Monday, May 15, 2000

Holocaust scholar Browning to deliver free public lectures

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Drawing on his courtroom experience and new research into why civilian police turned killers during the Holocaust, visiting scholar Christopher R. Browning will give two free public lectures in the coming week.

        His talks are sponsored by the University of Cincinnati history department, Taft Memorial Fund and American Jewish Archives at Hebrew Union College.

        Dr. Browning, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will speak at 3 p.m. today in 127 McMicken Hall on UC's main campus. His topic will be “Revisiting the Holocaust: Perpetrators in the Light of New Evidence.”

        In an interview, he said the talk will draw on findings in his new book, Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers. It advances and revises his study, Ordinary Men: Reserve Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland.

        That earlier book explored why seemingly ordinary German policemen willingly executed Jewish civilians during World War II. Much of his data came from postwar statements by 210 officers involved in the massacres.

        His new book draws on previously unavailable documents written during the war, and they are especially valuable because the records “don't involve distortions that come with postwar testimony,” he said.

        Dr. Browning also has statements from Jews whom the killers forced to work as interpreters or servants and these give “rare” insights into what happened within the police units.

        Finally, there are new data about police from Luxembourg who served among the killers and offer a chance to re-examine how non-Germans responded to the influences Dr. Browning studied.

        Among the revisions this new evidence required were these, he said:

        „He underestimated how many policemen “passively opted out,” officers who didn't shoot or quit shooting at the earliest opportunity. He initially said 10 to 20 percent; now, Dr. Browning says it could be twice 20 percent or more.

        „He underestimated the number of “hard-core killers” in the police units. Previously, he inferred that many of these men “learned to enjoy” killing Jews. Now, he is convinced that a “significant number wanted to kill Jews” without further urging or pressure.

        At 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dr. Browning will discuss Holocaust denial in the courtroom at HUC's Mayerson Hall on Clifton Avenue, focusing on cases in which he was an expert witness:

        „More recent is British historian David Irving's defeat in an English libel action that he brought against critical scholar Deborah Lipstadt. The judge called Mr. Irving an anti-Semitic racist and Hitler apologist.

        „The second case involves unresolved efforts by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to close a Web site that the commission says allows Toronto resident Ernst Zundel to spread anti-Semitic hate propaganda.

        Dr. Browning was a witness in an earlier conviction of German-born Mr. Zundel that was overturned when Canada's high court struck down the law prohibiting the spreading of false news.

        Mr. Irving and Mr. Zundel deny the Holocaust — a name given to the murder of 6 million Jews — took place.


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