What was the difference between Napoleon and Hitler.
As a student of World History from India, I have studied both Napoleon and Hitler in detail.
Hitler belonged to the 20th Century where as Napoleon belonged to the 19th
Napoleon was born in Corsica an island South East of France while Hitler was born in Braunau-am-Inn which was a town in Austria-Hungary on the border with Germany.
Physically speaking, Hitler was taller than Napoleon:
Hitler 5'8" and Napoleon was around 5'6"
Napoleon at 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) tall, was taller than the average Frenchman of his time.
Napoleon was often seen with his Imperial Guard, which contributed to the perception of him being short because the Imperial Guards were of above average height.
Hitler's height was shorter than that of an average SS man enlisted in his bodyguard unit - The Leibstandarte-SS which was around 6.0".
Both came from middle-class backgrounds and attained the ranks of Corporal in their armies. Napoleon gained additional promotions while serving in the French Army and gained power by launching a coup d'é·tat.
Hitler quit the German Army and joined politics after serving as an informer for the Army in postwar Germany for some time. He experienced first hand the chaos of postwar Germany in 1918.
Hitler was in a pathetic state after the First World War, but his oratorical abilities and his uncanny knack of sizing up and exploiting the mood of the German people after their defeat in World War I propelled him to power.
Both were very ambitious and imaginative when it came to acquiring personal power and both wanted to make their countrymen the masters of Europe.
Napoleon wanted to propagate the ideas of the French Revolution:
Liberty-Equality-Fraternity across Europe. He did have some imperial pretensions and on 2nd of December 1804, he crowned himself emperor of France.
Hitler was satisfied to be called "Fuhrer" (Leader) and the Supreme Commander of the German Armed Forces.
Hitler wanted to extend the German empire over the Slavic lands to the East and his world view which was very anti-democratic, anti-liberal and anti-communist, had a hefty dose of racist-ultra-nationalism and anti-semitism thrown in the mix.
It is not surprising that this world-view came into direct conflict with English, French, American and Soviet (Russian) world-views at that time.
The Americans were never involved in a conflict against Napoleon... England, Prussia, Austria and Russia caused his defeat.
America was a very young country during Napoleon's rampage across Europe and America benefited greatly by Napoleon's sale of the vast Louisiana territory in 1805.
America on the other hand was at war with Hitler's Germany and played a major role in winning the air-war over Europe and also the land war in Western Europe after June 1944.
Hitler's armies were much more powerful and technologically superior to Napoleon's. Hitler had a powerful air-force - the Luftwaffe which provided close tactical air support to his Panzer (Tank) divisions as they rolled across Northern Europe in a series of dramatic and swift military campaigns which resulted in the conquest of vast areas of Europe and North Africa in a very short time.
Napoleon relied more on military genius and strategy to win his wars against the various powers of Europe.
France under Napoleon had a very modern army which used cannonade, cavalry charges and maneuver very effectively to win battles.
Napoleon invaded Spain but did not invade the Balkans which was then under the Turkish Ottoman Empire with whom he had an alliance.
He invaded Denmark and Norway, German speaking kingdoms, Austria-Hungary, Poland and Russia. He was allied with Italy like Hitler.
Germany was not a united country during the time of Napoleon and there were many German speaking kingdoms like Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria and Hesse.
Hitler did not invade Spain but invaded Poland, Denmark and Norway, Holland, Belgium, France, the Balkans (Yugoslavia and Greece) and Russia.
Some of Hitler's victories like his conquest of Austria and Czechoslovakia before the outbreak of World War II were bloodless victories.
Both Napoleon and Hitler conducted military campaigns in North Africa,
Napoleon was briefly successful in invading Egypt but was defeated by a coalition of Ottoman and British armies in Syria.
Hitler was able to overrun, Tunisia and Libya with his Italian allies but was stopped short of Cairo by British and CommonWealth forces.
Hitler waged war on land, air and also under the sea and had his expert agents infiltrating enemy territory before his unleashing military campaigns which were very swift and brutal.
Napoleon did not have an air-force or submarines
Napoleon failed to subdue the English while waging an epic Naval Battle:
The Battle of Trafalgar.
Hitler failed to do so while waging an epic Aerial Battle:
The Battle of Britain.
Napoleon was never able to attack English cities directly whereas Hitler was able to do this using his formidable air-force in 1940 and rockets in the later stages of World War II.
Hitler's Navy was stronger than Napoleon's Navy since he had many submarines at his disposal and he had quite a few battleships like the Bismarck, Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and the Tirpitz which caused havoc in the Atlantic and the North Sea.
Hitler's surface Navy did not directly engage with the English Navy in any major Naval Battle after the British Navy caused the scuttling of the German battleship the Graf-Spee off the coast of Uruguay during the Battle of the River Plate, but he used his formidable submarine forces which operated in the Atlantic in a desperate attempt to choke England of the supplies she was receiving from America to prosecute the war.
The French Navy under Napoleon along with the Spanish Armada took on the English Navy in the battle of Trafalgar and lost.
The British Navy during WWII, did succeed in sinking many other German surface battleships like the Bismarck, Scharnhorst and Tirpitz in set piece engagements.
Napoleon's invasion of Russia assembled a record invasion force of 450,000 men for his time and his campaign in Russia was a one-dimensional campaignwhich achieved its objective of taking Moscow and the city was burnt to the ground by the Russians following scorched earth tactics. The campaign extracted a terrible cost on the Grande armee. He lost more than 75% of his army during the retreat from Russia during the Winter.
It lasted from 24 June – 14 December 1812
(A mere 5 months, 2 weeks and 6 days)
Hitler's invasion of Russia assembled a record force which has not been beaten till today.
For the campaign against the Soviet-Russia, codenamed - Operation Barbarossa which was launched on June 22, 1941 at 3:00am, the Germans allotted almost 150 divisions containing a total of about three million men. Among those units were 19 Panzer divisions, the total invasion force had about 3,000 tanks, 7,000 artillery pieces, and 2,500 aircraft. It was in effect the largest and most powerful invasion force in human history. The German strength was further increased by more than 30 divisions of Finnish and Romanian troops who joined them in this campaign.
Hitler's campaign in Russia was launched on a wider front along three axes and he succeeded in bringing a lot more Russian territory under his control in the first 6 months of this campaign.
Although Hitler could not take Moscow, and the Germans suffered severe reverses after losing the Battle for Moscow, the German army did not collapse - like the French Army - after the failure of the opening campaign.
The German Eastern front more or less stabilized in the Spring of 1942 and Hitler was able to launch another major offensive in Southern Russia which resulted in further conquest of Russian territory in the Ukraineand the Donets Basin, in the Summer and Autumn of 1942. It was only after the mauling suffered by the German Wehrmacht in late 1942-1943 at Stalingrad and the failure to win the Battle of Kursk in 1943 did the Germans lose the initiative in Russia.
The Russians lost a lot more men and material fighting Hitler and it took them three years to defeat him and push him out of Russia before they commenced invading German occupied Poland and Germany itself. The German Wehrmacht suffered most of its casualties on the Eastern front and after June 1944 was in headlong retreat in both France and on the Eastern front.
The German Red Cross in 2005 put the total combined German military and civilian war dead at 7,375,800 in World War II out of which 4 million lost their lives fighting the Russians on the Eastern front.
The Russians lost 20+ million men (both civilian and military casualties fighting the Germans from 1941 to 1945.
The Russians had similarly marched on Paris after Napoleon's retreat from Russia.
After a day of fighting in the suburbs of Paris, the French surrendered on March 31, 1814 ending the War of the Sixth Coalition and forcing EmperorNapoleon to abdicate and go into exile to island of Elba. From here he made a comeback before being finally defeated in the battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Napoleon's war was a European war where as Hitler who had allied himself with both Italy and Japan waged a global war on land, air and sea.
Napoleon did not persecute or annihilate any minorities of Europe unlike Hitler who persecuted, exploited for slave-labor and mass-murdered millions of Gypsies and Jews in conquered territories on an industrial scale since he considered them to be sub-humans and not worthy of living.
The Slavs in Eastern Europe also suffered horribly under Hitler's regime.
In the end, Napoleon was taken prisoner and suffered exile on St Helena till his death in 1821.
Hitler chose to end his life in the ruins of the besieged German capital Berlin in 1945.
France and Europe did not suffer the same level of devastation after Napoleon's defeat as Germany and Europe did after Hitler's defeat. The Germans lost a lot of territory in their Eastern Wing - almost 70% of Prussia.
Germany was a battered and occupied land after the conclusion of World War II with 90% of its cities in ruins and her industrial capacity was shattered. Most of Europe was also devastated after WWII, with cities like Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, Stalingrad, Belgrade and many others devastated by bombing.
The Germans had to start from scratch to rebuild their country after the war and were split between two countries - West Germany and East Germany for a long time after the war.
Napoleon left the following Legacy:
- The Code Napoléon: When Napoleon became the leader of France, one of his top priorities was to reorganize the entire legal structure. By the time he was done, France had a unified, progressive legal system, which Napoleon then gave to other parts of his empire. Today, the Code Napoléon is the basis of law in France and a number of other countries, as well as in the state of Louisiana in the USA !
- Economic reforms: The terrible French economy was one of the key factors leading to the French Revolution. When Napoleon came to power, he turned it around in only a year. Fair taxes, increased trade, the development of French luxury industries, a new commercial code, an improved infrastructure, and a central bank to control monetary policy were keys to his success.
- Religious freedom: The Catholic Church had dominated French society, but the French Revolution tossed it out on its ear. Napoleon reached an agreement with the Pope allowing the Church a major role in French society while providing religious freedom for all others. He also abolished slavery and freed the serfs, and today he is seen as a progressive force in European history.
- Freedom for the Jews: The previous item might seem to encompass this accomplishment, but the awful discrimination against Jews makes them a special case. In various parts of Europe, they had been forced to wear arm bands, kept from certain professions, made to live in ghettos, and prevented from attending their synagogues. Napoleon put an end to all of those restrictions, made Jews full citizens of France, and even wrote a proclamation that established the idea of a Jewish homeland in Israel.
- Education reforms: To create a middle-class cadre of leaders, Napoleon reorganized France's education system. He restarted the primary schools, created a new elite secondary system of schools (called lycées), and established many other schools for the general populace. He promoted education for girls and greatly improved teacher training. Literacy levels in France soared under Napoleon's reforms.
- European unity: Napoleon's empire, accompanied by his legal and other reforms, helped provide the basis for what is today the European Union. He worked hard to create a unified Italy, Poland, and Germany. Napoleon was also responsible for sweeping away many of the old regimes and promoting the ideals of equality and European solidarity. Sure, the old regimes still had some life in them when Napoleon left the scene, but things were never really the same. For that reason, Napoleon is often considered the father of modern Europe - or EU.
Hitler's Legacy was all INDIRECT:
Hitler briefly opened the lid of the cauldron of hell and showed the whole world how a blind belief in Racism, Imperialism, Chauvinism, Ultra-Nationalism, Eugenics and Anti-Semitism can turn men into monsters who can be coerced to launch aggressive wars on neighboring countries and commit murder on an industrial scale against peoples they labelled as sub-human.
After the end of the Second World War which Hitler unleashed, many of the norms and ideas which were in vogue not only in Germany but also in the USA and Western Europe before and during Hitler's time became associated with iniquity.
Imperialism faded from the world stage... and many countries of Africa and Asia got independence from their European and Japanese colonizers.
Racism also faded from Western Europe and America.
Socialism and Communism gained ground and the Cold War commenced with the emergence of two super power blocks represented by America and its Western European allies and Soviet Russia and its Eastern European vassal states.
The Jews of Europe got their own country called Israel in the Middle East
The American Civil Rights movement dented institutionalized Racism in the USA and forced the US Government to grant the colored peoples of US the same rights as white Americans.
Liberalism, Democracy and Feminism gained ground.
The concept of a European Union gained ground and became a reality after the fall of Communism.
In other areas:
Every nation began to build highways and expressways like the Germans had in the 1930s.
German advances in the field of combined-arms warfare changed the way wars are waged with tank and air-forces playing a major role in all wars waged after the Second World-War
The world saw the acceleration of the Automobile Age and the dawn of the Jet age, the Atomic Age , the Computer age and the large scale manufacture of plastics, fabrics and synthetic rubber and synthetic petrol which were manufactured by both the Germans and Americans during the war years to overcome shortages.
Medicines developed during the war to combat infection saved the lives of many other peoples in peacetime after the war.
Nazi Germany's advances in Rocketry initiated the Space race between the two super-powers USSR and USA, when German engineers and theorists working on Hitler's rockets were made to work for both countries.
This ultimately resulted in man exploring outer space and landing on the moon.