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Are Orders always Orders?

When one sees the atrocities committed by the Nazis in the '30s and '40s, the atrocities going on in Eastern Europe, North Korea, north and east Africa in more recent times, and all the horrible activities of an IRA here in Ireland, one can ask oneself if we ourselves are capable of such atrocities given the strong demands of a 'Hitler'? Stanley Milgram's (1933-1984) famous study claims that 2/3 of us would! Drug Barons do not seem to have any difficulty finding henchmen to do their dirty work.

untitledAre orders always orders or are there many of us today who would be prepared to shout "Halt" and oppose authority. There is a famous photo from 1936 in Hamburg of August Landmesser defying to give the Nazi salute at the launch of the naval training vessel Horst Wessel. He had already done 2 years in prison for marrying a Jewish woman. Would I have the guts to do that? I doubt it.


WOW, he was a brave man.

I would hope/like to think that I would stand up like that too.
Hugs, Jon
I would like to think that I would have the conviction and strength to do what he did, but until each of us is placed in a position like that, we can never really be sure. Now I am going to have to look for him on line and find out what happened to him.
Landmesser was a remarkable individual.

His wife Irma was murdered in a euthanasia centre (having been declared mentally ill, which she was not) and he died in a penal battalion in Croatia after doing time in a Kz.

I'll carry on oppposing the tyrants- given my ancestral background and what life has thrown at me, I can do no other.

I've never been one for a quiet life!

Edited at 2014-01-10 15:21 (UTC)
I'm sure you'd see them all down! More power to you.
I can't even bring myself to question how our local parish is being run.
If we got the 'wrong' sort of govenment they'd wish me dead on several counts even before they started in on the Jewish and Romani ancestry, so I have little choice.
One of the conclusions coming out of such experiments and demonstrations as Milgram's was that we all are offered more practice in following orders than we do making moral decisions.

I can only think about a few things at one time. If my mind is cluttered with selfish or silly thoughts, i am less able to make important decisions affecting the welfare of others.

In the country of the blind, the one eyed man is NOT king; he is a deviant.

I do not applaud just because everyone else is applauding. As a child, i faced down bullies that all others in the vicinity thought were cool. I try to think first about the poor and oppressed (the preferential option), second, about the universe as a whole; third, about my wife. There is little room left for thoughts about country or ideology or personal safety. I hope i would be a resister, but i don't know. Nobody knows until the test comes.
I've been following orders all my life as part of what I am. Regretfully this has weakened my ability to make moral decisions.
From reading the little bit of your journal that i have, i think you are too humble (though humility is good). The fact that you even think about August Landsmesser (or Franz Jaggenstatter?) says you are not a passive order taker. Not every moral battle is worth fighting in.
My husband is one guy who did refuse to follow orders. They had free-fire zones in Vietnam. He was a helicopter pilot and they were supposed to have the door gunners kill anyone they saw in those areas, but he would not. He said the Vietnamese didn't speak English and they didn't have maps, so they didn't know it was a free fire zone. We knew guys who did kill anyone they saw in a FFZ, but Bob wouldn't. I probably would have, being the goody-goody that I was...
I would like to say I would have the guts too, but I do t believe I would either.
I would. In part it's the need to be free to think for oneself, and knowing what you can and can't walk past and still face yourself in the mirror each morning.
I doubt I would. I've got too strong a survival instinct. What he did was incredibly dangerous.
I think I'd ... I'd like to think I'd find ways of defying someone like the Nazis beyond that survival instinct. Like writing it. Writing what I saw so other people would know. Or taking photos. Something. Like the survivors of the holocaust who said they tried so hard to survive so they could tell their story to the world. Not let it die with them in the gas chambers.
These stories must be told.
I think something about this situation people tend to forget is the brain washing involved. How are you going to save people you don't know are dying? How are you going to stand up against an evil that you don't know exists? How—without seeing it with your own eyes—do you know when something is a rumour or true?

The thing about the Milgram study is that they were not even under stressful conditions during the study. They knew they were signing up for a study and they could walk out at any time without any harm being done to them. This is not the same in these situations (especially Nazi Germany, just look at your example above) in real life. 2/3 without any real pressure...just an "authority type figure" that doesn't have any real power over you.

Imagine what that number actually is when harm could come to you if you don't follow those orders. (And getting a write up or losing your job is still more pressure than the non stressful situation that was in the Milgram studies.)