Which Was Morally Worse, Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union?
Early to mid-20th century was marked by the rise of many ruthless dictators who have brought much violence and terror to both their own citizens and many people abroad. The most notorious of these dictators, are surely, Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany and Joseph Stalin of Soviet Russia. These dictators’ reigns resulted in one of the most outstanding human rights abuses in the modern history. The Holocaust campaign, initiated by the Nazis, cost the lives of more than 13 million people (The Holocaust Death Toll). On the other hand, millions have perished under Stalin’s ruthless gulags. It is often asked, whether Stalin’s Soviet Union or Hitler’s Germany was morally worse. In this essay, I will argue that while Stalin’s atrocities were of course cannot ever be justified, Hitler’s actions were morally worse, because Adolf Hitler was an ideologue, unlike Joseph Stalin.
Now, one must explain, what is an ideologue? An ideologue is someone who blindly adheres to one particular ideology. In modern times, we generally associate this word with negative connotations, although this does not have to be this way. Mahatma Gandhi was an ideologue, he adhered to the idea of non-violence. However, Hitler was also an ideologue. Hitler’s whole political career was shaped around the ideology of Nazism, which was embroiled in xenophobia, anti-Semitism and fascism. Hitler never saw his ideology as a means to his goals, his ideology was both his means and his ultimate goal. Hitler’s NSDAP (shortly known as the Nazi Party) was democratically elected by the German people and the party, ever since its inception, did not hide its ideology. On the other side of the spectrum, we have Joseph Stalin. In his critically acclaimed biography of Stalin, Isaac Deutscher claims that Stalin became a Bolshevik not because of his ideology, but rather he became a Bolshevik because of the circumstances (24). As a poor Georgian cobbler, Bolshevism opened a path away from the Tsarist oppression. Stalin was not an ideologue, on the contrary he was the ultimate pragmatist. The horrible atrocities of Stalin’s era was purely caused Stalin’s political pragmatism and paranoia, not because of ideology.
Although, many have claimed that atrocities such as the Ukrainian famine was deliberately caused by Stalin as a racial cleansing tool, there is no consensus of historians whether this was true or not (Marples). Stalin’s pragmatism is also the reason why, where Hitler’s actions have started a war that have affected millions and millions lives worldwide (because he was an ideologue who wanted to shape the world in his vision), Stalin’s actions only affected people in the USSR.
In conclusion, in this essay I argued that Hitler’s Germany was morally worse compared to Stalin’s Soviet Union because Hitler was an ideologue, and the ideology he adhered to was a toxic one. Not only that, he had created millions of people who also adhered to his appalling beliefs. On the other hand, Stalin committed atrocities just because of his cult of personality, paranoia and political pragmatism. He was not an ideologue, in fact, many in his inner circle loathed the purges and collectivization. And if his acts were rooted in any ideology, his successors would continue Stalin’s policies and the Soviet Union would collapse just like the Third Reich did. This does not justify the acts he has committed, but it gives us a perspective on the dangers of ideology in the hands of dangerous ideologues. A dictator, however vile he may be, will come and go just as any other dictator. However, toxic ideologies like the one Hitler has propagated will continue to haunt us for a very long time.
“The Holocaust Death Toll.” The Telegraph, 26 Jan. 2005, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1481975/The-Holocaust-death-toll.html. Accessed 26 Mar. 2017.
Marples, David. “The Great Famine Debate Goes on.” Express News. University of Alberta, 9 Dec. 2005. http://www.expressnews.ualberta.ca/article.cfm?id=7176. Accessed 26 Mar. 2017
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin: A Political Biography. London: Oxford University Press, 1977.
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