Ordinary Soldiers: A Study in Ethics, Law and Leadership

IT IS OFTEN CHALLENGING TO FIND A CASE STUDY FOR A LESSON in military leadership and ethics involving the law of armed conflict (LOAC) for which the facts and documentation are sufficient to appeal to ethicists, historians, and lawyers. It is likewise challenging to find such a case study in which company-grade officers are unequivocally presented with an illegal order by a field-grade commander and demonstrate dramatically different responses to the same order in the same situational context. Finally, it is difficult to find these circumstances in the context of regular units, composed of ordinary soldiers, going about their military duties. The experiences of the 1st Battalion, 691st Infantry Regiment, of the German Wehrmacht (armed forces), performing rear-area security duties in the first week of October 1941 in occupied Belarus, meet these stringent requirements.
Beorn, Waitman, David Frey, COL (R) Jody Prescott, Gretchen Skidmore & Jennifer Ciardelli, “Ordinary Soldiers: A Study in Ethics, Law and Leadership.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2014. https://www.ushmm.org/m/pdfs/20140830-ordinary-soldiers-case-study.pdf