Ordinary Men

  • by Christopher R. Browning, Claire Bloom - director
  • Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
  • 9 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Ordinary Men is the true story of Reserve Police Batallion 101 of the German Order Police, which was responsible for mass shootings as well as roundups of Jewish people for deportation to Nazi death camps in Poland in 1942. Browning argues that most of the men of RPB 101 were not fanatical Nazis but, rather, ordinary middle-aged working-class men who committed these atrocities out of a mixture of motives, including the group dynamics of conformity, deference to authority, role adaptation, and the altering of moral norms to justify their actions. Very quickly three groups emerged within the battalion: a core of eager killers, a plurality who carried out their duties reliably but without initiative, and a small minority who evaded participation in the acts of killing without diminishing the murderous efficiency of the battalion whatsoever.
While this book discusses a specific Reserve Unit during WWII, the general argument Browning makes is that most people succumb to the pressures of a group setting and commit actions they would never do of their own volition. Ordinary Men is a powerful, chilling, and important work with themes and arguments that continue to resonate today.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


I know the Germans did terrible things and don't need to hear more about them.My interest is the perpetrators and how they came to do these things.I would have liked to hear more about the individuals involved ,their history and what became of them afterwards. Ordinary Men offers some insight into how this could happen but not much about the individual soldier of Battalion 101. I would like to add ,no one tried to stop the killing. They knew it was going to happen no matter what they did. The same is true of the Geman Civilians.When they heard rumors ,if they believed them, in that totalitarian state during a war what could an individual do. This is why we must prevent abuse of human rights at its core.
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- night owl

Distancing as a prelude to dehumanization

Would you consider the audio edition of Ordinary Men to be better than the print version?

A sort of Manichaeism is common to humans when wishfully thinking that one is always on the “good” side. Perhaps that is what makes #Ordinarymen so poignant. Personally, part of me wishes Christopher Browning had left-out the details of the horrors perpetuated, not only by the hateful-organized-groups, but also by “ordinary men”. What a dark time in human history! At the same time, Browning’s regard for the historic records is admirable. If I had known the details of each chapter I would have probably skipped to the very last chapters. What happened to the ReservePolice Batallion 101 in Poland goes on to illustrate how “ordinary men” are not safe from indoctrination into authoritarianism, from habituation after the burden of choice has been removed, from role adaptation and conformity to peer pressure. What made this book so relevant to me, after reading the news on Charlottesville, and a multitude of ignorant comments about DACA students and other undocumented persons, is that “distancing” from the “other” as a prelude to dehumanization is a serious-soul- illness that can only be stopped through large doses of love.

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- CSamafalda Dugan

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-28-2017
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.