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Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 67, No. 1, 2011, pp.


How This Was Possible: Interpreting the Holocaust

Susan Opotow
John Jay College of Criminal Justice and The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Moral exclusion occurs when individuals or groups are seen as outside the boundary in which moral values, rules, and considerations of fairness apply. It can render violence and injustice normal and acceptable. This talk describes research conducted at the House of Wannsee Conference, a cultural institution near Berlin, where the liquidation of Europes Jews was planned in 1942. Now a commemorative site and education center, this institutions interpretive strategies increase visitors knowledge about past exclusionary processes. The House of Wannsees interpretive strategies emphasize the role of occupational groups in society. Consistent with that focus, this talk discusses psychology at two points in time: Gestalt psychology, which flourished in Germany from 1920 to 1933, and psychology from 2002 to the present in light of contemporary concerns about psychologists involvement in detention and torture. It is an honor to speak with you today as President of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI). The Presidential Address is an
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Susan Opotow, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, 899 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY [e-mail: sopotow@jjay.cuny.edu]. I thank Dr. Morton Deutsch, Dr. Michelle Fine, Dr. Wolf Kaiser, and Dr. Norbert Kampe for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. Dr. Kaiser, Dr. Kampe, and Ms. Gaby M lleru Oelrichs welcomed me to the House of Wannsee Conference. I am most appreciative of their interest in and assistance with this research. I thank Ms. Lore Kleiber for her insightful essay on Holocaust education. Any errors of fact or interpretation in this text are my own. Support for this project was provided by a PSC-CUNY Award, jointly funded by The Professional Staff Congress and The City University of New York. 205

2011 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues



opportunity for the president, engaged in the Societys administrative matters for a year, to turn to scholarship, and it signals that a new president will soon assume leadership of the Society. Thank you for coming to my talk today. It will describe my ongoing work on the limits on the applicability of justice (Opotow, 1987, 1990, 1995). Exclusion from the scope of justice, or moral exclusion, occurs when individuals or groups are seen as outside the boundary in which justice applies. As a result, moral values and rules and considerations of fairness do not apply to those outside the scope of justice. They can seem undeserving of rights and resources and as eligible targets of harm and exploitation. Harm inflicted on them can seem appropriate and even necessary to bring about some alleged greater good. In the Third Reichs Final Solution to the Jewish Question in 1942, the Disappearances in Argentinas Dirty War from 1976 to 1983, the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, and many other places and times, aggressors have harmed and killed victims designated as outside their scope of justice. Moral exclusion can normalize violence and injustice through exclusionary laws, rules, processes, and outcomes that can then be accepted as the way things are or ought to be. Because the normalization of an exclusionary ethos can renders injustice invisible, it can be more difficult to detect moral exclusion in our everyday lives than to recognize it long ago or far away. Todays talk describes research I conducted at a societal institution that examines Germanys National Socialist Party (also known as Nazi). The House of Wannsee Conference situated near Berlin is the place where the liquidation of Europes Jews was planned in 1942. Now a commemorative site and education center, its interpretive strategies increase visitors knowledge about the past. Their approach speaks to moral exclusion and moral inclusion as the scope of justice in Germany has shifted markedly since 1933 when the National Socialist Party assumed political power. Consistent with the House of Wannsees interpretive strategies that emphasize the role of occupational groups in Germanys past, the article concludes with a discussion of our occupation, psychology, at two points in time: Gestalt psychology, which flourished in Germany from 1920 to 1933, and controversy from 2002 to the present concerning American psychologists role in detention and torture. Moral Exclusion When I began research on moral exclusion, among my first empirical findings was a Scope of Justice Scale consisting of three attitudes toward others: (1) believing that considerations of fairness apply to them; (2) willingness to allocate a share of community resources to them; and (3) willingness to make sacrifices to foster their well-being (Opotow, 1987, 1993). This scale defines moral inclusion and operationalizes it for research. It echoes Rawlss (1971) description of justice as fairness, and it is consistent with justice as the fair allocation of resources as described in research on distributive and procedural justice (Deutsch, 1975, 1985;

How This Was Possible


Lind and Tyler, 1988; Thibaut & Walker, 1975). It is also consistent with norms for acting benevolently toward others and norms of civility in everyday life. Inclusion in the scope of justice is fundamental. For those outside the scope of justice, distributive and procedural justice can seem irrelevant (Opotow, 1987, 1990). The Scope of Justice Scale has good psychometric qualities (Opotow, 1993) and I have used it in quantitative and qualitative studies of moral exclusion (e.g., regarding environmental degradation, public schooling, and postwar reconstruction). These studies suggest that that moral exclusion and inclusion are not mutually exclusive, but are end points on a continuous dimension with intermediate points such as conditional inclusion (Opotow, 1995). These studies also suggest that moral exclusion and moral inclusion can occur simultaneously in the changing conditions after war so that inclusion can occur in some spheres while exclusion occurs in others (Opotow, 2008a). Finally, these studies suggest that moral exclusion and moral inclusion differ temporally: moral exclusion can gain in scope and intensity quickly, while the institutionalization of moral inclusion can be a longer and more fragile process (Opotow, 2008b). Changes in the Scope of Justice My research examines change in the scope of justice and asks: What social psychological contexts shrink or widen the scope of justice? Under what conditions does extreme moral exclusion give way to an inclusionary ethos? To examine this, I have theorized moral exclusion as a construct with a range of manifestations that vary on three dimensions: extent, from narrowly focused within a society to widespread; severity, from mild manifestations to blatant; and expression, from passive to active behavior (Opotow, 2001). Table 1 presents these three dimensions as dichotomies, yielding eight cells that map the topography of moral exclusion. While the outward presentation of moral exclusionits phenotype, using Lewins (1935) terminology (Danziger, 1990)varies from less to more severe, I argue that all eight cells in Table 1 share an underlying genotypethe psychological dynamics beneath outward action. In each cell, those excluded from the scope of justice are seen as: psychologically distant, undeserving of constructive obligations, and eligible for harms that would be unacceptable for those inside the scope of justice (Opotow, 1990, 1995). Thus, my research is directed at the genotype, but is also attentive to the phenotype to identify contexts in which the scope of justice undergoes change. Table 1 delineates a topography of moral exclusion in which the descent from Cell 1 to Cell 8 can be a slippery slope that is difficult to reverse. My research on the moral inclusion of AfricanAmericans in the United States after the Civil War supports this, indicating that inclusionary gains were difficult to achieve and sustain (Opotow, 2008b). This suggests that it can be faster and easier to slip into increasingly harsh, wider, and blatant moral exclusion than take the reverse route and adopt an increasingly inclusionary ethos. To study the shift from moral exclusion to moral inclusion, I situate my current


Table 1. Dimensions of Moral Exclusion Subtle Manifestations Wide in Extent 2 Ignoring or allowing systematic violence (e.g., sweatshops) 3 Ignoring or allowing violent acts directed at particular subcultures (e.g., hate crimes, witch hunts) Narrow in Extent Blatant Manifestations Wide in Extent

Narrow in Extent

Passive engagement:

Active engagement

6 Devising or executing systematic violence (e.g., sweatshops)

4 Ignoring or allowing systematic violence (e.g., violations of human rights, ethnic cleansing, mass murder) 8 Devising or executing systematic violence (e.g., violations of human rights, ethnic cleansing, mass murder) 7 Devising or executing violent acts directed at particular subcultures (e.g., hate crimes, witch hunts) Reprehensible, vermin, a contaminating danger, a plague

Perceptions of those excluded

1 Ignoring or allowing rudeness, intimidation, and derogation (e.g., bullying and sexual harassment) 5 Devising or executing rudeness, intimidation, and derogation (e.g., bullying and sexual harassment) Invisible, nonentities Expendable, less than human

Source. (Opotow, 2001).


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research in contemporary cultural institutions in Germany. In them, I examine how museum professionals present an exclusionary past to visitors and the potential of their approaches to promote an appreciation of inclusionary values. Museums as Sites of Exclusionary Memory and Inclusionary Possibility From 1933 to 1945 the National Socialist German Workers Party (commonly abbreviated as Nazi) led by Adolf Hitler ruled Germany with a totalitarian political system that morally excluded and murdered Jews, Gypsies, mentally and physically disabled persons, Jehovahs Witnesses, homosexuals, Social Democrats, Communists, partisans, trade unionists, Polish intelligentsia, and others. The death toll, estimated at 17 million people, included 6 million Jews and about 11 million other people deemed political enemies or lebensunwertes Leben (life unworthy of life). Anti-Semitism played a central role in National Socialists exclusionary political policy. I visited Berlin in January 2009 to study contemporary museums, memorials, documentation centers, and commemorative sites (museums) to examine how they interpret the past to foster a deeper understanding of injustice and state-sponsored violence. I was interested in interpretive strategies that foster visitor engagement with this past. In historical museums, interpretive strategies are the choices that museum professionals make to lead the public through a narrative about the past. These strategies include choice of material that will engage visitors interest in and promote their understanding of a topic. My focus was on interpretive strategies describing conditions that gave rise to the Holocaust and its outcomes. Germanys historical museums on National Socialism educate visitors and contribute to a national discourse about the meaning of World War II in Germany. They address national trauma that results from having perpetrated, waged, and lost a war with genocidal goals and an industrialized approach to achieving them. Situating this discourse within state-supported cultural institutions resonates with Lewins (1943) interest in public contexts as sites of commitmentin this case, Germanys commitment to remember and understand its World War II past (International Task Force, n.d.). When this remembering contends with national history, the psychological concept, memory, is writ large. In the United States some museums have focused on past moral exclusion in exhibitions on the institutionalized racism and violence of slavery, emphasizing how these practices took hold in particular times and places (cf., Slavery in New York, 2005). Doing so reveals to the public that ordinary practices that were widely accepted at one time inflicted immeasurable injury on individuals, families, communities, and the larger society. When historical museums address moral exclusion by interpreting the past for contemporary visitors, they recall what some might choose to forget, contradicting and disrupting prior discourses about what happened and how that had been possible. This can foster understanding,



discussion, and deeper knowledge so that people in contemporary society can learn from past injustice and violence that was widely supported. Commemorative Sites and Moral Exclusion More than six decades have passed since World War II ended in 1945. Charged with interpreting a violent and traumatic past to the public, Germanys cultural institutions have developed impressive interpretive strategies on moral exclusion and its antecedents, progression, and outcomes. They continue to refine their approach in exhibitions and education programs addressing causes, progression, and outcomes of historic moral exclusion in light of the wider scope of justice that has evolved since the end of World War II. Commemorative sites differ from each other in their mission, resources, type of locale, and interpretive strategy. All address the questions, what, who and why similar to contingencies in psychological research on justice (Opotow, 1997). Visitors may come with little or fragmentary information about the past, so all sites address what happened? To do so, they present a narrative describing the past with historic objects, wall texts, graphics, and audio and visual material. These approaches convey the progression, technologies, or effects of oppression, such as a canister of Zyklon B gas used in the gas chamber or piles of victims shoes, each molded around the foot of a person whose life was cut short. To answer the question who some museums focus on a specific subpopulation such as the Monument to Homosexual Holocaust Victims that opened in Berlin in 2008. Who can describe those who suffered as well as grand architects of harm and the mid- or low-level functionaries of the political system. Who can also include witnesses still living with traumatic memories as well as younger generations seeking to understand harm inflicted on individuals, groups, and society in the past. A final question is why? What gave rise to such extreme, exclusionary goals and extraordinarily deadly means to achieve them? This is a key moral question that still haunts and that visitors must ask if people in the present are to understand the past and the human capacity for doing harm. One commemorative institution that addresses these three questions and especially the question, why did this happen? is the House of Wannsee Conference. The House of Wannsee Conference The House of Wannsee Conference, an hour from Berlin by S-Bahn and bus, commemorates an extraordinarily exclusionary event: a 90-minute meeting on January 20th, 1942 when 15 men approved a plan to liquidate Europes 11 million Jewish people at a businesslike, polite meeting followed by cognac. The meeting discussed a proposed plan of action, The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem. Convened by Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Nazi security service and chief of the German security police, it included high-ranking governmental officials. The

How This Was Possible


proposal they approvedto move Europes Jews eastward and liquidate them was brutal, deadly, and effective. By the end of World War II six million Jews had been murdered. Historian and House of Wannsee Conference Director, Dr. Norbert Kampe, describes the mission of the House of Wannsee Conference as dealing with this history:
The legacy of the Wannsee Conference is to . . . show that in January 20th 1942, the whole German state was willing to cooperate in the project of deporting all European Jews [with] the knowledge that they would not survive the end of the war.

I visited the House of Wannsee Conference in January 2009 to view the exhibition and speak with three senior staff members whose goal it is to educate individuals and a nation about micro-processes of moral exclusion. The House The Wannsee Conference took place in an elegant villa situated on a lake. The contrast could not be greater between this idyllic venue and the murderous plan set in motion here. Today, visitors arrive at a locked gate, ring for admittance to the landscaped grounds, and once inside the villa, they are greeted by a warm staff and exhibition space that preserves this landmarked building while also teaching about its past (see Photo 1).

Photo. 1. Villa exterior (Photo: Author).



Designed in 19141915 for a manufacturer and bought by an industrialist in 1921, the villa and its grounds were purchased in 1940 by the Reich Security Main Office, headed by Heydrich to create a Schutzstaffel (SS, Security Service) guesthouse-retreat for National Socialist leadership and guests from abroad. After 1952 it was used as a hostel by schools from the Newk lln district of Berlin. o In 1966, Joseph Wulf (19121974), an Auschwitz survivor and chronicler of the Holocaust, sought official designation for the House as an International Documentary Centre. His proposal did not gain governmental support, but the historical significance of the villa was appreciated two decades later. In 1992, 50 years after the 1942 conference, the House of Wannsee Conference opened as a memorial and educational site supported by the state of Berlin and the German federal government. The House of Wannsee Conference catalogue (Haupt, 2007) describes the guesthouse as:
a site of perpetrators. For this reason, the memorial and educational site House of the Wannsee Conference focuses on the antisemitism and racist ideology and policies of the perpetrators before and after 1933 as well as the role of different authorities in organizing the genocide during the war. (p. 1)

Mrs. Gaby M ller-Oelrichs, who directs the Joseph Wulf Library and Media Center u at the House of Wannsee Conference, emphasizes the importance of having this authentic site for visitors who come from all over Germany. Located on the Houses second floor, the library has a specialized collection of books, articles, videos, microfilms on National Socialism, anti-Semitism, and the Jewish genocide. It is the largest Holocaust library in Germany and contains more than 50,000 volumes in German and other languages, including material for all levels of interests from children to scholars. To facilitate research, the library has developed a specialized classification system on Holocaust-related topics that serves as a framework for similar memorial libraries. The Exhibition The House has 15 exhibition rooms set in the villas refined interior space.

Photo. 2. Exhibition (Photo: Author).

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Gardens that surround the villa remain visible while viewing an exhibition that narrates the progression of anti-Semitism in Germany from the antecedents of the Final Solution to its implementation. Exhibited materials are reproductions dispensing with the need for barriers or guards. As a result, the material is accessible and the visitors experience with the material is personal (see Photo 2). The exhibition consists of photographs, posters, statistical charts, and memoranda that reveal the socio-political realities of the 1930s and 1940s that turned anti-Semitism to murder and mass murder to genocide (Roseman, 2002, p. 6). As anti-Semitism became increasingly widespread, blatant, and active, the exhibition suggests that the extreme forms of moral exclusion represented in Cells 7 and 8 of Table 1 can be further differentiated into three levels: (1) exclusion within society (i.e., barred from professions, law, medicine, university; the seizure and Aryanization of businesses; and forcible relocation into ghettos), (2) exclusion from society (i.e., forcible deportation; destruction of homes, communities, and synagogues), and (3) annihilationexclusion from life (i.e., murdered on arrival or later; undernourished and inadequately clothed; worked to death) (see Table 2). Although the subject matter of the exhibition is brutality on a mass scale, material is selected to be acceptable to a wide audience. Dr. Kampe, who led the redesign of the Houses exhibition completed in 2000, describes a photograph of a number of women stripped of their clothing and about to be shot:
In room number five, [there is a scene] where the Einsatzkommando [Operational Command] is killing women in Dubossary, Moldavia. One of the German policeman probably made this series of photos. I have chosen this photo. You cannot see the naked victims but you can clearly see the situation. There is some grass or plants preventing you from clearly seeing the naked women and children. I do not want to suppress how terrible this was, but you must not confront people. Everybody is able to deal with such material in a book with pictures, but [my concern is with] situations in which a class group of students could not avoid seeing graphic photos.

Thus, the exhibition balances the need to display evidence of the Holocaust with respect for victims of National Socialist violence and the sensibility of visitors, many of whom are youths.

Table 2. Extreme Moral Exclusion Exclusion within Society Barred from professions Aryanization of businesses Exclusion from Society Forcible deportation Homes, businesses, and synagogues looted and destroyed Slave labor in camps Exclusion as Annihilation Murder on arrival Starvation and inadequate clothing

Forcible relocation into ghettos

Worked to death



Conference Room Just before the Conference Room, there is a room with information on each of the governmental departments present at the conference and their role in persecuting Jews. The main room in the villa is the Conference Room that displays minutes of the January 20, 1942 meeting as well as photos and biographies of Conferences 15 attendees that represented the government. As Dr. Kampe describes:
The main aspect in this house [is to show] the step by step radicalization process . . . Some leading figures of the German government who had never been anti-Semites, who had a good education, who had a Christian family background, and had never done harm to any person in their life attended such a conference and had no problem accepting all this.

The biographies and photos of attendees of the 1942 Conference offer visitors information on individuals who grew up with ordinary backgrounds and worked within the German government. This interpretive strategy that humanizes attendees has the potential to be disturbing. It indicates that a group of educated men, operating as governmental professionals within established procedural rules and with good manners, can agree to mass murder. Thus, rather than demonize Conference attendees or place all responsibility for genocide onto high-level leaders (e.g., Hitler, Himmler, or Heydrich), this exhibition suggests the importance of individuals, governmental agencies, the political system as a whole, and the larger society in supporting genocide as social policy. After the war, only one copy of the meetings minutes survived to reveal details about this meeting with criminal intent. When Martin Luther, Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, was imprisoned during the war, his files, which included a folder on anti-Jewish policies that contained the minutes, had been brought to a shelter for safekeeping. They were spared from an order by National Socialist leadership to destroy office files. Years later, Adolf Eichmanns (1961) courtroom testimony in Jerusalem provided additional descriptive information on the conference. These piecesthe house, the minutes, and the testimonyprovide evidence on the process that led to genocide in a cultural institution that has developed an influential interpretive strategy about the Holocaust and how it happened. The House of Wannsee Interpretive Strategy Schools, trade groups, and others in Germany visit the House of Wannsee Conference to see the exhibition and conduct research on the Holocaust in the library. The staff helps groups choose research questions and work with documents; they prepare seminars and lectures, and moderate discussions. The staff is dedicated to this work, and values remembrance of the National Socialist past. As Dr. Kampe describes:

How This Was Possible Many of our permanent staff and 30 freelancers were, in their young days, active in Aktion S hnezeichen/Friedensdienste (Action Reconciliation/Services for Peace), a Protesu tant organization founded because of what happened during the Nazi time . . . If you have committed a sin you have to do something morally compensating. This is a special group who had been willing to give one year of their life because they felt it was necessary to do something because of the German past.


Because the Holocaust is an overwhelming and emotionally fraught topic, the task of reflecting on it poses a number of pedagogical challenges. Some youth and adults come to the House as individuals or in school, professional, or trade groups without knowing their own familys history. It was and remains common for parents and grandparents to keep quiet about the past (Ms. M ller Oelrichs). u Another challenge comes from students who ask why do we still have to study these old things? As Deputy Director, Education Director, and international expert on Holocaust education Dr. Wolf Kaiser describes, the answer can start with individuals:
SO: So how do you answer the question? Dr. Kaiser: We can study how such a process of exclusion and injustice causes catastrophic results. We can study detailswhere it starts, where people give in [For example] the state secretary of the judiciary, Schlegelberger [was] a conservative who joined the Nazi party only because he had to if he wanted to stay in office, but more and more he took active part in establishing this Nazi system. So you can see [where it starts] on this level and you can see it on the very simple level of the policeman or the prison camp guards and so on.

The House has developed an interpretive strategy for its group seminars that examine the progression of genocide at the level of the occupational group. As Dr. Kaiser describes:
From the educational point of view, the process is more important than the result . . . [We] relate this process to the actual, professional, vocational practice of participants. This means that were working with different vocational groups and study with them, on the basis of primary source material, the history of their profession during the Nazi period. In other words the way their colleaguesso to speakcollaborated in this process . . . Among these professional groups the most important ones are those from medical [professions], in particular nurses, and soldiers . . . [Also] the judiciary, prison guards, [and] people who are working there as psychologists.

Utilizing their experiences in professions, The House of Wannsee Conference approach emphasizes to visitors that genocide policy was promoted in different ways by various occupational groups. Dr. Kaiser explained that almost every occupational group and every institution took some part in the discrimination and exclusion of the Jews, whose lives were written off as Ballastexistenzen [undesirable encumbrances; superfluous existences]. Social science research typically utilizes demographic variables such as gender, age, ethnicity, and income level to differentiate among participants. Because many occupations are loosely segregated by age, gender, ethnicity, educational level, class, etc., occupation is an interesting social category. Occupational group,



as a unit of identity, locates individuals within the activities they would ordinarily perform within their society and norms generally associated with those activities (Vygotsky, 1978). Occupation is therefore a complex marker of identity that influences how people orient themselves to others based on their professions normative contribution to society. At the House of Wannsee Conference studying the past in occupational groups allows visitors to imagine the specific activities of people situated similarly to themselves, and who acted within the constraints, conventions, and demands of their occupation during National Socialism. Doing so permits visitors to place themselves within a period of time that can seem unimaginable today and understand it from an informed, insiders perspective. The Seminar for Apprentice Hairdressers To illustrate how this pedagogy expands visitors understanding of exclusionary processes that can lead to genocide, I briefly describe a seminar for apprentice hairdressers conducted by Ms. Lore Kleiber, a staff member at the House of Wannsee Conference, who specializes in working with visitors 18 years and older. She describes teaching and learning from the perspective of an expert practitioner in her essay, History of hairdressers: Physical culture & aesthetic norms in Nazi Germany, posted on the website, Learning from History:
Eighteen second-year apprentice hairdressers (sixteen female and two male), accompanied by their social studies teacher, visited the Memorial and Educational Site House of the Wannsee Conference for the first time. Classes of apprentices from the same school had previously visited the House of the Wannsee Conference to see the permanent exhibition. This was, however, their first full-day study program. (Kleiber, n.d.)

Working with staff as a group, the apprentices developed two questions to study during their House of Wannsee Conference seminar: (1) How and through what methods were Germans conditioned to use and accept physical stereotypes as part of racial segregation? (2) How was the concept of race visualized? House of Wannsee Conference staff selected visual documents and media in response to the apprentices questions, as Ms. Kleiber describes:
Today, we interpret the attribution of negative Jewish physical characteristics, the use of the Star of David, and later on the tattooing of prisoners with numbers, as a gradual process toward physical annihilation. The significance of propaganda photographs and the stigmatization of Jews as racial aliens were explored in the exhibition.

Material from the exhibition and the librarys archives revealed how physical appearance, including marking the body with tattoos and particular clothing and hair styles, were part of a gradual process that normalized annihilation.

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The apprentices viewed a segment of Claude Lanzmanns film, Shoah (Les Films Aleph-Historia Films, 1985) in which a barber, a survivor of the Treblinka Concentration Camp, is overwhelmed by memories as he describes cutting womens hair before they were killed in gas chambers. This casts the career of a barber/hairdresser in a totally new light for the apprentices, one that had previously been inconceivable to them. The apprentices then requested information on the process of annihilation in killing centers and on reutilization of parts of human beings, especially hair. They studied newspapers and magazines from the Nazi period to understand how the setting of aesthetic norms promoted racist thinking in Nazi Germany. Archival photographs the apprentices used in their research vividly illustrate the relationship between the aesthetics of hair, anti-Semitism, and moral exclusion (see photos on the website, Learning from History [Kleiber, n.d.]). A 1937 photograph of a womans head with a fiberglass set of hair color samples illustrates the practice of categorizing people by their hair color. National Socialist aesthetics valued Aryan physical characteristics. They calibrated hair color to differentiate people who had valued characteristics from those who do not. In a 1938 photograph entitled Anti-Semitic measures: Excluded, three women, presumably Jewish, wear placards reading, I have been excluded from the national community and are having their hair shorn in public in Linz. A 1942 photograph of the V. Heeb barber shop in Hanau has photographs of women with wavy blonde hair styles in the shop window. These styles were in favor during National Socialism. A sign, Jews not admitted, is also displayed along with the photos in the storefront. Because hairdressers are attuned to style and its meaning in social contexts, they could see how the body, hair, and outward appearance influenced others evaluations of them. Their professional sensitivity to the social meaning of aesthetic norms, along with the Houses exhibition, archival, and media materials, enabled them to find their way into the societal workings of exclusion and genocide. They could see how the narrowing of the scope of justice, embodied in hair and other physical characteristics, prepared the way for and ultimately were part of the killing process. In their closing session, student workgroups presented collaborative collages. One dealt critically with the Nazi image of women based on an analysis of married life as portrayed in Nazi advertisements. The apprentice hairdressers, Ms. Kleiber reports, were surprised by their accomplishments. Through their occupational identity, they developed a deeper understanding of life under National Socialism that revealed the pervasiveness of exclusionary norms and standards that had meaning for well-being, including life and death. The apprentices occupational identity allowed them to understand that ordinary people doing ordinary things, like how they colored or wore their hair, or more extraordinary things, like shaving off someones hair in public to humiliate them, played a role in the exclusionary process that led to genocide.



Discussion: Denial, Perception, and Justice The House of Wannsee Conferences interpretive strategy can be analyzed in terms of denial and, consistent with their emphasis on occupational groups, with attention to psychology at two points in time: Gestalt psychology in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, and ethical concerns about psychologys role in detention and torture from 2002 to the present. Denial, a form of selective inattention toward threat, is a defense mechanism consisting of an unconscious, selective blindness that protects a person from facing intolerable deeds and situations (Corsini, 1999, p. 263). Among these might be the severity and scope of harm inflicted on people during the Holocaust. In research on the function of denial in moral exclusion, Leah Weiss and I found that denial promotes exclusionary thinking by: (1) minimizing the extent of harmdoing, (2) devaluing those harmed, and (3) exonerating ones own role in fostering harm (Opotow & Weiss, 2000). Applying this typology to the House of Wannsee Conference suggests that their pedagogy fosters visitor engagement in understanding the process of the Holocaust and its catastrophic results by reducing these three kinds of denial. They address denial of the extent of harmdoing and justifications for devaluing those harmed with evidence presented in its exhibition, library, and archives. Their pedagogy subjects denial of ones own role in harmdoing to critical scrutiny through the use of occupational proxies. By identifying with people in ones own occupation during National Socialism, visitors are able to envision the role their historical counterparts could have played during the Holocaust. By examining traces of ones occupation in the historical record (e.g., articles, photographs, advertisements, documentaries, and other material), visitors can see the working of moral exclusion on the job and in everyday life. Visitors efforts, a behavioral commitment to engage with difficult material, can emphasize to them that in our lives and work, we do things that have moral importance at the societal level. Addressing and reducing these three kinds of denial help visitors understand that a narrowed scope of justice that fostered such violence in the past has relevance in society today. Denial can occur in societies as well as in individuals, and denying that the Holocaust occurred has been illegal in Germany since 1985 and carries criminal penalties. Historian Wolfgang Benz of the Center for Research on Antisemitism in Berlin argues that a person who claims that the Holocaust was a lie deserves punishment because he engages in incitement of the masses, because he slanders the memory of those murdered, because he slanders our fellow citizens. (No room for Holocaust Denial in Germany, 2005). The passage of time since the end of World War II also plays a role in reducing denial. More than six decades have passed. This temporal distance from the past allows the apprentice hairdressers to see what might have been more difficult for people, fully immersed in life under National Socialism, to have seen: how styles

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and norms serve as markers of inclusion and exclusion. The Houses interpretive strategies utilize the contrast between the past and the present to good effect. The difference between the scope of justice of the past and the present permits visitors to see that moral exclusion can be extreme and yet be considered normal, acceptable, and even correct. This contrast is used as an interpretive tool to reveal what is ordinarily invisiblethat the prevailing scope of justice today influences how we perceive and act toward others. The resources of the House of Wannsee Conferencean authentic and elegant site, a skilled and committed staff, and a meticulously assembled exhibition and libraryare interlocking pieces of an inclusionary interpretive project designed to give visitors a deeper understanding of genocide. There is also the hope that visitors will carry forward knowledge about moral exclusion in the past to their present circumstances. As Dr. Kampe describes the mission of the House:
Remember that we are dealing with the question of how this was possible. Do they remember that there was a step by step radicalization? Do they remember that there was no killing in 1933 but a lot of things happened before the society and even the SS was able to do such terrible things?

This interpretive strategy encourages visitors to struggle with profound questions about moral exclusion and harm doing on a vast scale as they consider the past in occupational groups whose work today also has moral import. As Dr. Kaiser noted, these especially include the medical professions, the military, the judiciary, and people working in prisons today, including psychologists. Prompted by the Houses interpretive strategy that focuses on occupational groups, I discuss our profession, psychology. I first consider Gestalt psychology, founded in the early 1920s in Berlin and shortly after the Wannsee villa was built. I then discuss ethical concerns about psychological practice in the United States today. Gestalt Psychology Gestalt Psychology, with its emphasis on peoples experience, perception, and the relation of parts to the whole offers an apt theoretical frame to reflect on the interpretive strategy of the House of Wannsee Conference. Centered at the Psychological Institute at the University of Berlin (now Humboldt University of Berlin), Gestalt Psychology flourished from 1920 to 1933. My doctoral advisor, Morton Deutsch (SPSSI president, 19601961), was a student of Kurt Lewin (SPSSI president, 19411942), a researcher and professor at the Psychological Institute. Gestalt Psychology has contributed theoretical principles and innovative methods to psychology that remain influential today. Characterized by theoretical parsimony, rigor, and empirical creativity, the fundamental principle of Pr gnanz a



(pithiness) integrates Gestalt Psychologys laws of proximity, similarity, closure, continuity, and common fate. Historian Mitchell Ash (1998) describes Gestalt research on perception as based on the proposition that: objects we perceive are always located in what would now be called self-organizing systemsconstantly changing dynamic contexts of situation, of which phenomenal selves, too are parts (p. 2). Gestalt Psychologists Kurt Koffka, Wolfgang Kohler, and Max Wertheimer, he states, defended a conception of psychology as a science of subjectivity rather than of behavioral and social control (p. 11). Rooted in both experimental psychology and philosophy, Gestalt Psychology concerned perception, peoples experience, and the soul. Kurt Lewin worked on such Gestalt topics as action and emotion, but he did so in both a theoretical and practical way that would bring it to bear on contemporary problems in the workplace and the school (Ash, 1998, p. 263). Gestalt Psychologys emphasis on how elements are organized in relation to each other, subjective meaning, and importance of lived experience in constantly changing dynamics resonates with this study of interpretive strategies at an historical site of injustice. Key elements of the House of Wannsee Conference, including its venue, staff, exhibition, library, and interpretive strategies, form a self-organizing system attuned to situational dynamics and peoples lives. Building on visitors experiences, their interpretive strategy offers visitors a way to engage with difficult topics they may ordinarily chose to avoid. Their approach evokes Gestalt theorys emphasis on perception in two prominent contraststhe scope of justice during National Socialism and at present, and the role of the villa in 1942 and its role as commemorative site since 1992. These interpretive strategies are consistent with Pr gnanz and the Gestalt emphasis on parsimony, rigor, and a empirical creativity along with Lewins practicality. Gestalt Psychology had international influence from its founding in the early 1920s until 1933 when Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor. Many of its professors and graduate students were politically liberal. Several, Max Wertheimer and Kurt Lewin among them, were Jewish. When early National Socialist legislation in 1933 euphemistically called The Law for the Reestablishment of the Professional Civil Service required removal or forced retirement of non-Aryan (i.e., Jewish) and politically unreliable state officers, including professors, Wertheimer and Lewin assessed what their future would be in Germany and emigrated to the United States (cf., Lewin, 1986). Kurt Kohler remained for 2 years, publically challenging Nazi rules, before emigrating to the United States as the political environment became increasingly harsh and restrictive (Henle, 1978). Weakened by emigration and increasing political repression, German psychology gave way to studies congenial to Nazi goals: research on race, eugenics, and character to support Nazi population policies and their ideologies of worthiness and worthlessness. They guided personnel assessments for the Wehrmacht (Germanys unified armed forces from 1935 to 1945) and population liquidations

How This Was Possible


to achieve the Final Solution to the Jewish Question. German psychologists who remained, some weakly and others more strongly, supported Nazi goals. Some sought to protect academic freedom, but as Ash (1998) notes, professors were expected at the same time to be loyal servants of the state . . . [and] that social situation set the parameters that defined freedom and moralitya lesson that can be extended to other times and places (p. 361). Contemporary Psychology and the Limits of Justice And so we come to today, a time when some psychologists have expressed opposition to the participation of their American colleagues in the design and supervision of detention and interrogation activities in sites connected with the War on Terror (Opotow, 2007). These psychologists activities are consistent with the definition of torture as defined by the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (United Nations, 1984, 1987):
severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession . . . when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

They also violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, 1948), a declaration adopted in response to the horrors of World War II. The New York Times describes these activities as an affront to our fundamental values because prisoners cannot legally defend themselves and are subject to torture that can be repeated until it produces the answer the Pentagon wants (Gitmo, 2007, p. A22). Americas secret prisons, kangaroo courts, and indefinite detention of prisoners without charges are, The New York Times has argued, a national disgrace (Terrorism, 2007). These practices of harmdoing are justified by exclusion of detainees from the scope of justice. As a consequence, considerations of fairness do not apply to them and they are eligible for harm, cast as appropriate and necessary to foster some greater good, violating widely accepted standards of fairness and international law (Opotow, 1990, 1995). As the House of Wannsee Conferences interpretive strategy conveys to visitors, safeguarding the ethical integrity of our work is an important professional responsibility. Exclusionary policy, states Dr. Wolf Kaiser, is operationalized by actual, professional, vocational practice. The Houses visitors examine occupational activities that fostered violence, collusion, indifference, and silence in the past. Their interpretive strategy, designed to render moral exclusion and social injustice visible, offers visitors a deeper look at the past that can reveal moral exclusion in the past and can suggest the importance of an inclusionary ethic in contemporary social relations.



In 2007, the SPSSI issued a position statement, The use of torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment as interrogation devices (Costanzo, Gerrity, & Lykes, 2007a; also see Costanzo, Gerrity, and Lykes, 2007b), describing activities at detention sites for the War on Terror as professionally unethical and ineffective as a means to foster security. The same year, the Society published an issue of its policy journal, Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy (ASAP) (2007), with papers presenting a range of perspectives. Some papers described their colleagues detention and interrogation activities as an egregious violation of human rights while other papers argued that psychologists act within ethical guidelines. In 2008, in an initiative supported by a number of American Psychological Association divisions including SPSSI, American Psychological Associations membership passed a referendum prohibiting psychologists involvement in interrogations that violate the U.S. Constitution or international law. However, controversy continues as this is written. As some psychologists note with concern, the American Psychological Association has yet to respond to 13 health and human rights organizations that call for an independent scrutiny of its organizational practices (cf., Soldz, 2009). Writing in 1941 during World War II, Kurt Lewin emphasized that professional societies depend on cooperation to achieve their goals. Referring specifically to the SPSSI and its members, he stated, science and research is not a product of isolated individuals . . . but is a cooperative endeavor deeply connected with the culture of the people in which it occurs (1941, reprinted in Gold, 1999, pp. 344 345). Lewins emphasis on cooperation is relevant to professional societies as well as to the cultural institutions that address past injustice. Societal and cultural institutions embark on an inclusionary project when they direct the publics attention to violence and injustice that might be otherwise invisible or ignored. At this moment, a pivot point between the SPSSIs past and its future, I note, with pride, the inclusionary importance of SPSSIs commitment to social justice, a commitment rooted in the history of the Society. In its members work on detention and torture and in work on key social issues including unemployment, poverty, health, education, and the environment, the SPSSI seeks to foster moral inclusion within the profession and in the larger world in which we work and live. References
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SUSAN OPOTOW is Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her research concerns the social psychology of injustice, specifically inclusion in and exclusion from the scope of justice. She was president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (20082009) and the recipient of the 2008 Morton Deutsch Conflict Resolution Award. She is editor of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, Fellow of the American Psychological Association, Secretary of the International Society of Justice Research, recipient of the 2011 Lynn Stuart Weiss Award from the American Psychological Foundation, and a member of the Committee on International Relations of the American Psychological Association.