The Paradoxical Nature Of Religion In Conflict

2227 words - 9 pages

The Reserve Police Battalion 101, a German police unit fighting in World War II, was given an order to eliminate an entire town of Polish Jews (Browning, 1992). This unit of Nazi soldiers consisted of 500 men, all of who were there voluntarily (Browning, 1992). The commander of this unit offered to release anyone who did not wish to complete the assignment without punishment, yet only 12 of the 500 men accepted this offer (Browning, 1992). The mission was carried out, and the men who opted to participate in this mission assisted in what is now known as Hitler’s “Final Stages” of exterminating an entire race of Jews in Europe. This anecdote is an interesting one, as it is often learned that the mission was carried out successfully, but the option for the Nazi soldiers to opt-out of the mission is ignored. The brutality of the Holocaust should not be disguised, but to say that every Nazi soldier lacked morals is incorrect. Thus, targeting specific people associated with the Holocaust is not the proper way to cast blame: it was the action of the Nazi party who is responsible for the crimes committed in 1940’s Europe, but not every single person within the Nazi party.
In the decades succeeding the Holocaust, it was learned just how brutally the Jews were treated. As the Allied forces liberated Germany, the rest of the world cast blame on certain perpetrators; it was an attempt to personify the atrocity and barbarity acted out by the entire Nazi party. The Nuremberg trials further endorsed this archetypal attitude, and outsiders were able to identify and denounce specific criminals. Those who were tried at Nuremberg were prominent Nazi leaders and top-echelon functionaries: euthanasia doctors, army generals, and state secretaries (Newman & Erber, 2002, pp.3). In attributing these few people as mass-murderers, the layperson was able to find solace in the fact that the perpetrators were the minority. This is not unexpected, as social psychology has shown that stereotyping or individuating promotes a way of thinking that allows differentiation (McCrea, Wieber & Myers, 2012). In other words, an outsider blaming Hitler for the entire Holocaust allows them to identify certain attributes of the Nazi leader and differentiate themselves from him. However, in crediting singular people for entire Holocaust, the ambience of the Nazi party was ignored; it is that exact framework that is to blame for not only the Holocaust, but for many other genocides as well. Raul Hilberg accentuates this point in stating “the perpetrators were not different in their moral makeup from the rest of the population,” meaning that the brutality came from the whole of a group and not singular persons (1985). It is clear that religion and ethnicity were what caused the cataclysmic rift during the Holocaust; but this is not the only instance in history where religion and ethnicity have been at the root of such evil. The Rwandan genocide and the conflict in Northern...

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