Group Processes and the Holocaust

R. Scott Tindale, Catherine Munier, Michelle Wasserman and Christine M. Smith

in Understanding Genocide

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

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The Holocaust is arguably one of the most significant (albeit horrifying) social events of the twentieth century. Thus, it is not surprising that social scientists from many disciplines have attempted to explain how a civilized European country could adopt a mandate, and then take significant strides toward carrying it out, to eradicate a group of people whose sole “crime” was that they shared a specific ethnic heritage. Social psychology has not been negligent in this regard. Daniel Goldhagen argued that “Germans' anti-Semitic beliefs about Jews were the central causal agent of the Holocaust”. Thus, he asserts that obedience, social pressure, conformity, and personality characteristics were not the forces driving the behavior of the “perpetrators”, but rather their anti-Semitic beliefs and attitudes were. Individual attitudes, beliefs, and so on are social phenomena; they exist in and are produced by social groups. This chapter draws on a number of recent theoretical orientations in the field of social psychology, including social identity theory and its extension, self-categorization theory.

Keywords: Holocaust; social psychology; Daniel Goldhagen; perpetrators; social groups; Jews; attitudes; beliefs; social identity theory; self-categorization theory

Chapter.  8709 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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