TIME History

Dark Stars: Kim Jong Un, Hitler and Their Adoring Female Fans

Eerily similar pictures of the North Korean leader and Adolf Hitler -- made 75 years apart -- capture the sexual, political and emotional charge of idol worship.

There’s no shortage of historical photos featuring besotted women and girls crowding excitedly around powerful or famous men. Images of females of all ages in various stages of rapture as they hover near movie stars, musicians, athletes and even (think JFK, for example) politicians have for years illustrated the sort of idol worship that, in large part, defines modern popular culture.

That there’s a palpably sexual element to all of this hardly bears mentioning: after all, whether in public or in private, breathless screams and uncontrollable sobs are signs of physical, as well as emotional, ravishment.

But when photographs surfaced featuring North Korea’s Kim Jong Un surrounded by weeping, seemingly ecstatic women, we were struck by how remarkably similar those pictures seemed, in almost every respect, to photos made 75 years ago of another monomaniacal despot: Adolf Hitler. The pictures of Hitler—one of which, from 1939, you can see in this gallery’s second slide—were shot by the Nazi leader’s personal photographer, Hugo Jaeger, and while they lack some of the unsettlingly crazed and, at times, comical energy of the Kim photos, all of the pictures capture an expression on the women’s faces that 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 one of North Korea’s “re-education” camps for the crime of not evincing the proper reverence for the ruler of the world’s weirdest nation.

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 fear and devotion in his followers, these pictures—made three-quarters of a century apart—suggest that North Korea’s “Great Successor” might be more than a match for the Führer.


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