The judges at Nuremberg rejected the “following orders” defense. They said that when an individual follows an order that is illegal under international law, he is responsible for that choice, except under certain circumstances. For instance, if the individual could prove that he was ignorant of the fact that the order was illegal, he would not be responsible. But the judges at Nuremberg maintained that it would have been impossible for members of Einsatzgruppen not to know that murdering civilians was both illegal and immoral. Another exception, the judges said, would be if a person obeyed an illegal order to avoid physical harm, torture, or death. In their judgment at the Einsatzgruppen trial, the judges wrote: “No court will punish a man who, with a loaded pistol at his head, is compelled to pull a lethal lever. Nor need the peril be that imminent in order to escape punishment. But were any of the defendants coerced into killing Jews under the threat of being killed themselves if they failed in their homicidal mission?”
Those who DO NOT KNOW history are doomed to repeat it, those who DO KNOW history are doomed to watch everyone else repeat it.