Sleeping with the enemy: Collaborator girls of the German-occupied Europe, 1940-1944

A French girl wearing a German uniform.
A French girl wearing a German uniform.

It’s 1942 and the Germans occupy and dominate the vast majority of Europe. They were there, on the scene, and the local men either were not (dead, in prison camps, in hiding) or were greatly diminished in status. Like soldiers of every army of every period of history, as soon as the Germans got comfortable, they started scouting around for women. And, as always in times of military occupation, there were willing women to be found.

And, sure enough, the German soldiers found them. It’s not quite clear what the big deal was about exchanging clothes with your French girlfriend, but as shown on many pictures here, that seemed to be the thing to do. And it seemed quite common, as if this was ‘the proof’ of, well, you know.

Everyone in the Wehrmacht knew that Paris was the place to be. The official German propaganda outlets even advertised its allures. Essentially, and this is no exaggeration, Paris became almost synonymous with “giant cathouse” in the Wehrmacht. To some extent, that reputation remains to this day in certain quarters.

Some of the women simply fell in love and married their German beau. Who could foresee that the world would change so drastically so quickly? Once in that situation, staying home became untenable – time to follow husband wherever he is headed, even if it is prison camp. And sometimes you need to put aside your cynicism – love is love, for better or worse.

Conquering soldiers have a lot to offer a girl, especially a soldier who has rank and can most likely offer all sorts of inducements. Clearly, these ladies had no difficulty taking advantage of all those lonely men and offering them some solace, and the soldiers had an easy time taking advantage of naive girls who had no idea of the enormity of what they were doing.

Some 200,000+ babies were born to German fathers during the French occupation. There was nothing special about French women: in one of the Channel Islands, 900 such babies were registered. In Norway, 8-12,000 babies (including Anni-Frid Lyngstad of Abba fame) resulted. Such marriages also were encouraged in Denmark and Holland.

There are thousands upon thousands of joyful pictures of the liberation of France in 1944. But among the cheering images there are also shocking ones. These show the fate of women accused of “collaboration horizontale”. It is impossible to forget Robert Capa’s fallen-Madonna image of a shaven-headed young woman, cradling her baby, implicitly the result of a relationship with a German soldier.

Another collaborator, somewhere in France. Found on a German prisoner of war.
Another collaborator, somewhere in France. Found on a German prisoner of war.
German soldiers exchanging their clothes with their girlfriends. Those uniforms really fit those women pretty well!
German soldiers exchanging their clothes with their girlfriends. Those uniforms really fit those women pretty well!
Nobody seems to know where this photo came from. It shows a young lady in an officer's (Untersturmführer) uniform. German soldiers for some reason found it kinky to dress their conquests in their uniforms. Note that the picture is cut off from showing the pants that she probably is not wearing. This may (or may not) be simply innocent girlish fun.
Nobody seems to know where this photo came from. It shows a young lady in an officer’s (Untersturmführer) uniform. German soldiers for some reason found it kinky to dress their conquests in their uniforms. Note that the picture is cut off from showing the pants that she probably is not wearing. This may (or may not) be simply innocent girlish fun.
The same girl from a slightly different angle.
The same girl from a slightly different angle.
A coffee place for German soldiers. Great place to meet girls.
A coffee place for German soldiers. Great place to meet girls in Paris.
A pleasant night out at the Folies Bergère or Moulin Rouge, perhaps? Possibly these fine females worked there.
A pleasant night out at the Folies Bergère or Moulin Rouge, perhaps? Possibly these fine females worked there.
German soldiers and a French girl engage in a conversations
German soldiers and a French girl engage in a conversations
Soldatenkino in Paris.
Soldatenkino in Paris.
German officers talking to a blonde lady.
German officers talking to a blonde lady.
French girls. One of them is wearing a German hat.
French girls. One of them is wearing a German hat.
Rare color selfie of a Wehrmacht soldier and his girl. His cane suggests that he was recuperating from a war wound, rear area hospitals were one of the few times a soldier could relax and have a little fun.
Rare color selfie of a Wehrmacht soldier and his girl. His cane suggests that he was recuperating from a war wound, rear area hospitals were one of the few times a soldier could relax and have a little fun.
Off-duty Wehrmacht soldier spending a day at the pool with his girlfriend.
Off-duty Wehrmacht soldier spending a day at the pool with his girlfriend.
The fellow looks as if he has been injured, but he is enjoying himself now!
The fellow looks as if he has been injured, but he is enjoying himself now!
Paris during the war, photo by Andre Zucca for German Wehrmacht magazine Signal.
Paris during the war, photo by Andre Zucca for German Wehrmacht magazine Signal.
French girl engaged to German soldier follows him into prison compound after his capture near Orleans by U.S. forces. This would have been around August 1944. She undoubtedly was safer in there with him than on the streets, subject to abuse by the partisans.
French girl engaged to German soldier follows him into prison compound after his capture near Orleans by U.S. forces. This would have been around August 1944. She undoubtedly was safer in there with him than on the streets, subject to abuse by the partisans.
Dutch woman follows her German husband into captivity.
Dutch woman follows her German husband into captivity. Read more about this picture.
This Frenchwoman does not look like she is suffering, nor the ones in the background.
This Frenchwoman does not look like she is suffering, nor the ones in the background.
A friendly visit with a Wehrmacht Gebirgsjager (mountain) Troops private in a snowdrift. She appears to have nylons on, he apparently was quite thoughtful to get them for her - nylons were absolutely cutting edge style in the '40s.
A friendly visit with a Wehrmacht Gebirgsjager (mountain) Troops private in a snowdrift. She appears to have nylons on, he apparently was quite thoughtful to get them for her – nylons were absolutely cutting edge style in the ’40s.
Hopefully she doesn't come down on the flowers.
Hopefully she doesn’t come down on the flowers.
A Dutch girl greets the Wehrmacht boys as they enter Amsterdam, 15 May 1940.
A Dutch girl greets the Wehrmacht boys as they enter Amsterdam, 15 May 1940.
Unity Mitford (L) and her sister Lady Diana Mosley, nee Mitford (R) with SS troops at the September 1937 Nuremberg Party rally. The sisters were familiar faces in pre-war Germany.
Unity Mitford (L) and her sister Lady Diana Mosley, nee Mitford (R) with SS troops at the September 1937 Nuremberg Party rally. The sisters were familiar faces in pre-war Germany.
Festival atmosphere: A French woman cavorting with members of Hitler's SS in bars and cabarets. To say that all these women had no choice is a bit much.
Festival atmosphere: A French woman cavorting with members of Hitler’s SS in bars and cabarets. To say that all these women had no choice is a bit much.

(Photo credit: Bundesarchiv / French Archives).

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11 comments
  • “To say that all these women had no choice is a bit much”
    Quite correct. I’m sure some attracted by the lure of material advantages. Others were simply impressionable women attracted to power and notoriety. Even serial killers in prison like Ivan Milat converse with deluded female fans who read about them and send marriage proposals.

  • And many of them were underground partisans, sleeping with the enemy for information. We have women who will “give their all” for the USA to seduce Russian spies and diplomats.

  • You cannot imagine the war time deprivation that occupied peoples experienced. Some were strong, some with small children to feed were “weaker” and more vulnerable than others. You tell me, what would you do, when the wolf is at your door? My mother escaped the Russians with her children from east Germany in 1945. I have no right to question how she made the journey or who she had to kill to get there. Neither should you….

    • All my Mother’s family was murdered by German troops in the town of Novograd Volynsky, Ukraine, in August of 1941. Her family was not that lucky to escape from German Nazis as was yours to escape from Russians. My Mom survived by a poor miracle. Bullet did not touch her. And I am sorry – I cannot feel any empathy neither to you nor to your family.

  • Women always prefer the stronger, conquering tribe. It’s just a biological survival mechanism, and there is nothing strange about this. Its funny to me how people try to rationalize this when it is simply the reality of human nature. Many German and Japanese women married allied servicemen after the war ended, despite how fanatical those nations were, any very few say those women “collaborated” with the enemy.

  • I’ve got a problem with this caption of the picture in Paris with the Eiffel Tower on it. “This Frenchwoman does not look like she is suffering, nor the ones in the background.” Of course not all french citizens suffered from the occupation by Nazi Germany, but the way this caption is expressed it sounds like a relativation of german crimes in France at all.

  • Not sure there is much of a story here, especially when we have “honeybucket” spies wooing members of the GOP and NRA. I suspect there is a strong correlation for feminine collaboration among the countries that raised Freikorps foreign legions for service in the Waffen-SS. What one is left with is titillating snapshots that serve as misogynistic click-bait.

  • The punishment of shaving a woman s head had biblical origins. In Europe, the practice dated back to the dark ages, with the Visigoths. During the middle ages, this mark of shame, denuding a woman of what was supposed to be her most seductive feature, was commonly a punishment for adultery. Shaving women s heads as a mark of retribution and humiliation was reintroduced in the h century. After French troops occupied the Rhineland in 1923, German women who had relations with them later suffered the same fate. And during the second world war, the Nazi state issued orders that German women accused of sleeping with non-Aryans or foreign prisoners employed on farms should also be publicly punished in this way.

  • Russia invaded Poland at the same time Germany did. Why no war declared on Russia? In fact they were an ally? If you can’t answer that question sufficiently you really should stop believing the propaganda they have filled your head with.

    • .
      This just shows that the WW2 had some underlying causes which are not taught at school or in history books. Remember Churchhill said that ”history is written by the victors”.
      I leave you with this legendary folk saying that ”if and unless the lion writes its own story, the story of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter”.

      .

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