Western Europe 1939-1945: The end of the war

How might Churchill have replied to this telegram?


Source a

Collaborators being rounded up in Maastricht, September 1945

Catalogue ref: WO 202/850

Collaborators being rounded up in Maastricht; WO 202/850

Source b

Dutch Nazis and S.S. being rounded up by the Dutch underground in Amsterdam, May 1945

Catalogue ref: WO 202/850

Dutch Nazis and S.S. being rounded up in Amsterdam; WO 202/850
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What is this source?

These photographs show collaborators being rounded up in the Netherlands at the end of the war. The photographs come from a collection taken by the 1st Canadian Photographic Unit that show different aspects of life during the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945.

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Collaborators were people from occupied countries who had co-operated with the German forces.


What’s the background to this source?

For most of the war Nazi Germany controlled vast areas of Eastern and Western Europe, including part of Britain, the Channels Islands. Life under German rule was hard. In Western Europe treatment was generally better than Eastern Europe, but even in Western Europe food was scarce and men could be transported back to Germany to be used as labour. In these circumstances it was inevitable that some people would co-operate with the occupying German forces.

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Collaboration covered a huge range of activities. At one end of the scale there were governments and regimes that actively worked with the Nazis. For example, General Petain collaborated with the Germans in setting up the pro Nazi Vichy France regime in the southern half of France. At the other extreme, collaboration could take the form of a local girl going out with a German soldier.


It’s worth knowing that...

At the end of the war there was great bitterness and anger towards collaborators. Some collaborators were guilty of war crimes. Many more had acted because of intimidation, fear or bribery. Either way, collaboration left a bitter memory and those memories still divide many European countries today. At the same time, the divisions left by the war were one of the main factors that led to the formation of the Common Market and the European Union. It is an incredible achievement that in less than 40 years after the war, Germany and France have become close allies, and remain so today.

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Many countries in Western Europe are still coming to terms with what happened under Nazi occupation. In Norway, for example, there is a conscious effort in museums relating to WW2 to portray both the story of resistance to Nazi rule and the story of collaboration with Nazi rule.


How will you use this source?

  1. What is happening in these images?
  2. How do you think the collaborators will be treated?
  3. Would you be concerned that there may be mistakes or injustices carried out in scenes like this?
  4. What is the challenge for the future of Europe as shown by these images?
  5. What have you learned from this source that would go into Churchill’s reply to the telegram?

You could use this framework for Churchill’s reply.