Laurence Rees on Hitler and Stalin

In this talk first delivered in November 2020, historian Laurence Rees considers the tyrants and their actions in the Second World War

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I’ve spent the last thirty years making documentaries and writing books about the Third Reich, Stalinism and the Second World War. As a consequence I’ve met hundreds of people who experienced life under Adolf Hitler’s and Stalin’s rule – not just those who suffered, but those who enthusiastically supported the dictators as well. It was my encounters with these first-hand witnesses and the intriguing things they said that made me want to write my latest book – Hitler and Stalin: The Tyrants and the Second World War – on which this talk is based.

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Over the years I started thinking more and more about the comparison between the two leaders and their regimes. What were the key differences? In what ways were the regimes similar? And, perhaps most crucial of all, to what extent did Stalin and Hitler shape the times they lived in, and to what extent did the times shape them?

A former Head of BBC TV History, Laurence Rees has written seven books focused primarily on the Second World War. Many of them, including ‘The Nazis: A Warning from History’, ‘Auschwitz: The Nazis and the ‘Final Solution’’, ‘World War Two: Behind Closed Doors’ and ‘The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler’, were also television documentary series which he wrote and produced. He has won many awards for his work, including a British Book Award, a BAFTA and two Emmys.

His last book, The Holocaust: A New History, a Sunday Times bestseller, was described by the Daily Telegraph as ‘the best single-volume account of the atrocity ever written’. 

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He was educated at Oxford University and is a former visiting senior fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science