Christopher Browning’s Work on the Holocaust

When reading and analyzing a primary source, historians must always consider the biases of the author and also the biases of their sources if they use any. Using good sources is not the only important thing to consider when analyzing a text for its historical content. The authors beliefs, and own experiences are also important because no matter how it is written the author will make their own assumptions and opinions based on their biases. Christopher Browning’s work on the holocaust has contributed to holocaust history in a massive way.

The sources used to in Ordinary Men were only primary sources. They were documentary evidence that emerges when the legal trials ensued. I think this makes him a reliable source for historians. I imagine writing this could not have been easy for Browning given his history with the holocaust.

His goal is to show how easy it was for these men to become killers when pushed to and also to add insight by showing the mindsets of the men who participated in genocide.

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Based on his goals and his writing, he suggests that there are elements of calculation and free will that goes against the idea of a soldier as a mindless drone of the Nazi Antisemitism. I also inferred that he believed that situational factors in combination with psychological factors lead to these men becoming killing machines. Although Browning is very dismissive of purely situational factors, he seems to appreciate the importance of situational factors in the transformation of the men.

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I think looking at it in this way portrays the men as shallow violent men who have no concern for their actions. Browning portrays them in a better light as thoughtful and mature people who have been placed in a very tough situation and are trying to make it out alive.

This is one of the biases that I think historians would have to overlook when analyzing his text. Jan Gross chooses to offer readers multiple possibilities for analyzing the evidence of the murders and this gives new approaches and insights to the text itself. By not situating the massacre in her own personal beliefs Neighbors compels readers to engage with the text and analyze the reading in their own way. Gross avoids situating the Jedwabne experience with other anti-Jewish programs that happened during world war two or before it. He does mention them but ultimately, he wants the focus to remain of the massacre he is discussing. By adding the series of short essays, he offers other sources and material to help draw insight and speculations. These essays give the reader many different viewpoints that help make the work less biased. This attempt at being nonbiased makes it much easier for historians to look at her text in a factual manner.

At what point does personal interest become more important than the safety of others? During the Holocaust, the Nazis party was not the only group that advanced the Holocaust, and by extension, the Final Solution. Bystanders, witnesses, passersby, and many other groups indirectly affected the victims of the Holocaust. The silence of these groups held the Jews in just as much jeopardy as their Nazi captors. Hitler’s slow implementation of Holocaust steps mixed with public fear gave the public time to adjust and accept his actions, which would ultimately result in little German resistance during Hitler’s final solution. When classifying the types of people involved in an event such as the Holocaust, three categorical groups can be distinguished. First, and easiest to asses are the perpetrators.

This category includes people directly related to the horrors of the Holocaust. The second category encompasses victims; all of the people that were killed, discriminated against, or otherwise harmed by the perpetrators. The final category defines those who watched, witnessed, or were otherwise indirectly involved in the Holocaust, without being harmed by the perpetrators. By my definition, bystanders could include entire countries or other groups who ignored or neglected the Holocaust. A fourth category could be argued, and would include those who actively helped victims. As far as terminology, rescuer or anti-perpetrator would well define this group. Each of these groups is immensely important, but no group contains any specific denomination, race, or type of people. The bystanders did nothing to stop the Holocaust out of fear. Witness accounts tell of people account the actions of their neighbors and friends being the ones to turn them in to the Gestapo because they were afraid. The Holocaust impacted more than just Europe and more than just the Jews. It impacted the world then and the world now.

The role of the bystander in the Holocaust was so immense that it is still studied today by historians. If more had been done by these bystanders and by Germans who did not support what Hitler was doing, then possibly the holocaust would not have resulted in the loss of so many lives. In Gross’ and Browning’s writings a third-party bystander view is sometimes given as opposed to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which was written in the view of a persecutor and discussed the Jews in a much more demeaning manner. While they discussed all three of the stages of Jewish existence (conversion, expulsion, and annihilation) Hitler put more emphasis on the final stage as he outlined the reasons why the Jews as a “race” should be annihilated. The views shared by the bystanders of the holocaust could have saved many people if they had chosen to help the victims of this genocide.

Many religious conflicts are built from bigotry; however, only few have left an imprint on world history as large as the holocaust. While some may leave a smear on the world’s past, some like the genocide of Semitic people may leave a huge scar. The Holocaust, closely tied to World War II, was a devastating and systematic persecution of millions of Jews by the Nazi regime and allies. Hitler, an anti-Semitic leader of the Nazis, believed that the Jewish race made the Aryan race impure. The Nazis did all in their power to annihilate the followers of Judaism, while the Jews attempted to rebel, rioted against the government, and united as one. Furthermore, the genocide had many social science factors that caused the opposition between the Jews and Nazis. Both the German economy and the Nuremberg Laws stimulated the Holocaust; nevertheless, a majority of the Nazis’ and Hitler’s actions towards Jews were because of the victims’ ethnicity.

The German economy complicated the Nazis’ financial situation because of events that happened before the Holocaust in World War I. Due to the poor condition of the economy, the funds made traced back to the Jews, causing more disagreements to arise. The Treaty of Versailles from World War I decreed that Germany would undertake the compensation for all damage done to the civilian population and their property damaged during the war which caused Germany to be in debt. To compensate, the government resorted to getting the money from their citizens, but the Jewish had to pay special taxes. This produced injustice among the citizens and protesting, but the government executed or punished those who protested. Before the Holocaust, the German economy was in ruins from World War I and Hitler blamed the Jews for it Between 1941 and 1945, the Nazis and their allies carried out the extermination of six million Jews across German-occupied Europe. This genocide was carried out through mass shootings, gas chambers and vans as well as work in concentration and extermination camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, Bełżec, Buchenwald and Chelmno. To the Nazis, certain kinds of human beings did not deserve to live and some whose survival was unnecessary in the larger scheme of things. These included “undesirables” such as the Jews, the Romani, homosexuals (and others who practiced “sexual deviancy”), the “racially inferior as well as the physically and/or mentally impaired.

This is all outlined in Hitler’s manifesto: Mein Kampf (meaning my fight). It was written partially while Hitler was imprisoned for crimes committed during World War I and it hints at Hilter’s Final Solution Hitler’s “Final Solution” started out by segregating Jews into ghettos across Europe; they were then transported in sealed freight trains to extermination camps which are government-funded facilities whose sole purpose was to systematically massacre and dispose of millions of these deemed undesirables through back-breaking labor, lethal “scientific” experiments, starvation and denial of basic health care. A large number of prisoners in these camps died due to disease, malnutrition and suicide. After defeating the Nazi war machine in 1945, Allied troops discovered the ghastly evidence of Nazi policies such as the gas chambers, mass graves, high-volume crematoriums, torture devices, documentation of murderous medical experiments, and many other horrors.

The Nuremberg Trials of 1945-46 brought some Nazi criminals to justice. Jewish survivors of the Holocaust lobbied for a Jewish homeland that eventually resulted in the creation of Israel in 1948. In the following decades, ordinary Germans and Holocaust survivors struggled to come to terms with the horrors of the genocide. Over the years, the German government has made partial restitution of wealth and assets, confiscated by the Nazis, to the Jewish people. The question of the origins of the Holocaust has been studied by scholars using several differing approaches. These interpretations are illustrated in the works of Ian Kershaw, and Henry Friedlander.

Adolf Hitler’s unique leadership was the ultimate catalyst for the Holocaust and Henry Friedlander’s biological racist ideology illustrates the main interpretations surrounding the origins of the Holocaust. Despite extensive research, many victim’s and witness’s accounts it is still very unclear how the Holocaust started and unpacking that question takes time. In just under four years, millions of people were deliberately murdered at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators, I believe there is no one single event that lead to the genocide of these people and instead it was a massive collection of choices that created a chain reaction. These choices all contributed to the Holocaust in some way. The three classifications of people in the Holocaust all made decisions, whether they were decisions to help, not to help or to participate. Each person’s choice either benefited the Nazi party and their Final Solution or helped to hinder it, even if it only saved one person’s life it still saved someone. There is no singular cause that made the Holocaust happen but instead the views of evil men and the fear of those who were silent lead to this awful tragedy that will be remembered in history for years to come.

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Christopher Browning’s Work on the Holocaust. (2022, Jun 05). Retrieved from

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