Hypothetical Axis victory in World War II

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This map of Europe details a victorious German Reich in 1964 as described in Robert Harris' Fatherland. Although fictional, many of the named regions were real or planned names for parts of the Nazi lebensraum effort.

A hypothetical Axis victory in World War II is a common concept of alternate history and counterfactual history. World War II is one of the two most popular points of divergence in English language alternate history works alongside 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. Numerous examples exist in multiple languages worldwide.[1][2]

The term Pax Germanica, Latin for "German peace", is sometimes used for this theoretical period.[3] This is an analogy to similar terms for peaceful historical periods. In some cases, this term is used for a hypothetical Imperial German victory in World War I as well, having a historical precedent in Latin texts referring to the Peace of Westphalia.[4]

The subject of Axis supremacy as a fictional dramatic device notably began in the English-speaking world even before the start of the war, with Katharine Burdekin's novel Swastika Night coming out in 1937. The topic picked up as well right after the war ended. For instance, the work Peace In Our Time explored a fascist-dominated London, authored by seminal English playwright Noël Coward (whose name appeared on a Gestapo 'death list' in the event of a ground invasion of the U.K.), and received its stage debut in 1947. Broadly speaking, critics have viewed lingering interest in the concept of Axis victory, enduring for decades on into the 21st Century, due the resonance of the related themes, particularly in how ordinary individuals must deal with the humiliation and anger of being dominated.[5][1][6]

Fictional examples and central themes[edit]

This 1941 propaganda image depicts the Sicherheitspolizei in a glamorous fashion. Many works exploring an Axis victory envision ordinary people living in terror of Nazi police agencies.

In terms of tone, the concept of a hypothetical Axis victory usually creates a background of depressing melancholy, audiences seeing plots unformed in a dark, strained atmosphere. Examples of writers using this device include Philip K. Dick, Stephen Fry, Robert Harris, and Philip Roth among many others.[1] Contrahistorical scenarios have been developed in a wide variety of publications ranging from short stories to full novels to stage dramas and more. Themes of friendship, gender, ideology, race, and other matters of personal identity often come into play.

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 in any significant sense due to the core strength of the Allies faltering. The Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom upon losing the war are often largely or totally conquered. Domestic political developments within those countries typically have become focused on isolationism and/or policies of appeasement, with this either leading to an Axis victory, resulting from it, or both. Impeded economic development and problems with rearmament, often matched with the rising prominence of domestic fascist movements, also function as justification for waning anti-Axis resolve. Numerous examples exist of these ideas being developed in dramas.

Swastika Night, authored by Katherine Burdekin under the pseudonym "Murray Constantine" in 1937, is a distinct case given that it came out before World War II in Europe as its commonly understood even began, thought up during Nazi Germany's actual existence. The novel attracts the unique label as a 'future history' rather than as an "alternative" work from many critics. Writing in 2009 for The Guardian, journalist Darragh McManus remarked that "[t]hough a huge leap of imagination, Swastika Night posits a terrifyingly coherent and plausible" story-line. He also wrote, "And considering when it was published, and how little of what we know of the Nazi regime today was then understood, the novel is eerily prophetic and perceptive about the nature of Nazism". The journalist particularly noted the "violence and mindlessness" as well as the "irrationality and superstition" found in the post-victory dictatorship.[5]

The first Nazi-victory 'alternate history' as such, in any language, was published in 1945 only mere months after Hitler's suicide and written by the Hungarian author Laszlo Gaspar.[1] Titled We, Adolf I, the novel envisions German success after fighting in Stalingrad eventually leading to the victorious Hitler crowning himself a new modern 'Emperor'. Erecting in Berlin a huge Imperial Palace incorporating elements of the French Eiffel Tower and the U.S. Statue of Liberty among other spectacles, the narcissistic despot prepares a dynastic marriage with a Japanese princess in order to produce an heir who would rule the whole world.

Often known in English by the title The Last Jew, the Hebrew work Ha-Yehudi Ha'Aharon (היהודי האחרון) by the Revisionist Zionist physician and political activist Jacob Weinshall came out in Tel Aviv 1946. In it, hundreds of years in the future, a completely Nazi-dominated world ruled by a "League of Dictators" discovers a last surviving Jew hiding in Madagascar. The Nazi rulers plan to publicly execute this last Jew during the forthcoming Olympic Games. However, before this can take place, the Moon moves close to the Earth as a result of the Nazis' misguided attempt to colonize it. The catastrophe causing the end of human civilization and thus of Nazi rule. Weinshall's Hebrew text, as of 2000, has never received a full, formal translation into other languages.[7] The novel should not be confused with Yoram Kaniuk's novel The Last Jew, which has been translated to English.[8]

The work Peace In Our Time explored a fascist-dominated London and the deleterious effects of occupation on regular people. Seminal English playwright Noël Coward, whose name appeared on a Gestapo 'death list' in the event of a ground invasion of the U.K., authored the drama, and it received its stage debut in 1947. Although facing a muted response at first, lingering interest in Coward's work as well as the specific themes of Peace In Our Time have meant that subsequent productions have gone on, even into the 21st century.[6]

Additional notable examples include:

In some of these scenarios, hope on the part of Allied supporters and/or anti-fascist resistance groups exists due to various opportunities. For example, in the aforementioned In the Presence of Mine Enemies, a victorious Nazi regime eventually undergoes reforms analogous to Perestroika, a process of governmental opening with increased freedom done in the communist bloc at the tail end of the Cold War. Other works take an intensely bleak view. In both the novels Swastika Night and The Sound of His Horn, the Nazi empire has existed for several centuries and put a deep socio-cultural stamp on the European psyche. Furthermore, in the works The Man in the High Castle and The Ultimate Solution, complex German versus Japanese tensions going on for several decades duration face the risk of escalating into nuclear war between the two former partners, the stalemate being highly analogous to the post-WWII divides between the former Allies.

Some writers depict British and American individuals going as far as to actively collaborate with Nazi occupation and even facilitating the extension of the Holocaust. Questions of disloyalty are explored in the books It Happened Here, Collaborator, SS-GB, Dominion, The Ultimate Solution in particular. The fictional pieces are often intended as critiques of the actual societies and political systems of these countries, former or current Allied citizens displaying cruelty and unscrupulousness. In other cases, an uprising and overthrow of the Nazi regime is depicted; one specific example is Clash of Eagles.

Some books concentrate on internal American politics and how they could have produced an sympathetic pro-Nazi administration in the U.S., such as The Plot Against America, or even how a homegrown American far right regime, naturally allied to the Axis powers due to similar goals, might have developed. An example of the latter is K is for Killing. That Nazi victory might have resulted fundamentally from American isolationism rather than outright support is explored in The Divide. All of these themes have implications for actual U.S. politics at the time of writing and going forward. In The Leader, fascist domination in Britain is home-grown rather than the result of a German conquest.

Some books, such as The Man in the High Castle, concentrate on the Imperial Japanese rather than the Nazis. In some cases, only certain areas of a specific country receive 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, considerably before his actual suicide. India is occupied by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in "The Last Article", which constitutes a criticism 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. This results in 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.

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, coming to the story's main setting - a balkanized North America where the Thirteen Colonies turned against each other shortly after the American Revolution.

Harry Turtledove's Crosstime Traffic operatives discover a world - described as 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 world under a centuries-long oppressive rule by the Hohenzollern Kaisers. With the Nazis never existing, much less coming to power, many Jews loyally serve Germany 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 face off against 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 from historical wartime 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.

Cultural studies[edit]

This map depicts the occupied U.S. described in the television series The Man in the High Castle.

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.

Works[edit]

Literature[edit]

Movies[edit]

TV[edit]

Video Games[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Alternative History: What Might Have Been Had Hitler Won?" – via Haaretz. 
  2. ^ Fred Bush (July 15, 2002). "The Time of the Other: Alternate History and the Conquest of America". Strange Horizons. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  3. ^ Carl Tighe: Pax Germanica -- the Future Historical. Journal of European Studies, Vol. 30, 2000.
  4. ^ [1] "CAPUT LXVIII. Chronologia." in CAMENA. See for years 1648 et 1649.
  5. ^ a b McManus, Darragh (12 November 2009). "Swastika Night: Nineteen Eighty-Four's lost twin" – via The Guardian. 
  6. ^ a b Hardy, Michael (September 30, 2014). "Review: Peace in Our Time Is a Play For Our Time". Houstonia. Retrieved December 18, 2016. 
  7. ^ Eli Eshed, "Israeli Alternate Histories" (in Hebrew) published by the Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy, November 2, 2000 [2]
  8. ^ Kaniuk, Yoram (2007-12-01). The Last Jew: A Novel. Grove/Atlantic, Inc. ISBN 9781555848385. 
  9. ^ "World War Two: The Rewrite". The Independent. April 23, 2006. Retrieved 2009-06-26. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Rosenfeld, Gavriel David. The World Hitler Never Made. Alternate History and the Memory of Nazism (2005).
  • Tighe, C., "Pax Germanica in the future-historical" in Amsterdamer Beiträge zur neueren Germanistik, pp. 451–467.
  • 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).