Question: In their essays, Christopher Browning, Omar Bartov. and Robert Jay Lifton investigate the motivations that drove different groups of Germans to murder Jewish people. How do their conclusions

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Question: In their essays, Christopher Browning, Omar Bartov. and Robert Jay Lifton investigate the motivations that

drove different groups of Germans to murder Jewish people. How do their conclusions compare to one

another – are they similar or different? Why? What do you see as the primary factor driving these

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perpetrators to kill?

1. The essay should be 1–3 pages single-spaced.

2. Please be as specific as possible and be sure to include critical names, dates, and concepts in your answer. Your answer

should include an introduction, summary/discussion, and conclusion.

Question: In their essays, Christopher Browning, Omar Bartov. and Robert Jay Lifton investigate the motivations that drove different groups of Germans to murder Jewish people. How do their conclusions
PROBLEMS IN EUROPEAN CIVILIZATION SERIES The Holocaust Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation Fourth Edition Edited by Donald L. Niewyk Southern Methodist University WADSWORTH CENGAGE Learning- Australia • Brazil • Japan • Korea • Mexico • Singapore • Spain • United Kingdom • United States **, WADSWORTH 1% CENGAGE Learning- The Holocaust: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation, Fourth Edition Donald L. Niewyk Senior Acquisitions Editor: Nancy Blaine Development Manager: Jeffrey Greene Editorial Assistant: Emma Goehring Marketing Manager: Diane Wenckebach Marketing Communications Manager: Christine Dobberpuhl Content Project Management: Pre-PressPMG Senior Art Director: Cate Barr Print Buyer: Rebecca Cross Senior Rights Acquisition Account Manager: Katie Huha Text Permissions Editor: Tracy Metivier Production Service: Pre-PressPMG Image Permissions Editor: Jennifer Meyer Dare Photo Researcher: Bruce Carson Cover Designer: Alwyn R. 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For product information and technology assistance, contact us at Cengage Learning Customer & Sales Support, 1-800-354-9706 For permission to use material from this text or product, submit all requests online at Further permissions questions can be e-mailed to [email protected] Library of Congress Control Number: 2009936593 ISBN-13:978-0-547-18946-8 ISBN-10: 0-547-18946-X Wadsworth 20 Channel Center Street Boston, MA 02210 USA Cengage Learning is a leading provider of customized learning solutions with office locations around the globe, including Singa- pore, the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, and Japan. Locate your local office at: Cengage Learning products are represented in Canada by Nelson Education, Ltd. For your course and learning solutions, visit Purchase any of our products at your local college store or at our preferred online store Printed in Canada 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 13 12 11 10 09 Contents XI XV Preface ix Editor’s Preface to Instructors Editor’s Preface to Students Chronology of Events xix Glossary xxi Reference Map: Poland, 1939-1945, with Locations of Concentration and Extermination Camps xxiii Tables: Estimated Jewish and Gypsy Deaths in the Holocaust xxiv Introduction 1 I Origins of the Holocaust 9 John Weiss Anti-Semitism Through the Ages 12 Ian Kershaw Hitler’s Decisive Role 23 Henry Friedlander The Opening Act of Nazi Genocide 60 Robert Jay Lifton Robert Jay Lifton The Nazi Doctors In Nazi mass murder, we can say that a barrier was removed, a bound- ary crossed: that boundary between violent imagery and periodic kill- ing of victims (as of Jews in pogroms) on the one hand, and systematic genocide in Auschwitz and elsewhere on the other. My argument in this study is that the medicalization of killing —the imagery of killing in the name of healing —was crucial to that terrible step. At the heart of the Na/.i enterprise, then, is the destruction of the boundary between healing and killing. Early descriptions of Auschwitz and other death camps focused on the sadism and viciousness of Nazi guards, officers, and physi- c-Inns. But subsequent students of the process realized that sadism and viciousness alone could not account for the killing of millions of people. The emphasis then shifted to the bureaucracy of killing: the lacclcss, detached bureaucratic function originally described by Max \VlnT. now applied to mass murder. This focus on numbed violence is enormously important, and is consistent with what we shall observe to l>r 11 ic rontini/.ation of all Auschwitz functions. Yet these emphases are not sufficient in themselves. They must be seen in rclalion to the visionary motivations associated with ideology, along wilh Ihc specific individual-psychological mechanisms enabling people In kill. What I call “medicalized killing” addresses these moti- valional principles and psychological mechanisms, and permits us to midcislaml Ihe Auschwitz victimizes — notably Nazi doctors —both as part ol a bureaucracy of killing and as individual participants whose altitudes and behavior can be examined. Medicali/.ctl killing can be understood in two wider perspectives. The first is the “surgical” method of killing large numbers of people by means of a controlled technology making use of highly poisonous gas; the methods employed became a means of maintaining distance between killers and victims. This distancing had considerable importance for the Nazis in alleviating the psychological problems experienced (as attested From Nazi Doctors by Robert Jay Lifton. Reprinted by permission of Basic Books, a member of Perseus Books, L.L.C. The Nazi Doctors 61 over and over by Nazi documents) by the Einsatzgmppen troops who carried out face-to-face shooting of Jews in Eastern Europe . . . — prob- lems that did not prevent those troops from murdering 1,400,000 Jews. I was able to obtain direct evidence on this matter during an inter- view with a former Wehrmacht neuropsychiatrist who had treated large numbers of Einsatzgruppen personnel for psychological disorders. He told me that these disorders resembled combat reactions of ordinary troops: severe anxiety, nightmares, tremors, and numerous bodily com- plaints. But in these “killer troops,” as he called them, the symptoms tended to last longer and to be more severe. He estimated that 20 percent of those doing the actual killing experienced these symptoms of psycho- logical decompensation. About half of that 20 percent associated their symptoms mainly with the “unpleasantness” of what they had to do, while the other half seemed to have moral questions about shooting people in that way. The men had the greatest psychological difficulty concerning shooting women and children, especially children. Many experienced a sense of guilt in their dreams, which could include various forms of punishment or retribution. Such psychological difficulty led the Nazis to seek a more “surgical” method of killing. But there is another perspective on medicalized killing that I believe to be insufficiently recognized: killing as a therapeutic imperative. That kind of motivation was revealed in the words of a Nazi doctor quoted by the distinguished survivor physician Dr. Ella Lingens-Reiner. Pointing to the chimneys in the distance, she asked a Nazi doctor, Fritz Klein, “How can you reconcile that with your [Hippocratic] oath as a doctor?” His answer was, “Of course I am a doctor and I want to preserve life. And out of respect for human life, I would remove a gangrenous appen- dix from a diseased body. The Jew is the gangrenous appendix in the body of mankind.” The medical imagery was still broader. Just as Turkey during the nineteenth century (because of the extreme decline of the Ottoman empire) was known as the “sick man of Europe,” so did pre-Hitler ideo- logues and Hitler himself interpret Germany’s post-First World War chaos and demoralization as an “illness,” especially of the Aryan race. Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, in the mid-1920s, that “anyone who wants to cure this era, which is inwardly sick and rotten, must first of all summon up the courage to make clear the causes of this disease.” The diagnosis was racial. The only genuine “culture-creating” race, the Aryans, had permit- ted themselves to be weakened to the point of endangered survival by 62 Robert Jay Lifton the “destroyers of culture,” characterized as “the Jew.” The Jews were agents of “racial pollution” and “racial tuberculosis,” as well as para- sites and bacteria causing sickness, deterioration, and death in the host peoples they infested. They were the “eternal bloodsucker,” “vampire,” “germ carrier,” “peoples’ parasite,” and “maggot in a rotting corpse.” The cure had to be radical: that is (as one scholar put it), by “cutting out the ‘canker of decay,’ propagating the worthwhile elements and let- ting the less valuable wither away,. . . [and] ‘the extirpation of all those categories of people considered to be worthless or dangerous.'” Medical metaphor blended with concrete biomedical ideology in the Na/.l sequence from coercive sterilization to direct medical killing to the dealh camps. The unifying principle of the biomedical ideology was thai ol’a deadly racial disease, the sickness of the Aryan race; the cure, the killing of all Jews. ‘1111 is, for Hans Frank, jurist and General Governor of Poland dur- ing I lie Nazi occupation, “the Jews were a lower species of life, a kind of vermin, which upon contact infected the German people with deadly diseases.” When the Jews in the area he ruled had been killed, he de- cl.ned ihat “now a sick Europe would become healthy again.” It was a icligion of the will —the will as “an all-encompassing metaphysical principle;” and what the Nazis “willed” was nothing less than total con- hoi oer life and death. While this view is often referred to as “social I )arwinisin,” the term applies only loosely, mostly to the Nazi stress on nalural “struggle” and on “survival of the fittest.” The regime actually i circled much of Darwinism; since evolutionary theory is more or less democratic in its assumption of a common beginning for all races, it is lliciclorc al odds with the Nazi principle of inherent Aryan racial virtue. Kx’cn more specific to the biomedical vision was crude genetic imaj’.cix, combined with still cruder eugenic visions. . . . Here Heinrich I Innmlcr, as high priest, spoke of the leadership’s task as being “like the plant-breeding specialist who, when he wants to breed a pure new strain from a well-tried species that has been exhausted by too much cross-breeding, first goes over the field to cull the unwanted plants.” The Nazi project, then, was not so much Darwinian or social Darwinist as a vision of absolute control over the evolutionary pro- cess, over the biological human future. Making widespread use of the Darwinian term “selection,” the Nazis sought to take over the functions of nature (natural selection) and God (the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away) in orchestrating their own version of human evolution. The Nazi Doctors 63 In these visions the Nazis embraced not only versions of medieval mystical anti-Semitism but also a newer (nineteenth- and twentieth- century) claim to “scientific racism.” Dangerous Jewish characteristics could be linked with alleged data of scientific disciplines, so that a “main- stream of racism” formed from “the fusion of anthropology, eugenics, and social thought.” The resulting “racial and social biology” could make vicious forms of anti-Semitism seem intellectually respectable to learned men and women. One can speak of the Nazi state as a “biocracy.” The model here is a theocracy, a system of rule by priests of a sacred order under the claim of divine prerogative. In the case of the Nazi biocracy, the divine prerogative was that of cure through purification and revital- ization of the Aryan race: “From a dead mechanism which only lays claim to existence for its own sake, there must be formed a living or- ganism with the exclusive aim of serving a higher idea.” Just as in a theocracy, the state itself is no more than a vehicle for the divine pur- pose, so in the Nazi biocracy was the state no more than a means to achieve “a mission of the German people on earth”: that of “assembling and preserving the most valuable stocks of basic racial elements in this [Aryan] people . . . [and] . . .raising them to a dominant position.” The Nazi biocracy differed from a classical theocracy in that the biological priests did not actually rule. The clear rulers were Adolf Hitler and his circle, not biological theorists and certainly not the doctors. (The difference, however, is far from absolute: even in a theocracy, highly politicized rulers may make varying claims to priestly authority.) In any case, Nazi ruling authority was maintained in the name of the higher biological principle. Among the biological authorities called forth to articulate and implement “scientific racism” —including physical anthropologists, geneticists, and racial theorists of every variety —doctors inevitably found a unique place. It is they who work at the border of life and death, who are most associated with the awesome, death-defying, and some- times death-dealing aura of the primitive shaman and medicine man. As bearers of this shamanistic legacy and contemporary practitioners of mysterious healing arts, it is they who are likely to be called upon to become biological activists. I have mentioned my primary interest in Nazi doctors’ participation in medicalized or biologized killing. We shall view their human experi- ments as related to the killing process and to the overall Nazi biomedical 64 Robert Jay Lifton vision. At Nuremberg, doctors were tried only limitedly for their involvement in killing, partly because its full significance was not yet understood. In Auschwitz, Nazi doctors presided over the murder of most of the one million victims of that camp. Doctors performed selections — both on the ramp among arriving transports of prisoners and later in the camps and on the medical blocks. Doctors supervised the killing in the gas chambers and decided when the victims were dead. Doctors con- ducted a murderous epidemiology, sending to the gas chamber groups of people with contagious diseases and sometimes including everyone else who might be on the medical block. Doctors ordered and super- vised, and at times carried out, direct killing of debilitated patients on the medical blocks by means of phenol injections into the bloodstream or the heart. In connection with all of these killings, doctors kept up a pretense of medical legitimacy: for deaths of Auschwitz prisoners and o! outsiders brought there to be killed, they signed false death certifi- calc-s listing spurious illnesses. Doctors consulted actively on how best In keep selections running smoothly; on how many people to permit to remain alive to fill the slave labor requirements of the I. G. Farben enterprise at Auschwitz; and on how to burn the enormous numbers of I «iclies that strained the facilities of the crematoria. In sum, we may say that doctors were given much of the responsi- bility for the murderous ecology of Auschwitz—the choosing of victims, tin- canying through of the physical and psychological mechanics of killing, and the balancing of killing and work functions in the camp. While doctors by no means ran Auschwitz, they did lend it a perverse mrdiral aura. As one survivor who closely observed the process put the mailer, “Auschwitz was like a medical operation,” and “the killing pro- gram was led by doctors from beginning to end.” We may sav that the doctor standing at the ramp represented a kind of omega point, a mythical gatekeeper between the worlds of the dead and the living, a final common pathway of the Nazi vision of therapy via mass murder. . . . The key to understanding how Nazi doctors came to do the work of Auschwitz is the psychological principle I call “doubling”: the divi- sion of the self into two functioning wholes, so that a part-self acts as an entire self. An Auschwitz doctor could, through doubling, not only kill and contribute to killing but organize silently, on behalf of that evil The Nazi Doctors project, an entire self-structure (or self-process) encompassing virtually all aspects of his behavior. Doubling, then, was the psychological vehicle for the Nazi doctor’s Faustian bargain with the diabolical environment in exchange for his contribution to the killing; he was offered various psychological and material benefits on behalf of privileged adaptation. Beyond Auschwitz was the larger Faustian temptation offered to German doctors in “cncral: that of becoming the theorists and implementers of a cosmic sclu-mr of racial cure by means of victimization and mass murder. One is always ethically responsible for Faustian bargains —a responsibility in no way abrogated by the fact that much doubling takes place outside of awareness. In exploring doubling, I engage in psycho- logical probing on behalf of illuminating evil. For the individual Nazi doctor in Auschwitz, doubling was likely to mean a choice for evil. Generally speaking, doubling involves five characteristics. There is, first, a dialectic between two selves in terms of autonomy and connec- tion. The individual Nazi doctor needed his Auschwitz self to function psychologically in an environment so antithetical to his previous ethical standards. At the same time, he needed his prior self in order to continue to see himself as humane physician, husband, father. The Auschwitz self had to be both autonomous and connected to the prior self that gave rise to it. Second, the doubling follows a holistic principle. The Auschwitz self “succeeded” because it was inclusive and could connect with the entire Auschwitz environment: it rendered coherent, and gave form to, various themes and mechanisms, which I shall discuss shortly. Third, doubling has a life-death dimension: the Auschwitz self was perceived by the perpetrator as a form of psychological survival in a death-dominated environment; in other words, we have the paradox of a “killing self” being created on behalf of what one perceives as one’s own healing or survival. Fourth, a major function of doubling, as in Auschwitz, is likely to be the avoidance of guilt: the second self tends to be the one perform- ing the “dirty work.” And, finally, doubling involves both an unconscious dimension—taking place, as stated, largely outside of awareness—and a significant change in moral consciousness. These five characteristics frame and pervade all else that goes on psychologically in doubling. . . . The way in which doubling allowed Nazi doctors to avoid guilt was not by the elimination of conscience but by what can be called 65 66 Robert }ay Lifton the transfer of conscience. The requirements of conscience were trans- ferred to the Auschwitz self, which placed it within its own criteria for good (duty, loyalty to group, “improving” Auschwitz conditions, etc.), thereby freeing the original self from responsibility for actions there. . . . The Auschwitz self of the Nazi doctor similarly assumed the death issue for him but at the same time used its evil project as a way of staving off awareness of his own “perishable and mortal part.” It does the “dirty work” for the entire self by rendering that work “proper” and in that way protects the entire self from awareness of its own guilt and its own death. In doubling, one part of the self “disavows” another part. What is repudiated is not reality itself—the individual Nazi doctor was aware of what he was doing via the Auschwitz self—but the mean- ing of that reality. The Nazi doctor knew that he selected, but did not interpret selections as murder. One level of disavowal, then, was Ilic Auschwitz self’s altering of the meaning of murder; and on an- olhcr, the repudiation by the original self of anything done by the Auschwitz self. From the moment of its formation, the Auschwitz self so violated the Nazi doctor’s previous self-concept as to require more or less permanent disavowal. Indeed, disavowal was the life blood of the Auschwitz self. Doubling is an active psychological process, a means of adapta- tion to extremity. That is why I use the verb form, as opposed to the more usual noun form, “the double.” The adaptation requires a dis- solving of “psychic glue” as an alternative to a radical breakdown of llu’ self. In Auschwitz, the pattern was established under the duress of Ilic individual doctor’s transition period. At that time the Nazi doctor (‘|>ri icncecl his own death anxiety as well as such death equivalents as I ear of disintegration, separation, and stasis. He needed a functional Auschwitz self to still his anxiety. And that Auschwitz self had to assume hegemony on an everyday basis, reducing expressions of the prior self to odd moments and to contacts with family and friends outside the camp. Nor did most Nax.i doctors resist that usurpation as long as they remained in the camp. Rather they welcomed it as the only means of psychological function. If an environment is sufficiently extreme, and one chooses to remain in it, one may be able to do so only by means of doubling. The Nazi Doctors Yet doubling does not include the radical dissociation and sus- tained separateness characteristic of multiple or “dual personality.” In the latter condition, the two selves are more profoundly distinct and autonomous, and tend either not to know about each other or else to see each other as alien. . . . While individual Nazi doctors in Auschwitz doubled in different ways, all of them doubled. Ernst B.,^ for instance, limited his doubling; in avoiding selections, he was resisting a full-blown Auschwitz self. Yet his conscious desire to adapt to Auschwitz was an accession to at least a certain amount of doubling: it was he, after all, who said that “one could react like a normal human being in Auschwitz only for the first few hours;” after that, “you were caught and had to go along,” which meant that you had to double. His own doubling was evident in his sympathy for Mengele2 and, at least to some extent, for the most extreme expres- sions of the Nazi ethos (the image of the Nazis as a “world blessing” and of Jews as the world’s “fundamental evil”). And despite the limit to his doubling, he retains aspects of his Auschwitz self to this day in his way of judging Auschwitz behavior. In contrast, Mengele’s embrace of the Auschwitz self gave the im- pression of a quick adaptive affinity, causing one to wonder whether he required any doubling at all. But doubling was indeed required in a man who befriended children to an unusual degree and then drove some of them personally to the gas chamber; or by a man so “collegia!” in his relationship to prisoner doctors and so ruthlessly flamboyant in his conduct of selections. Whatever his affinity for Auschwitz, a man who could be pic- tured under ordinary conditions as “a slightly sadistic German professor” had to form a new self to become an energetic killer. The point about Mengele’s doubling was that his prior self could be readily absorbed into the Auschwitz self; and his continuing allegiance to the Nazi ideology and project probably enabled his Auschwitz self, more than in the case of other Nazi doctors, to remain active over the years after the Second World War. 67 ‘”Dr. Ernst B.” (real name Wilhelm Miinch), an Auschwitz physician described as “a human being in an SS uniform,” was the only death-camp doctor acquitted in a post- war trial. Former prisoners, including prisoner doctors, testified in his behalf.— Ed. 2Dr. Josef Mengele, a fanatical Nazi, performed macabre experiments on twins at Auschwitz. He escaped capture and died in hiding in Brazil in 1979.— Ed. 68 Robert Jay Lifton WirthV doubling was neither limited (like Dr. B’s) nor harmonious (like Mengele’s): it was both strong and conflicted. We see Auschwitz’s chief doctor as a “divided self” because both selves retained their power. Yet his doubling was the most successful of all from the standpoint of the Auschwitz institution and the Nazi project. Even his suicide was a mark of that success: while the Nazi defeat enabled him to equate his Auschwitz self more clearly with evil, he nonetheless retained responsi- bility to that Auschwitz self sufficiently to remain inwardly divided and unable to imagine any possibility of resolution and renewal —either legally, morally, or psychologically. Within the Auschwitz structure, significant doubling included future goals and even a sense of hope. Styles of doubling varied because each Na/i doctor created his Auschwitz self out of his prior self, with ils particular history, and with his own psychological mechanisms. But in all Nazi doctors, prior self and Auschwitz self were connected by the overall Nazi ethos and the general authority of the regime. Doubling was a shared theme among them. Indeed, Auschwitz as an institution —us an atrocity-producing situation—ran on doubling. An atrocity-producing situation is one so structured externally (in this case, institutionally) that the average person entering it (in this case, as part of the German authority) will commit or become associated with atrocities. Always important to an a In icily-producing situation is its capacity to motivate individuals psycho- logically toward engaging in atrocity. In an institution as powerful as Auschwitz, the external environment (in ild set the tone for much of an individual doctor’s “internal environ- ment.” The demand for doubling was part of the environmental mes- sage immediately perceived by Nazi doctors, the implicit command to I g luilli a srll Ilia I could adapt to killing without one’s feeling one- self a murderer. Doubling became not just an individual enterprise but a shared psychological process, the group norm, part of the Auschwitz “weather.” And that group process was intensified by the general aware- ness that, whatever went on in other camps, Auschwitz was the great I The Nazi Doct ore technical center of the Final Solution. One had to double in order that one’s life work there not be interfered with either by the corpses one helped to produce or by those “living dead” (the Muaelmdnner) all around one. Inevitably, the Auschwitz pressure toward doubling extended to prisoner doctors, the most flagrant examples of whom were those who came to work closely with the Nazis. . . . Even those prisoner doc- tors who held strongly to their healing ethos, and underwent minimal doubling, inadvertently contributed to Nazi doctors’ doubling simply by working with them, as they had to, and thereby in some degree con- firmed a Nazi doctor’s Auschwitz self. Doubling undoubtedly occurred extensively in nonmedical Auschwitz personnel as well. Rudolf Hoss told how noncommissioned officers regularly involved in selections “pour[ed] out their hearts” to him about the difficulty of their work (their prior self speaking) —but went on doing that work (their Auschwitz self directing behavior). Hoss described the Auschwitz choices: “either to become cruel, to become heartless and no longer to respect human life [that is, to develop a highly functional Auschwitz self] or to be weak and to get to the point of a nervous breakdown [that is, to hold onto one’s prior self, which in Auschwitz was nonfunctional].” But in the Nazi doctor, the doubling was particularly stark in that a prior healing self gave rise to a killing self that should have been, but functionally was not, in direct opposition to it. And as in any atrocity-producing situation, Nazi doctors found them- selves in a psychological climate where they were virtually certain to choose evil: they were propelled, that is, toward murder. Beyond Auschwitz, there was much in the Nazi movement that promoted doubling. The overall Nazi project, replete with cruelty, re- quired constant doubling in the service of carrying out that cruelty. The doubling could take the form of a gradual process of “slippery slope” compromises: the slow emergence of a functional “Nazi self” via a series of destructive actions, at first more incriminating, if not more murderous, than the previous ones. 69 ‘Dr. Eduard Wirth was chief physician at Auschwitz. A dedicated physician capahle of showing compassion to individual prisoners, he also set up the camp’s machinery of mass murder. He hanged himself in 1945.—Ed. 4Hoss was commandant of Auschwitz from 1940 to 1943. He was tried and hanged by the Poles in 1947.-Ed. 70 Robert Jay Lifton Doubling could also be more dramatic, infused with transcendence, the sense (described by a French fascist who joined the SS) of being some- one entering a religious order “who must now divest himself of his past,” and of being “reborn into a new European race.” That new Nazi self could take on a sense of mystical fusion with the German Volk, with “des- tiny,” and with immortalizing powers. Always there was the combination noted earlier of idealism and terror, imagery of destruction and renewal, so that “gods . . . appear as both destroyers and culture-heroes, just as the Fiihrer could appear as front comrade and master builder.” Himmler, especially in his speeches to his SS leaders within their “oath-bound community,” called for the kind of doubling necessary to engage in what he considered to be heroic cruelty, especially in the killing of Jews. The degree of doubling was not necessarily equivalent to Nazi Parly membership; thus, Hochhuth could claim that “the great divide was between Nazis [meaning those with well-developed Nazi selves] and decent people, not between Party members and other Germans.” Hill probably never has a political movement demanded doubling with llir inlensity and scale of the Nazis. Doctors as a group may be more susceptible to doubling than oth- ers. For example, a former Nazi doctor claimed that the anatomist’s iuseiisitivity toward skeletons and corpses accounted for his friend Hirt’s grotesque “anthropological” collection of Jewish skulls. . . . While hardly ;i satisfactory explanation, this doctor was referring to a genuine pattern iiol jnsl of numbing but of medical doubling. That doubling usually be- gins will i the student’s encounter with the corpse he or she must dissect, iilU’ii enough on the first day of medical school. One feels it necessary lo develop a “medical self,” which enables one not only to be relatively iimivd lo death but to function reasonably efficiently in relation to the many-sided demands of the work. The ideal doctor, to be sure, remains warm and humane by keeping that doubling to a minimum. But few doctors meet that ideal standard. Since studies have suggested that a psychological motivation for entering the medical profession can be the overcoming of an unusually great fear of death, it is possible that this fear in doctors propels them in the direction of doubling when encountering deadly environments. Doctors drawn to the Nazi movement in general, and to SS or concentration-camp medicine in particular, were likely to be those with the greatest previous medical doubling. But even doctors without outstanding Nazi sympathies could well have had a certain ex- perience with doubling and a proclivity for its further manifestations. The Nazi Doctors Certainly the tendency toward doubling was particularly strong among Nazi doctors. Given the heroic vision held out to them —as cultivators of the genes and as physicians to the Volk, and as militarized healers combining the life-death power of shaman and general —any cruelty they might perpetrate was all too readily drowned in hubris. And their medical hubris was furthered by their role in the sterilization and “euthanasia” projects within a vision of curing the ills of the Nordic race and the German people. Doctors who ended up undergoing the extreme doubling necessi- tated by the “euthanasia” killing centers and the death camps were prob- ably unusually susceptible to doubling. There was, of course, an element of chance in where one was sent, but doctors assigned either to the kill- ing centers or to the death camps tended to be strongly committed to Nazi ideology. They may well have also had greater schizoid tendencies, or been particularly prone to numbing and omnipotence-sadism, all of which also enhance doubling. Since, even under extreme conditions, people have a way of finding and staying in situations they connect with psychologically, we can suspect a certain degree of self-selection there too. In these ways, previous psychological characteristics of a doctor’s self had considerable significance —but a significance in respect to ten- dency or susceptibility, and no more. Considerable doubling occurred in people of the most varied psychological characteristics. We thus find ourselves returning to the recognition that most of what Nazi doctors did would be within the potential capability—at least under certain conditions —of most doctors and of most people. But once embarked on doubling in Auschwitz, a Nazi doctor did indeed separate himself from other physicians and from other human beings. Doubling was the mechanism by which a doctor, in his actions, moved from the ordinary to the demonic. . . . The Auschwitz self depended upon radically diminished feeling, upon one’s not experiencing psychologically what one was doing. I have called the state “psychic numbing,” a general category of diminished capacity or inclination to feel. Psychic numbing involves an interrup- tion in psychic action —in the continuous creation and recreation of images and forms that constitutes the symbolizing or “formative pro- cess” characteristic of human mental life. Psychic numbing varies greatly in degree, from everyday blocking of excessive stimuli to extreme manifestations in response to death-saturated environments. But it is 71 72 Robert Jay Lifton probably impossible to kill another human being without numbing oneself toward that victim. The Auschwitz self also called upon the related mechanism of “derealization,” of divesting oneself from the actuality of what one is part of, not experiencing it as “real.” (That absence of actuality in re- gard to the killing was not inconsistent with an awareness of the killing policy—that is, of the Final Solution.) Still another pattern is that of “disavowal,” or the rejection of what one actually perceives and of its meaning. Disavowal and derealization overlap and are both aspects of the overall numbing process. The key function of numbing in the Auschwitz self is the avoidance of feelings of guilt when one is involved in killing. The Auschwitz self can then engage in medicalized killing, an ultimate form of numbed violence. To be sure, a Nazi doctor arrived at Auschwitz with his psychic numbing well under way. Much feeling had been blunted by his early involvement with Nazi medicine, including its elimination of Jews and use ol Icrror, as well as by his participation in forced sterilization, his knowledge of or relationship to direct medical killing (“euthanasia”), and the information he knew at some level of consciousness about concentration camps and medical experiments held there if not about death camps such as Auschwitz. Numbing was fostered not only by this knowledge and culpability but by the admired principle of “the new spirit of German coldness.” Moreover, early Nazi achievements furthered that hardness; and it is often the case that success breeds numbing. . . . There has to be a transition from feeling to not feeling—a transition thai, in Auschwitz, could be rapid and radical. It began with a built-in barrier toward psychologically experiencing the camp’s main activity: killing Jews. The great majority of Jews were murdered upon arrival, wilhonl having been admitted to the camp and achieving the all- imporlanl status of having a number tattooed on one’s arm, which in Auschwitz meant life, however precarious. Numbing toward victims was built in because, in Auschwitz terms, those victims never existed. The large selections brought about that massive non-existence; and the selections themselves became psychologically dissociated from other activities, relegated to a mental area that “didn’t count” —that is, both derealized and disavowed. In that sense, there was a kernel of truth to Dr. B.’s claim that selections were psychologically less significant to Nazi doctors than the problems of hunger they encountered from moment to moment. The Nazi Doctors But only a kernel, since Nazi doctors knew that selections meant killing, and had to do the psychological work of calling forth a numbed Auschwitz self in order to perform them. While Nazi doctors varied in their original will, or willingness, to perform selections, they tended to have to overcome some “block” (as Dr. B. put it) or “scruple” (as Nazi literature has it). With the actual performance of one’s first and perhaps second selection, one had, in effect, made a pledge to stay numbed, which meant to live within the restricted feelings of the Auschwitz self. For this transition, the heavy drinking I have referred to has great significance on several levels. It provided, at the very beginning, an al- tered state of consciousness within which one “tried on” the threatening Auschwitz realities (the melodramatic, even romanticized declarations of doubts and half opposition described by Dr. B.). In this altered state, conflicts and objections need not have been viewed as serious resistance, need not have been dangerous. One could then explore doubts without making them real: one could derealize both the doubts and the rest of one’s new Auschwitz life. At the same time, alcohol was central to a pat- tern of male bonding through which new doctors were socialized into the Auschwitz community. Men pull together for the “common good,” even for what was perceived among Nazi doctors as group survival. Drinking enhanced the meeting of the minds between old-timers, who could offer models of an Auschwitz self to the newcomer seeking entry into the realm of Auschwitz killing. The continuing alcohol-enhanced sharing of group feelings and group numbing gave further shape to the emerg- ing Auschwitz self. Over time, as drinking was continued especially in connection with selections, it enabled the Auschwitz self to distance that killing activity and reject responsibility for it. Increasingly, the Jews as victims failed to touch the overall psychological processes of the Auschwitz self. Whether a Nazi doctor saw Jews without feeling their presence, or did not see them at all, he no longer experienced them as beings who affected him—that is, as human beings. Much of that transition process occurred within days or even hours, but tended to become an established pattern by two or three weeks. The numbing of the Auschwitz self was greatly aided by the diffu- sion of responsibility. With the medical corpsmen closer to the actual killing, the Auschwitz self of the individual doctor could readily feel “It is not I who kill.” He was likely to perceive what he did as a com- bination of military order (“I am assigned to ramp duty”), designated 74 Robert }ay Lifton role (“I am expected to select strong prisoners for work and weaker ones for ‘special treatment'”), and desirable attitude (“I am supposed to be disciplined and hard and to overcome ‘scruples'”). Moreover, since “the Fiihrer decides upon the life and death of any enemy of the state,” responsibility lay with him (or his immediate representatives) alone. As in the case of the participant in direct medical killing (“euthanasia”), the Auschwitz self could feel itself no more than a member of a “team,” within which responsibility was so shared, and so offered to higher authorities, as no longer to exist for anyone on that team. And insofar as one felt a residual sense of responsibility, one could reinvoke numbing by means of a spirit of numerical compromise: “We give them ten or fifteen and save five or six.” Numbing could become solidified by this focus on “team play” and “absolute fairness” toward other members of the team. Yet if the “team” did something incriminating, one could stay numbed by asserting one’s independence from it. I have in mind one former Nazi doctor’s denial ol responsibility for the medical experiments done by a team to which he’ provided materials from his laboratory, even though he showed up on occasion at a concentration camp and looked over experimental charts and subjects. That same doctor also denied responsibility for the “loam” (committee) decision to allocate large amounts of Zyklon-B for use in death camps, though he was prominent in the decision-making process, because, whatever other members of the team knew, he had not been informed that the gas would be used for killing. In this last example in particular, we sense that numbing can be willed and clung lo in 11 ic face of the kind of continual involvement of the self in experi- ences that would ordinarily produce lots of feeling. . . . ‘I lie language of the Auschwitz self, and of the Nazis in general, was crucial lo llie numbing. A leading scholar of the Holocaust told of exam- ining “tens of thousands” of Nazi documents without once encounter- ing the word “killing,” until, after many years he finally did discover the word—in reference to an edict concerning dogs. For what was being done to the Jews, there were different words, words that perpetuated the numbing of the Auschwitz self by rendering murder nonmurderous. For the doctors specifically, these words sug- gested responsible military-medical behavior: “ramp duty” (Rampendienst) or sometimes even “medical ramp duty” (drztliche Rampendienst} or “[prisoners] presenting themselves to a doctor” (Arztvorstellerri). For what The Nazi Doctors was being done to the Jews in general, there was, of course, the “Final Solution of the Jewish question” (Endlosung der Judenfrage), “possible solutions” (Losungsmoglichkeiten), “evacuation” (Aussiedlung or Evakuierung), “transfer” (Uberstellung), and “resettlement” (Umsiedlung, the German word suggesting removal from a danger area). Fven when they spoke of a “gassing Kommando” (Vergasungskommando), it had the ostensible function of disinfection. The word “selection” (Selektion) could imply sorting out the healthy from the sick, or even some form of Darwinian scientific function having to do with “natural selection” (naturliche Auswahl), certainly nothing to do with killing. The Nazi doctor did not literally believe these euphemisms. Even a well-developed Auschwitz self was aware that Jews were not being resettled but killed, and that the “Final Solution” meant killing all of them. But at the same time the language used gave Nazi doctors a discourse in which killing was no longer killing; and need not be experienced, or even perceived, as killing. As they lived increasingly within that language—and they used it with each other—Nazi doctors became imaginatively bound to a psychic realm of derealization, dis- avowal, and nonfeeling. . . . Although doubling can be understood as a pervasive process present in some degree in most if not all lives, we have mainly been talking about a destructive version of it: victimizer’s doubling. The Germans of the Nazi era came to epitomize this process not because they were inherently more evil than other people, but because they succeeded in making use of this form of doubling for tapping the general human moral and psy- chological potential for mobilizing evil on a vast scale and channeling it into systematic killing. While victimizer’s doubling can occur in virtually any group, per- haps professionals of various kinds—physicians, psychologists, physicists, biologists, clergy, generals, statesmen, writers, artists — have a special capacity for doubling. In them a prior, humane self can be joined by a “professional self” willing to ally itself with a destructive project, with harming or even killing others. . . . In light of the recent record of professionals engaged in mass kill- ing, can this be the century of doubling? Or, given the ever greater po- tential for professionalization of genocide, will that distinction belong to the twenty-first century? Or, may one ask a little more softly, can we interrupt the process—first by naming it?
Question: In their essays, Christopher Browning, Omar Bartov. and Robert Jay Lifton investigate the motivations that drove different groups of Germans to murder Jewish people. How do their conclusions
PROBLEMS IN EUROPEAN CIVILIZATION SERIES The Holocaust Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation Fourth Edition Edited by Donald L. Niewyk Southern Methodist University * WADSWORTH t * CENGAGE Learning- Australia • Brazil • japan • Korea • Mexico • Singapore • Spain • United Kingdom • United States 76 Omer Bartov Omer Bartov Hitler’s Army [A] detailed reconstruction of life at the front . . . demonstrates the effects of the immense material attrition on the troops’ physical condition and state of mind. It stresses that as of winter 1941-42 the majority of Germany’s soldiers were forced into trench warfare highly reminiscent of the Western Front of 1914-18, while facing, however, an increasingly modernized enemy. Unable to rely on its hitherto highly successful Blit/.krieg tactics, the Wehrmacht accepted Hitler’s view that this was an all-or-nothing struggle for survival, a “war of ideologies” which demanded total spiritual commitment, and thus tried to com- pensate for the loss of its technological superiority by intensifying the troops’ political indoctrination. This in turn opened the way for an ever greater brutalization of the soldiers. . . . The demodernization of the front had several important conse- quences. First, it led to such heavy losses among combat units that the traditional backbone of the German army, the “primary groups” which had hitherto assured its cohesion, were largely wiped out. Sec- ond, in order to prevent the disintegration of the army as a whole which might have resulted from the breakup of the “primary group,” the Wehrmacht introduced and ruthlessly implemented an extremely harsh disciplinary system, to which was given not merely a military, but also an ideological legitimation. Yet draconian punishment did nol suffice in cases where fear of the enemy was greater than fear of one’s superiors. Thus in compensation for their obedience, and as a logical conclusion of the politicization of discipline, the troops were in linn given license to vent their anger and frustration on the enemy’s Mildin-, ,ni(l i-i ili;mv The demodernization ol I lie Ironl consequently greatly enhanced the brutalization of the troops, and made the sol- diers more receptive to ideological indoctrination and more willing to implement the policies it advocated. This process was possible, however, only because a large proportion of the Wehrmacht’s officers and men already shared some key elements of the National Social- ist world-view. Confronted with a battlefield reality which no longer From Hitler’s Army by Omer Bartov. Oxford University Press. Copyright © 1992 by Oxford University Press. Reprinted with permission. Hitler’s Army corresponded to their previous image of war, and with an enemy who could not be overcome by employing familiar military methods, German soldiers now accepted the Nazi vision of war as the only one applicable to their situation. It was at this point that the Wehrmacht finally became Hitler’s army. . . . [I]t was the unprecedented harsh discipline of the Wehrmacht which kept the units together at the front. However, the soldiers’ sub- mission to a disciplinary system which led to the execution of some 15,000 men was closely tied to the troops’ own conduct toward enemy soldiers and civilians. While many of the army’s criminal activities were directed from above, the troops went unpunished even when they to- tally disregarded orders forbidding plunder and indiscriminate shoot- ing. By allowing unauthorized actions against individuals considered as mere “subhumans,” the army created a convenient safety valve which made it possible to demand strict combat discipline. Cohesion came to depend on a perversion of the moral and legal basis of martial law. Nevertheless, when terror from the enemy became greater than fear of one’s superiors, breakdowns did occur. Complete disintegration was prevented not merely by discipline, but by creating a commonly shared view of the war which made the prospect of defeat seem equivalent to a universal apocalypse. . . . [A]t critical moments, when terror from the enemy became even greater than fear of one’s superiors, incidents of breakdown among combat units did occur, and no amount of disciplinary brutality could prevent them. But what is most important about these incidents is that although they were far from infrequent, at no stage of the war save for the very last weeks did they threaten the cohesion of the army as a whole. Thus it was shown that just as brutal discipline could be ac- cepted by the troops only because they had been taught to believe in the ideological arguments on which it was based, so too this ideological cohesion of the troops assumed a major role in preventing the organizational disintegration of the army when the disciplinary system crumbled. Paradoxically, while discipline was aimed at instilling into the troops’ fear of their superiors, indoctrination increasingly terror- ized the soldiers by horror tales about what they could expect from the “Judeo-Bolshevik” and “Asiatic flood” threatening the cradle of culture. Thus precisely when fear of the enemy in one point of the front over- came fear of punishment and caused local breakdowns, the overwhelm- ing terror from the ultimate consequences of a Soviet victory rapidly 77 78 Omer Bartov isolated this incident; rather than the breakdown spreading across the front, the reaction of nearby units was to steel themselves once more and make yet another effort to halt the demonic hordes advancing from the East. Mutiny and disintegration tend to have a contagious effect on armies and to spread with remarkable speed; the Wehrmacht protected itself from most breakouts by harsh discipline, but completely inocu- lated its troops from a panic epidemic by huge counter-injections of ter- ror from the enemy. Indeed, one can say that the typical Landser was a very frightened man, scared of his commanders, terrified of the enemy; this is probably why he seems to have enjoyed so much watching others suffer. The photographs of smiling Wehrmacht troops, each with his little camera, busily taking pictures of hanged “partisans,” or of piles of bulchcrcd Jews. . . can only be understood as the ultimate perversion of the soldiers by a terroristic system of discipline, backed by a murderous ideology, which achieved its aim of preserving cohesion at the price of destroying the individual’s moral fabric and thereby making possible the extermination of countless defenseless people. The troops’ percep- tion of reality and understanding of their actions was distorted by the conditions and circumstances of their existence. Yet it must be empha- sized that it was the years of premilitary and army indoctrination which molded the soldiers’ state of mind, prepared them for the horrors of war, and instilled into them such determination and ruthlessness. . . . [Yjears of premilitary and army indoctrination distorted the sol- diers’ perception of reality. The Wehrmacht’s propaganda relied on a radical demonization of the enemy and on a similarly extreme deifica- tion of the Fiihrer. The astonishing efficacy of these images is shown by rcliTence to a wide array of evidence, ranging from analyses of soldiers’ opinions by the regime’s own agencies and leaders, to the views of its opposcrs, the memoirs of former generals and soldiers, the oral testimo- nies ol workers and youths, and the private correspondence of troops from tin- Iront. It is particularly in the latter case that we find how sol- diers preferred to view the reality they knew best through the ideologi- cal filters of the regime. . . . The correspondence from the Eastern Front provides us with a particularly good opportunity to observe the manner in which German troops internalized some of the central notions of National Socialism and employed them to rationalize their predicament at the front, legitimize their criminal actions, and fortify their spirits. Natu- rally, much of what the soldiers wrote was heavily influenced by the Hitler’s Army Wehrmacht’s propaganda. But it is extremely revealing that they incor- porated these arguments in their private correspondence, given the fact that censorship was concerned with incidents of criticism, not with the absence of Nazi phraseology. The soldiers’ letters reflected the distor- tion of reality among the troops in two significant spheres: first, the de- humanization and demonization of the enemy on political and racial grounds, with a particular reference to the Jews as the lowest expres- sion of human depravity; and, second, the deification of the Fiihrer as the only hope for Germany’s salvation. Intermixed with these central themes were notions regarding battle as a supreme test of character and manhood, as well as of racial and cultural superiority, and a view of the war as a holy crusade for a better future and against an infernal host of enemies sanctioned by God, who among the more pious and philosophically inclined at least partially replaced Hitler as the arbiter of German and universal destiny. Anti-Semitic sentiments among the troops increased as conditions at the front worsened and as soldiers were no longer merely exposed to racist propaganda but also observed and in some cases participated in mass murders of Jews. Whereas concerning the Russians soldiers occasionally expressed pity, the fate of the Jews only enhanced the feel- ing that this was a “race” which indeed deserved total annihilation, particularly as it might otherwise take revenge on the Germans for its destruction. But from the very first weeks of “Barbarossa” many soldiers’ letters revealed the impact of years of anti-Semitic indoctrination and deeply rooted prejudices. Lance-Corporal Paul Lenz maintained early on in the campaign: “Only a Jew can be a Bolshevik, for this blood-sucker there can be nothing nicer than to be a Bolshevik…. Wherever one spits one finds a Jew. … As far as I know . . . not one single Jew has worked in the workers’ paradise, everyone, even the smallest blood-sucker, has a post where he naturally enjoys great privileges.” In early August 1941 Lance-Corporal Herbert Nebenstreit wrote of his impression of Russia: “Only in Poland have I seen so much filth, mire, and rabble, especially Jews. I think that even there it was not half as bad as here.” Private Reinhold Mahnke furnished a detailed description of Bolshevik-Jewish atrocities against the Lithuanians. Not only did they eject them from their houses and then burn them down, they also “cut off their feet and hands, tore out their tongues. . . . They even nailed men and children to walls. Had these criminals come to our country,” Mahnke now realized, “they would have torn us to pieces and mangled 79 80 Omer Bartov Hitler’s Army 81 us, that’s clear. But the Lithuanians have taken revenge,” he concluded, referring to the anti-Jewish pogroms conducted by the local population with the encouragement of the Einsatzgruppen and under the observ- ing eye of the Wehrmacht. Lance-Corporal Heinrich Sachs similarly noted “how the Jewish question was solved with impressive thoroughness under the enthu- siastic applause of the local population.” He then went on to quote Hitler’s speech before the Reichstag threatening the Jews with destruc- tion if they caused a war against Germany, and added that the “Jew should have known that the Filhrer was serious and must now bear the appropriate consequences.” Captain Hans Kondruss, writing from Lvov (Lemberg) in mid-July had discovered ample evidence to show that “here clearly a whole people has systematically been reared into subhnmanity. This is clearly the most Satanic educational plan of all times, which only Jewish sadism could have constructed and carried through.” The fact that the municipal library contained the Talmud, and that among the massacred civilians there were allegedly no Jews, was to his mind “indicative of the real originators.” He too was satisfied to note that the “wrath of the people has however been turned upon this people of criminals.” Indeed, he asserted: “It will be necessary radically to scorch out this boil of plague, because these ‘animals’ will always constitute a danger.” The Jews had turned the population away “from everything which to us human beings has been eternally holy,” for their goal was “the brutalization [Vertierung] of a whole people, in order to make use of it as an instrument in the war for Judas’ world domina- tion.” Lance-Corporal Paul Rubelt agreed that the “Jews were for the most part the evil doers” in the Lvov massacres, and noted that now the1 “culprits are shot.” Indeed, Corporal K. Suffner, who maintained Ihr “Bolsheviks and the Jews have murdered 12,000 Germans and 11 kmii nans in a beastly manner,” reported that “the surviving Ukraini- ans arrested 2000 Jews and exercised frightful revenge.” He concluded: “We swear that this plague will be eradicated root and branch.” Lance- Corporal Hans Fleischauer expressed similar sentiments: “The Jew is a real master in murdering, burning and massacring. . . . These bandits deserve the worst and toughest punishment conceivable.” The conse- quences he drew from his experience with Jewish atrocities were far from untypical: “We all cannot be thankful enough to our Ftihrer, who had protected us from such brutalities, and only for that we must follow him through thick and thin, wherever that might be.” Private von Kaull believed that “international Jewry,” already in control of the capitalist world, had taken “as a counter-weight this proletarian insanity” as well: “Now these two powers of destruction have been sent to the field, now they are incited against Europe, against the heart of the West, in order to destroy Germany.” He was impressed with the scale and significance of the conflict: “Such a huge battle has never before taken place on earth. It is the greatest battle of the spirits ever experienced by human- ity, it is waged for the existence or downfall of Western man and the highest values which a people consciously carries on its shield.” Conse- quently: “We must give our all to withstand this battle.” Private Gregor Lisch asked his family in the rear to “be happy that the Bolsheviks and the Jews had not come to us,” for “the Jews have destroyed these poor people.” And Private Fallnbigl, while stressing that “we should be happy that we have not had this scourge of humanity in our own country,” was convinced that “the German world would not be prepared for such hei- nous deeds even after years of preparation.” As the war dragged on, soldiers progressively embittered by the endless fighting readily accepted the propagandistic line that the Jews were to blame. As one lance-corporal exclaimed in April 1942: “These swine of human creatures. They have clearly brought us this outrage of a war.” Typical of the inversion process common among the troops and the sense that the murderous treatment of the Jews merely confirmed their inhumanity was the following letter sent in July 1942: About events in the East concerning the Jews one could write a book. But it would be a waste of paper. You can be sure that they come to the right place, where they will no longer oppress any peoples. The frustration caused by partisan activities also contributed to anti- Semitic sentiments among the troops. It was the Wehrmacht’s policy to execute large numbers of civilians in retaliation for any attack on military personnel, and the Jews were clearly the most convenient tar- get, especially as the local population itself was often also strongly anti- Semitic. The soldiers were quick to draw the conclusion that not only did the Jews constitute the main support of “Bolshevism” in Russia and had been about to overtake Germany as well, but that they were also directly responsible for the growing number of “terroristic” guerrilla attacks. One NCO wrote home in July 1942 that 82 Omer Bartov the great task given us in the struggle against Bolshevism lies in the destruction of eternal Jewry. Once one sees what the Jew has done in Russia, one can well understand why the Fiihrer began the struggle against Jewry. What sorrows would have come to our homeland, had this beast of a man had the upper hand? . . . Recently a comrade of ours was murdered in the night. He was stabbed in the back. That can only have been the Jew, who stands behind these crimes. The revenge taken for that act brought indeed a nice success. The population itself hates the Jews as never before. It realizes now, that he is guilty of everything. 11 is interesting to note that the encounter with real Jews seemed to eonfirm even the most pornographic and malicious anti-Semitic pro- paganda produced in the Third Reich. Thus while it is true that initially it was easier to create hatred and fear of an abstract enemy, once this image had been internalized soldiers applied it to real living human be- ings, apparently believing that they actually resembled the caricatures of “the Jew” in Nazi newspapers. As one corporal wrote, although in the course of this war a little more light will have been cast on the Jewish question even for the most pigheaded philistine ISpieser], it is nevertheless still of the utmost importance that this question be fur- ther put in the necessary light, and here the “Stunner” has, thank God, still remained true to its old positions. Just as the Eastern Jew now re- veals himself in all his brutality, so have all this vicious lot, no matter whether in the West or in the East. . . . Increasingly during the last two years of the war, the troops at the front came to see themselves as the missionaries of the entire German nation, indeed of Western civilization as a whole. Rational evaluation and clear perception of events were replaced by intense Ic liom and rage against a faceless, monstrous enemy, which in linn only enhanced the men’s desperate clinging to their faith in I lilU’i’s ability In avert the apocalypse and lead the Reich to the i’.udnieg over the forces of evil. It was at this period, just as Germany was accelerating even further the implementation of its genocidal policies, that the view of the Wchrmacht as the protector of human- ity gained increasing force. Paradoxically, the soldiers’ awareness of the regime’s criminal actions (at least at the front) made them fight Hitler’s Army 83 with even greater determination for its survival by intensifying their ;. fear of the consequences of defeat. Note the following letter by a Wehrmacht captain written in mid-February 1943: May God allow the German people to find now the peace of mind and strength which would make it into the instrument needed by the Fiihrer to protect the West from ruin, for what the Asiatic hordes will not destroy, will be annihilated by Jewish hatred and revenge. The belief at the front is unshakable, and we all hope that, as Goring has said, with the rising sun the fortunes of war will again return to our side. This was, indeed, the core German troops’ ideological motivation, a combination of prejudices and phobias which made them so much into Hitler’s soldiers. God was with the Fiihrer, and the German people were God’s instrument, whose goal was to save the West from Asiatic barbarism and Jewish revenge. The danger was great; but as long as belief in Hitler remained unshakable, victory was certain to come. Iron- ically, even men who claimed that the “time of fanaticism and intoler- ance of other views is over,” and that “if we want to win the war, we must become more rational” concluded that all this was necessary “so that we will not be delivered to the revenge of the Jews.”
Question: In their essays, Christopher Browning, Omar Bartov. and Robert Jay Lifton investigate the motivations that drove different groups of Germans to murder Jewish people. How do their conclusions
PROBLEMS IN EUROPEAN CIVILIZATION SERIES The Holocaust Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation Fourth Edition Edited by Donald L. Niewyk Southern Methodist University ,* WADSWORTH * =s CENGAGE Learning- Australia • Brazil • Japan • Korea • Mexico • Singapore • Spain • United Kingdom • United States 84 Christopher R. Browning Christopher R. Browning ‘Ordinary Men’ In the very early hours of July 13, 1942, the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 were roused from their bunks in the large brick school building that served as their barracks in the Polish town of BiJ’goraj. They were middle-aged family men of working- and lower-middle- class background from the city of Hamburg. Considered too old to be of use to the German army, they had been drafted instead into the Order Police. Most were raw recruits with no previous experience in (ici man occupied territory. They had arrived in Poland less than three \ eeks earlier. It was still quite dark as the men climbed into the waiting trucks. Kncli policeman had been given extra ammunition, and additional boxes had been loaded onto the trucks as well. They were headed for llieir lirst major action, though the men had not yet been told what Id evpcd. The convoy of battalion trucks moved out of BiJ’goraj in the dark, I lending eastward on a jarring washboard gravel road. The pace was slow, and it took an hour and a half to two hours to arrive at the destination — the village of Jozefow—a mere thirty kilometers away. Just as the sky was beginning to lighten, the convoy halted outside Jozefow. It was a typical Polish village of modest white houses with thatched straw roofs. Among ils inhabitants were 1,800 Jews. The village was totally quiet. The men of Reserve Police Battal- ion 101 climbed down from their trucks and assembled in a half-circle aidimd their commander, Major Wilhelm Trapp, a fifty-three-year-old career policeman affectionately known by his men as “Papa Trapp.” The lime had come for Trapp to address the men and inform them of the assignment the battalion had received. Pale and nervous, with choking voice and tears in his eyes, Trapp visibly fought to control himself as he spoke. The battalion, he said plain- tively, had to perform a frightfully unpleasant task. This assignment was Excerpts from pp. 151-7, 159-69, 175-6, 184, 188-9 from Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher R. Browning. Copyright © 1992, 1998 by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Reprinted with permission. “Ordinary Men” not to his liking, indeed it was highly regrettable, but the orders came from the highest authorities. If it would make their task any easier, the men should remember that in Germany the bombs were falling on women and children. He then turned to the matter at hand. The Jews had instigated the American Boycott that had damaged Germany, one policeman remem- bered Trapp saying. There were Jews in the village of Jozefow who were involved with the partisans, he explained according to two others. The battalion had now been ordered to round up these Jews. The male Jews of working age were to be separated and taken to a work camp. The remaining Jews—the women, children, and elderly—were to be shot on the spot by the battalion. Having explained what awaited his men, Trapp then made an extraordinary offer: if any of the older men among them did not feel up to the task that lay before him, he could step out. . . . [Some members of the battalion rounded up three hundred able-bodied Jewish men for shipment to a slave labor camp. Other members system- atically murdered the remaining Jews.] When Trapp first made his offer early in the morning, the real nature of the action had just been announced and time to think and react had been very short. Only a dozen men had instinctively seized the moment to step out, turn in their rifles, and thus excuse them- selves from the subsequent killing. For many the reality of what they were about to do, and particularly that they themselves might be cho- sen for the firing squad, had probably not sunk in. But when the men of First Company were summoned to the marketplace, instructed in giving a “neck shot,” and sent to the woods to kill Jews, some of them tried to make up for the opportunity they had missed earlier. One policeman approached First Sergeant Kammer, whom he knew well. He confessed that the task was “repugnant” to him and asked for a different assignment. Kammer obliged, assigning him to guard duty on the edge of the forest, where he remained throughout the day. Sev- eral other policemen who knew Kammer well were given guard duty along the truck route. After shooting for some time, another group of policemen approached Kammer and said they could not continue. He released them from the firing squad and reassigned them to accompany the trucks. . . . With the constant coming and going from the trucks, the wild ter- rain, and the frequent rotation, the men did not remain in fixed groups. 85 86 Christopher R. Browning The confusion created the opportunity for work slowdown and evasion. Some men who hurried at their task shot far more Jews than others who delayed as much as they could. After two rounds one policeman simply “slipped off” and stayed among the trucks on the edge of the forest. An- other managed to avoid taking his turn with the shooters altogether. It was in no way the case that those who did not want to or could not carry out the shooting of human beings with their own hands could not keep themselves out of this task. No strict control was being carried out here. 1 therefore remained by the arriving trucks and kept myself busy at the arrival point. In any case I gave my activity such an appearance. It could not he avoided that one or another of my comrades noticed that I was not going to the executions to fire away at the victims. They show- ered me with remarks such as “shithead” and “weakling” to express their disgust. But I suffered no consequences for my actions. 1 must mention here that I was not the only one who kept himself out of participating in the executions. . . . For his first victim August Zorn was given a very old man. Zorn recalled that his elderly victim could not or would not keep up with his countrymen, because he repeatedly fell and then simply lay there. I regularly had to lift him up and drag him forward. Thus, I had only reached the execution site when my comrades had already shot their Jews. At the sight of his countrymen who had been shot, my Jew threw himself on the ground and remained lying there. I then cocked my carbine and shot him through the back of the head. Because I was already very upset from the cruel treatment of llic jews during the clearing of the town and was completely in turmoil, I xliot too high. The entire back of the skull of my Jew was torn off and the hiiiin exposed. Parts of the skull flew into Sergeant Steinmetz’s face. This HV/.V grounds for me, after returning to the truck, to go to the first sergeant and ask for my release. I had become so sick that I simply couldn’t any- more. I was then relieved by the first sergeant. . . . When the men arrived at the barracks in BiJ’goraj, they were de- pressed, angered, embittered, and shaken. They ate little but drank heavily. Generous quantities of alcohol were provided, and many of the policemen got quite drunk. Major Trapp made the rounds, try- ing to console and reassure them, and again placing the responsibility on higher authorities. But neither the drink nor Trapp’s consolation “Ordinary Men” could wash away the sense of shame and horror that pervaded the barracks. Trapp asked the men not to talk about it, but they needed no encouragement in that direction. Those who had not been there likewise had no desire to speak, either then or later. By silent con- sensus within Reserve Police Battalion 101, the Jozefow massacre was simply not discussed. “The entire matter was a taboo.” But repression during waking hours could not stop the nightmares. During the first night back from Jozefow, one policeman awoke firing his gun into the ceiling of the barracks. . . . The resentment and bitterness in the battalion over what they had been asked to do in Jozefow was shared by virtually everyone, even those who had shot the entire day. The exclamation of one policeman to First Sergeant Kammer of First Company that “I’d go crazy if I had to do that again” expressed the sentiments of many. But only a few went beyond complaining to extricate themselves from such a possibility. Several of the older men with very large families took advantage of a regulation that required them to sign a release agreeing to duty in a combat area. One who had not yet signed refused to do so; another re- scinded his signature. Both were eventually transferred back to Germany. The most dramatic response was again that of Lieutenant Buchmann, who asked Trapp to have him transferred back to Hamburg and declared that short of a direct personal order from Trapp, he would not take part in Jewish actions. In the end he wrote to Hamburg, explicitly request- ing a recall because he was not “suited” to certain tasks “alien to the police” that were being carried out by his unit in Poland. Buchmann had to wait until November, but his efforts to be transferred were ulti- mately successful. . . . In subsequent actions two vital changes were introduced and henceforth—with some notable exceptions —adhered to. First, most of the future operations of Reserve Police Battalion 101 involved ghetto clearing and deportation, not outright massacre on the spot. The police- men were thus relieved of the immediate horror of the killing process, which (for deportees from the northern Lublin district) was carried out in the extermination camp at Treblinka. Second, while deportation was a horrifying procedure characterized by the terrible coercive violence needed to drive people onto the death trains as well as the systematic killing of those who could not be marched to the trains, these actions 87 88 Christopher R. Browning were generally undertaken jointly by units of Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Trawnikis, SS-trained auxiliaries from Soviet territories, recruited from the POW camps and usually assigned the very worst parts of the ghetto clearing and deportation. . . . When the time came to kill again, the policemen did not “go crazy.” Instead they became increasingly efficient and calloused executioners. . . . With a conservative estimate of 6,500 Jews shot during earlier ac- tions like those at Jdzefow and ^omazy and 1,000 shot during the “Jew hunts,” and a minimum estimate of 30,500 Jews shot at Majdanek and Poniatowa, the battalion had participated in the direct shooting deaths of ;il least 38,000 Jews. With the death camp deportation of at least 3,000 Jews from Mieclzyrzec in early May 1943, the number of Jews they had placed on trains to Treblinka had risen to 45,000. For a battalion of less then 500 men, the ultimate body count was at least 83,000 Jews. . . . Why did most men in Reserve Police Battalion 101 become kill- ers, while only a minority of perhaps 10 percent—and certainly no moii’ than 20 percent—did not? A number of explanations have been invoked in the past to explain such behavior: wartime brutalization, racism, segmentation and routinization of the task, special selection of I he perpetrators, careerism, obedience to orders, deference to authority, ideological indoctrination, and conformity. These factors are applicable in varying degrees, but none without qualification. . . . War, and especially race war, leads to brutalization, which leads In atrocity. . . . Except for a few of the oldest men who were veter- ans of World War I, and a few NCOs who had been transferred to Poland from Russia, the men of the battalion had not seen battle or encountered a deadly enemy. Most of them had not fired a shot in anger or ever been fired on, much less lost comrades fighting at their side. Thus, wartime brutalization through prior combat was not an immediate experience directly influencing the policemen’s behavior at Jozefow. Once the killing began, however, the men became in- creasingly brutalized. As in combat, the horrors of the initial encoun- ter eventually became routine, and the killing became progressively easier. In this sense, brutalization was not the cause but the effect of these men’s behavior. . . . “Ordinary Men” To what degree, if any, did the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 represent a process of special selection for the particular task of implementing the Final Solution? … By age, geographical origin, and social background, the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 were least likely to be considered apt material out of which to mold future mass killers. On the basis of these criteria, the rank and file- middle-aged, mostly working-class, from Hamburg —did not repre- sent special selection or even random selection but for all practical purposes negative selection for the task at hand. . . . Reserve Police Battalion 101 was not sent to Lublin to murder Jews because it was composed of men specially selected or deemed particularly suited for the task. On the contrary, the battalion was the “dregs” of the man- power pool available at that stage of the war. It was employed to kill Jews because it was the only kind of unit available for such behind- the-lines duties. Most likely, Globocnik simply assumed as a matter of course that whatever battalion came his way would be up to this murderous task, regardless of its composition. If so, he may have been disappointed in the immediate aftermath of Jozefow, but in the long run events proved him correct. . . . Those who emphasize the relative or absolute importance of situational factors over individual psychological characteristics in- variably point to Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment. Screening out everyone who scored beyond the normal range on a battery of psychological tests, including one that measured “rigid adherence to conventional values and a submissive, uncritical at- titude toward authority” (i.e., the F-scale for the “authoritarian per- sonality”), Zimbardo randomly divided his homogeneous “normal” test group into guards and prisoners and placed them in a simulated prison. Though outright physical violence was barred, within six days the inherent structure of prison life —in which guards operating on three-man shifts had to devise ways of controlling the more numer- ous prisoner population —had produced rapidly escalating brutality, humiliation, and dehumanization. “Most dramatic and distressing to us was the observation of the ease with which sadistic behavior could be elicited in individuals who were not ‘sadistic types.'” The prison situation alone, Zimbardo concluded, was “a sufficient condition to produce aberrant, anti-social behavior.” 89 90 Christopher R. Browning Perhaps most relevant to this study of Reserve Police Battalion 101 is the spectrum of behavior that Zimbardo discovered in his sample of eleven guards. About one-third emerged as “cruel and tough.” They constantly invented new forms of harassment and enjoyed their new- found power to behave cruelly and arbitrarily. A middle group of guards was “tough but fair.” They “played by the rules” and did not go out of their way to mistreat prisoners. Only two (i.e., less than 20 percent) emerged as “good guards” who did not punish prisoners and even did small favors for them. /imbarclo’s spectrum of guard behavior bears an uncanny resem- blance to the groupings that emerged within Reserve Police Battalion 101: a nucleus of increasingly enthusiastic killers who volunteered for the firing squads and “Jew Hunts”; a larger group of policemen who per- formed as shooters and ghetto clearers when assigned but who did not seek opportunities to kill (and in some cases refrained from killing, con- liary to standing orders, when no one was monitoring their actions); and a small group (less than 20 percent) of refusers and evaders. . . . II obedience to orders out of fear of dire punishment is not a valid explanation, what about “obedience to authority” in the more general sense used by Stanley Milgram —deference simply as a product of socialization and evolution, a “deeply ingrained behavior tendency” to comply with the directives of those positioned hierarchically above, even to Ilic point of performing repugnant actions in violation of “universally accepted” moral norms. In a series of now famous experiments, Milgram Icslcd 11 it- individual’s ability to resist authority that was not backed by any external coercive threat. Naive volunteer subjects were instructed In a “scientific authority” in an alleged learning experiment to inflict an escalating series of fake electric shocks upon an actor/victim, who responded with carefully programmed “voice feedback” —an escalating series of complaints, cries of pain, calls for help, and finally fateful silence. In the standard voice feedback experiment, two-thirds of Milgram’s sub- jects were “obedient” to the point of inflicting extreme pain. Several variations on the experiment produced significantly differ- ent results. If the actor/victim was shielded so that the subject could hear and see no response, obedience was much greater. If the subject had both visual and voice feedback, compliance to the extreme fell to 40 percent. If the subject had to touch the actor/victim physically by forcing his hand onto an electric plate to deliver the shocks, obedience “Ordinary Men” dropped to 30 percent. If a nonauthority figure gave orders, obedience was nil. If the naive subject performed a subsidiary or accessory task but did not personally inflict the electric shocks, obedience was nearly total. In contrast, if the subject was part of an actor/peer group that staged a carefully planned refusal to continue following the directions of the authority figure, the vast majority of subjects (90 percent) joined llicir peer group and desisted as well. If the subject was given complete discre- tion as to the level of electric shock to administer, all but a few sadists consistently delivered a minimal shock. When not under the direct sur- veillance of the scientist, many of the subjects “cheated” by giving lower shocks than prescribed, even though they were unable to confront authority and abandon the experiment. Milgram adduced a number of factors to account for such an unex- pectedly high degree of potentially murderous obedience to a noncoer- cive authority. An evolutionary bias favors the survival of people who can adapt to hierarchical situations and organized social activity. Socialization through family, school, and military service, as well as a whole array of rewards and punishments within society generally, reinforces and internal- izes a tendency toward obedience. A seemingly voluntary entry into an au- thority system “perceived” as legitimate creates a strong sense of obligation. Those within the hierarchy adopt the authority’s perspective or “definition of the situation” (in this case, as an important scientific experiment rather than the infliction of physical torture). The notions of “loyalty, duty, disci- pline,” requiring competent performance in the eyes of authority, become moral imperatives overriding any identification with the victim. Normal individuals enter an “agentic state” in which they are the instrument of another’s will. In such a state, they no longer feel personally responsible for the content of their actions but only for how well they perform. Once entangled, people encounter a series of “binding factors” or “cementing mechanisms” that make disobedience or refusal even more difficult. The momentum of the process discourages any new or con- trary initiative. The “situational obligation” or etiquette makes refusal appear improper, rude, or even an immoral breach of obligation. And a socialized anxiety over potential punishment for disobedience acts as a further deterrent. Milgram made direct reference to the similarities between human behavior in his experiments and under the Nazi regime. He concluded, “Men are led to kill with little difficulty.” Milgram was aware of significant differences in the two situations, however. Quite 91 92 Christopher R. Browning “Ordinar Men” explicitly he acknowledged that the subjects of his experiments were assured that no permanent physical damage would result from their actions. The subjects were under no threat or duress themselves. And finally, the actor/victims were not the object of “intense devaluation” through systematic indoctrination of the subjects. In contrast, the killers of the Third Reich lived in a police state where the consequences of disobedience could be drastic and they were subjected to intense in- doctrination, but they also knew they were not only inflicting pain but destroying human life. Was the massacre at Jozefow a kind of radical Milgram experiment thai look place in a Polish forest with real killers and victims rather than in a social psychology laboratory with naive subjects and actor/victims? Arc the actions of Reserve Police Battalion 101 explained by Milgram’s observations and conclusions? There are some difficulties in explaining Jd/efow as a case of deference to authority, for none of Milgram’s experi- mental variations exactly paralleled the historical situation at Jozefow, and 11 ic relevant differences constitute too many variables to draw firm Conclusions in any scientific sense. Nonetheless, many of Milgram’s in- sights find graphic confirmation in the behavior and testimony of the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101. At Jozefow the authority system to which the men were responding was quite complex, unlike the laboratory situation. Major Trapp repre- sented not a strong but a very weak authority figure. He weepingly con- ceded (he frightful nature of the task at hand and invited the older reserve policemen to excuse themselves. If Trapp was a weak immediate au- thority figure, he did invoke a more distant system of authority that was anything but weak. The orders for the massacre had been received from the highest quarter, he said. Trapp himself and the battalion as a unit were bound by the orders of this distant authority, even if Trapp’s concern for his men exempted individual policemen. ‘Ib what were the vast majority of Trapp’s men responding when they did not step out? Was it to authority as represented either by Trapp or his superiors? Were they responding to Trapp not primarily as an authority figure, but as an individual—a popular and beloved officer whom they would not leave in the lurch? And what about other factors? Milgram himself notes that people far more frequently invoke authority than conformity to explain their behavior, for only the former seems to absolve them of personal responsibility. “Subjects deny conformity and embrace obedience as the explanation of their actions.” Yet many policemen admitted responding to the pressures of conformity— how would they be seen in the eyes of their comrades? — not authority. On Milgram’s own view, such admission was the tip of the iceberg, and this factor must have been even more important than the men conceded in their testimony. If so, conformity assumes a more central role than authority at Jozefow. Milgram tested the effects of peer pressure in bolstering the indi- vidual’s capacity to resist authority. When actor/collaborators bolted, the naive subjects found it much easier to follow. Milgram also attempted to test for the reverse, that is, the role of conformity in intensifying the capacity to inflict pain. Three subjects, two collaborators and one na- ive, were instructed by the scientist/authority figure to inflict pain at the lowest level anyone among them proposed. When a naive subject act- ing alone had been given full discretion to set the level of electric shock, the subject had almost invariably inflicted minimal pain. But when the two collaborators, always going first, proposed a step-by-step escalation of electric shock, the naive subject was significantly influenced. Though the individual variation was wide, the average result was the selection of a level of electric shock halfway between no increase and a consistent step-by-step increase. This is still short of a test of peer pres- sure as compensation for the deficiencies of weak authority. There was no weeping but beloved scientist inviting subjects to leave the electric shock panel while other men— with whom the subjects had comradely relations and before whom they would feel compelled to appear manly and tough— stayed and continued to inflict painful shocks. Indeed, it would be almost impossible to construct an experiment to test such a scenario, which would require true comradely relations between a naive subject and the actor/collaborators. Nonetheless, the mutual reinforcement of authority and conformity seems to have been clearly demonstrated by Milgram. If the multifaceted nature of authority at Jozefow and the key role of conformity among the policemen are not quite parallel to Milgram’s experiments, they nonetheless render considerable support to his con- clusions, and some of his observations are clearly confirmed. Direct proximity to the horror of the killing significantly increased the number of men who would no longer comply. On the other hand, with the divi- sion of labor and removal of the killing process to the death camps, the 94 Christopher R. Browning men felt scarcely any responsibility at all for their actions. As in Milgram’s experiment without direct surveillance, many policemen did not comply with orders when not directly supervised; they mitigated their behavior when they could do so without personal risk but were unable to refuse participation in the battalion’s killing operations openly. One factor that admittedly was not the focal point of Milgram’s experiments, indoctrination, and another that was only partially touched upon, conformity, require further investigation. Milgram did stipulate “definition of the situation” or ideology, that which gives meaning and coherence to the social occasion, as a crucial an- tecedent of deference to authority. Controlling the manner in which people interpret their world is one way to control behavior, Milgram argues. If they accept authority’s ideology, action follows logically and willingly. Hence “ideological justification is vital in obtaining willing obedience, for it permits the person to see his behavior as serving a desirable end.” In Milgram’s experiments, “overarching ideological justification” was present in the form of a tacit and unquestioned faith in the goodness ol science and its contribution to progress. But there was no systematic allcinpl to “devalue” the actor/victim or inculcate the subject with a particular ideology. Milgram hypothesized that the more destructive behavior of people in Nazi Germany, under much less direct surveil- lance, was a consequence of an internalization of authority achieved “through relatively long processes of indoctrination, of a sort not pos- slhlc within the course of a laboratory hour.” I i i what degree, then, did the conscious inculcation of Nazi doctrines shape the behavior of the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101? Were 11 icv subjected to such a barrage of clever and insidious propaganda that they lost the capacity for independent thought and responsible action? Were devaluation of the Jews and exhortations to kill them central to this indoctrination? . . . T|he men of Reserve Police Battalion 101, like the rest of German society, were immersed in a deluge of racist and anti-Semitic propaganda. Furthermore, the Order Police provided for indoctrination both in basic training and as an ongoing practice within each unit. Such incessant propagandizing must have had considerable effect in reinforcing general notions of Germanic racial superiority and “a certain aversion” toward the Jews. However, much of the indoctrination material was clearly not targeted at older reservists and in some cases was highly inappropriate “Ordinary Men” or irrelevant to them. And material specifically designed to harden Ilic policemen for the personal task of killing Jews is conspicuously absent from the surviving documentation. One would have to be quite con- vinced of the manipulative powers of indoctrination to believe that any of this material could have deprived the men of Reserve Police Ral- lalion 101 of the capacity for independent thought. Influenced and conditioned in a general way, imbued in particular with a sense of their own superiority and racial kinship as well as Jewish inferiority and oth- erness, many of them undoubtedly were; explicitly prepared for the task of killing Jews they most certainly were not. Along with ideological indoctrination, a vital factor touched upon but not fully explored in Milgram’s experiments was conformity to the group. The battalion had orders to kill Jews, but each individual did not. Yet 80 to 90 percent of the men proceeded to kill, though almost all of them—at least initially—were horrified and disgusted by what they were doing. To break ranks and step out, to adopt overtly nonconformist behavior, was simply beyond most of the men. It was easier for them to shoot. Why? First of all, by breaking ranks, nonshooters were leaving the “dirty work” to their comrades. Since the battalion had to shoot even if individuals did not, refusing to shoot constituted refusing one’s share of an unpleasant collective obligation. It was in effect an asocial act vis-a-vis one’s comrades. Those who did not shoot risked isolation, rejection, and ostracism —a very uncomfortable prospect within the framework of a tight-knit unit stationed abroad among a hostile population, so that the individual had virtually nowhere else to turn for support and social contact. This threat of isolation was intensified by the fact that stepping out could also have been seen as a form of moral reproach of one’s comrades: the nonshooter was potentially indicating that he was “too good” to do such things. Most, though not all, nonshooters intuitively tried to diffuse the criticism of their comrades that was inherent in their actions. They pleaded not that they were “too good” but rather that they were “too weak” to kill. Such a stance presented no challenge to the esteem of one’s com- rades; on the contrary, it legitimized and upheld “toughness” as a supe- rior quality. For the anxious individual, it had the added advantage of posing no moral challenge to the murderous policies of the regime, though it did pose another problem, since the difference between being 95 96 Christopher R. Browning “Ordinary Men” 97 “weak” and being a “coward” was not great. Hence the distinction made by one policeman who did not dare to step out at Jozefow for fear of being considered a coward, but who subsequently dropped out of his firing squad. It was one thing to be too cowardly even to try to kill; it was another, after resolutely trying to do one’s share, to be too weak to continue. Insidiously, therefore, most of those who did not shoot only reaf- firmed the “macho” values of the majority—according to which it was a positive quality to be “tough” enough to kill unarmed, noncomba- tant men, women, and children —and tried not to rupture the bonds of comradeship that constituted their social world. Coping with the contradictions imposed by the demands of conscience on the one hand and the norms of the battalion on the other led to many tortured allfinpls at compromise: not shooting infants on the spot but taking lliein to the assembly point; not shooting on patrol if no “go-getter” was along who might report such squeamishness; bringing Jews to llu1 shooting site and firing but intentionally missing. Only the very exceptional remained indifferent to taunts of “weakling” from their comrades and could live with the fact that they were considered to be “no man.” Here we come full circle to the mutually intensifying effects of war and racism noted by John Dower, in conjunction with the insidious effects of constant propaganda and indoctrination. Pervasive racism and (he resulting exclusion of the Jewish victims from any common ground with the perpetrators made it all the easier for the majority of the policemen to conform to the norms of their immediate community (llie battalion) and their society at large (Nazi Germany). Here the years of anti-Semitic propaganda (and prior to the Nazi dictatorship, decades of shrill German nationalism) dovetailed with the polariz- ing effects of war. The dichotomy of racially superior Germans and racially inferior Jews, central to Nazi ideology, could easily merge with the image of a beleaguered Germany surrounded by warring enemies. If it is doubtful that most of the policemen understood or embraced the theoretical aspects of Nazi ideology as contained in SS indoctrination pamphlets, it is also doubtful that they were immune to “the influence of the times” (to use Lieutenant Drucker’s phrase once again), to the incessant proclamation of German superiority and incitement of contempt and hatred for the Jewish enemy. Noth- ing helped the Nazis to wage a race war so much as the war itself. In wartime, when it was all too usual to exclude the enemy from the i (immunity of human obligation, it was also all too easy to subsume the Jews into the “image of the enemy,” or Feindhild. In his last book, The Drowned and the Saved, Primo I .evi included MI essay entitled “The Gray Zone,” perhaps his most profound and deeply disturbing reflection on the Holocaust. He maintained Ihal in spite of our natural desire for clear-cut distinctions, the history of the camps “could not be reduced to the two blocs of victims and persecutors.” I le argued passionately, “It is naive, absurd, and historically false to be- lieve that an infernal system such as National Socialism sanctifies its victims; on the contrary, it degrades them, it makes them resemble it- self.” The time had come to examine the inhabitants of the “gray zone” between the simplified Manichean images of perpetrator and victim. I ,cvi concentrated on the “gray zone of protekcya | corruption] and col- laboration” that flourished in the camps among a spectrum of victims: from the “picturesque fauna” of low-ranking functionaries husbanding their miniscule advantages over other prisoners; through the truly privi- leged network of Kapos, who were free “to commit the worst atrocities” at whim; to the terrible fate of the Sonderkommandos, who prolonged their lives by manning the gas chambers and crematoria. (Conceiving and organizing the Sonderkommandos was in Levi’s opinion National Socialism’s “most demonic crime.”) While Levi focused on the spectrum of victim behavior within the gray zone, he dared to suggest that this zone encompassed perpetra- tors as well. Even the SS man Muhsfeld of the Birkenau crematoria — whose “daily ration of slaughter was studded with arbitrary and capricious acts, marked by his inventions of cruelty” —was not a “monolith.” Faced with the miraculous survival of a sixteen-year-old girl discovered while the gas chambers were being cleared, the disconcerted Muhsfeld briefly hesitated. In the end he ordered the girl’s death but quickly left before his orders were carried out. One “instant of pity” was not enough to “absolve” Muhsfeld, who was deservedly hanged in 1947. Yet it did “place him too, although at its extreme boundary, within the gray band, that zone of ambiguity which radiates out from regimes based on terror and obsequiousness.” Levi’s notion of the gray zone encompassing both perpetrators and victims must be approached with a cautious qualification. The perpetrators and victims in the gray zone were not mirror images of one another. Perpetrators did not become fellow victims (as many of 98 Christopher R. Browning them later claimed to be) in the way some victims became accom- plices of the perpetrators. The relationship between perpetrator and victim was not symmetrical. The range of choice each faced was totally different. Nonetheless, the spectrum of Levi’s gray zone seems quite appli- cable to Reserve Police Battalion 101. The battalion certainly had its quota of men who neared the “extreme boundary” of the gray zone. Lieutenant Gnade, who initially rushed his men back from Minsk to avoid being involved in killing but who later learned to enjoy it, leaps to mind. So do the many reserve policemen who were horri- fied in the woods outside Jozefow but subsequently became casual volunteers for numerous firing squads and “Jew hunts.” They, like Muhsfcld, seem to have experienced the brief “instant of pity” but cannot be absolved by it. At the other boundary of the gray zone, even Lieutenant Buchmann, the most conspicuous and outspoken critic of the battalion’s murderous actions, faltered at least once. Absent his protector, Major Trapp, and facing orders from the local Security Police in Lukow, he too led his men to the killing fields shortly before his transfer back to Hamburg. And at the very center of the perpetrators’ gray zone stood the pathetic figure of Trapp himself, who sent his men to slaughter Jews “weeping like a child,” and the bedridden Captain Hoffmann, whose body rebelled against the ter- rible deeds his mind willed. The behavior of any human being is, of course, a very complex phenomenon, and the historian who attempts to “explain” it is indulging in a certain arrogance. When nearly 500 men are involved, to under- lakc any general explanation of their collective behavior is even more hazardous, What, then, is one to conclude? Most of all, one comes auav I ron i Ihc story of Reserve Police Battalion 101 with great unease. This story of ordinary men is not the story of all men. The reserve po- licemen faced choices, and most of them committed terrible deeds. But those who killed cannot be absolved by the notion that anyone in the same situation would have done as they did. For even among them, some refused to kill and others stopped killing. Human responsibility is ultimately an individual matter. At the same time, however, the collective behavior of Reserve Police Battalion 101 has deeply disturbing implications. There are many soci- eties afflicted by traditions of racism and caught in the siege mentality “Ordinary Men” of war or threat of war. Everywhere society conditions people to rcsptvl and defer to authority, and indeed could scarcely function otherwise. Everywhere people seek career advancement. In every modem society, I he complexity of life and the resulting bureaucratization and specializa- tion attenuate the sense of personal responsibility of those implementing official policy. Within virtually every social collective, the peer <;mup exerts tremendous pressures on behavior and sets moral norms. II llu- men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 could become killers under such circumstances, what group of men cannot? 99

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