Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Are all Germans responsible for the Holocaust?

One of the issues that still haunts many 60 years later, is to what extent were all Germans responsible for the Holocaust? Studies by Milgram and Zimbardo have given us some insight into the "Perils of Obedience" and the power of the situation, but how far do we go in absolving the majority of Germans for what went on under their noses, sometimes behind their backs, and mostly in their backyards? How much did they know? How much did they really want to know?And what did they do about it? How responsible are they individually and collectively for what happened?

We heard from a former Hitler Youth and member of the Nazi army that he knew very little about what was going on in the Concentration Camps, although he was very aware of the massacres that were occuring outside of the concentration camps on the battlefields.

This issue still haunts us because we may find ourselves in a similar situation. Of course, I'm not suggesting that the U.S., is engaging in a Holocaust -- don't get me wrong!-- but what do we as citizens of a democratic country do when we are aware of human rights abuses? How do we treat the "other"? How do we justify or excuse our collective actions or inactions? How individually responsible, for example, is Pr. Lynndie England who may face up to 10 years in prison for her involvement in torture in Abu Gharib? Zimbardo suggests that it is very easy to capitulate to the situation as the Stanford University Prison study documented. What will we do when it is all said and done? Reflect on rights and wrongs? Right wrongs? Or just say we really didn't know what was going on....