" is a phrase that originally referred to citizens of Nazi Germany
who, after Germany’s defeat in World War II
, claimed not to have supported the regime, yet made no claim to have opposed it in any significant way. This was widely noted by Allied occupation
troops, who were amazed and appalled by the widespread disavowal of responsibility for Nazi crimes among the German populace. For example:
- It is a saying among our troops that there are no real Nazis in Germany, only “good Germans.” Every crime Germany committed against humanity seems to have been done by someone else.
The term has come to be used to refer more generically to people in any country who observe reprehensible things taking place — whether done by a government or by another powerful institution — but remain silent, neither raising objections nor taking steps to change the course of events.