Throughout World War Ii Many Conditions Have Led Ordinary Men To Commit Atrocities Against Civilians In Wartime.

2300 words - 9 pages

Atrocities are appalling or atrocious acts, situations, or objects, especially acts of unusual or illegal cruelty inflicted by an armed force on civilians or prisoners. Many of the events in World War II were prime examples of atrocities committed against civilians. How can individuals, especially seemingly "ordinary" individuals, bring themselves to kill large numbers of fellow human beings? During the Holocaust, an estimated six million European Jews were systematically exterminated-through deliberate starvation, forced labor, mass executions, and the epitome of "industrial killing," the gas chamber. Throughout World War II many conditions have led ordinary men to commit atrocities against civilians in wartime. This essay will focus on the atrocities committed by men during World War II, placing emphasis on the men in Reserve Police Battalion 101. In the basis of the arguments presented in Inga Clendinnen's "The Men in the Green Tunics: The Order Police In Poland", Primo Levi's "Survival in Auschwitz" and Browning's "Ordinary Men" the paper argues that orders from higher ranked officers, alcohol and gradual desensitization all played a role in the horrid atrocities which were perpetrated against innocent civilians throughout world war II. During the rush of German forces into Poland, many factors influenced acts of inhumanity and ruthlessness. Though it can be argued that the men who were committing war time atrocities during World War II were quite aware of what they were doing it can also be said that these men were just following orders from higher ranks. It is clear through Browning's description of the massacre at Jozefow that many of the men who partook in the brutality were not aware of what they were going to be asked to do until the last moment. Browning states that "The men were not officially informed, other than that they would be awakened early in the morning for a major action involving the entire battalion". Many of the higher ranked men did not want to have to commit these atrocities on their own. They passed down the commands to their men who would in turn carry out the orders. "Trapp then summoned...the orders were relayed by the first sergeant, Kammer, to first company, and by Gnade and Hoffman to Second and Third Companies." Trapp himself had trouble handling the truth about what was being done to innocent civilians, hence, he stayed at his head quarters far from the execution sites following the idea of 'out of sight, out of mind'. Unlike Sergeant Heinrich Steinmetz, he also motioned for those men who did not feel up to the murderous task to step out. Regular obedience to orders by people who are just doing their job and don't make the rules was a chilling triviality that kept on coming up. Obedience to superior orders has been one of the most often used variables to explain the behavior of perpetrators, by scholarly commentators and by the perpetrators themselves. One version of this is that these individuals had no option...

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