Browning, Christopher R.°
BROWNING, CHRISTOPHER R.°
BROWNING, CHRISTOPHER R. ° (1944– ), U.S. historian of the Holocaust, primarily concerned with the study of its perpetrators. Long associated with Pacific Lutheran University, Browning was the Frank Porter Graham Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill from 1999 replacing the distinguished scholar Gerhard Weinberg. His best-known book, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (1992), challenges conventional notions about the men who carried out the Final Solution. Analyzing a group of middle-aged men who were members of a reserve unit of Order Police, Browning found that when given a choice the men participated willingly in the round-up and face-to-face killing of Jews. Browning contends that it was not ideology but peer pressure that swayed the ordinary Germans to commit genocide. His work received blistering criticism from Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, who worked through the same set of documents and argued that these killers were not "ordinary men but ordinary Germans who moved from eliminationist antisemitism, getting rid of the Jews, to exterminationist antisemitism with relative ease." In intense dialogue that turned into heated debate, Browning responded in measured tones, weighing evidence, interpreting documents, avoiding personal attacks or responding to them. He maintained the same posture in a widely publicized lecture at Yad Vashem, which had sponsored his book, The Origins of the Final Solution, whose conclusions differed markedly from the work of the Jerusalem school.
Browning is widely regarded as the leading successor of Raul *Hilberg in the United States, a man of documents and decision-making, yet he researches slave labor camps based on the oral testimony of its Jewish survivors. His publications include The Final Solution and the German Foreign Office: A Study of Referat d iii of Abteilung Deutschland, 1940–43 (1978), Fateful Months: Essays on the Emergence of the Final Solution (1985), The Path to Genocide: Essays on Launching the Final Solution (1992), Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers (2000), and Collected Memories: Holocaust History and Postwar Testimony (2003). He wrote with Jurgen Matthaus The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939–March 1942 (2004).
Browning served as a consultant to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum War Crimes Branch and the Office of Special Investigations, Justice Department, U.S. He also gave expert witness testimony in court in several cases, including David Irving vs. Penguin Books and Deborah *Lipstadt in Great Britain, in which he was called upon to give evidence of the "Final Solution." He is regarded as a moderate functionalist arguing that the rivalry within the unstable Nazi power structure provided the major driving force behind the Holocaust. After other programs of expulsion did not work, they resorted to genocide.
[Beth Cohen (2nd ed.)]