Thursday 4 July 2024

Turning a blind eye to others not obeying the rules


During the Nazi era, many individuals and groups turned a blind eye to others who were not obeying Nazi rules. This passive complicity was driven by a mix of fear, sympathy, moral agreement, and pragmatic survival strategies. Understanding these dynamics sheds light on the complexities of human behavior under oppressive regimes.

Ordinary Citizens

Among ordinary Germans, there was a significant number who, while not actively resisting the Nazis themselves, chose to overlook the actions of those who did. This could include neighbors who knew that a Jewish family was being hidden in the attic next door but chose not to report it. For many, this silence was a form of passive resistance; they did not agree with Nazi policies but were too fearful of the potential repercussions to actively oppose them.

For example, in some instances, when Gestapo agents came searching for Jews, neighbors might have pretended not to notice the suspicious activity or provided vague and unhelpful information. This passive non-compliance created a small but significant buffer against the total enforcement of Nazi policies.

Civil Servants and Police

Some civil servants and members of the police force also turned a blind eye to acts of disobedience. While some were ideologically aligned with the Nazis, others privately disagreed with the regime but were unable to openly resist due to the risk of severe punishment. These individuals sometimes engaged in "work-to-rule" tactics, where they would strictly follow procedures to the letter, thereby slowing down processes and allowing time for resistors to escape or hide.

For instance, a police officer might deliberately delay the filing of a report or a bureaucrat might "lose" paperwork that would have resulted in the arrest or deportation of a Jewish family. These small acts of bureaucratic sabotage could make a significant difference in individual cases.

Business Owners and Employers

Certain business owners and employers played a role in quietly aiding those who defied Nazi regulations. They might hire Jewish workers under false identities or provide forged documentation to protect them. These employers recognized the risks but chose to prioritize human decency over strict adherence to the law.

A well-known example is Oskar Schindler, who, while actively saving Jews, also relied on the complicity of his workers and associates who chose not to report his actions. Many other less famous employers did similar things, providing crucial aid without drawing attention to themselves.

Religious Institutions

Religious institutions often found themselves in a difficult position under Nazi rule. While official church positions varied, individual clergy members sometimes turned a blind eye to resistance activities. Churches, monasteries, and convents provided shelter to Jews and political dissidents, relying on the silence of their congregations and communities to protect those they were hiding.

In the Netherlands, for example, the clergy played a significant role in the resistance. Many Catholic and Protestant leaders did not actively preach against the Nazis from the pulpit but instead used their positions to quietly support and protect those resisting the regime.

International Diplomats

Some diplomats from neutral or Allied countries, stationed in Nazi-occupied territories, chose to turn a blind eye to their own nations' restrictions and helped Jews escape. For instance, Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat in Hungary, issued protective passports and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory.


Turning a blind eye to the disobedience of Nazi laws was a nuanced and often dangerous form of passive resistance. This silent complicity by ordinary citizens, civil servants, business owners, religious figures, and diplomats played a crucial role in undermining the Nazi regime's total control. Their actions, or inactions, highlight the moral complexities and varied forms of resistance that emerged in response to one of history's most oppressive regimes.

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