Violence In Robert Browning's Ordinary Men

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Humans, in general, do not like to believe there is an underlying inclination to violence in each and every one of us. People will cite morals, religion, education; reasons that would somehow exclude them from a flaw seen time and again throughout the historical record. Those that stray from the human ‘script’ are seen as abnormal, sometimes given labels as sociopaths or psychopaths to separate and classify those that are different. Browning’s Ordinary Men, however, sheds light on a group of men that willingly participated in the systematic executions and deportations of Jews in Poland during World War II. Men that, when given a choice, decided to follow orders instead of withdraw.
Reserve Police Battalion 101 comprised of middle-aged, working-class
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Józefów was the first action performed by Reserve Battalion 101, and it was the first time that Trapp gave the men a choice to be reassigned to other tasks instead of participating directly in the killings. The Massacre in Łomazy differed from Józefów in two ways: it was headed by Lieutenant Gnade, whom showed no compassion or propriety when executing the Jews, and men were not given the choice to withdraw from the killings. Some officers like Georg Kageler were able to avoid the killings by participating in transporting the Jews to the execution site, and in the case of Paul Metzger, allowed for at least one to escape. Reserve Police Battalion 101 participated in other massacres as well, executing an estimated 38,000 Jews. However, the number that they deported was much more staggering- 45,000. Deportation was considered a more distant task, allowing the officers to release themselves, to some extent, from responsibility in regards to killing the Jews directly, all while knowing that “deportations meant the path to death”. What began as inexperienced killing under order from a commanding officer turned into various massacres performed in a systematic, professional manner. As the men in Reserve Police Battalion 101 became more experienced and effective in their tasks, resistance had all but …show more content…
While an accurate historical timeline can be drawn from the interviews, there is also enough data to analyze the psychological state of the men while they committed these crimes. One recurring theme is the use of alcohol as a way to cope, one missive even encouraging commanders to host “social events” in order to “blot out” the actions they completed. In that same missive, commanders were told to “instruct continuously about the political necessity of the measures”, further cementing a need to conform and obey for the greater good of Germany. Browning explains that training for the Order Police was designed to “strengthen in character and ideology” to Nazi ideals. Over time, it would not be surprising if the continued teaching of these ideals changed the men of Battalion 101, if not desensitizing, and encouraging, the elimination of the

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