Throughout all the history classes that I have taken here at UWGB, this class has to be my favorite. Learning about the European history especially during the Nazi Regime has been truly eye opening. Last week Thursday and this week Tuesday the assigned reading was the novel Ordinary Men by Browning. This novel was interesting to me and shared the stories of men that implemented numerous actions on the Jews that I have never knew occurred during the Nazi Regime. When you hear Holocaust and Nazis, the first word that comes to my mind was concentration camps, we forget to realize that there were many violent events that happened to the Jews before the concentration camps. I believe that reading Browning’s novel really sheds some light in that area of a police battalion taking the lives of Jews who lived in a Ghetto and were transported to the town’s marketplace and then forcing them to walk to the woods to be executed. Reading these events that the police battalion were involved in were hard and graphic to read. For example in Browning he stated a man’s account killing the Jews, “At first we shot freehand. When one aimed too high the entire skull exploded. As a consequence, brains and bones flew everywhere. Thus, we were instructed to place the bayonet point on the neck”1. Browning’s novel continued to describe in great detail the actions that the police battalion men had to complete especially the actions that occurred in a Polish town called Jozefow. The hardest part of the novel for me to read was how these men that were in the police battalion justified and rationalized their actions of killing these Jewish men, women, and even children. Browning described one man who rationalized his actions, “My neighbor then shot the mother and I shot the child that belonged to her, because I reasoned with myself that after all without its mother the child could not live any longer”2. This rationalization to continue to commit these events was utterly jaw dropping to me I could never imagine trying to justify a reason why to take an innocent life especially one of a child that is so young and did not even have a chance to live their life. It was appalling to me that most of the Nazi men involved in the execution process were so drunk on alcohol which was a way for them to suppress the guilt of the crimes that they just committed. As a historian, I truly enjoyed learning about the actions of the police battalion 101, however it was hard to read, but eye opening on the events that occurred. I also thought it was interesting to learning and read the true accounts from the men that committed these actions. I truly also believe that many of men involved in the execution process were relieved to send the Jews to concentration camps because then they did not have to kill them in close distance anymore which was easier for them to detach themselves to the killing process. Browning’s novel was eye opening and educationally enjoying to read and I will strongly recommend reading this novel to family and friends.
- Christopher Browning, Ordinary men (New York: Harper Perennial, 1998), pg. 64.
- Ibid., pg. 73.