Ordinary Men And Ordinary Killers

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Ordinary Men or Ordinary Killers? Tens of thousands of men, women and children were shot by the Reserve Police Battalion 101 during the mass execution of the Jewish race. It is easy to believe that all who were involved in the systematic killing of the Jews were die-hard Nazis. In fact, society tells us to believe that all participants in the Holocaust were Nazi fanatics who would do anything to rid Europe of the racially unfit, but that was not always the case. Christopher Browning, author of “Ordinary Men,” gives readers another possible reality: these men who killed innocent people were not murderers from the beginning, but simply, ordinary men. Throughout his book, Browning illustrates the mass murder and mental breakdowns of the police battalion. “Ordinary Men” is a deeply researched book full of quotes and anecdotes of those involved as well as an analysis of the reasoning behind their actions. Browning had the opportunity to “study the interrogations of 210 men from a unit consisting of slightly less than 500” to create an intriguing, yet sometimes grotesque, publication of one of the most horrific incidents in history (Browning, p. xvii). To understand the debate over how these men can turn into killers, it is important to understand what type of men they were. Browning describes the type of men in Reserve Police Battalion 101 as “middle aged family men of working- and lower-middle-class background from the city of Hamburg” (Browning, p. 1). The average age was thirty-nine, while half of them “were between thirty seven and forty-two” (Browning, p. 48). The German army considered these men too old for their needs, so the Order Police recruited them. These men were old enough to remember a non-Nazi government, which make... ... middle of paper ... ...were transformed into killers, while not being aware of the transformation. Browning explains this transformation through multiple psychological experiments such as Philip Zimbardo’s prison experiment where he selected random men to be guards and prisoners, within no time, the guards were abusing their placebo power. Browning explained that the results of that experiment can be related to the relationships of the police battalion, “a nucleus of increasing enthusiastic killers who volunteered for the firing squads and ‘Jew hunts’; a larger group of policemen who performed as shooters…and a small group of refusers and evaders” (Browning, p. 168). If this group of 500 ‘ordinary men’ with working class jobs, families and consciences, have the capability to turn into mass murderers killing innocent people, what’s to say that people in today’s society couldn’t do the same?

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