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Hitler and Stalin

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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC.

This may be the best history book I've read in years.

Hitler and Stalin is a riveting portrayal of the two figures. Of course, almost any book about the European fronts of WWII will address the two men in some fashion, but this book contrasts them deliberately, and it is utterly fascinating. We see how much the two regimes have in common— as one unfortunate soul who spent time in both Soviet and German prisons but it, fascism and communism are the same. Or as the author puts it in the book, "the Soviet and Nazi governments may have been fair apart in their ideological and political goals, but in the practical mechanics of oppression, they were closely linked." Also we see thoughtful analyses of how the men differed. For example, Stalin's rigid control of this underlings in his early rule and the beginning of WWII is contrasted to Hitler's more free hand, the latter of which resulted in much more success. However, as the war progresses, they switch strategies. 

It's an engrossing read that's well written, well researched, and peppered with impactful eyewitness accounts and other original sources. An unexpected bonus of this history is the time spent analyzing the complex relationship between Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill.
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The twentieth century was the deadliest in world history, and two figures who are emblematic of this fact are Hitler and Stalin. They are still invoked as examples of evil incarnate. Laurence Rees masterfully brings to life the personalities of each of these tyrants, their relationship with each other and how their visions inflicted themselves upon the world.

Rees’ setting the two men beside one another allows a greater insight into how these men and the totalitarian systems they championed shared a multitude of similarities – while also highlighting their differences. Of particular note is how even in generally common traits or desires, personality or structural differences produced variances even in the similarities. This allows for a deeper examination into two complex systems which became in many ways made in the image of their tyrants. 

Where this work really shines, and which I had not expected, is the witness accounts masterfully woven into the events described to show how people endeavored to survive the hellscape created not just by Hitler or Stalin, but by the fascist and communist ideologies. Sitting next to the accounts of innocents recounting their horrors are perpetrators justifying their faith; next to the recollections of statesmen are everyday people describing cannibalism and rape. This creates a two tier drama encompassing the higher and lower levels of society, both of which come to life.
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So very different in beliefs and personalities yet comparable in their lofty goals and ambitions.  Hitler and Stalin ("steel" in Russian") rose to power...tyrany...and are responsible for millions of deaths.  Each.  They lived and ruled at the same time though never met and were only eleven years apart in age.  Both grew up poor and were beaten by their fathers.  

Hitler was charismatic, unlike Stalin who was a man of few words.  Hitler despised governing bodies and institutions while Stalin was a staunch supporter of the Communist Party.  Both loathed the idea of monarchy, though they technically acted like ruling monarchy and took it further to brutal dictatorship.  Neither believed in God.  Hitler believed the laws of Nature, Stalin in Marxism.  Bolshevism terrified Hitler as Nazism did Stalin.  But both had the same vision...a new and perfected world, yet Stalin wanted a stateless society and Hitler a vast empire.  As such, in their warped minds no one had the right to be individual.  There was nothing they wouldn't do, no torture was an obstacle, mass murder was par for the course.  United in their hatred for inferior people, they were relentless and ruthless who used and abused fear.

Some say Stalin was "nice".  Hitler loved animals.  It is impossible for us to fathom the horrendous and unbearable horrors they meted out without compunction or reservation as they...and I hesitate to say this...had a human side.  Adherents stuck with them and to this day Stalin is revered by many Russians.

Stalin is responsible for the deaths of millions of Soviet citizens which is different than Hitler who mainly killed non-Germans.  They were never friends but tolerated each other at first.  But then WWII changed that.

This book is about human behaviour, the need to eliminate in juxtaposition to the need of the victims to just survive in unimaginable circumstances.  The author has done extraordinary quantities of research and it really shows.  I've read many books on the subject but this is the most thorough.  It taught me a lot and got me thinking about human nature.

Many horrors are described which are moving, heartbreaking and sobering.  This is not an easy read at times.  But it is a topic people should know in greater detail with a focus on the personalities of two of the most reviled repugnant men who ever lived.  Incredibly interesting and highly recommended.

My sincere thank you to Perseus Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this thought-provoking book in exchange for an honest review.  Much appreciated.
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Rees provides a comprehensive comparison of Hitler and Stalin from 1939-1945. He examines facets of their lives and personalities. The author does a good job giving readers an impartial examination of both tyrants. He doesn't mince words or hold back from the horrible things both men were responsible. Rees inluded many excerpts from individuals who suffered under both regimes. What stood out to me were the deportations of Poles by both the Germans and Russians. I hadn't realized to what extent the Soviets had forced out Polish citizens. It's a remarkable book and is an important contributor to the canon of historical literature.
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Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.  So many facts that I didn't know, and I have read extensively on both Hitler and Stalin.  A fascinating history.
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I admire very much what Lawrence Reese was trying to do in Hitler and Stalin. Comparing and contrasting these two dictators who are responsible for some of the worst human suffering of the last century. While the differences themselves are fascinating for people into political psychology and the how/why of political decision making, it feels so much like splitting hairs. Both men killed millions, both men compelled millions to commit atrocities through either brute force or personality, and neither man gave it a second thought. 

I also feel like at times, the central idea of a section or chapter gets buried in all the discussion of the events of WW2. While I think he gets to his point through all this information, it could be presented in a better format. The way it’s written, I found myself lost in the morass that is the violence and destruction of WW2 to the point of where Hitler and Stalin become background characters until the author pulls me back to the main subject of Hitler and Stalin.

A noble attempt that falls a little short.
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Not since Bullock's groundbreaking dual Hitler and Stalin biography has there been such a thorough comparative dissection of two of the deadliest despots of the 20th century. While Bullock took a biographical and lifelong approach, Rees focuses on the years of WWII. He studies the letters, documents and reports of both dictators' friends and colleagues who observed as each of these men reacted and responded to the events of war, Solidly researched and very well written, this book is a new classic.
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I have always known a lot about Hitler but knew much less about Stalin even though I knew some basics. It was incredibly sad to know the travesties that happened at the hands of these men. This really explored the parallels between the two and also the differences. Very well done and well cited.
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This book tells the story of two formidable dictators and their influence on the world around them.  I highly recommend this illuminating read.
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