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This chapter re-examines the relationship in wartime Nazi Germany between private views and more widely voiced opinions and rumours that circulated informally and were picked up by the regime's monitoring agencies. It argues that views increasingly commonly voiced in wartime concerning Allied air raids and the regime’s murder of the Jews constituted a form of wartime ‘public opinion’ that influenced the regime’s calculations about propaganda strategy. In examining the intersections between publicly and privately expressed views, the chapter argues, firstly, that private moral thinking was strongly influenced by publicly formulated arguments about Germany’s defence and national survival, and, secondly, that private moral sentiments coloured widely expressed responses to the regime’s attempts to manage public opinion.
The dynamic tension between collaboration and resistance inevitably shaped the experience of liberation, when the resistance forces and governments-in-exile sought to settle scores with their domestic enemies and shape the post-war political order. There is a reason that historians of the Second World War keep turning back to France: the baffling complexities of the French response to occupation, from obsequious collaboration to heroic resistance, provide a window into the turmoil of a continent. The most influential historian of the dark years of occupation, Robert Paxton, has written that 'collaboration was a French proposal that Hitler ultimately rejected'. Resistance provided a foundation on which a story of national resilience and defiance could be based. Old elites fairly rapidly returned to positions of influence in post-war Western Europe, and their interests lay in a restoration of stability, economic reconstruction and a turning away from the bitter divisions of the war years.