Hypothetical Axis victory in World War II

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The world under the victorious Axis in the 1962 Philip K. Dick novel The Man in the High Castle

A Hypothetical Axis victory in World War II has become a common concept of alternative history and counterfactual history. 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 several languages worldwide.[1][2]

The terms Pax Germanica and Pax Japonica, Latin for "German peace" and "Japanese peace", respectively, are sometimes used for this theoretical period,[3] by analogy to similar terms for peaceful historical periods. In some cases, "Pax Germanica" 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 use of Axis supremacy as a fictional dramatic device began in the English-speaking world before the start of World War II, with Katharine Burdekin's novel Swastika Night coming out in 1937. Subsequent popular fictional depictions of an Axis-powers victory include: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962), SS-GB by Len Deighton (1978), and Fatherland by Robert Harris (1992).

Some have viewed the enduring interest in the "what-ifs" of an Axis-powers victory as the result of the resonance of related themes; for example, how ordinary individuals deal with the humiliation and anger of being dominated.[1][5][6]

Depiction of an Axis victory in fiction[edit]

Themes and motifs[edit]

Wochenspruch der NSDAP 26 January 1941 claims that "National Socialism is the guarantor of victory".

In terms of tone, the concept of an Axis victory usually creates a background of depressing melancholy, audiences seeing plots unfold in a dark, strained atmosphere.[1] In general, works on this topic have been predominantly produced by and for Britons or Americans meaning that they tend to include a focus on the experience of defeat and occupation.[7]

As noted by Helen White,[8] a hypothetical world where the Nazis won is by definition a far more harsh and grim place than the actual world. Still, many of the writers in this sub-genre leave the reader with at least some reason for hope. In Leo Rutman's Clash of Eagles, brave New Yorkers eventually rebel and throw off the Nazi Yoke; Len Deighton's SS-GB ends with the Americans raiding Nazi-occupied Britain and rescuing British nuclear scientists, with the British Resistance hoping for eventual liberation from across the Atlantic; at the end of Robert Harris' Fatherland, the protagonists manage to expose to the American public the hitherto hidden facts of the Jewish Genocide, thereby foiling the aging Hitler's hope for rapprochement with the US to solve Germany's growing economic crisis; Harry Turtledove's In the Presence of Mine Enemies depicts a world where the Nazis gained a complete military victory, but after two generations the regime undergoes a process of democratization similar to Perestroyka, and the secret Jews "hiding in plain sight" in the capital Berlin itself have some cautious reasons to expect a better future.

Conversely, The Ultimate Solution by Eric Norden presents the Nazi-dominated United States which is totally hideous and monstrous, with not the slightest room for hope left. Norden's plot concludes with the world about to be destroyed in an all-out nuclear war between Nazi Germany and its erstwhile ally Imperial Japan - and the plot is so constructed as to make the reader feel this might be a good idea.[9]

Early depictions[edit]

Swastika Night, authored by Katherine Burdekin under the pseudonym "Murray Constantine" in 1937, is a unique case given that it came out before World War II even began. It is thus a novel of future history rather than an "alternative" one. 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]

In 1941, the travel-writer Henry Vollam Morton wrote I, James Blunt, a propaganda work set in September 1944 where Britain has lost the war and is under Nazi rule. The story is in the form of a diary describing the consequences of occupation, such as British workers being transported to Germany and Scottish shipyards building warships for an attack on the USA. The novella ends with an exhortation to the reader to make sure the story remains fiction.’[10]

The first Nazi-victory 'alternate history' as such, in any language, was published in 1945, months after Hitler's suicide and written by the Hungarian author Lászlo Gáspár.[1] Titled We, Adolf I (Adolf the First), the novel envisages 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 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 in 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 causes 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.[11] The novel should not be confused with Yoram Kaniuk's novel The Last Jew, which has been translated to English.[12]

The work Peace in Our Time explored a fascist-dominated London and the deleterious effects of occupation on regular people. English playwright and Secret Service agent Noël Coward, whose name appeared on a Gestapo arrest list in the event of a ground invasion of the UK, 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]

Later depictions[edit]

Additional notable depictions of Axis victory include:


Counterfactual scenarios are also written as a form of academic paper rather than necessarily as fiction and/or novel-length fiction.

The All About History Bookazine series came out with What if...Book of Alternate History (2019). Among the articles are What if...Germany had won the Battle of Britain? and What if...The Allies had lost the Battle of the Atlantic?




Video games[edit]

Cultural studies[edit]

Academics, such as Gavriel David Rosenfeld in The World Hitler Never Made: Alternate History and the Memory of Nazism (2005), have researched the media representations of 'Nazi victory'.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Manheim, Noa. "Alternative History: What Might Have Been Had Hitler Won?". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 2017-08-17. Retrieved 2016-12-18.
  2. ^ Fred Bush (July 15, 2002). "The Time of the Other: Alternate History and the Conquest of America". Strange Horizons. Archived from the original on 3 January 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
  3. ^ "Carl Tighe: Pax Germanica - the Future Historical. Journal of European Studies, Vol. 30, 2000". Archived from the original on 2020-04-04. Retrieved 2017-08-31.
  4. ^ "CAPUT LXVIII. Chronologia." Archived 2012-01-18 at the Wayback Machine in CAMENA. See for years 1648 et 1649.
  5. ^ a b McManus, Darragh (12 November 2009). "Swastika Night: Nineteen Eighty-Four's lost twin". 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. ^ Edwards, Sam (20 February 2017). "SS-GB: why the renewed obsession with alternative Nazi histories?". The Conversation. Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  8. ^ Dr. Helen White "Why are we attracted to nightmares of Nazi victory? Wasn't the actual Nazi history bad enough?" in Alan Wiederman (ed.) "Round-Up of New Essays in Twentieth History Popular Culture"
  9. ^ Michael Kornfeld "Face It, Sometimes There Is Just No Happy Ending, None Whatsoever" in Alan Wiederman (ed.) "Round-Up of New Essays in Twentieth History Popular Culture"
  10. ^ ""I, James Blunt", by Kenneth Fields". Jan 18, 2020.
  11. ^ Eli Eshed, "Israeli Alternate Histories" (in Hebrew) published by the Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy, November 2, 2000 [1]
  12. ^ Kaniuk, Yoram (2007-12-01). The Last Jew: A Novel. Grove/Atlantic, Inc. ISBN 9781555848385.
  13. ^ "World War Two: The Rewrite". The Independent. April 23, 2006. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2009-06-26.
  14. ^ Hölbling, Walter; Heller, Arno (2004). What is American?: New Identities in U.S. Culture. LIT Verlag Münster. ISBN 9783825877347.
  15. ^ "Marvel Knights Captain America Vol. 4: Cap Lives". Marvel Masterworks.
  16. ^ A-Next #11-12
  17. ^ Moorcock, Michael (July 2005). "If Hitler had won World War Two…".

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).
  • Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cüppers. Nazi Palestine. The Plans for the Extermination of the Jews in Palestine, New York: Enigma Books with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2010.