The poster boy for moral decrepitude of the twentieth century is certainly Adolph Hitler. Barely an Internet squabble goes by without someone invoking the N word. Nazi even sounds evil. Give it to me straight, Doc. What I got? I’m sorry, but. You have Nazis.
Yet the Nazis were not the world’s worst offenders. Amnesty International estimates that there were a hundred million people killed through ethnic cleansing in the twentieth century alone. Joseph Stalin is thought to have killed 25 million people. If you take ten million for the deaths at the hands of the Nazis, then Stalin was two and a half Hitlers. That’s 250%.
Of course, the Germans are known for their efficiency, plus with IBM technology and support from people like Rockefeller they turned murder into an assembly line. And yes. The Nazis had help from us, the good guys. And further, thousands of Nazis, who should have had front row seats on Nuremburg, were brought to the United States after the war during Operation Paperclip. Wernher von Braun, the head of the lunar program, was the most famous. So we are part Nazi.
So, what to make of this tenacious tendency of history to be ‘sticky’ as I like to say? Things stick to it where they shouldn’t be and history sometimes sticks to other things, as well. History refuses to fit into the history books.
I propose a scale. The Nazi scale. By this metric, Stalin was 250% Nazi. Pol Pot, who was responsible for the deaths of two million Cambodians, weighs in at 20% Nazi. Idi Amin, the butcher of Uganda is believed by Amnesty International to have killed half a million people through his brutality, putting him at just 5% Nazi. The Turks are believed to have killed as many as three million Armenians, putting them at 30% Nazi. And the pogroms of Russia and Eastern Europe have no official count. And of course, Germans weren’t the only ones with the Nazi curse. Kieven Ukrainians, notably Stepan Bandaras, sided with the Nazis and murdered countless Polls. His ideological descendants, the Azov Battalion and Right Sector parties, are currently in control of the government of Ukraine. So there are Nazis once again in control of a European country.
Then there’s Bosnia-Herzegovina, 2% Nazi. Rwanda, 8%. The Rape of Nanking, 3%. China and Tibet under Mao, the numbers are unclear. The Congo, 80%. Japan, WWII. 50%. Ethiopia, 15%. Biafra, 10%. Afghanistan (Brezhnev) 90%. And the list goes on.
How many deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Bosnia, and Ukraine can be considered genocide on the part of the US? Madalyn Albright famously remarked that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children were ‘worth it.’ Is this an admission of genocide? Or just brutally callous and quite possibly racist? Of course, we had no legal basis for any of those invasions, so they were all war crimes, if not technically ethnic cleansing. The same with the bombing of Dresden or Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hiroshima might have been justified, but why Nagasaki? Hadn’t we made our point? Just how Nazi are we? And what about natives of the Americas? Should we count them?
Prior to the twentieth century, civilians were not supposed to be targeted during a war. That was a war crime. If you think the concept of war crimes is modern, Captain Henry Wirz was hanged for war crimes in Andersonville POW camp during the Civil War, though he was most probably a scape goat, making his death also a crime. And then there was Evacuation Day, the November holiday once celebrating the liberation of New York City by George Washington. Along with the city, civilians who had been detained during the war in the holds of ships in Manhattan harbor were liberated and remembered for their inhumane treatment.
So clearly the winner in this macabre contest is Stalin. He maintained a camp system much larger that Germany and for a much longer period of time. Yet we don’t talk about the Communists with the same ferocity as the Nazis. Why is that? More importantly, why do we talk about the Nazis with that ferocity? They are near the top in numbers, of course, but they are not out of the ordinary. As a matter of fact, some historians have said that genocide is a normal human behavior. Well, regular, anyway. They are a lot more like we ourselves than we might like to think. And we are capable of more than we would like to believe.
What percent Hitler are you?