By Christopher R. Browning
Review by Roaland
The holocaust presented the horrors committed against human beings at the hands of other humans. Adolf Hitler obviously is the one everyone blames for destroying the Jewish population but is he really the only one at fault? Who actually committed the actual genocide? I wasn’t actually fully aware of the atrocities committed during the holocaust until I read Ordinary Men in which Christopher R. Browning explains how men who weren’t even ardent NAZI were capable of such atrocities.
Throughout the novel Browning uses the judicial interrogations as his source, though these sources could be very biased. He follows the path that Reserve Police Battalion 101 follows all the way from their orders at Jozefow, Poland, to the Erntefest massacres. Browning depicts how these average mid-age men were transformed into cold-blooded killers that kill when ordered. Browning makes it clear that the Reserve Police Battalion 101 were part of the German internal police force called the Order Police. Their main duties included ghetto clearing and the deportation of Jews. When I read this I thought by order police they were simply there to keep order and prevent any type of uprisings, but Browning shows such isn’t the case when he describes the type of “Order” Reserve Police Battalion 101 was ordered to keep.
Reserve Police Battalion 101 according to Browning weren’t at all willing to take part in the first of the mass massacres which happen in Jozefow, officially Dubbed the Jozefow Massacre. Major Wilhelm Trap was given orders to carry out the executions of Jewish women and children which were rounded up. Browning makes it evident that the Major is breaking down emotionally at the order as he “sheds tears and offers to alleviate those who felt unable to carry out the order” (p. 57). But few took advantage of his offer. The men which remained didn’t have an easy task at all… killing helpless and unarmed human beings....