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The Comrade’s Union, and the Führer’s Reich

20th century history will forever be dominated by the scar inflicted upon humanity
by two of the cruelest and most notorious totalitarian dictatorships ever in power; the
first, Nazi Germany: "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer." ("One People, one Reich,
one Leader."), under the political control of Adolf Hitler, the second, Soviet Russia:
“Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь!” (Workers of the world, unite!), primarily
under the coarse hand of Joseph Stalin. Both dictatorships grew rapidly from infancy to
relentless iron-fisted control; assisted greatly by the continued social unrest and demand
for drastic economic change by the people. Although both authoritarian rulers had
similar methods of eliminating opposition, the fundamental ideologies and the methods
of achieving totalitarian power were radically different and can be considered as the
primary difference between them.

Firstly, both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were conceived on the debris of
older economic and political structures. The embryo of the Soviet Union was formed on
the rubble of the Tsarist regime, which had been overthrown during the February
revolution in 1917 and replaced with a Provisional government, which was subsequently
replaced, in the October revolution by a Bolshevik leadership. However, in 1918 civil war
erupted in Russia between the “Reds”, the communist revolutionaries and the “Whites”,
mainly consisting of the liberals, socialists and conservatives. This caused widespread
disruption and brought death and destruction upon millions of people, regardless of their
political affiliations. From this chaos, the Bolshevik uprising emerged scathed but
victorious and in December 1922, the Soviet Union was officially formed under Vladimir
Lenin, who was succeeded by Joseph Stalin. The Soviet Union was formed to eliminate
Tsarist class based rule, and ironically, ended up creating exactly that again, but this
time, under a different political system. The Soviet Union had to fight for its survival
during its infancy, with the revolutions and the bloody struggle, however, Nazi Germany,
was formed on a struggle, largely without bloodshed.

In a similar fashion to the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany was forged and built
around the mayhem of Germany’s systems at that time. After the ‘November criminals’
Ludendorff and von Hindenburg surrendered to the West, the treaty of Versailles was
implemented and its demands were forced upon the German peoples. In an attempt to
salvage the situation, a Weimar Constitution was instigated and the country was turned
over to the hands of the intellectuals and previous government officials. The economy
struggled to survive and the living conditions for the people were terrible. After
hyperinflation, the Great Depression of the 1930’s and economic isolation, the people
began to lose faith in the democratic government and systems such as communism and
even fascism seemed more appealing. 1931-2 saw the political situation take another
dive which not only caused the collapse of the banking system but which resulted in a
total of four national elections in 1932.

Due to the Nazi party offering a beacon of hope during the economic crisis with
their policies and views, for example, the removal of the SA. Regardless, they passed
through several elections, in the third of which they received massive support in the
parliamentarian sector. However, Hindenburg, the president of the Weimar Republic, in
an attempt to gain majority votes in the Reichstag, appointed Hitler Chancellor of
Germany and von Papen as his subordinate. Hitler used this position and created an
enabling law that provided him with supreme power. After the death of Hindenburg, he
used it to dissolve the Weimar Republic and create the basis for the Third Reich, which
he ruled till his death. However, like Stalin, Hitler originally strove to work within the
system and wished to govern Germany under the Weimar Republic democratically,
although he only saw this as a stepping stone to seizing power, whereas the Soviet Union
gained power on the aftermath of a bloody revolution that completely upturned their
political systems all together.
After the creation of each single-party state, the leaderships set out to eliminate
opposition. Both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union used a combination of secret police,
concentration camps and purges to eradicate their unwanted political rivals. Purges were
widely used throughout both nations to not only arrest or defer unwanted rivals, but in
the majority of cases, to remove them completely. Stalin’s infamous purges of his
military command and communist party members are generally considered to have had
a more negative than positive result in terms of his goals. The elimination of his military
chain of command severely decreased his army’s capability for war which resulted in the
Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, a play by the Soviets for time to build up military capabilities.
Less recognised, Hitler’s purges were much more focused than those going on in the
Soviet Union; Hitler targeted the Sturmabetilung (SA) leadership, a gang of Para-military
thugs, after choosing the Wehrmacht as the military arm of the government over the SA.
“The Night of the Long Knives” was the most memorable moment, as it marked Rohm’s,
the leadership of the SA, assassination. Hitler feared Rohm as his intention to obtain total
military control, thus surpassing the power of Hitler himself, were becoming more
obvious within his actions and those of his men. The fear or Rohm was not solely that of
Hitler, the general population grew to fear Rohm and Hitler used this fear to his benefit,
by eliminating him and thus showing that he was not only in charge, but had the peoples’
interests at heart.

While both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were based around a dictator in
total power, Stalin displayed a certain wisdom in his, albeit poor, ability to consider his
peers' opinions and experiences whereas Hitler remained obstinate in firmly believing
that as he was the Führer: only his decisions, thoughts and ideas should be implemented.
In addition, the two nations had completely different ideologies. The Soviet Union was
working on communist-socialist principles, or what came to be known as Stalinism, as
Stalin decidedly twisted communism to his methods, making the economy more central
than in Marxism. Collectivism was also a large part of the Soviet economic policy, which
saw the collective control of land, property and business by the government and removal
of personal property rights to lands and businesses. In Nazi Germany, private property
was abundant as was large industry, where the economy was more central to the
political workings and support for the country than collectivised support. More
importantly in Germany however, was the ideological autarky that Hitler believed so
strongly in. Nazi party ideology was founded primarily on the principle that the German
people were superior to all others, especially Jews, who were used as scapegoats for
problems ranging from the economy to political instability, and also superior to the West,
who were charged with oppressing the peoples of Germany after WWI and whose
primary objective was capitalism. So although both parties had totalitarian dictators, they
functioned differently, each within a completely different system.

In conclusion, although both single party states rose from the rubble of their
former political systems, they not only did so in different manners, but also within
different situations. However, both leaders strove to eliminate all opposition to their
ideology and political power stance while in command. Both states were created under
flawed principles, the principles of totalitarianism, a system where inevitably, the
decisions of one affect the lives of millions, a lot of the time, indiscriminately. Due to the
vast gap between the two ideologies and the differences between the state’s birth,
neither state is entirely like the other, but in terms of actions and methods, there isn’t
much that separates two of the worst and most evil dictatorships ever in power.