Claim that Obeying Orders is No Excuse
At the trial held in Nuremberg after the second world war of prominent German officials charged with war crimes, the allied court ruled that obeying orders was not an acceptable legal defence for the accused. This ruling is nonsense.
Obedience Essential For Every Community
To claim that obedience to authority is conditional upon the conscience of the citizen, is to claim that each man is responsible for recognising what his duty should be. This is wrong. Duty is not, and never can be, set by the individual but always by the community. Deciding what is right or wrong must be the community's responsibility as it is the community's role to pass laws. Should a man feel he has the right to decide what his duty is, he is in effect deciding what laws he will follow or break. That is, he has become a law unto himself and is not part of any community.
Basis Of Duty
The basis of duty is that regardless of particular individual beliefs, the demands of the community must be met, even if it should prove fatal to the individual. This is self-sacrifice, the quality essential for the very existence of every community. The allied judges' decision is a claim that obedience to the law—self-sacrifice— is not what is required from citizens, which is a call for anarchy.
Attempt at Allied Justification
The allied judges attempted to justify their ludicrous claim with another, that there is some absolute law that humanity must adhere to regardless of official direction to the opposite. But as law is a judgement, and judgement is the decision of an understanding, and as understandings are all formed by the accidental adoption of a set of values, there can be no absolute understanding. So there can be no absolute law.
The Judgement At Nuremberg Was Allied Vengeance
The allied judges claim that following orders was not an a legal defence is clearly false, as is their suggestion of absolute law. The judgement at Nuremberg was Allied vengeance, which reflected popular demands not the pursuit of justice.