Project #157296 - Nazi Germany

History Tutors

Subject History
Due By (Pacific Time) 12/04/2016 05:00 pm


Write a 4-5 page paper (double-spaced) that makes an argument on one of the following questions:

1. Were the Germans who perpetrated the Holocaust truly "ordinary"? Why and/or why not?

Note: You should frame your paper almost entirely around Christopher Browning's arguments in Ordinary Men: Possible sub-themes: How does he define "ordinary."? What are his categories and/or criteria? What are the sources he uses to access the history of these men? What are the strengths of Browning's argument and evidence? Do the examples he give as the book goes along support his notion of "ordinariness"? Are there weaknesses, either conceptually, or in the evidence? You could also could also bring in the brief section on Rudolf Hess (the Commandant of Auschwitz) in Joachim Fest's Face of the Third Reich, as a point of comparison, if you have the time.

2. What role did anti-Semitism play in allowing the soldiers of Reserve Police Battalion 101 to commit atrocities that they would not otherwise normally have committed? What is Browning's perspective on the role of anti-Semitism, and do you agree or disagree with his perspective?

Note: You should also bring in the ideas of Daniel Goldhagen (as discussed critically by Browning in Browning's "Afterword") as a point of comparison. Be sure to ground your own analysis using Browning's specific examples in specific cases throughout the book.

3. Christopher Browning writes that he does not accept the notion that "to explain is to excuse, to understand is to forgive." (p. xx) Does a detailed understanding of the perpetrators of the Holocaust promote greater sympathy for the "ordinary Germans" involved in its perpetration? Does "understanding" historical context invariably lead us down the path of "excusing" their actions?

Note: This question will be tough to carry off well: it calls for some philosophical and methodological reflection, but remember that your first priority is to convince me that you've read and are engaging with Browning's book... You'll definitely need to ground your larger arguments with evidence from Browning—but will have to do so efficiently enough that you'll still have space for your own philosophical reflections. It should be treated as a more difficult assignment than other questions, not as an easier one.

4. In Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz, how would you describe how the Germans "see" the Häftlinge (prisoners)? Does this "perspective" seem similar to what Browning recounts as that perspective of the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101? In what ways does it differ?

(note: this is part of a much larger question on the role of anti-Semitism in the Holocaust, of course. And there are only a few vignettes in Levi's book that address this directly. So feel free to also bring in other material, such as lectures and images from class, explanations from the Benz textbook, or references to other arguments about anti-Semitism you've read about, such as that in Burley and Wippermann's book or Fest's description of Höss.)

5. Does Levi think we can pass judgment on the morality of the Häftlinge (prisoners) of the Lager? Why or why not?

(See note 3, above: This is also a tricky question to carry off well. Perhaps the easiest way to tackle this is probably to talk about specific people and their actions?) 


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