Leeds nostalgia: Germans ‘easily misled’ and ‘politically immature’ claim

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The vast bulk of the German people were described as gullible and easily led at the International War Crimes tribunal, where it was alleged they were “hoodwinked” and had been ignorance of the regime’s true aims.

Mr Martin Loeffler sought to show the German people were particularly easy victims for the Nazis.

“Germans,” he said, “are politically immature and easily misled, hence they are particularly susceptible to political seduction.”

He said that while it was clear some members of the SA (Storm Troopers) had committed “individual excess” in the violence that helped Hitler seize power in the persecution of Jews, he commented: “They are deplorable but such excesses are unavoidable in movements involving such large numbers of people.”

He added: “A system of terror and lying has disintegrated. Millions have turned away from those who seduced them. But now if they found themselves branded and ostracised, the effect would be the opposite of that hoped for.”

Such commented were repeated in 1960 during the trial of Adolf Eichmann.

Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University famously examined these claims of people being led astray and devised an experiment, known as the ‘obedience tests’, to ascertain whether the assertions were true.

Tests involved one person asking questions of another and when they answered incorrectly, pressing a button which delivered an electric shock. The level of the shocks increased for every wrong answer. Worryingly, Milgram found most people would continue to ‘do the wrong thing’ simply because they were told to do so by an authority figure.