When a number of photographs recently surfaced featuring North Korea’s Kim Jong Un surrounded by weeping, seemingly ecstatic women, we were struck by how weirdly similar those pictures seemed, in almost every respect, to photos made 75 years ago of another monomaniacal despot: Adolf Hitler. The picture of Hitler above was made in Austria in 1939 by the Nazi leader’s personal photographer, Hugo Jaeger, and while it lacks some of the unsettlingly crazed and, at times, comical energy of the Kim photos, both of the pictures capture an expression on the women’s faces that borders — or appears to border — on worshipful.
Of course, there’s always a possibility that the displays of weepy adoration that erupt wherever Kim goes might be sparked by base, primal fear; no one wants to be sent off to an inhuman “re-education” camp simply for not evincing the proper reverence for the ruler of what is arguably the world’s most surreal state.
Whether Kim Jong Un is, as so many now assert, a despot on par with the 20th century’s most infamous tyrant is a question that history’s victors will ultimately decide. But when it comes to inspiring what appears to be equal measures of intense fear and profound devotion in his followers, these pictures — made three-quarters of a century apart — suggest that North Korea’s “Great Successor” is more than a match for the Führer.