Societys Influence On Morals

Powerful Essays
Society's Influence on Morals

The atrocities of the Holocaust have prompted much inquiry by researchers to understand how humans can behave so cruelly toward their fellow man. Theories have been formed that cite the men of Battalion 101 as “ exceptions” or men with “faulty personalities,” when, in fact, they were ordinary men. The people who attempted to perform a genocide were the same people as you and me with the only difference being the environment in which they worked. The behavior of the men in Battalion 101 was not abnormal human behavior, rather, their actions are testament to the premise that when humans are exposed to certain environmental and psychological conditions, extreme brutality is highly apt to occur.
The members of the Police Battalion 101 had the same ideas and influences as the rest of the German citizens. Because of the racist teachings produced by the German government, the entire German society was uniform under the belief that they were the master race. The German were taught that anyone different from their own kind (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) needed to be removed from their society in order for it to prosper. The Police Battalion men shared the same beliefs as everyone else, but they had to perform the dirty work of killing approximately 83,000 Jews. Christopher Browning states in his book,
Ordinary Men, that, “...the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101, like most of the German society, was immersed in a deluge of racist and anti-Semitic propaganda” (Browning 184). Unless placed in the Battalion men's situation, one can not fathom how a population of people can so evilly turn against another.
People in every culture are susceptible to the ideas and beliefs brought upon them by propaganda. Whenever an idea is accepted as the ‘norm', people will find a way to justify it and follow it despite the evil implications it might entail. Humans have faced these situations throughout the last two centuries numerous times. For example, the American slave trading was totally acceptable to the southerners because the blacks were perceived to be lesser human beings. The slave owners did not mind controlling and abusing a slave like it was an animal since in their mind the slave was comparable to an animal.
This was true in Germany with the only diffe...

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...g's book, Ervin Staub made the assertion that “'cruelty is social in its origin much more than it is characterological'...most people ‘ slip' into the roles society provides them...” (167). Evil ideas and beliefs are molded onto a person by their surroundings rather than inherent in their personalities. With such a strong influence on our behavior, propaganda can lead a society to think and belief the unimaginable. The men of Police
Battalion 101 are a testament to the idea that people are capable of not only thinking the unimaginable, but they can act upon it.

Works Cited

Bortnick, Rachel Amado. “Dallas Honors a Righteous Nation.” Dallas Jewish Life
Nov. 1993.

Browning, Christopher R. Ordinary Men. New York: Aaron Asher
Books/HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1993.

Fogelman, Eva. Conscience and Courage. New York: Anchor Books Doubleday,

Jacobs, Mike. Speech to Class. Dallas, 31 Mar. 1997.

Reich, Walter. “The Men Who Pulled the Triggers.” The New York Times 12 Apr.

Weapons of the Spirit. Writ./Dir. Pierre Sauvage. The Friends of Le Chambon.
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