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Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (1992)

por Christopher R. Browning

Outros autores: Ver a secção outros autores.

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In the early hours of July 13, 1942, the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101, a unit of the German Order Police, entered the Polish Village of Jozefow. They had arrived in Poland less than three weeks before, most of them recently drafted family men too old for combat service--workers, artisans, salesmen, and clerks. By nightfall, they had rounded up Jozefow's 1,800 Jews, selected several hundred men as "work Jews," and shot the rest--that is, some 1,500 women, children, and old people. Most of these overage, rear-echelon reserve policemen had grown to maturity in the port city of Hamburg in pre-Hitler Germany and were neither committed Nazis nor racial fanatics. Nevertheless, in the sixteen months from the Jozefow massacre to the brutal Erntefest ("harvest festival") slaughter of November 1943, these average men participated in the direct shooting deaths of at least 38,000 Jews and the deportation to Treblinka's gas chambers of 45,000 more--a total body count of 83,000 for a unit of less than 500 men. Drawing on postwar interrogations of 210 former members of the battalion, Christopher Browning lets them speak for themselves about their contribution to the Final Solution--what they did, what they thought, how they rationalized their behavior (one man would shoot only infants and children, to "release" them from their misery). In a sobering conclusion, Browning suggests that these good Germans were acting less out of deference to authority or fear of punishment than from motives as insidious as they are common: careerism and peer pressure. With its unflinching reconstruction of the battalion's murderous record and its painstaking attention to the social background and actions of individual men, this unique account offers some of the most powerful and disturbing evidence to date of the ordinary human capacity for extraordinary inhumanity.… (mais)
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You think you know all that is worth knowing about the Jewish holocaust, you have read a plethora of books on the subject, seen the ghastly scenes of the mass murder captured in old photographs, replayed and rehashed in TV- series and movies – well, you may have to rethink.
I claim that if you have not examined the eyewitness accounts and testimonies of 121 men of reserve police battalion 101 (all to be accessed by the German Bundesarchives / Archive of state prosecution of Hamburg) you will remain ignorant of a vital piece to solve the puzzle of the mass murder of not only the Jewish population but will also remain in the dark about who the people were, capable to look their hundreds of individual victims in the eyes as the ended their lives.
Therefore, this is not about the desk murderers, rather it is about the men who were, again and again, confronted by the tears and desperate pleas of their victims, men saturated with the blood of victims shot at close range, assaulted by splinters of bone fragments and brain matter.
The man that drowned their sorrows with the sharp taste of liquor and sweet balm of self deceptions. The men that after a day of such gruesome work wrote home to their families inquiring about their children.
But equally important, neither is this about brutal SS men, that trained and indoctrinated within a cult of violence held killing as a mere expedient. This is the thoroughly researched story of average middle-aged family men who pulled the triggers.
Through the shocking example of Reserve Battalion 101 it becomes clear that brutal mass murder wasn’t solely the domain of the nazified, indoctrinated reserve battalions of the SS.
The murder and systematic shooting of polish and Russian Jews was not limited to the Einsatzgruppen of the SS, neither by scope nor numbers. The 500 men of Reserve Battalion alone, who except for a few WWI veterans had never had fired a shoot in anger managed to most intimate killing over 100 000 Polish and Russian Jews by shooting them execution style, one by one.
This will thoroughly dissolution you of the false if convenient notion that the murderers of Jews were specially selected social outliers of the Nazi organization selected to do their dirty work unknown to the broader German society. Through the history of Reserve Battalion 101, eyewitness accounts and postwar trials it becomes manifest that the members of the broader German society - middle-aged family men themselves - were often the killers to commit the most unthinkable atrocities only to, after the war, continue their average lives in German society. These were the people who quietly picked up their pre-war occupations in the workforce or as business owners. Even more concerning to me is the relative ease with which many of them pursued careers in the police after their time with Police Battalion 101.
This said, it would of course be false to assume that all members of Reserve Battalion 101 behaved the same. Any statistical distributions given there are enough members will roughly conform to three groups according to a Gaussian distribution. In the case of Reserve Battalion’s 500 members the flattened-out curve on the left is the small number of men that refused to shoot unarmed Civilians and the flattening curve on the right presents the small number that enthusiastically participated in the murders. The men presenting the opposite flat ends of the bell curve are very few. The bulge of the bell curve where most killers reside within, present the vast majority who murdered and killed for multi-layered causes such as deference to authority and peer pressure.

Concluding, the author admonishes that in times of increased government legitimization, attenuated personal responsibility through bureaucratization and specialization, governments hardly ever fail to exploit racist and warlike tendencies within people to induce ordinary man to become their willing executioners.
I, myself have experienced, and can attest to the almost religious deference many Germans hold authority in, their preoccupation with “power and toughness" , their submissiveness to the former and therefore, among other precipitant reasons, their susceptibility to unquestioned servitude to a leader.

A common and very successful post war defense was the dire consequences for disobedience, yet in hindsight there is not a single documented case where this was true for any of those who opted out of killing unarmed civilians. It seemed that the consequences were social ostracism rather than concrete punishment for the conscientious objector.
Be that as it may, there is much to admire about the arch-American culture of the pioneer and his individualism that sets the personal spirit above group and its conventions.
The law-abiding murderers got away lightly. After having individually killed hundreds of people, most simply returned to their former jobs. To this date none of the men of any of the several Reserve battalions are still alive.
As a fitting closing comment perhaps, one may say that the testimonies and accounts archived in the Hamburg prosecutor’s office served history more than justice.

What remains to be said is a praise for Christopher R. Browning highly academic work that avoids logical fallacies so common in the methodology of research, the tendentious selectivity of evidence and the consequently biased interpretations that lead to invalid conclusions. ( )
  nitrolpost | Mar 19, 2024 |
All things being equal “Ordinary Men” forces the question that if the conditions were the same, could the reader have been one of ordinary men psychological and morally transformed to became perpetrators of mass murder. Christopher Browning focusses on the Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, a unit composed mainly of middle-aged, working-class men from Hamburg. These individuals were not SS members or hardened ideologues, but rather ordinary citizens who were thrust into the role of executing Jews and other victims of the Holocaust. It’s a devastating challenge to notion that these individuals were simply following orders without personal agency. Instead, he argues that many of the men willingly participated in the killings, demonstrating the banality of evil. It is an unsettlingly detailed and thought-provoking exploration of the choices individuals make in the face of moral challenges and raises important questions about morality, obedience, and the capacity for ordinary individuals to commit atrocities under certain circumstances. ( )
1 vote Andrew.Lafleche | Feb 1, 2024 |
På morgonen den 13 juli 1942 gick den tyska Reservpolisbataljon 101 in i den polska byn Jozefow. Vid nattens inbrott hade de skjutit 1.500 av byns 1.800 judiska invånare - kvinnor, barn, gamla. Under de följande 16 månaderna deltog de i avrättandet av 38.000 judar och sände ytterligare 45.000 till koncentrationslägret Treblinka.

Reservpolisbataljon 101 bestod inte av tyska yrkessoldater utan av helt vanliga män som var för gamla för att kallas in till militärtjänst. De sorterade alltså inte under Wehrmacht och heller inte under Gestapo utan under ordningspolisen.
  CalleFriden | Feb 25, 2023 |
The evil that men do arises from their need to fit in and to shirk accountability. ( )
  mkfs | Aug 13, 2022 |
Magáról a könyvről nem sokat lehet mondani. A 101-es tartalékos rendőrzászlóalj aprólékosan végigvitt története ez, akik a Lublini Körzetben tevékenykedve legalább 83.000 zsidó meggyilkolásában segédkeztek, ebből legalább 38.000-t a helyszínen lőttek agyon – vagy közvetlenül ők, vagy az SS, illetve a hiwikből (külföldi, elsősorban szláv segédszolgálatosokból) verbuválódott egységek, akiknek a rendőrök biztosították a „nyugodt körülményeket”. Olyan emberekről beszélünk, akik nem voltak nácik, közönséges, elsősorban hamburgi illetőségű németek voltak*, nem egy közülük szociáldemokrata múlttal. Átlagemberek. Akik megtanultak ölni. Tulajdonképpen ennyi.

Azért még elmondanék egy történetet a bátorságról. Amikor a zászlóalj megérkezett Józefówba, a kis lengyel faluba, Wilhelm Trapp őrnagy, az egység vezetője felvázolta a napi programot. Ez a program meglehetősen különbözött azoktól az alapvetően rendőri tevékenységektől, amiket a zászlóalj addig, ’42 nyaráig végzett. 1500 zsidó lakik a faluban, őket kéne halomra lőni, mondta Trapp. Nemszeretem feladat, úgyhogy aki nem akar részt venni az akcióban, jelezze. Egy ember kilépett a sorból. Nevezzük Otto Schmikének. Amikor a többiek látták, hogy Trapp más feladatot ad neki, újabb 10-12 ember jelentkezett. Az ötszáz főből**. A többiek munkához láttak. Ezerötszáz embert végeztek ki, férfiakat, nőket, öregeket, gyerekeket. A legtöbbjüket közvetlen közelről, a puska bajonettjét a nyakszirtnek támasztva lőtték fejbe. Rutintalanok lévén, a szükségesnél véresebb munkát végeztek, de azért a végére ráéreztek a csínjára. Eközben Otto Schimkét és társait parancsnoki oldalról nem érte komoly hátrány. A legdurvább retorzió az volt, hogy vasárnapi szolgálatra osztották be őket. A gyilkosságban részt vett társak azonban megvetették őket. Gyávák. Azt mondták rájuk, hogy gyávák. Egyszerű lenne azzal letudni, hogy nem, Schimke és társai bátrak voltak. Talán tényleg. De az is lehet, hogy ők csak azt tették, amit mindenkinek legalapvetőbb kötelessége lett volna megtenni: nem öltek. És nem is kockáztattak valami sokat. Lehet, a bátorsághoz ennél valamivel több kéne. Talán nem kellett volna túlélniük. Nem tudom.

Nem ismerek jobb könyvet arról, hogyan lesz valakiből (bárkiből?) tömeggyilkos.

Csak annyit még, hogy elolvastam, és most nem jó embernek lenni.

(Ui.: A kötethez tartozik egy utószó is, amiben Browning Daniel Goldhagennel – a Hitler buzgó hóhérai c. könyv szerzőjével – lefolytatott, meglehetősen híres történészi vitáját összegzi. Nyilván ez a szöveg csak a Goldhagen-mű ismeretében értelmezhető a maga teljességében, de ajánlom azoknak is, akik a kérdéses művet nem olvasták, mert kiváló áttekintését adja a gyilkosok motivációival kapcsolatos kutatásoknak.)

* Köztük 14 luxemburgi állampolgár – róluk Browning külön is szót ejt.
** A gyilkosságok közben még akadtak, akik besokalltak, és kivonták magukat a pusztításból, akár úgy, hogy elszöktek a kavarodást kihasználva, akár úgy, hogy Trapp őrnagyhoz fordultak. Őket sem érte retorzió. Mindenesetre számuk semmiképpen nem haladta meg az egység 10-20%-át. ( )
  Kuszma | Jul 2, 2022 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Christopher R. Browningautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Barnavi, ElieTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Dauzat, Pierre-EmmanuelPosfácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Vidal-Naquet, PierreIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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In the very early hours of July 13, 1942, the men of the Reserve Police Battalion 101 were roused from their bunks in the large brick school building that serves as their barracks in the Polish town of Bilgoraj.
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In the early hours of July 13, 1942, the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101, a unit of the German Order Police, entered the Polish Village of Jozefow. They had arrived in Poland less than three weeks before, most of them recently drafted family men too old for combat service--workers, artisans, salesmen, and clerks. By nightfall, they had rounded up Jozefow's 1,800 Jews, selected several hundred men as "work Jews," and shot the rest--that is, some 1,500 women, children, and old people. Most of these overage, rear-echelon reserve policemen had grown to maturity in the port city of Hamburg in pre-Hitler Germany and were neither committed Nazis nor racial fanatics. Nevertheless, in the sixteen months from the Jozefow massacre to the brutal Erntefest ("harvest festival") slaughter of November 1943, these average men participated in the direct shooting deaths of at least 38,000 Jews and the deportation to Treblinka's gas chambers of 45,000 more--a total body count of 83,000 for a unit of less than 500 men. Drawing on postwar interrogations of 210 former members of the battalion, Christopher Browning lets them speak for themselves about their contribution to the Final Solution--what they did, what they thought, how they rationalized their behavior (one man would shoot only infants and children, to "release" them from their misery). In a sobering conclusion, Browning suggests that these good Germans were acting less out of deference to authority or fear of punishment than from motives as insidious as they are common: careerism and peer pressure. With its unflinching reconstruction of the battalion's murderous record and its painstaking attention to the social background and actions of individual men, this unique account offers some of the most powerful and disturbing evidence to date of the ordinary human capacity for extraordinary inhumanity.

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