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'Ordinary men'

LAURENCE REES: To what extent do you think you can categorise these killers as ‘ordinary men’?  [The title of Browning’s famous book about a reserve police battalion involved in the Holocaust].

CHRISTOPHER BROWNING:  These people hadn’t volunteered to be part of the hardcore Nazi movement; they are not party activists. They have not been specially selected, they have not been subjected to extraordinary training and indoctrination. They were the people available when people were needed and they come into this in a fairly random way. Now, clearly, not all the people involved would fit that definition. Obviously at the top there is a hardcore of very devoted and convinced Nazis: Hitler, Himmler and Heydrich. Eichmann, for instance, was a full time committed professional Jewish expeller and then Jewish killer, as are the Einsatzgroupen Commanders and so forth. There’s also a group of people that we might refer to as the technocrats: Komler designing the gas chambers at Auschwitz and Albert Speer and industrialists who were using lots of Jewish slave labour, all of whom after the war painted themselves as a-political technocrats [claiming] they were just doing a specialised job and that they weren’t politically plugged in. Turns out, of course, you can be a technocrat and an ideologue at the same time, and that most of them were, in fact, devoted Nazis as well as men who brought their expertise. So there are the specialists and there are the hardcore committed people who are killing because they believed in it as an ideological venture. But that’s not enough to kill six million people; you need police battalions, guards of camps (particularly for the ghettos), and all the people who are supervising the use of Jewish slave labour as foremen in various factories, and all the ways that people were involved. Most of that does not involve the Nazi ideologues, it does not involve people highly indoctrinated, it does not involve people carefully selected, it was whoever was there and available, and those are the ones I would call the ordinary men, and they come and they do the job and there was no special preparation and selection for it.