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- Gerry Fitt   

When Bismarck annexed Alsace-Lorraine for Germany in 1871 he envisaged Germany ’s new acquisition as a defensive buffer against a hostile France . In this Alternative History it assumes Kaiser Wilhelm II used such a defensive strategy in the West in 1914 by not implementing Von Schlieffen’s Plan of invading France through Belgium and as a result allowing Britain to remain neutral in the Great War.

By not implementing the Von Schlieffen Plan the Germans in effect leave the initiative to the French in the West. In this Alternative History France ’s invasion of German Lorraine in September 1914 fails just as miserably as it did in real history and what ensues on the Franco-German border is stalemate and trench warfare that also happened in reality

The British don’t declare war on Germany in September 1914 because Germany never violates the neutrality of innocent Belgium . Since Britain does not become involved in a major war the Home Rule Bill for Ireland comes into force in autumn 1914 resulting in Civil War in Ireland . This causes an internal political crisis in the UK resulting in Britain being too internally preoccupied to become embroiled in the Great War on the European Continent. Britain sits out the Great War. Since there is no British-German war means there is not a large Naval War in the Atlantic removing the source German-US tension. Hence the USA remains neutral in the Great War.

In the East the Russian offensive is heavily defeated in East Prussia as really happened in the Battle of Tannenburg in 1914. However with the Von Schlieffen Plan abandoned this allows for the implementation originally planned Austro-German offensive against Russia , rapidly ejecting Russia from Poland in 1914.

In this alternate history Germany defeats Czarist Russia by early 1917 (as happened in fact). In the West the Franco-German trench warfare would either end with France suing for a compromise peace after the collapse of her Russian ally or Germany defeating an isolated and numerically inferior France .

German war aims were hazy – “MittelEuropa” – consisted of the territory of the German Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russian Poland. MittelEuropa’s exact internal structure was unclear. As the Hungarian Kingdom within Austria-Hungary asserted its political independence, the newly acquired German Protectorate over Poland would inevitably be united with Austrian Poland. The rump territories of Habsburg Austria would have probably joined the German Reich (in a manner similar to the Kingdom of Bavaria ). Austro-German union would become necessary to stymie Czech ambitions for greater self rule within Habsburg Austria .

As the Hohenzollern victory in the Franco-Prussian war of 1871 allowed for the Catholic Southern German Kingdoms to unite with the Prussian dominated North of Germany, German victory over Russia and France in 1914-17 would have allowed Austria unite with the German Reich while ensuring the successor Kingdoms to Austria-Hungary (Poland & Greater Hungary) would be economically and militarily bound to the German Reich.

Austria-Hungary was slowly disintegrating in the 1910s. After German victory in 1917 Habsburg Hungary could have become a politically independent Kingdom, while Austrian Poland could have been united with German acquired Russian Poland. The Polish kingdom would be a Protectorate of the German Reich.

France would never have accepted Austro-German unity without being defeated by Germany in a war first. Without Germany defeating Russia in a war, Germany could never have prevented Russia seizing former Austrian possessions as Austria-Hungary inevitably collapsed by the 1920s.

If France had chose to fight on after Russia ’s defeat she would have eventually been overwhelmed by Germany ’s greater industrial might. A defeated France would have been forced to cede her Equatorial African possessions to the German Reich. Germany would also have probably insisted on a prolonged occupation of French Lorraine along with a demilitarized buffer zone to protect herself from France – not unlike France ’s insistence on occupying the Rhineland after Germany ’s defeat in real history

A victorious Germany Reich in such a scenario would be territorially secure on the European Continent, have a large African Empire and retain her Far Eastern possessions. A consequence of Austro-German victory over Russia would have resulted in the Balkans becoming part of the German sphere of economic and military domination. The Ottoman Empire would not have been partitioned by the UK & France and German aligned Turkey may well have continued to rule Syria , Palestine , Iraq and much of Arabia into the 20th century (many European Jews later settling in Turkish ruled Palestine ). The survival Germany ’s Far Eastern Empire would become the source of serious conflict between the German Reich and Japan .

A victorious Kaiser Reich Germany in 1917 would have been forced to democratise further as a reward for her mass conscript army. The collapse of Monarchy would have not occurred and the state institutions (civil service & army) would have remained loyal to the system of government (unlike in the Weimer Republic where the civil service and army were never really loyal to the new Republic). The opening for fringe movements such as the Nazis to come to power would not have happened in the 1920s & 30s.  The German constitutional monarchy after the Great War would be much like Britain ’s democracy retaining semi feudal characteristics.  There would have been a post war growth of Left, the SPD would have moderated this similar to the way the Labour Party did in Britain . Germany probably could have weathered the Great Depression in a similar fashion to the UK .

German imperial expansion after 1917 would have focused on China and trying to contain Japanese expansion in Northern Asia . As in real history Germany would have strengthened its links with China in the 1920s. The Sino-Japanese wars of the 1930s would have embroiled German Reich in a prolonged war against Japan in the Far East by the middle to late 1930s. Such a Far Eastern War would be long, only ending with Germany dropping the Atomic bomb on Japan in 1945 (the rise of the Nazis never occurs and there is not an exodus of Jewish scientists from Germany in the 1930s). The ensuing long war with Japan (1938-45) would have facilitated greater German technological development introducing new inventions such as  Jet Fighters, Missiles and Nuclear Weapons. 

The likely German-British rivalry after German victory in 1917 could have been managed. Germany after 1917 would be preoccupied absorbing former French colonies, re-organising Central Europe and defending her Far Eastern Empire from Japan rather than aggravating Britain . The USA ’s emergence on the world stage would be more characterised by soft rather than hard power (economic power rather than military power) as American troops never come to Europe . It is likely the USA would vie with Germany for the spoils of Japanese defeat after the Far Eastern War of 1930s & 40s and a “Cold War” between German “MittelEuropa” and the British Commonwealth/USA could not be discounted.

The German Empire would inevitably decline relative to USA and Russia as 20th century wore on. Today however Germany would be a very different shape composing of Memel, East and West Prussia , Posen, Pomerania , Silesia , Austria (including Czech and Slovene lands and a United Tyrol) and Alsace-Lorraine – the massive population movements of the 1940s having not occurred. Minority Slav tongues within the Greater German Reich would have declined due to the commercial necessity of the dominant German language. Such a Germany in this Alternative History would most likely today have a hereditary Constitutional Monarchy similar to that of the UK and be the leading member of the European Community.

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