"I was just following orders."
It's a refrain we heard from Germans, over and over, after World War II. It's a phrase that is still, sadly often, repeated.
In 1961, Jewish American psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment. Volunteers were told to administer electric shocks to others. With time, voltage would increase in magnitude to reach a lethal dose. Milgram discovered that the majority of subjects would continue to follow orders, even knowing the harmful outcome, even when the targets begged to stop.
Of course, Milgram's volunteers did not really hurt each other. The shocks were fake, but the results weren't. In fact, Milgram was the one shocked. He assumed that his American subjects would not want to to administer the lethal treatment, that obedience shown by Nazis was something unique to Germans. Alas, that was not the case. The result was the same when the experiment was repeated all over the world.
This, of course, does not absolve Germans from the horrors of the Holocaust. But it gives us pause when we consider the continuous rise of totalitarian regimes all over the world...
Yes, that includes America.