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Hitler and Stalin: Twin Tyrants (1999)

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Kira Alliluyeva ...
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1999 (UK)  »

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Two Eight Balls
21 February 2016 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

This is a sober historical comparison of two giants of the 20th century, detailing the similarities between them.

There is some unexpected footage of people "from all parts of the Soviet Union" visiting the house in which Stalin grew up. His father evidently beat hell out of Josef Dugashvili and someone opines that this turned him against all authority. The modest house has been turned into a museum in Georgia, where he is still considered a hero despite his treatment of the Ukraine.

There is some equally unfamiliar footage of Adolf Hitler visited his childhood home in Austria and the grave of the mother he adored. He declared the date of her death to be dedicated to all German mothers. It's curious to see a cheerful Hitler hugging the little children during his visit. Too bad the both of them didn't become family and marriage counselors.

Not that Stalin and Hitler were Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Stalin's father wanted him to become a priest and sent him to a seminary. Hitler's father wanted him to become a civil servant but Hitler lived the poor Bohemian life of a romantic painter on a small stipend sent by his mother. Hitler's painting was no worse than his contemporaries'. You can Google them.

The comparison is comprehensive in that it covers differences as well as similarities. If Hitler came to power through oratory, Stalin achieved his leadership position by manipulation and by eliminating rivals like Trotsky. Hitler was a vegan, a teetotaler, and an ardent non-smoke, while Stalin was a robust omnivore, smoked, and could on occasion be seen drunk.

But once in power, both quickly established prison camps -- Concentration Camps for Hitler, the gulag for Stalin -- surrounded by barbed wire fences, walls, and guard towers. Millions died there in both countries. Among the curious similarities: Stalin abused his wife in public and she shot herself through the heart. Hitler's first crush was his niece, Geli, and when Hitler ordered her not to see any other men, she shot herself through the heart.

During the war Hitler grew paranoid with reason. His general staff, by and large, despised him. They tried to kill him forty-three times. Stalin simply grew paranoid and had every suspect killed. The film doesn't mention it but when the British invited some Russians to visit and watch jet engines being made, Stalin had them wear gum-soled shoes to pick up the shavings, figuring that the Brits would lie to him. And he had spies spying on the spies.

The splenetic Hitler is the more representative image of evil, partly because he initiated a large-scale program of genocide, which Stalin never did. But both tyrants were gigantic historical figures and both were more ruthless than we should ever hope to see again. Said Stalin, "One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic." And for Hiter, "Conscience is a Jewish invention."


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