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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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4 Answers 4

up vote 13 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

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 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 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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