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Most Infamous Leaders of World War II

Even today, the names of the most infamous leaders of World War II remain reviled and hated by all decent people.

By Cato ConroyPublished 7 years ago 7 min read

World War II was one of the most significant wars in human history, and not only because of the massive death tolls, either. No other war had more leaders who personified both the lightest and darkest sides of humanity in extremis.

The leaders who save the world from the grips of Nazis still remain heroes in the eyes of the everyday man. People still look up to General Patton, Winston Churchill, and Franklin D. Roosevelt because of the strong leadership they showed in the face of adversity.

On the other end of the spectrum lie the most infamous leaders of World War II—people whose names are now synonymous with mass killings, monstrous behavior, and everything wrong with humanity.

Though the years of World War II are long gone, history still remembers the atrocities these monsters did. And hopefully, this time, we will remember to never let people like these leaders gain too much power again.

Adolf Hitler

Without a doubt, Adolf Hitler stands at the top of every list of the most infamous leaders of WWII. He was the one who rose to power during the Weimar Republic, called for the deaths of innocent people, and sparked feelings of antisemitism that still linger today.

Had there been no Adolf, there would have been no Holocaust. Had Adolf not rose to power, more than 6 million people would have been able to live healthy, happy lives, rather than die in concentration camps.

The decision he made to instigate World War II was one that ended up costing well over 70 million lives around the world. By the time the war ended, Germany was in shambles, with many families committing suicide out of both shame and fear.

Hitler's name is now synonymous with pure evil, and to this day, Germany still cannot shake the shame of the war crimes that happened under his blessing.

Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin may have helped fight back against Hitler, but his Allies affiliation didn't stop him from being one of the most infamous leaders of World War II. Due to his paranoia and his fiery temper, Stalin ended up killing over 40 million people from his own country.

Purges of intellectuals, including fellow Commies like Trotsky, was only the tip of the iceberg as far as war atrocities went. Many of his victims became subject to human experimentation, were forcibly starved to death, or just round up and shot for petty reasons.

Most notably, he cut off food supplies to Ukraine and had a "scorched Earth" policy at war. This led to millions dying of starvation, or perhaps worse, resorting to killing and eating one another.

His own wife "committed suicide," under mysterious circumstances. So, even his own family could not escape from the horrors that he unleashed on those around him.

Benito Mussolini

"Il Duce," as he was known, also managed to rank among the most infamous leaders of World War II. His leadership ended up killing a huge portion of Italy's population, sparked massive purges of intellectuals, and also caused Italy to fall into decline after the war.

Mussolini's policies caused millions of innocent people to be shipped off to death camps. It's also worth pointing out that, while Mussolini's war crimes did not have the same scale as Hitler's or Stalin's, they did match in cruelty.

A massive cover-up kept much of it from ever reaching the news. However, in recent years, it came out. Mass rapes, murders, grisly torture methods, and even pouring boiling oil over 70 prisoners of war all can be attributed to Mussolini's rule.

Hermann Göring

Hermann Göring was Hitler's right-hand man, and as such, is a no-brainer on lists of the most infamous leaders of World War II. His role in the Third Reich was as Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe. Later on, he was the one who was in charge of almost all military operations during the war.

His brutal attacks often ended with prisoners of war being sent to death camps. The war atrocities that were performed on the battlefield, though, were nothing compared to what he did to citizens who didn't fit the Aryan look.

You see, it was Hermann Göring who decided to come up with "the final solution" that resulted in the Holocaust. Over 6 million innocent, non-violent people died because of him—all in absolutely horrible ways. Göring also was in charge of the slave labor programs in those camps, which makes him even more despicable.

Just as an extra note on what a horrible human being he was, we're also going to point out that Hermann Göring was infamous for stealing artwork and belongings from the people who he murdered, too.

Heinrich Himmler

The other person who was in charge of starting and overseeing the "final solution" was Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS under Hitler's guise. What made Himmler one of the most infamous leaders of World War II was the fact that he regularly spoke against Jews, and framed them as the cause for Germany's troubles. That being said, that's not all he did.

Himmler led the SS into being the political intelligence group of Nazi Germany, and personally oversaw the brutality of the concentration camps. Historical records showed that Himmler regularly praised torture, proving him to be a total sociopath.

It was he who made the "guidelines" to the Nazi idea of racial purity, too. As a result of the guidelines, millions of people were killed, discriminated against, or otherwise had their lives ruined as a result. Families were torn apart or completely destroyed because of Himmler's actions.

The Nazi propaganda that Himmler helped create still poisons the minds of people today. This is something people know. What they don't realize, though, is that it still is being issued out by Himmler's surviving family.

Himmler's still-living daughter continues to espouse the very ideology that caused so much pain throughout the world. This could have been because Himmler himself was known for bringing his daughter to the concentration camp with him during the war. Or it could just be a matter of the apple not falling too far from the shit tree.

Either way, Heinrich Himmler was a sick, disgusting, and twisted man—and rightfully deserved the vitriol he received during his last days living as one of the most infamous leaders of World War II.

Dr. Josef Mengele

Among doctors, very few were known to be as horrifically sociopathic as Dr. Mengele. Nicknamed "the Angel of Death," Josef Mengele became one of the most infamous leaders of World War II death camp programs, primarily because of the experiments he performed on his victims.

Mengele was known for getting obsessive about certain diseases or traits, especially when it came to identical twins. The U.S Holocaust Museum explained a bit about his obsessions as follows:

"He had a wide variety of other research interests, including a fascination with heterochromia, a condition in which an individual's two irises differ in coloration Throughout his stay in Auschwitz, Mengele collected the eyes of his murdered victims, in part to furnish "research material" to colleague Karin Magnussen, a KWI researcher of eye pigmentation. He himself also conducted several experiments in an attempt to unlock the secret of artificially changing eye color."

His victims often were told to fight each other, put in deadly situations, starved, injected with disease, and left to suffer or forcibly sterilized. Some even had limbs cut off and sewn onto the wrong parts of their bodies. At one point, he went so far as to experiment with forced incestuous impregnations.

In Auschwitz, those who were not experimented on were sent to the gas chambers. And yes, Mengele was in charge of the gas chambers as well.

Generals Iwane Matsui and Hisao Tani

Generals Iwane Matsui and Hisao Tani both became two of the most infamous leaders of World War II, especially when it came to Chinese history.

Though Westerners may not recognize the name, Matsui and Tani became names reviled throughout China, due to the fact that they spearheaded what is now known as the Rape of Nanking. The two men greenlit the murders of over 300,000 people over the course of six weeks.

Tani and Matsui were infamous for turning a blind eye to war atrocities committed by their troops. As a result, Japanese soldiers raped thousands of women during the massacre and tortured civilians in front of their families. Over 20,000 women were raped during this period of history.

Dr. Shirō Ishii

Most people may have heard of Dr. Mengele, but Dr. Shirō Ishii is another name that remains somewhat forgotten by Westerners. However, this doesn't mean he wasn't one of the most infamous leaders of World War II.

Much like Dr. Mengele, Ishii was placed in charge of studies to be performed on prisoners of war. His facility, known as Unit 731, became famous for being one of the most brutal biological warfare facilities the world has ever seen.

Dr. Shirō Ishii's experiments included having scientists rape women, impregnated them, and cut the baby out of the woman's body, while the victims were still alive. People were also regularly exposed to lethal diseases, then denied treatment.

Thousands of people were sent to 731. Of all the prisoners who were sent to Unit 731, there were no documented survivors.

Lavrentiy Beria

In Russia, one of the most infamous leaders of World War II was Lavrentiy Beria—Stalin's personal "bulldog." Much like the right-hand men of Adolf Hitler, what made Lavrentiy Beria so hated was the fact that he carried out ethnic cleansing actions and mass killings.

Beria's targets included Crimeans, Poles, Volga Germans and others. His biggest crime was the Katyn Massacre of 1940, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people. His "Death to Spies" program was a close second; it was a program in charge of the arrest and murder of soldiers who fled during the war.

Nothing about Lavrentiy Beria was the least bit decent. When he wasn't committing war crimes, Beria was known for being a massive sexual predator. Historian Martin Sixsmith pointed out the following during a program on the BBC:

"Beria spent his nights having teenagers abducted from the streets and brought here for him to rape. Those who resisted were strangled and buried in his wife's rose garden."

Herta Oberheuser

Herta Oberheuser is one of the most infamous leaders of World War II—and also one of the most unusual. She was the only female to be tried at Nuremberg for war crimes, and was known for being one of the most vicious Nazi doctors to have led a concentration camp.

Oberheuser was in charge of a women's concentration camp facility, and was known for killing children in vile ways. She would inject children with oil, which would cause them to feel searing pain until they died. After she injected them, she'd remove their limbs and organs.

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About the Creator

Cato Conroy

Cato Conroy is a Manhattan-based writer who yearns for a better world. He loves to write about politics, news reports, and interesting innovations that will impact the way we live.

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    Cato ConroyWritten by Cato Conroy

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