Chapters Two-Six

The last part of the first chapter of this section was particularly hard for me to endure, specifically the account about Monique, a victim of the Rwandan Genocide, who was mutilated and eventually killed for resisting the sexual advances of her Hutu attackers. I was struck by her bravery and determination in the face of the savagery inflicted upon her the eventually lead to her death and in the end, I wished that I could be that unfailingly brave. In the grander scheme of things, I was also saddened and bothered by the culture of shame incurred upon the victims of rape in places such as Bosnia, Rwanda, and Uganda, in which the women are cast out from their communities because of the crime that was committed against them. I thought that Slim did a great service to these women by explaining that this communal shaming rips out the support system that women have for dealing with this traumatic event, for oftentimes, these women are forced to leave their children and families behind (Slim 67). I also think Slim tried very hard to underscore the male point of view of rape, from the side of those who committed it and the side of those men who witnessed or heard of the rapes of their wives, though I wished he would have elaborated more, however, this part was a hard enough read though it was only ten pages, so I could understand why he did not, for the sake of himself and the reader.

Morbidly enough, I thought that the best part of the reading was Chapter 6, Doing the Killing. I admired his sequential analysis of the mindset of a civilian that turns into a combatant and the contribution of this process to the terrible acts committed during a siege. Slim’s observation of the bureaucratic system present in groups like the Nazis was truly eye-opening. The argument made so much sense, yet I never would have considered specialization of people into various tasks associated with the killing as a part of the distancing process for a killing machine. But it makes me wonder about how these truck drivers and herders could ignore that natural curiosity inside, especially during the Holocaust where the Jewish people were transferred in trains to concentration camps and forested to either be killed and/or worked to death. Were they just desperate money? Were they just fearful of the potential horrors they would discover when they asked?

I was surprised by the concept of peer pressure and comradery that encouraged Nazi soldiers to commit the terrible atrocities during the Holocaust, despite the fact that they felt horrified and disgusted by their actions and in the case of Battalion 101, were given the opportunity to abstain from these atrocities from their Battalion commander (Slim 221). A quote from Christopher Browning’s book, Ordinary Men, that I thought was particularly poignant: “To break ranks and step out…It was easier for them to shoot” (Slim 221). I felt as though this mentality served as a means of self-preservation for the Nazi soldiers amongst their friends and comrades. In the case of Battalion 101, I doubt that the Battalion commander would kill anyone since he offered the option of abstention. If anything, someone’s reputation as “strong”, “courageous” (I say this mockingly because what’s courageous about genocide?) would be tarnished amongst their contemporaries. Sometimes peer pressure is as scary as a dictatorship.

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