Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 And The Final Solution

In This Review

Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 And The Final Solution

By Christopher R. Browning
HarperCollins, 1992
231 pp. $22.00
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A practiced historian examined the German trial records of one police unit made up of largely middle-aged, nonfanatical Germans responsible for the murder of thousands of Jews in small Polish towns in the summer of 1942. A few of these men (about 10-20 percent) refused to participate in the killing of women and infants-and did so without suffering reprisals. A meticulous study of a microcosm of murder, all the more powerful because it is written with some effort at empathy and understanding. Browning analyzes the accounts of these men as they were tried 20 years after the events, and he carefully speculates about motives, including simple careerism, and also points to the savagery elsewhere, in the Pacific war, for example. A tale of horror with gripping specificity, so as to make the link between "ordinary men" and the Holocaust clearer and still more unsettling.