Updated: 2 hours ago
As Russia doubles down with the egregious claim that “some of the worst antisemites are Jews,” it is a good time to see who is really more like Hitler. Is it Ukraine that has an ultra-nationalist agenda, to the point that it is willing to commit atrocities against civilians of Ukraine? Or is that Putin-led Russia?
There are some stunning similarities between Hitler’s war on Europe (and the Jews) and Putin’s war on Ukraine.
1. War is based on a fake “defense”
Both Hitler and Putin claimed they were defending themselves. Hitler claimed that after WWI, Germany was at the mercy of other European nations. He had to protect her. And he was at war with the Jews who “were on the verge of taking over the world.” It is amazing that since Hitler lost the war “to the Jews,” we have yet to take over the world and are still the most condemned country by the United Nations.
Putin claims he is defending Russia from NATO—a defensive organization. In fact, you could say that NATO’s tepid response is proof that it was really no threat. But in truth, both Hitler and Putin were on quests for land expansion and empire-building.
2. There are ethnic Russians in Ukraine/there are Ethnic Germans in Europe.
Hitler started by taking parts of different countries like Czechoslovakia, which had the Sudetenland because the population there was mostly ethnic Germans. He claimed that Austria wanted to be part of Germany, as the majority were ethnic Germans. Also, Danzig in Poland wanted to be a part of the German Reich (Empire). People should be able to decide their own destinies, argued Hitler; these are our people. He then took Poland. By the time he invaded France, it was clear that it was all a farce. There was no large German community living in central France.
Putin is doing the same thing. He claims he is only defending the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine. If he is truly following the Hitler playbook, then it will not end with Ukraine unless he is defeated. In his deranged mind, he is rebuilding the Russian Empire.
3. Responding to national humiliation
In the same way that the treaty of Versailles brought national humiliation to Germany after World War I, the breakup of the former Soviet Union brought national humility to many in Russia. Putin is seeking to right that perceived wrong.
The once-great German Second Reich surrendered to the Allies in World War I. The reparations that Germany had to pay were crippling. Beyond that, it was a national humiliation. The once-great European power was dealing with unbridled inflation. The military, who agreed to the surrender, rewrote history and blamed it on the politicians. Hitler came along and tapped into that humiliation.
The former Soviet Union was bankrupted by trying to keep up with the West in the arms race. With the breakup, Russia lost 14 other countries. They, too, suffered a great national humiliation. Putin is seeking to tap into that as well.
4. Swift, quick attack because the army is weak
At the beginning of World War II, Hitler’s army was quite weak. You have to remember that they came out of World War I devastated. The German Mark was once valued reasonably against the dollar. At times it went up to a million, even a trillion to one dollar. Their currency was worthless. His goal was to attack hard and fiercely win because an ongoing war would reveal the weakness of the German army. It worked for him in much of Europe.
It seems that Putin’s goal was similar. He would attack hard and fast, and within a few days, Ukraine would have been his. But he did not count on the Ukrainian people fighting back as they did. This has revealed that his army is weak and dilapidated. He did not plan for needing to get food and water to his troops two and half months later.
It has been proven by researcher Ivan Arreguín-Toft that a David can beat a Goliath if he adapts to the situation more than half of the time. David could not operate in Saul’s armor. He had to go for a different tactic. Ukraine’s different tactic is being willing to defend their nation at all costs, as opposed to the Russian forces, which are not passionate about this war.
5. They both have their own private armies
Hitler not only used the German Army for his initial atrocities, but he had death squads that were not accountable to the army. They would go into a new area and commit mass murder, often shocking the regular German troops.
They were called the Einsatzgruppen (‘deployment groups’ or ‘task forces’). They were part of the Schutzstaffel (known as the SS) which were “paramilitary death squads of Nazi Germany that were responsible for mass-murder, primarily by shooting, during World War II (1939–1945) in German-occupied Europe.” (Wikipedia)
Putin, in addition to the Russian army, has a well-trained group of murderous thugs known as the Wagner Group. “[It] is a Russian paramilitary organization. It is variously described as a private military company, a network of mercenaries, or a de facto private army of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” (Wikipedia)
These mercenaries are ruthless.
6. Willingness to kill lots of people to get what they want
We don’t need to document Hitler’s willingness to commit mass murder. And we are seeing the same thing in this war. No, they do not have concentration camps, but they are using lethal force on civilians to scare the Ukrainians into submission. We have seen a train station bombed, killing at least 50. A Mariupol theatre was bombed that was clearly marked as having children, killing 300 innocent people. This does not keep Putin awake at night. What keeps him awake at night is that he’s not winning.
7. They “created” a lethal enemy
Hitler said the Jews were Bolsheviks (communists) and must be stopped; Putin said there are Nazis in Ukraine that must be stopped. Ironically not only were the Jews accused of being communist but they were also accused of controlling all the banks and being extreme capitalists.
Putin has convinced his people that the Ukrainians are committing genocide against ethnic Russians. There is no evidence of this. During the year I lived in Ukraine, I never felt any animosity from Ukrainians towards Russians. I never heard a joke against Russians. And in fact, virtually every Ukrainian I met spoke Russian. But Putin created an enemy, gave it a label—Nazis (which is laughable because President Zelensky is Jewish)—and attacked it.
The only difference is that Hitler genuinely believed that the Jewish people were out for world domination, and they were his mortal enemy. In his suicide note, he doubled down. He said it was not he who wanted war: “It was desired and instigated exclusively by those international statesmen who were either of Jewish descent or worked for Jewish interests.” Putin simply needs an enemy to justify his desire for more land.
8. Hitler and Putin’s use of propaganda
Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, used every means possible to turn the German people against the Jews within. Goebbels said that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. They portrayed Jews as bloodsucking vampires bent on world domination. They made up stories of ethnic Germans being mistreated abroad by Jews—it was their duty to rescue them. The Nazis completely convinced the nation. Fake news was not invented in 2015.
Using the same techniques, Vladimir Putin’s approval rating was an amazing 81% after about six weeks of fighting, up 13% from a few months ago. He has managed to do this by outlawing any news that he doesn’t like, with a penalty of 15 years in jail. I’m sure many Russians who are Internet-savvy have figured out how to get the real news, but most have not. He has convinced his nation that Ukrainians, who were once considered like brothers to Russians, are their Nazi enemies.
9. Prophetic, mythical zeal for land expansion, as if it were their destiny
Lebensraum, which means living space, was an obsession of Hitler and the Nazis. It was the mythical idea that God had destined the Nazis to expand—like manifest destiny. They felt it was their calling to rule other lands. Putin is seeking, allegedly, to rebuild the former glory of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire in his own version of Russian manifest destiny.
Hitler was only stopped when nations of the world joined together to stop him. Had they done so earlier, tens of millions of soldiers would not have died, and there would never have been a Holocaust. The naive Neville Chamberlain emerged from Munich in 1938, saying that they had achieved “peace in our time.”
“An agreement signed at the Munich conference of September 1938 ceded the German-speaking Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany. The agreement was reached between Germany, Italy, Britain, and France. Czechoslovakia was not permitted to attend the conference. In March 1939, six months after signing the Munich agreement, Hitler violated the agreement and destroyed the Czech state.” —UCLA Film and Television Archive
Of course, Hitler would go on to take over Poland, France, the Netherlands, and other nations. He could’ve been stopped in 1938. Only time will tell if we’re making a mistake by not aggressively stopping Vladimir Putin.