- Utilizes a case study, based on the research of Dr. Waitman Wade Beorn in his book Marching into Darkness and designed by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at West Point, to explore the behavior of ordinary people placed in leadership positions during wartime
- Understand the practical application of moral, legal, and leadership principles in the context of the challenges facing leaders today under current domestic and international law in armed conflict situations
- Learn how the German Army in World War II dealt with officers who refused orders to kill protected civilians, and explore the evolution in German court decisions of cases involving alleged war criminals.
- Enjoy an optional guided tour of the Virginia Holocaust Museum (Richmond attendees), or a VIP pass for expedited admission to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington attendees)
1941. World War II. Occupied Belarus on the Eastern Front. Three German Army company commanders are given an order by their battalion commander to kill all civilian Jews in their company areas.
From this historical case study, based on the research of Dr. Waitman Wade Beorn in his book Marching into Darkness, designed by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at West Point, and employing a small-group, breakout style of learning, you will understand how ordinary people placed in leadership positions during wartime balance personal and institutional perspectives on morality, law, and leadership as they decide the fate of legally protected populations.
In conjunction with the seminar, Richmond attendees may participate in an optional guided tour of the Virginia Holocaust Museum before the program. Washington attendees will receive a VIP pass for expedited admission to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, to be used after the program or at a later date.
Using a case study of a German Army battalion in the early part of World War II on the Eastern Front, this seminar explores how a group of ordinary leaders made individual decisions as to whether Jewish civilians in their respective areas would be executed or spared. In October 1941, in Occupied Belarus, the battalion commander of 1st Battalion, 691st Regiment, ordered his three company commanders to kill all Jews in their company areas. The battalion was largely a unit of older reservists, pulling rear-area security duty. One company commander immediately complied, but the second refused. The third commander initially avoided carrying out the order, but then directed his company’s senior enlisted noncommissioned officer to take a detail of soldiers and execute the Jewish civilians after the battalion commander confirmed his order in writing.
After World War II, as Germany regained its sovereignty, the third company commander and his first sergeant were tried in a German court for the murder of 114 civilians. They were convicted, and the record of trial and their appeal offer both a rich trove of witness testimony regarding the executions and often troubling examples of legal analysis of wartime facts. This case study uses the testimony and the legal analysis to explore the strikingly different decisions by three similarly situated officers, and through small-group discussion allows the students to consider the challenges facing such decision makers today, in the context of modern moral, legal, and leadership norms.
Topics to be covered include:
- The legal obligation of leaders to refuse to follow illegal orders
- The interplay among morality, law, and leadership styles and principles in achieving the effective protection of persons immune to violence under domestic and international law
- The importance of individual and institutional perspectives on the treatment of protected persons in armed conflict situations
- The evolution of the law protecting civilians and prisoners of war
- Methods of legal analysis used to find and evaluate facts in armed conflict situations in different countries at different times, and what they mean for decision makers today