Hypothetical Axis victory in World War II
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A hypothetical Axis victory in World War II is a common concept of alternate history. World War II is one of the two most popular points of divergence for the English language alternative history fiction genre (the other being the American Civil War). Such writings express ideas of what the world would be like had the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan won World War II.
Historical source material
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A large selection of written material from a variety of powerful and influential military and political leaders of the Axis Powers has been published since the end of the Second World War, which offers a detailed if occasionally contradictory overview of what the world would have looked like if the Axis Powers had been ultimately victorious. This material can be broken into individual summaries, detailing the potential fate of each contemporary nation state that found itself (or which might have found itself) embroiled in what became the world's most far-reaching and lethal conflict to date, or its potential aftermath.
In a conversation held in 1941 with the Finnish Foreign Minister, Hitler proposed that the new Finnish border should run from the Kola peninsula to the Svir, and to the River Neva.
Japan's long-term ambitions in India are a source of contention amongst military historians: some see the support given to Subash Chandra Bose's Azad Hind movement as a cynical ploy to replace Great Britain's dominion over India with their own, whereas others contend that Japan's purported Co-Prosperity Sphere was ultimately a genuine effort to expel European influence from Asia generally, and would have involved at least a measure of self-determination for each collaborating belligerent nation following the Axis's successful conclusion of hostilities.
Nazi plans for the Netherlands evolved as the war progressed; some form of local autonomy was originally proposed as Hitler thought very highly of the Dutch people, who he considered to be fellow members of the Aryan "master race", and - more pragmatically - as a means of protecting Dutch overseas possessions. With the conquest of the Netherlands East Indies by Japan in early 1942 however, the long-term aim of the Nazis became focused on the incorporation of the Netherlands directly into the 'Greater Germanic Reich'.
Despite earlier assurances that Nazi Germany intended to honour Switzerland's neutrality, at the zenith of his power in 1942 Hitler made clear to Mussolini his intention to ultimately dispose of that country's independence and partition it between them along its linguistic borders. What would have been the fate of Switzerland's French-speaking population is less clear.
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Many contrahistorical scenarios have been developed by different writers.
In the majority of cases, the Nazis and the Empire of Japan have conquered most or all of the world, and no major powers remain to confront them, due to the major power of the Allies, the United States or United Kingdom, losing the war and being conquered, or due to domestic political developments within either countries, typically isolationism or appeasement, and impeded economic development and rearmament, or the prominence of domestic Anglo-American fascism as a reason for neutrality. Examples include:
- Swastika Night, by Katherine Burdekin under the pseudonym Murray Constantine (1937). Published before World War II, when Nazi Germany still existed, this novel is unique as a "future history" rather than an alternative one;
- The Sound of His Horn, by Sarban (John William Wall) (1952);
- The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick (1962)
- The Ultimate Solution, by Eric Norden (1973);
- December 7, 1941: A Different Path by David L. Alley (1995) and;
- In the Presence of Mine Enemies by Harry Turtledove (2003).
In some of these scenarios, there may be reasons for hope on the part of Allied supporters. For example, in December 7, 1941: A Different Path, Albert Speer reneges Nazi principles; and In the Presence of Mine Enemies, a victorious Nazi regime eventually undergoes reforms analogous to Perestroyka. However, in Swastika Night and The Sound of His Horn, Nazi Germany's empire has existed for several centuries. Furthermore, in The Man in the High Castle and The Ultimate Solution, a Nazi/Japanese Cold War of several decades duration may escalate into nuclear war between the two former Axis partners.
- SS-GB, by Len Deighton (1978);
- Fatherland, by Robert Harris (1992);
- 1945, by Newt Gingrich & William R. Forstchen (1995);
- Amerikan Eagle by Alan Glenn (2011);
- The Afrika Reich by Guy Saville (2011); and
- Dominion, by C. J. Sansom (2012).
- 1943. Come l'Italia vinse la guerra (literally: 1943. How Italy won the war), Fazi Editore, by Giovanni Orfei (2002).
- The Force, by Conner Poole (2015)
In some cases, the Nazi victory occurs, or is reversed and annulled through the use of time travel (The Proteus Operation, Making History, Timewyrm: Exodus, Philadelphia Experiment II and the two-part Star Trek: Enterprise television episode "Storm Front"). In some of these cases, however, the Nazi victory was itself the result of interference by time travelers:
- In The Big Time it is a "minor" side effect of a great cosmic war waged throughout all of time and space.
- In the 1967 Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever", Edith Keeler's death is prevented by Dr. McCoy in 1930 and she goes on to lead a pacifist movement which delays US entry into the war long enough for the Third Reich to win the nuclear arms race and conquer the world. After realizing what has happened (and that Edith — with whom he had fallen in love — must be allowed to die), Kirk notes with great sadness that, when taking hold at the wrong time in history, the philosophy of peace and unity that has helped turn the Earth of his era into a utopian society such that poverty, war, and discrimination are non-existent has been disastrous for the human race — producer Robert Justman said later that "of course" the story was intended as a tacit condemnation of the anti-Vietnam War agitation of the time.
- In "Storm Front", which also casts the divergence as being part of an intertemporal conflict, the murder of Lenin during 1916 (after which witnesses claimed his killer "vanished into thin air") prevents the Bolshevik revolution from ever occurring, and Hitler does not regard the Russia of this timeline as a threat to the Reich. As a result, the Nazi military is directed entirely at Western Europe, enabling a successful invasion of Britain, and by 1944 Germany has even conquered the northeastern United States as far south as South Carolina and as far west as central Ohio.
- In Stephen Fry's 1996 novel Making History, it is the disastrous side effect of an attempt to prevent acquisition of political power by Hitler. A professor (whose father was a Nazi doctor at Auschwitz) and a student at Cambridge send back to 1889 a sterilizing agent and contaminate the water supply in Braunau am Inn, preventing Hitler from ever being born. However, without Hitler, the NSDAP still comes into being, and does so with much more effective leadership, developing nuclear weapons secretly and using them to effectively destroy the Soviet Union during 1938. Nazi Germany is in effective control of all Europe by the end of 1939 (including the British Isles — as a result, the scientist and student are now at Princeton University rather than Cambridge). Germany settles into a cold war with the United States. The sterilized water from Braunau is studied and adapted to create an agent — perfected by the professor's Nazi father — used to render European Jews infertile, resulting in a relatively "clean" Holocaust. With Western Europe under harsh Nazi rule, "The Sixties" as we know them never happen, and as a result advances in civil rights in the United States have been severely curtailed, to the point that even in the 1990s racial segregation still very much exists and homosexuality is still a crime. A gay man from this reality regards our timeline, with gay pride parades and entire gay neighborhoods in some cities, as a "utopian" fantasy.
Some writers describe a considerable number of British and Americans as collaborating with a Nazi occupation and even facilitating the extension of the Nazi Holocaust (It Happened Here, Collaborator, SS-GB, Dominion, The Ultimate Solution), which is often intended as a critique on the actual societies and political systems of these countries. In other cases, an uprising and overthrow of the Nazi regime is depicted (Clash of Eagles).
Some books concentrate on internal American politics and how they could have produced a pro-Nazi administration in the US (The Plot Against America), how a homegrown American fascist regime, a natural ally of the Nazis, might have developed (K is for Killing), and how Nazi victory might have resulted from American isolationism (The Divide). All of these themes have implications for actual United States politics at the time of writing. Similarly, in The Leader Fascism in Britain is home-grown rather than the result of a German conquest.
Some books concentrate on the Imperial Japanese rather than the Nazis (The Man in the High Castle, The Bush Soldiers). In some cases, a specific country is the emphasis. Attentatet i Pålsjö skog depicts a successful invasion of Sweden in May 1941 that hastens the eventual Allied triumph by delaying Operation Barbarossa by three weeks, allowing the Soviet Union to prepare for invasion and turn it back; as a result, Hitler is defeated by the end of 1944. Australia is conquered by Imperial Japan in The Bush Soldiers; India is occupied by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in The Last Article, which constitutes a critique of Gandhi's policy of non-violence. In others, such as After Dachau, the scenario of a Nazi victory is used as a means to convey the writer's more general political and philosophical ideas.
One of the elements in Israeli writer Haim Be'er's 2014 novel "Their New Dreams" (חלומותיהם החדשים) is an alternate reality in which Erwin Rommel won the Battle of Al-Alamein and went on to occupy Mandatory Palestine, resulting with the inhabitants of Tel Aviv being massacred by Nazi Einsatzgruppen. In Be'er's book, this is a nightmare constantly haunting the protagonists in present-day Israel.
Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series constitutes a special case, such that the Nazis remain in control of Germany past 1945, without winning against the Allies, because extraterrestrials invaded Earth during 1942 and forced humans to unite against them (this has the effect of the aliens conquering Poland, closing Auschwitz and saving most East European Jews from the Final Solution).
Some writers use an Axis victory as a background theme, in order to add perspective or contrast to a work emphasizing another topic. Thus, the timeline-hopping protagonist of Michael Flynn's The Forest of Time finds himself in an alternate Philadelphia where Catholic nuns are hanging from lamp-posts and public buildings display a "Swastika and Stripes" flag — and deciding not to investigate further, jumps away before denizens notice his presence. Harry Turtledove's Crosstime Traffic operatives discover a world - described as being very unpleasant - where Nazi Germany won World War II, and other worlds where unspecified Fascists won that war. However, all these remain in the background and the emphasis of Curious Notions is on a world where Imperial Germany won the First World War — with the whole world ending up under a centuries-long oppressive rule by the Hohenzollern Kaisers, but spared genocide; in fact, with the Nazis never existing, much less coming to power, many Jews loyally serve a Germany where they are not persecuted and play key roles in the military and scientific breakthroughs which help their country dominate the world. (This also occurs in Turtledove's century-spanning alternate Civil War Southern Victory Series, where Germany and the United States defeat the Britain-France-Russia-Confederacy Entente in both "Great War"s, and that timeline's "Holocaust" is the attempted extermination of Confederate blacks.) In Richard C. Meredith's Run, Come See Jerusalem!, Chicago is destroyed during 1947 by nuclear-loaded Luftwaffe bombers flying out of the occupied Soviet Union, but the Americans do eventually manage to overcome the Nazis — only to succumb several decades later to a home-grown theocratic dictatorship, which is the book's main concern.
A common motif in the literature is relatively advanced Nazi technology. Extrapolating on historical in-war German breakthroughs in rocketry and jet propulsion, the story posits a future in which the Reich has far exceeded our own reality in technological prowess. In The Man in the High Castle, for example, the Greater Reich has by the early 1960s begun the colonization of Mars and made suborbital transport common and economical- but the Nazi/Japanese Cold War has also resulted in an accelerated nuclear arms race relative to our own world. This is portrayed ambivalently- one of the central plot elements of The Man in the High Castle is "Operation Dandelion," which Josef Goebbels and associated hardline Nazi factions endorse, and which advocates a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the Japanese Home Islands.
Entertainment and gaming
The concept has also appeared in many forms of popular entertainment. The UK Misty (comics) series The Sentinels (1978) features two eponymous apartment blocks functioning as a gateway between our universe and an alternate universe where Nazi Germany conquered Britain during 1940. People stumble in from both sides, causing terror over unexplained disappearances and worse- mix-ups over parallel world doubles. This culminates in the Gestapo mistakenly arresting a man from our universe and people from both worlds uniting for a rescue mission. Beginning in 1989, wargame publisher XTR Corp. released a series of games centering on a hypothetical Nazi-Imperial Japan World War III showdown (Tomorrow the World, Mississippi Banzai, Black Gold (Texas Tea)).
In 1991 Creative Encounters published Reich Star, a role-playing game set in 2134, nearly 200 years after an Axis victory. In this future the territories of the Third Reich and the Empire of Nippon now encompass several extra-solar colony worlds and a looming Cold War threatens to turn hot between the two powers. Players take the roles of resistance fighters attempting to overthrow the Reich and restore freedom to the oppressed worlds.
In the Alternate Earths supplement to the GURPS role-playing game system, several Nazi-dominated parallel timelines are introduced, the "worst" of which- Reich-5- is similar in development to the world of The Man in the High Castle, though extended to the start of the 21st Century. This reality functions as a looming menace in GURPS's Infinity Unlimited meta-campaign; though uninitiated to the possibility of cross-time travel, Reich-5's technology is in many ways superior to "ours", and the large, well-trained, and better-armed Wehrmacht is said to be able to tear any "Homeline" army to shreds should it acquire the capability for cross-time invasion (in the GURPS 4th Edition update, Reich-5 has acquired cross-time travel capability). As its name denotes, Reich-5 is one of a number of Axis-dominated worlds. In several, however, a resultant Nazi/Japanese Cold War culminated in that timeline's version of World War III, a nuclear holocaust analogous to those foreshadowed in The Man in the High Castle or The Ultimate Solution.
In the 2014 video game by Bethesda Softworks, Wolfenstein: The New Order, The Nazis managed to acquire advanced technology and defeat the allies in WWII. They spread out over the globe and formed the human race into a militarized civilization. They were more advanced and had created retro-futuristic weapons and technology via the fictional Wolfenstein character "Deathshead", who served as a Nazi General. They had gotten to the moon 18 years before the landing in 1969 and had conquered the earth to become a regime so massive that it could not be stopped.
Academics, such as Gavriel David Rosenfeld in The World Hitler Never Made: Alternate History and the Memory of Nazism (2005), have begun the research of this subgenre and its various implications as a subject of full-scale academic research.
Contrahistorical scenarios are also written as a form of academic paper rather than necessarily as fiction and/or novel-length fiction. For example, Greenhill's Alternate Decisions is an entire series written by military historians, academics, and officers without any pretense at the novelistic suspension-of-disbelief.
- 1945 by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen (1995)
- '48 by James Herbert (1996)
- The Afrika Reich by Guy Saville (2011)
- After Dachau by Daniel Quinn (2001)
- A Kill in the Morning by Graeme Shimmin (2014)
- All Evil Shed Away by Archie Roy (1970)
- Artam: One Reich, One Race, a Tenth Leader by Volkmar Weiss (2014)
- A Thousand Suns by Alex Scarrow (2006)
- Attentatet i Pålsjö skog by Hans Alfredson (1996)
- Axis of Time, series by John Birmingham (2004..2007)
- The Big Time by Fritz Leiber (1957)
- The Bush Soldiers by John Hooker (1984)
- The Children's War and A Change of Regime by J.N. Stroyar (2001)
- Clash of Eagles by Leo Rutman (1990)
- Collaborator by Murray Davies (2003)
- December 7, 1941: A Different Path by David L. Alley (1995)
- The Divide by William Overgard (1980)
- Dominion by C. J. Sansom
- Farthing, Ha'penny, and Half a Crown, series by Jo Walton (2006..2008)
- Fatherland, by Robert Harris (1992)
- The Germans Won by Kim Newman
- In the Presence of Mine Enemies by Harry Turtledove (2003)
- K is for Killing by Daniel Easterman
- The Last Article by Harry Turtledove (1988)
- The Leader by Guy Walters (2003)
- Living Space by Isaac Asimov (1956)
- Making History by Stephen Fry (1996)
- Moon of Ice by Brad Linaweaver(2002)
- The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962)
- The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (2004)
- The Proteus Operation by James P. Hogan (1985)
- The Sound of His Horn by Sarban (1952)
- SS-GB by Len Deighton (1978)
- Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin (1937) Not an alternate history
- Timewyrm: Exodus (Doctor Who novel) by Terrance Dicks (1991)
- Through Road No Wither by Greg Bear
- The Ultimate Solution by Eric Norden (1973)
- Warlords of Utopia by Lance Parkin (2004)
- The Year Before Yesterday by Brian Aldiss (1987)
- Titanic: Adventure Out of Time (1996 adventure game, alternate endings) by Cyberflix
- Reich Star (1991 role-playing game) by Creative Encounters
- Five 'Nazis win/survive WWII' timelines - of which the worst is Reich-5 - in the GURPS Infinite Worlds (2004 role-playing game) by Steve Jackson Games
- Mortyr by Mirage Interactive
- Rocket Ranger by Cinemaware
- Empire Earth by Sierra Entertainment
- Axis & Allies (2004 video game) by Timegate Studios
- Turning Point: Fall of Liberty by Spark Unlimited
- Wolfenstein: The New Order by MachineGames
- Battlestations: Pacific by Eidos Hungary
- It Happened Here (1966), a British film directed by Kevin Brownlow.
- Fatherland (1994).
- Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999), where Nazi Germany won a World War II that it fought against Japan.
- Jackboots on Whitehall (2010).
- Resistance (2011).
- The Other Man (1964 TV programme).
- An Englishman's Castle.
- "The City on the Edge of Forever" (Star Trek episode).
- "Zero Hour"/"Storm Front" (Star Trek: Enterprise episode).
- Misfits (Season 3, Episode 4).
- American Civil War alternate histories
- Pax Germanica
- Greater Germanic Reich
- Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
- Imperial Italy
- Greater Finland
- New Order (Nazism)
- Operation Sea Lion in fiction
- If Day
- Pact Ribbentrop - Beck
- Silver, Steven H. "Alternate History Month Contest". Steven Silver's SF Web Site. Retrieved 30 November 2008.
- Schmunk, Robert B. (2008). "Uchronia: The Alternate History List". Online database. Uchronia: The Alternate History List. Archived from the original on 17 December 2008. Retrieved 30 November 2008.
- Fred Bush (July 15, 2002). "The Time of the Other: Alternate History and the Conquest of America". Strange Horizons. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
- Evelyn C. Leeper (August 13, 2001). "Alternate History 101". Archived from the original on 2009-10-19. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- "World War Two: The Rewrite". The Independent. April 23, 2006. Retrieved 2009-06-26.
- Rosenfeld, Gavriel David. The World Hitler Never Made. Alternate History and the Memory of Nazism (2005).
- Tirghe, Carl. "Pax Germanicus in the future-historical". In Travellers in Time and Space: The German Historical Novel (2001).
- Winthrop-Young, Geoffrey. "The Third Reich in Alternate History: Aspects of a Genre-Specific Depiction of Nazism". In Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 39 no. 5 (October 2006).