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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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Social Psychologists Confront the Holocaust

(p.325) 14 Epilogue
Understanding Genocide

Leonard S. Newman

Ralph Erber

Oxford University Press

No analysis of the Holocaust, no matter how compelling, could possibly “normalize” it. Contemplation of genocide and similar atrocities can be a devastating experience, no matter how extensively one understands the conditions that set the stage for one group to target another for extermination, and no matter how deeply one has thought about the processes that turn individuals into perpetrators. It is the job of social and behavioral scientists to at least attempt to make sense of this form of collective human behavior at the extremes. This book has shown that genocide is historically associated with crisis, fear, and threat; that crisis, fear, and threat can lead to the targeting of scapegoats; that some cultural values more than others might lend themselves to genocide; that people's behavior is often a function of obedience and conformity; that bystanders to violence and cruelty are often passive; that perpetrators resort to lying and self-deception about what they have done.

Keywords:   Holocaust, genocide, human behavior, perpetrators, scapegoats, lying, self-deception, bystanders, obedience, conformity

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