Before Hitler came along, who was cited as the embodiment of evil?

One good answer is from Tim O’Neill:

People were generally very familiar with the Bible pre-1900, so the figures usually cited as the epitome of evil tended to be Judas Iscariot, Herod the Great or, most commonly, the Pharaoh of the story of Moses in Exodus. In Common Sense, Thomas Paine wrote: “No man was a warmer wisher for reconciliation than myself, before the fatal nineteenth of April, 1775 [the date of the Lexington massacre], but the moment the event of that day was made known, I rejected the hardened, sullen Pharaoh of England forever.”  The Confederates referred to Abraham Lincoln as “the northern Pharaoh” and abolitionists in turn called slaveowners “modern Pharaohs”.  Americans also referred to all tyrants by comparing them to King George III and Napoleon was often cited as the ultimate bogeyman in Britain.  But generally it was Pharaoh who was used the way we use Hitler.

Did they have something akin to Godwin’s Law back then: “if you have to mention the Pharaoh, you’ve lost the argument!”  Somehow I don’t think so.  A link to the Quora forum is here.

Update: It seems Brian Palmer deserves credit for the information behind that answer.


I'm always confused by condemnation of Judas by Christians- wasn't Judas and his betrayal necessary for Jesus to bring salvation to humanity? Didn't God create Judas and foresee his betrayal with his omniscience?

I'm familiar with theodicy- I'm just interested in the reasoning of actual Christians for disliking Judas given the points I raised. I tend to find the only people who talk about theodicy are non-believers who see that an all-powerful and all-benevolent god would not allow horrendous suffering. I'd be curious to know how many of MR readers are religious compared to general population.

Looking at Dante, the traitors were in the lowest circle of Hell: those who betrayed family, king etc. Can't get worse than betraying God. That's why Judas is as deep as you can go.

From literary pov, the temple guards could have grabbed everyone, and rest of narrative proceed as planned. That wouldn't have been betrayal - the guards etc didn't recognise Jesus as divine. The implication in Dante is then that Judas did.

That's the best I can do - if you really thought someone was God would you even try to get them executed? (Or expect it to happen?)

Most Christians are not theologians.

I suppose I'm still confused by a religion that centers on both radical forgiveness and eternal damnation. They seem a bit contradictory to me.

"I suppose I’m still confused by a religion that centers on both radical forgiveness and eternal damnation. They seem a bit contradictory to me."

Carrot and stick.

@Dave, Christians believe the cross is about God bringing good out of evil. The fact that even the worst, most rebellious acts in history became the mechanism by which God brought about good is evidence of God's total victory over evil and ability to work good in any circumstance that people may face. Also, the evil and rebellion in humans allows God to demonstrate love in a way that would not be possible if humans were simply perfect. Nevertheless, this doesn't imply that evil actions are actually good; nor is the belief that God personally caused the evil. Rather, God created free beings who were able to make choices with real consequences, which is a precondition for genuine relationship.

I think Judas is an illustration of these dynamics. Good came through his actions, but that doesn't vindicate the actions themselves; it only shows the futility of evil's attempt to oppose God.

This is my attempt, as a Christian, to explain this.

Dan- thanks for your reply. I'm still confused by a lot of the reasoning. You say god allowing free will/evil to exist allows god to show love because it otherwise wouldn't possible. But isn't god all-powerful, so if he wanted to demonstrate love without allowing evil, he'd be able to do it? I'm confused by the idea of an all-powerful god having to work around obstacles and limitations.

I also disagree that god is absolved of responsibility for humankind's evil acts because he gave us free will. In my opinion, that's like me creating a robot with free will, it does a bunch of damage, and I say "oh, I didn't cause that harm, it was the robot".

And lastly, I'm confused why Christians would hate Judas given's Jesus's message of peace/love to all, and the idea of hating the sin and not the sinner. But I'm not a well-versed Christian, so I may be missing some pretty basic reasoning on this.

@Dave, thanks for your response.

Yes, there is a lot of debate around just the issues you discuss. I don't have perfect answers. However, I would push back at the question "why would God create free will?" Most of us hold up freedom as one of the highest goods, and consider slavery a great evil. Are we really sure that a world in which people had no freedom and did no harm would be better?

Also, a robot is not a free being. Even if it is programmed with some unpredictability, the program is still 100% the creator's and therefore the creator's responsibility. A more apt analogy would be a child. Parents have a lot of responsibility towards their children, but they are not held responsible for everything their children do, precisely because children grow up to be free beings. One might argue that God, being all powerful, should have perfect control, unlike human parents, but this ignores the voluntary nature of letting go as children grow up. Eventually parents recognize their children as autonomous adults and let them make their own decisions--even harmful decisions. And we consider this a good thing.

I don't think most Christians focus a lot of personal hate on Judas--at least not in the traditions with which I am familiar. Nor should we. According to the Gospel accounts, Jesus showed him love despite knowing what he would do and even called him "friend" on the occasion of the betrayal. Since Jesus is supposed to be the example for all Christians, then this should set the tone for how we think about Judas.

@Dan I agree that calling someone Judas or hating him is not very common anymore. And unlike Hitler, I imagine calling someone Judas makes a lot less sense for non-Christians, which is probably why it was more popular in the old days.

As for cherishing free will, I don't believe we have free will (neither does Stephen Hawking, nor did Einstein). There's growing scientific evidence speaking to that question. But either way, if god is all powerful, he could create a world without evil where we didn't feel like slaves or lacking free will. I still don't understand the idea of god not being able to do something and having to work around limitations.

And I disagree with the child metaphor being better than the robot one. When humans create children, we don't really have much say in designing them. We don't tinker with their genes, or if they have lungs rather than gills, or wings rather than arms. By contrast, I assume god would have had infinite options in designing humans. And apparently, he decided to make child birth very painful for women to punish all women for Eve's action (that's my understanding). And yet that seems very opposed to the idea of a god who is 1) all-powerful (should have foreseen Eve's actions even though she had free will) and 2) forgiving. Why punish all women with painful child birth?

I'm not religious, but I am genuinely curious how religious people come to terms with these things.

Hate the sin, love the sinner.

But of course Christians are sinners too (redeemed by the grace of God alone), so that gets confused a bit. As a Christian, I don't think I could answer "so that means you love Hitler?" with a straight face. I can only imagine that's how people used to about Judas too...only even more abstractly, being 2000 more years removed.

p.s. this is probably the most civil discussion of Christianity and Hitler that the internet has ever seen.

Dave, any discussion of the Book of Job has to address theodicy.

Perhaps Judas was fated to betray Christ: I think this falls under the other big logical problem of free will. Different Christianities have their takes on this eg predestination, faith vs works, on and on. Maybe you can fill in the stories that go along with each of the major positions on free will, salvation, and G-d's relation to them. But at the end of the day Judas betrayed the Saviour with a kiss. (For thirty pieces of silver. Even if you hear just that phrase, doesn't it make your skin crawl!) It's a perfect story because it doesn't get lower than that.

More scientists (like Stephen Hawking) are saying and find they believe free will is an illusion, but except for a sect of Calvinists, I haven't really found many Christians who agree. It would seem to really undermine the whole appeal of religion, especially those religions that thrive on evangelizing.

I'd just be confused- what do Christians think would have happened had Jesus not been betrayed? Would it have been a way better sacrifice for mankind, and Judas messed it all up? It seems to be me believing in an all-powerful god who created everything and knows exactly how everything will unfold among his creation means that god isn't surprised or angry at what Judas did.

Dave, maybe it's all fiction? Have thought about that?

You could ask Dante's Lucifer, but all three mouths remain full . . . .

On that topic, I highly recommend the Borges short story "Three Versions of Judas". Someone even put it online:

Mr. Nelson,

I am confused as to why you think this is a peculiarly religious problem with Judas and not a broader problem that includes secular symbols of evil such as Hitler. Things either determined by cause (in which case, how can you say that the result is evil when it is predetermined by causes) or things are fundamentally random (in which case, how do you call a bad flip of the dice evil?). Modern scientific thought does not resort to God as a descriptive force, but it also does not allow for free will. This is why the modern tread is to describe things that were once thought of as evil as being mental conditions that need to be treated and not "evil" things. The thought is that we are the products of our "causes" and thus not capable of controlling who we are.

So how can Hitler be any more evil then the rest of the residents of our mental wards?

God is smiling as Hitler and Anne Frank share a dance in heaven. A Universalist idea I heard recently.

Apeman- I do think this is a particularly religious problem, because they typically believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful creator, unlike non-theists/agnostics. They are angry with Judas, but they believe in a god that presumably created him. Also, wasn't Jesus's thing kind of that he loved everyone, even "enemies" and other marginalized groups? So I think the idea of hating a human, even Judas, kind of defeats the whole theological point of Jesus.

Mr. Nelson,

You have started out with condemnation and now you have gone to hate. All the while you are dancing around the question of what makes something evil. I don't care if you want to say that neither Judas or Hitler were evil. But what I don't understand is why thinking that everything is governed by fixed physical laws makes it rational to say that Hitler was evil but saying that a God who controls all things makes it irrational to say that Judas was evil. In both cases the stumbling block is not "is it right to kill millions of people?" or "is it right to betray a friend for a monetary reward?" but rather "does how much control an individual have over their own makeup determine whether they are evil are not?"

If you want to throw out the entire concept of evil, why pick on Judas? If you don't want to through out the concept of evil, then I still don't understand why think your question is predominantly a problem for the religious.

And who is more evil, Hitler, or the people who provided him political and financial support for his ideas?


Like I said earlier, religion is unique in saying there was an intelligent being who purposefully created life on Earth. So I think they have a unique burden of explaining evil/evil people, especially when they claim their god is all-powerful and all-benevolent. The only similar burden I can think of for non-religious people is to explain why evolution or nature/nurture creates evil- and even then there's less burden since all secularists aren't necessarily putting forward a definitive theory of life they have to defend.

My post wasn't to argue whether evil exists or say it doesn't- it was inquiring about how Christians deal with what I see as conflicting ideas. But I do think the idea of using "Judas" shorthand for evil really only appeals to someone who believes in a messiah that was apparently betrayed a few thousand years ago. To a non-believer, I think there are a lot better candidates who would better signify evil.

Crucial to an understanding of Judas' betrayal is that the events leading to Jesus' crucifixion are part of a much larger narrative involving Satan's rebellion against God.

God created Judas and foresaw his betrayal, he also created Adam and Eve and foresaw their fall. Christians make a distinction between God's foreknowledge and the moral culpability of the person who commits a sin. God might know it was going to happen ahead of time, but the person still has the freedom to choose or not to choose. Dante aside, Catholic Christians at least also make a distinction between condemning Judas' action, the betrayal, without necessarily saying that we know for certain that Judas is in hell. Only God knows for certain the final disposition of any specific soul. For all we know Judas might have repented at the last minute. Not likely, but possible.

Also, you seem to conflate condemning Judas' action, his betrayal of Jesus, with meaning Christians are "disliking" him. Christians don't necessarily "dislike" Judas, we recognize that his betrayal was a really bad choice. Liking or disliking doesn't really enter into it. You're confusing feelings towards the person with an objective evaluation of his actions. I can really like a guy and think he did something despicable. I can hate a guy and recognize that he did a noble thing.

As far as radical forgiveness vs eternal damnation. God extends forgiveness to everyone, but we are free to reject his forgiveness. It is more correct to say that we damn ourselves by rejecting the mercy he extends to us than that God consigns us to eternal damnation. Any sin is forgivable if you repent, confess, and accept God's mercy. But God isn't going to shove his mercy down your throat. If you insist on walking away from him, he'll keep begging you to come back, but he will never force you.

" But isn’t god all-powerful, so if he wanted to demonstrate love without allowing evil, he’d be able to do it? I’m confused by the idea of an all-powerful god having to work around obstacles and limitations."

Only if you define love improperly or freedom improperly. Love that coerces the beloved isn't really love. True love allows the beloved freedom to make a choice to love or not to love. The obstacles and limitations here are the very nature of free will and of love. Just as God can't make a square circle or a false truth, those things being semantically possible but not logically-- God can't make people who are forced to love him. Either we have the ability to reject God and to reject his will or we are robots who are capable of neither truly independent choice nor true love. Since God is love and goodness then true freedom must be the capability of rejecting love and goodness. Evil by definition is simply choosing something other than God's will, doing what I want instead of what God wants. If we are not free to choose evil then neither is our choice to love and obey God a truly free choice.

@Melanie B

I agree I over simplified how people feel about Judas as a person vs. his actions- but I was addressing him in the context of the blog post- people using his name as shorthand for the embodiment of evil.

You've touched on exactly my concerns with Christianity regarding forgiveness. You say God offers forgiveness, but my understanding is god only keeps that offer open during your lifetime (no matter how short or full of suffering or privileges it may be- i'm not aware he takes mitigating factors into account). I appreciate that Mormons at least allow post-death conversions. But for most Christians, Matthew 12:31-32 says something like:

Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

So if your sibling or parent speaks against the holy spirit- you've just witnessed them be sentenced to eternal damnation?

Between an ethical atheist in America, an ethical person whose never even heard of Christianity, and (enter your most evil person here, but he repents at the last minute before death), the evil person repenting gets eternal salvation while the other two are tortured in hell? I'm always curious that is how many Christians would also align that hypothetical, and where infant deaths fall in that spectrum.

Also why would god punish all women throughout human history for one woman's actions- that seems to not be in the spirit of forgiveness and particularly cruel to one gender.

And as for your statement "Love that coerces the beloved isn’t really love." - But creating a heaven and a hell and then saying "Love me and go to heaven. You're free to reject me but then you suffer eternal torture" that seems extremely coercive to say the least. $1b is less desirable than heaven to many, and 30 years in prison is not as bad as hell, but if someone said "Love me you get $1b, reject me and you get prison" - I think we'd say that's a bit coerce, and that's a much milder stick and carrot by comparison.

To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to reject His calling you to God. It is beyond mere words. To reject God is the only unforgivable sin.

How does free will exist when an individual, his environment, and everything that ever happens to him is created by all all-knowing God? Would we blame a computer program for responding to it's inputs? How are the situations different?

The question and answer are very interesting, but you mis-state Godwin's Law ('s_law). Goodwin merely said that as an online discussion continues, the probability of someone making a Nazi analogy approaches 1. He made no assertion that whoever did so has "lost the argument". It might be dumb to simply assert that your opponents are "just as bad as Nazis"' but it's a very smart idea to ask "would you also apply the permissiveness you propose to Nazis" or "is the standard of acceptable non-permissiveness being proposed one that would also allow Nazi moral claims".

"[Godwin] merely said that as an online discussion continues, the probability of someone making a Nazi analogy approaches 1."

Godwin's Law is pretty frivolous. The CDF with respect to time of someone saying any particular thing approaches 1 as the length of the discussion approaches infinity.

That and it was a joke. Pre-web forums like NNTP and the old BBS make modern forums look like sewing circles. The debate was fierce and personal, almost alway resulting in one side calling the other a Nazi. The subsequent overuse of Hitler and Nazi in the 2000's by the usual suspects has stripped it of any meaning, but in the olden thymes, it was a very mean thing to say.

The thing that sucks is that now any time I say "you know, we've seen this pattern before..." in reference to modern annexation, appeasement, and totalitarianism, it's immediately disregarded. Those who dismiss the past are doomed to repeat it.

I'm expecting some innocent guys held in a secret prison without trial are shouting "Godwin!" at each other.

Jews constantly say, "Never again."

How can we ensure "never again" without recognizing and preventing a Hitler-esque rise in the future?

Invoking Godwin's Law, especially when inappropriately done, is childish and annoying.

Willitts' Law:
As the length of an online thread rises, the probability of someone inappropriately invoking Godwin's Law approaches 1.

Also, interestingly, Hitler doesn't seem to have been supplanted by anyone else so far. Is he still the pinnacle of evil? Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Idi Amin, Saddam, Milosevich etc. don't seem to jump into the popular lexicon.

Hitler lost the war and the House Un-American Activities Committee drove all his friends and supporters underground.

On the other hand virtually every Baby Boomer with a university degree marched to put Pol Pot in power. Cheered Stalin's heirs. Wrote books praising Stalin and Mao. Criticizing a Communist means cutting social ties with a whole bunch of people who are dominant in culture, the Arts and especially academia because they are proud of what they did and are not inclined to accept any criticism at all.

Unlike the Nazis, they have no shame.

So you can attack Idi Amin but not Stalin.

True back then. But today I doubt anyone other than a crackpot fringe would actually praise Stalin, Mao etc.

There is no seriously critical biography of Mao from any specialist in Chinese studies. Those that are come from people who are, frankly, on the crack pot fringe like Jung Chang.

It is not so much that people *still* praise Stalin, although they do. It is that they are proud they used to. So they will continue to attack anyone who attacks Stalin with a passion and a vengeance. Anti-anti-Communism is alive and well among people who clearly do still admire Stalin or at least everything he stood for. Even if they are not openly admiring of Stalin. As for the crack pot fringe:

This breakthrough book provides a detailed reconstruction of Stalin's leadership from the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 to his death in 1953. Making use of a wealth of new material from Russian archives, Geoffrey Roberts challenges a long list of standard perceptions of Stalin: his qualities as a leader; his relationships with his own generals and with other great world leaders; his foreign policy; and his role in instigating the Cold War. While frankly exploring the full extent of Stalin's brutalities and their impact on the Soviet people, Roberts also uncovers evidence leading to the stunning conclusion that Stalin was both the greatest military leader of the twentieth century and a remarkable politician who sought to avoid the Cold War and establish a long-term detente with the capitalist world.By means of an integrated military, political, and diplomatic narrative, the author draws a sustained and compelling personal portrait of the Soviet leader. The resulting picture is fascinating and contradictory, and it will inevitably change the way we understand Stalin and his place in history. Roberts depicts a despot who helped save the world for democracy, a personal charmer who disciplined mercilessly, a utopian ideologue who could be a practical realist, and a warlord who undertook the role of architect of post-war peace.

No one could get away with saying that about Hitler. Not fringe:

Roberts is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and teaches History and International Relations at University College Cork, Ireland. He has won many academic awards and prizes, including a Fulbright Scholarship to Harvard University and a Government of Ireland Senior Research Fellowship. He is a regular commentator on history and current affairs for British and Irish newspapers and a contributor to the History News Service, which syndicates articles to American media outlets. He has many radio and TV appearances to his credit and has acted as an historical consultant for documentary series such as Simon Berthon’s highly-praised Warlords, broadcast in 2005.

What's your objection? Do you think Stalin was a bad military leader? That he wanted post-WWII war with the capitalist world? Or are you arguing that we have to believe, because we have to believe?

Yes, he was a bad military leader. He purged all the good officers to get loyal party men in their places, leading to his army being useless in the face of the Germans (pre-Stalingrad). He had the NKVD shoot soldiers who had the misfortune to be overrun. Having a lot of men and not caring how many people died may have helped Stalin win, but those aren't the hallmarks of great leadership. I have no idea whether Stalin wanted more war, but he sure did a number on North Korea and Eastern Europe and tried to force the West to abandon Berlin with a blockade.

Millian: The best story that illustrates Stalin at his most ridiculous is the german spy he had sending reports to Moscow saying that Hitler is planning to attack Russia. Stalin was furious, because in his wisdom and understanding, Hitler was his ally. He recalled the spy to be executed. What saved his life was the beginning of the invasion.

Millian June 15, 2014 at 6:36 am

What’s your objection? Do you think Stalin was a bad military leader? That he wanted post-WWII war with the capitalist world? Or are you arguing that we have to believe, because we have to believe?

I think Stalin is a mixed bag as a military leader. Like a lot of Communists, not dumb and clearly able to foresee the demands of modern war. But on the other hand his ideology was so delusional it lead him to make stupid decisions. Take his seemingly Marxist belief that Russian soldiers would not fight without material incentives. So he allowed them to plunder and rape. Genius or stupidity? Well they did fight ....

This is the guy who sat there and did nothing as Hitler massed an Army on his borders, while his spies told him an attack was coming, as the West gave him Enigma decrypts showing an attack was coming. When a Communist German deserter crossed over and told the Soviets an attack was coming, Stalin declared he was lying and ordered him tortured for information and then shot. Not exactly the smartest military decision ever.

What he wanted is irrelevant. As a Communist what he believed was that war with the West was inevitable. Which is why he starved another million or so people to death in 1947 frantically trying to build up the Soviet military by stripping peasants of their food. Again it is the genius and the ideologically-driven stupidity working together.

We have to believe the evidence whether we want to or not. Although not if we're academics it seems. Your attitude is a good example of the problem. You may not openly defend Stalin but you're sure as hell pissed someone else criticizes him.

Stalin was a pretty bad military leader. He lost more land to Germany in one year of fighting than the Czar lost in four. The Czar's forces never defected to the Germans; Stalin saw hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million men defect. Many of his direct orders doomed hundreds of thousands of men, probably millions, in futile battles they could not win to no military benefit. It was until the opening success of Case Blue destroyed Stalin's remaining credibility on military matters that he essentially gave up interfering with the military and let Zhukov, Konev, Rokossovsky and the rest win the war for him.

If not for Lend Lease, Stalin likely would have ended up the same way as the Czar. If Czar Nicholas II had the amount of Lend Lease we gave Stalin, he'd probably be considered to be a military genius too.

Stalin was however a political genius, much like Hitler was. The big difference between them is that Hitler was a risk prone gambler, while Stalin was a risk averse opportunist.

errrr, what. Pol Pot? I doubt many people with a university degree knew or cared who Pol Pot was.

Communism was a scam. Capitalism invented the Soviet Union and spread it globally as the "despot" of the century. Without their financing, the Cold War never happens. China never happens especially. The Cold War was a massive money making boon.

You have to remember, Russia's 'genocide' went in 2 parts. The first part, or the Ashkenazi part was pure "Jews". Revenge for the what the Czarist Slavs had done to them in the previous Hundreds of years. The 2nd part was Stalin's, or when he stopped the genocide of the Russian people and enslaved the "colonies" to quickly industrialize and then rearm after the war. There is a reason why Russians have statues of Stalin why the Ukraine thinks of him as Hitler(and threw flowers on invading Nazi first).

The whole point of Stalin's mass death were tribalism at the core. Even the Ashkenazi part of that could be called tribalism. Communism's attempt as a internationalistic ideology was not possible humanly like monopoly capitalism started out in Amsterdam. Socialism is the economics of the tribe and can be quite racially driven as history has provided besides reactionary. Politics has everything back asswords right now.

Cummings - This is the secret history of the U.S.S.R.

It went through two phases, one of which was Ashkenazi dominated, the second of which saw a moderate Russian reorientation of the regime.

People who view history entirely through abstract historical lenses along the lines of right vs. left are unable to recognize the shift that occurred in the 40's and thereafter in the Soviet Union.

That shift saw an echo in the transition from the oligarch run country of the 1990's to Putin's Russia of the 21st century.

The various forms of "derangement syndrome" we see in modern politics has certainly displaced Hitler, if not by degree of evil, in frequency of citation.

Osama Bin Laden was there for a little bit, during the period when every sentence had the form noun verb 9/11. Seems to have finally passed.

Poor George III, is anyone else more unfairly maligned? First of all Britain's behavior during the American Revolution was highly restrained and civil, especially compared to the largely uninformed hysterical mobs that made up the rebels. If you want to see how Britain treats rebels when it takes the gloves off just look at the Boer War. Second George had hardly anything to do with British policy to the American colonies, and basically stayed out of the political question of whether to let the colonies go or not. Third George's intense interest in boosting national agricultural productivity probably significantly contributed to the start of the industrial revolution.

Take it up with the Brits who hated him and viewed him as a bumbling, incompetent German interloper, I guess.

If you're not frivolously trying (and hilariously failing) to poke a finger in the eye of Americans, that is. Assuming good faith!

That is a better description of Georges I/II. III could at least speak English.

As for the poking, I guess Tocqueville was right that the Americans can tolerate anything except criticism.

Tocqueville was correct, but Doug's comment was pure trolling, not criticism.

O'Neill's a good commentator to have in your RSS feed, mostly for his writings about the Middle Ages.

Hitler is considered a great man by many; indians, muslims of all stripes, anyone who hates jews. That's already a few billion. Pretty sure Asians don't have much of a problem with him either. Not sure that's the embodiment of evil.

Some truth to that. Many Indians (misguidedly) think of Hitler as an efficient, no nonsense, taskmaster. In a non pejorative sense.

Perhaps having a negligible Jewish population contributes to the Asian attitude towards Hitler?

Rahul, perhaps the freedom fighter Subash Chandra Bose's i friendship with Hitler made many Indians to think Hitler was a friend of India?

Not to mention what is clearly a fairly warm attitude from Gandhi.

Gandhi also slept naked with young girls to prove he was able to not have sex with them. Seems like a decent deal.


You might be confusing two different facets of Gandhi: His wacky eccentricity & his unique brand of (quite effective) diplomacy.

Is "diplomacy" Indian for "game"?

Could be. Though I'm skeptical how many Indians are aware of the history and Gandhi's attitude to Hitler etc.

They would have to be working hard not to notice the attitude of the RSS and other sections of the Hindu Nationalist community towards Hitler. Considering.

All Asian countries show significant interest in the Nazis that is not particularly condemnatory. Jewish groups regularly lobby to get Hitler themed coffee shops and bars closed. There was one in Bombay recently. Two years ago a Hitler-themed men's clothing shop was bullied into changing its name.

It is a mistake to think that everyone has the same response to genocide.

Well, colonial Britain was Enemy #1. So part of the Hitler adoration might also be the enemy-of-an-enemy phenomenon.

Well, there is a certain figure still remembered in regions that had little to do with Hitler - 'Timur's armies were feared throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe, sizable parts of which were laid waste by his campaigns. Scholars estimate that his military campaigns caused the deaths of 17 million people, amounting to about 5% of the world population, leading to a predominantly barbaric legacy.'

It's spelled Pharaoh, Tyler, not Pharoah.

Just in passing, Pharaoh is the standard Quranic reference for a bad ruler too.

Hence Islambouli shouting "I have slain Pharaoh" after he shot Sadat.

I was going to say Putin. Oh wait, you said before Hitler.

Actually, the Pharoah has been replaced by Hilter.

One difference is that Hitler actually existed whereas the Pharaoh of Exodus is a fairy-tale character spatched together at the time of, let me guess, the exile in Babylon.

Did nobody use Attila the Hun?

Steppe-warriors like Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane were genuinely frightening to Europeans: both alien and effective.

John Kerry invoked Genghis Khan in his anti-Vietnam War screed.

It was an anti-American-soldier screed. He was slandering Americans personally, not the war as a whole.

Also he pronounced it "Jenjiss" so I'm not sure it counts.

Interesting discussion.

Reminds me of Philp K. Dick's hypothesis that we still live in Roman times. And his favorite evil guy was Nixon: A recurring theme in Exegesis is Dick's hypothesis that history had been stopped in the 1st century AD., and that "the Empire never ended". He saw Rome as the pinnacle of materialism and despotism, which, after forcing the Gnostics underground, had kept the population of Earth enslaved to worldly possessions.

It took me some browsing to see that Timur = Tamerlane:
In Europe the name Timur iLeng, Timur the Lame, became Tamerlane or Tamburlaine. Lame he was, mighty he was, merciful he was not. As his latest biographer Justin Marozzi says, the millions he slaughtered – ‘buried alive, cemented into walls, massacred on the battlefield, sliced in two at the waist, trampled to death by horses, beheaded, hanged’ – would have had a different opinion.

And of course in the religious wars the Pope was Lucifer and so was Luther.

These contexts seem to imply slavery inflicted upon the user, rather than the general evil to others with which we associate Hitler.

The word "Tartar" was still being used in the 1920s in England as the epitome of cruelty. Here's my favorite use of the word "Tartar" in English literature. From Evelyn Waugh's first novel Decline and Fall about Paul Pennyfeather's first job as a teacher at the Llanabba Castle boarding school.

At this moment the butler appeared with a message that Dr. Fagan wished to see Mr. Pennyfeather.

Dr. Fagan’s part of the Castle was more palatial. He stood at the end of a long room with his back to a rococo marble chimney-piece; he wore a velvet dinner-jacket.
“Settling in?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Paul.

Sitting before the fire, with a glass bottle of sweets in her lap, was a brightly dressed woman in early middle age.

“That,” said Dr. Fagan with some disgust, “is my daughter.”

“Pleased to meet you,” said Miss Fagan. “Now what I always tell the young chaps as comes here is, ‘Don’t let the Dad overwork you.’ He’s a regular Tartar is Dad, but then you know what scholars are—inhuman. Ain’t you,” said Miss Fagan, turning on her father with sudden ferocity—“ain’t you inhuman?”

“At times, my dear, I am grateful for what little detachment I have achieved."

Dr. Fagan, the snobbish headmaster, later explains that the reason he's so prejudiced against members of the working class is because he married one.

I think one standard embodiment of evil in literary culture used to be the most tyrannical Roman emperors (Caligula, Nero. Domitian, etc.), because the audience could be expected to have a Classical education and understand the references. For example in Mill's Essays we have:

"If some Nero or Domitian were to require a hundred persons to run a race for their lives, on condition that the fifty or twenty who came in hindmost should be put to death, it would not be any diminution of the injustice that the strongest or nimblest would, except through some untoward accident, be certain to escape."

And again Mill in "On Nature":

"Nature impales men, breaks them as if on the wheel, casts them to be devoured by wild beasts, burns them to death, crushes them with stones like the first Christian martyr, starves them with hunger, freezes them with cold, poisons them by the quick or slow venom of her exhalations, and has hundreds of other hideous deaths in reserve, such as the ingenious cruelty of a Nabis or a Domitian never surpassed."

For Russians it was Napoleon Bonaparte, if Russian film-makers are to be believed.

I'm not at all convinced by the Pharoah claim. The cited examples related to claims of capricious rule, rather than general evilness. The various scary eastern warriors seem like a better choice, Attila in particular.

I agree - as noted above, I find that all these examples associate the "Pharaoh" figure with slave ownership, rather than general evil or even tyranny.

Hitler's evil coincided with a conflict that involved most of the world and a simultaneous global explosion in print, film and electro-magnetic media. As was the case with the British view of French Napoleon, Hitler became the personification of the malevolence of the German nation/state, the embodiment of an abstraction. Of course, he couldn't have created so many problems without the active assistance of many others, bureaucrats and apparatchiks who shared his views. No political monster can flourish without an extended family of well-armed dependent lackeys. A solitary Fidel Castro doesn't march through the streets of Havana with an AK-47 intimidating the locals. He has many paid assistants that are happy to carry out his ideas. In fact, the Nazi taming of France was carried out in many ways by large numbers of the French themselves who were very effective in carrying out Nazi policy, at least in the short term. Vichy France is an historical event that hasn't been analyzed anywhere nearly enough.

There's something odd to me about the idea of Hitler just coming along.

Note that prior to Hitler, the embodiments of evil like Judas were drawn from the Bible.

The elevation of Hitler was part of a concerted campaign to substitute philo-Semitism for Christianity, to replace Calvary with Auschwitz in the Western world. It's worked.

Even if you're a non-believer, note the resonance of substituting deicide with the mass slaughter of Jews. The chosen people have become our new collective deity.

I'm not sure Jews want the job, but it is a wise decision on your part.

Don't Russians always refer to "cossacks?"

Some popular nominees: Sulla, Caligula, Attila, Genghis Khan, Timur, the Borgias -- great evil presumes great power. Before the 20th Century, evil was for the most part a craft; the industrial-bureaucratic revolution allowed its mass production.

Nero loses popularity during ww1thrn again during ww2.

Brutus, Cassius and Judas.

Not really the new Hitler but the term terrorist is thrown around way to much today.

Through process of doubling or tripling on a matching the windshield wonder, has together, together with documented
in the reveal slot provided, Spector may possibly launch a substantial, symphonic suppleness
on top of the photos he or she made. Performing very
nicely regarding jukeboxes and then Sense stereo, this product became captured
and even used by much more that will help
such type of achievements, for example the Seashore Toughness is
a characteristic therefore the Beatles.

Ngram viewer survey of English texts scanned by Google shows that the phrases 'evil Indians' and 'evil jews' are equally or more frequent in our than is 'evil Nazis' even after 1945. Kick youselves in the tail (evil) America.

Comments for this post are closed