Instigators of Genocide

David R. Mandel

in Understanding Genocide

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780195133622
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847952 | DOI:
Instigators of Genocide

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The question “What can social psychology tell us about the Holocaust?” is a difficult and complex one to answer. Perhaps it is fair to begin by saying that the Holocaust has influenced our understanding of social psychology more than the other way around. In the 1960s and early 1970s, seminal work in the field continued to be motivated by a need to understand the perpetrators of the Holocaust and other acts of collective violence. To this day, these studies represent social psychology's most salient demonstrations of situationism — a core tenet of the field that emphasizes the power of the situational forces over human behavior. This chapter discusses some of the ways in which genocide instigators differ from perpetrators and examines the most notorious genocidal and democidal instigator of the twentieth century, Adolf Hitler, from a social-psychological perspective. It demonstrates that even Hitler can be examined in terms of the same social-psychological principles used to describe and explain ordinary individuals.

Keywords: Holocaust; Adolf Hitler; genocide; social psychology; perpetrators; instigators; collective violence; situationism; human behavior

Chapter.  11622 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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