From Innocence to Evil

What Drove Hitler and Stalin

Non-Fiction - Historical
411 Pages
Reviewed on 02/04/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite

In From Innocence to Evil, author Csaba Hegyvary demonstrates that long before the Second World War and the rise of the Third Reich and Hitler, Josef Stalin had already massacred millions of his own people. Hitler also killed and tortured millions with callous indifference in extermination camps. It is easy to condemn both these monsters as evil mass murderers and focus on the poor victims. But the question still remains; what made these men kill and torture with no remorse and become the evilest dictators in recent history? Was it their upbringing or environment? We examine both Stalin's and Hitler's upbringing, their view of the world while growing up and discover the catalyst that may have been responsible for the depraved psychological switch that turned a failed artist to form the Nazi party and a poor shoemaker's son to become a feared ruler of the Soviet Union. Further examination of their stages of development may give an insight into their distorted values which enabled them to justify their actions.

From Innocence to Evil by Csaba Hegyvary is, without doubt, one of the most riveting and gripping reads I have experienced in a long time. The detailed research into both dictators' lives and backgrounds was impressive. What I found most fascinating is that they both had such violent childhoods and this caused them to have a distorted view of the world. They seemed to bend reality to suit their agenda and randomly chose their enemies. Their treatment of women was deplorable. I was especially amazed at the relationship Hitler had with Eva Braun and his reaction when questioned about the mass executions. I have learned so much from this book, not just regarding these two dictators, but about humanity in general. It is shocking to find how an abusive upbringing, a dramatic event, or a personality disorder can have such dire effects on humanity, especially if you surround yourself with people of similar distorted values. The author's accounts and findings are truly chilling and should be read by everyone.

K.C. Finn

From Innocence to Evil: What Drove Hitler and Stalin is a work of speculative and thought-provoking non-fiction penned by author Csaba Hegyvary, MD. With plenty of historical, social and emotional content, this is a deeply psychological look at the development of two of the most intriguing and intrinsically evil figures from our recent human history. In the first section, Hegyvary examines the rise of Hitler to power, but also his earlier influences and family life that led him to become anti-semitic. Part 2 gives the same in-depth treatment to Stalin and his fascinating development of personality, as well as his approach to different factions of life.

Perhaps enjoyed is not the right word for a book about two of history’s most evil men, but this was a book that I could not put down because it was so interesting. Author Csaba Hegyvary MD covers everything you could ever want to know about both Hitler and Stalin, drawing on an extensive collection of data in order to explore their psyches, the historical events taking place around them, but also their earlier influences which are less well known. The area surrounding the Cult of Personality was a particular favorite for me, and a lot of the chapters kept me thinking long after I’d finished reading them. Overall, From Innocence to Evil: What Drove Hitler and Stalin poses many intelligent thoughts and theories to answer its initial question, and is a highly recommended read for those interested in both history and social psychology.

Ruffina Oserio

From Innocence to Evil: What Drove Hitler and Stalin by Csaba Hegyvary takes a critical look at two strong personalities that marked modern history — Hitler and Stalin. The author sets out to answer a very fundamental question that allows readers to understand why these two characters were driven to evil: How did two innocent infants grow up to be the cold-blooded, cruel, and murderous dictators that they were? “Were they born evil, or did the course of their lives make them that way? Indeed, are dictators born or made?” In this book, the author presents facts about the lives of these horrible men — and most are common knowledge — but what makes the book stand apart is the way the author explores how they evolved from innocent children to monsters.

After reading From Innocence to Evil by Csaba Hegyvary, readers will be able to understand the inner workings of the minds of these ruthless dictators and how they morphed into monsters. I found this book to be well-researched and I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Hitler’s emerging pathology and the different stages the lives of these two men passed through. Readers will understand and be able to identify the influences in their lives as they follow these men through their developmental years and adulthood. From Innocence to Evil: What Drove Hitler and Stalin is a book with strong psychological underpinnings, a page-turner that features excellent prose, well-researched history of the lives of Hitler and Stalin, and what made them tick. A must-read!

Rabia Tanveer

From Innocence to Evil: What Drove Hitler and Stalin by Csaba Hegyvary investigates how these two men became what they were. What would have happened if both Hitler and Stalin had not been evil? What would have happened if Adolf Hitler had been a successful artist and never joined the military or Stalin became a priest? The author asks all of these questions and then gives answers to them through his research. He goes deep into the family history of both of these dictators and tries to analyze their lives based on the facts that he was able to unearth in his research. This is a great book for students and historians alike who want to know more about these dictators. It offers a pretty detailed and magnified look into the lives of these men; the author goes deeper than what is commonly known and shares that knowledge with the reader.

Starting from their detailed family history to their personal lives, what they did and how their actions shaped them, this book has it all. I found the narrative very easy to understand, the pace was great and the author made sure that the reader had ample opportunity to simply digest the information before moving on. He dissected their lives into parts and then shared what happened to them in small segments. I actually had no idea about Stalin’s early life and enjoyed how the author shared his life story. From Innocence to Evil: What Drove Hitler and Stalin by Csaba Hegyvary is a solid book for both teachers and students who want to know more about the history of these men!

Romuald Dzemo

In From Innocence to Evil: What Drove Hitler and Stalin, Csaba Hegyvary takes the reader through a meticulous study of the psyches of two of the most dreadful and villainous dictators that modern history has known: Hitler and Stalin. He explores the underlying motivation for their madness and viciousness. There was more that these two dictators had in common than the fact that they were monsters and mass murderers. The author takes readers through every stage of their lives, beginning with Hitler’s family tree and going through his early years to explore how he developed into who he was over the years. In the second part, the author revisits some of the powerful moments in the life of Stalin and looks at his development and how he evolved over the years. The book poses a fundamental question, to wit, were these two dictators born evil?

In From Innocence to Evil, Csaba Hegyvary does an impeccable job in analyzing the psychological development of these two characters that engineered some of the horrible crimes of recent history. Readers will understand the early influences in their lives and be stunned that Stalin even aspired to become a priest, hoping to find a new family in the Seminary, and that Hitler wanted to be a great artist. What happened so that they took the path of evil? This book answers the question and it features other relevant characters that played a strong role in the lives of the two men. The relationship between Goebbels and Hitler, for instance, is well-developed. The themes of religion, racism, personal development, genocide and the development of a criminal mind are very well-explored. One of the things that caught my attention is the fact that both men struggled with identity issues. This book isn’t just informative but also enlightening. From Innocence to Evil: What Drove Hitler and Stalin lifts the veil to show the inner workings of the criminal minds of Hitler and Stalin and what drove them to the evil they embraced. Written in excellent prose and featuring thoughts that are well organized.