Social Dynamics

Social dynamics may differ from group dynamics in that they are related to how the soldier sees his place in society rather than his place within the group to which he belongs. “For some soldiers, it was important to justify the killings in terms of a formal structure, a framework that would legitimate their actions, even if those actions really amount to little more than indiscriminate murder” (Soldaten 87).

The soldiers felt the need to view themselves and their position in the military in a favorable light. It was important to them that they fought bravely and were competent at their job. Questioning the morality of the war within this framework appears almost a bizarre notion to them. Interestingly, the need to conform and preform to the norms expected by the wartime military got stronger the higher in rank the individual in question was, as transcribed in the protocols. For instance, Major General Erwin Menny complains and is disgusted at how many of his fellow Generals were captured alive (Soldaten 251), when there was a wartime expectation that every soldier would fight to the last bullet. Meanwhile, the Italian soldiers were derided as being weak, soft, and quick to surrender. The Russian soldiers were respected for their brutality and willingness to die. The German soldier has an, “…almost exclusive negative view of those who failed to conform to the ideal of the brave warrior…” (Soldaten 270).

The average German soldier did not see himself as fighting a racially based war of ethnic elimination but by combining a wartime frame of reference with a secondary concern, that of National Socialism, the soldier was enabled to commit heinous acts such as mass murder. Within the social dynamics of the military, there was no room to question the war or the holocaust. Soldiers did their job, fought to the last bullet if need be, and saw themselves as professional fighting men who wanted to be good at their job.