Ordinary Men

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The arguments that Christopher Browning emphasizes in Ordinary Men are based on his beliefs about the Holocaust. His argument touches base on the idea that regular citizens of Germany could commit such horrible acts without being coerced into doing so. He examines the side of the Reserve Police Battalion 101 and tries to figure out just why these gentlemen participated in the mass shootings and deportations of the Holocaust. In fact should these "gentlemen" even be called gentlemen enlight of the acts they committed upon other men? The men that Browning writes on were simply ordinary men from various places in Germany. They were mainly middle to lower class men which made of most of the population therefore proving that this was not a secretive issue. The group was made up of both citizens and career policemen. These men had been born into the early beginnings of Nazism but were probably not entrenched into the political ideology that so many of the Germans had been brainwashed into believing. Major Wilhelm Trapp, a career policeman and World War I veteran headed the battalion. Trapp joined the Nazi party in 1932, but never became an officer in the SS. His two captains, Hoffmann and Wohlauf, were both trained SS officers whom carried out the orders of Trapp or relayed them down to the lower command. The reserve lieutenants, all seven of them, were drafted into the Order Police because they were ordinary men. They were middle class, educated, and thriving in their regular lives. The thing was that hardly any of these men were in the SS. About five of these reserve lieutenants were in the Nazi party but none were members of the SS. Of the remaining officers twenty-two were Party members, but none were members of the SS. Some of the battalion were blue-collar workers also. Less than half were lower-class workers and the remaining two percent were middle-class but not greatly successful. "Most of these men were raw recruits with no previous experience in German occupied territory" (1). These men were not natural killers but normal everyday citizens such as my father or an uncle. Many of these men had lived some to most of their lives and were past their prime. This proved to be too much for them to be soldiers of the Nazi party but great candidates for working as police. It is surprising and unbelievable how much this one battalion contributed to the final solution. These men took it upon themselves to carry out the vicious plans of a Germany looking to destroy and entire culture of people. Sure they had some moments where they might have paused and thought about what they were doing but these proved to be brief and ineffective. "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". (2) These men had just been ordered to kill all members of a town which was filled with mainly women and children. Trapp made this quaint offer that was denied by most. One must ask what type of man would step out after training for the police and then simply quit on that very thing that he had trained? Although the training had not been as extensive as soldiers endured it still created a sense of purpose between the men and it would also not have been a "manly" act. The 101st Battalion first order to do took place in Jozefow. This is where Trapp made the offer because the men were commanded to "shoot anyone trying to escape" and "those that were too sick or frail to walk to the marketplace, as well as infants and anyone offering resistance or attempting to hide, were to be shot on the spot". (57) They proceeded to truck or march the Jews they found into the woods outside the village. "When the first truckload of thirty-five to forty Jews arrived, an equal number of policemen came forward and, face to face, were paired off with their victims." (61) This was their first challenge so many of...
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