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Ordinary Men

Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland
Narrated by: Kevin Gallagher
Length: 10 hrs
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

“A remarkable - and singularly chilling - glimpse of human behavior...This meticulously researched book...represents a major contribution to the literature of the Holocaust." (Newsweek)

Now available in audio for the first time, Christopher R. Browning’s shocking account of how a unit of average middle-aged Germans became the cold-blooded murderers of tens of thousands of Jews - now with a new afterword and additional photographs. 

Ordinary Men is the true story of Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the German Order Police, which was responsible for mass shootings as well as round-ups of Jewish people for deportation to Nazi death camps in Poland in 1942. Browning argues that most of the men of RPB 101 were not fanatical Nazis but, rather, ordinary middle-aged, working-class men who committed these atrocities out of a mixture of motives, including the group dynamics of conformity, deference to authority, role adaptation, and the altering of moral norms to justify their actions. 

Very quickly three groups emerged within the battalion: a core of eager killers, a plurality who carried out their duties reliably but without initiative, and a small minority who evaded participation in the acts of killing without diminishing the murderous efficiency of the battalion whatsoever. While this book discusses a specific Reserve Unit during WWII, the general argument Browning makes is that most people succumb to the pressures of a group setting and commit actions they would never do of their own volition.  

Ordinary Men is a powerful, chilling, and important work with themes and arguments that continue to resonate today.  

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2017 Christopher R. Browning (P)2020 HarperAudio

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unbelievable

It is a slow informative start and a slow ending describing horror and death of so many innocent people. Those that follow others without question is the death of all individuals.

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  • Mike
  • 2020-05-19

A Chilling & Eye-Opening Reconstruction of Events

Most people know about the genocide committed by the Nazi state during WWII. Most people also know about the concentration camps and gas chambers that linger as the primary frightening visual of the mass murder. Some people are even likely aware of the general danger that many people faced in Nazi-controlled Europe by simply leaving their home to get some groceries.

But this book illuminates another key element about the sheer volume of genocide in WWII that is often missing from the general public perception. And it's perhaps the most frightening aspect of the entire evil enterprise: the shooting squads (often, formally, the "police battalions" or "reserve police battalions"). These battalions roamed from city to city, village to village, dragging families out of their homes, lining them up beside mass graves dug into the nearby woods, and executing them. 10, 15 or 20 at a time, for hours on end. Often face-to-face. Men and women alike - and sometimes children, as well. Until thousands of Jews (or other "undesirable" persons) were completely exterminated. Sometimes a handful of men were left behind to fill in the mass graves containing their families and friends with dirt to contain the stench.

It's perhaps believable that some Nazi soldiers or party members in different posts during the war may have been unaware (or willfully ignorant) of the extent of the genocide. But, these men of the shooting squads could certainly not claim any such ignorance. So, what factors came together to enable and even encourage such horror? Browning does an excellent job giving the non-historian a crash course in the details of these actions. He then takes it to the next psychological level in contemplating how the human mind processes trauma, how community dynamics influence behavior, and how the presence of so-called authority legitimizes previously unimaginable circumstances. Browning uses a rich pool of primary sources, from police interrogations, to private war-time diaries, Nazi publications and later scientific studies of human psychology to ask how "ordinary men" from all walks of German life could conspire to extinguish millions of lives in a span of only a few years during WWII.

WWII experts may find nothing they didn't already know here. For the rest of us, this book makes the gruesome horrors of WWII real to us in a way that most other books, statistics, TV or movies never could.

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  • Daniel Eduardo Lopez Gomez
  • 2020-05-29

They were ordinary men...just like you or me

Most people cannot fathom how the Holocaust came to be. Well... here it is. A vast array of factors - that would have pushed most people to do exactly what the men of these times did - influenced the individual participation of the people involved in the mass murder of other humans.
This book is not for the light of heart, but I believe it is something everyone should read. The details in the book suffice to give you an idea of what happened, where it happened, and most importantly, why it happened.

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  • JD
  • 2020-06-04

Ok book minus the afterword

The reason I’m giving this book and single star and requesting a refund isn’t so much the main content, even though it was disappointing at best. Rather my negative review is earned through the 2.5 hour afterward the author chose to include. Instead of being new insight or information, this addition is simply hours of the author whining that someone disagreed with their conclusions. Perhaps the author is unfamiliar with the world, but differences of opinions are commonplace and to just continually cry about how you are right and this other person was wrong was very off putting.

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  • Johanna Anderberg
  • 2020-05-18

Weird German pronunciation

Interesting book. Better leave reading German to people who know German. But I suppose this book was meant for the American market.