Hypothetical Axis victory in World War II
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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.
The term Pax Germanica, Latin for "German peace", is sometimes used for this theoretical period, by 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.
The subject 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.
Depiction of Axis victory in fiction
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Central themes and motifs
In terms of tone, the concept of a 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.
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 began. Strictly speaking, it deserves to be considered a novel of future history rather than an "alternative" one - as at the time of writing, it did not depict a "might have been" but a potential future actually facing the writer and readers. 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.
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 Laszlo Gaspar. Titled We, Adolf I (Adolf the First), 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. The novel should not be confused with Yoram Kaniuk's novel The Last Jew, which has been translated to English.
The work Peace in Our Time explored a fascist-dominated London and the deleterious effects of occupation on regular people. English playwright 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.
Additional notable depictions of Axis victory include:
- Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin (1937)
- The Sound of His Horn by Sarban (1952)
- "Living Space" by Isaac Asimov (1956)
- The Big Time by Fritz Leiber (1957)
- The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962)
- The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad (1972) depicts a science fiction/fantasy allegory of a Nazi victory
- The Ultimate Solution by Eric Norden (1973)
- SS-GB by Len Deighton (1978)
- The Divide by William Overgard (1980)
- The Bush Soldiers by John Hooker (1984)
- The Proteus Operation by James P. Hogan (1985)
- "Thor Meets Captain America" by David Brin (1986)
- "The Last Article" by Harry Turtledove (1988)
- Clash of Eagles by Leo Rutman (1990)
- Timewyrm: Exodus (Doctor Who novel) by Terrance Dicks (1991)
- Fatherland, by Robert Harris (1992)
- '48 by James Herbert (1996)
- Attentatet i Pålsjö skog by Hans Alfredson (1996)
- Making History by Stephen Fry (1996)
- Against the Day by Michael Cronin (1999)
- Collaborator by Murray Davies (2003)
- In the Presence of Mine Enemies by Harry Turtledove (2003, the first 21 pages were originally a short story published in 1992)
- Mobius Dick by Andrew Crumey (2004)
- The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (2004)
- Warlords of Utopia by Lance Parkin (2004)
- Farthing, Ha'penny, and Half a Crown, series by Jo Walton (2006–2008)
- Resistance by Owen Sheers (2007)
- "The Conquistador's Hat" by John Maddox Roberts (2011)
- Dominion by C. J. Sansom (2012)
- A Kill in the Morning by Graeme Shimmin (2014)
- The Madagaskar Plan by Guy Saville (2015)
Counterfactual 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.
- It Happened Here (1966), a British film directed by Kevin Brownlow.
- Philadelphia Experiment II (1993)
- Fatherland (1994), based on the 1992 novel.
- 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)
- An Englishman's Castle (1978)
- Star Trek: The Original Series: "The City on the Edge of Forever" (1967)
- Star Trek: Enterprise: "Zero Hour"/"Storm Front" (2004)
- The Man in the High Castle (2015–present), an Amazon Studios series based on the 1962 novel.
- SS-GB (2017), a BBC miniseries based on the 1978 novel.
- "Crisis on Earth-X" (2017), four-part crossover episode of Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, and DC's Legends of Tomorrow.
- "Blitzkrieg 1972", issue 155 of The Incredible Hulk (September 1972), takes place in a battle-torn New York City, where German Nazi forces, from their headquarters on Wall Street, are increasingly defeating the outnumbered US Army forces desperately defending the city - until the Hulk comes to take a hand in the fighting and confront the super-Nazi Captain Axis.
- In DC Comics, Earth 2 or Earth X is an alternative dimension of Earth in which the Nazis have won World War II.
- In the 2003-2004 Captain America story arc "Cap Lives" (Captain America Vol. 4, issues 17-20), Captain America awakens from suspended animation in 1964 to find that Nazi Germany has won WWII and conquered much of the world, including the United States. After dropping a nuclear bomb on the US, Nazi Germany took control of North America, renaming New York City as "New Berlin" and declaring New Berlin the capital of Nazi America. The Red Skull has become the Fuhrer of the so-called "New Reich" and seeks to create an army of blonde, Aryan supermen or super soldiers based on Captain America's DNA. Alongside American resistance fighters that include Bucky Barnes, Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos, Peter Parker, Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm, Sue Storm, Reed Richards, Hank Pym, Bruce Banner, Luke Cage, Frank Castle, and Stephen Strange, Captain America fights against the New Reich.
- Turning Point: Fall of Liberty by Spark Unlimited (2008)
- Battlestations: Pacific by Eidos Interactive (2009)
- Wolfenstein: The New Order by MachineGames (2014)
- Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus by MachineGames (2017)
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.
- American Civil War alternate histories
- Operation Sea Lion in fiction
- If Day
- Proposed Japanese invasion of Australia during World War II
- "Alternative History: What Might Have Been Had Hitler Won?". Haaretz.
- 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.
- Carl Tighe: Pax Germanica - the Future Historical. Journal of European Studies, Vol. 30, 2000.
- "CAPUT LXVIII. Chronologia." in CAMENA. See for years 1648 et 1649.
- McManus, Darragh (12 November 2009). "Swastika Night: Nineteen Eighty-Four's lost twin". The Guardian.
- Hardy, Michael (September 30, 2014). "Review: Peace in Our Time Is a Play For Our Time". Houstonia. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
- Eli Eshed, "Israeli Alternate Histories" (in Hebrew) published by the Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy, November 2, 2000 
- Kaniuk, Yoram (2007-12-01). The Last Jew: A Novel. Grove/Atlantic, Inc. ISBN 9781555848385.
- "World War Two: The Rewrite". The Independent. April 23, 2006. Retrieved 2009-06-26.
- Hölbling, Walter; Heller, Arno (2004). What is American?: New Identities in U.S. Culture. LIT Verlag Münster.
- "Marvel Knights Captain America Vol. 4: Cap Lives". Marvel Masterworks.
- 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).