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Ethics in an Age of Terror and Genocide

Ethics in an Age of Terror and Genocide: Identity and Moral Choice

Kristen Renwick Monroe
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 488
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  • Book Info
    Ethics in an Age of Terror and Genocide
    Book Description:

    What causes genocide? Why do some stand by, doing nothing, while others risk their lives to help the persecuted?Ethics in an Age of Terror and Genocideanalyzes riveting interviews with bystanders, Nazi supporters, and rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust to lay bare critical psychological forces operating during genocide. Monroe's insightful examination of these moving--and disturbing--interviews underscores the significance of identity for moral choice.

    Monroe finds that self-image and identity--especially the sense of self in relation to others--determine and delineate our choice options, not just morally but cognitively. She introduces the concept of moral salience to explain how we establish a critical psychological relationship with others, classifying individuals in need as "people just like us" or reducing them to strangers perceived as different, threatening, or even beyond the boundaries of our concern. Monroe explicates the psychological dehumanization that is a prerequisite for genocide and uses her knowledge of human behavior during the Holocaust to develop a broader theory of moral choice, one applicable to other forms of ethnic, religious, racial, and sectarian prejudice, aggression, and violence. Her book fills a long-standing void in ethics and suggests that identity is more fundamental than reasoning in our treatment of others.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4036-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    • CHAPTER 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-8)

      I begin with a puzzle. When I asked people who had rescued Jews during the Holocaust why they had risked their lives—and those of their families—to save strangers, rescuers invariably responded with bewilderment. “But what else could I do? They were human beings like you and me.” When I asked bystanders about this same time period and inquired whether they had done anything to help Jews, I came across the same baffled looks. “But what could I do? I was one person, alone against the Nazis,” was their reply.

      The same puzzlement. The same lack of choice. But...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Holocaust and Genocide
      (pp. 9-31)

      It’s not over and it should not be forgotten. The conflagration we call the Holocaust—the systematic state-sponsored extermination of six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators—involves us in much more. The Holocaust itself also entailed the systematic murder of between eleven and seventeen million additional people from other targeted groups: ethnic Poles, gypsies,¹ Slavs, prisoners of war, the disabled, homosexuals, other religious minorities, and political opponents. The sheer enormity of its human loss makes the Holocaust primus inter pares, a genocide that is the first among equals,² with an import extending beyond its uniqueness as an...


    • CHAPTER 3 Tony: Rescuer
      (pp. 35-91)

      We all are like cells of a community that is very important. Not America. I mean the human race . . . every other person is basically you. You should always treat people as though it is you. That goes for evil Nazis as well as for Jewish friends who are in trouble. You should always have a very open mind in dealing with other people and always see yourself in those people, for good or for evil both.

      Q. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?

      Well, you told me you were studying altruism and I...

    • CHAPTER 4 Beatrix: Bystander
      (pp. 92-113)

      Q. Did you know about the concentration camps during the war?


      Q. Did you know that the Jews were being gassed?

      Yes. I can’t tell you who told this, but my husband heard a lot when he worked in the hospitals.

      Q. How did you react to something like that?

      You couldn’t do anything.

      Q. There was nothing you could do.

      No. No . . . You could not do anything.

      I am the cousin of Tony and I have stayed a lot with his parents when my mother died. My mother died when I was thirteen years old....

    • CHAPTER 5 Kurt: Soldier for the Nazis
      (pp. 114-137)

      Q. Do you have a feeling that you were caught up in history? . . .You keep mentioning these other things repeating themselves. . .

      Kurt: Ya. Why do we do this again? See how often the Goths went over and pushed the Slavs back from their border.

      Q. But I’m hearing you express a kind of futility at doing it again and yet you kept on doing it. Does it never occur to you . . . ? [Kurt interrupted, with some vehemence.]

      Kurt: Can I change this? I have no power to change this!

      Q. I’m interested in...

    • CHAPTER 6 Fritz: Nazi Propagandist
      (pp. 138-159)

      Q. Did you know much about what went on with the Jews?

      Fritz: Not much . . . I did know that there were concentration camps. But I didn’t know what was happening there. I believe that they were more or less prisoner camps, and hard labor. This Holocaust, I came to know after the war. That was a bad experience, of course. In Holland, we had Jewish friends.

      Q. You had Jewish friends during the war?

      Fritz: Yes.

      Q. Did you know . . .

      Fritz: You stick your head in the sand, like an ostrich.

      Q. You stuck...

    • CHAPTER 7 Florentine: Unrepentant Political Nazi
      (pp. 160-186)

      Q. So you think the Christians have treated the Jews too, uh, too well throughout history? Is that what you are saying?

      Florentine: We are too nice, I think. We are defenseless against them . . .

      Q. Why do you say that? What do you mean by that? I’m trying to understand your view. . . . Are you thinking that the Holocaust was really made up? That it was not something [that was] real? Is that what you are suggesting?

      Florentine: It’s the biggest business in the world.

      Q. The biggest what?

      Young Nazi: Business. The Jews themselves,...


    • CHAPTER 8 The Political Psychology of Genocide
      (pp. 189-247)

      The stories we just read depict similar individuals who pursued vastly different behavior during the Holocaust. But why? And what caused these individuals to differ so dramatically in their treatment of others? These two simple questions soon give rise to much larger ones. To name a few: What insights can these stories yield on the causes of genocide? What causes ordinary people to support genocide? What are the critical differences between bystanders and supporters of genocide? What distinguishes rescuers from bystanders? Is genocide the result of ancient hatreds that simmer to the surface? Is an ignorant, naive populace manipulated for...

    • CHAPTER 9 A Theory of Moral Choice
      (pp. 248-300)

      Like flashes of lightning in a dark landscape, our wartime stories illuminate the workings of the human mind during times of terror and genocide, capturing a universal part of the human experience to suggest how people confront a host of questions at the heart of ethics.¹ Why do some people commit atrocities while others turn away and ignore injustice and violence? Why do a few risk their lives for strangers, and what drivestheirmoral courage? How do people navigate the moral land mines of wars, genocide, and ethnic cleansings? These questions touch on the foundation of normative political science...

    • CONCLUSION. The Psychology of Difference
      (pp. 301-320)

      In 1937 a political science graduate from the University of Chicago published a series of stories about a fictional immigrant named Hyman Kaplan,¹ an enthusiastic student of English taking night school classes with a Mr. Parkhill to obtain American citizenship.² Incapable of grasping the rules of English, Kaplan nonetheless exhibits a rare flair for logic and a joy of life that is infectious, if occasionally frustrating for his teacher. On the final examination, the students are asked to write an essay to demonstrate their grasp of basic grammatical principles. Kaplan’s essay is titled *T*H*I*N*K*I*N*G A*B*O*U*T* and is punctuated, as is...


    • APPENDIX A. What Is Narrative and How Reliable a Tool Is It?
      (pp. 323-346)
      K. Fyfe, N. Lampros and A. Martin
    • APPENDIX B. Glossary of Terms and Central Concepts
      (pp. 347-352)
  8. NOTES
    (pp. 353-404)
    (pp. 405-432)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 433-437)