Why do you think that Hitler is seen today as one of the most evil political leaders who ever lived?

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akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

There will be many answers to this.  The massive consolidation of power that enabled Hitler to pursue ends that would defy the limits of how terribly human beings can be to one another is one reason why he embodies the idea of an evil political leader.  Hitler is one of the few historical figures who is able to reconfigure our understanding of both political and personal cruelty.  Few others can accomplish such a dubious distinction.  His systematic campaign to literally silence his perceived "enemies" and dissolve the institutional checks to centralized power represents the accomplishment of both levels of cruelty.  In the end, Hitler becomes the symbol for which all have to be vigilant in guarding against and, in this light, his presence has to be considered evil for individuals are more attune to the mistakes in conferring power to leaders.

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This is an extremely difficult question, but one of the reasons was obviously the Holocaust and the systematic attempt to exterminate the Jewish people and many other "undesireables."  But the difficult part of the question is why this was emphasized over (and continued to be) other despots who've killed as many or more people than Hitler did, Stalin for one.

Some would argue that Hitler was portrayed as so evil because his country lost the war whereas Stalin was helping us win so we were not as quick to villify him.  He also was not as public nor in some ways systematic about his mass murders, though it is likely that he killed a far larger number of people within the Soviet Union.

I tend to think that it is partly the incredibly systematic nature of the Holocaust and the incredibly organized way it was carried out that makes it so uniquely terrifying.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

All you need is to know two things: the Holocaust happened and World War II happened.  That is why people think that Hitler was one of the most evil political leaders ever.

You can clearly blame Hitler for World War II (although the Treaty of Versailles is also to blame).  It is his efforts to go back on the Treaty of Versailles and to increase German power that led to the war.

The Holocaust is clearly the greater of these two evils.  Here, Hitler caused something like 7 million people to be murdered.  Most of them were murdered because they were Jews.

So Hitler essentially caused a bunch of people to be murdered and also caused one of the bloodiest and most destructive wars in history.

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Enormity of world war II as the most destructive war ever, and that of Holocaust as the most horrible genocide ever are unquestioned, and Hitler may be held primarily responsible for both. However, It is only the Holocaust that really makes him the Most evil political leader.

Hitler had many justifications for trying to improve the power and position of Germany, and his aims and actions were no more evil than those of other countries who colonized and exploited other countries, making claims to be "empire over which sun never set".

But merciless killing of Jews by Hitler has no other parallel in history, and on that count alone, I would rate Hitler as the political leaders who caused maximum death and destruction of innocent people in a very cruel way.

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cjfletch | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I won't downplay the horrible things he did.  He became the spokesperson for a movement that murdered millions of Jews, Catholics, intellectuals, and homosexuals.  His speeches and propaganda compelled Germans to follow him in those atrocities.

But he was a scapegoat for a movement that was beyond him alone.  WWII needed a villain, and he served as a great one.  This made it easier for the Allied forces to spread propaganda of their own, validating their part in the war.  It allowed the fight to be "good" vs "evil".  Any time someone becomes a leader, whether it be president or fuhrer, he takes responsibility for his country and what it does.  Germany did some cold stuff.

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