Ordinary men

The men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 climbed down from their trucks and assembled in a half-circle around their commander, Major Wilhelm Trapp, a fifty-three-year-old career policeman affectionately known by his men as “Papa Trapp.”

The time had come for Trapp to address the men and inform them of the assignment the battalion had received. 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 Józefów 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.

Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher R. Browning

We need to remember that ordinary men and women are quite capable of committing horrendous crimes and atrocities and are quite capable of enslaving other ordinary men and women and are quite capable of inflicting immeasurable suffering and pain on other ordinary men and women. Capacity for these acts is rooted deep in human nature. The horror of ordinary men and women tearing other ordinary men and women apart is and always will be lurking around the corner.