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Ordinary Men Book Review

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Ordinary Men

Christopher Browning describes how the Reserve Police Battalion 101, like the rest of German society, was immersed in a flood of racist and anti-Semitic propaganda. Browning describes how the Order Police provided indoctrination both in basic training and as an ongoing practice within each unit. Many of the members were not prepared for the killing of Jews. The author examines the reasons some of the police members did not shoot. The physiological effect of isolation, rejection, and ostracism is examined in the context of being assigned to a foreign land with a hostile population. The contradictions imposed by the demands of conscience on the one hand and the norms of the battalion on the other are discussed. Ordinary Men provides a graphic portrayal of Police Battalion 101's involvement in the Holocaust.

The major focus of the book focuses on reconstruction of the events this group of men participated in. According to Browning, the men of Police Battalion 101 were just thatвЂ"ordinary. They were five hundred middle-aged, working-class men of German descent. A majority of these men were neither Nazi party members nor members of the S.S. They were also from Hamburg, which was a town that was one of the least occupied Nazi areas of Germany and, thus, were not as exposed to the Nazi regime. These men were not self-selected to be part of the order police, nor were they specially selected because of violent characteristics. These men were plucked from their normal lives, put into squads, and given the mission to kill Jews because they were the only people available for the task. “Even in the face of death the Jewish mothers did not separate from their children. Thus we tolerated the mothers taking their children to the market place in Jozefow (Browning 57).” Surprisingly, these ordinary men proved to be completely capable of killing tens of thousands of people. In fact, their capacity to murder was so great; they overwhelmingly surpassed the expectations of even the Nazi leaders.

The members of the Reserve Police Battalion 101 were influenced and conditioned in a general way and filled in particular with a sense of their own superiority and racial relationship. The aspect of Jewish inferiority, peer pressure and sense of duty therefore turned many of the police battalion into murderers. Browning suggests that given the same or similar circumstances, a similar number of ordinary men would experience the same results.

The main sources for this book consist of archival documents and court records of the Holocaust. The specific testimony, court records, investigation records, and prosecution documents of members of the Reserve Police Battalion 101 members are used as sources. In this book, Christopher Browning shows in minute detail the sequence of events and individual reactions that turn ordinary men into killers. His arguments make sense. He makes no unwarranted assumptions. The cause and effect statements made and arguments presented are logical and well developed. Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning accounts for the actions of the German Order Police (more specifically the actions of Reserve Police Battalion 101 in Poland) and the role they played in the Second World War during the Jewish Holocaust. Police Battalion 101 was composed of veterans from World War One and men too old to be drafted into the regular forces: army, navy, air force.

Originally examining how the Germans organized and carried out the destruction of a widespread Jewish population and where they found the manpower to carry it out, Browning was led to Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart.

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