One of the strangest and most inevitable questions about tyrants is what job prepares a person to become a dictator? What experience does a person need to become a tyrant, a conqueror, and a terrorist?
There is no simple answer to this question because dictators come from all walks of lives and backgrounds. Consequently, history’s dictators held a wide variety of jobs before achieving absolute power.
So what job do you need to work at if you want to become a dictator? Other than politician, professional revolutionary, and army officer; the three most common jobs for dictators, it is hard to say. If you name a job, there is probably a historical example of a tyrant who once worked at it.
However, a quick look at the work histories of some of history’s most notorious tyrants can show you what jobs dictators held. Here are some popular myths and truths about dictators’ jobs.
Adolph Hitler was a House Painter
Not true, there is no evidence the Nazi leader ever painted houses for a living. Instead, Hitler was an artist who failed to find a market for his paintings, which drove him to politics.
The belief Hitler was a house painter comes from World War II British and American movies and cartoons that portrayed the Fuhrer as an incompetent buffoon and a failure. The hope was to destroy the Nazi superman mythology with mockery.
Movies and television have repeated the house-painter claims many times since the war. Most famously in Mel Brooks’ satire The Producers in an which an ex-Nazi says, “Hitler there was a painter he could paint an entire apartment in one afternoon two coats.” In an earlier scene the same character says Hitler was a better painter than his arch enemy British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill.
Joseph Stalin was a bank robber and a bandit
This claim is partially true. Long before he became Soviet dictator and one of history’s greatest mass murderers, Joseph Stalin organized one of Russia’s greatest bank robberies.
Prophetically, the robbery became a massacre in which crossfire killed 40 people, most of them innocent bystanders. The robbery occurred in Tiflis, Georgia, then part of the Russian Empire, on 26 June 1907.
A gang of revolutionaries organized by Stalin attacked a shipment of money en route to the Tiflis state bank. The robbers got into a shootout with guards but escaped with the cash.
However, Stalin sent most of the money to Bolshevik leader Vladimir I. Lenin to fund revolutionary activities. Most historians do not think Stalin participated in the robbery. Instead, Stalin sent underlings to risk their lives.
Additionally, there is no evidence Stalin was a bandit robbing people in the countryside. Yet we can safely call Stalin a gangster. Before turning to bank robbery, Stalin’s gang the Outfit, the same name as Al Capone’s Chicago mob, ran a protection racket in Tiflis.
Details of Stalin’s activities as a gangster are obscure because, as dictator Stalin had people who knew of his criminal past murdered or imprisoned. Thus, Stalin remained a gangster at heart, ordering hits on enemies from his office in the Kremlin.
Fidel Castro Baseball Player
Like most Cubans, dictator Fidel Castro was a baseball fan. However, there are legends that Castro was a capable pitcher who almost made the Big Leagues.
Legend has it that several US Big League Baseball teams, including the New York Yankees, the Washington Senators, the New York Giants (now the San Francisco Giants), and the Pittsburgh Pirates scouted Castro. However, there is no evidence that any major league team showed an interest in young Fidel, the Society for American Baseball Research concludes.
Instead, the stories about Castro’s baseball career are all second-hand accounts from various American magazines. Castro played baseball, but nobody saw the Maximum Leader’s legendary fastball or curveball. Although Castro did sometimes throw out the first ball at Cuban baseball games.
Like Hitler’s house-painting, Castro’s baseball career was an urban legend invented after the fact. Castro himself apparently promoted the claims. Moreover, Cuba’s baseball league promoted Castro from amateur to professional status in 1961, two years after he became dictator.
n reality, Castro’s baseball career comprised hanging around Havana ballparks in the late 1940s. So instead of being a pro, Castro was a frustrated fan with delusions of grandeur. Unlike most fans, Fidel had the power to make some of those fantasies a reality.
Castro, however, had no love for Major League Baseball. As dictator, he dismantled Cuba’s AAA minor league baseball system and the island’s spring training camps for Big League teams. Baseball, however, remains Cuba’s national sport with the support of Cuba’s government.
Dictators can come from many walks of life. However, it is often hard to discern the truth about tyrants’ early years because, like many ordinary people, dictators embellish their resumes.
Ultimately, we can dismiss dictators as nothing but ordinary people with too much power.