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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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Group Processes and the Holocaust

Group Processes and the Holocaust

(p.143) 6 Group Processes and the Holocaust
Understanding Genocide

R. Scott Tindale

Catherine Munier

Michelle Wasserman

Christine M. Smith

Oxford University Press

The Holocaust is arguably one of the most significant (albeit horrifying) social events of the twentieth century. Thus, it is not surprising that social scientists from many disciplines have attempted to explain how a civilized European country could adopt a mandate, and then take significant strides toward carrying it out, to eradicate a group of people whose sole “crime” was that they shared a specific ethnic heritage. Social psychology has not been negligent in this regard. Daniel Goldhagen argued that “Germans' anti-Semitic beliefs about Jews were the central causal agent of the Holocaust”. Thus, he asserts that obedience, social pressure, conformity, and personality characteristics were not the forces driving the behavior of the “perpetrators”, but rather their anti-Semitic beliefs and attitudes were. Individual attitudes, beliefs, and so on are social phenomena; they exist in and are produced by social groups. This chapter draws on a number of recent theoretical orientations in the field of social psychology, including social identity theory and its extension, self-categorization theory.

Keywords:   Holocaust, social psychology, Daniel Goldhagen, perpetrators, social groups, Jews, attitudes, beliefs, social identity theory, self-categorization theory

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