Authoritarianism and the Holocaust

Peter Suedfeld and Mark Schaller

in Understanding Genocide

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780195133622
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847952 | DOI:
Authoritarianism and the Holocaust

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Of all the relationships between social-psychological or personality constructs and real-life phenomena, that between the original concept of the authoritarian personality, on the one hand, and the propensity to engage in persecution and even genocide, on the other, must surely be among the highest in face validity. It may be that the hypothesized link between authoritarianism and support for the Nazi genocide is an example of the fundamental attribution error, a term that refers to a widespread tendency to attribute people's actions to personality dispositions rather than to external, situational factors. This chapter looks at two aspects of authoritarianism theory that may be relevant to the Holocaust. One is related to chronic patterns of thinking; the other, to pervasive underlying emotions — the two major realms of human psychology. The chapter also examines the cognitive styles of perpetrators and resisters, along with fear of out-group members, fear of in-group members who are different, fear of death, and fear among perpetrators and resisters.

Keywords: Holocaust; genocide; cognitive styles; perpetrators; resisters; psychology; emotions; fear; authoritarianism; authoritarian personality

Chapter.  10357 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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