Analyse & Kritik

Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory

Milgram und die Täter des Holocaust

1998 (20) Issue 1


Stanley Milgrams Entdeckung, in welch erstaunlichem Ausmaß durchschnittliche amerikanische Bürger bereit waren, unbekannten Mitmenschen auf Anordnung einer wissenschaftlichen Autorität schwere Elektroschocks zu verabreichen, hat in den 60er und 70er Jahren über die Sozialwissenschaften hinaus für Aufsehen gesorgt. Heute sind Milgrams Experimente in jeder Standardeinführung in die Sozialpsychologie nachzulesen. Milgram war für diese Experimente auch durch den Holocaust motiviert worden. Oh...

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Table of Contents

Title: Milgram für Historiker. Reichweite und Grenzen einer Übertragung des Milgram-Experiments auf den Nationalsozialismus
Author: Thomas Sandkühler / Hans-Walter Schmuhl
Page: 3-26

Abstract: Stanley Milgram was the first who tried to apply the results of his experiment on National Socialism. Historical science has hardly picked up on this subject with the exception of the American historian Christopher Browning. Despite of some serious problems which have occured by transferring the Milgram-experiment onto National Socialism we are convinced that the possibilities Milgram has opened up for contemporary history have not been exhausted yet. In this connection we would like to plead for a stronger distinction of types of perpetrators, taking into account the latest results in criminology. The Milgram-experiment refers methodically to local studies of massacres and genocides. Its application on the bureaucracy of destruction seems particularly promising to us. Also, there should be included the rescuers of jews into the research on perpetrators as a controlling body.

Title: Freiwilligkeit der Gewalt? Von der Psychologie der Täter zur Psychologie der Tat
Author: Jeannette Schmid
Page: 27-45

Abstract: The series of psychological explanations for the atrocities of Hitler's Germany followed a development that started with the personality of the perpetrators and subsequently focused on the situation, almost to the exclusion of the person component. Milgram's experimental series marks a turning point. His construct of destructive obedience claims a validity that transcends the Nazi context and has far-reaching implications for human behavior in hierarchies, irrespective of the political system. The merits of his approach can be understood in comparison and in connection with other theoretical and empirical venues that each provide a unique insight into the mechanisms underlying the Holocaust.

Title: The Roots of Stanley Milgram's Obedience Experiments and Their Relevance to the Holocaust
Author: Thomas Blass
Page: 46-53

Abstract: Drawing on archival materials, interviews, as well as published sources, this article traces the roots of one of the most important and controversial studies in the social sciences, the experiments on obedience to authority conducted by the social psychologist, Stanley Milgram. Milgram's research had two determinants: First, his attempt to account for the Holocaust and, second, his intention to apply Solomon Asch's technique for studying conformity to behavior of greater human consequence than judging lengths of lines - the task which was the original focus in Asch's studies. After a detailed presentation of these antecedents of Milgram's work, the article concludes with a brief discussion of the applicability of the obedience experiments to the behavior of the perpetrators of the Holocaust.

Title: Were Obedience Pressures A Factor in the Holocaust?
Author: Allan Fenigstein
Page: 54-73

Abstract: 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.

Title: The Obedience Alibi. Milgram's Account of the Holocaust Reconsidered
Author: David R. Mandel
Page: 74-94

Abstract: Stanley Milgram's work on obedience to authority is social psychology's most influential contribution to theorizing about Holocaust perpetration. The gist of Milgram's claims is that Holocaust perpetrators were just following orders out of a sense of obligation to their superiors. Milgram, however, never undertook a scholarly analysis of how his obedience experiments related to the Holocaust. The author first discusses the major theoretical limitations of Milgram's position and then examines the implications of Milgram's (oft-ignored) experimental manipulations for Holocaust theorizing, contrasting a specific case of Holocaust perpetration by Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the German Order Police. It is concluded that Milgram's empirical findings, in fact, do not support his position - one that essentially constitutes an obedience alibi. The article ends with a discussion of some of the social dangers of the obedience alibi.

Title: "Dämonologie" oder psychologisches Denken? Wie erklärt man, warum ganz gewöhnliche Angehörige der nationalsozialistischen Gesellschaft das Leben anderer auslöschten?
Author: Alexander Kochinka / Jürgen Straub
Page: 95-122

Abstract: This article gives a survey of factors that could be relevant for the explanation of behaviour under the nazi-regime with reference to the study by Ch. Browning. Instead of causal explanations we suggest 'how-possible explanations'. These explanations should make plausible how behaviour could come about taking into consideration intentional, normative and narrative aspects. Brutalization of the prepetrators, the psychological mechanism of distancing oneself, antisemitism, bureaucratization, carrierism, interest in power and conventionalist tendencies are discussed as relevant explanatory factors. Milgram's analyses of obedience and group-conformity are brought into perspective within a wider-ranging culturalist approach.

Title: Morality and Society - The True and the Nasty. Reply to Anton Leist: "For Society - Against Morality?" (ANALYSE & KRITIK 19, 213-228)
Author: David Copp
Page: 123-140

Abstract: This paper is a reply to Anton Leist's criticisms of the view I develop in my book "Morality, Normativity, and Society". Leist claims that my "standard-based" account of the truth conditions of moral propositions is incoherent. I argue that he is mistaken about this. Leist claims that my "society-centered" account of the justification of moral standards has "nasty" implications. In the course of answering this worry, I develop the idea of a "moral necessity". My theory implies that although moral propositions are metaphysically contingent, they are most likely morally necessary. I also explain that, despite its relativism, the society-centered view is quite compatible with the idea that there are certain "moral universals". Finally, Leist claims that the arguments I have given in favor of my view are unsuccessful. But it is a mistake to think that decisive arguments can be expected in this area. The most we can expect is a clear statement of the costs and benefits of a theory. I claim that my account of the nature and grounding of morality has important advantages over familiar alternatives.