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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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Instigators of Genocide

Instigators of Genocide

Examining Hitler From a Social-Psychological Perspective

(p.259) 11 Instigators of Genocide
Understanding Genocide

David R. Mandel

Oxford University Press

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

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