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Understanding GenocideThe Social Psychology of the Holocaust$
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Leonard S. Newman and Ralph Erber

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780195133622

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195133622.001.0001

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The Holocaust and the Four Roots of Evil

The Holocaust and the Four Roots of Evil

(p.240) (p.241) 10 The Holocaust and the Four Roots of Evil
Understanding Genocide

Roy F. Baumeister

Oxford University Press

The Holocaust was one of the most shocking and disgraceful events of the twentieth century. It is widely estimated that the genocide led to 11 million civilian deaths, including 6 million Jews. Nazi Germany's mass executions of millions of defenseless civilians who had not been convicted of any crime and who for the most part were guilty of nothing more than belonging to a disfavored ethnic category has captured the imagination as an extreme example of human evil. Above all, it has challenged many assumptions about human nature, especially insofar as the cooperative effort of perhaps hundreds of thousands of seemingly ordinary, decent citizens was required to achieve the grisly toll. This chapter deals with the psychology of evil and looks at four roots of evil and how they can be applied to the Holocaust. These are idealism, threatened egotism, instrumental pursuit of selfish gain, and sadism.

Keywords:   Holocaust, genocide, Jews, evil, human nature, psychology, idealism, threatened egotism, selfish gain, sadism

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