DO NOT PROCEED UNTIL REVIEWING Week 7 LESSONS
Germany surrendered in 1945. Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels and Goring all committed suicide. In 1946, the war crime tribunals began: The Nuremberg Trials (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..
Our question to consider: To what extent should judges have accepted the claim, “we were only obeying orders,” or “we were all brain washed with propaganda?”
Important! Dispel the common misconception that SS members were coerced into killing. The so-called ‘kill or be killed’ storyline is false! The truth of the matter, Nazis were fairly tolerant with members from these units who suffered breakdowns (PTSD) as a result of killing unarmed civilians. Even in cases where German troops refused to participate in the killings, they were simply stationed elsewhere. What this false narrative has done is prevent us from attempting to understand why people oftentimes still commit acts even though they find it distasteful.
And guess what… Neither you or I are immune from committing similar atrocities. Social science experiments reveal that humans are wired to follow orders. TheMilgram experiments on obedience to authority figures, (mid 1960) for example was a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram. The goal was to measure the willingness (study participants were men from a diverse occupations and education levels) to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts conflicting with their personal conscience. The experiment surprisingly discovered that a very high proportion of people were prepared to obey, albeit unwillingly, even if through the experience of serious injury and distress.
1. Examine Heinrich Himmler’s Speech to the SS in Reilly textbook, pp. 906-908. Write a 2 paragraph summary analysis by considering the following questions:
- Under what context was this speech given?
- What were Himmler’s concerns in the speech?
- What kind of general support for the extermination of the Jews does this excerpt suggest existed?
- Reilly explains that psychiatrists say that people employ certain strategies to cope when faced with having to do something distasteful. The strategies are denial, distancing, compartmentalizing, ennobling, rationalizing and scapegoating (Definitions on p. 906-907). What evidence of these strategies do you see in Himmler’s speech? Which strategies would his listeners more likely have adopted?
2. To what extent should Nuremberg Trial judges have accepted the claim, “we were only obeying orders,” or “we were all brain washed with propaganda?” Please use specific examples.