The Man Who Astonished the World: Responses to Stanley Milgram’s Experiments

The Man Who Shocked the World: Stanley Milgram (Photo Credit: Peter C. Baker)

Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Experiment

Stanley Milgram is well known today for his controversial experiment on obedience. During the 1960s, while he was a professor at Yale, Milgram conducted a series of experiments on obedience. His findings were shocking: most people, Milgram found, will obey authority figures when instructed to harm others, even if such actions were contrary to their own, personal beliefs. Milgram’s experiment had enormous implications for understanding how so many people could come to take part in the mass murder of Jews and other ethnic minorities in Nazi Germany. However, Milgram’s experiments were questionable from an ethical perspective and they were criticized heavily at the time and since then by social psychologists and other scholars. This paper will discuss Milgram’s experiments and the criticisms that it drew. Because Milgram’s experiments have been central to the study of genocide, it is important to understand the objections that people have raise to them as well as the way that they have been and continue to be justified.

A Forgotten History

      men

-This photo was taken from the UHSMM gallery with an unknown photographer. This was taken before The Weimar Republic and has an officer in the back ground who appears to be harassing these men.

These so called Gypsy people have been leading nomadic lifestyles since their origin up until the 1960s. They traveled in caravans called Kumpania where around 20 individual families would travel as one group. The Roma people were very kept to themselves and forbade the learning of reading and writing as one of the women, Papuzsa, shared in her telling of her life as growing up in the Roma lifestyle. Within these smaller groups or sects, arranged marriage were a way of life along with the traditions of the original Roma people. These people were known to be very musical and artistic as many of the stories I read discussed elaborate works of poetry, singing, and theatrics. For centuries, Sinti and Roma were scorned and persecuted in Europe. Zigeuner, the German word for Gypsy, derives from a Greek root meaning “untouchable.” In the Balkan principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, Gypsies were slaves bought and sold by monasteries and large estate holders (boyars) until 1864, when the newly formed nation of Romania emancipated them. The Roma people placed all importance on the preservation of their history and tradition and would ostracize any of their members who did not comply with those values. It is due to their strict way of life and thinking that the Roma did not support the government and rejected most of their proposals. I believe this is what could have sparked the targeting of their people when the Nazi party took control.