WASHINGTON — Even before the Russian military began its invasion of Ukraine, comparisons between contemporary Russian President Vladimir Putin and Nazi-era fuehrer Adolf Hitler began to spread.
As Ukrainian towns are hit by missiles, killing many civilians and refugees fleeing the border into Poland, Putin is accused of following in the footsteps of Germany’s reviled former leader. The #PutinHitler hashtag is trending on social media as Europe faces its biggest crisis since World War II.
“Disturbingly reflects the features”
According to Jonathan Katz, senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund and director of Democracy Initiatives, Putin “is this century’s equivalent of Hitler, and the threat he poses to Europe, the United States and global security s extends far beyond the current conflict in Ukraine”.
“Like Hitler, Putin amassed unquestionable power in Russia, crushing political opposition with little or no control over his regime and using military force or other hybrid tools to brutally carve out and illegally conquer territory in surrounding countries.
Putin, Katz tells VOA, “disturbingly mirrors Hitler’s traits — cold and calculated, showing no remorse or interest in the sanctity of human life.”
Katz, who previously headed the Europe and Eurasia programs at the U.S. Agency for International Development and co-chaired a transatlantic task force on Ukraine, says like Hitler and the Nazis in justifying force, “Putin also uses language of misinformation, scapegoating and dehumanization.”
“Tragically, what the world is witnessing today evokes memories of the Nazi blitzkrieg,” says Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization.
“To be clear, nobody accuses Vladimir Putin of preparing death camps and gas chambers. But the brutality of the Russian military in invading a peaceful neighbor that includes the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and the decimation of towns evokes memories of Nazi armies invading the USSR (Soviet Union) in 1941,” said Cooper at VOA.
Putin’s demeanor, statements and attitude give “a real insight into his character, and to me, he’s a 21st century Hitler,” former director of national intelligence James Clapper recently told CNN.
Former Ukrainian politician Svitlana Zalishchuk, who fled Kyiv after intense rocket fire, told Fox News that Putin was “a Hitler of our time”.
The popular news aggregation website Drudge Report led its coverage of the invasion of Ukraine recently with the headline “FUHRER 2022” and an image of Putin altered to look like Hitler.
Putin-Hitler comparisons are not new. In 2014, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Britain’s Prince Charles was widely chastised for casually stating that “Putin is doing pretty much the same thing as Hitler.”
The prince was in Canada, talking to a Jewish World War II survivor.
Highlight the differences
Jewish groups have repeatedly dismissed many modern “Hitler” and “Nazi” analogies, noting that the Third Reich was responsible for a genocide that targeted and murdered 6 million Jews and that flippant comparisons trivialize the scale of the human suffering experienced in the 1940s.
Hitler held power in Germany for a dozen years. His forces annexed Austria and Czechoslovakia, occupied nine other countries, including France, and invaded — but could not hold — five countries in North Africa.
Before this year’s full-scale invasion, Putin had his army invade Georgia in 2008. Six years later, they took Crimea from the Ukrainians without a fight and actively supported the separatists in the Donbass region of Ukraine. .
Asking whether Putin is the new Hitler misses the point, according to John Stoehr, editor and publisher of The Editorial Board, an online political newsletter.
“I don’t think it matters as much as the fact that his army arbitrarily bombs civilians, his soldiers shoot children and he seems determined to do to Ukraine what Bashar al-Assad did to Syria. . That is, mass murder of a people,” he told VOA.
“To ask if he is the new Hitler is to admit priorities that are upside down, retrograde and prolapsed,” says Stoehr, a member of the Yale Journalism Initiative.
Some historians are more inclined to compare Putin to Otto von Bismarck, the late 19th-century prince who became Imperial Chancellor of the German Empire.
“My belief that Putin is Bismarck rather than Hitler has been undermined by his recent speeches, which sound a lot like Hitler. However, my hope that he looks more like Bismarck is based on my overall assessment of his career and general direction. Recent speeches might just be tactical,” says Paul deLespinasse, professor emeritus of political science and computer science at Adrian College.
“It’s a strategy”
Some see irony in Putin’s comments trying to justify what he calls a special military operation, saying it aims to rid Ukraine of neo-Nazi control. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish and members of his family perished in the Holocaust.
“It’s not an irony. It’s a strategy. Putin wants to bring the Ukrainian government to ruin. He just needed a reason,” according to Stoehr, who added that Putin grasped the fact that there were a small number of neo-Nazis in Ukraine’s National Guard.
Russia’s war “is not with fictitious Nazis” but with a country made up of “Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, people of various nationalities,” exiled Russian opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky said on Tuesday. to VOA’s Russian service. “It is a united Ukrainian nation, with which we are waging an unjust war of aggression.”
Eighty years ago, notes Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “Hitler ordered that the results of the Wannsee Conference which decided to kill European Jews be kept secret. Putin, on the other hand, invited the media and diplomats around the world to sit in the front row as he planned and launched his invasion with the aim of obliterating an independent country and culture.
Putin’s denazification language “is the same type of perverse rhetorical tricks deployed by Hitler to justify and commit mass atrocities against Jews and others in Germany and across Europe in the 1930s and during the Second World War,” says Katz of the German Marshall Fund.
“Like the Nazis’ use of the swastika as a symbol of power, Putin uses the letter Z as a symbol to rally Russians and justify impermissible action in Ukraine. Ultimately, history will see Putin and his regime as war criminals, just like Hitler and the Nazis.