Some 65,000 Dutch collaborators had already fled to Germany.
… The mass arrests of suspects by Dutch resistance forces started even before allied forces arrived, and between 120,000 and 150,000 men and women were rounded up. In part, this was to protect them from ‘blitz-justice’ or mass lynchings, a reaction so feared by the Dutch government-in-exile that they alerted their secret representatives in the country to deal with it. So did the Roman Catholic Church. In September 1944, … it asked priests to open their church buildings as places of refuge for suspected collaborators.
In the event, lynching on a massive scale was largely avoided. … In the town of Winschoten, for example, a crowd dragged the Nazi-appointed Mayor from his office, threw him into the canal, and hurled his portrait of Adolf Hitler and the Dutch Nazi Party (NSB) leader Anton Mussert into the water after him. In the nearby town of Farnum, a mob simply murdered the Mayor, a man also appointed by the Nazis. Lower-level collaborators were humiliated by giving them dirty and menial tasks …
Across the Netherlands, special ‘cleansing committees’ were hard at work. … In the end, some fifty thousand collaborators were given prison sentences, and over a hundred and fifty were condemned to death. Of these, though, only forty were actually executed. …
In and around Groningen, the arrested were held in schools, hotels, cafés, gymnasia and large barns. … At the height of the arrest wave, the city had 18,000 internees—8,500 men, 6,500 women and 3,000 children, a proportion of the population considerably higher than the Dutch national average. Some camps were reasonably comfortable, but overall there was little and bad food, poor hygiene and plenty of dysentery and diarrhoea. …
But after the peak in June, the numbers rapidly declined … It was widely accepted that Dutch society had to be reformed, but in an orderly way, and this meant being more stricy about who was purged and cooling the radical mood that had developed in the resistance.1265
In early September 1944, about 10,000 people—approximately 3,500 collaborators and their families—left Luxembourg with the German civil administration. In 1945, 5,101 Luxembourgers were imprisoned for pro-Nazi activities, which constituted 1.79% of the population. Twelve collaborators were sentenced to death and were shot; 249 were sentenced to forced labour; 1,366 were sentenced to prison; and 645 were sent to workhouses. Thus, about 0.8% of the population was legally punished. This included one former minister, the 1925–1926 prime minister, Pierre Prüm, who was sentenced in 1946 to four years’ imprisonment. At least one mayor was also deposed for political activities by grand-ducal decree. There were still acts of violence directed against the families of collaborators as late as 1947.1266
On postwar retaliations historian Norman Davies writes: “Across Europe, people wanted to settle accounts with wartime collaborators. … Proceedings were most thorough in the Netherlands, where some 200,000 suspected collaborators were detained, and in Belgium, where, of 634,000 detained, 77,000 were sentenced.”1267 According to another source, as many as 450,000 Dutch citizens were arrested. In Belgium, “Dossiers were opened on 405,067 individuals accused of collaboration, and 57,254 were prosecuted. Of these, 2,940 were sentenced to death (of whom 242 were executed); 2,340 were sentenced to life imprisonment.”1268 However, the Antwerp policemen who took part in the deportation of the Jews were never brought to trial, nor were many other Belgians who denounced Jews. According to historian László Karsai, the ‘sentences’ of partisan courts of law and spontaneous and/or organized eruptions of popular wrath took 8,000 to 9,000 victims in France and at least 8,000 to 10,000 victims in Italy during 1944 and 1945. In France, 350,000 people were investigated, 45,000 were convicted, and 1,500 were executed. In Holland, 120,000 to 150,000 people were arrested, 50,000 were tried, and 40,000 were convicted, of whom 152 were sentenced to death. Forty of these were executed (five were Germans). Tens of thousands were fired from their jobs.1269 According to other figures, the various courts set up to hear charges of collaboration examined the cases of 555,100 Frenchmen, and judgments were brought against 127,063 defendants. Of this number, only three were executed, whereas the kangaroo courts had killed up to 9,000 Frenchmen.1270
It is estimated that Polish courts sentenced about 20,000 individuals for war crimes between 1944 and 1948, while the number of cases under investigation may have reached 80,000. The bulk of the trials took place between 1944 and 1950, when special penal courts and then the district courts convicted and sentenced 16,428 defendants. German nationals constituted about one-third of this number, while the rest were either Polish citizens or residents tried for collaboration with the Germans. Close to 1,800 of these defendants were charged with crimes committed in concentration, labour, and death camps as well as in Jewish ghettos. The majority of the convicted were German—887 individuals—followed by 489 Volksdeutsche (of whom 198 came from Poland), 282 Poles, 59 Ukrainians, and 30 representatives of other ethnic groups. As Gabriel Finder points out,
Unlike the tendency by 1948 in many countries in Western and Eastern Europe to bring the trials of Nazi perpetrators and collaborators to an end and to offer them amnesty in an effort to gain their implicit support for postwar regimes, the prosecution of Nazi perpetrators and collaborators in Poland did not abate until much later. … “among the former Soviet satellites, Poland was the most consistent in investigating and prosecuting war crimes: between 1944 and 1985, Polish courts tried more than 20,000 defendants, including 5,450 German nationals.”1271
However, it was very rare for Jewish collaborators to be punished for their wartime misdeeds. After Yitzhak Zuckerman rescued a former Jewish policeman from an angry mob of fellow Jews in late January or early February 1945 and had him arrested by the Polish Security Office, he was somehow freed. Zuckerman then dispatched his own men to find him, and after locating him they alerted the Soviet army to arrest him, but he was set free once again.1272 Some 44 Jews stood trial in Polish state courts on charges of collaboration in this immediate postwar period. They were charged with assisting the Germans in the murder and mistreatment of their fellow Jews in ghettos and camps. Thirty of the Jewish defendants were convicted, with ten sentenced to death (two death sentences were commuted); ten were acquitted.1273 With the approval of the Polish government, a Jewish tribunal or honour court was established. Between November 1946 and December 1949, the Legal Bureau of the Central Committee of Jews in Poland opened files on 31 suspected Jewish collaborators from Warsaw. Most were former ghetto policemen, but there were also three putative Gestapo informers and two agents of “The Thirteeen.” Only three of these investigations led to a trial before the Honour Court. The outcomes were as follows: one acquittal; one conviction with a subsequent commuted sentence; and one conviction that was overturned on appeal.1274 The Jewish Honour Court submitted to Polish courts its findings regarding three Jews from Międzyrzec Podlaski, including two former Jewish policemen, Lubicz and Szymon Tob (Topf). Although arrested, the latter two managed to escape from prison in 1946 and joined the third culprit abroad. Tob was convicted in absentia, in January 1949, and sentenced to death for revealing to the Gestapo the hiding places of Jews during the deportations.1275 Some thirty Jews, mostly from Eastern Europe, were tried by Israeli courts from the 1950s until 1972 under Israel’s 1950 Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Law.1276
Germany’s record was nothing short of abysmal. The least likely of all Europeans to be charged and sentenced for their wartime activities were the Germans themselves. Most of those found guilty served little or no prison time. American historian Donald McKale writes:
The Federal Republic of Germany, founded in May 1949, prosecuted a tiny minority of the estimated several hundred thousand former Holocaust perpetrators. …
Altogether, from the war’s end in 1945 to 1992, the West Germans investigated 103,823 persons suspected of participating in or committing Nazi crimes. Of this number, courts convicted only 6,487 (of which 5,513, or 85 percent, were condemned for “nonlethal” crimes). Thirteen were sentenced to death (before the Federal Republic abolished the death sentence), 163 to life imprisonment, 6,197 to temporary imprisonment, and 114 to only fines. If one excludes defendants prosecuted for robbery or assault charges, the disturbingly low number shrinks further. Between May 1945 and January 1992, West German courts tried only 1,793 cases related to Nazi capital crimes during the world war. Of those, 974 led to convictions, while 819 ended with either the court acquitting the defendants or terminating the proceedings for other reasons.
In May 1955 an agreement among the United States, Great Britain, France, and West Germany included the provision that German courts could not investigate or prosecute anyone whom the Allied occupation powers had investigated earlier. The overwhelming majority of [the 7,000 to 7,200] SS personnel who had served at the Auschwitz camps … avoided postwar arrest and punishment. Of the four thousand former Einsatzgruppen members who, between the fall of 1939 and 1944, slaughtered well over one million Jews in Poland and the Soviet Union, nearly all escaped retribution. By 1948, the Western Allies had captured, and a U.S. tribunal had placed on trial for war crimes, barely two dozen of them. Later, Western German courts tried only a tiny number of other former Einsatzgruppen members.
In the Federal Republic, nearly all of the convicted—in contrast to their crimes of mass murder—received light prison terms. How did such miscarriages of justice in West Germany happen? As punishment for the crime of murder, West German law mandated a maximum sentence of life in prison. But the new Bonn [democratic] government, under its first chancellor Konrad Adenauer, chose not to prosecute Nazi criminals using the charges or legal procedures of the IMT [International Military Tribunal]. Instead, the government wanted to utilize the long-standing German penal code (with its Nazi revisions repealed). …
For all these and other reasons West German courts … seldom applied the maximum punishment. Instead, the courts judged many defendants as accomplices or accessories who, in fact, had ordered, arranged, or supervised mass killings but who hadn’t been shown to have committed themselves an act of murder. More often than not, such persons received much lighter prison sentences than some of their former subordinates, whom the courts convicted of shooting or otherwise killing Jews themselves.1277
American historian István Deák explodes the myth of Germany having come to terms with its sordid past as having no foundation in its postwar treatment of Nazi war criminals:
But why were so few tried at Nuremberg? The answer is that the victorious powers agreed to punish only those who best represented the crimes of entire groups and institutions, such as the Reich Chancellery or the leadership of the Nazi Party, the SS, the SA, the armed forces general staff, the war industry, lawyers, judges, and the medical profession. The prosecution of other war criminals was left to the Germans, but this never really happened in the American-, British-, and French-occupied parts of Germany. Yet it was in those occupation zones that most German war criminals settled after the war. The reason for this was the Cold War, during which the West Germans turned into valuable allies of the Western great powers and the East Germans turned into allies of the Soviet Union.
We must also face the fact that while in many European countries the new regimes, made up of former resisters, wished to purge and to change society, the German people had no such wish.
In theory, the Nuremberg trials should have been followed by the Germans trying their own war criminals, but the West German courts, mostly presided over by former Nazis, were reluctant to act. When they rarely did, they claimed lack of evidence or, in extreme cases, meted out symbolic punishment. In any case, the West German authorities made sure that the prisoners would soon be released, mostly on grounds of ill health. Because all the Western Allies agreed to appease and to support the Federal Republic of Germany, by the end of 1956 there were just a handful of Nazi war criminals in German, British, French, or American prisons. … we can state with confidence that in contrast to non-Germans, many German war criminals got away with murder.1278
Austria’s postwar settling of scores proved to be a complete farce as the initial steps taken against Nazi collaborators were soon reversed.
In Austria people’s courts initiated proceedings against 137,000 persons, a figure that does not include the many of hundreds of thousands of civil servants, including teachers, postmen, railway workers, and others who were dismissed from their jobs because they had been members of the Nazi Party. Needless to say, these judgments and decisions were quashed within a few years, and so, ultimately, the proportion of Nazi killers punished in Austria was even lower than in Germany.1279
Despite the constraints imposed by the Allied occupation, anti-Semitism and anti-Slav sentiments continued to run high among the German population after the war:
It wasn’t just Nazis in Germany who espoused nationalist or racist ideas and attitudes. Poles, Russians and Slavs in general were still widely despised … And, disturbingly, anti-Semitic views remained entrenched. While some Germans were genuinely horrified by Auschwitz, others continued to regard Jews as a race apart—and definitely unequal. Despite all the revelations about the Nazi death camps, such prejudices could still be found even among the ‘compassionate’ professions …
Alongside the resolute denial of responsibility for the catastrophe, anti-Semitism continued its insidious life. In the initial shock over revelations about the death camps, anti-Jewish feeling became muted. …
Anti-Semitic views even rose in Bavaria. … Here, just twelve months after Hitler’s death, another survey revealed that almost 60 per cent of Bavarians exhibited racist, anti-Semitic or ‘intense anti-Semitic’ views. …
But Bavaria was by no means unique. Elsewhere, those who had openly denounced the Jews under Hitler simply donned new clothes and reinvented themselves.1280
Unlike virtually every other occupied country, Poland did not have a Quisling regime or organized native collaborators, although a number of persons had been approached to fulfill such a role, nor did it produce national SS formations. During the course of the German occupation, Poland’s underground authorities passed approximately 5,000 death sentences against collaborators, about half of which were carried out.1281 After the war, the Communist authorities prosecuted thousands of alleged collaborators, but it also used a newly enacted law ostensibly targeting “Fascist-Hitlerite criminals” to strike at the anti-Communist underground, who were often branded as wartime “collaborators.”1282
But it was rare for Jewish collaborators to face punishment for their wartime conduct. Polish courts prosecuted some 40 Jewish collaborators between 1944 and 1945, most of them former kapos, and convicted three quarters of them.1283 Among those prosecuted, and sentenced to death, were the following: Dr. Leon Gross and Meir (Majer) Kerner, the former was the chief medical officer and the latter, the deputy chief of the Jewish police and head kapo at the Płaszów concentration camp; Maks Zimmerman, a policeman who betrayed the hiding places of Jews in the Kraków ghetto; Max Heimberg; and a man named Goldtsein. Dr. Szymon Rosen of Bochnia, Mendel Grünszpan of Rzeszów, Henoch (Henryk, Chaim) Klajman of Płońsk, Henryk Gnat, Pinkhas Grynszpan, Samuel Wintraub, Alfred Kannengisser, Symcha Binem Smolarz, a foreman at the labour camp in Budzyń, Marian Borenstein, Chana (Hanna) Lender, Issie Zilbiger (a kapo at Bunzlau), and Willy Filkelberger, a Gestapo confidant who was known to accost Poles as well as Jews, were also arraigned before Polish courts and sentenced to prison terms. Dr. Mojżesz Zabramny was prosecuted in 1946 for mistreating prisoners in the Gross-Rosen concentration camp. Moszek Freifeld and Dawid Liebling, members of the Jewish police who abused prisoners in Płaszów, were both acquitted.1284 Wilhelm Lerner, a Jewish policeman from the Tarnów ghetto and later a kapo in Płaszów, faced prosecution in 1946 for cooperating with the Gestapo by searching out Jews in hiding (allegedly, he delivered his own mother to the Germans) and cruelty toward fellow Jewish prisoners.1285 (There is more about Jewish policemen from Tarnów later.) Others who faced prosecution included Azryl Blumensztok, an overseer at the labour camp in Ostriwiec Świętokrzyski, and Maks Heimberg aka Szymon Falk, a Jewish policeman from Borysław. An inmate of the Gross Masselwitz camp who originally hailed from Oświęcim provides another example:
I had a landsman in camp who came from a family of rich Khsidim, named Zajdband. He knew my parents, too. He was a Kapo in camp. When I met him, I asked him to help me. He looked me up and down with a sadistic smirk on his face, then told me to remove my hat. He suddenly struck me over the head with his rubber club and beat me again and again till I was delirious from the pain. The Khayim Zajdband was one who reached the height of sadism in the camps. He was condemned in Poland in 1947 to twenty years hard labor.1286
However, most collaborators escaped punishment, as was the case with Zygmunt Witkowski and Lismann, who stole from and terrorized prisoners in the camp at Küstrin (Kostrzyn) on the Oder River, and were responsible for the deaths of many Jews. Witnesses were simply not summoned for Witkowski’s trial and the culprit was acquitted. 1287
Apart from a small number of cases submitted to Jewish honour courts and social ostracism within the community,1288 most Jews largely overlooked the deeds of those Jews who had collaborated with the Nazis to the detriment of their own people. Fania Krawczyk recalled how a Jewish policeman caught her sneaking back into the ghetto in Prużana with some food for her family and seized everything. She said to him, “I will forget the Germans, but I will never forget you, and if I survive, we will settle this.” Later, when this policeman settled in the United States and heard Fania was alive, he got scared, changed his name and moved. Fania writes, “I would never have hurt him. You can’t revenge everything, but it hurt.”1289
Although the Central Jewish Historical Committee looked into allegations of collaboration by Jews and compiled a list of a several thousand suspected collaborators, lawyers from the Central Committee of Jews in Poland (Centralny Komitet Żydów w Polsce) opened only 175 files against suspected collaborators. Of the 25 alleged collaborators who ultimately stood trial before the Jewish civic court, eighteen were convicted and seven acquitted.1290 Among those who were excluded from the Jewish community for three years were Jakub Haubenstock and Aleksander Eintracht, policemen from the Kraków ghetto and the Płaszów concentration camp, whereas Mieczysław Grade was simply reprimanded.1291 Michał Weichert, the head of the Jewish Relief Organization, who was acquitted by the criminal courts, was deemed a collaborator by a Jewish civic court.1292 The brothers Bernard and Ferdynand Sperling, former policemen, were also acquitted. The fate of Hirsch Rosenblum, a policeman who was investigated for abusing Jews in a work camp near Milec, is unclear.1293 Some prosecutions, like the curious case of singer Wiera Gran (Grynberg), whose charges were dropped and who was exonerated by a Jewish civic court, may simply have been inspired by vengeful adversaries.1294
Jerzy Lewiński, a notorious policeman who rounded up Jews in the Warsaw ghetto and brought them to Umschlagplatz from whence they were sent to their deaths in Treblinka, joined the Communist party and became a prosecutor in Łódź who passed sentence on “collaborators” and enemies of the Stalinist regime. Despite pressure and threats by co-religionists not to testify against him, Edward Reicher and the renowned pianist Władysław Szpilman refused to succumb. Although he lost his position, Lewiński never faced criminal charges and soon became the director of the state movie production enterprise, “Film Polski.”1295 Fiszke Ikka, the chairman of the Judenrat in Brzeziny ghetto, was accused in a postwar trial of having been a German Gestapo agent who pointed out well-to-do Jews to the police, who would then arrest and extort money from them.1296
In early 1947 the Ha’aretz newspaper published the following report. While visiting Paris a Jew from Buczacz spotted a childhood friend, who during the occupation had been the head of the Jewish police in Buczacz. This former policeman had executed this young man’s parents during an Aktion and came to take him and his brother away later on. (He escaped, his brother perished in a death camp.) The young man beat the policeman viciously in his hotel room on two occasions with heavy objects and smashed some bottles against his head. He reported the policeman to the French police but they refused to take any action. He then went to the Polish consul in Paris. After the Polish consul intervened, the French police agreed to arrest the murderer. Supposedly he was to be sent to Poland to stand trial, but there is no evidence this ever occurred.1297 Eliezer Grinbaum, a Communist, was known as brutal kapo at Auschwitz. He was arrested by the French police in Paris after being spotted by some survivors, but was released and left for Palestine.1298 After immigrating to Israel, he was known as Eliezer Gruenbaum. He became Israel’s first minister of the interior and died mysteriously during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.1299
In 1948, a Jewish Court of Honour in Munich condemned as a traitor to the Jewish people a former Jewish policeman from the olkusz ghetto who rounded up Jews for labour, requisitioned Jewish furniture for the Germans, and exposed the bunkers where Jews were in hiding during the “resettlement.”1300 A Jew from Tarnów recalls:
While in Linz I found out that a Jewish man who had been a ranking O.D. [policeman] in our ghetto and later on a ‘Sonderkommando’ (he loaded corpses into the crematoria) lived there. Just the sound of his name Zimmet conjured up ugly memories. He was a brute of the first order; in the Ghetto, he beat a friend of mine, Srulek Fenning, to death. He committed other heinous crimes in the service of the Gestapo. I was told that the D.P. camp inmates tried to bring him to justice in Austria, but the local authorities wanted nothing to do with it. He was subsequently beaten up severely, but he stayed on in the camp, being afraid to venture elsewhere for fear of a worse fate. Some time later on, he made his way to Montreal, Canada where he was adjudicated by a ‘Bet Din’ (a Jewish court) and released. The verdict was ‘insufficient evidence’ and ‘it’s a shame before the gentiles’ to bring it out in the open.1301