Kant and Lying
In Nazi Germany many people tried to hide Jews from the Nazis to save them.
While to some people the ethical decision behind this seems like the right thing to do to Immanuel Kant it is not. Kant, a philosopher, believed that lying is never justifiable even in efforts to prevent a murder. Kant would not condone lying to Nazis despite them being notorious for the brutalities they committed against mankind. For example if a man named Peter lived in Germany during the Hitler’s reign who could not bear the cruelties he has been witnessing. Peter realizes that the Nazis will harm his Jewish neighbors if they find them, so decides to hide some of his neighbors in his attic. Nazis are looking for hiding Jews and they knock on Peter’s door. He has to decide whether or not to confess to hiding Jews in his attic and not only getting punished and possibly killed but being responsible for his Jewish neighbors’ death. According to Kant, Peter does not have the right to decide not to tell the truth. Kant, like most people recognizes that lying is wrong, however most people believe it is one’s duty to make an exception in order to save an innocent life. In this case Peter has the opportunity to save more than one innocent life. While it is hard to say what one would do if actually given the chance to risk their life to save another it is easy to say that most people would like to think they would. This is because it is universally accepted that it is our obligation to save lives. Kant supposes that because we cannot fully know what the consequences of any action will be, the result might be unexpectedly harmful. Therefore, we ought to act to avoid the known wrong—lying—rather than to avoid a potential wrong. If there are harmful consequences, we are blameless because we acted according to our responsibility.
Kant is right technically we do not know the exact outcome of any situation. But some things are safe to assume. For example, if I were to flip a coin a hundred times almost every time if not every time it will land on one of it’s sides. However there is a small possibility that it will land on its edge. In the case of turning your Jewish neighbors into the Nazis it was safe to assume they would be dehumanized in some form.
Presuming Peter was an intelligent and informed citizen he was aware of Adolf Hitler’s plans and promises to exterminate the Jews. It was obvious that Hitler took his plots very seriously and because Peter had already witnessed Nazi brutality towards Jews. Hitler was most likely well on his way to extinguishing the Jews. People who lived in the areas surrounding the concentration camps could see the tall chimneys of the crematoriums and smell the burning bodies. Nazis were not hiding their monstrosities against mankind. They forced their prisoners to march 1.9 miles from Auschwitz, to Birkenau in the cold. The prisoners were forced to do this march because the worked in Birkenau and lived in Auschwitz. Throughout World War II people lived in the area surrounding the camps. If one of the prisoners died during the day in Birkenau they had to be carried back to Auschwitz to ensure that no one could escape. People were able to see the terrible condition of the prisoners and even the dead being carried back. While Kant is correct in stating that we can never be completely positive about the out come of others’ and ours actions it was clear at this point that the Nazis at Peter’s door were sent to kill his Jewish neighbors. In my opinion this validates Peter’s lie. You can always lie to save an innocent person. I also think in this case and in the hundreds of cases similar to this one it was reasonable to deliberate that everyone knew of the atrocities the Nazis were committing thus it was now only justifiable to lie in efforts of saving others but it was their obligation as a human being to at least try to save people.
There were many non-Jews to