- Term Papers and Free Essays

Ordinary Men - Holocaust

Essay by   •  November 12, 2010  •  1,248 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,684 Views

Essay Preview: Ordinary Men - Holocaust

Report this essay
Page 1 of 5

Browning, Christopher. Ordinary Men; Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. 1st edition. New York: Harper Perennial, 1993.

I. Ordinary Men is the disconcerting examination of how a typical unit of middle-aged reserve policemen became active participants in the slaughter of tens of thousands of Polish Jews.

Reserve Police Battalion 101 was made up of approximately 500 men most from working and lower-middle-class neighborhoods in Hamburg Germany. They were police reservists, not trained in combat, some of whom worked with and had been friendly with Jews before the war.

Major Wilhelm Trapp, a WWI veteran and career police officer headed the battalion. On July 13, 1942 the 101st Police Battalion arrived in Jozefow where Major Trapp informed his men they had received orders to perform a "very unpleasant task". They were to round up all the Jews, separate the males of working age (to be taken to a work camp), and the remaining women, children and elderly were to be shot immediately. Pappa Trapp (as he was called by his men) then offered the battalion an unbelievable proposition; any of the older men who did not want to participate in the assignment, could excuse themselves without consequence. Very few refused. This was to be the beginning of one of the most brutal, steadfast, ruthless campaigns in Poland.

Following the massacre of over 1,500 Jews in Jozefow, the 101st Police Battalion participated in the cleansing of the ghettos, the deportation of 42,000 victims to the gas chambers of Treblinka, the "Jew Hunt" and the gunning down of over 38,000 Jews

during the Harvest Festival in the Lublin district. At the conclusion of their rampage, the body count was at least 83,000 Jews.

In 1944 the Third Reich collapsed and the battalion disbanded, returning unscathed to Germany. Only 4 of the over 500 members of the unit were arrested, tried and convicted. Two were sentenced to a few years in prison, and two (including Major Wilhelm Trapp) were sentenced to death and executed. In the 1960's, the "Ordinary Men" came under scrutiny while Nazi war crimes were being investigated. Approximately 210 former "policemen" of the unit were questioned and fourteen members were put on trial. Though most were convicted, only five were given prison terms and the case pending against all others was dropped.

II. Enlightenment did not exist among the 101st battalion. There was no tolerance, acceptance or reasoning. If you believe someone to be your equal, how could you assassinate him or her? They were told to kill, and kill they did. There was no questioning their superiors when given a command, no matter how inconceivable the act was. Not following orders was unthinkable and denouncing authority was not even considered.

The 'Weltanschauung' of the Reserve Police Battalion 101 was the same as Hitler's. The men were immersed in racist and anti-Semitic propaganda. When receiving their first assignment in Jozefow, Major Trapp told his men the Jews were involved in the killing of women and children by bombing Germany and were involved with the partisans. The Jews were seen as the enemy, and the enemy must be totally destroyed. During the deportation to Treblinka, the battalion was forced to spend days on the trains without food and had to bare the same conditions as the Jews. I believe they thought if it weren't for the Jews, they would not be suffering the same conditions. This reinforced the view of a perfect world without Jews.

The testing and refinement of the killing machine was an ongoing process during the reign of the 101st battalion as is evidenced by the constant cleansing of many ghettos, and the deportation of thousands to the gas chambers at Treblinka. With each train that was brought to Treblinka by the police battalion, the killing machines were being tested and became more efficient.

The institution



Download as:   txt (6.6 Kb)   pdf (90.9 Kb)   docx (11.2 Kb)  
Continue for 4 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 11). Ordinary Men - Holocaust. Retrieved 11, 2010, from

"Ordinary Men - Holocaust" 11 2010. 2010. 11 2010 <>.

"Ordinary Men - Holocaust.", 11 2010. Web. 11 2010. <>.

"Ordinary Men - Holocaust." 11, 2010. Accessed 11, 2010.