The Long Term

October 31, 2013
By Anonymous

The answer to the question of whether Hitler or Stalin was worse is never simple, taking into consideration not only pure numbers, but also the reasons behind the killing, the killing methods, the targets of the killing, and finally the long-term effects of their regimes. While Stalin killed larger numbers, he killed based on political ideology unlike Hitler, who killed people based on their inborn traits, such as religion, disabilities and sexuality. Whether hate killing or indiscriminate murder is worse, both men, if that word is even an applicable label for them, were terrible beyond the scope of anyone’s understanding so comparing their horrors is essentially impossible, since pure statistics cannot show the true amount of suffering each caused as too many variables exist and were not sufficiently documented. One of the possible ways to subjectively compare the two and further understand them both multidimensionally, would be to compare their lasting positive or negative effects on the modern world.

World War II had possibly the largest influence on Covert Intelligence since the invention of long-range communications such as the radio. The advances made in spy craft in the WWII and Cold War Era are so immense that they completely changed the intelligence game, for the better. Everyone was spying on everyone, with covert operatives in very high positions of other their enemies’ governments, which created a global distrust but also brought about some of the best intelligence agencies the world has ever seen, such as the CIA (born from the OSS) and the NSA. One can argue, in the Orwellian light, that Big Brother’s power increasing is not a positive effect, and that this era spawned such extensive espionage that the world will never truly know privacy again. Spy agencies are not the only culprits in this phenomenon, media has turned greatly to investigative journalism, and are more able to check the power of politicians as well as keep them honest. Of course, both sides are to blame in this situation, so it does not really help with the question of comparative evil.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, people came together: to mourn their losses, to prevent further religion based killing, and to rebuild their countries. This new sense of unity brought about a wave of anti-racism in America and Western Europe, which hoped to prevent further massacres and effectively decreased anti-Semitism’s power through western society. This phenomenon continues to today, where discussions of the Holocaust spark compassion for the millions who died, due to the availability of anecdotes proving its treachery. On the other hand, Stalin’s victims are not as readily remembered, though they were more numerous that Hitler’s victims, as Stalin’s victims were not concentrated in one religion and culture. Since the USSR was extensive and made up of many different peoples, which Stalin killed indiscriminately, there was no single group that tried to keep track of all the deaths, and with such an extravagant number of deaths, entire families, neighborhoods, even regions died at once, leaving no one to maintain their memories. The memories engraved in the minds of Holocaust survivors and their families managed to created a metaphorical safe haven that has lasted until now, which Stalin’s victims would not even need, as the ideology causing their deaths died with Stalin. In a positive light, this increased sense of unity remains to this day and has brought many of the remaining Jews together, causing a large number of European Jews to immigrate to Israel, and which has been greatly beneficial to its continuing survival in the unstable region.

Unforrtunately, the largest noticeable effect of these two regimes results from the millions of deaths. A common description of someone prodigious, such as a life-saving scientist, a world-renowned artist, or an excellent leader, is that they are “one in a million.” With the approximated death toll of WWII in excess of 60 million, with Hitler’s and Stalin’s victims making up the large majority of that, how many “one in a million” people were lost? Sixty? More? Where could humanity be, as a civilization, had we not lost all those people? Perhaps the scientist who could have cured cancer died under Hitler’s rule, so perhaps the death toll should also include all the people who died of cancer after the war. Perhaps the next Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, Dali, Mozart, Bach, Shakespeare or Faulkner was executed for anti-communist activities. My own grandfather, Vladislav (name changed), was arrested for taking part in anti-Stalinist protests. In that time, offenders were often executed for that very crime, so Vladislav was in luck, and so was the artistic community. After his arrest, Vladislav fled to Switzerland and then eventually to the United States and became one of the best artistic and restorative book binders in the world. Among his restorations are first-edition Shakespeares, and an original Gutenberg Bible; his artistic pieces range from miniatures which fit inside walnuts to 7 foot fish shaped novels, and his unrivaled skills won him the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guild of Book Workers upon his death in 2012. World War II threatened the existence of not only Vladislav’s artwork, but also that of his innovative bookbinding techniques. Unfortunately, for every survivor such as Vladislav, thousands of equally talented people died and were unable to contribute their abilities to civilization. Of course, in this situation, it is impossible to recognize which of the two evils, right of left, caused more long term damage in this situation since Stalin killed more people, but Jews, the subject of Hitler’s killing, are often over-represented in the world of arts and sciences.

On a more unfortunate note, Hitler followers still exist today, in the form of neo-Nazis. Fortunately, while the number of anti-Semites remains high, the number of Nazis, neo-Nazis and Hitler followers are an extreme minority with no public support due to the amount of innocent blood on their hands. Thanks to the atrocity that was the Holocaust, people are unwilling to follow any regime that is even comparable to Nazism. In the modern day, brutal politicians have adopted the terms communist and Nazi as insults designed to tear their opponents down, exploiting the sheer fear these groups instill in people’s minds to associate their opponents with terror. On the exact opposite side of the remaining Nazi’s are those who claim the Holocaust never happen and demean the horrors that so many millions struggled through. Their following is also limited due to the profuse proof of the atrocities that occurred under Hitler, but their existence in and of itself is a slap in the face to any relative of any one who lived (or died) through the Holocaust. These “non-believers” may not be direct off-spring of the Holocaust, but they threaten one of the only positive long term aspects of Hitler’s regime: unity. In Orwell’s famous novel, “1984”, news was rewritten to suit those in power and prevent a revolution, and those who choose to deny the existence of the Holocaust are very much attempting to hide that part of history, which is very typical of a totalitarian mindset.

While Hitler and Stalin are both long dead, the effects of their revolting actions live on. In the long term, Hitler’s regime may have decreased the numbers of the Jewish community, and possibly set the world back fifty years developmentally due to that loss, but it strengthened minority groups’ unity, hopefully decreasing the odds of another massacre of the Holocaust magnitude in the modern world. Stalin’s regime on the other hand broke up the Eastern Block and decimated its population. Both these fiends contributed to the intense rise in global espionage, and perhaps, had World War II and then the Cold War not happened, the United States would not be phone tapping their closest allies and the NSA would not be so out of control. Although the world would be so much better off had Hitler been accepted into art school, and had Marx never written his famous manifesto, we cannot forget that these treacheries occurred so history does not repeat itself as it so often does.

The author's comments:
A piece for my Slavic studies class about Marxism and Nazism at UNC.

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