chapter  Chapter 7
28 Pages

Obedience or Subservience

WithMichael M. Winter

The concept of obedience presents considerable difficulties for the modern mind since people have grown up in societies where democratic freedoms are taken for granted. The pervasive influence of the concept of obedience can be traced, in part, to education. The nineteenth century saw an enhancement of the role of obedience in the Church. Of all the abuses of obedience, none has been more damaging to the concept than its use in the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews. In addition to the straightforward obedience to military orders when soldiers were commanded to transport Jews to concentration camps and bring about their deaths, there was the all-pervasive climate of acquiescence to the policy. D. J. Goldhagen has studied the climate of German anti-Semitism during the Nazi period and beforehand. Whereas anti-Semitism was widespread in all Christian societies, German anti-Semitism had particularly virulent elements in it that ultimately led to the Holocaust.