Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were two of the most evil men in history, responsible for countless atrocities. They had many similarities as well. Both men committed genocide to further their political agenda, massively improved the militaries of their respective countries, had their own different groups of secret police and spies, and finally they were both tyrannical totalitarian dictators. Despite sharing many similarities, their government structure and political philosophies were very different.
Adolf Hitler was a Fascist who believed in a highly centralized government with himself at the top of the pyramid. Joseph Stalin was a communist who believed in collectivism and instilling fear into his political opposition. Although there are differences between the two dictators, there is no debate that these two men are recognized by many to be two of the most evil and autocratic leaders of history. After World War I, there were signs that the world was in for a massive political overhaul. With revolutions occurring in Mexico, China, and Russia, communism and fascism were spreading like wildfire.
The American stock market crash, which led to the Great Depression, only served to be fuel to the fire as the world’s economy fell into shambles. At the time, the west saw communism as the most immediate threat and therefore concentrated most of its efforts on dousing the spreading fire that was communism (“Dictatorships”). While the world was distracted and reeling from an economic crash, a new system of right-wing government called Fascism was gaining popularity in countries like Germany and Italy (“Nazi Germany’).
Before dissecting the complicated ideologies that are Fascism and Communism, one must first understand what a dictatorship is. A dictatorship is a government commanded by a dictator, who has absolute authority. In a dictatorship, a leader will work towards regulating the government and reforming it to their view. The modern concept of a dictatorship is a fairly new one, starting with the revolutions that occurred all across the world in the early 1900’s. Many dictatorships directly contradicted western values and therefore were condemned by countries like the United States.
The issue in the 1900’s however, was that often times the United States would often take the “lesser-oftwo-evils” stance when it came to foreign policy. Because of this, many rising dictatorships were left unchecked and allowed to grow. (“Dictatorships”) Adolf Hitler’s rise to power was not a mistake. Born in Austria, Hitler was always a very patriotic man. The only times he ever admitted to crying were after the death of his mother, and after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. After World War I, Germany was forced to pay massive war reparations to pay for their roll in the war.
Hitler and many other Germans felt cheated. Searching for other people who shared his ultranationalistic views, Hitler found and later joined the German Workers’ Party. In 1920, the party renamed itself the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazi for short. In 1921, due to his great charisma and public speaking ability, Hitler became leader of the party. Hitler intended to overthrow the German government and seize power with his Nazi militia.
In November of 1923, after failing to capture officials in the famous Beer Hall Putsch (Italics? , Hitler and his men marched on the War Ministry building and were met with a hail of bullets. After narrowly escaping, Hitler was arrested the next day for high treason. Instead of being given a life sentence, Hitler was only sentenced to five years with comfortable confinement. He only ended up serving nine months. While in jail, Hitler wrote a book called Mein Kampf, which clearly outlined his political views.
After being released in 1925, Hitler attempted to have the Nazi party members elected to public office. However, his voice would not e heard until the American Stock Market crashed in 1929. Many Germans were now unemployed and destitute and began to listen to the message Hitler was trying to convey. They listened, and in 1930 the Nazis got enough votes to become the second most powerful political party in Germany. In 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg named Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany (“Adolf Hitler’). Joseph Stalin shared many similarities and had many differences to Adolf Hitler in his quest for power. Like Hitler, Stalin first became active in politics when he joined a militant political party.
The party Stalin joined was known as the Russian Social Democratic Party. Stalin was arrested in 1902 and was deported to Siberia but escaped and was back in Georgia two year later. Stalin first met Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik faction of the Social Democratic Party, when he returned to Georgia. Lenin was a political mentor to Stalin and had great respect for him. In 1912, Lenin nominated Stalin to the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party. However, Stalin was arrested once again and exiled to Siberia in 1917 where he would remain until the Czar was overthrown.
After the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, Lenin became the new ruler of Russia and named Stalin the Commissar of Nationalities. Over the years, however, Lenin’s health began to deteriorate. In 1924, Lenin died and the party now known as the All-Union Communist Party was headed collectively by several of Lenin’s cabinet members. Like Hitler, Stalin was a very clever manipulator and was able to turn the members against each other. After successfully obtaining more power, Stalin had the few political enemies he had left shot and he assumed power of the Soviet Union (“Joseph Stalin”, Uxl).
One area where Hitler and Stalin shared similarities and differences were their personalities. Both men were ruthless dictators who ruled with an iron fist. However, Stalin was much more paranoid than Hitler. Stalin would often have politicians, citizens, and military personnel executed out of paranoia (“Joseph Stalin”, Uxl). Hitler had great respect for his countrymen and military generals. In his book, Mein Kampf, he stated that Germans were the highest “creators of culture” in the world and should be masters of it. Another way in which they differed was public appearance and public speaking.
Hitler was a phenomenally gifted public speaker and was able to persuade people with great effect (“Adolf Hitler”). Although Stalin was a known egotist having statues erected in his name and cities named after him, Stalin was not known for his public speaking ability and was described as being “ponderous and graceless” (“Joseph Stalin”, Encyclopedia). Stalin and Hitler also share similarities and differences in how successful their regimes were. Both men saw to it that their countries turned from impoverished nations into military and industrial superpowers.
Hitler saw more immediate success and, it could be argued that, without the assistance of the western allies, Stalin’s Soviet Russia could’ve possibly fallen to the Germans (“Nazi Germany’). In the end, Hitler ruled over the Third Reich until 1933 – 1945 for a total of 12 years and 3 months before his empire eventually fell (“Adolf Hitler). Stalin ruled over Soviet Russia from the mid 1920’s until 1953 when he died of a cerebrovascular accident. Stalin’s regime stood for a longer period of time and so his regime was ultimately more stable and successful (“Joseph Stalin”, Encyclopedia).
In the end, these two totalitarian dictators ruled over their nations with a ruthlessness that has been unmatched in modern history. Hitler rose to power by taking advantage of the poor economic situation Germany was in during the Great Depression, whilst Stalin usurped Lenin’s throne and followed up on his political philosophies on Bolshevism and Communism. Although Stalin and Hitler shared different political ideologies, one thing is for certain, they will go down as two of the most evil totalitarian dictators in history.