Germany looks abroad for Hitler’s helpers

May 19, 2009

“The accomplices. Hitler’s European helpers in the Holocaust” is the cover story on this week’s Der Spiegel magazine, Germany’s most authoritative weekly.

Complete with a big picture of Hitler, the headline is deliberately provocative and could even hurt relations with Germany’s neighbours.

Spiegel’s take on the deportation of Ukrainian-born Nazi war crimes suspect John Demjanjuk, who faces charges he helped murder at least 29,000 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in 1943, is groundbreaking as it tackles a subject Germans have so far given little thought to.

The uncomfortable thesis is that while Germans were responsible for the Holocaust, Nazis had help from a huge number of non-Germans in neighbouring countries. And most of those countries have been far slower than Germany to take a proper look at their past.

“With this accused man (Demjanjuk), the foreign perpetrators come into focus, those men who until now have been given surprisingly little attention: Ukrainian gendarmes, Latvian auxiliary policeman, Romanian soldiers or Hungarian railway workers. Also Polish farmers, Dutch land register officials, French mayors, Norwegian ministers, Italian soldiers — they were all plainly involved in the crime — the Holocaust,” writes Der Spiegel.

It cites a historian who estimates more than 200,000 non-Germans took part in the Holocaust and the magazine also explores the reasons for the participation of others.

Nazis forced concentration camp and extermination camp guards, like Demjanjuk who had been in the Red Army and taken prisoner, to help with the dirty work. Those who didn’t help faced death.

Other chilling reasons cited by Der Speigel include a lingering anti-Semitism, a willingness to help Nazis based on the belief that they would be the war’s victors and, in a few cases, human perversion. 

The magazine is also careful to point out there were acts of bravery as some non-Germans defied orders and helped Jews.

But generally, the argument goes, most countries are lagging Germany in their efforts to face up to their own role in the Holocaust.


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“… Ukrainian gendarmes, Latvian auxiliary policeman, Romanian soldiers or Hungarian railway workers. Also Polish farmers, Dutch land register officials, French mayors, Norwegian ministers, Italian soldiers — they were all plainly involved in the crime — the Holocaust.”
It seems that the Jews had little sympathies (then little helps) from other peoples in Europe at the time of suppression. Are there any reasons for that phenomenon? Or just because the Jews were little known, so no one had no thoughts and just to give the Germans a hand in the prosecution to please them?

Posted by nguyen | Report as abusive

A court ruled within the last couple years that IBM can’t be held liable for war crimes even though the Nazis used their punch cards to track holocaust victims. IBM’s excuse was that they can’t control what is done with their technology, but the scarier thing is that the court’s excuse was that you can’t prosecute a corporation after 70 years regardless of what they’ve done. Too bad the same standards don’t apply for actual living human beings. They should all be held accountable imo.

Posted by The Critic | Report as abusive

The reason that the Jews received very little help from other countries is because anti-semitism had a strong hold over all of Europe at the time. People hated (or perhaps disliked is a better word) the Jews because they did not fit in with their cultures. This was a time that patriotism was very high. The Jews did not fit in with that – they didn’t assimilate very much into other societies. So, because of the anti-semitism that was present in Europe, most people couldn’t really be bothered by the Jews plight. Some felt that what was going on was wrong, some may not have believed it. Others felt that Hitler was doing them a favor.

The United States was no help either. You think FDR was a great president? He sent a shipload of Jews who were docked in Cuba waiting for approval to come to the US back to Europe, where almost all of them died in concentration camps. Great man, that FDR.

Posted by Sarah | Report as abusive

All person involved in the murder of Jews,and non Jews in the Holocaust time must be prosecuted.

Until now the Antisemitism because ignorance, hate, radicalism, and non respect of the life of other Human Being,still around, and must say not only in the neighbors of Germany, it is around the world. That is the reason it is a never end task to always support NEVER FORGET THE HOLOCAUST, because each impunity in massmurder derivates in lack of care in other Human Being suffering in the future.Past perpetrators and accomplices use time and hide with the obscure hope to been forgeten.
New generations must be aware of the atrocities of the past to avoid ending help to the atrocities of the future.But these do not mean to poison the minds and poison the spirits of the persons.


Courage to say No to ideologies that promote hate , is a big challenge and also life risk, but if any person can say no to any kind of violence against a vulnerable.
Acts of bravery as the articles point out, by Germans and Non Germans must be NOT FORGET TOO as symbols and examples what to do today when you confront acts of violence.

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive

Sarah wrote: “… The Jews did not fit in with that – they didn’t assimilate very much into other societies.”
I am curious that nowadays whether there is any nation in the world that the Jews can fit in, or none at all? If they do not fit in, do they have to create some more Israel states for their own good? Otherwise they would remain isolated in bigger nations, and that would be a chilling feeling. If they fit in, probably they have to abolish their own identity as a Jewish nation.

Posted by nguyen | Report as abusive

Its also about double standards, have you ever thought of all those nazi scientists that ended up finding refuge in for instance the Us. Instead of going on trail they got rewarded for their activities. A good example is Werner von Braun (the father of the Saturn 5 rocket)during the war he was the engineer of the V1 and V2 missiles, after the war he was shipped to the Us and became an American hero when the rocket he developed made it possible for the Americans to go to moon.

Posted by Nikkei 225 | Report as abusive

Literature on the Holocaust is abundant, and easy to access. As the last of the survivors of that time come close to passing on, they are adding their memories to that literature. Still, there are those that deny the holocaust, or their part in it. With very few exceptions the world turned its back on the Jews. After the war very few of the perpetrators of the holocaust faced any sort of punishment. And yet there are those that would deny the Jews of the world today the right to exist in their own country of Israel. The latent antisemitism in the world today is horrifying. To send an ex prison guard back to Germany to be tried for his part in the deaths of 29,000 Jews may seem insignificant, but it has to be done. Not to do so is to condone the crime. The bigger crime is that this person had such a rewarding life here in the U.S.A. after the war. The same is true for many other individuals in many other countries. To deny the crime is to commit it a second time.

Posted by Hooey | Report as abusive

Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Buddist, and with all my respect each religion a person has must be respected, it is not a matter of fit or not.
RADICALISM of any kind do not allow that freedom.
To be a citizen and to be in a religion must not be a fact for future violence and future death like was in the case of the Holocaust. Also was not only a religious matter was others.
Fit or not fit easy words and pointing any group, who we are to do that, to give opinion is good to dialogue,it is good because teach us to use words with respect when you talk about others.
Liked or not, all we are equals and diferent at the same time.ONLY WE LIVE IN DIFERENT SIDES OF THE WORLD.And all we have the right to coexist.

We are now in Global world and with more opportunity to avoid commit the past errors by remembering and prosecuting.

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive

Maria wrote: “Liked or not, all we are equals and diferent at the same time. ONLY WE LIVE IN DIFERENT SIDES OF THE WORLD. And all we have the right to coexist”

It is easier said than done. The opening of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson in Fourth of July 1776, states as follows:

“ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

(Link: _created_equal)

In the following American War of Independence (ended in 1783), the United States enlisted a total of about 200,000 soldiers and sailors. Battle casualties were 4435 dead and 6188 wounded. An estimated addition of 20,000 Americans died of non-combat causes.
(Link:  /American_War_of_Independence/)

On the British side, they employed nearly 100 thousand troops (inclusing the Hessians)which resulted in nearly 40 thousands deaths for any reasons.

(Link: htm)

So, Maria, every time we shout that slogan we should prepare to count corpses rather than to receive blessings from God.

Posted by nguyen | Report as abusive

What Der Spiegel magazine isn’t telling you is that Ukrainian-born Nazi war crimes suspect John Demjanjuk, has already been tried, convicted, sentenced to death and spent several years in an Israeli prison on appeal, before they found that the ‘Ivan’ they had in custody, was not the Sobibor “Ivan” they had thought him to be.

Trying him a second time is what we in the USA call Double Jeopardy. By law, no one can be tried for the same crime more than once.

Today’s Germany, IMO, is no better than the Nazi era Germany, who’re hunting down, trying and executing so-called ‘war criminals’ with Gestapo like zeal.

Posted by Roy Witt | Report as abusive

this article goes much further than just suggesting collaborators; it “estimates that more than 200,000 non-Germans were involved in war crimes, which almost equals the number of Germans and Austrians responsible for the Holocaust” . and the idea is that without those Dutch officials and Polish farmers and so forth Holocaust would not be possible. there is deep evil in Germany, they are trying to whitewash history and they lie. there is also a very active movement to dominate the world ( Europe first), and the descendants of the Nazis, many of whom were never persecuted are laughing all the way to the bank. you just keep believing them and buying their BMWs.

Posted by Jarred | Report as abusive

Jarred wrote: “… there is deep evil in Germany…”
There was deep evil in Germany in the past, indeed. But the German nation now has recognized her past mistakes. So she is still much better than those did the same, and until now are still considering that they are clean.

Posted by nguyen | Report as abusive