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Section: Resistance, Responses and Collaboration

Collaboration outside of Germany

Ustaša personnel at the Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia sit next to a pile of confiscated property looted from those imprisoned in the camp.

Ustaša personnel at the Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia sit next to a pile of confiscated property looted from those imprisoned in the camp.

Courtesy of The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Collaboration with the Nazis outside of Germany was extensive and widespread.

The Nazis relied on cooperation from countries, groups, and individuals outside of Germany to carry out the persecution and mass murder of Jews, as well as other victims such as Roma, Poles, Slavs and others.

Collaboration took many forms. In some countries the government actively cooperated with the Nazis. In others, individuals or groups acted on their own initiative to offer their help to the Nazis. Smaller forms of collaboration also took place on an individual basis, such as informing on Jewish neighbours (sometimes out of antisemitism, sometimes out of a desire to take over their property, jobs or valuables once they had been arrested or deported).

This section will use case studies of different countries to explore collaboration outside of Germany.

Croatia

Between 1941 and 1945, the Ustaše regime of Croatia carried out government-led collaboration with the Nazis, as well as extensive persecution independent of them. This resulted in the murder of thousands of Jews, Serbs and Roma.

Ustaše is short for the Ustaša-Croatian Revolutionary Movement, a fascist, far right, nationalist organisation founded in 1929. On 6 April 1941, the Axis Alliance invaded, and subsequently divided, Yugoslavia. As a result of this, on 10 April 1941, the Independent State of Croatia was declared, governed by the Ustaša organisation (led by Ante Pavelić) under Nazi supervision.

The Ustaše regime was motivated to persecute minorities due to its racist beliefs about Jews, Serbs and Roma. It also wanted to strengthen political relations with Germany and repay them for helping the Ustaša rise to power. While the regime was technically under the supervision of Nazi Germany, the Ustaša government independently planned and carried out the murder of thousands of Jews, Serbs and Roma in Croatia.

Violent persecution of these groups began shortly after the establishment of the new Croatian state. On 30 April 1941, three key pieces of antisemitic legislation (based on the Nuremberg Laws) were passed by the Ustaše regime. These new laws removed Jews’ citizenship and legalised acts of terror, exclusion, and persecution against them.

This persecution was soon escalated to imprisonment and murder. Using the German camp system as a model, the Ustaše regime quickly founded several concentration camps in which to hold, torture and exterminate their enemies. Examples of these early camps include Koprivnica and Jadovno. The Ustaše regime used a range of methods to commit mass murder within these camps, including poisoning, gassing, shooting, beating and cremation.

In August 1941, the Ustaše authorities established the Jasenovac camp complex which consisted of five camps. Conditions inside these camps were extremely poor, and many prisoners died from starvation and disease. The Ustaše camp guards were notoriously ruthless and cruel and many of the camp inhabitants were tortured and murdered. Some 7000 Jews were also transported from Jasenovac to some of the Nazi camps, such as Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

Although the persecution of Jews and others was a very public affair, with posters on hostages and deportations to camps, the vast majority of the citizens of Croatia did not actively come to the defence of the Jews, Serbs, or Roma.

Approximately 30,000 Jews, between 25,000 and 30,000 Roma, and over 350,000 Serbs were murdered in Croatia between 1941 and 1945.

Lithuania

Lithuania became an independent country in 1919. In July 1940, Lithuania was invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union. By the time that Lithuania was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940, the Jewish population amounted to 250,000 people (10% of the total population).

On 22 June 1941, the German Army invaded Lithuania. Within a few days German forces had overrun the Soviets and occupied the country. On 17 July 1941, the Nazi government set up the administrative unit Ostland, which took over the leadership and running of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and parts of Belorussia.

The German occupation of Lithuania was met with enthusiasm by most of its citizens and nationalists. These people saw the German invasion as a way to liberate themselves from Soviet rule. Many Lithuanians saw Jews as sympathisers to the unpopular Soviet rule, and felt a deep hostility towards them. When mixed with antisemitism and the opportunities for theft that removing Jews presented, this hostility resulted in local Lithuanians initiating and carrying out pogroms against the Jews – before and during the German occupation of the country.

One example of this was the Lietūkis Garage Massacre which took place on 27 June 1941. In Kovno (a city known today as Kaunas), Lithuanian auxiliaries initiated a pogrom at the Lietūkis garage in the city centre. Jews were gathered in the courtyard, where they were then cruelly tortured and humiliated before being murdered with crowbars and shovels in front of crowds of Lithuanian citizens. While German officers were present and involved in the massacre, it was initiated, and watched by, Lithuanian citizens. Between 40-60 people were killed at this pogrom alone.

In addition to pogroms such as this, Lithuanian auxiliaries closely collaborated with the German Einsatzgruppen to murder Lithuanian Jews in mass shootings in July and August 1941. For example, between 30 June 1941 and 10 August 1941, over 5000 Jews were shot at the Seventh Fort by Lithuanian paramilitary units and Einsatzkommando 3.

Those that survived the mass Einsatzgruppen actions were imprisoned in ghettos. By the end of November 1941, just 40,000 Jews remained in ghettos across Lithuania, where conditions were brutal and inhumane. Over the course of 1943-1944, the ghettos were emptied and their inhabitants deported to concentration camps in Germany, or labour camps in eastern Europe.

In total, the Nazis and collaborating Lithuanian forces murdered approximately 90% of Lithuanian Jews in the Holocaust.

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