Choosing Between Bad and Worse in Nazi-Occupied Western Europe
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Some had their heads shaved, and some became NASA engineers: a thoroughgoing look at the various ways Europeans accommodated their conquerors.

There are many ways to cooperate or collaborate with an enemy power, and people do so for many reasons. As Morgan (Senior Fellow/Univ. of Hull; The Fall of Mussolini: Italy, the Italians, and the Second World War, 2007, etc.) notes, drawing a distinction between collaboration and collaborationism, Hitler’s conquest of Europe occasioned many variations on those themes. Some people acted willingly according to the dictates of the occupying Nazis because they were true believers; some of them did so because it gave them advantages and favors and earned them money. Some did so, less willingly, out of desperation and hunger, and some collaborated in order to be left alone. As Morgan shows, the more ethnically alike the conquered people were with the Germans, the more independent they were allowed to be—at least for a time. The author charts an irony: In order to keep the peace, a German bureaucrat stationed in Denmark warned that the Jews were going to be deported to concentration camps, having been protected by the government until Hitler, miffed at a presumed slight on the part of the Danish king, decided to end an exercise in self-rule. The Jews left for neutral Sweden, allowing the Danes to declare, in keeping with the Nazi desideratum, that their country was “Jew-free.” Crisis averted. On that instance, writes the author, “you could not make this Danish story up: a German SS officer ‘saves’ the Jews in order to salvage collaboration.” The story did not always end so well. In an illustration of the banality of evil, Morgan chronicles the story of a Dutch record-keeper whose methods of determining who was Jewish or not were superior to the Nazis’ own techniques, making him a key ally—one who was punished only lightly after the war, proving that collaboration sometimes does pay.

A dense but valuable contribution to the endless literature surrounding the Third Reich.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-19-923973-3
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2018


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