CHRISTOPHER BROWNING

An excerpt from Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men.

"Just as daylight was breaking, the men arrived at the village [of Jozefow] and assembled in a half-circle around Major Trapp, who proceeded to give a short speech. With choking voice and tears in his eyes, he visibly fought to control himself as he informed his men that they had received orders to perform a very unpleasant task. These orders were not to his liking either, but they came from above. It might perhaps make their task easier, he told the men, if they remembered that in Germany bombs were falling on the women and children. Two witnesses claimed that Trapp also mentioned that the Jews of this village had supported the partisans. Another witness recalled Trapp’s mentioning that the Jews had instigated the boycott against Germany. Trapp then explained to the men that the Jews in Jozefow would have to be rounded up, whereupon the young males were to be selected out for labor and the others shot.

Trapp then made an extraordinary offer to his battalion: if any of the older men among them did not feel up to the task that lay before him, he could step out..."

RESERVE POLICE BATTALION 101

What kind of person kills civilians, including old people and even babies, all day long? To find answers to such questions, historian Christopher Browning studied courtroom testimony made in the 1960s and 1970s by 210 men who served in the German Reserve Police Battalion 101 and were later charged with war crimes. 

"THE MEN WHO PULLED TRIGGERS

"We know a lot about how the Germans carried out the Holocaust. We know much less about how they felt and what they thought as they did it, how they were affected by what they did, and what made it possible for them to do it. In fact, we know remarkably little about the ordinary Germans who made the Holocaust happen."