Population and Perpetrators

Dieter Frey and Helmut Rez

in Understanding Genocide

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780195133622
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847952 | DOI:
Population and Perpetrators

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The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers of Belzec, Sobibór, Auschwitz, Maidanek, Chelmno, or Treblinka. The foundations for this genocide were laid years before by a successful political movement eager to implement its anti-Semitic program and by a population that, for a number of reasons, widely accepted and approved of the regime. This chapter explains the preconditions for the Holocaust by applying the social-psychological model of cognitive control, which appears to be highly suitable for analyzing the psychological conditions that authoritarian regimes need in order to assume power in general. This theory presents essential insights into the causes of the Nazi movement, as well as the motivational structure of the Holocaust perpetrators. This chapter also examines whether social psychology can explain complex historical events and whether theories based on intra-individual and inter-individual processes are applicable to social groups and nations as a whole. It focuses on anti-Semitism in Germany, why the Holocaust took place in Germany, and why Adolf Hitler found supporters and helpers to carry out the extermination of Jews.

Keywords: Holocaust; cognitive control; social psychology; perpetrators; social groups; genocide; Germany; Jews; Adolf Hitler; anti-Semitism

Chapter.  13820 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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