Ordinary Men [NOOK Book]

Overview

The shocking account of how a unit of average middle-aged Germans became the cold-blooded murderers of tens of thousands of Jews.

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Ordinary Men

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Overview

The shocking account of how a unit of average middle-aged Germans became the cold-blooded murderers of tens of thousands of Jews.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Helps us understand, better than we did before, not only what they did to make the Holocaust happen but also how they were transformed psychologically from the ordinary men of [the] title into active participants in the most monstrous crime in human history.
Michael Dorris
A staggering and important book, a book that manages without polemic to communicate at least an intimation of the unthinkable. — Chicago Tribune
Andrew Nagorski
A remarkable—and singularly chilling—glimpse of human behavior...This meticulously researched book...represents a major contribution to the literature of the Holocaust. —Newsweek
New York Times Book Review
Helps us understand, better than we did before, not only what they did to make the Holocaust happen but also how they were transformed psychologically from the ordinary men of [the] title into active participants in the most monstrous crime in human history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062037756
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/16/2013
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 56,019
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Christopher R. Browning is professor of history at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. He is a contributor to Yad Vashem's official twenty-four-volume history of the Holocaust and the author of two earlier books on the subject.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

One Morning in Jozefow

In the very early hours of July 13, 1942, the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 were roused from their bunks in the large brick school building that served as their barracks in the Polish town of Bilgoraj.They were middle-aged family men of working- and lower-middle-class background from the city of Hamburg.Considered too old to be of use to the German army, they had been drafted instead into the, Order Police.Most were raw recruits with no previous experience in German occupied territory.They had arrived in Poland less than three weeks earlier.

It was still quite dark as the men climbed into the waiting trucks.Each policeman had been given extra ammunition, and additional boxes had been loaded onto the trucks as well.Theywere headed for their first major action, though the men had not yet been told what to expect.

The convoy of battalion trucks moved out of Bilgoraj in the dark, heading eastward on a jarring washboard gravel road.The pace was slow, and it took an hour and a half to two hours to arrive at the destination—the village of Jozefow—a mere thirty kilometers away. Just as the sky was beginning to lighten, the convoy halted outside Jozefow.It was a typical Polish village of modest white houses with thatched straw roofs.Among its inhabitants were 1,800 Jews.

The village was totally quiet. The men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 climbed down from their trucks and assembled in a half-circle around their commander, Major Wilhelm Trapp, a fifty-three-year-old career policeman affectionately known by his men as "Papa Trapp." The time had come for Trapp toaddress the men and inform them of the assignment the battalion had received.

Pale and nervous, with choking voice and tears in his eyes, Trapp visibly fought to control himself as he spoke.The battalion, he said plaintively, had to perform a frightfully unpleasant task.This assignment was not to his liking, indeed it was highly regrettable, but the orders came from the highest authorities.If it would make their task any easier, the men should remember that in Germany the bombs were falling on women and children.

He then turned to the matter at hand.The Jews had instigated the American boycott that had damaged Germany, one policeman remembered Trapp saying.There were Jews in the village of Jozefow who were involved with the partisans, he explained according to two others.The battalion had now been ordered to round up these Jews.The male Jews of working age were to be separated and taken to a work camp.The remaining Jews—the women, children, and elderly—were to be shot on the spot by the battalion.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.

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Table of Contents

Illustrations
Preface
1 One Morning in Jozefow 1
2 The Order Police 3
3 The Order Police and the Final Solution: Russia 1941 9
4 The Order Police and the Final Solution: Deportation 26
5 Reserve Police Battalion 101 38
6 Arrival in Poland 49
7 Initiation to Mass Murder: The Jozefow Massacre 55
8 Reflections on a Massacre 71
9 Lomazy: The Descent of Second Company 78
10 The August Deportations to Treblinka 88
11 Late-September Shootings 97
12 The Deportations Resume 104
13 The Strange Health of Captain Hoffmann 114
14 The "Jew Hunt" 121
15 The Last Massacres: "Harvest Festival" 133
16 Aftermath 143
17 Germans, Poles, and Jews 147
18 Ordinary Men 159
Appendix Shootings and Deportations by Reserve Police Battalion 101 191
Notes 193
Index 219
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 20 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

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(6)

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2 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2008

    Fantastic

    I am fascinated by World War II and the Holocaust. Ordinary Men is an incredible book about how Hitler and his top officers manipulated and changed regular citizens into mass murdering machines. It is very graphic at times. I am not a huge reader but I could not put this book down.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Very interesting read - some may like

    The book i read, Ordinary Men, by Christopher R. Browning. I must start by ssaying that this book was extremely distrubing. The atrocities the police comitten are descired in graphic detail. These men did not start out as killing machines. Just regular civilians from the urban area, in a way transformed into mass murders, "killing machines". This author took me as an ordinary human being, through process of intial shock to a troubling feeling of nothingness. Throughout the monograph, the reader learns of the desensitization to killig of the majority of the policemen. After some months of killing, for example, the policemen are able to talk with ease about killing women and children. It shocks me how they can change from being a really loving and caring person to this, "in-human" person and be able to speak of his wrongs in a way/sense of well being. You would normally think that doing such a thing would in terms, mess you up, which it didn't seem to do to these men.. Browning provides and in-depth look at the history of the Order Police, of which Battalion 101 is a part. While Browning discusses the political, social, and economic circumstances surronding the decisions of the policemen, he fails to note if religious convictions played a part in whether the men chose to kill. I think a crucial piece of information because if in fact these men were religious in such a way to not want to take part in the killing of men, women and children, what happened to them? They die? Were they forced to work? Many questions unanswered.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    just the facts approach results in chills..

    This is a painful book to read because Browning clearly and concisely presents the facts surrounding one of the Nazi killing squads that murdered Jews in Poland ...we are shown how these "ordinary men," many of whom were older career soldiers who had fought in WWI, men who typically went to church on Sunday and were devoted to their families, slowly became capable of murdering Polish civilians for the simple reason that they were Jewish. The book challenges us to ask the hard questions: how capable are we of critical thinking? Would we resist unjust orders? Would we question authority? Would we risk our career if we were ordered to do something fundamentally and heinously immoral? Browning doesn't preach and there are no histrionics here...just the careful work of a world-class historian. He obviously cares about the issues but he lets the reader grapple with the information that he has painstakingly compiled through long hours spent in archives in Germany and Israel.

    The only way I got through this book was to read a book by one of Browning's protégés, a historian named Mark Klempner, who wrote a book called "The Heart Has Reasons" about righteous gentiles that were risking their lives to hide and help Jews in Holland, even as the killing squads were terrorizing their own county and an all-out effort was underway by the Nazis to make Holland "Jew-free." As Browning writes in the forward, "If the Holocaust is a story with all too many perpetrators and victims, and all too few heroes, the goodness of the rescuers is as difficult to explain as the evil of the perpetrators." Klempner, unlike Browning, used an oral history approach and actually interviewed the rescuers so that they could explain in their own words how and why they did what they did.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2007

    A reviewer

    'Ordinary Men' seemed like an interesting title in relation to the content of this book. However, apart from very few generic facts about the members of Reserve Police Battalion 101, I failed to see what made these men so common, especially in comparison to any other average German soldier conscripted during World War II. The saving grace of this book for me, was in its illuminating data about the actions Reserve Police Battalion 101 participated in as well as the informative insight into the logistical methods it employed. The author argues that changing names due to privacy requests does not alter the historical significance of this work - and I agree. However, the Afterword in this book seems highly unnecessary. The author defends his work against another book written from a different perspective and study of the same documents used for 'Ordinary Men'. To me, this took on a tone of the author begging the reader to 'believe his account' of these events and to disregard the other book. 'Ordinary Men' is a fascinating account of Reserve Police Battalion 101 but the title seems inappropriate as there is very little examination into the alleged mediocrity of the men in question.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2004

    Chilling, multi-dimensional, thought prokoving

    This book will leave you questioning whether or not you, too, would obey commands to murder your fellow man. The path that the men from police battalion 101 took from normal citizen to dehumanizing murderer is a shocking one -- the same man who lost his lunch at the thought of killing innocent Jews became the most eager to participate at the close of the book. Browning also broaches the subject of what happens when a battalion-member says 'no' to the killing -- veritably nothing (he is scoffed at for being weak, perhaps, or sent home in 'shame'). I also agree with Browning's approach to this subject, in that he did not teleologically examine the Holocaust and attempt to say that the Germans were heading in that direction for the past, say, 1,000 years. I have not read Hitler's Willing Executioners, but from a prior review it seems that Goldhagen adopts the teleological explanation, which does not place the proper emphasis on the uniqueness of Nazism and the time period in which it arose. In other words, lots of factors (political, economic, social) contributed to the Holocaust¿it wasn¿t merely a Hitler+Germany summation. Therefore, I feel that the prior reviewer's criticisms in this area were unjustified. I would also like to reiterate a point that another reviewer made, in that Browning does an exceptional job portraying the men in the battalion as multi-dimensional and real, which makes the book even more disturbing. This book is powerful, well written, and thought provoking, guaranteed to spark intelligent conversation about the role that obedience to authority and ¿ordinary men¿ played in the Holocaust.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2003

    They were ordinary men...

    First, I must start by saying that this book was extremely disturbing. The atrocities the police committed are described in graphic detail. These men did not start out as killing machines. They were older, blue-collar workers from an urban environment, the very antithesis of those people drawn to Nazi ideology. What Browning does is to follow these men from their first 'clean up' mission, when many of the men are horrified by their actios, right through to the Nazi's Final Solution, when these same men began to volunteer for murder missions. Browning graphically portrays how no human being can HONESTLY say they would never be caught up in this type of situation. This book will disturb you, and leave you with many questions about humanity...and yourself...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2002

    Interesting but flawed

    Adherence to social norms and conformity were not enough for this Battalion to commit the autrocities it did, as the author contends. These men were instead guided by their personal long-standing anti-Semitic views that thrived in Germany. This is exhibited by the many attrocities these men committed against Jews even when they were discouraged from performing them and even punished for them by their leaders. These men were excessive in their brutality which was fueled by ideologies that they themselves espoused, rather than conformity. For a more accurate analysis of Police Battalion 101 and other perpetrators of the Holocaust, read Goldhagen's 'Hitler's Willing Executioners.'

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2002

    Speechless

    This book was an assigned reading for a European history class I took two years ago. I have never been impacted so much by a book in my life. The text very explicitly confronts the reader with the terrible realities of the holocaust. I did not 'enjoy' reading this book. I cried and had trouble sleeping at night after reading only the first half of it. I found the second half easier to swallow, although it was just as violent. I felt desensitized, which was comforting but frightening at the same time, because this author took me, as an ordinary human being, through the process of initial shock to a troubling feeling of nothingness. These were ordinary men that committed unspeakable atrocities. In order to prevent the repetition of history we must embrace the knowledge learned first-hand by our parents and grandparents. I have lent this book out to many of my friends with high reccomendations and I encourage you to read it and do the same.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2013

    Ordinary Men, Great Killers Ordinary Men is a book by Christop

    Ordinary Men, Great Killers

    Ordinary Men is a book by Christopher Browning explaining the life experiences of the order police assigned to concentration camps in Poland. Browning wrote this book with the belief that ordinary men were not all for killing the Jews with a poor excuse of them just being Jewish. He believed the leaders of the Nazis were in total control and not everyone was as heartless as them. Although some were opposed to killing many would come up with excuses to tell themselves in order to keep a guilt free conscience. A common excuse told by them was that the Jews and poles accepted death and didn’t do anything about it so that somehow made it okay. Many of them would try and show off their abilities at killing to other officers and even family members. After reading this book it easily can be established that even ordinary men are able to kill with out having any problem with it after being told it is for the good of mankind. The main message of this book is any one is capable of doing something horrible if they are taught that it is somehow for the better of everyone. I liked how this book showed the perspectives of many different people who experienced the holocaust and were apart of it. My only dislike would be the stories are a little repetitive and all follow the same story line. This is a great book for someone to read because it shows the German perspective on the holocaust instead of the usual Jewish side. This book was an entertaining book that you had to keep reading and in my opinion deserved a 4.5 out of 5 stars. If there was a book I had to recommend after reading this it would be either Night by Elie Wiesel or The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne because it offers the other perspective of the Jews and what they had to endure from Germans with no way to fight back.

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  • Posted February 20, 2013

    Ordinary Men is a book by Christopher Browning explaining the li

    Ordinary Men is a book by Christopher Browning explaining the life experiences of the order police assigned to concentration camps in Poland. Browning wrote this book with the belief that ordinary men were not all for killing the Jews with a poor excuse of them just being Jewish. He believed the leaders of the Nazis were in total control and not everyone was as heartless as them. Most of the men were ages 37-42. “By virtue of their age, of course, all went through their formative period in the pre-Nazi era. These were men who had known political standards and moral norms other than those of the Nazis. Most came from Hamburg, by reputation one of the least nazified cities in Germany, and the majority came from a social class that had been anti-Nazi in its political culture. These men would not seem to have been a very promising group from which to recruit mass murderers on behalf of the Nazi vision of a racial utopia free of Jews. (Browning 48). Most of the officers weren’t forced to kill people on the spot if they weren’t comfortable with it and they would be sent to occupy a different job somewhere else, but only about fifteen percent of the men refused. Although some were opposed to killing many would come up with excuses to tell themselves in order to keep a guilt free conscience. A common excuse told by them was that the Jews and poles accepted death and didn’t do anything about it so that somehow made it okay. Most of the German’s found it hard at first to kill the innocent Jews but somehow found a way to get through it and then it came easy to them almost like a routine. When they started off killing the Jews the only way to do it was by firing squads but after thinking about a loss of manpower it would be easier with a gas chamber. Once this started they would send the strong and healthy prisoners to work at camps and build supplies for them so they could have more time to round up the rest of the Jewish population in Poland. Many of the policemen were supplied with flasks filled with alcohol to drink before shooting the Jews in forests so it wasn’t public. One doctor changed there shooting pattern from shooting anywhere at them to only shooting the back of the neck that way they died a quick death. After the officers got used to killing the Jews they found out many were trying to escape from the forests, camps, and homes so a Jew hunt became a sport to most officers. Many of them would try and show off their abilities at killing to other officers and even family members. After reading this book it easily can be established that even ordinary men are able to kill with out having any problem with it after being told it is for the good of mankind.

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  • Posted October 22, 2011

    Kind of Disappointed

    I didn't like this book as much as I thought I would. It was probably because I had to read it for my WWII class and I usually have a problem with books I HAVE to read for school. I think I would have liked the book better if I had read it of my own vocation.

    The book is evidence that Browning did his research, which is one thing I liked about the book. The other thing was that it was about a German branch of the military. Most American history classes and museums tend to show only the American version of what happened during World War II and the German version is somewhat put behind wraps.

    The book is certainly well written. I had no trouble reading it in the short amount of time that I had to read it in, it was just a labor for me because of the workload that was continuously piling up around me. As I said before, had I read the book of my own vocation, I would probably have read it faster and enjoyed it better.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2003

    A Review of Ordinary Men

    Based upon court records, Christopher R. Browning¿s historical account, Ordinary Men, provides a chilling description of how the middle-aged, working-class German men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 become hardened killers while carrying out orders for Hitler¿s Final Solution in Poland. Throughout the monograph, the reader learns of the desensitization to killing of the majority of the policemen. After some months of killing, for example, the policemen are able to talk with ease about killing women and children. Nevertheless, despite peer pressure, some men resisted killing the Jews and other victims of Nazi cruelty. Browning forces the reader to question any and all preconceived ideas regarding German attitudes toward Jews at this time. Instead of portraying the policemen as one-dimensional killers, Browning depicts them as ordinary men. He provides the reader with biographical information about the men¿s families and careers. Browning relates how one policeman remembers watching a Jewish movie theater owner from his hometown executed. Furthermore, the reader discovers that not only twenty percent of the battalion refuses to participate in the killings either before or during the massacres, but also others suffer physical ailments as a result of their revulsion to the killings. For readers who are unaware of the Nazi organization of the military, Browning provides an in-depth look at the history of the Order Police, of which Battalion 101 is a part. While Browning discusses the political, social, and economic circumstances surrounding the decisions of the policemen, he fails to note if religious convictions played a part in whether the men chose to kill. In addition, the book is written in an extremely matter-of-fact manner, yet Browning does not divulge the names of some policemen in order to protect them. Despite Browning¿s failure to cover all aspects of the policemen¿s decisions, Ordinary Men remains a disturbing yet provocative look at a group of men and their decisions. The reader should be warned, however, that Browning¿s novel may be difficult for some to read because of the descriptive details of the massacres and the overwhelmingly depressing mood. By the time the 500 men of Police Battalion 101 disbanded in late 1943, ¿the ultimate body count was at least 83,000 Jews¿ (142).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2011

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    Posted February 18, 2009

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    Posted August 2, 2009

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    Posted June 8, 2011

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    Posted February 10, 2010

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    Posted January 3, 2009

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    Posted April 21, 2010

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