Analyse & Kritik
Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory
Ed. by Baurmann, Michael / Leist, Anton / Tranow, Ulf
2 Issues per year
A number of scholars have suggested that Milgram’s laboratory studies of obedience offer an incisive analysis of the behavior of the Holocaust perpetrators. The present paper rejects that position. The contrasts between the two events, at every level of analysis, are striking: In Milgram’s research, innocent peers were harmed in the context of science; in the Holocaust, rabidly hated, subhuman enemies were murdered in the context of ‘war’. With regard to underlying psychological mechanisms, the evidence questioning the relevance of Milgram’s research is equally compelling: obedience pressures had little role in the Holocaust. Most of the Nazi perpetrators showed no remorse or moral distress over the murders and perhaps most critically, virtually all of the killers knew that they could choose not to participate in the killings.
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