Ordinary Men

In: English and Literature

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Ordinary Men

Christopher Browning’s book, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, examines how ordinary men in Reserve Police Battalion became such cruel, cold-blooded killers. During World War II, the Police Battalion 101 helped cleanse out Poland as part of the Final Solution. The Final Solution was Nazi Germany’s plan to execute all European Jews during the World War II. Most of the Battalion 101 were made up of working class or lower middle class from Hamburg area, with majority of them falling in the age between 37 to 42, which “would not seem to have been a very promising group from which to recruit mass murderers on behalf of the Nazi vision of a racial utopia free of Jews” (Browning, pg.48). As ordinary as the men of the Battalion 101 were, the question remains how most men in the Battalion became killers and what caused this behavior. Browning cities several theories to how such ordinary men could commit such atrocities, such as “wartime brutalization, racism, segmentation, and routinization of the task, special selection of the perpetrators, careerism, obedience to orders, deference to authority, ideological indoctrination, and conformity” (Browning, pg.159). Out of these theories, conformity is the most important reason how the ordinary men in the Police Battalion 101 became killers. The Reserve Police Battalion 101 was a group of ordinary men from Hamburg, with most men not having any experience in any kind of military service. Their main responsibilities were the ghetto clearing of Poland and the deportation of Jews. Their first mass execution took place at Jozefow. This event was the first time the Battalion 101 committed a mass murder, and showed signs of unhappiness and unwillingness to kill. When the men got back to their barracks, “they were depressed, angered, embittered, and shaken. They ate…...

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