Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust

By Leonard S. Newman; Ralph Erber | Go to book overview

Introduction
Christopher R. Browning

In the first decade after the Holocaust, attempts at understanding the perpetrators focused for the most part on the questions of individual psychological makeup, on the one hand, and a specifically German iniquity, on the other. The Nuremberg trials provided a closer look at both the prominent Nazi leaders and the top-echelon functionaries, such as the Einsatzgruppen leaders, “euthanasia” doctors, incriminated generals, and ministerial state secretaries, who had survived the war and been captured. 1 The work of Adorno and others focused on the cluster of individual traits—conceived of as the “authoritarian personality”—that would have predisposed others in German society to embrace the Nazi cause and commit mass murder on its behalf. 2 Others traced the fatal effect of Prussian/German traditions of militarism, authoritarianism, and anti-Semitism. 3

In the early 1960s the search for understanding the Holocaust perpetrators turned from explanations focused on the psychological analysis of individual perpetrators and the exceptionalism of German history to the socialpsychological analysis of group behavior. The impetus for this change derived, in my opinion, from three major events. First, in 1961, Raul Hilberg published his monumental study, The Destruction of the European Jews, which portrayed the Nazi Final Solution as essentially an administrative and bureaucratic process. Hilberg argued that the perpetrators “were not different in their moral makeup from the rest of the population. The German perpetrator was not a special kind of German.” Rather, the perpetrators represented “a remarkable cross-section of the German population,” and the machinery of destruction “was structurally no different from organized German society as a whole.” 4 Above all, Hilberg argued for an inherent structure of bureaucratic persecution that moved through the stages of identification, confiscation, concentration, and extermination, and that by implication had little to do with the

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Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface *
  • Contents ix
  • Contributors xi
  • Understanding Genocide *
  • Introduction 3
  • Notes 7
  • Part I - Becoming a Perpetrator 10
  • 1 - The Psychology of Bystanders, Perpetrators, and Heroic Helpers 11
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 2 - The Person Versus the Situation in Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners 43
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 3 - Some Cognitive and Affective Implications 68
  • References *
  • 4 - An Evaluation of Stanley Milgram's Perspective, the Most Influential Social-Psychological Approach to the Holocaust 91
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Part II - Beyond the Individual: Groups and Collectives 111
  • 5 - Envious Prejudice, Ideology, and the Scapegoating of Jews 113
  • Notes 140
  • References *
  • 6 - Group Processes and the Holocaust 143
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 7 - Examining the Implications of Cultural Frames on Social Movements and Group Action 162
  • References *
  • 8 - Preconditions for the Holocaust from a Control-Theoretical Perspective 188
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 9 - The Zoomorphism of Human Collective Violence 222
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Part III - Dealing with Evil 240
  • 10 - The Holocaust and the Four Roots of Evil 241
  • References *
  • 11 - Examining Hitler from a Social-Psychological Perspective 259
  • Notes *
  • References 280
  • 12 - Lying Self-Deception and Belief Change 285
  • References *
  • 13 - Does Social Psychology Exonerate the Perpetrators? 301
  • References *
  • 14 - Social Psychologists Confront the Holocaust 325
  • Note *
  • References *
  • Author Index 347
  • General Index 355
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