Did Hitler has a chance to win World War II

WWII began on September 1st, 1939.

Questions:

1. Did Hitler and his close associates really believe the Third Reich can achieve the lasting global dominance?

2. Do you think Nazi Germany had a chance to win WWII and if not why and if yes under what conditions?

3. I know it is even bigger speculation but how would you describe the world in which Third Reich was the winner of WWII and do you think Nazi empire could become the global force for some time similar to Soviet bloc for example?

Gavriel Rosenfeld, Associate Professor of History, Fairfield University, Author of the book The World Hitler Never Made

1. Yes, absolutely. Hitler aspired to a 1000 year Reich not only in the regime’s propaganda but in its geopolitical goals as well. Militarily, politically, economically, and in terms of population policies, Hitler, the Wehrmacht, the SS and all of the Third Reich’s various offices were committed to dominating Europe through a combination of puppet states and direct occupation regimes. As for the Nazis’ global ambitions, Hitler had commissioned a fleet of long range bombers to attack the US, so his aims may ultimately have moved beyond Europe. But the safest conclusion is that Germany was to be Europe’s hegemon.

2. Military historians have identified many turning points in WWII where the Nazis could have won, most notably starting Operation Barbarossa earlier in the spring of 1941, which would have allowed the Wehrmacht to avoid the Russian winter. Also attacking the USSR from the south (after moving through Turkey into the Caucasus was an option that Hitler never tried. The Allies’ massive advantages in material and manpower, however, may have made any Nazi triumph temporary, however.

3. Many historians and novelists have imagined a world in which the Nazis won WWII. Some have imagined it as a dystopia; others, as a not so horrible place. These differing views often reflect the authors’ respective political positions (anti-communist writers, for example, are softer on Hitler than Stalin, whose victory in WWII they would have preferred to somehow avoid). I personally believe that the Nazi regime would not have been able to coexist with the western powers in a cold war state as the USSR did for 40 years with the west, due to the inherent militarism/expansionism/racism at the heart of the regime’s ideology, which would have kept it in an aggressive mode for the duration of its existence. The idea of “moderates” one day taking power, like Gorbachev did in the USSR, I think would have been unlikely, since the role of the fanatical SS was so dominant in the Third Reich, and would have had little likelihood of ebbing.

Evan Mawdsley, Professor of International History, University of Glasgow, Author of the book World War II: A New History

1. Probably not as a short-term objective. I imagine Hitler thought he might seen regional (European) hegemony in his lifetime.

2. No, given the correlation of forces, and (for Hitler) the premature start of the European War in September 1939 a German victory was unlikely. But Britain is critical; if its leaders had sought a political accommodation with Third Reich there might – given French defeat, and American and Soviet neutrality -have been time for German consolidation and survival of NSDAP regime.

3. As mentioned above, I think German global victory unlikely. But I don’t think Germany could have attracted political support abroad in the way that the USSR did, and Germany also lacked the same economic base.

Richard Evans, Regius Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge

1. There were points when they did, I think, especially after the spring 1940 victories, and in June and July 1941. Their ambition can be read from the architectural plans for “Germania”, i.e. Berlin, to be a global capital, the Olympic Games to be located there permanently, and so on. But they also thought in Social Darwinist terms – Germany was engaged in a life-and death struggle against the Jews, and might well lose. From Stalingrad at the latest I don’t think they believed they could win global dominance.

2. No, since the conquest of Eastern Europe was always a key aim, and they fatally underestimated the resources and will to fight of the USSR. One might speculate that if they had not treated the Ukrainians, Poles and Belarusians so appallingly they might have won them over, but then exterminating them was a war aim too.

3. This has been done, of course – e.g. in Robert Harris’s novel “Fatherland”. But it mistakes the key difference between the Third Reich and the USSR. While Stalinism was essentially bureaucratic and thus able to stabilize itself, Nazism was charismatic and completely lacked the ability to stop; one war would simply have led to another; its doctrine was one of struggle without end. So defeat was preprogrammed.

Alexander Bevin, Author of ten books on military history including How Hitler Could Have Won World War II, Adjunct Professor, Longwood University

You can access the essential argument from my book How Hitler Could Have Won World War II by going to my website, www.bevinalexander.com and clicking Excerpts on the navigation bar on the home page and going down to the following entry: The Victory Strategy Raeder Proposed to Hitler, which is taken from pages 49 to 52 of my book.

The main argument that Erich Raeder made to Hitler on September 6 and 26, 1940, was that German panzer forces could easily defeat the small British army in Egypt, and could seize the Suez Canal. (Panzer expert Wilhelm von Thoma visited North Africa in October 1940 and reported back to Hitler that four panzer divisions could be sent to North Africa and these were all the force necessary to overrun the British in Egypt and capture the Suez Canal.) If Suez was lost, the Royal Navy would be compelled to move into the Red Sea, because it could not be supplied in the Mediterranean. This would permit the Germans to overrun the Middle East, gaining unlimited amounts of oil, and driving up against the southern frontier of Turkey. Since Hitler was already gaining Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria as allies, Turkey could have been approached at Istanbul on the north and from northern Syria and Iraq on the south. This would have forced Turkey either to become an ally of Germany or permit transit through its territory. A hostile stand by Turkey would have resulted in the quick defeat of the Turkish army and disaster. The Germany could then move into Iran, and close off this route of supplies to the Soviet Union from Britain and the United States. More important, most Soviet oil wells were in the Caucasus and along the shore of the Caspian Sea. Thus the Germans in Iran could easily overrun this vital source. This danger would force Joseph Stalin to do anything to appease Hitler, including supplying all the grain and other resources Hitler demanded, and bringing to Germany rubber, nickel, and other strategic commodities from Southeast Asia by way of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Possession of Suez would have made it easy for Germany to occupy French North Africa (Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco). This would have closed off the western entrance to the Mediterranean, and turned the Middle Sea into an Axis lake. With control of all Europe west of the Soviet Union, the Middle East, and much of Africa, plus the forced alliance of the Soviet Union, Germany would have become almost invincible. However, Adolf Hitler could not see what Raeder was proposing. He had almost no strategic sense whatsoever. He also was obsessed with his plans for a direct attack on the Soviet Union and on acquiring Lebensraum or living space for the German people. He closed his mind to the strategy that would have won the war for him.

The world that would have resulted from a German victory would have been horrendous. The United States almost certainly would not have attempted to attack continental Europe, at least for many years. This would have required enormous preparation and expenditures of men and capital. The U.S. almost surely would have devoted its first attention to stopping the advance of Japan in the Pacific. Thus Germany would have had years to create a huge common market in Europe and become stronger every day. Britain, sitting on the periphery of Europe, would have become increasingly irrelevant. It would have had to expend all of its limited strength to maintain itself and to protect its empire, especially India, which was agitating for independence, and would have been threatened by a German presence in Iran. Germany therefore would have been free for an unknown period of time to create a horrible totalitarian state that dominated Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

We can be thankful, therefore, that Adolf Hitler had almost no strategic vision and was so obsessed with his insane hatred of Jews and his desire to destroy the Soviet Union that he was unable to see the way to victory that opened up to him with the defeat of France in 1940.

I’m not sure your question of whether Hitler and his cronies believed they could achieve global dominance can be answered. They certainly believed as late at the autumn of 1941 (when the Red Army was reeling back in apparent defeat and dissolution) that they could dominate Europe. But they were sobered by the Soviet counteroffensive in December 1941 that halted the advance on Moscow, and by the resistance of the Soviet Union in 1942. The disastrous decision of Hitler to attack Stalingrad and then not allow the German 6th Army to withdraw in November 1942, resulting in its surrender, virtually eliminated any chance of victory. Hitler may not have seen that defeat was now certain, but most of his senior generals did. They pushed for a negotiated peace, but Hitler was not interested.

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