posts 16 - 17 of 17
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 13

The first thing that I noticed when watching the Milgram experiments, was that while the volunteer was clearly upset about what they were doing, and asked multiple times if they should stop, they immediately continued after learning that all of the responsibility was placed upon the scientist. At hearing this, the man would shake his head, and continue shocking a man that he believes is either dead, or in the active process of dying. This, I feel, is the most important way to look at Nazis "following orders". In a society, much of what is perceived as right or wrong is decided through the community reacting to actions. If a person continued to do something that society considers "wrong", but they do nothing about it, that person will most likely keep doing it. In my opinion, this is what happened in Germany. People were allowed to do immoral actions against the Jews, and because there was nobody to fight back against it, it became ok. Especially because there was always some commander, someone of a higher rank, there to take the blame if anything goes wrong, it makes it so people don't worry about any sort of reaction from anyone else, because they can place their actions on someone else. If someone came into the Milgram experiment and yelled at the volunteer for letting a man die, he would probably immediately deflect to the other man in the room who told him to do it, even though he could have left at any time, and was clearly the one to press the button which supposedly killed the man.

One of the things that first stuck out to me when I read the passage from "Ordinary Men" was Major Trapp. His reaction to his orders, to round up and murder Jews in a town, was so emotional and sad, and yet, he immediately sent his men to follow these orders. His exact words, "orders are orders", does show how he moves any sort of blame or accountability away from himself and to the faceless entity that is the Nazi regime. After feeling his initial horror for his orders, instead of deciding to not do it, he just decides that there isn't anything he can do. Another important part of this is that he sends his men to carry out the orders. He doesn't do anything himself, even though he is the one that actually sends his men to take part in this murder. Again, this shows another way that accountability is moved. Trapp gives it to his soldiers, and even stays away from any of the areas where the murders are taking place.

Now, in no way does any of this lessen any of the crimes committed. Just because someone believes that the blame will rest one someone else, and therefore shouldn't be worried about a specific action doesn't mean that the action should be allowed. While the nature of their crimes is still the same, I do think that the whole amount of blame shouldn't only rest on them. If there is nobody that tries to stop people, even by just saying, "this is wrong, you shouldn't do this", then the people around Nazis, should also have some sort of blame. Again, there should still be full amounts of blame on the Nazis that were part of Einsatzgruppen, it is also important to look at those around them to see how they were so comfortable committing the acts they did.

swiss cheese yeezys
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 9

The Psychology of the Holocaust and

The entire situation described in the reading seems to be an extended versions of Milgrim’s experiment. I want to start first with Major Trapp’s actions and his troops. Though Major Trapp himself seemed to be against the orders he was given to carry out, as well as seemingly genuinely remorseful for what he was responsible for, it does not change the facts of what happened. I think it also important to note that the troops under Trapp’s command had never seen combat nor killed before. Given this, they may have been more likely to blindly follow orders as they had no combat experience and wold be more likely to follow orders without question. However, the men in this unit were mainly drafted working men from the city whose goal was to help Germany win the war, not exterminate the Jewish population. When he told the soldiers what their orders were and gave them the option to step away, only thirteen did. A part of that likely was the fear of punishment afterwards, as the first man who stepped out was almost immediately berated by his commanding officer. From the soldiers perspective, given their barbaric orders it would not be without reason to believe that those who did not follow orders may later be killed or sent away. However, the soldiers who stepped out of line knew the possible risks and still did that. There were also small rebellions like shooting past a target, being asked to be taken off of firing duty and other small actions many of the soldiers took. However, when SS officer Wohlauf appeared, no chance of mercy was given. He forced the shootings to continue despite the protest of the soldiers, presenting himself as the highest authority for them to listen to. A problem presented with these special shooting groups however, is that many were against the actions they partook in. This would sow dissent among the ranks leading to soldiers disregarding orders, as well as raising awareness after the war for the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime.

“The power of the situation” seems very similar to the idea of mob mentality. When the soldiers looked around them, they would see others perhaps asking to be taken off of the duty, but still killing innocents. There was also the sense of legitimacy in the orders, as they came from higher ups and there was an SS officer present who was very determined to kill all of the Jewish people in the area. At one point, Wohlauf was approached by some of the policeman asking to be removed from execution duty and told them to lie in the dirt with the victims if they would not fire. That very real threat from an officer would have created incredible fear in the soldiers leading them to continue the execution. Trapp also later attempted to console his soldiers by placing the blame on the higher ups in the chain of command saying that this would have happened regardless. When a young girl came from the woods bleeding, Trapp took and saying she would live. When ordered to round up the Jews of another nearby town, the police eventually let them return home. Many tried to thank or touch Trapp in response, but he turned away from them, either from a sense of disgust, or more likely, overcome by the reality of what he had done. It is is difficult to properly create this image in your head, of the men who executed hundreds of civilians in a day yet felt such intense remorse that many of them were physically ill in response it. Now this of course in no way removes the blame of their actions from them, but it humanizes them in a way that makes the story all the more horrible, as they knew exactly how horrible their actions were in the moment. This raises a real dilemma for me, as there is no way to forgive the actions of these soldiers, but it is difficult not to sympathize with the situation they found themselves in, knowing that by disobeying orders they would place themselves in danger, while also not changing anything as the civilians would still be killed regardless. This situation unfortunately has no clear black and white, which goes to the point of the fact that Nazi ideology, especially the extreme parts were not very popular in Germany, which is why Hitler and his commanders went to such extreme lengths to hide the true extent of the Holocaust from the general population.

posts 16 - 17 of 17