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Ethical Leadership

German officials round up Jews for deportation as neighbors look on. Lörrach, Germany, October 1940. —Stadtarchiv Lörrach

Many people believe only Hitler and high-ranking Nazi officials were responsible for the Holocaust. But a crime of such enormous scope and scale, with millions of victims across vast geographical territory, required help from countless ordinary individuals.

The Museum’s special exhibition, Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration & Complicity in the Holocaust, explored the widespread involvement of people at all levels of society who witnessed the persecution and systematic elimination of Jews from their communities and either actively or passively tolerated what they saw.

Examining the role and responsibility of the ordinary people who participated in this devastating event allows us to better understand how ethics can shift and bend in challenging contexts. It illustrates how susceptible human beings are to rationalization, to pressures to conform, to a desire to please those in positions of authority, and to value an in-group we belong to above a group being targeted.

We’ve designed these educational modules to help professors and their students explore how these challenges to ethical behavior and leadership played out in the context of the Holocaust and to pose larger questions about how these challenges confront us today.