Who was worse and why: Hitler or Stalin?

Evil is evil- it just is. Stalin and Hitler were both horrible men, horrible leaders, and they did horrible things to their own people and others. That said, I think Hitler is the more evil of the 2.

Asking this question is kinda like asking “what’s worse dying of rabies or being lit on fire”. They both just really suck. I’m not a fan of historical antler measuring contests but regardless- it’s a common question so let’s address it.


Hitler took power in 1933 and reigned in Germany as dictator until 1945 when Germany fell. During this period of time

  1. He started the largest war in world history where some 60 million people would die
  2. He would spearhead and order the largest genocide in human history
  3. He would destroy his own nation and in the end, his final orders were for SS units to destroy the remaining German infrastructure because “the German people failed me”

Now Hitler really stands alone when it comes to horror.

During WW2 the Nazis would directly kill 35 million civilians. This is an insane number. Now, these are not people killed by accident when a factory was bombed nor are these indirect deaths from German actions. No- I mean Germans shot, gassed, tortured, and intentionally killed 35 million civilians.

  • 6 million Jews were either killed in camps by gas chambers, worked to death, or murdered by mobile killing squads. At Treblinka, entire trains full of children arrived and were gassed and killed on the spot.
  • 20 million Russian civilians were killed by Germans. In many (if not most) cases the Germans just slaughtered any civilians they found. In other cases, they besieged their cities and let them starve.
  • 2.5 million Poles were killed in camps, murdered by mobile killing squads, or shot to death.
  • 3 million Soviet POWs were killed inside German concentration cams
  • 300,000 disabled people were murdered by Nazis in their infamous T4 program.

These are just the primary crimes against humanity Hitler ordered and inspired.

In his 12 years in power 35 million died. This means that for every year that man ruled Germany, 3 million civilians died on average. These deaths were intentional, horrific, and make your blood run cold


Stalin was no angel either though.

He made his name in the communist party by committing various crimes to raise funds. He was known as a violent sociopath with little regard for human life.

When Lenin died though Stalin quickly found himself in power and from 1922 to 1953 Stalin would rule the USSR as its absolute dictator.

Stalin would cause famines, kill political enemies, and kill innocent civilians alike. He maintained power through fear, torture, brutality, and ruthlessness.

How many died under his rule though? Well this is hard to say.

Now, most of you will say “20 million” but that number is a bit tricky. First off there is no evidence for 20 million being valid. In order to get to 20 million you have to include every possible famine, wildly overestimate realistic death tolls, and stretch the truth.

The only historians to conclude “20 million” as the number are famously anti-socialist and this is important to note.

I conclude that 10,300,000 were killed due to Stalin.

  • 4 million in the Holodomor which was a famine in Ukraine.
    • Note that famine is different from genocide. It’s debated if Stalin intended for famine to occur or not. I think he likely did so I include it but there is a strong debate that he did not intend for this to happen. Intent matters- it’s the difference between murdering your room ate and accidentally killing someone in a car crash.
  • 300,000 in the Decossakization (arguably genocide)
    • Some estimates peg this number as low as 10,000 though
  • 1 million in The Great Purge
  • 200,000 in Operation Lentil
  • 50,000 in the deportation of Crimean Tatars
  • 500,000 killed in Kulak Deportations
  • 100,000 additional killed in Gulags (most are already included in the above events)
  • 4–5 million Germans were killed in WW2
    • 2.5 million civilians were killed due to war crimes
    • 1 million POWs killed
    • 600,000 killed after post-WW2 deportations
  • 150,000 Polish POWs killed

Now many of these were extremely brutal. After German atrocities in the USSR the Reds wanted revenge and brutalized the German civilian population.

Moreover, life in the USSR was terrifying for many. Stalin’s government was horrifyingly cruel and often killed at random simply to inspire fear.

My total of 10 million can be debated though. Famines are disasters and its hard to include them as intentional killings. Additionally, records are really incomplete here and while I am not on the high end- I am also far from the low-end estimates


Every year Hitler was in power 3 million people died on average

Every year Stalin was in power 300,000 people died on average.

Hitler is responsible for 3 times more killings than Stalin and he achieved this number in 1/3rd the time.

Also, Hitler intended to kill every single civilian that died– in fact, he wanted to kill many more but was thankfully stopped. With Stalin, it is not so clear. We can attribute many millions of deaths to him- but not all were intentional or desired.

Either way they were both horrible people.

The science of aggression and narcissism

 

Link to research article mentioned in the video: https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?do…

Reference: Kjærvik, S. L., & Bushman, B. J. (2021). The link between narcissism and aggression: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin. Advance online publication.