Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning
Ordinary Men investigates how a reserve police battalion carried out the Final Solution during the Holocaust. Looking through historical documents including court records from years later, Browning looks to show how men carried out the killing of Jews. It illustrates how the police groups were formed and their role in executing orders to kill Jews. The book peeled back the emotional layer at times looking at the task itself and other times hitting on emotions. One example of the task perspective was how the men could overcome the logistical challenges associated with such a task. It shows the effort and innovation necessary for the task but along with it were the psychological challenges. Some officers seemed to enjoy the task while others struggled with the orders. This book provided a look to seek understanding of how such things occurred. There were people who thrived and others who were miserable in this experience. It seems as if those who distanced themselves from the meaning of their task and just focused on their task wouldn’t be negatively impacted. They were just solving problems in their minds. It shows the power how influence tendencies, following authority, and the consumption of self within a task can be so powerful.
How it influenced me
This book was tough to consume at times, to imagine people causing such harm to others. What aided was the perspective that history ought to be a teacher if we are willing to learn. It was interesting to see the book with a lens of sport psychology and my background knowledge. I could see factors of influence such as authority, consensus, and social proof all acting at the same time. In addition, those who worked hard to carry out the terrible deeds were demonstrating high levels of motivation and focus. They were completely consumed in their task and unfortunately, they were productive. This is an instance where we see typically a tremendously valuable skill in focus, being used for evil. While we can see this as a case study for social psychology and some sport psychology, it too must be noted that there can be people at any level that serve to create a fresh tide. That people will still follow and once the mass grows then good can prevail. Overall, it was interesting to see the numerous angles and trains of thoughts that I had while looking to learn from such a time.