A remarkable group of young people called the White Rose had the courage to oppose the government and its war machine once they found out what was going on.
A few quotes from this excellent piece. Any resemblance to the "Red Fridays", flag waving, "Support the Troops" ribbon campaigns and other signs of creeping militarism that is showing itself in Canadian public life today is purely intentional. Bold typeface is mine.
Since the 9/11 attacks, Americans have been more than willing for their government to infringe on vital civil liberties, including habeas corpus, involve the nation in an undeclared and unprovoked war on Iraq, and spend ever-growing amounts of money on the military-industrial complex, all in the name of the “war on terrorism.”
...[F]rom the first grade in public (i.e., government) schools, it was ingrained in German children that, during times of war, it was the duty of every German to come to the support of his country, which, in the minds of the German officials, was synonymous with the German government. Once a war was under way, the time for discussion and debate was over, at least until the war was over. Opposition to the war would demoralize the troops, it was said, and, therefore, hurt the war effort. Opposing the government (and the troops) in wartime, therefore, was considered treasonous.
...[T]housands of German soldiers were dying on the battlefield, especially in the Soviet Union. Whether they agreed with the war effort or not, the German people were expected to support the troops, which meant supporting the war effort.
...[N]ow, some might argue that Germans should not have automatically believed Hitler, especially knowing that throughout history rulers had lied about matters relating to war. But Germans took the position that they had the right and the duty to place their trust in their government officials. After all, Germans felt, their government officials had access to information that the people did not have. Many Germans felt that their government would never lie to them about a matter as important as war.
...[G]erman soldiers, of course, were also expected to do their duty and follow the orders of their commander in chief. Under Germany’s system, it was not up to the individual soldier to reach his own independent judgment about whether Germany was the aggressor in the conflict or whether Hitler had lied about the reasons for going to war. Thus, German soldiers, both Protestant and Catholic, understood that they could kill Polish soldiers with a clear conscience because, again, it was not up to the individual soldier to decide on the justice of the war. He could entrust that decision to his superior officers and political leaders and simply assume that the order to invade was morally and legally justified.
Once troops were committed to battle, most German civilians understood their duty — support the troops who were now fighting and dying on the battlefield for their country, for the fatherland. The time for debating and discussing the causes of the war would have to wait until the war’s end. What mattered, once the war was under way, was winning....[H]ermann Goering, founder of the Gestapo, explained the strategy:"Why, of course, the people don’t want war.... Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship....
"Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country. "
...[M]ost Germans did not want to know what was going on inside the concentration camps. If they knew that bad things were occurring, their consciences might start bothering them, which might motivate them to take action to bring the wrongdoing to a stop, which could be dangerous. It was easier — and safer — to look the other way and simply entrust such important matters to their government officials. In that way, it was believed, the government, rather than the individual citizen, would bear the legal and moral consequences for wrongful acts that the government was committing secretly.
...[I]n one of their leaflets, the members of the White Rose wrote, “We are your bad conscience.” They were asking Germans to rise above the old, degenerate concept of patriotism that entailed blindly supporting one’s government in time of war. They were asking German soldiers to rise above the old, degenerate concept of blind obedience to orders. They were asking Germans to confront openly the rumors of what German officials were doing to the Jews in the concentration camps. They were asking German citizens, both civilian and military, to make an independent judgment on both the Hitler regime and the war, to judge both the government and the war as immoral and illegitimate, and to take the necessary steps to put a stop to both.
...[T]hey were asking Germans to embrace a different and higher concept of patriotism — one that involves a devotion to a set of moral principles and values rather than blind allegiance to one’s government in time of war. It was a type of patriotism that involved opposition to one’s own government, especially in time of war, when government is engaged in conduct that violates moral principles and values.