Were perpetrators forced to kill?

SS and police officials speaking among themselves during a roll call of prisoners at Buchenwald (1939 or 1940). Karl Otto Koch is second from the left. Photo Credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum

After the Holocaust, many people who played a role in the mass extermination of Jews said that they had no choice and were merely following orders while fearing for their own lives. Despite the frequency with which this claim was made, no examples have been found of any one being punished for refusing to participate in killing operations.

Multiple stories corroborate that even with the choice to opt out, not only Germans but also many citizens of German-occupied and Axis European countries voluntarily committed unspeakable atrocities. The debate about why so many chose to carry out the Holocaust is far from settled.