To what extent did the idea of totalitarianism exist in Nazi Germany and in the Soviet Union under Stalin?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Totalitarianism is the complete control of the economic, political, and social aspects of a state by a single party or person. By its very definition, the government is brutally oppressive towards its subjects. In a totalitarian state, citizens are not permitted to have their own ideas or beliefs. The Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin and Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler are Exhibits A and B of the definition of totalitarianism. If you look up the word in the dictionary, you should see their pictures as illustrations. Both dictators utilized the same mechanism of control in their respective states.

To control the populations and to spread the message of the state, propaganda is a major weapon. The media is governed by the state and the free press is nonexistent. The dictators do not allow public discourse. Public opinion and dissent are crushed through a secret police force that routinely executes dissidents. The utilization of forced labor camps was utilized by both dictators as well. Millions of citizens in both countries were killed if they were suspected to be enemies of the state. Many died in the labor camps.

Indoctrination of the youth is also important to totalitarianism as schools are used to brainwash the children to accept the ideals of the state. Religion is also forbidden as the leader is more important than God. Church leaders were persecuted in both states.

Joseph Stalin

  • Secret Police--People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD)
  • Indoctrination--Komsomol
  • Propaganda--Glavilit
  • Prison Camps--Gulag

Adolf Hitler

  • Secret Police--Gestapo
  • Indoctrination--Hitler Youth
  • Propaganda--Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda
  • Prison camps--Concentration Camps
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team