Reading List (Update):  Atrocity from the Ordinary

By | July 30, 2022

[July 30, 2022]  A sad week for our Boy Scout Troop.  Yesterday, we buried one of our Eagle Scouts; a good young man at 18 years of age, lifeguard, plans to attend college, 10 years in scouting, Catholic, dedicated, reliable, and trustworthy.  It is difficult to realize we will never see this young man’s potential realized.  Or to see his smile.  A great loss to us all.  We are all connected to more of the world than we realize.  At the church mass, there were a couple of hundred present, mostly young people from his school, scout troops, life guard buddies, relatives, aviation enthusiasts (he wanted to be a pilot), and several military personnel.  In the Boy Scouts, we stress virtue, truthfulness, and courtesy.  We encourage manly pursuits like camping, survival, swimming, shooting, woodcraft, hiking and more, all of the many skills Boy Scouts were required to learn and excel at.  I once asked him what he liked most about scouting.  This was his answer: everything.  And this was the young man.  We all will miss him.

Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, Christopher R. Browning 2017

Christopher R. Browning’s shocking account of how a unit of average middle-aged Germans became the cold-blooded murderers of tens of thousands of Jews—now with a new afterword and additional photographs.  Ordinary Men is the true story of Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the German Order Police, which was responsible for mass shootings as well as round-ups 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.

Three groups quickly 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.

Great book.  Highly recommended.


Please read my newest book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).

To go to the complete Professional Reading list, click on this direct link:

Side Note: Please remember and take a look at Tom Copeland’s reading blog.  His website, which I highly recommend, can be found here:

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “Reading List (Update):  Atrocity from the Ordinary

  1. Tracey Brockman

    “But those who killed cannot be absolved by the notion that anyone in the same situation would have done as they did. For even among them, some refused to kill and others stopped killing. Human responsibility is ultimately an individual matter.” -Christopher Browning via Ordinary Men Chapter 18

  2. Bryan Z. Lee

    It is very easy to blame the Holocaust on specific German characteristics. It is easy to believe the perpetrators were all goose-stepping SS-fanatic caricatures from Central Casting. The truth is more disturbing.

  3. Max Foster

    The reason this is an IMPORTANT read is that it gives you a glimpse into the capacity that all humans have to do evil. It forces you to think and consider that, to embrace it, so that you can think on how you might avoid doing things like some of these men did. These were ordinary men – middle aged men with families who mostly joined reserve police as a way to avoid frontline combat or who had a lineage of policing. They never signed up to become mass murderers, but 90% of them did anyway.

    1. mainer

      This book also clears the misconception that these men had no choice to do what they did. Those that refused to participate never faced any real consequences except for social stigma. Think on that.

      1. ZB22

        Right, mainer! The thesis of this book is that ordinary men can be turned into mass-murderers given the right circumstances.

      2. Sadako Red

        Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland is a nonfiction account of the genocidal journey of a police battalion conscripted into Hitler’s Final Solution, mostly from first-hand accounts of the men themselves (from their interrogations when they were put on trial in the 1960s). The term “ordinary men” refers to the types of men they were before they became part of the war effort. Many (if not the majority) were cigarette salesmen, bakers, metropolitan police officers, and bankers. They were middle-aged men deemed too old to be conscripted into the regular army. In short, they were not the kinds of people you might expect would go on to become mass-murderers.

        1. Valkerie

          RED, great to hear from you again and to see you are still on top of your game. We look forward to your next article.

      3. Willie Strumburger

        Great point and we should never ever forget it.

  4. Tomas Clooney

    Thanks Gen. Satterfield for this book review. Scary ideas here.

  5. Rev. Michael Cain

    I see that Gen. Satterfield already added the book to his main reading list that he recommends. Must be a great book. I can see why! You’ve got to pray for the souls of these men.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      These men promulgated evil and should burn in hell. There is no other result that would be satisfactory for the world. And, we should all see it for ourselves. Sadly we will not see it but that is what civilizations need to see and hear about to ensure they don’t go down that road.


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