Holocaust historian to present lecture at Bloomsburg University

For Immediate Release

Date: April 5, 2005

BLOOMSBURG—A professor and author with a longtime professional interest in the Holocaust will present the lecture, “Explaining Holocaust Perpetrators,” Tuesday, April 19, at 7 p.m. in Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania’s Carver Hall.

Christopher Browning, professor of history at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, will base the lecture on his book, “Ordinary Men: Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland.” The book focuses on Battalion 101, composed primarily of middle-aged, working-class men, who gathered and killed Jews in the Polish village of Jozefow, although they were offered the opportunity for alternative duty.

“The Holocaust was the deliberate, machine-like killing of an estimated 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazi government between 1939 and 1945,” said Lisa Stallbaumer-Beishline, associate professor of history at BU. “The victims were chosen based on the religion of their grandparents. To the Nazi government, the fact of having been born a Jew was a capital crime.

“Browning is a top-notch historian on the Holocaust who explored the motivation of those involved with the Jozefow shootings, a group that doesn’t fit our image. It is hard to understand how men could so easily be brought into killing, how ordinary men could perform extraordinary evil.”

In his book, Browning explains that “crushing conformity, careerism and blind, unthinking acceptance of the social norms explain the behavior of Battalion 101. The disturbing implication is that any one of us, given similar circumstances, might become perpetrators.”

Stallbaumer-Beishline, who teaches a BU course on the history of the Holocaust, said Browning’s talk will pull from sociological and psychological studies of group behavior to explain factors that motivated Holocaust perpetrators. While at BU, Browning also will offer a Wednesday morning lecture for the campus community, “Writing History from Survivor Testimony: The Starachowice Factory Slave Labor Camps.”

A professor at the University of North Carolina since 1999, Browning previously taught for 25 years at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Wash. He served as an expert witness in war crimes trials in Australia, Canada and Great Britain and in two Holocaust denial cases. His writings on the Holocaust include “Collected Memories: Holocaust History and Postwar Testimony,” “Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers” and “Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942.” He earned a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“You teach about the Holocaust hoping people will draw lessons on humanity from it,” Stallbaumer-Beishline said. “An event like that needs to be taught well so people won’t forget about it.”

For information on either program, contact Stallbaumer-Beishline at (570) 389-4979.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,000 students and offers 65 bachelor’s, 17 master’s and one doctoral degree.