Nazi Germany rules Europe in 1945. By 1985 you could not be so sure.
The point of departure comes shortly after the fall of France. Germany wins the Battle of Britain, but considers a seaborne invasion too logistically challenging. An honourable peace is negotiated on Christmas Eve 1940, and is welcomed by an exhausted British public. The real celebrations take place in Berlin.
Germany occupies Poland, Denmark, Norway, the low countries and coastal France, and is allied with Italy, Finland, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. Everybody else begins to learn how to fit in with the new order.
Germany mobilises eastwards. It only now requires to deploy a small concentration of forces in Western Europe. There is no Atlantic Wall, no significant U-boat production program. And no entanglements in the Balkans to delay Hitler's launch of his ultimate strategic objective.
An increasingly nervous USSR begins a belated program of rearmament when it becomes clear Germany has no intent on honoring its peace treaty, which is shattered in May 1941 with Operation Barbarossa. St Petersburg falls in September, and by the time Guderian’s 4th Panzer Division reaches Moscow the ground is cold enough to freeze the bedeviling autumn mud, but not cold enough to disrupt his initiative. Over the winter the Red Army desperately but unsuccessfully tries to recapture Moscow, hurling all it has from a diminishing supply of armaments.
Germany returns to offensive operations from March 1942. Unwisely the Germans draw too many men and resources from its existing front, and unexpectedly Zhukhov launches a summer counter-offensive against the exposed salient in St Petersburg. The besieged Germans manage to hold off the counter attack for three months until relief comes from spare divisions, notably recently armed SS Cossacks and Ukrainian auxiliary divisions. Germany is able to return to its southeastern offensive operations by September, and eventually reaches the Iranian border before the end of the year. Spooked by the near-disaster at St Petersburg, and satisfied that Caucasus oil and Volga defensive lines have been seized, Hitler decides that to conclude the end of Barbarossa in January 1943. It seems superfluous to even bother declaring a cease-fire, let alone a peace treaty, with the exhausted Soviets. Stalin, his status diminished by his defeats, is just as much concerned with own safety. Over the next few years, famine, epidemics and mass migration reduces the population of European Russia by three quarters.
In Britain, life slowly returns to normal. Rationing is eased. Churchill laments with masterful rhetoric Britain's failure to come to the aid of its European allies, and he is eventually considered irrelevant enough to be tossed out in the 1942 general elections. At least Britain remains free and unoccupied. The Empire is kept intact - Britain is even allowed to retain control of those African territories taken from Italy, much to the displeasure of Il Duce. The safety of the empire is protected under the terms of the Quadrapartite Pact which Britain reluctantly joins in 1944, partially out of concern of Japanese agitation in Asia following its seizure of Indochina in 1940.
But Japan is not looking further south - with the war in Europe over Britain is able to bolster its garrisons across the world, deterring any opportunistic world power aspirers. The main preoccupation now becomes retaining control of India. Japan finds itself running out of options for expansion. The war in China continues - Japan easily expands into the Chinese hinterland but finds it hard to consolidate its territorial gains. A threat of US oil sanctions forces Japan to keep fighting with one hand tied around its back. Two earlier defeats against the Soviets deters Japanese from moving north, and it is treaty-bound to respect UK interests in Asia. By 1945 Japan has withdrawn its forces to Manchuria and strategic clusters across China, consisting of the choiciest markets, materials and factories. An uneasy peace is made between Japan and the Republic of China, which finds itself in the middle of its own civil war.
Without Britain's support, de Gaulle is forced to accept the legitimacy of L'Etat Francais, headquartered in Vichy. The collaborating French are given a free hand in retaining what remains of its overseas colonies. Madagascar is handed over to Germany in 1942, to where it deports twelve million Jews over the course of the next fifteen years.
The United States remains isolationist throughout the war, and is only slowly coming out of its recession. Its production geared towards consumer items, it sees opportunities in war-ravaged Europe and Asia. President Roosevelt also considers it necessary that a world body exists that would civilise German pre-eminence, under the guise of providing a framework that would assist the world in the New Order. The United Nations is born in San Francisco in 1945, with low expectations. Initially comprising of the US, the UK and China, and a sprinkling of British Commonwealth, European neutrals and Latin American states, it finds no traction with Germany, Japan and their client states. And the Russians, as always, cannot commit their trust to anything foreign.
1945 - 1955
The demobilisation of German forces from 1944 onwards produces an unintended consequence - a baby boom by newly-wed families. Hitler has great plans for a German colonisation of his now depopulated Russian territories, except that nobody is really willing to participate. Out of five million eligible German veterans, barely one fifth participate in a highly generous scheme to take on freehold land as farmers, and of these two thirds quit after their third Russian winter. But German financiers are eager in developing the east, and support large-scale government-directed public works, intended to give European Russia the infrastructure it barely ever had, prevents the colonisation scheme from failing. Eastwards migration begins to pick up in the 1950s, and by 1955 there are nine million ethnic Germans living on their new landed estates.
The occupation authorities in the Nazi-occupied east continue to repress the surviving populations. But now indiscriminate killing is frowned upon. Hitler is concerned that reports of atrocities will discourage Germans to settle in the east. The ground commanders know they can use ethnic group against another. And outbreaks of tuberculosis, influenza and cholera coming from the east, where medical facilities and urban infrastructure have been razed, threaten to spread to Germany. The SS are surprised - but in retrospect are highly relieved - when their eistanzgrupen are ordered not to wipe out particular communities, but rather to inoculate them.
The Wehrmacht celebrates in succession the ten year anniversaries of Germany's victories against Poland, France and the Soviet Union. Each milestone is supposedly more significant, but repetition weakens enthusiasm. The draft remains - two million soldiers are deployed across the Third Reich to protect its borders, but military service is now considered a chore rather than a sacred duty. To the displeasure of the Nazi Party, or its true ideologues at the very least, Germans have become soft from the prosperity and absence of conflict in post-war life. With little for the senior brass to do, petty rivalries intensify in the Party and Wehrmacht,
At the same time, Germany is trying to assert a leadership role in the world. The US cannot be conquered, but it is in both country's interests for strong and dynamic trade links. Germany establishes in 1949 - nominally as an equal partner - a European Common Market (ECM) to integrate the economies of mainland Europe together. A brainchild of the technocrat, Albert Speer, it forces the rest of Europe to become economically dependent on Germany for credit and markets. It is perfectly voluntary - Britain demurs from entering - but over time most countries in Europe find themselves stuck between a choice between severe autarky or membership of the ECM.
In the post-world Europe, efforts and creative talents can now be devoted to a consumer revolution, not just in Germany, but across Europe and the world. Germans are introduced to car ownership, television, cosmetics, supermarkets, mass tourism, and more and more household goods. But also Germans find themselves working in collaboratively with other foreigners, including former enemies - and increasingly, from those Nazi doctrine had preached were sub-human.
France and Britain find themselves preoccupied with pro-independence movements in their colonies. Britain gets caught up in increasingly expensive and unpopular deployments in India, Malaya, Kenya and Egypt, bleeding its treasury dry. The terms of the 1940 Armistice severely diminished France's military capacity to respond to a series of counter-insurgencies emerging first in Algeria, then later in Lebanon. Germany is ambivalent about protecting the sea-based empire of its now vanquished rival. Japan ends up inheriting the Vietnam War, while the London-based Dutch Royal family cannot do much when 80 million Indonesians choose independence in 1947. In 1953, the Union Jack is lowered in New Delhi, following a compact made with the Indian National Congress between Prime Minister Atlee and Nehru. Over the 1950s and 1960s, decolonialisation will continue in Asia and Africa.
And the USSR? Its military exhausted, and territory now limited to what is east of Kazan, Germany is satisfied that the country will never be a threat again, and forces it to sign a harsh peace treaty that would leave it in penury. Deprived of its food supplies after the Central Asian republics become independent, Russia learns to prioritise (only after the death of Stalin does the now singular Socialist Republic renames itself Russia). US food aid keeps the country barely alive, and the presence of the US military dissuades Japan from taking advantage of Russia's vulnerabilities. Industry is rebuilt in Siberia and along the Pacific East Coast. It would take time and a series of strong leaders to rebuild Russian morale again,
Japan is consolidating its rule in occupied China, but it is expensive and time consuming. There are more than enough local warlords willing to serve in suzerainty roles. Japan continues to withdraw, back to its 1937 borders. Manchuria and Korea remain trophies of earlier, easier victories. Mao's Red Army is politically weakened due to a lack of Soviet support, and this helps the Chungking-based Chinese Nationalists under Cheng Kai-Chek regroup and keep pushing pressure on the Japanese occupiers. Like the Germans in the former Soviet Union, and the British in India, Japan is forced to deploy and rotate soldiers against an unwinnible and ugly guerrilla war in China and Indochina. But it won't be for long. The United States is a rising global force. Its funds and trade dominate the Americas. But news of Japanese atrocities in Asia and German atrocities in Eastern Europe and Madagascar, but also earlier British atrocities in India, imbues the Truman and Stevenson administrations with a conviction that the power in the world needs to be civilised. The United Nations concept struggles to gain relevance. Jewish, Chinese, Polish and other voices call for a more robust foreign policy which puts human rights and self-determination as overriding principles. And even the isolationists of all political stripes come to realise it is not in the US's interests to assume undemocratic empires over the sea will never be a threat. Two inventions - a German and an American one - come into play.
The responsibility resting on the United States to become the conscience of the world suddenly becomes heavier when, on a dark September morning in 1947, an atom bomb is tested for the first time in the New Mexico desert. Over the next few years it will test more of these weapons in the Marshall Islands - with enough subtly to warn the Japanese and German administrations against going to far in their conflicts. Japan's militarists find themselves now forced to fight against a range of conditions that make victory impossible. In 1953 the US successively brokers a face-saving peace treaty between Japan and Nationalist China that results in the withdrawal of Japanese forces from Asia, while providing the guarantee of supplies of raw materials and oil. But it also spooks Germany.
It is the Americans turn to fear when Germany launches its first intercontinental rocket. These unusual, imaginative contraptions were used in the war with the Soviet Union in order to strike, ever eastwards, Soviet munition factories in Siberia. But combined with the roll out of television, these missiles now have an added propaganda value. After a feverous research and development program, Germany launches the Begleiter rocket on 17 June 1954 from a submarine base in Western Africa. It does enough orbits over North America to warn the world it now has supremacy, seemingly, over the skies.
Germany and the United States will begin to start embarking on a new and expensive arms race. Hitler does not intend to have his foreign policy hamstrung like what happened to Japan. And indeed, he thinks, Germany has been growing fat, soft and complacent over the last few years. Ukrainian maids, Polish nannies, French chefs and Czech gardeners become popular amongst German households. The war in the West, and old emneties, are forgotten - as victors there is little emnity to feel. Others will find solace in a new influence coming across the Atlantic - rock and roll. In the absence of wartime solidarity, what will hold Germany together? The regime gets a brief spurt of pride following the Begleiter launch, and its profile around the world is momentarily raised.
The prospect that economic liberalisation will lead to demands for political freedoms suddenly spurns a backlash from the Nazi leadership itself. America becomes a popular bogeyman. The generation of Bavarian beer hall brawlers who still lead the Party are feeling competition from a younger generation of apparatchiks whose working lives were spent entirely in the military of state apparatus. Fearing a coup d'etat, perhaps on the basis of dubious sources, or even because of foreign sources, in 1955 a much aged Hitler launches a second major bloody purge of the Nazi Party, as well as a nationwide crackdown on "unsocial" activities. Clubs are closed down, the military is deployed to lock down major cities across Europe and a shriller tone xenophobic appears in media. Shrewd, cooler heads keep a low profile.
1955 - 1965
The crackdown in Germany was sudden and unexpected. Rumours surface that an ambitious circle within the Nazi party had sought to force early retirement on the Führer, and it is reported that Reinhard Heydrich, now the head of the SS, had been assassinated by a rival faction. But this issue becomes irrelevant suddenly in 1959 when the German leader dies of a stroke, aged 70. Hermann Göring, the 67 year old politically savvy former war hero, becomes Führer. As an aviator, Göring is aware of the threat from technologically advanced weapons that would suddenly alter the balance of power between two states. He redoubles research efforts into nuclear fission, and in 1957 German detonates a nuclear weapon. The event also benefits Göring personally, as he can claim credit now for developing a weapon that would deter Europe from Bolshevik or American aggression. Germany restarts a massive rearmament program - this time building nuclear tipped missiles and delivery vehicles.
Germany, despite its decade of peace, still had disturbances across the Reich. On more than a few times special expeditionary forces were required to quell uprisings in the USSR. Even more remarkable were the revolts closer to home - Lodz Uprising in 1961 and the Dutch harbour master strikes in 1963 which threatened the Rhine shipping supplies. Göring continues Germany's iron rule, and the disturbances dissipate.
The rest of Europe learns how to live with Germany. When a socialist coup takes place in Portugal in 1960, inspired by public disquell over the provisions of the German-imposed ECM Göring threatens to bomb Lisbon unless the country reiterates its allegiance to Germany.
Germany is also now keen that any remaining European colonies - French, Dutch and British - do not fall into the fold of the Americans, who are able to seduce the first few newly independent countries in Africa and Asia with cheap credit. The Americans sign defence treaties with Morocco, Iran, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Iceland. Göring now permits the French to send in expeditionary forces to reinforce its hold on Algeria, and then backs up the French by sending German forces. But it also demands access to their foreign territories and resources. The Greater German Reich becomes truly global, with new military bases established as far afield as Senegal, Norway, Martinique and Armenia, facing off the United States.
The world comes close to a nuclear war in September 1964 when it is discovered that Germany had stationed nuclear weapons in French Guinea, a mere 3000 km from the North American continent. President Johnston holds firm to a line in the sand, and the rockets are dismantled. The United States privately agrees to withdraw a strategic bomber squadron based in Iceland. Both superpowers are trying to work out how to live with each other, and a rapid deployment of intercontinental and submarine launched ballistic nuclear missiles ensues as both try to establish deterrent paradigms
Within Europe the British are given more latitude in running their own foreign and domestic policies, but are informed that their membership of the Quadrapartite Pact strictly forbids them from entertaining into any pact with Russia or the United States. Not that the Yanks - who have seemed to have inherited the British Empire's colonies - are the favourites in Whitehall. Britain prospers on the back of being able to trade with the United States and Nazi Europe, and accept as inevitable the dissolution of its empire.
The United States condemns German aggression and repression whenever it arises in Europe. It sends aid to Russia, a skeleton of a country of fifty million people expelled to the Urals and Siberia. Russia begins to grow in strength again, through American material support and the grim resolve of its people. But the United States, aware of the nuclear threat from Germany, will tread carefully.
The Japanese puppet regimes ruling from Hsinking, Keijo, Saigon and Taipei prove unable to muster the political support or military to survive, and eventually fall to the Chinese or Vietnamese nationalists in the mid 1950s. The militarists in Japan are gradually sidelined as the civilian politicians, backed by big business, seek to realign Japanese strategic priorities from conquest to commerce. The United States encourages this, and opens its markets to aspiring Japanese industries.
Japan slowly democratises, and also begins to rebuild relations with its Asian neighbours, including - with due sensitivity - the Republics of China, Vietnam, Formosa and Korea. Fortunately for the Japanese, much of Asia are ruled by military strongmen who see advantages in trading with Japan. Slowly there is some form of reconciliation, and the former occupied Japanese territories send teams to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.
In Nazi occupied Russia, slowly German colonisation is bearing fruit. But it is only through the initiative of the settlers themselves, or the more enlightened Gauleiters. Most German families are dependent upon the indigenous Russian and Ukrainian populations for skilled and unskilled labour; distrust lingers between the two, but eventually both groups learn to depend on each other. Some Germans are lucky enough find a trusted local who can look after the farm while they themselves live back in Germany. Others fail, pack up and go home. Increasingly large German agricultural businesses are moving in to purchase vacated blocks on a plantation model. Interestingly, as Germany becomes a more repressive place, some parts of Nazi Russia become a freer place to live - as a frontiersman or lord, the petty rules of the Reich don't apply. And there is the ongoing fear of terrorism by Russian partisans to be watchful of.
The SS estimates up to a third of Ukrainian youth born after 1942 have German parentage. A smaller but still significant proportion of Russian children are also similarly identified. How will this cohort, the eldest of which are entering in adulthood, fit into the expanded Reich? Many are identified to be the future overseers of the East. The Ukrainians and Balts themselves are allowed to have some limited degree of national conscientiousness propagated in their newspapers and schools when the anti-Bolshevik narrative suits the Nazis - their countries after all now have spent longer period of time ruled by Berlin than Moscow, and now the notion that Germany liberated their countries from the Bolsheviks is increasingly entrenched. And even the Russians are increasingly convinced.
Amongst the youth, without the hindsight of history, many see themselves as the subjects of a benevolent empire. They believe they're a natural hierarchy amongst nations, with the conquerors ruling the conquered, as an inevitability. As long as they get their three meals each day, they have no reason to protest. Their parents still keep their heads down, with some daring to pass stories down of the Soviet days.
But the seeds of dramatic change are sown around this time, but it would take time for this to become fully evident. The first five years of occupation in the east was marked by terror, mass starvation and death, at the SS completes a wholesale pacification of any potential resistance. The next fifteen years involves the consolidation of the Nazi state. Noting a severe shortage of skilled technicians in the eastern colonies, in 1956 the occupying military governments begin to permit the reopening of technical colleges. Five years later, universities are reopened. A new generation of Ostlanders are given a chance to think for themselves, once again.