In general terms, what would have become of France, if, say, the U.S. and Britain had not entered the war, and Hitler had ended his aggression after the fall of Paris in 1940?
Um, I know of course that in that case, there would not have been a WWII. Please ignore the title.
We saw what happened to France: Germany conquered the north; Vichy ruled the south. I doubt Germany would have changed things if Britain opted out of the war at that point.
Vichy probably would have been eventually given control over all of France except Alsace and Lorraine with Paris as the capital.
As expansion in East was more important to the Nazi leadership’s long-term aspirations, one possible course of events could have been:
early 1941: Germany able to attack the Soviet Union months earlier than it would have been possible with an ongoing war in the West. Able to occupy most of European Russia, including Moscow, before onset of winter.
7 Dec 1941: Pearl Harbor (no reason for this to have been influenced by the war in Europe).
1942-1945: Germany consolidates hold on Eastern Europe. Holocaust progressing unhindered, with very, very few survivors.
early 1945: Japan surrenders (U.S. resources were not divided between Europe and Pacific).
U.S. and Britain consider German-dominated Europe intolerable threat.
1946 or 1947: multiple nuclear bombs on German cities. (German nuclear research still at lab stage)
France emerges as an independent medium power, albeit with stronger links to UK/US because there is no German economy left to trade with.
Goring’s plan for France was to make it a “milk cow” for Germany. The question was how much to feed the cow so that it would continue to produce.
I assume Wehrmacht occupation would have continued until control of everything in the way of agriculture and industry was well under the Nazi thumb, with German overseers in place everywhere, Petain and Laval as figureheads in Vichy.
Goring would have eventually realized that he couldn’t just chokle the life out of the French populace, so he would have eased up. Then life would have gone on as usual, except with the best of everything being skimmed off for Germany and the French holding to a much lower standard of living.
Britain was already in the war before 1940 and the USA didn’t enter until the end of 1941. Another factor forgotten in the orginal post is that the USSR not the USA and the UK were primarily responsible for Hitler’s defeat and Operation Barbarossa and the imperial overstrectch it brought with it were already an inevitability in 1940.
The ability of Germany to attack the Soviet Union a few months earlier would of made little difference as though Stalin was aware that Hitler was planning an attack, the German invasion, happening when it did, still came as a suprise to him and the proper defensive measures were not in place.
The OP says that Germany ends its aggression in 1940. I assume that means no invasion of Russia. This seems unlikely unless Hitler is assassinated in August 1940 or something.
Give that scenario, Germany consolidates its political power over conquered territories and normalizes relationships with the rest of the world. It’s main priority is to increase its economic power through trade and industrial development. There were lots of people willing to trade with Germany throughout the war, and I can’t see what would stop it from becoming the largest economy in Europe once aggression ended.
France would essentially be a state of the German empire. Germans would travel to the Mediterranean resorts for holidays. German language signs in Paris would remain. Aside from that, French politics could not possibly deviate from Germany’s for a long, long time.
Gee MC you write so well and with such good punctuation that it pains me to point out how your misspelling of “would’ve” made me cringe.
Couldn’t we use Poland under the USSR as a model? Nominally a separate nation (yeah, sure…)
I disagree. I think those few months would’ve made a huge difference. Barbarossa was delayed as it was for a few months and I have seen it speculated that this alone caused its ultimate failure as the Germans couldn’t quite put the nail in the coffin before winter set in. As it was the Germans came within a hairs breadth of taking Stalingrad…given a bit more time and resources freed up from the western front and they might well have pulled it off.
Whack-a-mole, Stalingrad was just a sideshow; the main objective, as it should have been, was Moscow, and the Germans came very near to taking that too before the winter weather shut things down. But there are two other factors that should be considered: (1) that winter was far more severe than could have been reasonably expected, and (2) Hitler’s supply lines were stretched to the breaking point by the time his troops reached the gates of Moscow and Stalingrad, a situation that would have occurred no matter when the assault had begun.
RealityChuck, Germany conquered all of France, as well as Belgium and Luxembourg, in about six weeks, in spite of the opposition of the whole of the French military and the nearly 300,000 troops of the British Expeditionary Force. The German occupation of the north of France was logistically wise in order to secure the most likely avenues of invasion – the English Channel and the northern Atlantic coast. The governing of the south of France by the Vichy puppet government was a matter of convenience to Germany, freeing thousands of troops to participate in the battles on the eastern front.
As to the OP, I look to the Vichy government under Marshal Petain as an example. France would today be ‘governed’ by a gutless toady who kowtows to Germany and pretends that France is still independent and important. (Wait a minute… why does the name ‘Chirac’ keep popping into my head?)
I’ve seen the reinforcements that arrived in the Russian Front laid out, and real serious reinforcements don’t show up in any way until October of '41, and after that things start going badly for the Germans.
Really badly come December, when a bunch of Shock Armies from Siberia walked in and started kicking frozen Nazi butt.
I also agree that a few months would have handed the Germans Moscow, albeit with some rather brutal street fighting.
The question then becomes, what would have occured in the USSR with Moscow seized and the gov’t captured/in hiding?
AFAIK, the general plan would have been to annex parts of eastern and northern France (more than just Alsace and Lorraine…look at this map …the zones called “Zone interdite”, “Zone reservee” et “annexe au Reich” could have been annexed) and then to keep a subservient french government, limit the industrial development of the country and, as another poster wrote, to “milk the cow” (assuming the ideal situation of a stabilized and nazi-dominated Europe)
Okay, let’s play. What follows is by no means an inevitable outcome but, I think, not a wholly implausible one. Let’s call actual history Baseline and this timeline WCS…
Note that in both Baseline and WCS, Britain has been in the war ever since Hitler rejected its ultimatum on the invasion of Poland (September 1939), and has already fought in both Norway and France.
June 1940 After the Fall of France, diplomatic and political pressure forces FDR to abandon plans for “Lend-Lease”. Both at home and in the US embassy in Berlin, the point is forcefully made that this is a weird interpretation of “neutrality”, and the President, with no mandate for war from the US people, has to abandon Britain to its fate. Hitler makes peace overtures to Churchill, who has no alternative but to accept.
The settlement is harsh, but Britain is not in a buyer’s market. RAF fighter force is maintained at June 1940 levels; all bombers are decommissioned and no new building is allowed; German weapons inspectors are admitted to supervise. Churchill is forced to resign and King George VI to abdicate; Edward VIII is reinstated as King. The process of dismantling the Empire begins.
France is partitioned much as in Baseline. Importantly, with no help coming from Britain or anywhere else, the Resistance never gets off the ground. As far as France is concerned, the war is over. There is no attack on the French fleet at Oran, nor do the would-be Free French have anywhere to run. Consequently, all the Vichy fleet is available, albeit less than zealously so, to Hitler.
Crucially, Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito are all singing from the same hymn-sheet. Italy manages a little land-grabbing in North Africa, unhindered by the British, but is dissuaded from any foolish adventures in Yugoslavia and Greece. A Pro-Axis government controls the Suez Canal.
April 1941 Operation Barbarossa kicks off early. Hitler makes straight for the oil-fields and only when are these secured does he leave these garrisoned by Italian and Eastern European allies, and turn his attention to Moscow. Stalin has been robbed of several precious months of reorganisation time. There are no Murmansk convoys and no Persian land-bridge. The Luftwaffe is considerably stronger as it has not undertaken any offensive against Britain and does not need to leave much in the way of air defences in Germany. Several thousand Flak 88s find much better employment in anti-tank roles on the Eastern Front.
December 1941 With the German occupying forces safely in winter quarters, Pearl Harbour goes ahead on schedule. There is one minor improvement; the Japanese ambassador delivers the declaration of war minutes before the order to “Climb Mount Niitaka”. The sleeping giant is still awakened, but the edge is taken off the terrible resolve.
As in Baseline, Hitler declares war on the US hoping that Hirohito will respond by attacking the USSR. Japan obliges. There is no hurry to deal with the remnant of the British Empire in South-East Asia so the IJA heads West out of Manchukuo into Siberia instead of south into Burma and Malaya. Stalin’s Siberian reservists never reach the Stalingrad front.
A large German naval task-force heads for the Pacific, accompanied by Italian and Vichy fleets. Since in this timeline the British never captured the Enigma code machine, German communications remain secure.
May 1942 Already on the back foot, the US Navy gets badly beaten at Coral Sea and Midway. Yamamoto promised (in Baseline) to raise hell for six months; in WCS, with German assistance, he has successfully driven the Star-Spangled Banner from the Pacific. America has a huge manufacturing capacity with which to make good the losses, but they don’t look like getting the time.
Meanwhile, the USSR is getting pulped between the full-strength Wehrmacht and the IJA. Russians resist savagely, but they are short of fuel, transportation (trucks were one of the most useful forms of overseas aid the USSR received in Baseline) and technology. And the Germans, in possession of the oilfields, have any amount of fuel for their planes and Panzers. They also have abundant food and plenty of new factories in conquered Poland and Western Russia.
The Atlantic, too, is a German playground. The meagre naval forces the USA can spare from the Pacific are no match for the U-boat packs and Condor patrols. Hitler has the entire European seaboard from the Arctic Circle to the Bay of Biscay for naval bases.
December 1942 Axis forces are once again snugged down for the winter - in Moscow, in the case of the Wehrmacht - and Stalin has no nasty surprises ready. Russia is cut off both from the Carpathian oil and from the Ukrainian grain, and must endure frozen starvation. Their casualties are already outmatching the Baseline figures for the entire war, and they are showing no signs of abating. In Europe, the “Final Solution” is in full swing.
April 1943 The Soviet Union has emerged from the winter effectively finished as a fighting force. Hitler invades Canada. London issues strongly-worded diplomatic protests which are openly derided on German radio. Britain is in no condition to wage war even if the political will were there, and the now-independent former Empire countries are disunited and leaderless. The Canadians don’t lack fighting spirit, but their country is not on a war footing.
German land and air forces are shipped across the Atlantic and Japanese across the Pacific. America can build ships, but it can’t assemble a fleet; Axis naval power has a choking blockade on both seaboards.
US land intervention in Canada enjoys no more success than Anglo-French intervention did in Norway three years before. Two years of victorious campaigning in the USSR has battle-hardened the Axis forces and the German armour is years ahead of American. Despite American patriotism, their isolationist “fortress mentality” has left them psychologically ill-prepared to fight a war on their own doorstep, where they had believed themselves invulnerable.
July 1943 The invasion of the United States begins. The Wehrmacht and, especially, the Waffen-SS and the IJA, are the most vicious, professional and ruthless fighting men the world has ever seen; they are also provisioned and equipped to a standard their Baseline counterparts could only have dreamed of. The Americans, instead of having the luxury of making their mistakes in North Africa or Sicily, are having to learn the hard lessons at home, and the learning is costing them dear.
December 1943 As the bombs whistle down on Washington D.C and New York, I’ll let the readers write their own ending to this Worst Case Scenario…
What of France? What of anyone!
The French would be le fucked.
We know something of what would have happened to France from what actually did happen of them. The exchange rate between the mark and the franc was artificially fixed in favor of the Germans so that there was a unidirectional flow of wealth toward Berlin, and France’s mineral resources were systematically exploited.
The direction clearly points toward the creation of a pastoral subject-state with no sea ports and no purpose except as a barely self-sufficient labor and capital pool.
Some Americans took note of the efficacy of the German economic treatment of Vichy France. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau suggested a postwar plan for Germany which very closely followed the actual plan Germany put in place over Vichy.
Not that Moscow wasn’t important but I disagree that Stalingrad was just a sideshow. Indeed I think it was the anvil against which Hitler’s army really broke. Further, had Hitler taken Stalingrad, he would have had access to much needed oil from the Caucuses and from Stalingrad the Germans could have come up behind the Russian army defending Moscow and probably taken that too.
I suspect tschild’s scenario is cloest to the truth.
A German trans-Atlantic invasion force in 1943 is a total impossibility - even given enormous success, they would not have had a navy or a landing capability that large in 1943. The successful conquest of North America would require, at an absolute minimum, 100-150 divisions, with substantial air and naval assets, and the capacity for such an invasion just did not exist, no matter if the UK and US are involved earlier or not. Remember, Germany’s army was mostly horse-drawn - this wasn’t a country with a super-advanced army by any means, and no Western Front would not have modernized them. How are you going to get half a million horses to a successful landing in North America?
Germany’s resources would have been dedicated to invading the Soviet Union.
Without the distraction of the Western front or Allied aid, the USSR absolutely, unquestionably would have been defeated. There’s just no way without U.S. food and supplies, and with Germany throwing even more weight at them, that the Soviets could have held Germany in check at the gates of Moscow and Stalingrad. The effect of Lend/Lease just can’t over overstated; it was enormous. Remember, the Germans had beaten the Russians before. It’s not impossible.
Envisioning a German puppet state in France and throughout Eastern Europe, I suspect matters would have come to a head with the Commonwealth and the USA in due course. I can’t see how Hitler would have been compatible with the West, and so war would have broken out sometime after the defeat of the Soviets in or around 1943. The Germans would still have the disadvantage of being led by an authoritarian psychopath with limited intellect and no military smarts at all. And eventually, the U.S. gets The Bomb. And that ends it, as Berlin, Hamburg, Kiel et al. end up flash-roasted.
RickJay is right. No trans-Atlantic war is possible.
I wondered if the USA might even support a German invasion of the USSR. But once the Germans succeeded in conquering the USSR, the USA would Germany as being an extreme threat to their national security.
Remember, Germany would have von Braun. The USA would still be a massive industrial force face to face with an imperialistic aggressor. Sooner or later there would be trouble between the west and Germany. France would be nothing except a maker of wine and cheese.