A Jewish relative who had grown up in Vienna fled from Germany to France to escape persecution. Then Germany invaded France, and this relative went into hiding. He and his wife hid successfully until shortly before Liberation.

I wonder how common that was. Did the chance increase, that a neighbor would denounce you, as the end of the war approached? Perhaps because shortages of food and fuel became more acute?


I don't think that there is any evidence that the risk of neighbours denouncing you increased as the end of the war approached. Actually, the opposite is probably true.

The evidence that I have seen in declassified Special Operations Executive (SOE) files at the UK National archives in Kew (especially HS 13), suggests that people increasingly wanted to be seen not to collaborate with the Nazis as the end of the war approached (at least provided the Germans didn't find out!). In fact, as it became obvious that Germany would lose, more people in France became actively involved with the Resistance - including some who had been suspected of being collaborators earlier in the war.

The risk of being identified as a collaborator probably deterred many who might otherwise have denounced their neighbours in return for a reward of food or money.

As for the wider questions of French persecution of Jews and collaboration with the Nazi occupiers, the overview presented in this article is worth reading.

  • What is "SOE"? Can you provide more information about what sorts of documents you're talking about, and what clues you saw there? I'm interested to understand this better. May 7 '17 at 19:31
  • @aparente001 I've updated the answer with details. May 7 '17 at 19:42
  • Thank you. Do I have to go there to read these documents? If so, can you say a little more about what clues you found there? May 7 '17 at 19:47
  • The French series was a card-index when I was researching. They may have been digitised by now. The cards had details of active Resistance members, suspected collaborators or traitors, and whether particular districts were considered to be pro- or anti-German (i.e. in effect how likely was it that SOE agents were likely to be betrayed!). A number of the cards led to other interesting records with things like post-war interview transcripts with Resistance leaders. May 7 '17 at 20:12
  • Sounds like I won't be reading those cards any time soon. So could you please say a little more about the specific clues you found there? May 7 '17 at 20:48

I don't think that any statistics of this sort is available, but the anecdotic evidence is plentiful. One of the greatest mathematicians of 20th century, Marcel Riesz, just spent his time locked in an apartment in Budapest, some friends bringing him food, and survived. Another famous mathematician, Laurent Schwatz, and his wife, spent all the time of the war in France, with fake documents, under some other name. (Most examples I know are about mathematicians, but this is simply because I am mostly interested in their biographies, there is nothing special about mathematicians of course). Many Ukrainians hid Jews in their homes (with enormous risk for themselves and their families). Of course this happened in other countries too, but I just know the situation in Ukraine better.

When I was a child (in Western Ukraine) I knew personally several Jews who survived the German occupation in Western Ukraine. (Unfortunately, they were reluctant to tell the details of their stories because of the political conditions in Soviet Union at that time. People who survived the occupation were severely discriminated. And I as a very young boy, did not apply all my abilities to extract as much as possible from their stories. Which I regret now).

There are many stories like this from countries of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and even from Germany itself. But it is hard, perhaps impossible, to say how many people really survived the German occupation by hiding.

  • 1
    A book, published some 30 years ago, recounted the survival of approximately 5000 Jewish Berliners in Berlin. These Jews survived the war years in Berlin with false 'German' ID papers, but in some cases by being hidden away by righteous gentiles. I recall the book's account of a Russian platoon dragging out Beliners in 1945 from what remained of homes and summarily shooting any male of military age whether in uniform or not. One such male was saved by the timely intercession of Russian-Jewish platoon commander who heard the mumbled recitation of the Shema as his 'victim' was about to be shot. May 6 '17 at 8:57
  • @Peter Point: I will appreciate very much if you could recall any detail which will simplify finding this book.
    – Alex
    May 6 '17 at 10:49
  • I recall reading this book in the late 1970's or quite possibly the early 1980's. It was bought in the UK and may well have been a British publishing house. Sorry, no recollection of the author's name, nor the book's title. I seem to recall that those Berlin Jews who survived their time in Berlin during war years referred to themselves as "submarines". Hope this helps. May 7 '17 at 18:46
  • I believe the book was "The Last Jews in Berlin." amazon.com/Last-Jews-Berlin-Leonard-Gross/dp/0786706872 The victim said, "I'm a Jew." The Russian officer said, "Say the Sh'ma." The man did so, and the officer said, "He's for real, spare him." (Many SS men had taken to wearing the Star of David, and none of them could say the Sh'ma.")
    – Tom Au
    May 29 '17 at 14:24

The closer to the end of World War II, the better the chances of survival. Basically, it was a matter of "running out the clock."

First, the closer to the end of the war, the fewer days (and chances) for someone to be "caught." In this regard, geography played a role. People in many parts of France and Poland were "safe" after August 1944 because of Allied liberation. Those in Germany needed to hold out until spring, 1945.

Second, many people survived for some days or months after being caught and sent to a camp (if not immediately exterminated on arrival). Anne Frank was caught in August, 1944 and died in February-March 1945. Move the timeline three months to November, and she might have survived.

Finally, as others have pointed out, the closer to the end of the war, the lesser chance of denunciation and arrest. When the Nazis started losing, people wanted to avoid being on the losing side (all other things being equal). And toward the end of the war, the military and police were more concerned about defending the "homeland" from invasion than rounding up Jews.

  • 1
    I think not only was there less a chance of denunciation but even the guilty sought people who would speak up for them, including Jews whom they might try to protect for this purpose.
    – Jeff
    May 6 '17 at 6:46

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