Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot: Epitomes of Evil

written by kansai2kansas as a "Compare/Contrast" topic for his English 101 class

Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Party and Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge were among the most calamitous legacies of the 21st century. Although their reigns were a generation apart, both men carried ordinary childhoods before they took turn for the worst. Each had inflicted a very deep lesion on the lives of millions of families. Their lives and legacies are therefore an agonising lesson for the humanity that we hope will never be repeated.

Both of these leaders had fine basic educations before they failed their secondary educations, which led them to look up to their surrounding environments as sources of their convoluted mythoi. Little Adolf had had excellent grades in primary school. However, due to disruptive behaviours during high school, he got expelled. After his father’s death, he tried applying to an art academy in Vienna twice. He was rejected on both attempts. He was thus forced to live constantly under indigence. During his time there, he took note of the stark contrast between his life and the lives of the elite Jewish Austrians. It became the cornerstone of what was to be his ardent Anti-Semitism, which he personalised in his controversial book Mein Kampf and the subsequent founding of Nazi Party. Saloth Sar, more popularly known as Pol Pot, attended Catholic school in Phnom Penh. Winning a scholarship, he went to an engineering school in Paris, where he ended up joining an underground communist cell. Due to his poor academic records, he gained popularity as an exemplary proletariat where he also became a member the French Communist Party. Together with his fellow party members, his flames to revolutionise against monarchist Cambodia enkindled after seeing the successes of various Soviet-inspired movements throughout the world.

Both these potentates target the most influential groups of their respective territories. For Hitler’s administration, the less Jewish people there were, the better it would be for his Third Reich ideals. Therefore, he instituted various policies which tried to reduce the number of Jews, starting from the bigger-scale gassing in the concentration camps to the smaller-scale eugenics policy. Similarly, Pol Pot’s administration instituted various policies which mainly aimed at one group that he hated most: the intellectuals and occidentalists. Daily purges were conducted toward eliminating the remnants of intellectualism in Cambodia: the affluent, the educated, Buddhist clergy, foreign nationals, teachers, former government officials were polished off.

During his entire reign, the Führer of Germany did not just order deaths out of hatred. The Final Solution, which came out as a culmination of years of sporadic racism, came about as a prerequisite to promote his purity of Aryan race and superiority of Germany. As a result, a significant population of Europe perished. From the start of his tyranny in 1933 until his eventual suicide in 1945, more than 21 million civilian Europeans died, which amounted to 6% of Europe’s population. Human costs were likewise high for Cambodia. During the Secretary General’s relatively short term from 1975 to 1979, the Democratic Party of Kampuchea eliminated around two million people, which was equal to 25% of Cambodia’s population.

Nevertheless, there were also manifest differences between Hitler’s and Pol Pot. For one, they are both in the opposite extremes of ideology. Hitler was a far-right. He drew inspiration from Romanticism, eugenic interpretation of Nietzsche’s idea of “breeding upwards”, and Lutheran text On the Jews and Their Lies which was published in the 16th century. Pol Pot, on the other hand, was a far-left. He drew inspiration from Marxism, Leninism, and Mao Zedong’s theories of ideal society.

Despite being a fervent anti-Communist, Hitler carried a vast Stalinist cult of personality surrounding him. He was a true narcissist. The common greeting of Hallo or Guten Morgen were replaced by Heil Hitler, which means “Praised be Hitler”, followed by the extending of right arm to the air as a Nazi salute. Disrespectful behaviour towards the flag of Nazi Party, the showing of defeatist attitude toward the war against the Allies, or simply making japes about Hitler’s Chaplin-style moustache would be tantamount to treason. When a German was about to host a neighbour, he/she also had to make sure that a picture of the Führer was hanging on the living room wall. Otherwise, he/she could risk being reported to the Gestapo (secret police) and being sent to the extermination camps outside Germany. In contrast, Pol Pot instituted none of those Orwellian Big Brother figures. Apart from party members, almost no Cambodian ever knew his name. Being so secretive, he (or his party thereof) came to be called angkar, which means “the organisation”. Pictures bearing his image were so rare that even Pol Pot’s own brother, Suong, only found out about angkar’s true identity nearing the end of his term.

These tyrants were also dissimilar in the aspect of granting exceptions. In spite of Hitler’s hatred toward the Jews, he spared certain people to whom he found exceptions. He was in favour of some Jewish intellectuals, especially artists, architects, and money counterfeiters. The first two was due to his fondness of art and architecture, while the third was for helping to fill the coffers of the Nazi Party. On most of these cases he had even signed “pure Aryan” identity cards to them, albeit with the full knowledge that they were a fourth, half, or even full-blooded Jew. In contrast, Pol Pot did not grant any favour to any intellectual whatsoever. He considered it an absolute necessity that all capitalists and members of intellectual must perish, so that the Cambodian society could be rid of all Western influences.

Pol Pot came to power in 1975, exactly 30 years after Hitler’s despotism ended. Nevertheless, the rest of the world somehow managed to let the purge of Khmer Rouge happen in front of their nose. Even though it was the Allies who forced the Nazis into surrender, USA was never involved in removing the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge was taken down by the Vietnamese forces. By the time his regime was toppled, it was already too late for the two million Cambodians who had died under the unhinged regime. Lest we forget, Khmer Rouge and Nazism were not the only ones who conducted killings on such astronomic scales. Rwandan genocide, Stalin’s purge, Japanese militarism, and China’s Zedong communism also carried fatal results for millions of lives around the world. Only one question remains: How could such a barbaric capacity happen repeatedly in the same century?

Tout ensemble, it should be our priority to learn from the past and make sure that these painful lessons would never have to occur again. Being the most powerful military in the world, we Americans wield one of the biggest powers to prevent them. Recently, we have removed absolutists such as Nicaragua’s Manuel Noriega and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. The least that we could do now is support our troop forces and pray that if Iran’s Ahmadinejad and North Korea’s Kim Jong-il would start systematically killing its people, God would grant us the required economic strength and military might to remove those autocrats from power.

Works cited

"Cambodia's Holocaust." Cambodian Communities out of Crisis. Web. 05 Apr. 2011. .

"Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity | Pol Pot." ENotes - Literature Study Guides, Lesson Plans, and More. 2000. Web. 05 Apr. 2011. .

"Genocide in the 20th Century: Pol Pot in Cambodia 1975-1979." The History Place. 1999. Web. 05 Apr. 2011. .

"Genocide in the 20th Century: The Nazi Holocaust 1938-45." The History Place. 2000. Web. 05 Apr. 2011. .

Rigg, Bryan Mark. Hitler's Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Man of Jewish Descent in The German Military. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2002. Print.

Rummel, R. J. "Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder." University of Hawaii System. Web. 05 Apr. 2011. .

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