When German president Paul von Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, Hitler combined the positions of chancellor and president. He was now the Führer and Reich chancellor, the head of state, and the chief of the armed forces. In the past, German soldiers had taken this oath:

I swear loyalty to the Constitution and vow that I will protect the German nation and its lawful establishments as a brave soldier at any time and will be obedient to the President and my superiors.

Now Hitler created a new oath.

I swear by God this sacred oath, that I will render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and people, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and will be ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time for this oath.

German military recruits swear allegiance to Adolf Hitler.

In his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer, an American journalist, writes that the new oath “enabled an even greater number of officers to excuse themselves from any personal responsibility for the unspeakable crimes which they carried out on the orders of the Supreme Commander whose true nature they had seen for themselves. . . . One of the appalling aberrations of the German officer corps from this point on rose out of this conflict of ‘honor’—a word . . . often on their lips. . . . Later and often, by honoring their oath they dishonored themselves as human beings and trod in the mud the moral code of their corps.”1

Citations

  • 1 : William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1960), 227.

Jurando Lealtad

Cuando el presidente alemán Paul von Hindenburg murió, el 2 de agosto de 1934, Hitler unió los cargos de canciller y presidente. Ahora era el Führer y el canciller del Reich, la cabeza del estado y el jefe de las fuerzas armadas. En el pasado, los soldados alemanes habían prestado este juramento:

Juro lealtad a la Constitución y prometo que en todo momento protegeré la nación alemana y a sus instituciones legales como un valiente soldado y obedeceré al presidente y a mis superiores.

Luego Hitler creó un nuevo juramento:

Juro por Dios este sagrado juramento, que yo debo obediencia incondicional al Führer del Imperio y del pueblo alemán, Adolf Hitler, comandante supremo de las Fuerzas Armadas, y que como un valiente soldado, estaré preparado en todo momento para defender este juramento con mi vida.

En su libro Auge y caída del Tercer Reich, William Shirer, periodista estadounidense, escribe que el nuevo juramento “permitía que un número aún mayor de oficiales se excusaran ante cualquier responsabilidad personal por los crímenes atroces que cometieron bajo las órdenes del comandante supremo cuya verdadera naturaleza habían presenciado por sí mismos. . . . A partir de este punto, surgió una de las aberraciones más espantosas por parte de los cuerpos oficiales alemanes como consecuencia de este conflicto de ‘honor’, palabra que . . . con frecuencia pronunciaban sus labios. . . . Después y con frecuencia, el hacer honor a su juramento era una afrenta hacia ellos mismos como seres humanos y enterró en el barro el código moral de sus cuerpos de las fuerzas armadas.”1

Citations

  • 1 : William Shirer, Auge y Caída del Tercer Reich (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1960), 227.

Connection Questions

  1. Summarize the two oaths. What is the main difference between the two? How important is that difference? What are the implications of swearing an oath to an individual leader rather than to a nation?
  2. How might taking an oath affect the choices a person makes? How does an oath affect the level of responsibility a person has for his or her actions? Is following an oath an acceptable explanation for making a choice that a person later regrets?
  3. What oaths do people take today? For what reasons? How do such oaths affect people’s choices? How should they?

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