priscilla, that's one example  of what difficult decisions one had to make...

Kind regards, Paul.
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Vizzer
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PostSubject: Re: Collaboration during occupation   Sat 01 Aug 2015, 19:27

PaulRyckier wrote:
" It went quite far in showing how previously simplistic concepts one might have held regarding 'collaboration' v 'supporting the resistance' were anything but simplistic."

Can you expand a bit about that?

For a drama, the series didn't shy away from some of the issues which a casual reading of the story might not highlight. For example the question of the planting of a bomb on the ferry (which would undoubtedly lead to civilian casualties) was something that only a specific sort of person would have been able to undertake. Even then there was the further complication of the probability of knowing (or even being related to) passengers. This would have been particularly acute in a country such as Norway (with a small population) where even then the commandos were chosen for their local knowledge of Telemark. The story lends itself very well to this. With Operation Gunnerside the commandos achieved a text-book raid, destroying their objective with no casualties on either side. Perfect. The subsequent sinking of the ferry a year later, however, saw the commandos cross the line from guerilla warfare to what in any other conflict would be considered an act of terrorism.

Let's not forget, however, that it was drama including additional fictional characters etc. It was by no means a documentary. There were, for example, plenty of 'Keep Calm and Carry On' posters in evidence on office walls during the London scenes. Such posters were never displayed during the Second World War but were only created provisionally and subsequently later popularised in the 1970s. Nevertheless an excellent drama series. Recommended.

P.S. Paul to be fair to Hollywood (and although there was considerable American and Canadian input) The Heroes of Telemark was essentially a UK film. So we Brits have to take the blame (if blame is due) for that one. Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Collaboration during occupation   Sat 01 Aug 2015, 20:39

Thank you so much for the reply Vizzer.

Now I understand much better what you meant.

Kind regards, Paul.
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