It’s not difficult to rattle off the names of the world’s most notorious dictators and murderers. Many of these men were motivated by political aspirations, while others simply exterminated those who didn’t share their religious beliefs. Still more inexplicably killed and tortured innocent men, women and children without remorse. The one thing they have in common? They were all kids before turning into serial killers, terrorists, and dictators. Check out some photos of these men when they were just children…
Joseph Stalin was born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili on Dec. 18, 1978, in Gori, Georgia. His father was a cobbler who beat Joseph and his mother. She ended up leaving the abusive relationship and worked as a house cleaner to support herself and Joseph. He was the first one in his family to go to school and did very well. He enjoyed painting, drama, poetry, and singing. He also fought with his classmates. He was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1953. During his rule, between 10 and 20 million people were killed, some from famine and others through the “Great Purge.”
According to Soviet records, Kim Jong-Il was born in 1941 in the village of Vyatskoye, near Khabarovsk, North Korea. But his official biography claims that he was born in a secret military camp on Paektu Mountain. He went by the nickname Yura, while his younger brother Kim Man-il was called Shura. His mother reportedly died while giving birth in 1949, and his brother drowned in 1948. Kim Jong-Il was the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from 1994 to 2011. While he ruled North Korea, the country suffered from famine and was known for having one of the worst human rights policies on record.
Benito Mussolini was born in Dovia di Predappio, Italy, on July 29, 1883. His father was a blacksmith and a Socialist. His mother was a Catholic schoolteacher. He worked a bit for his father and also attended a boarding school run by Salesian monks. He got good grades, and in 1901 qualified to be an elementary school teacher. He was the Prime Minister of Italy from 1922 to 1943. He was responsible for the deaths of 224,000 people, some of whom he executed without a proper trial. Italian communists killed him in 1945. His corpse was then displayed in Milan.
Ted Bundy was born Theodore Robert Cowell on Nov. 24, 1946, in Burlington, Vermont, at a home for unwed mothers. He never knew his father. Some family members have speculated that Ted might have been fathered by his mother’s abusive father. For years, he believed his grandparents were his parents. He liked to ski with his family during his childhood years. Later in life, it’s unclear how many people Bundy killed and raped. He confessed to murdering 30 women in seven different states between 1974 and 1978. He decapitated about a dozen of his victims and cherished some of their heads as mementos. He was killed in prison by the electric chair in 1989.
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was born in Al-Awja, Iraq, on April 28, 1937. The name Saddam means in Arabic “One who confronts”. His father disappeared six months before he was born, and Saddam never met him. His older brother died of cancer, and he was sent to live with relatives until the age of 3. When he was returned to his mother, she had remarried a man who treated him badly. He was the President of Iraq from 1979 until 2003. He was responsible for between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths during his rule. His reign was filled with human rights violations, including torture, rape, and murder.
Mao Zedong was born on Dec. 26, 1893 in Shaoshan village, China. His father was initially a peasant before becoming a wealthy farmer. His father was also very strict and beat Mao and his two brothers and sister. When he was 13, Mao married 17-year-old Luo Yigu in an arranged marriage. Mao refused to recognize the marriage. He initially aimed to be a teacher and later became the founding father of the People’s Republic of China. He was also the Chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1949 until 1976. Zedong was responsible for genocide and famine, resulting in the deaths of up to 70 million people.
Jeffrey Dahmer was born on May 21, 1960, in West Allis, Wisconsin. His parents were not very attentive when he was a child. His father spent a lot of time working on a college degree, and his mother attempted suicide. Jeffrey had a double-hernia surgery before his fourth birthday and was a quiet child who had a small group of friends. He also had a penchant for collecting dead animals. Between 1978 and 1991 he killed and dismembered the bodies of 17 men and boys. He took part in necrophilia and cannibalism. He was sentenced to 16 terms of life imprisonment, but he was killed by a fellow inmate in 1994.
Osama Bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was born on March 10, 1957, in Saudi Arabia. His father Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was a billionaire who made his money from construction. His father had 22 wives and over 50 children. Osama’s mother, Hamida al-Attas, was Mohammed’s 11th wife. Osama was a devout Sunni Muslim. He was an educated man and reportedly studied civil engineering and public administration. He was interested in religion, soccer, and poetry. Bin Laden founded al-Qaeda, the group responsible for the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and other targets in the United States. He was killed in 2011 during an undercover operation coordinated by the CIA and United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group as ordered by President Barack Obama.
Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, in Braunau am Inn in Austria. His parents had a total of six children, but three died in infancy. When he was a child, Adolf sang in the church choir and even thought about becoming a priest. His dream was to be an artist. Hitler was the Führer (or leader) of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945 and the evilest dictator in the world. His goal was to completely rid Germany of Jews and to create a New Order in the world. Hitler was responsible for the Holocaust, in which an estimated 6 million European Jews were killed in concentration camps.
Charles Manson was born to an unwed teen mother in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Nov. 12, 1934. It’s unclear whether Charles ever met his biological father. His mother was an alcoholic who spent some time in prison, while he bounced around, living with relatives and later a group home. A social worker said he was illiterate and antisocial. In the late ’60s, Manson created a commune in California. In 1969, his followers murdered nine people. Manson was found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, including the death of actress Sharon Tate. He is still alive and serving a life sentence at California State Prison in Corcoran. He has been denied parole on 12 occasions.
John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois, on March 17, 1942. His father was an auto repair machinist, and his mother was a homemaker. His father was also an alcoholic who physically abused John, his siblings, and his mother. John was overweight as a child and was not athletic. He had few friends and was bullied. Between 1972 and 1978, John sexually assaulted, tortured and killed more than 30 men and teenage boys. He was dubbed the “Killer Clown” because he dressed like a clown for charity events and children’s parties. He was executed in 1994 after spending 14 years on Death Row.
Dr. Josef Mengle
Josef Mengele was born March 16, 1911, in Günzburg, Bavaria, Germany. He performed well in school and was interested in music, art, and skiing. He studied medicine at Goethe University Frankfurt and philosophy at the University of Munich. He became a German SS officer and was the infamous doctor at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. He chose the people who would die in the gas chambers and also performed horrific experiments on many of the prisoners. At the end of the war, he escaped to South America where he eluded capture. He died in 1979.
Timothy McVeigh was born in Lockport, New York, on April 23, 1968. His parents divorced when he was 10, and he was raised by his father. He was bullied as a child but was playful and outgoing until he became a teenager. In high school, he was named the “most promising computer programmer.” In 1995, he bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Over 600 people were injured, and 168 people died. To this day, it’s the largest act of domestic terrorism in United States history. He was executed by lethal injection in 2001 after spending four years on death row.
Anders Behring Breivik
Anders Behring Breivik was born in Oslo, Norway, on Feb. 13, 1979. His parents, a nurse and a diplomat, divorced when he was one year old. When he was four, psychiatrists recommended that he be removed from parental care. He was a rebellious teenager and a graffiti artist. He also liked lifting weights. In 2011, he detonated a bomb in Oslo, killing eight people. He also killed 69 people at a summer camp on the island of Utøya. He blamed feminism for destroying European culture. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum allowed under Norwegian law.
Frederick Walter Stephen West was born on September 29, 1941, in Herefordshire, England. His parents were poor farm workers. His father was very strict, and his mother was overprotective. Fred was one of six kids and his mother’s favorite. He got into trouble in school and stopped his education at the age of 15. Between 1967 and 1987, he killed at least 12 young women. Most of the time, his wife Rosemary West participated in the murders, which also involved rape, torture, and mutilation. They buried the dismembered bodies in their garden and cellar. Fred killed himself in prison in 1995. Rosemary is still in prison.
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was born on Oct. 7, 1900, in Munich, Germany. His father was the deputy principal of the school he attended. He had good grades but wasn’t athletic. He also suffered from poor health and was socially awkward. He became a leading member of the Nazi Party and built extermination camps under the direction of Adolf Hitler. Under his command, millions of Jews were starved to death and killed in the gas chambers. He directed the murder of around 6 million Jews. He committed suicide in 1945 after he was arrested and detained by British forces.
Emperor Shōwa, known outside Japan as Hirohito, was born in Tokyo’s Aoyama Palace on April 29, 1901. He was the 124th Emperor of Japan. Hirohito authorized the use of toxic gas nearly 400 times during the battle of Wuhan in 1938. At the end of World War II, he encouraged Japanese civilians to kill themselves rather than be taken as a prisoner. He was responsible for the Nanking Massacre, in which Japanese troops raped and murdered between 200,000 and 300,000 people in China. Some believe he should have been tried for war crimes because of human experiments and other atrocities carried out during the Second Sino-Japanese War and in World War II.
Adam Lanza was born on April 22, 1992, and grew up in Newtown, Connecticut. He was an honors student but was eventually home schooled by his parents. He had few friends and was socially awkward. He has been described as very smart but nervous around people. He was diagnosed at the age of 13 with Asperger syndrome and also had obsessive-compulsive disorder. When he was 20 years old, he killed 20 elementary school-aged children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School after killing his mother at their home. He then shot himself in the head. He was anorexic and weighed just 112 pounds at the time of his death.
Alexander Yuryevich “Sasha” Pichushkin was born on April 9, 1974 in Russia. He was a social child until he fell off a swing and hit his head. The resulting brain damage made him volatile and hostile towards others. He was also bullied. Alexander was an excellent chess player and had a penchant for consuming large quantities of vodka. He started killing people in 1992. He is credited with murdering between 48 and 60 people in Moscow. Many of his victims were elderly homeless men, but he also targeted women and children. He once claimed his goal was to kill 64 people, corresponding to the number of squares on a chessboard.
James Holmes was born on Dec. 13, 1987, in San Diego, California. His father was a mathematician and his mother a nurse. In high school, he played soccer and ran cross-country. He started to exhibit the signs of mental illness at a young age and tried to commit suicide at the age of 11. In 2012, he entered a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and shot 12 people to death. Seventy others were injured. While awaiting trial, he tried to kill himself numerous times. In 2015, he was sentenced to 12 consecutive life sentences in addition to 3,318 years without parole.