Or at least don’t bite the hand that you think feeds you. A lot has been said about the overall ignorance and ambivalence of the everyday Germans throughout the Nazi regime. Soldiers said they were just following orders, even when those orders were to commit horrific acts. Everyday citizens claimed they did not really know what was happening in the camps, even though they were just a short way out of site. While these claims by Germans at the time may seem indefensible today, it is important we look at their actions through their eyes and ask, what would you do? The Nazi regime, as absolutely horrific and terrifying as they were for outsiders, did improve the German economy and helped repair the national psyche- at least for a few years. When the Nazi’s actions to repair Germany worked, it became harder for everyday Germans to question authority. Additionally, the longer the Nazi’s remained in power the more likely everyday Germans would not question the authority they are used to and raised to follow.
Throughout World War 1 a civil truce called for the endo of political parties and debate so that a united Germany may properly defend itself. World War II saw the reemergence of this idea as any attempt to question the government would weaken the war effort. Total war was a commitment from the entire nation and Germans enshrined the idea of sacrifice into their ideology. While everyday Germans knew about atrocities they could attribute their heinous actions to their belief that the other side was surely doing the same. Surely killing prisoners, outsiders, and anti-war agitators was better than your own families perishing? Under war time conditions many everyday Germans felt they should not fight the government that had allowed them to prosper for so long.