14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
An important work with implications for the modern day.,
This review is from: Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 11 and the Final Solution in Poland: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (Paperback)
Amongst historians this book has quickly reached the status of a classic. But it deserves to have a much broader readership as the subject it tackles - that of how 'ordinary men' can end up doing morally repugnant deeds - has implications that go far beyond its historical context. There is a human tendency to categorise and blame groups of people because it is easier than facing the possibility that anyone is capable of horror. An example would be the claim that 'religion causes wars' - it places the burden on an external agency, on the 'other' rather than the fact that anyone can commit an atrocity.
This is what Browning's book illustrates beautifully; the gradual steps these ordinary men take on the path to atrocity. Browning refers to a number of psychological studies as well as the historical record to illustrate his points and the book is nothing if not frightening in that you can see how this could all to easily happen again. From a reluctance to let down their comrades to the difficulty of disobeying orders from a higher authority you can see how some of these men ended up becoming killers.
Browning's prose is succinct and he explains his points clearly and logically. Whilst the complex ideas don't always make for easy reading, Browning deftly provides examples and explanaions that illustrate his point.
This is an important book and it deserves a wide audience.