Ordinary Men

Ordinary Men by historian Christopher Browning is indeed an excellent book that sheds light on why the perpetrators committed war crimes associated with the Holocaust. There were really three groups that formed, according to Browning.  There was a minority of psychos that liked killing.  There was another minority of men who were morally principled and flat out refused to carry out these atrocities.  But the majority went ahead and committed acts against humanity even though they did not want to (Browning explains that human social and psychological wiring associated with conformity and deference to obedience were the causes). I’m glad you read the book in your Holocaust class.

For your follow-up, let’s turn our attention away from the mass killings that occurred in Europe.  Let’s examine the diary of Dr. Robert Wilson, 1937-38 on pp. 924-933 (Chapter 25), which provides us with an account of the atrocities committed by the Japanese Shanghai Expeditionary Forces on Nanking (Rape of Nanking).  200,000 civilians were slaughtered, and a couple of hundred thousand cases of rape occurred.  Write an analytic summary by considering the questions. Make sure to include specific references from text.  Thanks!

1. Who wrote the source?

2. What type of source is this?

3.When was it written?

4. Why was the source written (Purpose)?

5. Author’s frame of reference, or perspective?

6. What is significant about this source?  What does it reveal about the Japanese occupation of Nanking? What does it reveal about Japanese forces? Is there a particular account recounted by Dr. Wilson?

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