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

de Christopher R. Browning

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In the early hours of July 13, 1942, the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101, a unit of the German Order Police, entered the Polish Village of Jozefow. They had arrived in Poland less than three weeks before, most of them recently drafted family men too old for combat service--workers, artisans, salesmen, and clerks. By nightfall, they had rounded up Jozefow's 1,800 Jews, selected several hundred men as "work Jews," and shot the rest--that is, some 1,500 women, children, and old people. Most of these overage, rear-echelon reserve policemen had grown to maturity in the port city of Hamburg in pre-Hitler Germany and were neither committed Nazis nor racial fanatics. Nevertheless, in the sixteen months from the Jozefow massacre to the brutal Erntefest ("harvest festival") slaughter of November 1943, these average men participated in the direct shooting deaths of at least 38,000 Jews and the deportation to Treblinka's gas chambers of 45,000 more--a total body count of 83,000 for a unit of less than 500 men. Drawing on postwar interrogations of 210 former members of the battalion, Christopher Browning lets them speak for themselves about their contribution to the Final Solution--what they did, what they thought, how they rationalized their behavior (one man would shoot only infants and children, to "release" them from their misery). In a sobering conclusion, Browning suggests that these good Germans were acting less out of deference to authority or fear of punishment than from motives as insidious as they are common: careerism and peer pressure. With its unflinching reconstruction of the battalion's murderous record and its painstaking attention to the social background and actions of individual men, this unique account offers some of the most powerful and disturbing evidence to date of the ordinary human capacity for extraordinary inhumanity.… (més)
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Magáról a könyvről nem sokat lehet mondani. A 101-es tartalékos rendőrzászlóalj aprólékosan végigvitt története ez, akik a Lublini Körzetben tevékenykedve legalább 83.000 zsidó meggyilkolásában segédkeztek, ebből legalább 38.000-t a helyszínen lőttek agyon – vagy közvetlenül ők, vagy az SS, illetve a hiwikből (külföldi, elsősorban szláv segédszolgálatosokból) verbuválódott egységek, akiknek a rendőrök biztosították a „nyugodt körülményeket”. Olyan emberekről beszélünk, akik nem voltak nácik, közönséges, elsősorban hamburgi illetőségű németek voltak*, nem egy közülük szociáldemokrata múlttal. Átlagemberek. Akik megtanultak ölni. Tulajdonképpen ennyi.

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

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

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

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

* Köztük 14 luxemburgi állampolgár – róluk Browning külön is szót ejt.
** A gyilkosságok közben még akadtak, akik besokalltak, és kivonták magukat a pusztításból, akár úgy, hogy elszöktek a kavarodást kihasználva, akár úgy, hogy Trapp őrnagyhoz fordultak. Őket sem érte retorzió. Mindenesetre számuk semmiképpen nem haladta meg az egység 10-20%-át. ( )
  Kuszma | Jul 2, 2022 |
Aquellos hombres grises, saludada en Newsweek como “Una impresionante contribución a la historia del Holocausto”, sorprendió a propios y extraños, y provocó una encendida polémica, debido al peculiar enfoque con que aborda los asesinatos masivos de judíos que asolaron Polonia entre julio de 1942 y noviembre de 1943, cuando 39.000 judíos fueron ejecutados y otros 44.000 fueron deportados a Treblinka. Browning se enfrenta a una pregunta tan estremecedora como interesante: ¿Cómo fue posible que una unidad formada por profesionales alemanes de clase media, el Batallón 101, se convirtiera en un grupo de asesinos despiadados capaces de semejante atrocidad? Mediante la minuciosa reconstrucción de la historia de esos hombres grises y de los interrogatorios a que fueron sometidos doscientos de ellos en la década de 1960, Browning nos ofrece más temas de reflexión acerca del ser humano que respuestas categóricas.
  Natt90 | Jun 30, 2022 |
Afskaplega fróðleg úttekt á blóðugri framför lögreglusveitar 101 Þjóðverja í seinni heimsstyrjöldinni. Þessi lögreglusveit var samansett af mönnum sem þóttu of gamlir eða óhæfir til herþjónustu að öðru leyti. Þeir þóttu ekki áberandi nasistar eða framapotarar en engu að síður sáu þeir um óhugnanlegar aftökur á gyðingum í Póllandi auk þess að smala þeim saman í lestir áleiðis til gettóa og útrýmingarbúða.
Browning leitar skýringa á því hvað hafi valdið því að þessir lögreglumenn hafi gerst svo viljugir böðlar Hitlers því að ítarlegar yfirheyrslur eftir stríðið sýndu að einungis fáir þeirra skoruðust undan aftökunum þótt að í ljós kæmi að engir eftirmálar urðu þótt þeir neituðu að skjóta konur og börn.
Niðurstöður hans eru óhugnanlegar en sannfærandi því að hann kemst að þeirri skoðun að mestu hafi ráðið um ákvörðun þeirra hefði verið hlýðni við yfirboðara og sú skoðun lögreglumannanna á að þeir yrðu sér til minnkunnar í augum félaga sinna ef þeir tækju ekki þátt í morðunum með þeim.
Þessi niðurstaða fær mann til að spyrja sig hvað myndi gerast í samfélagi á borð við Ísland væru aðstæður svipaðar. ( )
  SkuliSael | Apr 28, 2022 |
Hoo boy. Trigger warning: all the violence and Holocaust triggers.

An exploration of the exploits of Reserve Police Battalion 101 in Poland as it relates to "Jewish actions" with a view toward the psychology of the policemen and their participation in such an evil regime.

The majority of the book focuses on what the reserve police battalions were, the organization, origin, and composition of Reserve Police Battalion (RPB) 101, and then the utilization of RPB 101 by Himmler and the SS to help carry out shootings of Jewish people or rounding up Jewish people onto trains to be sent to the concentration camps, primarily in 1942. RPB 101 is chosen because of the rich documentation regarding its participants in later war crimes trials and depositions. The author then attempts to apply recent discoveries in the field of social psychology to explain how it came about that a small percentage remained disturbed at the "Jewish actions" and found ways to not participate; many were disturbed at "shooting actions" but did not think twice about roundup and collection actions which were understood to lead to death; some became more acclimated to the "shooting actions" over time; and a small percentage truly believed and seemingly even took pleasure in the violence they perpetrated.

I understand why the author felt compelled to lay out the whole story of RPB 101 in such detail, but it makes for very difficult reading. To endure, one must become numb to the numbers to some degree, and I am not sure if that is healthy.

But the purpose of the work is very important. It is easy to demonize all Germans of the era as fully on board with National Socialism and its desire to purge Europe of Jewish people. It proves far more difficult to read primary source documentation from Germans and to see that the situation proved far more complex: in all likelihood it was a small (but loud, active, and prevalent) minority fully on board with National Socialism; another significant percentage that might have appreciated what was done for Germany but not a fan of how Hitler was doing things; and another significant percentage very much opposed to National Socialism. RPB 101 came from an area, Hamburg, which featured very little support for National Socialism; its men tended to be a little older and remembered previous regimes. The story puts to lie the idea that all had to do what they were told or face death themselves; from the beginning of the "Jewish actions" it was possible to avoid participating in shootings, and one officer was able to almost always avoid any "Jewish action." One would get branded as "weak," but no other action was necessarily taken. We learn how much alcohol was consumed so that the men could carry out their orders; it is clear that the shooting was not easy for a good number of them. Yet, indeed, more than not went along with it and participated in it for a kaleidoscope of reasons, but many centering on living according to the social expectations of the moment. When those social expectations changed radically over the next thirty years, many of the men were able to conform to the new standards and found ways to rationalize what they had done.

In short, one finds out quickly that to demonize all Germans as full Nazis is to miss out on the societal tendencies that led what had been considered one of the foremost and "civilized" nations to participate in such brutality...and that other "civilized" nations are not immune. This seems very apropos in light of what we have experienced over the past decade in America.

An ancillary purpose is to remind Western readers that much of the Final Solution did not take place in any concentration camp but in the kinds of actions done by RPB 101: shooting Jewish people in Polish ghettos. It rounds out the story more fully and explains why so many of the deaths come from the 1942-1944 timeframe.

This edition also includes the author's rebuttal to another scholar's arguments as well as an additional assessment of the evidence twenty-five years after the book's original publication. These are useful resources.

Should you read this? Yes, but it is not a fun time. But if you're committed to "never again," it's good to know what "it" is that you never want to see again, and what to do about "it" when it rises up again. ( )
1 vota deusvitae | Jun 16, 2021 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Christopher R. Browningautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Barnavi, ElieTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Dauzat, Pierre-EmmanuelEpílegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Vidal-Naquet, PierreIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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

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