During the Second World War, as always, there were people who were looking out only for themselves. They didn’t have any particular political ideals, but they intended to be where the money and the winners were.

During most of the Occupation, that meant being where the Germans were. This didn’t require anything extreme like joining a Collaborationist political party, although it could. It could simply mean doing business with the Germans. I am not talking about the honest businessmen who kept their family factories running with German orders so they could protect their workers from being sent to work in factories in Germany. I mean the sort of business that brings in big profits and gets you invited to fancy parties with lots of food. I mean economic profiteering. It may well have meant being a middleman in the black market on behalf of the Germans. There was always the chance that the Germans would tire of you and ship you off to a concentration camp, but if you avoided that, there was lots of money to be made and good times to be had.

There was also the chance that the Germans would lose. If that happened, their collaborators were going to be in trouble. So a savvy collaborator who was in it for himself rather than for his ideals, created an insurance policy for himself in case the other side won. That meant having some sort of relationship with the Resistance. You could send a son of to fight with the maquis. You could donate money to the cause. You could protect a Jewish acquaintance or use your extensive business contacts with the Germans to help a few young men get to Spain to join the Allies. All of these things count as legitimate acts of Resistance.

During the Occupation you had to hope that your German paymasters didn’t find out about your dabbling in the Resistance. During the Liberation, when the Allied armies showed up and the German army retreated, you had to hope that what you did for the Resistance outweighed what you did for the Germans in the court of public opinion. To help that along, these opportunists tended to make a lot of noise about their Resistance work.

I know of one case in which such individuals actually went to the Americans in Paris and claimed to be the leaders of Dutch-Paris! They probably would have gotten away with it if they had been more modest in the Resistance network they attempted to take over because resisters had worked in secret. Few people actually knew for a fact who belonged to what Resistance nom de guerre. If you acted quickly and with confidence, the Liberation was a great time for personal reinvention.