The 20th century witnessed death and slaughter on an unprecedented scale. It was the century of the Holocaust and two World Wars; of communist, Nazi, fascist and military dictators who between them killed more than 100 million people.
The casualties of conflicts involving the U.S., the UK and France in Korea, Algeria, Vietnam, the Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq are excluded on the grounds that, though many would view these as unjust colonial wars by ‘imperialist’ powers, they weren’t fought by dictators.
Indeed, when the wars proved unpopular or unwinnable, they were brought to an end by the pressure of public opinion.
Most popular name in the list mass murderer is Adolf Hitler. But, you will be shocked to know that his name in the world’s mass murderer comes third on the list. Who are the first two people then?
1. MAO ZEDONG
China (1949-76) Regime Communist Victims 60 million
China’s so-called ‘Great Helmsman’ was, in fact, the greatest mass murderer in history. Most of his victims were his fellow Chinese, murdered as ‘landlords’ after the communist takeover, starved in his misnamed ‘Great Leap Forward’ of 1958-61, or killed and tortured in labour camps in the Cultural Revolution of the Sixties. Mao’s rule, with its economic mismanagement and continual political upheavals, also spelled poverty for most of China’s untold millions. The country embraced capitalism long after his death.
2. JOSEPH STALIN
Soviet Union (1929-53) Regime Communist Victims 40 million
Lenin’s paranoid successor was the runner-up to Mao in the mass-murder stakes. Stalin imposed a deliberate famine on Ukraine, killed millions of the wealthier peasants – or ‘kulaks’ – as he forced them off their land, and purged his own party, shooting thousands and sending millions more to work as slaves and perish in the Gulag.
3. ADOLF HITLER
Germany (1933-45) Regime Nazi dictatorship Victims 30 million
The horror of Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship lies in the uniqueness of his most notorious crime, the Holocaust, which stands alone in the annals of inhuman cruelty. It was carried out under the cover of World War II, a conflict Hitler pursued with the goal of obtaining ‘Lebensraum’. The war ended up costing millions of lives, leaving Europe devastated and his Third Reich in ruins.