Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust

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

6
GROUP PROCESSES AND THE HOLOCAUST
R. Scott Tindale, Catherine Munier,
Michelle Wasserman, and Christine M. Smith

The holocaust is arguably one of the most significant (albeit horrifying) social events of the twentieth century. thus, it is not surprising that social scientists from many disciplines have attempted to explain how a civilized european country could adopt a mandate, and then take significant strides toward carrying it out, to eradicate a group of people whose sole “crime” was that they shared a specific ethnic heritage. social psychology has not been negligent in this regard. a number of the classic early findings in this field were generated, at least in part, in an attempt to understand or explain the events pertaining to the holocaust: obedience to authority (milgram, 1963), conformity (asch, 1956), and the authoritarian personality (adorno, frenkelbrunswik, levinson, & sanford, 1950) are just a few of the main examples.

Given the prominence of these early works in the field, it is not surprising that the roots of many recent empirical studies and theories in social psychology can be traced to these earlier attempts to explain the events surrounding world war ii and the holocaust. thus, many social psychologists found it somewhat distressing to learn that a prominent and highly acclaimed recent addition to the holocaust literature proposed as one of its primary tenets that the holocaust could not be attributed to “social psychological pressures” (goldhagen, 1996, p. 11). 1 goldhagen's central claim is that “germans' anti-semitic beliefs about jews were the central causal agent of the holocaust” (p. 11). thus, he asserts that obedience, social pressure, conformity, and personality characteristics were not the forces driving the “perpetrators'” behavior, but rather their anti-semitic beliefs and attitudes were. although one could argue with the assertion that none of the perpetrators were influenced by such factors as conformity, obedience, and so forth, for the purposes of this chapter we will grant goldhagen his central claim—the germans' anti-semitic attitudes and beliefs played a major role in the holocaust. (not being economists or political theo-

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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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