While some of those officers claimed after the war they had no choice but to take part in the Holocaust each man had a choice. Bernie refused to take part and asked for a transfer to a front line unit. Instead, he was transferred to an intelligence unit investigating war crimes.
Bernie’s actions are supported by real life. At the Berlin exhibition referred to in the last post it was stated:
"There was certainly no such thing as an obligation to obey orders," said police historian and project manager Detlef Graf von Schwerin. No evidence has been found that suggests refusal to take part in a mass execution would have had negative consequences for policemen, but very few dared to defy orders, he said.
One of the most powerful examples of direct action involved Dr. Albert Battel. As set out on his page at The Righteous Among the Nations page at the Yad Vasham website:
When the SS prepared to launch their first large-scale “resettlement” (liquidation) action against the Jews of Przemysl on July 26, 1942, Battel, in consort with his superior, ordered the bridge over the River San, the only access into the Jewish ghetto, to be blocked. As the SS commando attempted to cross to the other side, the sergeant-major in charge of the bridge threatened to open fire unless they withdrew. All this happened in broad daylight, to the amazement of the local inhabitants. Still later that same afternoon, an army detachment under the command of Oberleutenant Battel broke into the cordoned-off area of the ghetto and used army trucks to whisk off up to 100 Jews and their families to the barracks of the local military command. These Jews were placed under the protection of the Wehrmacht and were thus sheltered from deportation to the Belzec extermination camp. The remaining ghetto inmates, including the head of the Judenrat, Dr. Duldig, underwent “resettlement” in the following days.
His actions were reported up the SS command and reached Heinrich Himmler but Battel was only reprimanded. He was subsequently promoted. Himmler vowed to have him prosecuted after the war.
I do not know if it made a difference but Battel was a lawyer.
Stangl tried to say he would likely have been shot if he had not built and commanded Sobibór. His assertion of what happened to someone who said “no” was not supported by the example of an Auschwitz doctor, Dr. Hans Münch who refused to take part in the selection process of prisoners arriving at Auschwitz on who would go immediately to the gas chambers.
While working as a research pathologist at a medical institute near Auschwitz. Directed to work on mass immunization techniques because of typhoid and typhus epidemics he did immunization experiments but subverted the intent by ensuring they were harmless and getting extra rations for those participating.
Gitta Sereny interviewed Dr. Münch:
It was in mid-1944 that he finally felt forced to take a stand. A new camp commandant decided that as all the SS doctors were being overworked the two Rajsko research physicians had been sufficiently coddled, and would now have to take part in the selection. ‘I traveled to Berlin and told my department chief that doing that was against all my medical ethical principles and that I refused. He asked who had ordered me to do it, and said that certainly I didn’t have to'.
There was no punishment.
His assistant, Dr. Delmod, initially refused but, after being worn down by triple shifts and visited by his wife, was talked into taking part in the selections. Dr. Delmod committed suicide at the end of the war.
After the war forty SS doctors from Auschwitz were tried in Poland. Dr. Münch was the only one acquitted.
What it took to resist being drawn into the killing was strong character.
By the time I completed German Requiem I say he did not sacrifice his honour. He did not conspire against the Nazi state but focused on surviving the war. (Nebe, after returning from his command in Russia, was a member of the 1944 conspiracy to kill Hitler and was executed for his actions.)