In Nazi Germany and in Soviet Russia, the state regulates every aspect of public and private life, and ordinary citizens have no part in governance. Marxist ideology in Soviet Russia and extreme fascism in Nazi Germany are the foundations for both totalitarian regimes, each led by two charismatic leaders and their followers. The state-controlled media is a tool with which these totalitarian regimes disseminate large-scale propaganda that extols the virtues of the state over the individual and attempts to convince citizens that under Stalin “life has become better” and “fate has sent Germany a great genius.”

In totalitarian regimes, the state is more important than the individual, so all means that elevate the state are justified. The means include such methods as absolute control over the economy, regulation and restriction of speech, mass surveillance, and widespread sanctioned use of state terrorism and torture. When the state is more important than the individual, threats to the state must be eliminated. In his ideological autobiography Mein Kampf, Hitler argues that the Jews have become a threat to Germany because of what he believes is their conspiracy to take over the world. Therefore, the Jews must be eliminated. In Soviet Russia, Stalin launches the "Great Purge” to rid the country of individualists, enemies of the state, and millions of people accused of sabotage, terrorism, treason, and insulting “Comrade Stalin.” In both regimes, ethnic minorities, the handicapped, homosexuals, and other “undesirables” are also targeted for elimination. German officer Strik-Strikfeldt tells Russian General Vlasov that he has compiled a list of words that are considered obscenities in both Germany and Soviet Russia. “Want to hear a few?” he asks. “Internationalism. Cosmopolitan. Plutocracy. Intellectual. Softness. Weakness. Mercy.”

Those who resist totalitarianism are the novel’s heroes—a poet like Anna Akhmatova who writes anti-Soviet verse, a composer like Dmitri Shostakovich who steadfastly refuses to join the Party, and a martyr like Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya whose last words are, “You can’t hang all hundred and ninety million of us!” Military men like General A. A. Vlasov and German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus also are heroes for following their consciences and not their orders. SS officer Kurt Gerstein is a hero for purposefully contaminating shipments of the poisonous gas Zyklon B before they arrive at concentration camps all over “Europe Central.” The ultimate irony of...

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