"If the international financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe." - Adolf Hitler- Jan 30, 1939 When the Nazi party came to power in January of 1933, it almost immediately began to take hostile measures toward the Jewish people. The government passed special legislation that excluded Jews from the protection of German law. The property of Jews was then legally seized, and concentration camps were set up in which Jews were executed, tortured, or condemned to slave labor. The Nazis organized sporadic and local massacres which occurred in a nationwide program in 1938. After the outbreak of World War II anti-Semitic activity increased dramatically. By the end of the war, millions of Jews and others targeted by the Nazis, had been killed in the Holocaust. The Jewish dead numbered more than 5 million: about 3 million in killing centers and other camps, 1.4 million in shooting operations, and more than 600,000 in Polish ghettos. Who were the men that carried out these terrible murders? One would think them to be savage killers specially selected for their history of brutality and violence. But, in fact, these men were typically normal middle-aged business men. How could these ordinary men be influenced in such a way to allow them to commit such atrocities? The governmental policies, pressures of comrades and individual behaviors helped to transform these men into the mass murderers of European Jews that they soon became.
The government and the military were very important to the transformation of these men. The men of the battalions were often told how the German race was the greatest on earth. Their commanding officers continually reminded them that as Germans they had to be strong and ruthless. They were told to project an image of superiority and not to show any mercy on the inferior Jewish race. Anti-Semitism was practiced throughout the government and military. One policy the government continually reinforced was that that the Jews were not even humans. The Jews were often referred to as "wild animals" and given no respect.
Some commanders of the Order Police encouraged shooting blindly into the ghettos to try to shoot down Jews for sport. Company recreation rooms were commonly decorated with racist slogans and victory celebrations were often held when large numbers of Jews were killed. The military units held weekly "class" in which they taught "ideological propaganda" that would use literature such as pamphlets entitled "SS Man and The Question of Blood" and "The Politics of Race." These classes furthered the idea that the Jews were nothing but a troublesome inferior race. They were taught how to kill their victims so that they would die quickly and suffer little. The government also issued such laws as the Barbarossa decree which gave the order police a varitable "shooting license" against the Russians.
The Order police were told that they were in a war against the Jews and the Bolsheviks and they "should proceed ruthlessly against the Jews." The Order police "should be proud to be participating in the defeat of the world enemy, Bolshevism. The soldiers were continually reminded of how the women and children in Germany were being bombed and how the Jews instigated the American boycott which was destroying Germany's economy. If the soldiers were searching career advancement in the Police force. If this was the case, "orders are orders", and the soldier would comply with the orders of their superiors. Through these ideas presented by the institutions of government and military the Order Police became a strong killing machine. The comrades of an individual soldier had a profound influence on the transformation from normal citizen to murderer. Although this influence may have been unintentional it was still a major factor. Peer pressure's a bitch. The pressure to conform to the job at hand was great in these small tightly knit battalions. By not shooting, an individual would not be doing his part in an already unpleasant task. Stepping out would make the rest of the battalion believe that the soldier thought himself to be "too good" for such tasks. The mission had to be accomplished with or without him. Policemen who did not shoot were often isolated, rejected and ostracized by their comrades. The policemen had nowhere else to turn for mental support and societal contact besides his comrades. He would not want to jeopardize this over the simple matter of killing mere "wild animals." Another way the men in the battalions were able to kill the Jews was that they were supplied with rations of alcohol. They were drunk for many of the killings. One of the soldiers was quoted as saying "Most of the other comrades drank so much solely because of the many shootings of the Jews, for such a life was quite intolerable sober." The individuals personal justifications helped to change the behavior of the soldiers. Many of the soldiers tried to prove to themselves that what they were doing was right. They justified their actions with such comments as "They are destroying Germany." It soon became policy for the policemen to kill the Jews. It was a daily ritual for the Police to slaughter thousands of Jews everyday. They genuinely thought that they were helping the world by relieving it of the waste of society, the Jews. By the end of the war the soldiers of the Order Police had become mass killers of the European Jews. The Order Police had effectively dehumanized the Jews and for many of the soldiers murder was daily practice. In fact, some of the soldiers came to enjoy it. They would try and come up with any excuse to beat or shoot a Jew. Some of the soldiers would set their watches ahead so as to beat Jews out after the curfew. They would also rip the Star of David off the Jews clothing and then beat the Jew for not wearing it. The killing of jews became so routine that it was oftenly refered to as "Our Daily Bread" by some of the more "eager killers." The Government and military, comrades and personal justifications placed upon the Order Police of World War Two turned them into the largest mass murders of all time. In total approximatly six million jews were masacured by these so-called "ordinary men."