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Joseph Schultz

NON CIRCULATING. FOR CENTER USE ONLY. Jospeh Schultz was a German soldier on the Eastern Front. On the 20th of July 1941, he along with seven of his brothers in arms were sent out on what they thought to be a routine mission. After a short march they soon understood that they were on a quite different mission than what they were used to: Ahead of them, they saw fourteen captured local civilians who were blindfolded , positioned up against a wall. The 8 soldiers in Schultz’ platoon were halted 10-15 meters away, and an NCO ordered them to execute every one of the civilian. Seven of the soldiers took aim, and in the silence that followed you could only hear the sound of a rifle beeing dropped. Jospeh Schultz disobeyed a direct order, dropped his rifle and walked slowly towards the 14 civilians which only heard cautious footsteps in the grass in front of them. The young Schultz positioned himself together with the soon-to-be executed civilians, and choosed death instead of killing helpless civilians. A few seconds later 14 civilians and 1 German soldier laid dead in the grass. He was executed by his own brothers in arms by order of the NCO. The issue of individual moral responsibility vs. obedience to authority is dramatized. This eloquent production relies on images rather than dialog to tell its timeless tale of personal values. VHS. Color. 13 minutes. (Comment: If you think about what the message of the movie is, it is possible that it becomes a justification for actually following orders, even if they are immoral, especially if it means life or death. Although a short film, teachers should develop the lesson with an eye to this concern. Note too that this is a story about atrocities committed against "innocent civilians." Shultz’ courage is striking. However, there are no documented cases that I am aware of of Nazi soldiers or their collaborators being executed for refusing to shoot Jews. For many of the perpetrators, Jewish families and their children were not perceived as "innocent." Christopher Browning’s book, Ordinary Men, provides fascinating insights.) VHS only.

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Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
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