Hitler's European Holocaust Helpers

Germany Relied on Outside Help in the Monstrous Murder Project

Germany's troops didn't have the whole of continental Europe under the gun to the same extent. Outside the Third Reich and the occupied territories the Germans needed the help of foreign governments in their monstrous murder project -- in the west as well as the south and southeast of Europe. Their support was strongest among the Slovaks and Croats whom Hitler had given their own states. The Croatian Ustasha fascists set up their own concentration camps where Jews were killed "through typhoid, hunger, shooting, torture, drowning, stabbing and hammer blows to the head," says historian Hilberg. The majority of Croatian Jews were killed by Croats.

Anti-Semitism wasn't so deep-rooted in Italy and was ordered by the state out of consideration for the Germans. An Italian military commander in Mostar (in today's Bosnia) refused to chase Jews from their homes because he said such operations "weren't in keeping with the honor of the Italian army." That wasn't the only the only such case. But it's clear that Benito Mussolini's puppet government of 1943 eagerly took part in persecuting Jews. More than 9,000 Italian Jews were deported to their deaths.

Some 29,000 Jews from Belgium were murdered, many after being denounced in return for cash. Denunciations also happened in the Netherlands and France. Local authorities obediently paved the way for the deportation of Jews and later said they hadn't suspected what fate the Jews faced. That excuse was used by henchmen, opportunists and pen-pushing bureaucrats -- a category of perpetrator that was denied for a long time after the war in France as the country sought to build a myth that the entire French people had been involved in the heroic resistance.

France was divided into two parts. Hitler's troops had occupied three fifths of the country but the southern part of the country remained unoccupied until November 1942 and was ruled by a right-wing government based in Vichy that collaborated with the Germans.

How Many Were Betrayed?

The first major roundup of Jews took place in mid-July 1942 in occupied Paris when almost 13,000 Jews who had no French passport where taken from their homes by French policemen. At least two thirds of the Jews deported from France were foreigners. The remaining third consisted of naturalized French citizens and children born in France to stateless Jews. Police "repeatedly expressed the desire" that the children should be deported as well, one SS officer noted in July 1942. Almost all deportations ended in Auschwitz.

In total almost 76,000 Jews were deported from France and only 3 percent of them survived the Holocaust. It's unknown how many of them were betrayed by the local population. In the Netherlands there's a figure that gives an indication of the extent of denunciation. The country had an authority that hunted Jews on behalf of the Nazis and that listed the property of Jews who had gone into hiding or already been deported. The "Household goods registry office" paid 7.50 guilders for every Jew who could be located -- that's about €40 in today's money. Dutch journalist Ad van Liempt has analyzed historical records and estimated that between March and June 1943 alone, more than 6,800 Jews were tracked down in this way, and that at least 54 people had taken part in this hunt once or even several times. "Most of them made this their main occupation for months," he says.

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