What if World War II didn't happen?

edited May 2020 in Diesel

There's plenty of dieselpunk fiction about World War II turning out even worse than it did: the Axis winning or the war morphing into a prolonged cold war.

What if it never happened?

I think the best point of divergence would be the Munich Conference of 1938. If Britain and France had held firm on Czechoslovakia, there was a plot by top generals to depose Hitler. It's the story behind Robert Harris' excellent 2017 novel Munich.

I could see Germany - still joined with Austria - becoming a military junta. Perhaps without German support, Franco would lose the Spanish Civil War. Events in the Pacific might unfold more or less as they did in the real world, with the United States and the European colonial empires drawn into a war with Japan. Without having to fight the Nazis in Europe, the British could devote more resources to the Far East and perhaps feel less pressure to grant India independence? Would the Soviets ally with Mao's Communists in China against Japan? Or double-cross them to split up China, much like they did with the Nazis in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact?



  • That's my favourite point of divergence. We had a chance to discuss it years ago.

    Just a few thoughts: there will be a series of wars in Asia, especially after 1940 U.S. presidential elections (isolationists win, Robert A. Taft takes the White House). British India and Dutch West Indies under attack, as well French Indochina.

    In Europe, Germany under Beck and his generals claims Sudetenland and Posen (Poznan) but is uninterested in expanding its Lebensraum further East. That's a very complicated issue (two issues at least), much to think about. No Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

    Italy remains Fascist. Abandoned by its German ally (generals see Mussolini as a burden, not an asset), Rome seeks alliance with London. A thin possibility of Il Duce overthrown, Italo Balbo becoming Italy's new leader.

    Britain, heavily exhausted by military spending, cannot play "balance of power" game any more. Whitehall seeks union with Beck's Germany. Quite natural, isn't it?

  • I think you're right a military-led Germany (whether it's Beck or someone else) would seek to restore Germany's pre-World War I borders but go no further.

    I'm less sure about an entente with Britain. I know there was significant pro-German sentiment in the UK in the 1930s, but what would be the strategic benefit in siding with Germany when France would probably still be afraid of at the least the possibility of German aggression?

    Britain and France were also still formally allied and had cooperated closely through the 1920s and 30s on every major international issue.

  • @Ottens , I'll try to elaborate on the New European order (or Europact) later. Right now, just a side note: from 1935 on, the old Franco-British entente was quite feeble. There was a lot of bitterness both sides of the Channel: the Brits didn't like Laval's affair with Mussolini, and in Paris, they weren't all that happy about the naval treaty with Germany.

  • edited May 2020

    I suppose the challenge with what-ifs is always that we need to set aside our knowledge of what happened later. It's hard now to imagine an Anglo-German pact in the 1930s, given what we know happened in the real world only a few years after.

    Looking forward to reading more! I'd be especially interested in your thoughts on what France would do under such circumstances. I feel the country is somewhat neglected in English-language alternate history. Language plays a role there. Also France's postwar decline as a great power. But at the time, it was on par with Germany militarily.

  • Hope to sum up my notes on the possible scenario for France this weekend. Third Republic was a mixed bag, and its quick collapse in 1940 was hardly accidental. More on that later.

  • The architecture of European cities would have progressed differently, even though the Nazi regime had an architectural branch, and design changes were already being done to older buildings, with mixed results.

    Without the destruction of cities and necessary rebuilding with scarce resources, central European cities maybe would look more like Reykjavik, at least the residential areas. I guess more art deco - inspired and less brutalism, maybe in combination with late 50's/early 60's futuristic functionalism.

    There would have been more resources available for the Soviets to continue Stalin's architectural ideas after his death, instead of the prefabricated Khrushchyovka blocks.

  • @sizteves : "There would have been more resources available for the Soviets to continue Stalin's architectural ideasafter his death, instead of the prefabricated Khrushchyovka blocks".

    As well as for the French with their big housing projects and public buildings, Palais de Chaillot-style.

    As for Italy, we would have seen EUR (aka E-42) inaugurated 18 years earlier, built to its original design with a giant arch.

    And in London, the University building in Bloomsbery could look like this.

  • @lord_k : Interesting, the Soviets based their Khrushchyovka blocks on a French system.

  • It was based on the late 1920s Soviet experimental housing projects as well. There is a quarter in Moscow, looking deceptively like a brick Khrushchyovka block. Built in 1928/29.

  • Maybe the Palace of the Soviets could have been completed?

  • @lord_k : Makes sense, they probably just adopted the construction system and adjusted it for their own designs. Stalin's way of building was too expensive.

  • edited May 2020

    Maybe... They started construction in the late Thirties. By September, 1941, the metal carcass was about 100ft high. It was dismantled, metal cut for anti-tank hedgehogs.

    To serve a hardly pleasant reminder: the most ambitious Soviet architectural design of the late Twenties, dubbed House on the Embankment, once Europe's largest apartment building, required more resources than all contemporary housing construction in Moscow combined, 1928-1931.

    Another megalomaniac project, Moscow University main building, once Europe's tallest structure, built after WWII, was more expensive than Stalingrad reconstruction. And they had to build Stalingrad from scratch, the city been totally destroyed in 1942/43.

    By the way, the Uni building is featured in the picture you posted, upper left corner.

  • That's insane!

    So much for communism meaning a rational distribution of resources...

  • Well, here we are again. Let's start with Germany.

    October 1938. Munich talks fail, British delegation leaving without signing a thing. In a few hours, car crash is staged. No Fuhrer any more. But General Staff can't usurp power at once, facing a powerful opposition from SS, on one hand, and Goering, on the other. NSDAP bosses, like Hess, are more co-operative. Finally, by the end of the year, opposition is neutralised, Himmler and Heidrich accused of planning a coup and the Reichsmarschall passing in Carinhall taking just a bit more morphine than usual.

    In the meanwhile, there's no talk about territorial claims, and German foreign policy is seriously weakened by internal struggle. Only in March 1939, Beck's government (later dubbed 'Zossen regime', after the new seat of General Staff) resumes talking about Sudetenland and Danzig Corridor.

    To be continued

  • I hadn't thought of the SS, but, yes, they would be a problem. You'd have to put both Himmler and Heydrich away.

    Goering seems like the sort of man who could perhaps be bought off, though? Keep him as Prime Minister of Prussia, at least for the time being?

    Looking forward to the next part!

  • edited May 2020

    @Ottens , fat Hermann is no good: his industrial empire is a threat to "old capital"; he sees himself as Hitler's legitimate heir, aspiring to seize both Reichskazler's and Reichspraesident's positions. Beck and Co try to appease him at first, but he's unstoppable, greedy, totally out of control. Instead of bribing him, they bribe his doctor. It's cheaper.

    We have another doctor in the picture, no less ambitious than Goering. I mean Joseph Goebbels of course. In my scheme, he agrees to co-operate (as well as Hess and Bormann), planning to overthrow Beck's regime from the inside.

    Joachim von Ribbentrop is done: sacked from his job at the Foreign Ministry and replaced by Franz von Papen.

  • From what I've read, Goering did have a high opinion of himself. That's why I thought of bribing him with a nice title, but I guess that might not be enough for him and he would become a problem eventually.

    Goebbels could be trouble. He was a true believer. Fanatics like him don't just give up.

  • Goebbels was a genius manager, first and foremost. We are used to think of him as of a propaganda mastermind, but he was equally brilliant at building things from nothing, starting with NSDAP structure in Berlin (in OTL, he remained Berlin Gauleiter till the end). That's why he's extremely dangerous.

  • Just a timeline:

    March 30, 1939: Germany resumes its claim for Sudetenland, using a set of old Nazi cliches: protecting minorities, etc. By then, Chamberlain's government comes to a sort of agreement with Prague: wide political and cultural autonomy for German-speaking citizens, open border with Germany, free trade, etc. But - no plebiscite, no territorial concessions.

    April 2, 1939: Lord Halifax urges von Papen to start talks with his Czechoslovak counterpart, Kamil Krofta (in OTL, left office on Oct. 4, 1938.)

    (Here should be a spin-off entered on the internal political developments in Czechoslovakia; can elaborate on this)

    April 6, 1939: Britain and France sign a mutual assistance pact with Poland, assuring its independence. Simultaneously, Lord Halifax informs Beck's government on a "possibility of mutual understanding regarding Danzig corridor".

    April 8, 1939: At a government meeting, Dr. Goebbels calls for "breaking evil bond with rotten liberal regimes". He proposes to start talks with Stalin about a possible partition of Poland. Beck, von Brauchitsch, Kanaris and von Papen reject the proposal.

  • An alternative for the Sudetenland: a partition proposed by the League of Nations.

    Map (in the style of the 1947 UN partition plan for Palestine) by Marcos Ceia.

  • I wonder if the Bauhaus school movement would have flourished.

  • Don't think it would. By 1933, the school was pretty much exhausted by internal conflicts and financial difficulties. Their last architect-director, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, made it big in the States, postwar.

  • Completed my story for Never Was: What If World War II Never Happened?

    I have Wendell Willkie winning the 1940 presidential election, keeping America out of a war in Asia between Japan and the colonial powers.The Republicans win the Civil War in Spain without German and Italian support. There is no Israel but a Jewish state in Central Europe.

  • By late 1938 Spanish War foregone conclusion. Reckon Japs bogged down in China, no US embargo or Pearl Harbour, much slower decolonisation.

  • Welcome to the discussion, @marktayloruk! Why do you think there would be no US embargo on Japan? That was because of the Japanese invasion of China, right?

    I hadn't thought of the effect on decolonization, but I think you're right about that - it would have taken longer.

  • I read an interesting short story about this very topic once called 'A Dad Ought to Have Nightmares'. I cannot remember the author, but it was in an anthology called 'Alternate Peace'. The setting was the early 1950's just after (Nazi administered) Germany test detonated the first hydrogen bomb off the coast of one of their African holdings. The US was led by Thomas Dewey and all the pre-WW2 powers were there. The story was about a former American spy who is recalled to service to gain information on Germany's nuclear program. The US is still western hemisphere focused as FDR was never in power (and without him it's implied that Wilsonian Liberal Internationalism never recovered after the Democratic Party's 1920 election defeat) but some people in the Government are still concerned about the looming nuclear arms and space races. I'll have to read it again; I remember thinking the idea of a multi polar Great Game world with Cold War atomic terror and espionage to be a rich setting for stories.



  • You could have a three-way nuclear cold war between America, Germany and Japan, not unlike the world of George Orwell's 1984.

  • edited February 8


    I reread the story, it's by Dale Cozort. As to your suggestion, the world in the story is even more fractal. Germany, Japan and the United States all exist, but so does the British Empire, French Union (under the Third Republic) and the Soviet Union. It's implied that the Germans were able to annex parts of eastern Europe without triggering the Second World War. If you can find it I'd be curious to hear what you think.

  • I know Dale! I've republished a few of his scenarios in Never Was.

    I can't find a Cold War scenario on his website, though.

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