The following is an article from mental_floss' What's the Difference book.
The Dilemma: You've seen so many documentaries about these guys, but you still can't tell them apart. They're just so identically evil.
People You Can Impress: World War II buffs and fourth-grade history teachers.
The Quick Trick: Everybody recognizes Hitler. The one with the Hitler moustache that isn't Hitler is Himmler (he also had glasses). The one with slicked-back hair and mustard-colored jacket is Goebbels. And the fatty in the dove-gray uniform? That's Göring.
The Explanation: We don't need to tell you anything more about Hitler, der Führer (leader) of the Third Reich. After all, he's one of history's scariest figures, and the facts about him have probably been drummed into you since grade school. What you might not know, however, is that a lot of the evil he oversaw was actually committed by his closest henchmen, equally sinister in their own right.
Heinrich Himmler [wiki] (1900-1945) was one of Hitler's earliest supporters, so in 1929 Hitler chose him to head the SS, the military arm of the Nazi party. What began as a small offshoot of the SA (the party's stormtroopers) became under Himmler a massive organization of the party's ideological elite, with its own military units (the Waffen-SS) fighting alongside the regular German army (the Wehrmacht). The SS were the perpetrators of the worst Nazi crimes, including the death camps, the mass executions of civilians, and the Gestapo secret police. Amazingly, when the war started to go south, Himmler actually tried to secretly negotiate peace with the British and Americans. Captured by the Brits, he poisoned himself before he could stand trial at Nuremberg.
Joseph Goebbels [wiki] (pronounced GHERR-buls, 1897-1945) was the Third Reich's propaganda minister. A fiery orator like his boss, Goebbels championed the technique of repeating a Big Lie again and again until people believe it. Known to his enemies as "The Malicious Dwarf," Goebbels spent his last days in Hitler's bunker under Berlin. After Hitler's death, however, Goebbels moved up in rank. He was chancellor of Germany for one whole day. Of course, his happiness was short-lived. While still in Hitler's bunker, his wife, Magda, a Nazi zealot, poisoned six of their children rather than have them live in a world without National Socialism (their oldest child, curiously, survived because he was off fighting). Goebbels proceeded to shoot Magda before turning the gun on himself.
Hermann Göring [wiki] (1893-1946) led the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe. A decorated World War I hero, he oversaw the air arm of the conquest of Europe until famously squandering his fleet in the Battle of Britain. A drug addict and alcoholic who worried obsessively about his looks, Göring's vanity couldn't keep him from overeating: He seemed to gain 10 pounds every time the Nazis lost a battle. Like Himmler, he was expelled from the Nazi Party by Hitler for suspected treason. And he was sentenced to death by hanging at Nuremberg, but managed to poison himself shortly before the execution.
The article above is reprinted from the mental_floss book "What's the Difference?" with permission.
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