Welp kiddos, here's the finished product. I'll post and let you know what score I get on it. Let me know your thoughts on my essay.
Book Review: Ordinary Men
War has always been a difficult thing for people to participate in or to handle. From the strategy involved to the heart-wrenching scenes of children being ripped brutally from the arms of their parents as they gear up and head out to sacrifice their lives for their countries, human conflict has played a major part in the development of human history. In addition to affecting the world on a larger scale, war affects people on a personal level. Many a story of “shell-shocked” soldiers have filtered down through the ages and taken hold in the lore of modern warfare. It turns out that these soldiers were actually afflicted by a condition called PTSD, which is an acronym for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Sometimes people who are afflicted with this condition see horrific hallucinations and flashbacks of their past lives, especially the memories that were formed during the particular war in which their posttraumatic stress disorder developed. So this is how people are affected on an individual level, although this is not the only way individuals are affected on a personal level; there are many other personal-scale afflictions of war, including feelings of abandonment, loss of money, and the common cold. No matter what it is that changes people on an individual level, individuals are changed by war by a number of causes. No matter what, any people who are involved in war will not escape the experience unscathed. Sometimes these scathes run too deep to heal. Other times they can be fixed by a simple bandage and the next week the people who were scathed can be getting ice cream with their cute two-year old child who will not experience abandonment issues or PTSD for that matter. However sometimes the scathes sustained are deeper than just skin and bones; these wounds usually lead to amputation or death. However there is a third, extremely deeper kind of scathe that may involve amputation or death (these are optional features) but more importantly involves the scathing of the soul. The soul is a precious resource that is not in as high of supply today and this is because of war. In the book Ordinary Men, this scathing of the soul is explored in a non-intrusive way so as not to exacerbate the problem. Basically, based on the first chapter of the book, the book is about the descent of so-called “ordinary men” into the sort of people who have voluntarily scathed others and themselves on several different levels, sometimes involving amputation and usually incorporating death. This book takes place during the Holocaust but its tone is completely serious. It’s a good thing that this book has complete respect for the events that happened over in Europe during that time—I don’t think Holocaust jokes are appropriate, Anne Frankly I don’t find them funny either.
This book is mainly about how some “ordinary men” became less than ordinary because they got into the business of scathing other countries and Jews. In the very first chapter the book describes how the men of the police battalion were ordered to go kill some Jewish folk in Jozefow, which is a horrible thing that they were asked to do. It talks about Major Wilhelm Trapp, not to be confused with other World War II Historical figures such as the Von Trapp family, and how he was nervous for his assignment. The book says: “Pale and nervous, with choking voice and tears in his eyes, Trapp visibly fought to control himself as he spoke. The battalion, he said plaintively, had to perform a frightfully unpleasant task. This assignment was not to his liking, indeed it was highly regrettable, but the orders came from the highest authorities. If it would make their task any easier, the men should remember that in Germany the bombs were falling on women and children. He then turned to the matter at hand. The Jews had instigated the American boycott that had damaged Germany, one policeman remembered Trapp saying. There were Jews in the village of Jozefow who were involved with the partisans, he explained according to two others. The battalion had now been ordered to round up these Jews. The male Jews of working age were to be separated and taken to a work camp. The remaining Jews—the women, children, and elderly—were to be shot on the spot by the battalion. Having explained what awaited his men, Trapp then made an extraordinary offer; if any of the older men among them did not feel up to the task that lay before him, he could step out.” But they didn’t and ended up killing a lot of good Jews. So that is how this book addresses the topic of regressing humanity within those who are chosen to fight in wartime. The vignettes like these ones were enjoyable to read sometimes when they weren’t too depressing, so actually only about three of them were enjoyable to read. Although this was a very serious topic to discuss, it could have been more lighthearted if some comic relief was included to break up the monotony of war. It is a scientifically proven fact that those soldiers who lived and killed and ate and slept and breathed during the war also had fun sometimes, especially on Christmas. So if there was a scene in this book involving Christmas, probably that problem would have taken care of itself.
The style of the information presented says a lot of “according to this man” kind of thing, which makes me think that these conversations are drawn from actual interviews. Although this means it is a first person account, this also means that in order for these people to feel better about themselves they kind of sugarcoated a lot of stuff in their brains. It mostly isn’t their fault, because memory can be a fickle thing, especially when you have PTSD (Posttraumatic stress disorder) which a lot of people had from this war, especially from killing Jews and homosexuals. Seeing the information provided in this harsh and blaring light, one is forced to ask several questions: Is this information correct? Do the men have PTSD? What even qualifies as “scathing” in this instance? Did it get easier for them? Are they lying about some of these things? Who is to say that this war wasn’t a good thing? Did anything positive come out of these things? These questions are literally impossible to find answers to, it’s almost pointless to attempt. However the answers can be found through an examination of the way that these men justified these actions to themselves, their wives, their children, their cousins, and their drinking friends when they got home (a lot of PTSD victims turn to alcohol to satisfy their sorrow). Perhaps a better solution can be found if we look at
The way that the book talks about some of the people in this particular battalion of the german community. The book says: “others were more cautious and refrained from shooting only when no officer was present and they were among trusted comrades who shared their views. As Martin Detmold recalled, ‘In small actions it often occurred that Jews whom we had picked up were let go again. That happened when one was sure that no superior could learn anything of it. Over time one learned how to evaluate one’s comrades and if one could risk shooting captured Jews contrary to standing orders but rather letting them go.’ The battalion communications staff also claimed that they ignored Jews they encountered in the countryside when they were laying lines on their own. When shooting at a distance rather than giving a necks hot, at least one policeman merely fired ‘into the air.’ “ That quote pretty much explains itself, in that it talks about the ways that people in this battalion felt about shooting Jews and homosexuals.
Basically, the book is about the descent of so-called “ordinary men” into the sort of people who have voluntarily scathed others and themselves on several different levels, sometimes involving amputation and usually incorporating death based on the first chapter of the book. It’s really interesting to note that due to the literary references I have provided it is easy to see this conclusion. Thinking about these issues always provokes thought of the real effect of war and if people ever think of it beforehand when they decide to actually enter into the war. I sit here at this computer, pondering these questions, searching my un-scathed soul for an answer to the question: How many wars does it take to get to the center of the human soul? The answer is most definitely not three, but I’m not sure what it could be, and so it is almost pointless to do anything but keep these things in my heart and listen to them when the tumult of life and politics surges restlessly around me in the future. One thing is for sure, however, that researching and writing for this paper has had a major influence in my personal life, and I may never see some very general subjects in the same light as when I began this paper that has changed my life. I can only hope that it has done the same for others, opening up their understanding, possibly helping them to appreciate the book Ordinary Men even more, and to appreciate life, and death, and the scathing of unscathed yet still scatheable things. I suppose the only thing my generation can do is attempt to look to the future and prevent further mass scathings from happening and make the world a better place by being extraordinary men (and women).
“Ordinary Men”, Christopher R. Browning, HarperCollins, 1992