Ordinary Men

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If one were to take anything from Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men it is that even the most ordinary, normal men have the capacity to kill. The 101st Reserve Police Battalion executed at least 6,500 Jews at the Polish cities and villages of Jozefow, Lomazy, Serokomla, Lukow, Konskowola, Parczew, Radzyn, Kock, and Miedzyrzec and participated in the deportation of at least 42,000 Jews to the gas chambers in Treblinka (Browning, chapter 14, page 121). There were most likely even more killings that were never documented and much less remembered by the members of the 101st. These men had their first taste of death at Jozefow where they massacred 1,500 Polish Jews (Browning, chapter 8, page 74). It was a brutal and harrowing event where men, women, children, and the elderly were all executed, many in their own homes and even more in the forest surrounding the town. But out of this horror and chaos also came a sliver of hope for the souls of the men of the 101st when Major Trapp offered an interesting option; whoever did not have the stomach to participate in the executions could step out before the massacre was underway. Ten or twelve men accepted his offer (Browning, chapter 7, page 57). This would eventually lead to many men stepping away from executions in coming “actions”. Before the war these men were ordinary lower class workers who no doubt enjoyed many of the simple pleasures that we still enjoy today. These were ordinary men who found themselves in an extraordinary situation. They were ordinary men who became extraordinary killers.

The Jozefow massacre was interesting. This was the event that almost every man in the 101st still remembers clearly. Obviously it had an effect on each and every one of them, as it should have. There were others besides the twelve men who stepped out of line. Officer Buchmann asked to be reassigned right away (he was) and Major Trapp took the shootings very hard. Soon after giving the order to kill every man, woman, and child...
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