Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust

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

14
Epilogue
Social Psychologists Confront the Holocaust
Leonard S. Newman and Ralph Erber

No analysis of the Holocaust, no matter how compelling, could possibly “normalize” it. Confronting the Holocaust will always be a terrifying and disorienting experience. The same could be said for other such tragedies—the attempted extermination of the Armenians, the Rape of Nanking, the massacre of the Tutsis in Rwanda, the genocidal project of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and (unfortunately) many others. Contemplation of these events can be a devastating experience, no matter how extensively one understands the conditions that set the stage for one group to target another for extermination, and no matter how deeply one has thought about the processes that turn individuals into the perpetrators of genocide. But as Yehuda Bauer argues, the horror that genocide evokes in us “doesn't remove it from the realm of human nature or human comprehension; it makes it a disturbing fact of human nature, not necessarily a metaphysical mystery” (Rosenbaum, 1998, p. 281). In other words, it is the job of social and behavioral scientists to at least attempt to make sense of this form of collective human behavior at the extremes.

Of course, anyone who has spent time thinking about these issues (including the readers of this book) knows at least a few things about the nature of genocide. These include the idea that the mass killing of out-group members is especially likely to emerge when a nation is experiencing a crisis of some kind; that individuals and groups often respond to fear and threat by selecting scapegoats, and that the persecution of scapegoats can escalate to the point of genocide; that some cultural values more than others lend themselves to the justification and promotion of genocide, and that these values are more pronounced in some societies than others; that people can be remarkably compliant with orders from people they consider their superiors, even when those orders involve aggression against blameless people; that other people,

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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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