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Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland Paperback – April 24, 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Author Christopher R. Browning does a tremendous job of covering the ground. He also presents a strong case that these people were indeed ordinary men, who came from ordinary backgrounds, only to end up being transformed into the murderers of thousands. However, the book also stresses that some of the men, including several officers, could not be considered "ordinary," as they were trained in Hitler's Nazi organizations from youth. Browning also does something nearly impossible: He humanizes these people without excusing their horrendous actions. Their defense that "they were just following orders" just doesn't fit the bill, as some refused to take part in the actions, and asked to be relieved. If a few men could get themselves relieved from doing the killings, why did so many more not? That is the main question the book gives.
"Ordinary Men" is an extraordinary book that chronicles just one unit that took part in the murder of innocent Jews, while also presenting a good case of how ordinary men can become killers. I highly recommend this book to all students of the Holocaust.
Browning provides the background of the men that comprised the battalion and the early vascilation and indecision that took place before finally being used as an execution squad in the months leading up to the Final Solution. He takes the readers through the horrific scenes, showing just how easy it was to succumb to the dictates being handed down through a long chain of command. Browning sees it is a fault-line that runs through humanity and is not specific to any one racial or ethnic group, but is an outgrowth of the devastating conditions of war.
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 that--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. Surprisingly, these ordinary men proved to be completely capable of killing tens of thousands of people.Read more ›
Browning uses incredible documentation from postwar German interrogations of men of this unit involved in wartime attrocities. He had access to more than 400 testimonies of the over 500 men that made up this unit during the war. As such he is able to analyse the actions and thinking in greater detail than most other German units.
He describes the insidious use of these units as first guards on trains to transport Jews to extermination camps, to their eventual use in rounding up Jews in the Polish Ghettos, and their use as actual shooters in the extermination of whole villages.
That this unit of 500 men --- made up of police reservists, not trained in combat, and seemingly tangential to entire holocaust programme --- could be directly responsible for the shooting deaths of 38,000 people and the transportion of 100,000s of thousands of others to their deaths, makes depressing reading indeed.
Unfortunately, although Browning documents the horror of this representative small unit, he does not really answer his question of how a father with loving kids in Germany, with no combat experience could one day, be ordered to a village in Poland and in the small hours of the morning kill women and children just because they are Jewish.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've read several books elaborating the murderous liquidations in the East, and so Browning's explorations were not especially uncommon, but then the thesis of the book is not to... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Henry With an I
Harrowing. Helps one to understand how carefully the architects of the holocaust managed their troops to enable ordinary men to commit such acts and contribute the systematic... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jill J.