In the last decade or two, much of American television has had its roots in series that launched in Britain, and we’ve certainly imported our share of UK series for broadcast here. But rarely do we import something this potentially incendiary. Oct. 4, Military Channel will premiere the 13-part series Nazi Collaborators, exploring the unsettling and often unasked questions of how thousands of non-Germans could have chosen to collaborate with the Nazis. The answers are varied and often as controversial as the questions.
Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, which the makers of Nazi Collaborators obviously know full well. In examining case by case the motivations and consciences of those who did the Nazis’ bidding, the series metaphorically asks the viewer: What would you have done under the circumstances?
To get at this question, each episode traces the experiences of those known to have been prominent collaborators, like Pierre Laval, who assisted Hitler’s objectives in rounding up the Jews of Vichy, or Latvia’s Viktor Arajs, whose own self-formed Kommando actively participated in the slaughter of some 26,000 people. Puppet “Führers” from occupied territories, including Croatia, Holland and Belgium supported Hitler’s objectives, as did even the Irish Republican Army (IRA), with the questionable rationale that England’s enemy was by necessity its friend.
Some of the collaborators profiled in Nazi Collaborators argue that they had no choice. Some chose self-preservation over annihilation. And some had darker, more sinister motives. But with the defeat of Hitler’s armies, all found themselves written into history as having aided and abetted the greatest evil humanity had ever known.
Using rare footage, contemporary interviews with eyewitnesses as well as historians and reconstructions of key events, this series pulls back the warm, fuzzy blanket of the memory of victory to uncover the often-too-terrible truths it conceals.