Who was worse -- Stalin or Hitler?
first posted y11115
minor change 2007/0319
Copyright © 2001 by Hugo S. Cunningham
Especially as Stalinist crimes became widely publicized around 1990, the question was often asked -- was he as bad (especially for his own people) as Hitler, or possibly even worse?
At this point, I would definitely award the (dis)honor to Hitler.
(1) The death toll for Stalin turns out not to be as high as believed in 1990 -- more like 10-20 million than 20-30 million. The 1929-1933 Collectivization was terrible (6-11 million dead), but the 1936-38 purge seems to have had a lower death toll than earlier believed ("only" 700,000 shot and perhaps 2 million later deaths in camps). After WW II (1941-45), despite continuing heavy repression, the era of mass killings (over 100,000 a year) was over.
Some good things developed under Stalin, eg a decent educational system and widespread, though not well-paid, job opportunities. The peasants who survived Collectivization were treated with some indulgence, though only after their villages had been lobotomized, deprived of initiative.
(2) Hitler's policy in occupied Soviet territory was utterly horrible, without any redeeming features. See, for example, Alexander Dallin, German Rule in Russia 1941-1945 (2nd Edition), MacMillan Press, 1981; cloth, 707 pp.
(a) Hitler was as callous as Stalin at his worst about Russian deaths.
1. Between 3 and 4 million Soviet POWs were allowed to die of deliberate neglect (exposure, malnutrition, and disease, not to mention some gruesome medical experiments).
(b) Hitler's future plans for Russia's Slavic peoples (Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarussians) were the crudest sort of colonial exploitation. While Stalin provided secondary education to all, plus many university slots, Hitler closed down all education above the fourth grade in occupied Soviet territory (except for certain relatively privileged minorities, eg the Balts) [Dallin, pp. 458-466].
2. Hitler could have captured Petersburg/Leningrad in the early weeks of the war, but instead used it for experiments in mass starvation (Dallin, p. 78). Unfortunately for him, the survivors of the first horrible winter (1941-1942) made Petersburg a continuing thorn in his side.
Later note: other sources, eg Alan Clark (Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict 1941-1945, William Morrow and Company, New York, 1965) doubt that Hitler could have captured Petersburg/Leningrad easily, fortified as it was by water barriers and numerous heavy stone buildings. But Hitler's callous plans to kill off the inhabitants remain on record.
3. And of course one should not forget the Jews Hitler massacred in Ukraine (approx. 900,000), Russia (approx. 100,000), Belarus (approx 245,000), and the Baltics (approx 228,000).
(c) While Stalin kept millions in the GULag, Hitler deported 2.7 million slave laborers from Soviet territory to Germany under conditions often no better.
(d) Some anti-Stalinists overrate the influence of German officials who supported the "Russian Libereration Army" movement of POW General Andrei Andreyevich Vlasov, promoting an anti-Communist alliance between Germany and Russians. But Hitler made clear time and time again that he did not want Russian allies (notably on 19 May 1943 -- Dallin, p. 572).
1. Hitler refused to allow any promises to the Vlasovites until Sept 1944, after the Red Army had driven the Nazis completely out of Soviet territory, and Hitler's impending defeat was obvious.
In short, if individual German field commanders or factory managers treated individual Russians or Ukrainians as human beings, it was in spite of Hitler's wishes.
2. Hitler refused repeated advice to divide Soviet collective farms among the peasants. The principal reason was belief collective farms were easier to exploit for exorbitant wartime taxes.
At the back of his mind, however, were plans for postwar German colonization, long ago foreshadowed in his rambling book Mein Kampf.
3. Hitler supported the crude thug Erich Koch as "Reichskommissar" (occupation governor) of Ukraine. Koch sometimes went even further than Hitler himself to treat Ukrainians as subhuman scum, eg closing all schools in the winter 1942-43, not just those above Grade 4 (Dallin, p. 460).
Awarding of estates to individual Germans was deferred til the end of the war, for fear of aiding Soviet propaganda (Dallin, p. 341).
The SS confiscated and ran some model farm communities. (Dallin, pp. 283-284)
Plans to expel the inhabitants of Crimea and colonize it with Tyrolian Germans were finalized in July 1942, though not implemented (Dallin, pp. 255-257).
In private, Hitler was more frank about postwar colonization ambitions.
From Martin Borman editor (transcriptions by Heinrich Heim and Dr. Henry Picker ), Hitler's Table Talk (translated by Norman Cameron and R.H. Stevens), Oxford University Press Paperback, 1988, p. 469
# 215 -- 12 May 1942 at dinner:
"My long-term policy aims at having eventually a hundred million Germans settled in these territories. It is therefore essential to set up machinery which will ensure constant progression, and will see to it that million by million German penetration expands. In ten years' time we must be in a position to announce that twenty million Germans have been settled in the territories already incorporated in the Reich and in those which our troops are at present occupying."
"Territories already incorporated into the Reich" presumably referred to all of Poland west and north of Warsaw -- "Wartheland" and "Generalkommissariat Bialystok," -- and the Baltic countries -- part of "Reichskommissariat Ostland." A brutal ethnic cleansing was driving Poles out of "Wartheland" and "Bialystok." The Baltic peoples were intended, mostly, for Germanization, but "undesirables" would be driven further East or exterminated.
For Poles and Russians, "extermination" did not generally imply death camps or "Einsatzgruppen" massacres. Excessive taxes and disruption of food supplies were counted on to foster diseases of malnutrition, as well as provoking resistance that the SS were confident they could crush.
Apart from special locations like Crimea, Hitler's colonization plans for most of Slavic Ukraine and Russia were less intensive and longer-term, eg German fortresses and settlement strongpoints to keep the local population in subjection.
"For us the end of the war will mean an open road to the East ... We shall move the limits of German settlement eastwards by 500 kilometers ... into an area militarily secured for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren."
--Heinrich Himmler, 14 Oct 1943
[Dallin, p. 280. Dallin in turn quoted from Trial of the Major War Criminals, Vol 37, p. 523]
"If I find a Ukrainian who is worthy of sitting at the same table with me, I must have him shot."
--Erich Koch (Dallin, p. 167).
"The German soldier has conquered the Ukraine ... to provide descendants of German front-line soldiers with a chance of settling there."
--Erich Koch, (Dallin, p. 283)
With his brutality, Koch did more than anyone else in history to foster pro-Soviet sentiment in Central and Eastern Ukraine. That might explain a curious lack of Soviet energy in prosecuting him after WW II. He was found and arrested by the British in 1949 and deported for trial in Poland, then a Soviet satellite. He was not tried in Poland until 1958, when he was sentenced to death, immediately commuted to life imprisonment. His later years (until death in 1986) were described [in a web site -- believe it as you will] as "comfortable house arrest in Barczewo."
The Soviet Army played a much larger role than Western armies in defeating Hitler.
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