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Careers of Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler

The careers of Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler were alike in a number of significant ways. First and foremost, they both sought to control and dominate Europe, and ultimately failed, though Hitler's failure was more devastating and spectacular, and Napoleon's was mixed with some positive effects. They were both obviously men driven by a powerful will to power, achieved that power, and made terrible mistakes which led to their downfall. Essentially, they both overreached themselves, not being able to recognize the limitations of their power, and failed because of that inability. Ironically, the specific disasters which spelled the end of their careers had to do with battles in winter against Russia.

Still, there are important differences as well between the careers of the two men. As R.R. Palmer and Joel Colton write, for example, despite the fact that Hitler eventually

controlled almost exactly the same geographical area as Napoleon, . . . Hitler never commanded the following of Napoleon. It is significant that he never remotely approached Napoleon in raising an international army to fight his battles. Instead, by what the West called slave labor, he impressed millions of Frenchmen, Poles, Czechs, and others, prisoners of war or civilians, to work under close control in his war industries. No liberating reforms, political, social, legal, like those of Napoleon . . . followed in the wake of Hitler's armies (Palmer and Colton 829).

This is a major difference between the careers of the two men, with Hitler focusing exclusively on advancing what he saw as the needs of the German "master race," and willing to use whatever brutal method he saw as necessary, while Napoleon sought not only to dominate but to reform rather than to simply "Francicize" Europe as Hitler sought to "Germanize" that Continent. In addition, certainly the more powerful military and technological innovations of Hitler's era, including mass propaganda t...

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