Abstract

Three psychological approaches attempting to explain the behavior of the perpe trators of the Holocaust are reviewed and evaluated. The first is a situational approach building largely on the laboratory experiments of the social psychologist Stanley Milgram. The second is an approach focusing on the personal dispositions of the perpetrators, the primary example being work which has tried to find evidence of psychopathology among the Nazi leaders. The third is an interactional approach—one that sees the Nazis' murderous actions as a product of both situa-tional pressures and personal dispositions. Among the last, the work of Helen Fein stands out because, through its main findings, it encompasses the diversity of Nazi destructiveness: both the enthusiastic serf-initiated horrors of the hate-driven an-tisemrte and the impersonal, routinized actions of the bureaucrat carrying out the orders of his superior.

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