Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland Hardcover – 1 Feb 1992
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"Helps us understand, better than we did before, not only what they did to make the Holocaust happen but also how they were transformed psychologically from the ordinary men of [the] title into active participants in the most monstrous crime in human history.""-- New York Times Book Review""A staggering and important book, a book that manages without polemic to communicate at least an intimation of the unthinkable."-- Michael Dorris, " Chicago Tribune""A remarkable--and singularly chilling--glimpse of human behavior...This meticulously researched book...represents a major contribution to the literature of the Holocaust." -- Andrew Nagorski, "Newsweek" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Christopher R. Browning is professor of history at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. He is a contributor to Yad Vashem's official twenty-four-volume history of the Holocaust and the author of two earlier books on the subject. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Every young man should read this in his late teens as part of his moral education. Unknown numbers of men, more men probably than women, will find themselves at some point in their lives on organised teams carrying out group physical actions in response to orders. In the present case, Battalion 101 contained men in their forties and fifties who probably never expected to be in uniform and under military discipline at this point in their lives, and were completely unprepared for the situation that they were placed in. We may think it cannot happen to today's 20 year olds, but history shows how insecure such certainties are. Who knows what the next thirty years may bring?
When put to the test, in the main and with a few exceptions, they failed. Part of this is the power of team membership and conformity that is so powerful for men in groups. Part of it is basically unknowable, though the detailed narration of the circumstances gives one a feeling of what it was like to be there and making those choices. Mostly without really realising that they were choices, such seems to have been the power of the group mentality. You notice in the account that even those who refused to participate did so in purely personal terms. It was not 'this is wrong and we must stop and I will not let you do this'. It was 'I will not do this', or 'I cannot do this' - and I would like a different assignment please.
This is the element of moral education. Evil does not announce itself with a big red 'caution' sticker. You come to see how evil presents itself as ordinary measures being discussed over a breakfast briefing, or in a laconic order to be ready to move out at dawn the next day on a special action.
There is an excellent appendix on the egregious Goldhagen. Contrary to Goldhagen, the power of this narrative is that the massacres did not require a history of obsessive ethnic or religious hatred, nor did it require any personal anti-semitism to make people participate in the direct personal killings. Contrary to Goldhagen, the more you read of this, the more it comes to resemble Pol Pot or Rwanda or the Soviet purges, or the Chinese genocide. As you read it, you gradually come to see clearly that the Holocaust was not unique, and that the enemy is us.
Having researched this subject over a couple of years, the psyche of Nazi murderers, this book has finalised my interest in the subject and answered the outstanding dilemas I had.
If you want drama and voyourism about Nazi attrocity, this is NOT for you, it goes much further, deeper and poses dark questions about how we might behave in similar barbaric circumstances.
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I would thoroughly recommend this book to anybody.
Sobering, challenging and saddening.
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