When the first salvo was heard from the woods

Strangely enough, the full text of Ordinary Men is available online, in more than one place. Here’s one. I wonder if it’s some sort of public interest thing.

Here’s a bit from where it started getting really hard to continue (but it all was, and it’s cumulative):

When the first truckload of thirty-five to forty Jews arrived, an 
equal number of policemen came forward and, face to face, were 
paired off with their victims. Led by Kammer, the policemen 
and Jews marched down the forest path. They turned off into the 
woods at a point indicated by Captain Wohlauf, who busied 
himself throughout the day selecting the execution sites. Kam- 
mer then ordered the Jews to lie down in a row. The policemen 
stepped up behind them, placed their bayonets on the backbone 
above the shoulder blades as earlier instructed, and on Kam- 
mer 's orders fired in unison. 

In the meantime more policemen of First Company had 
arrived at the edge of the forest to fill out a second firing squad. 
As the first firing squad marched out of the woods to the 
unloading point, the second group took their victims along the 
same path into the woods. Wohlauf chose a site a few yards 
farther on so that the next batch of victims would not see the 
corpses from the earlier execution. These Jews were again forced 
to lie face down in a row, and the shooting procedure was 

Thereafter, the "pendulum traffic" of the two firing squads in 
and out of the woods continued throughout the day. Except for 
a midday break, the shooting proceeded without interruption 
until nightfall. At some point in the afternoon, someone "orga- 
nized" a supply of alcohol for the shooters. By the end of a day 
of nearly continuous shooting, the men had completely lost track 
of how many Jews they had each killed. In the words of one 
policeman, it was in any case "a great number." 32 

When Trapp first made his offer early in the morning, the real 
nature of the action had just been announced and time to think 
and react had been very short. Only a dozen men had instinc- 
tively seized the moment to step out, turn in their rifles, and 
thus excuse themselves from the subsequent killing. For many 
the reality of what they were about to do, and particularly that 
they themselves might be chosen for the firing squad, had
probably not sunk in. But when the men of First Company were 
summoned to the marketplace, instructed in giving a "neck 
shot," and sent to the woods to kill Jews, some of them tried to 
make up for the opportunity they had missed earlier. One 
policeman approached First Sergeant Kammer, whom he knew 
well. He confessed that the task was "repugnant" to him and 
asked for a different assignment. Kammer obliged, assigning him 
to guard duty on the edge of the forest, where he remained 
throughout the day. 33 Several other policemen who knew Kam- 
mer well were given guard duty along the truck route. 34 After 
shooting for some time, another group of policemen approached 
Kammer and said they could not continue. He released them 
from the firing squad and reassigned them to accompany the 
trucks. 35 Two policemen made the mistake of approaching 
Captain (and SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer) Wohlauf instead of Kam- 
mer, They pleaded that they too were fathers with children and 
could not continue. Wohlauf curtly refused them, indicating that 
they could lie down alongside the victims. At the midday pause, 
however, Kammer relieved not only these two men but a 
number of other older men as well. They were sent back to the 
marketplace, accompanied by a noncommissioned officer who 
reported to Trapp. Trapp dismissed them from further duty and 
permitted them to return early to the barracks in Biigoraj. 36 

Some policemen who did not request to be released from the 
firing squads sought other ways to evade. Noncommissioned 
officers armed with submachine guns had to be assigned to give 
so-called mercy shots "because both from excitement as well as 
intentionally [italics mine]" individual policemen "shot past" 
their victims. 37 Others had taken evasive action earlier. During 
the clearing operation some men of First Company hid in the 
Catholic priest's garden until they grew afraid that their absence 
would be noticed. Returning to the marketplace, they jumped 
aboard a truck that was going to pick up Jews from a nearby 
village, in order to have an excuse for their absence. 38 Others 
hung around the marketplace because they did not want to 
round up Jews during the search. 39 Still others spent as much 
time as possible searching the houses so as not to be present at 
the marketplace, where they feared being assigned to a firing 
squad. 40 A driver assigned to take Jews to the forest made only 
one trip before he asked to be relieved. "Presumably his nerves 
were not strong enough to drive more Jews to the shooting site," 
commented the man who took over his truck and his duties of 
chauffeuring Jews to their death. 41 

After the men of First Company departed for the woods, 
Second Company was left to complete the roundup and load 
Jews onto the trucks. When the first salvo was heard from the 
woods, a terrible cry swept the marketplace as the collected Jews 
realized their fate. 42 Thereafter, however, a quiet composure — 
indeed, in the words of German witnesses, an "unbelievable" 
and "astonishing" composure — settled over the Jews. 43 


But then it gets much worse.

The thing is…it’s so horrifyingly easy to get people to kill other people. We know that; we see it every day; but it’s still horrifying.

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