Are the French proud of Napoleon?

France's tallest (1.69 m) general was born 250 years agoWhy it is wrong to worship Napoleon

Today is my birthday too. I share it with the famous Napoleon. But it's not an honor for me ...

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) comes from a small Corsican noble family and made it up to the self-proclaimed "Emperor of the French". He conquered half of Europe, was a dictator of the worst kind, but still enjoys great veneration - not only in France.

Comparisons with Hitler are actually always inappropriate. In this case, however, the parallels are undeniable. In 1940, Hitler even visited Napoleon's grave in conquered Paris. Both considered themselves chosen, called by fate to rule the world. They hated the old elites, harbored a strange contempt for their own people and ruthlessly sacrificed tens of thousands of young people.

When Napoleon set off for Russia with 600,000 men in the spring of 1812 - a campaign as maddened as Hitler's "Operation Barbarossa" - he proudly claimed to be back by autumn. Napoleon's generals begged him to have the horses shod with cleats suitable for winter. Napoleon was stubborn.

More than 500,000 young men in Napoleon's Grande Armée died that winter of 1812. Most of them froze to death and starved to death. “But that's what the young people are for!” Hitler is supposed to have said when his generals again advised him against a senseless endurance battle. Napoleon saw it the same way.

Basically, Napoleon is the prototype of the modern dictator. Coming to power through the first modern military coup, he was also the first to systematically use propaganda and use the judiciary, police and church as pillars of his dictatorship.

Until the end, Napoleon believed in "final victory" - even when he was defeated after the Battle of Waterloo. While still in forced exile on the island of St. Helena, he was firmly convinced that he was invincible.

What was Napoleon like as a person?

A unique source is Clemens Fürst von Metternich (1773-1859), Foreign Minister of Austria-Hungary. He had countless conversations with Napoleon. Metternich admired Napoleon for his ability to get things straight to the point. Above all, however, he was amazed at the venom he was when dealing with people - especially women. Metternich also describes his inclination to quick anger and violence.

Why is Napoleon revered anyway?

According to the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), the most famous man from Stuttgart after Jürgen Klopp, there is only one valid yardstick for historical greatness: the depth of the traces that someone leaves behind in history. By this criterion, Napoleon was great. He changed the face of Europe. The “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation” no longer existed after Napoleon's campaigns, but suddenly there were new countries and borders. He created a completely new legal system, the “Code civil”, civil law. In doing so, he shaped not only modern France, but all of Europe. The European Jews, who until then were de facto without rights, also owe them to him that they were given civil rights wherever Napoleon invaded - including Germany.

Nevertheless: The man drove hundreds of thousands to their deaths for his megalomania. There is no mistaking it.