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Christopher Robert Browning (born May 22, 1944) is an American historian of the Holocaust. He is best known for his 1992 book Ordinary Men, a study of German (Order Police) Reserve Unit 101, used to massacre and round up Jews for deportation to the death camps in Poland in 1942. Browning’s in his book showed how “ordinary” men committed some of history’s worst atrocities during World War II and how an ordinary battalion of German soldiers “cleansed” Poland as part of the Final Solution.

He discusses about how could the average, ordinary man, one who wasn’t an ardent Nazis, be capable of such horrors? “History Book Review” “Ordinary Men” provides a graphic portrayal of Police Battalion 101’s involvement in the Holocaust. According to Browning, the men of Police Battalion 101 were just that—ordinary. They were five hundred middle-aged, working-class men of German descent. A majority of these men were neither Nazi party members nor members of the S. S. These men were not self-selected to be part of the order police, nor were they specially selected because of violent characteristics.

These men were plucked from their normal lives, put into squads, and given the mission to kill Jews because they were the only people available for the task. Surprisingly, these ordinary men proved to be completely capable of killing tens of thousands of people. In fact, their capacity to murder was so great that they overwhelmingly surpassed the expectations of even the Nazi leaders. The aspect of Jewish inferiority, peer pressure and sense of duty therefore turned many of the police battalion into murderers.

Browning suggests that given the same or similar circumstances, a similar number of ordinary men would experience the same results. His closing sentence in this book is chilling: “If the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 could become killers under such circumstances, what group of men cannot? ” (p. 189). But Browning is trying to communicate or unearth the reasons why average individuals could descend to such revolting depths. Christopher Browning shows in minute detail the sequence of events and individual reactions that turn ordinary men into killers. His arguments make sense. He makes no unwarranted assumptions.

The cause and effect statements made and arguments presented are logical and well developed. Police Battalion 101 was composed of veterans from World War One and men too old to be drafted into the regular forces: army, navy, air force. Yet these men have experienced shooting so many Jews that they become experts on how to make the killing as indirect and removed as possible, while remaining efficient. He used the term “Ordinary Men,” to emphasize those features of group behavior he saw in the battalion that make human beings vulnerable to being harnessed for programs of mass murder.

He used that term “eager killer” in the book to show the degree of horror and gratuitous cruelty that was carried out. It was an unplanned, unauthorized massacre of Jews. In conclusion, browning in this book discusses about how the men of Unit 101 who were not demons or Nazi fanatics but ordinary middle-aged men of working-class background from Hamburg, had been drafted and used for military duty.


Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, New York: HarperCollins, 1992. http://www1. yadvashem. org/odot_pdf/Microsoft%20Word%20-%203848. pdf

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