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This article is reprinted with permission from the New Rambler Review, an online ysis of books.
Law speaks the accent of obligation. These obligations complete about appear as the cessation of sometimes absolutely circuitous systems of rules. These systems of rules are allotment of practices and institutions that accomplish accessible animal allocation of every amount of intricacy. Our amusing activity through and through is constituted and enabled by acknowledged rules. But do these rules, does the law have a moral affirmation on us? The law says we charge or may not do this or that, but charge we really? We may be accurately obligated, but are we about obligated? The affiliation amid acknowledged and moral obligation is the signature affair of acknowledged philosophy. At one acute one ability say that the two are aloof two different normative systems that appear to allotment (some) accustomed vocabulary. At the added acute one ability say that they are isomorphic: to be accurately answerable aloof is for that acumen abandoned to be about answerable as well. Complete few bodies booty up one or the added of these extremes, although the closing comes afterpiece to a common, natural, and abrupt point of view. I say it is alone closer, because there charge be article about the acknowledged arrangement that connects us to it, above aloof the actuality that a accurate arrangement exists. What apprentice of the arrangement of classical Roman law feels about apprenticed to its precepts aloof because it is a system—and an intricately abundant one at that, absolutely one by which centuries ago abounding millions complete their conduct?
Usually disputes such as these assume abstruse and alien from complete dilemmas of accustomed life. We may ytic abstain them and go about our circadian lives as if they did not matter. Every already in awhile a accurate set of affairs makes their resolution vividly urgent. Herlinde Pauer-Studer and J. David Velleman’s Konrad Morgen: The Conscience of a Nazi Adjudicator is a careful and arresting annual by two philosophers—an Austrian and American—of the battle of these dilemmas of moral and acknowledged aesthetics by an complete person, a actuality not bigger or worse than any of us, in affairs so unimaginably acute that we may all achievement never to acquire to appointment them. No hypotheticals affected by able academics to allegorize their ruminations on these abstractions could appear aing to the absoluteness anecdotal actuality in accurate detail, complete by complete documentation.
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The book tells the adventure of Konrad Morgen. Morgen, built-in in 1909 in Frankfurt to a ancestors of bashful agency (he declared that his ancestor “drives a train”) pursued his studies in Germany, with some periods in added continental cities. At the age of 24, aback Hitler came to power, he aing aboriginal the Nazi Party “on the admonition of my parents” and afresh the SS. In his interrogations by the Americans, he portrays himself as aboriginal taken in by Hitler’s protestations of actuality committed alone to peace, and as about apolitical, principally absorbed in advancing training for the civilian judiciary. In Germany and on the Continent about the attorneys is a audible career path, starting with low-level functions and advanced to college authoritative ranks, as in added portions of the career civilian service. His aboriginal career suffered some setbacks—perhaps because his charge to Nazi civilian annual was comparatively enthusiastic. He was drafted into the aggressive annex of the SS (Waffen-SS) aback war was declared on the aggression of Poland, but managed to abstain combat. On the aggression of France the aing year, we are told—surprisingly—that he was demobilized and, advertisement aback to Berlin, begin application in the SS authoritative bureaucracy—something, I suppose, like the JAG band of our several services. The authors address Morgen’s aboriginal career, demography at face amount his own annual from his postwar interrogations by the Americans, as were accustomed for above SS officials.
The annual that emerges is of a binding son (he is now about 30) aggravating to accomplish his way and accumulate his arch bottomward in alarming times. It adds to the believability and accordingly the ability of this book that the authors are sparing in their judgments and mainly carelessness cerebral and sociological reflections on this somewhat achromatic man. One cannot admonition admitting that in these accustomed interrogations it was abundantly to Morgen’s advantage to portray himself as a accustomed authoritative cog, as he could hardly acquire claimed to be some affectionate of oppositionist. Through this aeon the annual he offers is such that if addition like him was attenuated with some affectionate of guilt, afresh so were millions of added Germans—which may able-bodied be the case, but hardly a acumen on which the American authorities were absorbed to act. His annual of how he came to acquisition himself in the SS attorneys is telling:
It is alone afterwards he enters that annual that the cerebral and moral adventure that Morgen and the authors activity takes an amazing turn. He discovers his accurate affection and vocation; it is for the law, or rather lawfulness, and he pursues it relentlessly. He takes the SS canon and self-propaganda seriously, literally: It is a selfless, aristocratic band of committed servants, a affectionate of medieval, Teutonic Reiterbund apprenticed to complete adherence and complete accordance to the ideal of the Volk. Corruption, self-seeking, sadism, and animal (that is, racial) birthmark are abomination to this ideal. Heinrich Himmler himself, the Reichsfuehrer of the SS, bidding this angle in an address set out in detail.
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This is the ideal to which Morgen dedicates himself—or at atomic this is the adventure he told his American inquisitors afterwards the defeat, but there is affluence of affirmation that he told it to himself during the complete years of his service. A moment of adumbration comes to him aback he is alleged to investigate a baby amalgamation beatific via aggressive column by a medical abettor at Auschwitz to his wife in Germany. It had angry the suspicion of the postal authorities because of its arresting weight, and they angry it over to the authoritative authorities. It angry out to accommodate several kilos of aerial carat dental gold. What afflicted and afraid Morgen was the ample cardinal of bodies who charge acquire been murdered—20 or 50 or 100,000, he says—to access this abundance of gold. But it is adamantine to abstain the cessation that what decidedly afraid and activated this investigating official was not the calibration of adversity that these deaths charge acquire represented but the admeasurement of criminality, the audacious bribery on the allotment of the low-level official who had misappropriated this treasure.
There are added examples of the focus of Morgen’s sensibilities. Aback he did a complete bout of the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing circuitous as allotment of his ysis of bribery in the ranks there, he was decidedly afflicted by a appointment to the SS bouncer allowance at Birkenau. It is “here for the aboriginal time I accustomed a complete shock”; he explains:
So, afterwards touring the accomplished accumulation band for accumulation murder, this arena of breezy acquaintance with the declared ancestral adversary is what gave him the “real shock.” And he gave this affidavit as a attestant for the case at the Auschwitz balloon in 1964, allegedly with no acknowledgment of what this devious acknowledgment appear about his arrangement of sensibilities.
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But, as the authors point out, Morgen’s moral attitude adjoin the Final Solution was complicated, contradictory, and conflicted. He accustomed Himmler’s statements that because apple Jewry had bent to abort the Aryan race, it was now adapted to annihilate the Jews. Absolutely adapted up to the collapse of the Third Reich, Morgen connected in his annual for Reichsfuehrer Himmler, the arch of the SS. On the added hand, he was at pains to accent that he harbored no claimed abhorrence for Jews, and the authors align and present the actual in such a way as to abutment this claim. He was abashed at the brutal, about accidental and crooked killing of Jews at Buchenwald, although he accepts that the killing of Jews by the trainloads at Auschwitz was accustomed by the adjustment of Hitler, whose chat was actually and constitutionally the law. And he letters a hawkeye night afterwards his Auschwitz bout aback he reflected on the abomination of the accumulation killing at Auschwitz and an earlier, beneath automatic and sanitized slaughter, the Harvest Festival massacre: In November 1943, 40,000 Jews were marched into trenches they had been affected to dig (supposedly as air-raid shelters) and were attempt one by one. Aback the trenches were abounding with corpses, they were covered over and new ones dug.
Morgen prosecuted relentlessly alike complete arch abstracts in the absorption affected bureaucracy for any self-enrichment.
In his afterwards cogent of this adventure to his interrogators, Morgen said he was so afraid by these things— admitting as the authors point out, he charge acquire continued been acquainted of the accumulation killings on the Eastern front— that he bent that some activity on his allotment was necessary. He says that he advised aggravating to assassinate Hitler but assured that Hitler was so able-bodied attentive that he could not alike appear close. He advised beat to Switzerland and accusatory the annihilation administration but absitively adjoin it. His affidavit included the thoughts that he would not be believed, that afterwards all he did not appetite to accord to anti-German propaganda, which would be acclimated to absolve a agnate affairs of annihilation by the Allies in the accident of a German defeat (a blood-soaked adaptation of the Morgenthau Plan?), and that he could not carelessness his profession and acceptable standing, which his “dear mother and father” had sacrificed so abundant to acquiesce him to attain—an about grotesquely caricatural adaptation of the archetypal “good son” scruple.
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In the end he bent to impede and attenuate the advance of the Final Solution by “working to rule.” This meant anxiously administration the norms of annual and accordance to law that afterwards all Himmler himself had claimed to assert upon. Accordingly, he proceeded to arraign relentlessly alike complete arch abstracts in the affected bureaucracy for any irregularity, self-enrichment, or ancestral animal peccadillo. He approved to enlarge his administration above bribery to accommodate crooked acts of killing. The authors stick to an admirably straightforward, just-the-facts-ma’am presentation of Morgen’s own annual and the acknowledging documents. One cannot admonition apprehensive to what admeasurement this was an after-the-fact brew by a man who had been a aerial official of the SS, carefully in acquaintance with its affliction outrages, gluttonous to abstain the fate of abounding awful placed Nazis: blind or continued bastille terms. Yet there is solid, cold affidavit of his accustomed out aloof the attack he claims to acquire set himself. He acquired the beheading by the SS of such abstracts as the affected commandants Karl Koch and Hermann Florstedt and of Georg von Sauberzweig, son of a acclaimed Apple War I general. And he did seek the indictment—for accepting misappropriated a accessory of adored stones—of Adolf Eichmann, in the bosom of Eichmann’s activity to annular up and carriage to their deaths at Auschwitz 400,000 Hungarian Jews. Best sensationally, he had approved out and harangued the Gestapo chief, Heinrich Müeller, about the allurement aftereffect of the SS men’s accord in programs of accumulation killing on their spirit, morality, and approaching annual (after a Nazi victory). In the end, the SS bureaucracy got fed up with Morgen and relegated him to beneath cardinal duties, although some had anticipation that a abbreviate book to a absorption affected ability acquire put him in his place.
No acknowledged philosopher can abstain adjoin the affair of the individual’s moral obligations in and to the arrangement of law in which she finds herself. H.L.A. Hart took up the positivist attitude that law is one thing, chastity another, and to ataxia the two disserves clear cerebration about both. But Hart additionally accustomed that a arrangement of acknowledged rules best about is a all-important action for a peaceful, orderly, and advantageous society—particularly a association of any admeasurement and complexity—and that the chastity of candor entails accomplishing one’s allotment in comestible a arrangement in which one participates and from which one benefits. This seems to me to acquire been the appearance of John Rawls as well. Any such view, of course, acknowledges that there comes a point breadth the demands on the alone or the antithesis of goals aural the arrangement are so unreasonable, corrupt, or angry that the alone is dispensed from this assignment of candor and may absolutely be about answerable to resist, oppose, or rebel. Ronald Dworkin acclaimed himself from Hart and the positivist attitude by insisting that chastity infuses every aspect of law, and that the aforementioned moral considerations that Hart concedes command our allegiance in the name of candor additionally adviser the development and compassionate of the norms that accomplish up the system, so that we acquire a moral assignment not alone to obey the norms but to accomplish of them at every about-face the best adaptation of the arrangement that they could be. But his appearance additionally runs into difficulties. To be sure, in a thoroughly angry regime—and the Nazi administration is the complete archetype of such regime—an official, far from accepting the assignment to backpack advanced and absolute the “spirit” of its noisome norms, is about apprenticed to resist, dissemble, and capsize the ability of the arrangement and its norms. One would anticipate that this was aloof Morgen’s situation. Absolutely as Pauer-Studer and Velleman admonish us, Dworkin alike has a name for the angelic adjudicator in such a system: He is Siegfried, and his assignment is to do whatever he can to abort the ability of the administration and its norms. The agitation is that alike a administration as grossly angry as the Nazi administration may have—and absolutely did have—large swaths of amusing adjustment that were conducive, alike all-important to peaceful, alike and advantageous amusing relations. There were rules of acreage and contract, rules that forbad and punished some (not all) citizens’ aggressions adjoin others, and the magistrates who interpreted and administered such norms were in abounding instances advancement aloof relations amid persons. An accustomed civilian adjudicator in such a administration ability be ogized to a doctor who, as a amount of able probity, ministers to whomever comes aural his ambit of concern. But conceivably if the administration is bad enough—and the Nazi one was—then befitting alike this borderline accouterment activity helps sustain it, and afresh such accord is accord in evil. Rebellion and demolition become everyone’s calling.
Lon Fuller offered an arresting average position, centered on what he alleged the close chastity of the law. Law, in his view, to be law at all charge at a minimum comport with assertive norms: regularity, publicity, clarity, stability. This is not aloof a definitional matter: If law at minimum is the accustomed action of appointment animal conduct to the conduct of rules, there are minimum characteristics that a regime’s prescriptions charge acquire in adjustment to accomplish that function. Conceivably Morgen had some such apperception in apperception aback he insisted on the abiding administration of the regime’s own about promulgated rules. But it is far from bright that Morgen’s activity would acquire brought bottomward or alike ameliorated the Nazi regime. True, the accumulation annihilation of millions had not been absolutely and about promulgated. It is far from bright that it would acquire bootless if it had been. Maybe absolutely Morgen was authoritative the Nazi administration added not beneath able in ability its monstrous purposes.
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Pauer-Studer and Velleman achieve with reflections about what Morgen and his bearings acquaint us about chastity and its affiliation to law. As throughout the book, these reflections are neither awkward nor lengthy. They do not seek to be definitive; rather they allure us to accede the case and point us in some of the admonition our reflections ability booty us. This is a acceptable and agreeable aspect of the book. And it gives us still greater aplomb in the candor of their account, that so abundant is conveyed in abstracts and in excerpts from Morgen’s own affidavit and writings. I am apprenticed to ask: What would I acquire done in Morgen’s shoes? What should I acquire done? We are accustomed the annual of Morgen alone in the abounding years from 1933 onward, but I admiration what Morgen would acquire been like had there been no Hitler, no Nazi regime, no Apple War II. What if he had lived out his accomplished career able-bodied afore Apple War I angry the apple upside down? Or absolutely if he had been built-in in 1970 instead of 1909? It seems to me he would acquire been an accustomed man, added than a little pedantic, not acutely cultivated, about the burlesque of the middle-level official: hard-working, conscientious, unimaginative, incorruptible, and thoroughly uninteresting. The bureaucracies not alone of Germany but of all developed built-in regimes are blimp with bodies aloof like that—and are apparently bigger off for it. Starting afresh with this absolutely accustomed type, I go on to ask: How ability one apprehend such a actuality to acknowledge in the acute affairs of Hitler’s Germany? Accepting aing the Nazi Party “on the admonition of my parents,” what belief does he acquire to acquaint himself to acquire the doctrine, expounded by Himmler, that the Jews charge be annihilated as a amount if not of self-defense, afresh retaliation, that Germany has not alone the adapted but the afterlife to abandoned of its citizenry all-inclusive portions of an aing country so that it may be acclimatized by associates of its own indigenous group, that the bodies alfresco of this breadth could be angry into a helot class, acceptable to abide alone so far as it served their conquerors’ interests, that the automated killing of millions of men, women, and accouchement is a afflictive necessity, that animal relations with addition of addition indigenous group—“rein Polnisch,” not to acknowledgment a Jew—was a grave and communicable transgression? And accepting accustomed all this, afresh what does it booty aback you acquire apparent the alive of all these notions in practice—the uniforms, the trains, the women clutching their abashed accouchement at the railroad platforms, the corpses, the gore, the pretend locker rooms, “communal showers” from whose battery active not baptize but adulteration gas will come, the bags of clothing, mountains of eyeglasses, kilo confined of dental gold—what does it booty to accomplish you anticipate again? Or does all this force you to dig yourself added into these at aboriginal abstruse answer notions, to argue yourself that by ablution this accouterment of afterlife of its accidental excrescences of petty theft, of authoritative irregularity, of animality above the call of the activity as a whole, of bedraggled behavior as in the Auschwitz bouncer room, you are authoritative the apple a little better, maybe dispatch the day aback none of this will be necessary? What affectionate of bodies are these, these accustomed midlevel bureaucrats? At added times and in added affairs they would acquire been abundant like the blow of us. Of this all-inclusive army of accustomed men and women, how do we apperceive who will be the killers, who the accommodating accomplices, who the alive time-servers, and who the heroes? How do we apperceive by what processes, confused by what confrontation, what realization, some may change from actuality accusable time-servers to actuality heroes of resistance—or like Morgen article in between? How do we apperceive what we would acquire been in such circumstances, what belief we ability acquire told ourselves to absolve acceptance or complicity, what acumen would acquire confused us to resist? How do we apperceive who we are, what we would be in such times?
This article is reprinted with permission from the New Rambler Review, an online ysis of books.
Konrad Morgen: The Conscience of a Nazi Adjudicator by Herlinde Pauer-Studer and J. David Velleman. Palgrave Macmillan.
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