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Hitler vs. Stalin - Essay Example

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One should begin without any prior judgment, with a clear mind not tinted with prejudice. That is especially difficult in the case of Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin; whose legacy of terror and destruction is still imprinted in the…
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Hitler versus Stalin: An Analysis Studying personality in history is difficult. One should begin without any prior judgment, with a clear mind not tinted with prejudice. That is especially difficult in the case of Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin; whose legacy of terror and destruction is still imprinted in the minds of people even decades after their deaths.
Both Hitler and Stalin were born to peasant families. Stalin though, being a brilliant student won a scholarship to a seminary. While studying to be a priest he read many books forbidden in Russia in those days. One was Karl Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’. Stalin emerged from the Seminary, not as a priest but as a political revolutionary with a new ideology: Russian Marxism (Stalin, 1913). On the other hand Hitler was a miserable student who never completed high school. Yet he was an avid reader, gaining anti-Jewish, anti-democratic convictions through various pamphlets, and becoming a staunch follower of Nietzsche (Hitler, Encarta 1999).
Stalin was a revolutionary, Hitler was a soldier. But they were both opportunists. Russia was suffering from a decadent monarchy, a weakening agricultural market and unemployment. The Bolsheviks were on the rise, promising equality and employment to the masses. Stalin became an important part of the Bolshevik movement through dogged organization and administration work. He became Lenin’s secretary-general. Stalin took over the Bolshevik Party by manipulation and propaganda, displacing Trotsky who was considered Lenin’s natural successor (Stalin, Encarta 1999). He further eliminated his competitors in a carefully planned campaign of political terror. One by one his rivals pleaded guilty to treason and were executed. The real strength of Stalin lied in the fear he invoked among the people of Russia.
In Germany, another dictator was rising in a similar way; Hitler. In 1919 Hitler joined the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) party. In the year 1921 he was elected party chairman with dictatorial powers. His campaign involved hundreds of meetings and terrorization of political rivals through hired thugs. His attempt at a coup misfired and he spent 5 years in jail, but after release he rebuilt his party by exploiting a community’s natural mistrust of another. He began blaming Jews and Communists for the Depression and the lagging state of German economy, and the masses supported him enthusiastically.
Both Stalin and Hitler vowed to make their countries invincible if they came into power. To a certain extent, they succeeded. Stalin launched a massive industrialization campaign, which ended up displacing millions of peasants, but turned Russia into one of the World’s great industrial powers. Hitler worked differently though. The first thing he did when he came into power was to take everything under his control. Anti-Nazi and Jews were hauled into concentrations camps and jails by the Gestapo. Yet most Germans favored Hitler, because his giant rearmament drive provided employment, and his reiteration of German Racial Superiority made them feel secure. Thus his extermination of Jews met with indifference, if not compliance. And his desire to enforce German rule over all of Europe was not protested against.
Yet strangely they were on opposing sides during World War II. The actual conflict began when Germany annexed Poland but the encounter between Stalin and Hitler took place only after Hitler attacked the Soviet Union. Stalin, by rallying his people, and by sacrificing a giant portion of the Russian army, managed to overcome the German army. The occupation of Russia was long, bloody and casualty ridden, but Germany’s defeat broke the backbone of Hitler’s war plan. This loss and America’s entry in the war signaled the end of Hitler’s dream of a German Empire. On April 30th 1945, he committed suicide in his Berlin bunker. Stalin on the other hand, became a hero. Yet to ensure no further assault on Russian sanctity, he became overzealous, and increasingly paranoid. At the end of his years he was about to launch another reign of terror, but his sudden death (brain hemorrhage) averted further atrocities.

Bibliography
Books
Stalin, Joseph, “Marxism and the National Question,” Moscow: Prosveshcheniye, 1913
Gerhard L. Weinberg, “Hitler And World War II,” New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995
Encyclopedia Articles
"Hitler, Adolf," Microsoft Encarta 99 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation (1999)
"Stalin, Joseph," Microsoft Encarta 99 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation (1999)
Michael Dockrill, “World War II,” Microsoft Encarta 99 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation (1999)

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