The Atlantic

How Americans Described Evil Before Hitler

Commentators compared the Nazi leader to Napoleon, Philip of Macedon, and Nebuchadnezzar.
Source: REUTERS

Adolf Hitler has been dead for more than 70 years, but he has gained immortality as a historical analogy. Simply glance at today’s news headlines: Major political figures from around the world, including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are routinely compared to the Nazi leader.

Some scholars and journalists claim that Hitler analogies have great contemporary relevance for making sense of the global surge of right-wing nationalism, authoritarian populism, and neofascism. Others dismiss such comparisons as exaggerated hyperbole. Both sides have legitimate points. Yet, since the political climate is in flux, it may be some time before we can determine whether the comparisons are appropriate or alarmist.

In the meantime, we can better understand the argument by examining an earlier but strikingly

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