Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust

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

8
Population and Perpetrators
Preconditions for the Holocaust From a
Control-Theoretical Perspective
Dieter Frey and Helmut Rez

The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers of Belzec, Sobibór, Auschwitz, Maidanek, Chelmno, or Treblinka. The foundations for this genocide were laid years before by a successful political movement eager to implement its anti-Semitic program and by a population that, for a number of reasons, widely accepted and approved of the regime. Consequently, the question “How could the Holocaust have happened?” needs to be preceded by the questions, Why Hitler? Why in Germany? and Why did he find supporters and helpers?

In this chapter we want to explain these preconditions, the basis for the Holocaust, in a systematic framework by applying the social-psychological model of cognitive control, which appears to be highly suitable for analyzing the psychological conditions that authoritarian regimes need in order to assume power in general (see also Arendt, 1951). Moreover, we believe that this theory presents essential insights into the causes of the Nazi movement, as well as the motivational structure of the Holocaust perpetrators.

One fundamental methodological question remains: whether social psychology can explain complex historical events. Are theories based on intraindividual and inter-individual processes applicable to social groups and nations as a whole?

Of course historical phenomena are never repeated in identical patterns. But social and thus historical events do display certain regularities; we can specify conditions that make the occurrence of riots, uprisings, revolutions, and so forth more or less likely. Moreover, theories that are inferred from the behavior of individuals can be transferred to a group or national level insofar as the individuals face similar external stimuli or historical events and, in

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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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