Ordinary Men
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Ordinary Men : Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland

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Ordinary Men has been admired all over the world and is now published in the UK for the first time. It takes as its basis the detailed records of one squad from the Nazis' extermination groups and explores in detail its composition, its actions, andthe methods by which it was trained to perform acts of genocide on an industrial scale. He introduces us to cheerful, friendly, ordinary men who killed without hesitation or apparent remorse for years on end, in docile obedience to an authority theyhappily accepted as legitimate. It is a valuable corrective to the idea of German uniqueness and offers a much more chilling picture of human beings as avidly suggestible and desperate for an organising purpose in their lives, however disgusting.

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  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 128 x 194 x 20mm | 222.26g
  • 01 Sep 2005
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London
  • English
  • 2 maps, 8pp b&w illustrations
  • 0141000422
  • 9780141000428
  • 15,968

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Author Information

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.

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Review text

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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