Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ordinary Men

Ordinary Men by Christopher R Browning
HarperPerennial, 1993
223 pages
Non-fiction; WWII; Holocaust

This is a very different book than what I usually post about but I wanted to share it because it is a good book and very interesting.

On the one hand, this is a fairly easy book to read: no boring theory, no difficult words, no long paragraphs, or meandering digressions.

On the other hand, it is incredibly hard to read because it is about how "ordinary men" are transformed into killers. The book recounts them killing defenseless people. Less than 500 men are responsible for the deaths of at least 83,000 Jews. They directly shot approximately 38,000 and put 45,000 on trains to death camps.

Another difficult section is how some men asked to be excused from the shooting, which their superiors allowed because there were so many other men who were prepared to kill! Eventually almost every man who was part of that battalion participated directly in the killing. And of course all helped to round up and clear out the ghettoes so that the trains.

Another interesting point is that these men were older and thus could remember a Germany before Hitler. They did not grow up under his regime and were mostly not part of the Nazi Party.

Basically this is a devastating book but very interesting and asking us to consider how people come to this point.

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