Could Hitler have gone south?

The entirety of Hitler’s Eastern Campaign was consumed, and wasted, on the Soviet Union. He seemed to have studiously ignored the rich oil fields in Arabia and the ability to deprive the British Empire of same, which would have been a much bigger blow than the abortive Battle of Britian. Could Hitler have marched through a neutral Turkey, made pacts with the anti-French Syria and anti-British Palestine, and ended up with a secure base in Arabia from which to get oil and attack India?

First of all, the last thing Turkey wanted was to get involved in the war. They wouldn’t have allowed him to pass under any circumstances, and would have fought him tooth and nail if he tried to by force.

As for Syria and Palestine, they were not independent states at the time. Syria was conquered by the British after the fall of France, and Palestine had beena well-established British colony (technically, a Mandate) since 1917. They Germans might have been able to secure a pact with the local populations - although for obvious reasons, roughly a third of the poplulation of Palestine would *not * have played along - but they’d still have to deal with the hundreds of thousands of British troops in the region…

… which they were trying to do in North Africa, before El-Alamain put a damper on their plans. After all, the ultimate goal of the desert campaign was to reach the Persian Gulf.

Also, it would be pretty well mpossible to do all that with the land logistics infrastructure of the time - unless they’d taken time to build a railway or two as they went along. Hitler wasn’t a patient chap, and making strategic moves at a snail’s pace doesn’t usually work out well.

So without controlling the Eastern Med to allow safe shipping access, not really feasible. Controlling the Eastern Med without taking out Alexandria, similarly not feasible. Hence the Afrika Corps heading for Egypt to do just that, until it got slapped back at El Alamein. Taking the Arabian oil fields is another of those long string of near-impossibilites that are so fun to discuss - it could have been done, theoretically. But not by a loony doing lots of other loony things at the same time.

Thanks. I thought I was missing something obvious, and now the North African Campaign makes a lot more sense. (“I know! We’ll attack Britian and the Soviets!” “But two-front wars are dumb. We lost the last one.” “So we attack North Africa! Three fronts! We can’t lose!”)

Like I said - loony. Plus, most of the High Command didn’t want to go to war to start with, since they thought they would get creamed even worse than last time. Then after running rampant all over central, north and western europe for a year the started to think maybe they really were invincible after all, just like the loony said.

I’ll just say that from the thread title, I took ‘gone south’ a bit more literally, and was expecting it to be about Germany turning against Italy. :smiley:

And I thought it was about the old chestnut of Hitler surviving the war and going to ground in South America. :smiley: :smiley:

As posed in the OP the choice is between attacking the Soviet Union and going for the Middle Eastern oil fields. Put like that I would have said Germany would have had a pretty strong chance of throwing Britain out of North Africa and the Levant and then moving on to Iraq and Persia (the main oil producers in the 1940s).

To Hitler and OKW the North African campaign was a minor side show, with minimal German forces committed to supporting Mussolini and prevent him being defeated and driven out of Lybia. At its maximum the Africa Korps was the equivalent of German three divisions. Hitler had 166 divisions on the Eastern Front for Operation Barbarossa! If any significant fraction of these had been committed to North Africa in 1941 it is difficult to see any way the British and Empire forces could have stopped them - it was a close enough run thing at First Alemein. Not invading Russia would also have freed up the bulk of the Luftwaffe in support with every chance of closing the Mediterranean to the Royal Navy and allowing much easier passage of supplies to the troops in North Africa.

Having said all that there was never any chance Hitler would adopt such a strategy. The attack on the Soviet Union was not about gaining access to oil or any other resource - it was a political act by a loony :smiley: in pursuit of a dream of a German manifest destiny of lebenraum in the East, implemented by a High Command that emphasised process over deliverable reality.

These two sentences seem contradictory to me. If they didn’t want to get involved in the war, wouldn’t they just let the Germans pass through, as long as Germany agreed that they wouldn’t occupy the country?

Germany’s agreements didn’t count for much. (Hitler also agreed not to attack the Soviet Union.) If I were Turkish I wouldn’t trust Hitler as far as I could spit.

I am not sure why you say he ignored the oil rich fields of Arabia, that is pretty much where he was heading.
Back in 1940 the main producing areas were Baku Azerbaijan, Grozny Chechnya, Kirkuk in Northern Iraq and Persia, aka Iran.

The easiest way to get to those places from central Europe is to drive through the Ukraine, into Chechnya and refuel in Grozny, take Baku for a lot of oil, then you are right into Northern Iran and not far from Kirkuk. This is pretty much what a sizable portion of the invading German army tried to do. The other part was engaged in keeping the Russians busy and prevent them interfering with their summer grand tour of the caucuses. Taking this route takes advantages of the infrastructure, roads, rail, food that was in the region.

Turkey and Syria would have been a much harder proposition to get across in 1940, even if you could get in in the first place.

I know that, but my question wasn’t about that, it was regarding the contradictory statement. Also, how much of that is hindsight? The Turks couldn’t have known that Hitler would renege on an agreement, particularly if it were made early in the war and the carrot was big enough to tempt the Turks.

Of course that’s what we’d think, but I remember hearing about right-wing Jewish terrorist groups in Palestine making deals with the Nazis to help fight their common British enemy. You certainly know more about this than me, so is it accurate?

Saudi Arabia was not a major oil producer untill the early 1950’s. Capture of Egypt (by an augmented german force0 was well within capabilities. Once the British were driven out of Egypt, closure of the Suez canal would have made the British mediterranean fleet’s position untenable. I drive by german forces into Iraq would have been very feasible.
A good opportunity wasted, and an easy vistory lost, because hitler never thought startegically.

Let me rephrase myself - Turkey would never have *willingly * involved itself in the war. Letting Germany through would be getting involved , and therefore, Turkey would have refused passage. If Germany had tried to pass through by force, then of course Turkey would have fought back.

You can’t just say “I’m letting his forces through, but I’m not part of your war.” Not if you don’t want the allies to say"Well, then I’m going to bomb your roads, railways and ports, but don’t take it personally." As soon as foreign troops set foot on your soil, you’re in the game. There are no half measures in WW2.

I don’t think it was a contradictory statement. Turkey didn’t want to get involved, but you don’t always get what you want. Confronted with German troops trying to cross their territory, they would have no choice any more - they would already be involved, whatever they did.

Even before the war, Hitler had occupied all of Czechoslovakia after agreeing at Munich to only take the Sudetenland. So I think the Turks would have known what to expect.

You’re thinking of Lehi, aka, “the Stern Gang”. Stern tried to get German help with the resistance during the war. Stern was also kind of crazy, though, so that has to be taken into account.

Hitler’s strategic plans were all based around land - he retained the military mentality of his experience as an infantryman in WWI. He rarely thought about the possibilities of moving through the air or over water. So all that Russian land right next door was too much of a temptation for him to resist.

A southern strategy was possible. The Mediterranean is a big body of water but it has chokepoints. Hitler could have taken Gibraltar and Aden and sealed off both ends. After that he could have mopped up any British forces who were trapped inside. With control of the Mediterranean he could have moved into the Middle East or East Africa.

True. Another comparison is that partisans kept five German divisions tied up in Yugoslavia.

I thought it was going to be about Adolf and Eva’s sex life.
Okay, I didn’t really think that. But it did cross my mind.