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Germany Without Hitler: 1933

Johnís review of Hitlerís Thirty Days to Power: January 1933 inspired me to read the book, which, as John says, is a fascinating look at the politics in Germany in 1931-33.  As we know, Hitler rose to power, and, if the author of the book is correct, accomplished that feat by dumb luck. 

The circumstances that allowed Hitler to gain power happened because of a political deadlock.  The major politicians of that period were untolerated by the Reichstag, and the president was having to appoint chancellors by decree, rather than by election.  Hitler, however, had declined power unless it came under his conditions Ė effective total control.  It is not impossible to speculate that had Hitler modified his demands and accepted a multi-party cabinet, Hitler would have faded into history within a month. 

Part of the old regimes problems was their lack of understanding of what Hitler was.  Far from being a mildly mad politician, he was a demogourge with the delusion that he knew what was best for Germany and that he had very little time to implement his grand design.  That lack of understanding doomed Germany. 

I suspect that the key to the situation lay, not with Hindenberg, but with Kurt von Schleicher, a career officer and long-time minister of defence who retained that portfolio even while chancellor.  He was heard to mutter on several occasions that it was lucky (bad luck for whom, I wonder) that he had no taste for megalomania.  Letís assume that he decided that a military takeover led by him, with Hindenbergís assert, is better than a Hitler chancellorship. 

Schleicher therefore declares marital law in Germany and orders Hitlerís arrest.  This would probably not go unopposed, but the Nazi storm-troopers (really street thugs) were weak at the time and, while they would probably do a lot of damage, there is no evidence that Hitler ever considered a second armed coup-de-eat.  An alliance with the other major fringe parties (In addition to the Nazis, the Communists and the Social Democrats all had substantial fighting forces) would be unthinkable to Hitler.  Itís not hard to imagine the Nazi party simply coming apart, with many members heading to the communists or simply laying low for a while. 

A second possibility also weakens the chance of a successful nazi armed resistance.  Gregor Strasser, a former senior nazi, deserted Hitler just before his success.  Schleicher planned to use him to split the nazi party in two, but lacked the nerve to go though with the other parts of the scheme, while Strasser was reluctant to split the party.  If the new military rule is threatening the nazi party with complete destruction, would Strasser still refuse to attempt to save as much of the party as possible?  If he was unharmed by the military crackdown, most of the moderate Nazis might head for him and desert Hitler instead. 

Schleicherís probable next step is, ironically, pretty much the same as Hitlerís.  The Germans need to build up their army before one of the remaining fringe parties decide that theyíre next for the chop.  The Germans therefore begin a major effort at expanding and modernising the army.

The outside world might not respond to this at all, like they did to Hitlerís OTL build-up.  Protests require the will and nerve to back them up and the allies did not show that until it was too late.  Germany will continue to expand its army until its as strong as the French army at least and perhaps to Nazi Germany levels.

Wither that army will be as effective as OTL 1939 army is questionable.  Hitler made several decisions, such as the empersis on blitzkrieg and the use of the AA gun in an AT role, that may not be made in ATL.  Further, Hitler chose the plan that defeated France and Norway, would a German military regime make the same choices?

It is unlikely that a German military state would make the same demands that Hitler would in OTL.  Alsace-Lorraine was unmissed by Germany, as were most of Hitlerís other demands.  The exception to that was Poland.  The Germans might demand the return of the Polish Corridor from Poland. 

Without the disaster of Munich, the reoccupation of the Rhineland and the other blunders by western statesman, would a German-Polish war have been challenged by the west?  If the Germans were clear about their limited intentions, Chamberlain might just let them recover their lost territory without a real fight.  This would satisfy the British need to keep a European bulwark against communist Russia and spare the need for a long, hard war to defeat a Germany that was not directly challenging British interests. 

Without the war in Europe, Stalin would probably not attack Finland (or more effective help could be sent from Europe) and Japan would continue its attempts to gain complete control of China.  With the war in Europe being limited to two nations, the French and British would be stronger in the region and more able to oppose Japan, perhaps with the help of soviet Russia.  It is not impossible to speculate that a Japanese-Russian war might happen in this timeline, with the other nations selling war supplies to the parties and benefiting from the economic boom. 

Without Hitler, there are many other changes in the world.  Instead of a Holocaust, six million Jews continue to live peacefully in Germany and the surrounding countries.  Israel may remain a pipedream of Jews, blocked by British reluctance to agonise their Arab subjects and the lack of any threat to the very existence of the Jews. 

Technical development might also be slower in this timeline.  Atomic weapons wonít be invented until much later, which would also slow down the peaceful development of atomic power, while rockets and computers would remain undeveloped for a few more years.  Without the military need, Von Braun might be able to develop a proper German space program, without the need to drop HE on London.   Tanks and planes will remain at 1930 levels without the need to improve them very fast. 

The military regimes in Spain collapsed in fairly short order.  We will never know for sure, but the odds are in favour of the military dictatorship collapsing in Germany as well.  It is quite possible that the Germans will revert to parliamentary democratic systems, but its also possible that a popular leader might take over.  Mussoliniís rule is also likely to collapse as easy conquests become impossible and the regime starts to display its failings.

A world without Hitler would be a far more peaceful place than OTL.  That we got Hitler shows just how stupid people who could and should have known better can become. 

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