Pursuit of Nazi collaborators

From Academic Kids

The pursuit of Nazi collaborators refers to the post-WWII pursuit and apprehension of individuals who were not citizens of the Third Reich at the outbreak of World War II and collaborated with the Nazi regime during the war.

Contents

Background

The main motives for the apprehension of suspected collaborators were:

  • Trial and, if guilty, punishment of traitors, for example members of the Waffen-SS British Free Corps.
  • Revenge for those killed, especially those killed on ethnic grounds in the Holocaust (principally amongst Jews and Russians)
  • A desire after a bitter war, to see those responsible face justice, and be characterised as criminals under a court of law (See Nuremburg Trials).
  • To ensure that the acts done were brought to light and placed on formal record, with evidence, so that they could never be denied (some of the acts being so unthinkable that denial was plausible).
  • A widespread sense that wanton annihilation of whole communities and cultures on such a scale was intolerable and must not be left unpursued even despite the inadequacy of existing laws.

Other motives included:

  • Fear that a "Nazi underground" of some kind existed, such as the ODESSA, which would allow the enemy to somehow regroup for their proclaimed 4th Reich.
  • Political gain, in the turbulent politics of the last 1940's and the commencement of the Cold War.

Means of pursuit

This pursuit takes many forms, both individual and organised. Several organizations hunt for and pursue individuals they believe complicit in Nazi war crimes. Others were due to after-war spontaneous retaliation committed by populations within occupied countries.

Some of the main ways this pursuit took place were:

  • Individuals who reported they saw someone that they recognised, who had now assumed an identity and were slipping back into civilian life undetected.
  • Specific individuals named and sought by groups or governments for their activities in the war.
  • "Witch hunt" in some areas for those suspected of having been collaborators.
  • Government action - investigation and interrogation of people suspected to be such. For example: U.S. DOJ Office of Special Investigations
  • Non-governmental agencies like the Simon Wiesenthal Center
  • Infiltration of Nazi support and escape organisations and those believed to be aiding and abetting them.
  • Vigilantism and "summary justice", often without trial.

This affected not only individuals, but whole groups perceived as collaborators. Another part was legal action and laws punishing cooperation with Nazis, implemented by provisional authorities.

Controversial aspects

Controversy surrounds some forms of pursuit, particularly when they involve the collective punishment of ethnic groups because some members collaborated with the Third Reich.

Pursuit in specific countries

Australia

Latvia applied to Australia to extradite Konrad Kalejs, allegedly a senior officer in the pro-Nazi Arajs Commando, but he died on November 8 2001 before he could be extradited. Kalejs migrated to Australia in 1950 and took citizenship. He would have been the first Australian citizen extradited to face war crimes charges.

Belgium

Belgium imprisoned Belgian nationals who had joined the Waffen-SS and executed some.

Czechoslovakia

Actions against Nazi collaborators in Czechoslovakia, real or alleged, had two significant forms.

Immediately after liberation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet and American armies, in atmosphere of chaos, wild chase started. Individual revenge, mob violence, and simply criminal acts motivated by possibility to rob or loot, took place. In some places, where conducted by organized groups of self-styled partisans, violence resembled what is today known as ethnic cleansing. In most places this stopped when provisional Czechoslovak government and local authorities took power.

Other form were legal action, undertaken by state administration. After war, until regular Czechoslovak parliament was set up, president Beneš ruled by issuing decrees. These were later ratified by parliament.

By decree 5/1945 property of untrustworthy persons was put under national administration. Untrustworthy were considered German and Hungarian nationals, people who were active in destruction of Czechoslovak state and its democratic government, supported Nazi occupation by any means or were members of organizations considered fascist or collaborator.

By the same decree, property of people of German and Hungarian nationality, who could prove they were anti-Nazi, should have been returned to them.

By decree 12/1945 Sb. farm property of German and Hungarian nationals or citizens was confiscated, unless they could prove active resistance against Nazism. Property of traitors, and enemies of republic was confiscated no matter what nationality or citizenship.

By decree 16/1945 Sb. special tribunals were set up. These people courts had right to sentence to long term imprisonment, life sentence or death. Prosecuted were

  • traitors, members of SS, FS and similar organizations, NSDAP or SdP, those who supported Nazi movement by any means, including verbal support or advocacy of occupation
  • who committed crimes against humanity, contributed to false imprisonment, ordered forced labour
  • informants, or anyone who caused imprisonment of any citizen

No prosecution was based on ethnicity. However, many Sudeten Germans were members of SdP or voiced support for annexation of Sudetenland by Third Reich.

By 33/1945 Sb. people of German and Hungarian nationality or ethnicity lost Czechoslovakian citizenship. However, they had right to apply for renewal.

Most problematic is the law 115/1946 about resistance against Nazi regime, which shifted limit of immunity to year 1946, effectively amnestying all crimes, acts of individual revenge and atrocities against Germans and Hungarians long after war.

People, who lost Czechoslovakian citizenship and did not apply for new or had not get it, were transferred to Germany. (Population transfers are discussed in article Expulsion of Germans after World War II).

France

After the liberation, France was swept with a wave of assassinations of people connected with Vichy regime. Women who were suspected of having romantic liaisons with Nazi officers or soldiers were publicly humiliated by having their heads shaved.

The French members of the Waffen-SS Charlemagne Division who survived the war were regarded as traitors. Some of the more prominent officers were executed, while the rank-and-file were give prison terms; some of them were given the option of doing time in Indo-China with the Foreign Legion instead of prison.

Netherlands

So many Dutch men had volunteered for the Waffen-SS that the country took many years to come to terms with the extent to which this had happened. Men who had volunteered for the Waffen-SS and return to the Netherlands were interned. Subsequently some rose to prominence in the political and business fields, but because of their background they remained vulnerable to blackmail.

Norway

Vidkun Quisling,the war time Norwegian "Minister President", along with two other Nasjonal Samling leaders, Albert Viljam Hagelin and Ragnar Skancke, were convicted and executed by firing squad. In later days these sentences have been controversial, since the capital punishment was reintroduced to the Norwegian legal system during the end of the war, by the exile government, to handle the post war trials.

The term "quisling" has become a synonym in many European languages for traitor (see Judas, and the understanding of Benedict Arnold in the United States).

Poland

In occupied Poland the status of Volksdeutsche had many privileges but one big disadvantage: Volksdeutsche were conscripted into the German army. The Volksliste had 4 categories. No. 1 and No. 2 were considered ethnic Germans, while No. 3 and No. 4 were ethnic Poles that signed the Volksliste. No. 1 and No. 2 in the Polish areas re-annexed by Germany numbered ~1,000,000 and No. 3 and No. 4 ~1,700,000. In the General Government there were ~120,000 Volksdeutsche.

Volksdeutsche of Polish origins were treated by Poles with special contempt, and also it constituted high treason according to Polish law.

German citizens that remained on territory of Poland became as a group personae non gratae. They had a choice of applying for Polish citizenship or being expulsed to Germany. The property that belonged to Germans, German companies and German state, was confiscated by the Polish state along with many other properties in communist Poland. German owners, as explicitly stated by the law, were not eligible for any compensation. Those who decided to apply became subject to a verification process. At the beginning many acts of violence against Volksdeutsche took place. However, soon the verification of Volksdeutsche became controlled by the juridical process and was completed in a more fair manner.

Soviet Union

Soviet and other Russian members of the Russian Liberation Army and the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia were pursued tried and either sent to the gulags or executed.

Many Soviet Prisoners of War were seen to have collaborated with the Nazis, even if they had done no more than been captured by the Wehrmacht and spent the war in a camp. Many such unfortunate Soviet citizen was persecuted on their repatriation to the Soviet Union.

In general, after a short trial, if they were not executed, Nazi collaborators were imprisoned in Gulag forced labor camps.

The Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was abolished and Volga Germans were banished from their settlements on the Volga River with many being deported to Siberia or Kazakhstan.

United Kingdom

At the end of the war a number of people were tried for high treason. These included members of the Waffen-SS British Free Corps and William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw), who, although a U.S. citizen, had travelled on a British passport.

As agreed at the Yalta Conference, the British handed back many Soviet citizens to the Soviet regime. Some of these were collaborators who had fought in the Russian Liberation Army. In later years there would be a controversy because some of those handed over were White Russians who had never been soviet citizens. Yugoslavs were handed over to Tito's forces, and many were subsequently killed.

In 1948 Victor Arajs, who was the leader of the eponymous commando unit which helped the Nazis murder the Jews of Latvia and Belarus, had been captured in the British zone of occupied Germany after the war but was allowed to go free. He remained at large until 1979 when West Germany put him on trial.

One of Arajs's deputies, Harijs Svikeris, settled in Britain after the war and in the 1990s was thought to be a strong candidate to be prosecuted under the War Crimes Act, but he died before a prosecution was brought.

On April 1 1999, Anthony Sawoniuk was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of murdering two Jews in the UK's first full Nazi war crimes trial. Sawoniuk had led "search-and-kill" police squads to hunt down Jews trying to escape after nearly 3,000 were massacred at Domachevo in Nazi-occupied Belarus during September, 1942.

Yugoslavia

The reprisals for collaboration with the Nazis were particularly harsh in Yugoslavia, because collaborators were also on the losing side of a de facto civil war fought on the Yugoslav territory during WWII. The Partisans executed many Ustashe and Chetniks, as well as their collaborators. One of the best documented incidents was the Bleiburg massacre.

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