Takes as its basis the detailed records of one squad from the Nazis' extermination groups and explores in its composition, its actions, and the methods by which it was trained to perform acts of genocide on an industrial scale. This book introduces us to men who killed without hesitation or apparent remorse for years on end.
This detailed and harrowing study of a single group of mostly middle-aged policemen from provincial Germany has achieved classic status among histories of the Holocaust. Far from being demonic and hate-filled sadists, most of the group had no history of anti-semitism or of far right politics. Browning explores the motivation of these men and the horribly familiar mechanisms of man-management and group solidarity that reduced a team of "ordinary men" into a bestial instrument of madness. It is a book that offers no comfort to those who seek to explain the Holocaust in terms of German exceptionalism, but it is a significant contribution to the history of World War II.
Christopher Browning has also written THE FINAL SOLUTION AND THE FOREIGN OFFICE and FATEFUL MONTHS: ESSAYS ON THE EMERGENCE OF THE FINAL SOLUTION. Heteaches at the University of North Carolina.
One morning in Jozefow; the Order Police; the Order Police and the Final Solution - Russia 1941; the Order Police and the Final Solution - deportation; reserve police battalion 101; arrival in Poland; initiation to mass murder - the Josefow massacre; reflections on a massacre; Lomazy - the descent of second company; the August deprotations to Treblinka; late-September shootings; the deportations resume; the strange health of Captain Hoffmann; the "Jew hunt"; the last massacre - "harvest festival"; aftermath; Germans, Poles and Jews; ordinary men; appendix - shootings and deportations by reserve police battalion 101.
Chilling analysis of how a typical unit of German police actually operated during the Holocaust, by Browning (History/Pacific Lutheran Univ.). In March 1942, some 75 to 80 percent of all victims of the Holocaust were still alive. Eleven months later, 75 to 80 percent were dead - the result, Browning says, of "a short, intense wave of mass murder," centered in Poland. During 16 months, Reserve Police Battalion 101, a unit of just over 450 men from Hamburg, was responsible in Poland for the shooting of 39,000 Jews and the deportation to Treblinka of 44,000 more. The horror began on July 13, 1942, when the unit's commander, one Major Trapp, ordered his men to round up 1,800 Jews from the village of Jozefow, to select several hundred as "work Jews," and to shoot the rest - men, women, and children. Trapp apparently gave the order with tears in his eyes and gave permission to older soldiers not to participate. Altogether, 10 to 20 percent of the battalion availed themselves of this permission. The remaining men carried out the assignment: "the shooters were gruesomely besmirched with blood, brains, and bone splinters. It hung on their clothing." What sort of men were they? Browning bases his answers on the judicial interrogation in the 1960's of 210 men from the battalion. They were ordinary men, he finds, on the elderly side, drawn from the lower orders of German society, and few had an education above junior-high-school level. And after examining studies dealing with this phenomenon and evidence of such conduct in other wars, Browning determines that it's not just Nazism or Germans that produces such men: There were American units in the Pacific that boasted of never taking captives. "If the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 could become killers under such circumstances," he writes, "what group of men cannot?" It is the care with which Browning examines the evidence, as well as the soberness of his conclusions, that gives this work such power and impact. (Kirkus Reviews)
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