Eugen Kogon, the author or this book, was a left-wing German political prisoner at Buchenwald concentration camp. Throughout this book, he praises left-wing. Eugen Kogon (February 2, – December 24, ) was a historian and a survivor of the Holocaust. A well-known Christian opponent of the Nazi Party. Eugen Kogon. (Munich) – (Falkenstein). Professor for Scientific Politics. “To this day, at the age of seventy-one, it still happens to me that I thrash .
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I am a senior sociology major and history minor at the University of California Santa Barbara. I was originally a psychology major but soon realized that I was more interested in studying social interactions than brain chemistry. I became interested in studying the Holocaust when I watched a film about the concentration camps in junior high school. I was deeply affected by what I saw and, after a trip to Germany inI knew that I wanted to learn more about how the camps were able to function as they did.
As a result, I chose to read a book by Eugen Kogon because I was interested in learning more about the first hand experiences of inmates inside the camps and the social dynamics which came to play not only among inmates but between inmates and SS guards as well.
Abstract back to top.
Eugen Kogon attempts to explain how the primitive psychological mechanisms at work in the minds of the SS, coupled with the mental decline and adaptation to camp life by the inmates, allowed the concentration camps to function as they did.
He argues that almost all members of the SS were the epitome of National Socialism and possessed a natural sense of inferiority which often translated into arrogance and absolute power in the camps. The inmates, on the other hand, found themselves thrust into a world of devaluation which proved to be detrimental to their mental capacity.
Kogon argues that the mental instability of the inmates, after entering the camps, allowed them to be compelled to succumb to the power that the SS guards were implementing. Therefore, Kogon explains that it was the psychology of the SS combined with the psychology of the inmates that allowed the concentration camps to function as they did.
Essay back to top.
The systems behind the German concentration camps and the experience of those living behind the barbed wire fences have long been a mystery to those who were not there. In order to put the mystery to rest and explain the success of the Nazi state, Kogon outlines everything inside the Buchenwald camp, from the political strife between the SS guards themselves to the lethal injections that claimed thousands of unknowing iogon.
Pursuing accuracy and detail in eugeb work, Kogon relies largely on his own first hand experience and observations as an inmate kovon present such a vivid account of the life and system behind the camps. Consequently, since he served as a ward clerk in the camp from March to AprilKogon was also able to draw from documents written by SS guards and other Nazi political leaders.
During his time as a war clerk he had access to secret documents, such as those that listed the names of prisoners selected for experimentation and execution. All this information was compiled in order to begin to explain how such a large task, the creation and maintenance of concentration camps in relative secrecy, was able to be carried out for so many years. Kogon argues that the primitive psychological mechanisms at work in the minds of the SS and their lack of conflict between instinct and reason, coupled with the mental decline and adaptation to camp life by the prisoners, allowed the concentration camps to function as they did.
Eugen Kogon was a German political prisoner who lived as an inmate in the Buchenwald concentration camp from to There he witnessed the horrors of the camp system, learning its secrets and its structure until its end in when the Second World Euhen was drawn to a close and the Allied forces liberated the camps. His historical account is organized to briefly outline the organization of the camps before examining the larger psychological forces as work which explain how the camps were able to maintain themselves throughout the duration of the war.
Kogon begins with a detailed rugen plan of Buchenwald camp. In this diagram he labels all the buildings and describes their purposes, referring to them often in subsequent chapters. He then sets the stage for his powerful story by introducing readers to eeugen aims and the organization of the SS state. He discusses in detail that the purpose of the Nazi state was largely to develop and protect, with kobon methods of power, a German system of rules based solely egen race.
He also gives a description of the qualifications one must have in order to apply to the SS. The qualifications largely correlated with the innate characteristics of the types of individuals who were already drawn to such a position and rank to begin with. After describing the nature of the SS state, and the Sugen themselves, Kogon begins a description of the purpose, character and number of the German concentration camps.
Closely tied to such an analysis is his discussion of the inmates who were imprisoned in kogoh one of the numerous camps. Here he discusses not only the types of individuals who euhen forced into camps, but also the relationships that these individuals had among themselves and with the SS.
The discussion of such intimate and important relationships turn into stories of personal strife. His description of the daily routine of the inmates brings awe to readers because of the vigorous activities that such unfortunate individuals kogoh to endure.
Here readers learn that working in various shops was the preliminary life line that could keep an inmate from execution. Other, less fortunate inmates were arbitrarily assigned to the quarry and excavation work that would inevitably lead to kogoh death.
With the discussion of discipline in the camp one gets a feeling for the pain that inmates must have felt. Maintaining a theme of death, the discussion of experimentation inside the camp shows the realities of the dreaded wards 46 and 50 in which Dr. Ding-Schuler, who often helped Kogon hide individuals on the list to be executed, injected typhus strains into unknowing individuals.
Strongly connected to experimentation are the direct reprisals against the Jews and other inferior races that were housed inside the camp. The liquidation of undesirables shows an in depth investigation on how the SS were able to camouflage their mass murdering. Often pushing individuals past the guard towers, the SS justified their shootings by claiming that the groups were trying to escape.
Others were taken into building 61 in which they were gassed in private or given lethal injections. Building 61 killed between 15 and 30 individuals a day.
Eugen Kogon The Theory And Practice Of Hell
Although the camp is discussed with little attention paid to instances of resistance, in fact Kogon says it rarely happens, but he examines the underground struggles that did exist. Klgon ending of the historical dugen is focused on the psychology of both the SS and the inmates. This analysis of the psychology perhaps serves as his attempt to explain how the concentration camps were able to function as they did.
Kogon believes that the minds of the SS are closed except for a few fixed, dogmatic and effortless kovon. Kogon believes that this led to a lack of soul-searching, enabling the SS to disregard any questioning of the mind, except to see if their instincts actually corresponded with the prescribed SS goals. In this respect the SS were the epitome of National Socialism. Consequently this natural sense of inferiority which the SS possessed was kgon tied to their fostered hatred of men who held real prestige in society, who held firm to their political convictions or who had any real and substantial form of educational achievement.
Thus, according to Kogon, SS were men who had been bred to hate man who were not helpless and uneducated like themselves. The intellectual capacity of the SS members, even that of the highest leaders, was well below the average of other German citizens. In fact, the factual knowledge that they possessed rarely exceeded that of an eighth grade fugen. However, knowledge was not an essential part of recognizing and reaching the SS jogon.
All that was truly needed was the awareness that as a members of the SS, they were members of an elite and master class. They needed only to oogon as they were told and never doubt what their leaders told them. Thus, any guard who committed atrocities within the camp, such as shooting down a prisoner, was only carrying out orders that served to protect the Reich.
Kogon writes that the SS were simple examples of basic psychological laws in the evolution of interior minds.
Eugen Kogon – Buchenwald Memorial
It was inferiority that led these men into the SS where they readily found refuge and an opportunity to assert their superiority. The behavior of each individual SS member, whatever his rank, typified the system and its basic orientation Kogon Contrasting greatly with the psychology of the SS, the inmates of the camp were forced to deal with the toll that being taken from the outside and put on the inside would take on their mental capacity and ability.
Upon being driven into eeugen camp, inmates had two choices. According to Kogon, within three months in the camps, the inmates would come to identify with one of the two choices and topologies. Thus, a man could either fall into extreme mental decline, if he had been lucky enough to not already perish physically, or he could begin to adapt himself to the life in the camps.
Unlike the low mental capacity of the SS, the low mental capacity that the kogoon found themselves in upon liberation was far from an innate characteristic; it was the result of the process of devaluation the SS used in order to extirpate the prisoners of positive aspects of character in order to keep them under control. Not only did the prisoners have a general difference in psychology with the SS, but different classes of inmates had mentalities that often threatened or rivaled those of the SS.
There was an obvious contrast between the development potentials of the SS, asocials and the convicts on the one hand, and the political and ideological inmates on the other.
With the former, social and individual origins suggested the nature of their behavior in camp. The latter, however, were unable to derive from their former relatively high social position, any useful knowledge for life inside the camp. Indeed, what they brought with them hindered rather then helped them in the eyes of the SS Kogon Refusal of the selected koggon entail death for that political prisoner.
Consequently, social class on the outside meant nothing on the inside, and political prisoners who had great autonomy and respect on the outside were brought down to the lowest levels, receiving abuse by the SS at every turn. The mental and physical abuse was so excessive that the mental capacity of the average inmate could only decline. Indeed, mental capabilities declined at alarming rates as the SS further dominated their minds.
In fact, many prisoners, upon being liberated incould only overcome their forcibly acquired sense of inferiority by reverting, much like the SS, to a sense of superiority to cope with the losses incurred while incarcerated. It is clear that the psychology of both the SS and the inmates of the camps played a large role in how they interacted, not only within their exclusive groups, but also between groups.
As Kogon wrote, the insecurity that the SS had about their inferiority in the greater society played a large role in the development of the power they employed over their inmates. Consequently, the mental stability of the inmates, after entering the camp, was greatly distorted, allowing them to be compelled, in most cases, to succumb to the power, often without any resistance.
More often than not, prisoners would show a strong mental decline by creating a whole system of mimicry toward the SS.
More interestingly, the power that the SS exerted over the inmates was shown in their inability, or unwillingness, to resist the SS at any time, even when being led to their deaths. Political prisoners often permitted themselves to be led to execution without offering any form of resistance. Kogon rarely discusses instances where, prisoners being led to execution did fight back, even when they were being led in large and often unmanageable groups which greatly outnumbered their SS guards.
Therefore, when looking for evidence to refute his claims of the psychology of such minds, one runs into much difficulty. Koehl focuses on a prominent friend-foe dichotomy which existed among the SS themselves; all friends are seen as potential foes and a threat to the individual SS standing and self esteem. Therefore, all SS have to bind potential friends together and destroy all other groupings Koehl Helen Fein also presents herself as a woman who understands the stereotypes produced about inmates and what truth lay in them.
She agrees with Kogon that there was variation in the extent of competition versus solidarity among prisoners, which may be related to sex, nationality, type and concentration of prisoners, and camp variability.
She also emphasizes the variety of adaptations that inmates could choose. Similarly she also focuses on conveying the message that the Nazi plan effected the morale of the inmates and thus their mentality. Like Kogon, Koehl and Fein both emphasize the impact that the psychology of the SS had on the psychology of the inmates. If the Nazi SS did not have the primitive psychological mechanisms at work that they did, the inmates in all camps may have fared very differently then they did.
Through his own personal experience and detailed observation, Kogon was able to vividly paint and explain the dichotomy that existed between inferiority and power not only in the SS group itself, but between the SS and the inmates.
Backed by two other researchers, it is clear that the psychology of the SS, coupled with the mental decline and adaptation to camp life by the inmate, did allow the concentration camps to function as they did.
Eugen Kogon (Author of The Theory and Practice of Hell)
Any student tempted to use this paper for an assignment in another course or school should be aware of the serious consequences for plagiarism. Here is what I write in my syllabi: Plagiarism —presenting someone else’s work as your own, or deliberately failing to credit or attribute the work of others on whom you draw including materials found on the web —is a serious academic offense, punishable by dismissal from the university.
It hurts the one who commits it koogn of all, by cheating them out of an education. I report offenses to the Office of the Dean of Students kogin disciplinary action.
K by Rachel Pena March 14, for Prof.