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From TNG Episode 9 Season 5 : A Matter of Time, we have Picard saying the following to Rasmussen:

Yes Professor I know... What if one of those lives I save down there as a child who grows up to be the next Adolf Hitler or Khan Singh? Every first year philosophy student has been asked that question since the earliest wormholes were discovered..."

While this quote might have reminded and delighted fans of Khan's name/place in Earth's history, the canon however shows that Khan really didn't really have so much comparable blood on his ledger. In fact, it even indicates that his reign of tyranny was actually lacking massacres.

So wanted to know if there was something else that elevated Khan to Hitler levels of infamy to earn a place in Starfleet Philosophy discussions!

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Your canon also indicates he was the "absolute ruler of more than one quarter of earths population". While possibly not invoking genocide to the level of a Hitler, you don't get to be an absolute ruler of that many people by not knocking off the people that you perceive as a threat to your reign. –  JohnP Aug 24 at 20:40
I also find it rather amusing that Picard apparently thinks philosophers only started thinking about this after wormholes were discovered... –  Kevin Aug 24 at 20:43

5 Answers 5

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Hilter and Khan Singh were similar in their motivation. They were both authoritarian and believed they had the innate right to rule due to their genetic superiority. Khan wasn't ignorant enough to believe that it had anything to do with "race", but he was ready to subjugate his genetic "inferiors" just the same. Designating some segment of the population as an inferior, abhuman other is the first step down the road to barbarities like slavery and genocide. One might speculate that Khan and his augmented cohort failed to cull humanity only because there would have been too few people left to maintain civilization. Slaves are useful. Hitler didn't have that obstacle.

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Insightful and articulate. Upvoted. –  Nerrolken Jan 9 '14 at 0:30
Hitler did have that obstacle. A shortage of manpower. Most of the eastern European Jews were also Germanic in culture and were natural allies of Germany if Germany wasn't out to exterminate them. Hitler could have used a few million Jewish workers. The Holocaust was just another example of the Nazies wasting oppertunites and lives. –  M. A. Golding Aug 24 at 18:49
@M.A.Golding Indeed. Do note the Nazis also used expendable slave labor extensively, to the point it was crucial to their wartime economy. –  Andres F. Aug 24 at 20:39

I think there are two parts to this answer:

  • Your perception that "Hitler levels" represent the ultimate in infamy is a result of your culture and time; in other times and places this can legitimately be seen differently. There have been other attempted genocides, even bigger or more successful ones.

  • The source you cite only says that Khan's reign was internally oppressive but not particularly bloody. It lacks information about what he did during the Eugenics Wars - maybe his methods of warfare were particularly ruthless? The entry on the wars says the total number of number of casualties was between 30 and 35 million - a similar scale to WWII.

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I wish to answer your question in linguistic and mathematical terms, rather than as a matter of the background of story.

Let us analyse the following statements

  • What if a child that I had saved grew up to be a Hitler or a Stalin?
  • What if a child that I had saved grew up to be a Hitler or a Bernie Madoff?
  • What if a child that I had saved grew up to be a Hitler or a Puyi ?

(Puyi = last Emperor of China who betrayed his own country to Japan)

Does the notoriety of Stalin or Madoff equal that of Hitler?

Are the statements asserting

  1. Hitler intersection Stalin intersection Madoff intersection Puyi == Hitler?
  2. assertion = Hitler union Stalin union Madoff union Puyi.

In assertion 1, stating Puyi, Stalin and Madoff is redundant because stating one or all three of them is describing the same evil.

In assertion 2, we want to cover multiple bases of undesirable personality

What is a child I had saved grew up to be someone unspeakably evil as Hitler, or someone as brutal as Stalin, or someone as selfish as Madoff, or someone as ludicrously treacherous as Puyi?


You decide.

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I guess Khan is mentioned by way of example since his name was better known than that of the other 'augments'. The augments had started the eugenics wars during which, according to memory alpha, "entire populations were bombed out of existence". When masterminds quarrel the 'normals' will suffer - I think (well, guessing really) that this is Picards point here (as far as Khan is concerned, I certainly do not want to suggest Hitler was a superior mind)

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The history of Earth's world wars in Star Trek is very confused. Since Spock said that thirty seven million were killed the Third World War and Star Trek: First Contact says that six hundred million were killed in the Third World War - about 16.2 times as many - it seems obvious to me that there are two different numbering systems for world wars and that the system in First Contact has at least one fewer world war than the list Spock used.

"Space Seed" shows that the Eugenics Wars happened in in the mid 1990s in the "Space Seed" calendar and that interplanetary travel was very slow until about the year 2018 SS when space flight became much faster. Spock says that whole populations were bombed out of existence in the Eugenics wars - which implies that a lot more people were killed in them than in Spock's third world war - and that the Eugenics Wars were Earth's last world War, and thus World War IV or higher in his list.

Star Trek: First Contact shows Cochrane's first warp test flight in 2063 First Contact calendar, followed by first contact with the Vulcans, which leads to Earth rebuilding itself after the Third World War and eventually building warp drive starships. Since this is about a decade after the Third World War, that should have happened about 2053 FC. Since first contact lead to a glorious new future without any later world wars, and since Earth started building war drive ships soon after first contact, The Third World War in Star Trek: First Contact must be the same as the Eugenics Wars.

If you put the Eugenics Wars in 1995 SS and The Third World War in 2053 FC, the year one SS must be in the year 58 FC, and year 2018 SS, when space travel became much faster, must be the year 2076 FC, which is 13 years after first contact, surprisingly long.

But I don't write Star Trek, I only analyze the chronological data.

So in Picard's era Khan would be remembered as one of the main leaders in the terribly devastating world war which killed 600,000,000 people. It is true that Khan was not the aggressor but was attacked by other powers. But do you think that in Picard's era the fact that Roosevelt and Churchill were not the aggressors makes them seem like good guys, or do you think that TNG era historians say that Roosevelt and Churchill's war crimes with mass bombings of civilians set an example for the bombings of entire populations out of existence by Khan and/or his enemies during the Eugenics Wars?

I can easily believe that in Picard's era historians might may say that however good Roosevelt, Churchill, and Khan Singh were otherwise, in war they were war criminals and mass murderers.

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