Suppose time travel was possible and someone went back in time to give Adolf Hitler a history book detailing World War II before he rose to power. Knowing his mistakes and basically being given a second chance, would he have been able to carry out his goals? How far would he have gotten?
Ignoring the possibility of paradox, I assume?
Hitler didn’t listen much to his military advisers the first time around. Why would he listen to a book?
He probably would’ve put a lot more time/$ into nuke research earlier on, and gotten the bomb before anyone else, which might’ve given Germany enough of an edge to come out ahead in WWII
I saw a tv show once that postulated that Hitler was suffering from Parkinson’s (based on video shrowing distinct trembling in his arm); I’m not wed to the idea, and am not necessarily trying to argue its veracity. However, this theory suggests that Hitler knew his own time was limited, so it suggested a sort of suicidal mania that drove his ambitions. If true, it meant that he wasn’t really thinking of a long-term future for the Third Reich, but was merely going to pursue wild visions of world conquest until he died. Thus, his knowledge of the future may not have influenced his decision making - if he was pursuing a death-wish, he didn’t really care about long lasting consequences.
ETA: Since I brought it up, I suppose I should offer a cite
From what I’ve read, it’s not clear Germany ever had the scientific, technical, or financial resources to develop nuclear weapons, or enough understanding of their potential in high places to prioritize their development. (The Manhattan Project was unknown to even the Vice President, after all, but given everything it needed by Roosevelt.) Hitler was not known for his insight into or appreciation of modern warfare; his experience was as a common footsoldier in WWI, and he tended to understand the tactical realities of his era in a limited way. But having said that, if Germany somehow had developed a workable nuclear weapon by, say, 1942, it would’ve faced the same problems in utilizing them modern nations face, and would’ve found its stategic options as limited as other nuclear-armed nations have. If, for example, the rationale for invading the U.S.S.R. was for “lebensraum,” land that was radioactive could hardly be useful. And a countryside too sparsely inhabited to bomb but laced with partisans would’ve been a constant headache. Basically, WWII would’ve been like the Vietnam War, of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan: one huge guerilla conflict.
But knowing the names of some of the developers of the nuclear bomb, Hitler may have made some effort to capture or kill them before the U.S. could make use of them — depending, of course, on when you showed up in the past with your book.
If you showed up from the future, arriving in 1925 with your history book, you could stop Einstein from fleeing Germany, but by then he had already won the Nobel Prize in physics. Killing or capturing Einstein in 1925 may not have fully halted the development of the atomic bomb twenty years later.
You could probably be reasonably certain that Count von Stauffenburg wouldn’t be long for the world, though.
I’ve read that a lot of Hitler’s health problems were due to his being treated by a quack. Supposedly, in his so-called “Second Book” he does speculate on the future of Germany after his death. I’ve read he felt that after he died, the U.S. and the German Empire would fight it out for world domination. I haven’t read the actual book, so I don’t know if that’s true.
I think everyone should take a break and read Dean Koontz’s Lightning.
A pretty good book I thought.
I vote for tertiary syphilis, myself. Frankly, very little he did in the early years went wrong. So we’d be mid-WWII before the book was handy. He might research the bomb early, but a history book wouldn’t say more than it was possible, so we might end up with a bunch more dead scientists. There’d probably be no Miracle at Dunkirk, which might get the US in early.
He might keep Stalin on his side longer… or not. By that point, he was whipsawing and paranoid, according to everything I’ve read. The book would be discarded, and the rest of the war would probably play out the same, or close.
According to Churchill, The USSR was using the time they bought to prepare for war. Apparently Stalin thought he’d have another two or three years, though.
From what I’ve read, Ambrose’s D-Day for one, if he would have allowed himself to be woken up to unleash the Panzers to Normandy at first opportunity, the invasion would have been stopped.
Also, if he would have called the high command post across from Mt. Belvedere in the Apenines and told them that the cliff protectiing them was, in fact, scalable, the Tenth Mountain would never have made it up and the Germans wouldn’t have been driven out of Italy.
Some of the things that Hitler could have done, while not stepping out of his essential nature, if he had the foreknowledge.
- Nuclear research
- Toss out the Enigma
- Garrison Yugoslavia
- Forget about trying to negotiate a British surrender and make serious invasion plans
- Normandy. Not Calais. Normandy.
- Tell Hess to stop hanging out in airports
- Cancel all meetings on July 20th, 1944 and spend the day in the bunker
Assuming that he would actually pay attention to the book, he could avoid splitting his army in two in his invasion of the Soviet Union. I once read that that was one of the Great Military Blunders that changed the course of history. Seems he sent one part of the army to capture oil fields or something and the other part elsewhere (Stalingrad?) but that if he’d attacked each one separately with his full force, he would have almost certainly prevailed there.
So Russia would have taken Western Europe, as well as Eastern. It wouldn’t have meant victory in the long run – even if you stop the landings at Normandy, you still have to defend against another try, so you wouldn’t free up any new resources to hold the eastern front.
His best option of all would have been to continue as he did until he had annexed Bohemia and Moravia in 1939 after the Munich settlement and then just stop. If he had done this it is likely he would have been remembered (by the Germans that is) as the greatest German statesman ever. He would then from the German perspective have reversed the ‘injustices’ of the Versailles treaty, reoccupied the Rhineland, re-established German military might, restored German pride and incorporated the German populations of Austria and the Sudetenland into the Reich. And done this without war.
If he had continued onwards however as I think it likely he would have, I doubt any likely change in tactics or circumstances could have brought a final German victory. His regime was fundamentally so dangerous to the existing world order that it was always likely to bring a coalition against it with resources that it could not hope to match. The more he was successful the more this would be so.
There is nothing he could have done that would have allowed a successful invasion of Britain in 1940. He did not have the naval strength to do so and could not have built the navy that might have allowed this without triggering British hostility even earlier then he historically did. The British were very sensitive about maintaining Royal Navy superiority and the German effort to catch up had done much to bring about British antagonism to Germany prior to WW1, and would have again if Hitler had tried this.
Hitler did split the Southern Army Group into Army Group A and Army Group B for the 1942 Spring offensive but the problem was more a case of Hitler letting himself be diverted. The split itself was an arguable good move; Army Group B protected Army Group A’s exposed eastern flank and would have allowed Army Group A to be more effective if they had been used properly. But the supporting group became the main focus of the campaign. The primary goal was to capture the Caucasian oilfields by Army Group A; Stalingrad was a secondary goal assigned to Army Group B. The Germans came very close to capturing the city but the Soviets held on. Rather than write it off and keep his campaign focused, Hitler reinforced his troops at the scene, figuring with a little more effort he could capture the city and then get back on schedule. But the Soviets matched the German reinforcement and the battle escalated for no real strategic purpose.
The more important split was earlier during the initial 1941 invasion. The German army was divided into three Army Groups; one went towards Leningrad, one went towards Moscow, and one conquered the Ukraine. All three were good targets but they’re wasn’t enough troops to go around and two of the goals were never reached.
That’s why I made the caveat above about Hitler remaining Hitler. He made a number of bad decisions but they were in keeping with his most central goals. A person who wouldn’t have invaded Russia or declared war on the United States or started the Holocaust would have been somebody besides the historical Hitler.
The problem with the basic concept is that once Hitler uses the magic book it automatically becomes less useful. Once he starts enacting changes on the original history the other foreknowledge he has received is less like to be true or to happen in exactly the same way.
Well a lot would depend on which history book you took.
So many people will say, “If Hitler had done “X”, he could have won the war.” But X changes from historian to historian.
If only he wasn’t fighitng on two fronts.
If only he did put so many resources into exterminating the Jews.
If only had had done more R&D into the V-2 or the Luftwaffa.
If only the US stayed out of the war.
Which of these would Hitler persue? Would eliminating one or two of these handicaps help him?
And of course there’s
If only Hitler was not a total nutter, he may have won the war.
Don’t see how a history book would help there.