The Info List - Christopher Browning

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CHRISTOPHER ROBERT BROWNING (born May 22, 1944) is an American historian , known best for his works on the Holocaust . Browning received his bachelor's degree from Oberlin College
Oberlin College
in 1968 and his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of Wisconsin–Madison
in 1975. He taught at Pacific Lutheran University
Pacific Lutheran University
from 1974 to 1999, eventually becoming a Distinguished Professor. In 1999, he moved to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
to accept an appointment as Frank Porter Graham Professor of History. Browning was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
in 2006. Browning retired from teaching in Spring 2014.


* 1 Works

* 1.1 Ordinary Men * 1.2 Witness in David Irving vs. Deborah Lipstadt case * 1.3 Browning\'s interpretation of the Holocaust * 1.4 Publications

* 2 Endnotes * 3 References * 4 External links



Browning is best known for his 1992 book Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland
, a study of German Ordnungspolizei (Order Police) Reserve Unit 101, which used to commit massacres and round-ups of Jews
for deportations to the Nazi death camps in German-occupied Poland
in 1942.

The conclusion of the book – influenced in part by Milgram experiments popularized in the 1970s – was that the men of Unit 101 killed out of a basic obedience to authority and peer pressure , not blood-lust or primal hatred.

In the story he recounts, the men of Unit 101 were not ardent Nazis but ordinary middle-aged men of working class background from Hamburg , who had been drafted but found ineligible for regular military duty. After their return to Poland
in June 1942 these men were ordered to terrorize Jews
in the ghettos during Operation Reinhard , and in notable cases, committed wholesale massacres of all Polish Jews
– men, women and children – as in the towns of Józefów and Łomazy
. In other cases, they were ordered to merely kill a specified number of Jews
in a given town or area usually helped by Trawnikis . The commander of the unit gave his men the choice (once) of opting out of this duty if they found it too hard. Almost all of them chose not to exercise that option. Fewer than 12 men opted out in a battalion of 500 willing executioners .

While the specifics of this book deal with killings performed by otherwise average men, the general implication of the book, consistent with the theories advanced by Stanley Milgram , is that when placed in a coherent group setting, most people will adhere to the commands given, even if they find the actions morally reprehensible. Additionally the book demonstrates that ordinary people will more than likely follow orders, even those they might personally question, when they perceive these orders as originating from an authority.

Browning also provides ample evidence to support the notion that not all of these men were hateful antisemites. He includes the testimony of men who say that they begged to be released from this work and to be placed elsewhere. In one instance, two fathers claimed that they could not kill children and thus asked to be given other work. Browning also tells of a man who demanded his release, obtained it, and was then promoted once he returned to Germany.

Ordinary Men achieved much acclaim but was denounced by Daniel Goldhagen for missing what Goldhagen considered the importance of a specifically-German political culture, characterized by what Goldhagen terms "eliminationist anti-semitism ," in causing the Holocaust. In his book review published in the July 1992 edition of The New Republic , Goldhagen called Ordinary Men a book that fails in its central interpretation. Goldhagen's own controversial 1996 book Hitler\'s Willing Executioners was largely written to rebut Browning's book, but ended up being criticized much more.


Main article: Irving v Penguin Books and Lipstadt

When David Irving sued Deborah Lipstadt for libel in 2000, Browning was one of the leading witnesses for the defense. Another historian, Robert Jan van Pelt , wrote a report on the gassing facilities at Auschwitz , and Browning wrote a report on the evidence for the extermination of the Jews
on a wider scale. During his testimony and a cross-examination by Irving, Browning countered Irving’s suggestion that the last chapter of the Holocaust has yet to be written (implying there were grounds for doubting the reality of the Shoah ) by replying: "We are still discovering things about the Roman Empire . There is no last chapter in history."

Browning countered Irving’s argument that the lack of a written Führer order disproved the Holocaust, maintaining that no such order need ever have been written down, given that Hitler
had almost certainly made statements to his leading subordinates indicating his wishes in regards to the Jews
of Europe during the war, thus rendering the question of an extant, written order irrelevant. Browning went on to testify that several leading experts on Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
believe that there was no written Führer order for the “ Final Solution of the Jewish Question”, but no historian doubts the reality of the Holocaust. Browning noted that Hitler’s secret speech to his Gauleiters on December 12, 1941, strongly alluded to genocide as the “Final Solution”.

Browning categorically rejected Irving’s claim that there was no reliable statistical information on the size of the pre-war Jewish population in Europe, or on the killing processes; he asserted that the only reason why historians debate whether five or six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust is a lack of access to archives in the former Soviet Union . Likewise, Browning argued that it was possible to become soaked in human blood after shooting people at close-range, and dismissed Irving’s argument that accounts of German personnel being soaked in blood were improbable because it is not possible to have a blood-splattered uniform after shooting people at close range. The American journalist D.D. Guttenplan, who covered the trial, considered Browning to be the most effective of the witnesses for Lipstadt.


Browning is a functionalist in the origins of the Holocaust debate, following the principles of the "moderate functionalist" school of thought, which focuses on the structure and institution of the Third Reich , moving the focus away from Hitler. Functionalism sees the extermination of the Jews
as the improvisation and radicalization of a polycratic regime. Functionalists do not exonerate Adolf Hitler
, yet they recognize that many other factors were involved in the Final Solution .

Browning has argued that the Final Solution was the result of the "cumulative radicalization" (to use Hans Mommsen 's phrase) of the German state, especially when faced with the self-imposed "problem" of 3 million Jews
(mostly Polish), whom the Nazis had forced into ghettos between 1939 and 1941 . The intention was to have these and other Jews resident in the Third Reich expelled eastward once a destination was selected. For a time in 1940, the Madagascar Plan , in which, after Germany
defeated Britain , France
was to cede Madagascar
to Germany, and then all of the Jews
of Europe were to be expelled to that island, was considered as an option. Germany's inability to defeat Britain prevented the execution of the Madagascar
Plan. Browning has been able to establish that the phrase " Final Solution to the Jewish Question", first used in 1939, meant until 1941 a "territorial solution". Owing to the military developments of World War II
World War II
and to turf wars within the German bureaucracy, expulsion lost its viability such that, by 1941, members of the bureaucracy were willing to countenance the mass murder of Jews.

In a speech given in Paris in 1982, Browning summarized the state of the historiography as follows:

In recent years the interpretations of National Socialism
National Socialism
have polarized more and more into two groups that Tim Mason has aptly called Intentionalists and Functionalists . The former explain the development of Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
as a result of Hitler's intentions, which came out of a coherent and logical ideology and were realized due to an all-powerful totalitarian dictatorship. The Functionalists point out the anarchistic character of the Nazi state, its internal rivalries and the chaotic process of decision-making, which constantly led to improvisation and radicalization ...These two modes of exposition of history are useful for the analysis of the strongly divergent meanings that people attribute to the Jewish policy of the Nazis in general and to the Final Solution in particular. On the one hand, Lucy Dawidowicz , a radical Intentionalist, upholds the viewpoint that already in 1919 Hitler
had decided to exterminate European Jews. And not only that: He knew at what point in time his murderous plan would be realized. The Second World War
Second World War
was at the same time the means and opportunity to put his war against the Jews
into effect. While he waited for the anticipated moment for the realization of his great plan, naturally he tolerated a senseless and meaningless pluralism in the Jewish policies of the subordinate ranks of state and party.

Against the radical Intentionalism of Lucy Dawidowicz, which emphasizes the intentions and great plan of Hitler, the Ultrafunctionalism of Martin Broszat constitutes a diametrically opposed view of the role of the Führer, especially with respect to the decision on the Final Solution. It is Broszat's position that Hitler
never took a definitive decision nor issued a general order for the Final Solution . The annihilation program developed in stages in conjunction with a series of isolated massacres at the end of 1941 and in 1942. These locally limited mass murders were improvised answers to an impossible situation that had developed as a result of two factors: First the ideological and political pressure for the creation of a Jew-free Europe that stemmed from Hitler
and then the military reverses on the Eastern Front that led to stoppages in railway traffic and caused the buffer zones into which the Jews
were to be removed to disappear. Once the annihilation program was in progress, it gradually institutionalized itself until it was noticed that it offered the simplest solution logistically and became a program universally applied and single-mindedly pursued. From this standpoint, Hitler
was a catalyst but not a decision-maker. For Lucy Dawidowicz, the Final Solution was thought out twenty years before it was put into practice; For Martin Broszat, the idea developed from the practice of sporadic murders of groups of Jews, which produced the idea of killing all Jews systematically.

Browning divides the officials of the Government-General of occupied Poland
into two factions. One, the "Productionists", favored using Jews
of the ghettos as a source of slave labor to help with the war effort. The other, the "Attritionists", favored letting the Jews
of the ghettos starve and die of disease. At the same time, there were struggles between the SS and Hans Frank , the Governor-General of Poland. The SS favored " The Nisko/Lublin Plan " of creating a "Jewish Reservation" in Lublin
, Poland, into which all the Jews
of Greater Germany, Poland
and the former Czechoslovakia
were to be expelled. Frank was opposed to the " Lublin
Plan" on the ground that the SS were "dumping" Jews
into his territory. Frank together with Hermann Göring wished for Government-General of Poland
to become the "granary " of the Reich, and opposed the ethnic cleansing schemes of Heinrich Himmler
and Arthur Greiser as disruptive of economic conditions.

An attempt to settle these difficulties at conference between Himmler , Göring , Frank and Greiser at Göring's Karinhall estate on February 12, 1940 was scuttled in May 1940, when Himmler
was able to show Hitler
a memo entitled "Some Thoughts on the Treatment of Alien Population in the East" on May 15, 1940, which Hitler
called "good and correct". Himmler's memo, which called for expelling all of the Jews of German-ruled Europe into Africa
and reducing Poles to a "leaderless laboring class", and Hitler's approval of the memo led, as Browning noted, to a major change in German policy in Poland
along the lines suggested by Himmler. Browning called the Göring/Frank-Himmler/Greiser dispute a perfect example of how Hitler encouraged his subordinates to engage in turf battles with one another without deciding for one policy option or other, but clearly hinting at the direction he preferred policy to go.


* The Final Solution and the German Foreign Office : a study of Referat D III of Abteilung Deutschland, 1940–43, New York : Holmes & Meier, 1978. * “Zur Genesis der "Endlösung" Eine Antwort an Martin Broszat” pages 96–104 from Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Volume 29, 1981. * Fateful Months : Essays on the Emergence of the Final Solution, New York : Holmes New York : Cambridge University Press, 2000. * Collected memories : Holocaust History and Postwar Testimony, Madison, Wis. ; London : University of Wisconsin Press, 2003. * The Origins of the Final Solution : The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939 – March 1942 (With contributions by Jürgen Matthäus ), Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 2004. ISBN 0-803-25979-4 OCLC
52838928 * Everyday Lasts a Year: A Jewish Family's Correspondence from Poland, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2007.

* Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp, New York: W.W. Norton ">

* ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 21, 2011. * ^ Browning, Christopher (1992). Ordinary Men, ibidem. Pages 44, 58. * ^ Browning, Christopher (1992). Ordinary Men, ibidem. Page 57. * ^ Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, "The Evil of Banality," Review of Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men: Police Reserve Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. The New Republic, 13/20 July 1992, pp. 49-52. * ^ Shatz, Adam. Goldhagen\'s willing executioners: the attack on a scholarly superstar, and how he fights back. Slate, April 8, 1998. * ^ Evans, Richard J. (2002). Telling Lies about Hitler. Verso. p. 35. ISBN 1-85984-417-0 . * ^ Guttenplan, D.D. The Holocaust
The Holocaust
on Trial, New York: W.W. Norton, 2001 page 210 * ^ Guttenplan, D.D. The Holocaust
The Holocaust
on Trial, New York: W.W. Norton, 2001 page 211 * ^ Guttenplan, D.D. The Holocaust
The Holocaust
on Trial, New York: W.W. Norton, 2001 page 212 * ^ Guttenplan, D.D. The Holocaust
The Holocaust
on Trial, New York: W.W. Norton, 2001 pages 212-213 * ^ Guttenplan, D.D. The Holocaust
The Holocaust
on Trial, New York: W.W. Norton, 2001 page 213 * ^ Guttenplan, D.D. The Holocaust
The Holocaust
on Trial, New York: W.W. Norton, 2001 pages 213-214 * ^ Daniel J. Goldhagen; Christopher R. Browning; Leon Wieseltier (April 8, 1996). "The "Willing Executioners" / "Ordinary Men" Debate" (PDF file, direct download 105 KB). Selections from the Symposium. Introduction by Michael Berenbaum. USHMM .org. pp. 1 / 48 in current document. Retrieved 15 June 2014. * ^ Christopher Browning La décision concernant la solution finale from Colloque de l.Ecole des Hautes Etudes en sciences sociales, L.Allemagne nazie et le génocide juif, Gallimard-Le Seuil, Paris1985, page 19. * ^ A B Rees, Lawrence The Nazis pages 148-149. * ^ Rees, Lawrence The Nazis page 149. * ^ Rees, Lawrence The Nazis page 150


* Browning, Christopher R. Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. Publisher: Harper Perennial; reprint edition (April 24, 1998), ISBN 0060995068 . * Bauer, Yehuda Rethinking the Holocaust, New Haven ; London : Yale University Press, 2001 * Guttenplan, D. D. The Holocaust
The Holocaust
on Trial, New York : Norton, 2001. * Marrus, Michael The Holocaust
The Holocaust
in History, Toronto : Lester border:solid #aaa 1px">

* Biography portal

* Voices on Antisemitism Interview with Christopher Browning from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum * A Brief Description of Dr. Browning from his UNC faculty website * The Origins of the Final Solution : The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939 – March 1942 * Browning\'s review of The Destruction of the European Jews
by Raul Hilberg * An interview with Browning in Yad Vashem website


* WorldCat Identities * VIAF : 85323468 * LCCN : n78026604 * ISNI : 0000 0001 2142 0571 * GND : 120185083 * SUDOC : 033065993 * BNF : cb123970