The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia

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9780140281491: The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia
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Half a century after their deaths, the dictatorships of Stalin and Hitler still cast a long and terrible shadow over the modern world. They were the most destructive and lethal regimes in history, murdering millions. They fought the largest and costliest war in all history. Yet millions of Germans and Russians enthusiastically supported them and the values they stood for. In this first major study of the two dictatorships side-by-side Richard Overy sets out to answer the question: How was dictatorship possible? How did they function? What was the bond that tied dictator and people so powerfully together? He paints a remarkable and vivid account of the different ways in which Stalin and Hitler rose to power, and abused and dominated their people. It is a chilling analysis of powerful ideals corrupted by the vanity of ambitious and unscrupulous men.

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About the Author:

Richard Overy is Professor of Modern History at King's College, London. His previous books for Penguin include Russia's War and The Battle of Britain.

From Publishers Weekly:

Comparisons between Hitler and Stalin and their regimes are nothing new, but this dense, comprehensive, scholarly investigation is more nuanced than most. Overy sidesteps the simplistic debate over which dictator was more evil and focuses on how they, and the systems they created, were similar and different. He delves into their regimes thematically, in topics ranging from police states and economic systems to wartime behavior. The results yield intriguing historical insights, although the book demands a careful reading. For instance, Overy notes that both Hitler and Stalin created cults of personality, but for Hitler "personality was the defining criterion of leadership"; Stalin, on the other hand, emphasized Communist ideology first and embraced a personality cult only when he realized it could cement his stranglehold on power. Interestingly, while the Nazi Party increasingly relied on workers' support and ideology, Stalin's Communist Party—the "vanguard of the proletariat"—relied more and more on middle-class technocrats. At times Overy restates points long known to historians, e.g., both leaders pursued negative utopias, but from different bases: class warfare was Stalin's justification, while Hitler chose biological purity. But when he points out the differences in their policies toward minorities and nationalities—Hitler adhered to a racial ladder, while Stalin, a Georgian, flip-flopped to suit his political goals—Overy's analytical strength and depth of knowledge emerges. 32 pages illus.; maps.
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