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Adolf Hitler 1889-1945 who ruled Germany from 1923 to his death began the war in 1939 that resulted in the deaths of 40 million people More than six million of these were European Jews and other systematically exterminated in what we call the HolocaustJoseph Stalin 1879-1953 sole ruler of the Soviet Union from 1929 to his death forced millions of peasants off their private land and into large inefficient state-run farms in order to rapidly industrialize the giant Russian state This Great Leap Forward in the early 1930s resulted in famine that took five million lives in the Ukraine alone All told a minimum of 50 million people died between 1930 and 1950 as a result of the beliefs and actions of these two men Adolf Hitlers strong will was evident in his youth He was a bright but moody and an erratic student who barely finished secondary school Both his parents died by 1907 When World War I broke out in 1914 Hitler eagerly volunteered for service in the German army and spent four years in the Western Front earning an Iron Cross First Class in 1918 as a result of his heroism in battle an unusually high honor for a corporal He was asked to speak to returning troops about the evils of socialism in a country which had suddenly become a democratic republic Munich and the rest of Bavaria soon became a center of right-wing opposition to the new national government it was here that Hitler formulated his new ideology and discovered his power as a speechmaker His beliefs included opposition to democracy and socialism In later years Hitler claimed that he formed his antisemitic anti-Jewish views He describes how he sees the Jews in his famous political autobiography Mein Kampf My Struggle He was also a great actor who could convince himself that he really believed what he was saying this skill also helped him captivate and persuade an audience
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