Pressure from authority figures can cause many to do things that we would not desire to do. This can be anything from a small task or assignment to something as large as killing another individual. That being said, not all pressures are the same. Pressure of being reprimanded, receiving a bad grade, and being killed are all very different in level of leverage. While reading Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland the chapter that stuck out the most the one which mentioned that out of 500 people in the Battalion, only 12 took a stated opportunity to walk away from being part of the Final Solution. (1) Those 12 had what others saw as cowardice, but what I saw as courage. Courage was being able to step up for yourself and your morals to not do what is wrong. They knew what it was like to see hundreds of bodies in a mass grave and to know that by stepping out they could just as easily be added. As stated in Hitler and Nazi Germany: A History, these men “[knew] what it mean[t] when 100 corpses [were] laying side by side, or 500, or 1000.” (2). They knew what mental turmoil awaited them if the continued along the path to avoid being seen as a “coward”. This to me speaks volumes of the influence of peers as well as authority. As far as it concerns me, I believe that authority is hardly something to be sought out. Authority is the ability to force the will of others, sometimes in ways that are not even thought of from the beginning, and that is something for which to be cautious.
(1) Browning, Christopher R. Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. New York: HarperCollins, 1992. Page 71
(2) Spielvogel, Jackson J., and David Redles. Hitler and Nazi Germany: A History. Sixth ed. Page 266-70