Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hitler and Stalin: Their Mark on Western Civilisation

The Second World War was the theatre of genocide and corruption of republics into dictatorships, and has brought long-lasting ideological changes. Hitler and Stalin are two of the main actors who played in the tragedy. Their roles were determining in subverting the government of their respective countries and igniting WWII, and both were responsible for the massacre of several millions of people.

If one is asked which character has been the most influential in world history, the answer will most likely be Hitler. However, though Stalin's actions have been much less publicised than Hitler's, their impacts on history are in fact more or less equal. Although it can be argued that Hitler had a more owerful psychological impact on future generations, a global comparison of their biographies will show that despite their different political contexts, there are many similarities between their biggest achievements. The political, demographic and long-term impacts that are most commonly attributed to Hitler and have contributed to his mystique can equally be attributed to Stalin.

Stalin.had a harsh up-bringing and a strict religious background, and was beaten as a child. Similarly, Hitler's authoritarian temperament was manifest at a very early age. In his book 'Hitler's Youth', Franz Jetzinger reported that Dr. Eduard Huemer, one of his former teachers, described him at a '1923 trial as a 'gaunt, pale-faced youth' who 'demanded of his fellow pupils their unqualified subservience, fancying himself in the role of leader...'1

Both Hitler and Stalin were editors in newspapers: Hitler in the Vökischer Beobachter and Stalin in the Pravda. Both dictators have subverted the political system of their respective countries to impose their own autocratic model of leadership. Hitler had made clear his intentions to overthrow the Weimar Republic well before gaining power: in the Frankfurter Zeitung newspaper, he was quoted saying that his party would 'enter the legal organisations' and ~when [they] do possess constitutional rights, then [they would] form the State in the manner which [they] consider to be the right one,2. Though Hitler had taken over Germuny through 'legal' means, he was not elected by the people; rather, he was nominated chancellor by Paul von Hindenburg and took the title of 'Führer' after Hindenburg's death'. The Reichstag fire in 1933 sealed the fate of the Weimar Republic, when Hitler used, the event as an excuse to gain emergency powers and abolish the civil rights guaranteed by the constitution by passing the Enabling Act (Gleichschaltung).

Whereas Hitler had taken over Germany from the outside, Stalin, on the other hand, had subverted the communist system from the inside, by slowly defeating his opponents and inching his way up tothe new position of secretary-general after Lenin's death4. He was more interested in practical matters, which is why he preferred ruling In a dictatorial manner5.

Both dictators have brought considerable demographic changes to the world. Hitler's systematic elimination of minorities he considered undesirable, such as homosexuals, Gypsies, Slavs, handicapped people and especially Jews, have been thoroughly documented. The most egregious genocide perpetrated by the Nazi regime was the extermination of six million European Jews in concentration Camps6.

A little known fact about WWII history is that Stalin was responsible for genocides comparable to Hitler's Holocaust in magnitude and horror. Indeed, in 1932, Stalin responded to the insurgence of the Ukrainian peasants against his forced collectivisation programme by deliberately starving them: he increased the quotas of food shipments out of Ukraine to the Soviet Union. Victcr Kravchehko, a USSR ambassador who had escaped to the US, described his horrible discovery that' [h]undreds of meri, women and children had died of undernourishment in these villages, though grain was hoarded almost outside their doors'. The result was the death of around seven million Ukrainians. 7

Both~characters had a dear ideological goal behind their genocide. Stalin's plan was to foster a monolithic communist mindset, whereas Hitler wanted to stop communism, which he associated with the Jewish race: 'Ifinternational financial Jewry inside and, outside ofEurope should succeed in thrusting the nations into a world war once again, then the result will not be the Bolshevisation ofthe earth and with it the victory of Jewry, it will be the annihilation of the Jewish race ~inEurope'8. The main difference between Hitler's' genocide and Stalin's purges is that Stalin ,was not primarily motivated by racial issues, apart fromhis Russian nationalism, whereas Hitler's intentions were to created a strong Aryan race.

When it comes to long-term impacts, the most obvious one is the cold war that resulted from Stalin's foreign policies. But he also drastically changed the image ofcommunism. Indeed, many countries that called themselves 'communist', such as North Korea, have, based their model of communism not on the traditional Marxist-Leninist model, but rather on the Stalinist model, thus creating an artificial association between communism and totalitarianism. In opposition to Marxist-Leninist ideology of egalitarianism, he openly advocated Russian nationalism with his toast to the Russian people rather than the Soviet people in 1945 9.

However, that is not to say that Hitlerdid not cause his share of long-term consequences, both direct.and indirect For'example, the Rolocaust has gained~worldwidesympathy for the Jews, thus building support for the Zionist movement. The controversial creation of Israel,which accelerated the slow but massive expropriation of the local population, has been at the heart of many disputes in the Middle East still unresolved as of this day. Moreover, the sheer horror of the paroxysm of racism and contempt for minorities reached by the nazi regime as a result of Hitler's mantras of hatred has sparked a global ideological revolution. :. Thus has open racism ever since been universally condemned, leading to the adoption by several countries of anti-hate speech laws.

Though there may be a few differences in the details, a global comparison such as the one made inthis,essay,will reveal little disparity in terms of quantitative impact on history. While it is
true that Hitler and the Nazi regime evoke stronger emotional images, the most reasonable explanation for Stalin being the lesser known of both figures is that his atrocities had bewen downplayed by the political left, in particular apologists of communism.

Endnote

1 Alan Bullock,Hitler: 'A Study in Tyranny, (New York: Harper & RoW, 1967),27
2 Ibid, 61.
3 Encyclopaedia Britannica, 94
4 Ibid 205
5 Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Bibliography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1949), 228.
6 The History Place ed., The History Place [website], available from http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/holocaust.htm/; Internet; accessed November 26, 2004.
7 Ibid, http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/stalin.html
8 Eberhard Jaekel, Hitler's World View: A Blueprint For Power (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969), 61.
9 Yuri Zarakhovich. "Is Stalin coming back in style?," Time Europe, January 18,2002 [newspaper online]; available from http://www.time.com/; Internet; accessed 26 November 2004.

Bibliography

Bullock, Alan. Hitler: A Study in Tyranny. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin: A Political Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1949
History Place, The, ed. The History Place [website]. available from http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/holocaust.htm/; Internet. Accessed November 26, 2004.
Jackel, Eberhard. Hitler's World View: A Blueprint For Power. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969.
Zarakhovich, Yuri. "Is Stalin coming back in style?', Time Europe, January 18,2002 [newspaper online]. Available from http://www.time.com/; Internet. Accessed 26 November 2004.

2 Comments:

Blogger batcave911 said...

Damn, i wanted to be first in line to blog about his impeachment.
guess this will have to do, it is 2:30am, "missed it by that much"



President Bush cant read



www.911review.org

12:39 AM  
Blogger Laukev7 said...

Sorry, this Impeach message is temporary! I'm going to replace this post by another essay.

However, my has the same message. which will remain, as well as your comment.

6:12 PM  

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