Recently, I've read about this trial:http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36168688http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/29/auschwitz-guard-reinhold-hanning-holocaust-trial
It made me think about how far does personal responsibility go and whether there is a point when you can't blame or prosecute people for their actions that they do as part of a larger organization?
I mean, there's no dispute that the Nazi genocide was something absolutely horrific. The thing is, that guy on trial? If I understand correctly, he was just a pawn - an ordinary guy that joined the SS to fight in a war, then got sent to the Auschwitz camp. He didn't have any leadership role in what was happening there - and it might really be a case that he has always regretted ending up at that place. Meanwhile, he's being charged as an accessory to mass murder... but can it really be said that he's guilty?
My point is, it's not like he had any choice, right? Again, he didn't volunteer to work at this camp, he was assigned there. There's no proof he had any initiative in any specific murders. And, if I understand the workings of the Nazi system, he couldn't really quit from this job. And he couldn't do anything to stop the mass murders - if he protested, he'd get killed himself. So, can a man really be prosecuted for having ended up in such a situation?
Also, I can't help thinking of how we might behave a bit similarly in our ordinary lives. How we end up doing various things as, say, part of our jobs - things we're not proud of, but that we do nevertheless because of having to make a living. For example, last year, I've been working at the call centre of a major TV provider. Part of my job was informing people of the service's rules - and some of these rules were quite... skeevy. Heck, one of the more experienced employees has once said to me ouright that the rules set by the provider would be blown away in court as illegal, if any customer actually bothered to sue. And still... I did that job. I kept taking calls and telling the angry customers that "sorry, sir / madame, these are the rules, you have to abide them". Even though I knew that my employer was actually *screwing* these customers and they were right to be angry. So... were I responsible for these people being cheated on? Was I an accessory to that?
I'm also reminded of one article I recently read about how, supposedly, awful the new generation of corporate employees is. The example used there was a situation from one bank's telephone sales department where, one day, a young employee just threw the phone away and said: "I can't sell such bad product to people, it's a swindle". Personally, I'd say that it was a *great* thing to do - meanwhile, the article seemed to suggest that such behaviour is immature and unprofessional.
So... it seems that being professional actually means stricly following orders and not thinking whether your job is moral or not. The exactly same thing that made Auschwitz possible. So, how come that one guy from Auschwitz is being prosecuted? He behaved as most of the ordinary people would behave in such a situation: he followed orders and didn't try to be a hero. It seems to me that our whole society is built on such behaviour...
I don't know, any thoughts?