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' novel Fatherland. Although fictional, many of the named regions were real or planned ones for parts of the Nazi lebensraum effort.

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 term Pax Germanica, Latin for "German peace", is sometimes used for this theoretical period,[3] 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.[4]

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.[1][5][6]

Depiction of Axis victory in fiction[edit]

Central themes and motifs[edit]

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.[1]

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 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.[5]

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.[1] 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.[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. 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.[6]

Later depictions[edit]

Additional notable depictions of Axis victory include:

Literature[edit]

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.

Film[edit]

Television[edit]

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

Comics[edit]

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 begun the research of this subgenre and its various implications as a subject of full-scale academic research.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Alternative History: What Might Have Been Had Hitler Won?". Haaretz. 
  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.
  4. ^ "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". 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 [1]
  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. 
  10. ^ Hölbling, Walter; Heller, Arno (2004). What is American?: New Identities in U.S. Culture. LIT Verlag Münster. 
  11. ^ "Marvel Knights Captain America Vol. 4: Cap Lives". Marvel Masterworks. 

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).