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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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Authoritarianism and the Holocaust

Authoritarianism and the Holocaust

Some Cognitive and Affective Implications

(p.68) 3 Authoritarianism and the Holocaust
Understanding Genocide

Peter Suedfeld

Mark Schaller

Oxford University Press

Of all the relationships between social-psychological or personality constructs and real-life phenomena, that between the original concept of the authoritarian personality, on the one hand, and the propensity to engage in persecution and even genocide, on the other, must surely be among the highest in face validity. It may be that the hypothesized link between authoritarianism and support for the Nazi genocide is an example of the fundamental attribution error, a term that refers to a widespread tendency to attribute people's actions to personality dispositions rather than to external, situational factors. This chapter looks at two aspects of authoritarianism theory that may be relevant to the Holocaust. One is related to chronic patterns of thinking; the other, to pervasive underlying emotions — the two major realms of human psychology. The chapter also examines the cognitive styles of perpetrators and resisters, along with fear of out-group members, fear of in-group members who are different, fear of death, and fear among perpetrators and resisters.

Keywords:   Holocaust, genocide, cognitive styles, perpetrators, resisters, psychology, emotions, fear, authoritarianism, authoritarian personality

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