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Browning's Ordinary Men Essay

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"There are no extraordinary men... just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are faced to deal with" (William Halsey). The same can be said about volatile men. This is the quote Christopher R. Browning thought of when he named this book. The men of the 101st battalion were rarely faced with decisions. Even if it had been proposed by Trapp the morning of Jozefow that "any of the older men who did not feel up to the task that lay before them could step out" (Browning, chapter 7, pg. 57), he didn't actually allow them any time to truly think about it. He brought it up moments before they were about to go out to the slaughter. They were blind-sided and the men who didn't want to risk the future of their jobs as policemen or the men that didn't want to look weak in front of their peers were ushered into a massacre unlike that they could have ever imagined. But because they were all basically forced to give killing a shot, it only allowed them to adapt to war easier. The job that the men of the 101st had to carry out continued to get easier as they adapted to the climate of the war by creating rules for themselves. These ordinary men were no longer in an ordinary situation.
Major Trapp is a character who's story I believe you can track beneficially for the sake of studying the overall adaptation of war climate. Trapp, when he first learns of the order to terminate the Jews in the Jozefow area, is distraught. Several times he says how "such jobs don't suit him" and others accounted him "weeping like a child" (Browning, Chapter 7, pg 58). He even spares the life of a ten-year old child at the close of the slaughter. Since Major Trapp is the one with the most responsibility, it makes sense that he is gong to assess the situatio...


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...ty" (Browning, chapter 10, pg 95). Knowing the Jews lives were going to be taken made it easier for them to take the lives themselves, because they knew their destiny was sealed anyway.
Another set of rules that gave them an easier time murdering Jews was their awareness of the battalions make-up. Some men were more equipped to deal with the shootings then others. In the case of Lieutenant Buchmann's unwillingness to kill, their ruling was "as long as there was no shortage of men willing to do the murderous job at hand, it was much easier to accommodate Buchmann and the men who emulated him than to make trouble over them" (Browning, chapter 11, pg 103). By allowing people who didn't want to kill to sit it out, they actually helped the overall performance of their killings. It seems to have made them fast, more efficient and isn't scaring anyone out of the battalion.


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