The Courage to Defy
Most functionaries continued doing their jobs, never deviating from routine. Only a few felt that they were personally responsible for their offices' actions and decided to disobey. Some of them were punished for their insubordination.
In order to perpetrate the murder of six million Jews it was necessary to enlist the cooperation of different state institutions of Nazi Germany, its collaborators and the occupied countries. The marking and ghettoization of the Jews, the confiscation of their property and their deportation were major tasks which required the participation of local police forces and municipal officials, public services, railway companies and others. Many of those involved believed they were professionals merely doing their job. They could well claim that they were merely following instructions, that they were small cogs in a big machinery, and that since they were only in charge of one small link in a long process, they could not be held responsible for the outcome. Only a small minority mustered the necessary courage and honesty to recognize the real significance of what they were doing, or of what they were required to do. This small minority decided they were unable to continue with their professional routine; they decided to defy their superiors and to disobey their orders and instructions.
Among these courageous people were diplomats of different countries, who decided that even though they were of a different nationality and religion, they had to act when faced with the plight of the Jews and the long lines that formed in front of their embassies and consulates. While their countries and the free world were reluctant to permit entry of the many refugees, and while most diplomats continued to employ ordinary procedures in extraordinary times, only very few proved to be an exception and were willing to act against their government’s policy and instructions, suffer the consequences and be sanctioned by their superiors. Other diplomats forfeited their diplomatic immunity or, as in Hungary, openly confronted the Arrow Cross militias and saved Jews from death marches and executions.