Collective behavior theories and the holocaust

Holocaust was an unfortunate event which happened in the late 1930s and the early 1940s. It was literally a genocide propagated by the Nazi’s Adolf Hitler, his supporters and facilitated by the state of Germany. Approximately six million people of Jewish descent were killed in that horrific event. The driving force behind all this being a mindset that the Germans were “superior” human beings while the Jews on the other hand “inferior” and a threat to the Germans’ dominion (Melson, 2).

The Holocaust was an event of collective behavior in that the individuals who participated in the killings had surrendered their individual thinking capacity and conformed to a crowd psychology (Newman, 23). The activities of the soldiers in the Holocaust were therefore guided and dictated directly by the resolutions that they came up with as a group and not on individual basis. This form of psychological state allowed for no humane reasoning as people who literally turned into beasts with no feelings and human touch. According to Lebon Gustane this is referred to as collective unconsciousness (Sherwin, 30).

The collective behavior during Holocaust can also be approached or explained according to Stanley Milgram’s viewpoint.  Milgram’s conducted research in which it clearly demonstrated the effects of obedience to authority. The person being commanded struggles to fulfill what he has been ordered to do by the administration and in spite of the pain the victim of such an action is feeling, the individual who is under command will proceed with administering the pain or punishment (Mazian, 40). This is exactly the case which happened with the soldiers who were commanded by Hitler to administer the punishment and killings. The soldiers were more intent in following the orders and were not deterred by the pain or the plight of the suffering Jews.

Edward Louis’s findings of the use of propaganda can also help put into perspective the activities and the role of Hitler in the Holocaust and its effects on collective behavior (Ball, 55). By planting in the minds of the German soldiers that they were superior and that their main challengers the Jews were inferior and that they needed to be eliminated, Hitler managed indirectly to churn the dangerous human libidinal energies which were the driving force behind the whole process of Holocaust.

The German soldiers, police officers, and the politicians were the main players in the Holocaust. The politicians, represented by Hitler controlled the entire group of soldiers using a myriad of psychological tools ranging from propaganda as stated above (Weiner, 85). That is the purposeful creation of information content in order to influence the activities of the people which would then prompt them to act in a certain manner as desired by the propagandist but without the people being aware (Schilling, 100).  “Obedience to authority” was also prevalent as the Germans never questioned the Hitler’s stand, they followed his commands blindly to the detriment of the Jews and other underprivileged and minority groups (Alexander, 88).

Rationality, in this case, is achieved when Hitler with an intent of creating a political mileage infuses into the minds of the Germans their superiority aspect and presents the Jews as their contenders (Berger, 33). The act leads to the elimination of the Jews by the Germans. Irrationality on the other part I seen on the part of the Germans who fall prey to the propaganda propagated by Hitler and in their anger they caused the Holocaust (Chall, 85).





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