targeting schools and the educational system, Hitler was able to easily raise a generation of anti-Semites that would follow his orders with absolute obedience. After joining the Hitler Youth movement, Heck along with millions of other children came to believe that “total submission to the welfare of the state—personified by Hitler—was [a citizen’s] first duty” (Matchan). The value that German society placed on obedience and adherence to rules discouraged freedom of thought and individual beliefs. These values contributed to an ignorant and vulnerable society.In addition to the increased emphasis of obedience targeted towards children, soldiers also had the value of obedience drilled into their heads. German soldiers were required to take anoath where they would swear their unconditional obedience to Hitler, which allowed them “to excuse themselves from any personal responsibility for the unspeakable crimes which they carried out on the orders of the Supreme Commander” (Shirer). They had always been taught that following orders is expected and rewarded; this extreme emphasis on submission made it so
Allen 6that they couldn’t even rationalize with themselves the severe consequences of what they were doing. Within the German society, obeying authority was seen as virtuous and honorable. Because of this perceived valor in submitting to authority, soldiers rarely questioned what they were asked to do, regardless of severity.Following the liberation of concentration camps, a Nazi soldier, Adolf Eichmann, was found guilty of aiding in the transportation and extermination of millions of people in Nazi Germany.While awaiting trial in his jail cell, he wrote: “The orders were, for me, the highest thing in my life and I had to obey them without question” (McLeod). He put the task of following orders above adhering to moral standards and thus couldn’t see how what he did was a crime. This is extremely discomforting in that the idea of unconditional obedience could be so influential that a sane man would willingly violate human rights and participate in mass murder, all because his number one priority was to successfully carry out orders. This ideology could be extremely destructive in countries with immoral leaders, assuming that Eichmann was nothing more than an ordinary man faced with abnormal circumstances. There was nothing particularly unique about Eichmann, and it is not unreasonable to assume that there are thousands, if not millions of people across the world that share comparable views as him and would act in a similar way.A psychologist by the name of Stanley Milgram was intrigued by this idea that simple obedience could be so powerful in manipulating people to do things against their wishes.
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