What happened with the borders of occupied countries during WW2?

Just something I thougth of recently. During WW2 my country was occupied by the Germans. So were Belgium and France, among others, of course. Since it was the Germans idea that alle these occupied countries became part of the Thrid Reich, does anyone know how they treated the borderlines between these countires? The border between Holland and Germany for example, would there still have been checkpoints or maybe even customs officers? I don’t have any grandparents left I could ask, so now it’s you I look to for help.

Hi, and welcome to the boards. I can’t answer your question, but I believe you posted this in the wrong forum. It would be more appropriate in the “General Questions” section. However, do not post it there yourself, just request a moderator to move it.

Strange, I thought I had the general questions forum! Must have messed something up. But thanks for your warm welcome, Daoloth, it’s nice to have been here a while.
Could you please move me to the general questions, Moderator?

[hijack]Hullo Daoloth. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? You seem like the GQ & Great Debates man. [/hijack]

Yes, this thread definitely does belong in GQ. Unless your post would be a rant on how the borders of occupied countries during World War 2 applies to YOU and how it makes your life shitty.
Hm. That’d be a fun Pit thread, in fact. “Borders of Occupied Nations during the Great War and You: How your life is made hell by them -also- Fuck you Goebles!”

Whatever you do, don’t look back

Well, thanks for the story on Orpheus! So, how bout those border countries? :wink:

Some countries were formally annexed into Germany proper…Austria of course, the Sudatenland, most of Poland. Other countries were left nominally independent, such as France, Belgium, Norway, and the Netherlands.

Here’s a link to a map:

I don’t know what border procedures were used between nominally Netherlander and nominally German territory was.

Unless formally annexxed, which was not done in the majority of cases, occupied countries continued to be separate countries. Pre-existing laws remained in place, except to the extent changed or overridden by the occupation authorities. For the most part government structures, the civil service and public adminstration were left in place, although they were subordinated to the occupation authorities and required to co-operate with them.

I would be pretty certain that, for example, the Netherlands/Germany border remained in place and continued to be policed, possibly more heavily than before the war. As Netherlands taxes and custom duties would have applied on one side and German on the other, it would have had a considerable tax significance. Moreover the Netherland was under military occupation whereas Germany, of course, was not, so there would have been a need for a clear distinction between territories where the civil authorities were subordinate to the German army, such as the Netherlands, and Germany itself, where the reverse was (nominally) the case. Finally, very considerable restrictions on the movement of individuals were enforce by the Germans, and dismantling the border controls would have been counterproductive from that point of view.

An indication of the border status between Vichy France and Germany is given in Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks (it’s fiction, I grant, but very well researched). And it’s as UDS said.

I can’t speak for the Netherland/Germany border, however:

One of my more treasured possessions is my paternal grandmother’s wartime passport (issued by the German occupation authorities in Czechoslovakia). She travelled (once) from Prague in occupied Czechoslovakia to Aalborg in occupied Denmark during WWII - so that my grand-grandparents could see their grandson, i.e. my father. (She managed to bring a few of the family’s valuables to safety, too. Gutsy lady.)

The amount of stamps, notifications and glued-in paperwork in her passport speaks of a very convoluted process, involving Czech, German and Danish authorities. So yes, the borders were very much in place - travel restrictions were severe, and borders made for logical checkpoints. (Although there were checkpoints everywhere - in occupied Europe, one might be asked to present credentials on a cross-town tram.)

Just a point about Denmark, since you bring it up -

Denmark was not officially occupied during WWII - it remained, in theory, a neutral country. Hence it was the Reich’s Dept of Foreign Affairs and not the military that was responsible for matters relating to Denmark.

Much of western Poland was actually annexed in Sept 1939; Warsaw and Krakow were added to Grossdeutschland in 1941, but remained effectively outside the law of the Reich, at the mercy of the SS and Gestapo. The remainder were army-administered districts known as Reichskommisariats.

In Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland was annexed to Grossdeutschland, the remainder of the Czech lands became a protectorate administered by Germany, and Slovakia became a nominally independent puppet state.

In France, the Alsace and Lorraine regions were annexed to the Reich.

A large chunk of north and north-eastern France, plus all the Atlantic coast was declared “forbidden zone”, meaning that ordinary people couldn’t travel in and out of them.

Finally the rest (except for the zone controled by Italy around the Alps) was shared between the “occupied zone” (under military occupation) in the north and the “free zone” in the south. There was an actual boundary between the two zones, with guarded checkpoints, and people had to get a kind of visa (called “ausweiss”) to travel between the occupied and the free zone.

I don’t know how the boundary between France and Germany or France and Belgium was organized, but I doubt many french people could travel from one country to another. Going from say southern france to Belgium, one would have had to first be allowed to travel to the occupied zone, then to be allowed to enter and cross the forbidden zone, and finally to enter Belgium. I guess that people probably had to be able to give extremely good reasons to get all these authorizations from the german authorities.

Another factor was that technically there was no peace treaty between Germany and France; the fighting was ended in 1940 by an armistice (which was administered by a German-dominated armistice committee) and the final state of France’s borders was an issue that was supposed to be resolved by the eventual treaty after the war was over.

Hm, I don’t know what it takes to be considered officially occupied. Depends on the point of view, I guess.

I believe Denmark was considered a neutral “protectorate” by the Nazis. The Danish Gvt. at the time would probably have chosen another terminology, had they been able to speak their mind on the matter. The official pre-war neutrality was ended with Nazi use of military force and met with military resistance, however feeble. (That Danish authorities accepted the fait accompli without much ado was obviously not a very courageous course of action, but the outlook at the time must have been very bleak indeed, no matter what their decision.)

However, the Danish Gvt. refused to install martial law and resigned in protest in the fall of 1943 - the military commander of the “protecting” troops was briefly in charge before being replaced by a SS representative.

While one can argue that Denmark’s status between 1940 and 1943 was not officially that of an occupied country, I can’t see how it could be called anything else from 1943-1945.

S. Norman

I remembr once reading that the only democratic elections to ever take place under Nazi occupation occured in Denmark.

I think Hitler and the Nazis eventually planned to absorb “Germanic” nations such as the Netherlands, but only after the war. During the war, Germany mainly annexed to the east…I have seen different maps of the Third Reich borders, and some have “Grossdeutsches Reich” covering pretty much all of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Baltic, but no further west than Alsace-Lorrane and perhaps a small piece of Belgium (there is a little German speaking sliver of eastern Belgium which has gove back and forth since World War I). Luxembourg was annexed in 1942 by the Germans.


Didn’t Mussolini grab a part of the French Riveria round Nice and incorporate it into Italy?. If this is so then there would have been a new border created betweeen this area and the rest of France.

Yes, he did. This area (and Savoy) historically belonged to the kings of Savoy and Sardinia, who would become kings of Italy during the second part of the XIX° century. The area around Nice and Savoy were both ceded to France (after a referendum) around 1860 as a part of some complicated diplomatic deals between France and Italy which accompanied the unificiation of Italy, in which France had been very closely, and even militarily, involved. So, Italy had historical claims on this area. Had the axis won the war, I suppose Savoy too would have been annexed to Italy.

Here 's a map of France after the armistice which is quite clear . It’s in french, so a quick translation of the legend (though it’s quite easy to figure out, I guess) :
Annexe au Reich =Zone annexed to the Reich
Zone reservee = Reserved zone
Zone interdite = Forbidden zone
Zone cotiere interdite = Forbidden coastal zone
Zone d’occupation allemande = Occupied zone
Zone non occupee = Free zone
Zone d’occupation Italienne = Italian occupation zone

The reserved and forbidden zones to the north and east were intended to be annexed to Germany after the war.

The free zone was militarily occupied too in 1942 following the allied landing in north africa.

It is absolutely true that after the imposition of martial law in 1943, Denmark was officially under military occupation. However the pre-1943 situation, which allowed the existing constitutional arrangements to remain in place, was unique as far as I know, and as far as I am concerned was the best deal available to the Danish government at the time, courage be damned.

Although as noted by clairobscur, until 1942 at least, Vichy France was nominally a free nation allied with the Axis, unlike occupied France. (That’s why Major Strasser had to ask Claude Rains to arrest people, not order it.)