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Old 11 January 2016, 08:21 PM
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Vanishing How would history have played out without Hitler?

I was thinking about that old time travel cliche that the thing to do if one had the capability of time travel the thing to do would be to go back and kill Hitler, or prevent him from being born in the first place. So as a thought experiment, without Hitler how do you think things would be different?

Would WWII have happened? A common assumption of the "kill Hitler" trope is that it would prevent WWII. I'm not so sure about that. Even without Der Führer there still would have been the same economic and social conditions in Germany in the 1920s and 30s. Germans were not happy about the restrictions imposed on them after WWI. I think it's pretty likely that there still would have been some sort of war involving Germany and the rest of Europe and probably the US. Obviously with a different guy in charge it would have played out differently, but I think it still would have happened. And of course we can't forget about Japan. All the stuff Japan was doing in the 1930s had nothing to do with Hitler. With no Hitler there still most likely would have been a US-Japan war.

Would the Holocaust have happened? Ok, even if there was still a Second World War without Hitler, maybe there at least wouldn't have been a Holocaust. But there's still a slight chance of it still happening. Hitler wasn't the first guy to try to commit genocide and he certainly wasn't the last. There still would have been strong anti-semitic feelings in Germany in the 1930s, so maybe they would have just ended up with a different but equally anti-semitic leader. As I write this I realize it's starting to sound like Doctor Who "fixed point in time" stuff. Like maybe you can only change the details, but the big events will inevitably happen in some manner no matter what you try to change.

And there's all the random hard to predict "butterfly effect" stuff. Suppose you went back and murdered Hitler as a child. What would his parents do? I mean having some random person kill your child with no obvious motive isn't something you take lightly.
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Old 11 January 2016, 08:31 PM
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Personally, the first thing I'd do if anyone laid a finger on my kid would be to annex the Sudetenland.
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Old 11 January 2016, 10:22 PM
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Presumably, anyone who was going to whack child-Hitler would make it look like an accident or a case of the kid being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being a casualty of an anarchist's bombing or something, rather than having a random person deliberately put two rounds in his head for no apparent reason.

But even if you managed to stop WW2 from breaking out, you're probably just setting up an alternate war with Russia (though in that scenario, the US and Britain would at least have Finland and Japan on their side).
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Old 11 January 2016, 10:55 PM
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Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post

Would the Holocaust have happened? Ok, even if there was still a Second World War without Hitler, maybe there at least wouldn't have been a Holocaust. But there's still a slight chance of it still happening. Hitler wasn't the first guy to try to commit genocide and he certainly wasn't the last. There still would have been strong anti-semitic feelings in Germany in the 1930s, so maybe they would have just ended up with a different but equally anti-semitic leader.
Here's a really unpleasant line of thought for you:

It wasn't only Germany in which there was strong anti-semitic feeling in the 1930's. There was plenty of it in the USA and in Europe.

The revelations from the concentration camps showed a lot of people where that line of thought winds up, if really followed through on. Anti-semitism, and to some extent other forms of prejudice, got a bad name. How much did that affect movements for equality after the war?

Hard to tell, of course. If the general sense in "western civilization" of what was proper human behavior hadn't been moving in that direction already, maybe even the camps would just have been another instance of duh, of course during a war you kill all of whoever you decide are your enemies, three-year-olds and ninety-three-year-olds included, any way you can. And as the general sense in "western civilization" of what was proper human behavior was moving in that direction already, maybe it would have kept moving that way at a similar pace in any case. I really hope so. It's terrible to think of all those three year olds as having been murdered to no purpose at all; but it makes me quite literally nauseated to think that possibly their deaths were one of the things that paid for my ability -- unlike my father's -- to choose where to go to college without having first to hunt up the short list of places that would take Jews.


-- I don't know if Hitler's parents would have been in much of a position to do anything about it if their son had been murdered; especially by a time traveller, who would presumably not hang around to be prosecuted. They were moderately well off, but not in any position of real power. Of course, neither was Hitler, to start off with. And I suppose the murder might get blamed on somebody else who would then get prosecuted, and possibly executed, and as you say butterfy effect -- maybe the results of that would spread.
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Old 11 January 2016, 11:31 PM
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The eugenics movement was fairly strong in the United States before WWII and it pretty much stopped cold after WWII. I often wonder where we would be now if Nazi Germany didn't show us how wrong it was.
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Old 11 January 2016, 11:55 PM
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I just wonder why with all these umpteen stories exploring what would happen if someone traveled back in time and killed Hitler, why someone hasn't done any "What if a time traveler saved the Archduke Franz Ferdinand?" Because the Hitler scenario has been done to death and most historians agree WWII wouldn't have happened without WWI to set it up.

In addition to paving the way for a sequel, WWI also brought down every monarchy in Europe with the exception of the British. So there's food for thought: maybe if they had stopped WWI, they would have stopped the Russian Revolution (most agree the Russians had been pissed off for a long time, but WWI was the final nail in the coffin, the last straw that set everything in motion) and from there, rise of the Soviet Union. Or what would have happened is the Romanov dynasty limps on a few more years, but we wind up with a less violent revolution, with Russia becoming a Constitutional Monarchy like Britain.

And of course, what the lack of WWI would mean for Germany. Would Kaiser Wilhelm stay in power or what?

Seriously I wish someone would write something dealing with this, in akin to Stephen King's 11/22/63 where he rescued JFK and just extrapolated from there. I'd take it on, because I'm a fiction writer myself, but the amount of worldbuilding and research required, intimidates the hell out of me. So I leave this idea out on the front steps of the Internet. Anyone who wants to adopt it and use it, feel free.
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Old 12 January 2016, 12:19 AM
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In addition to paving the way for a sequel, WWI also brought down every monarchy in Europe with the exception of the British.
... and the Dutch, Belgian, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Spanish, and a handful of smaller dutchies and principalities.
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  #8  
Old 12 January 2016, 12:26 AM
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Okay, fine, if we must split hairs, WWI brought down most of the monarchies that participated in that ClusterNFBSK. Happy?
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Old 12 January 2016, 12:50 AM
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I find such exercises to be pointless. In order to convincingly say that WWI and by extension WWII would not have happened (much less what might have happened in their place), I think a whole lot more than just one person being saved or destroyed would need to happen. The socioeconomic forces that put countries on a collision course to WWI were in effect long before the Arch Duke and his wife were murdered, for instance. Germany was an unstable, bankrupt mess even before the NSDAP achieved prominence, for instance. If there was a force that was going to keep that freight train from derailing, why didn't it emerge in our own timeline and relegate Hitler to relatively harmless obscurity without science fiction or magic?

The only "hypothetical" scenario that we know could have happened with any degree of certainty is the scenario that ceased to be hypothetical and actually DID happen and led us to this precise moment in time.

Where will be in 100 years? Don't know. Where would we be now if things had happened differently 100 years ago? Also don't know.
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Old 12 January 2016, 01:02 AM
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Germany was an unstable, bankrupt mess even before the NSDAP achieved prominence, for instance.
That's exactly why I said WWII probably would still have happened, and for most major historical events probably can't be prevented, but at best delayed and maybe have a few details changed here and there.
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Old 12 January 2016, 02:05 AM
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16 deep, and no one's suggested that eventually all these countries would still have been fighting Japan.
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Old 12 January 2016, 02:53 AM
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Who knows. If the world had changed sufficiently to preclude a war in Europe, those changes might also have affected relationships with Japan and altered both Japan's ambitions and their risk evaluation when deciding whether or not to engage in a war with multiple industrialized nations that were, owing to our alternate timeline, not distracted by a war elsewhere. Or were they? Who knows.

Again: pointless.
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  #13  
Old 12 January 2016, 03:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Mouse View Post
I just wonder why with all these umpteen stories exploring what would happen if someone traveled back in time and killed Hitler, why someone hasn't done any "What if a time traveler saved the Archduke Franz Ferdinand?" Because the Hitler scenario has been done to death and most historians agree WWII wouldn't have happened without WWI to set it up.

Time and Time Again by Ben Elton.

And he throws in the assassination of Kaiser Wilhelm.
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Old 12 January 2016, 03:33 AM
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16 deep, and no one's suggested that eventually all these countries would still have been fighting Japan.
Absent Nazi Germany, the aggressor state would probably have been Russia. In such a scenario, Japan would more likely have been an ally of England and the US (which probably would have resulted in throwing China under the bus).
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Old 12 January 2016, 03:34 AM
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Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post
I was thinking about that old time travel cliche that the thing to do if one had the capability of time travel the thing to do would be to go back and kill Hitler, or prevent him from being born in the first place. So as a thought experiment, without Hitler how do you think things would be different?
Perhaps Dietrich Eckart would have picked up some other firebrand to take under his wing in 1919? Hitler was only one of many popular figures in the NSDAP and it's quite possible the party would have rallied around another if Hitler's SA had not wiped out any possible opposition. Strasser or von Kahr (rendered politically impotent during the Beer Hall Putsch) or many others (also) killed or otherwise silenced during the Knight of Long Knives would've been a potential candidate for the backing of the 1930s German industrialists in search of a German Chancellor who would protect their interests in the weak Weimar Republic.

I think Hitler's specific combination of oratory skill, sociopathy, casual use of violence and political murder, egotism, exposure to (and fascination with) Zionist conspiracy theories, and obsession with systematic torture and execution of ... well, pretty much everyone ... are probably not shared with any other historical character. Still, many powerful men of the era had at least some of these qualities; nothing Hitler did had much effect on the fact that *somebody* was going to become dictator of Germany on or around 1933. And when that person did take power, key Holocaust figures like Goebbels and Himmler would have been waiting.

It's entirely possible that anyone other than Hitler would've still drawn Germany's government toward a path similar to Fascist Italy, and that level of nationalism and militarism makes a war of conquest pretty well inevitable.

For all we know, there's some alternate history where some German leader directed the interwar German nation into the politically convenient ideology that the USSR was its (grudging) ally, instead of putting in its lot with Italy, and put the full force of the nation's post-WWI rage into taking France and keeping it, without the distraction of an Eastern front.

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And of course we can't forget about Japan. All the stuff Japan was doing in the 1930s had nothing to do with Hitler. With no Hitler there still most likely would have been a US-Japan war.
By the end of WWI nearly everyone could see that Japan's sphere of influence was encroaching onto British and American possessions, and a naval war with one or both was extremely likely. Without the European war weakening the European empires, though, it's hard to imagine Japan kicking off such a bold maneuver as it did on Dec 1941, and bringing upon themselves the wrath of the entire American, British, Australian, Danish, and French navies all at once.
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Old 12 January 2016, 06:15 AM
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I just wonder why with all these umpteen stories exploring what would happen if someone traveled back in time and killed Hitler, why someone hasn't done any "What if a time traveler saved the Archduke Franz Ferdinand?"
Probably wouldn't have changed much. The tensions where high, everyone was loaded and had their finger on the trigger. War was expected. If that excuse hadn't come along, something else would.
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Old 12 January 2016, 12:03 PM
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Still, many powerful men of the era had at least some of these qualities; nothing Hitler did had much effect on the fact that *somebody* was going to become dictator of Germany on or around 1933. And when that person did take power, key Holocaust figures like Goebbels and Himmler would have been waiting.

It's entirely possible that anyone other than Hitler would've still drawn Germany's government toward a path similar to Fascist Italy, and that level of nationalism and militarism makes a war of conquest pretty well inevitable.



That's pretty much what my husband said when I asked him the same question some time ago. It's fair to call him a WW2 scholar.
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Old 12 January 2016, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Mouse View Post
I just wonder why with all these umpteen stories exploring what would happen if someone traveled back in time and killed Hitler, why someone hasn't done any "What if a time traveler saved the Archduke Franz Ferdinand?" Because the Hitler scenario has been done to death and most historians agree WWII wouldn't have happened without WWI to set it up.
My understanding was that the killing of Archduke Ferdinand was more or less just an excuse for war, not the reason. Saving him would only have delayed the start of the war, not eliminated the causes of the war. You want to eliminate WWII? Go back in time and make the League of Nations stronger, or lessen the penalties and reparations Germany had to pay after WWI, leaving them financially destitute.

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Okay, fine, if we must split hairs, WWI brought down most of the monarchies that participated in that ClusterNFBSK. Happy?
Usually bringing down monarchies comes from splitting heirs.
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Old 13 January 2016, 01:53 AM
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My understanding was that the killing of Archduke Ferdinand was more or less just an excuse for war, not the reason. Saving him would only have delayed the start of the war, not eliminated the causes of the war. You want to eliminate WWII? Go back in time and make the League of Nations stronger, or lessen the penalties and reparations Germany had to pay after WWI, leaving them financially destitute.
So you don't think there's any way WWI could have been prevented?

Though what really gets me is that what ultimately brought about the Archduke's death were bad directions. The Archduke had survived a bombing attempt just that day. Afterwards they had taken him to town hall. Originally the plan was to call every soldier in the area and keep the royal couple sequestered until they can get them safely out of town. But governor-general felt that the troops in the area, most of whom were on dress maneuvers, wouldn't be able to adequately protect the Archduke. And the Archduke wanted to go to the hospital to visit those wounded by the bombing.

A decision was made that the Archduke could go to the hospital, but he and his wife should take a different route, go straight instead of the original route which would take him right by the city center. Unfortunately, no one told the poor chauffeur about the change in route, so the poor driver turns right and goes the original route, which puts the couple right in the path of Gavrilo Princip, aka one of the collaborators in the bombing. Princip sees his opening and takes it. The Archduke dies and eventually we wind up with the clusternfbsk that is WWI, which leads to the encore performance of WWII.

Sorry if I bored everyone with all the history. Just find it interesting that one of the major conflicts of the 20th century happened (which again, set the stage for the second one) because some poor shmoe didn't receive good directions.

Last edited by Mouse; 13 January 2016 at 01:54 AM. Reason: Added details for clarification
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Old 13 January 2016, 02:05 AM
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The thing about WW1 was that the stage was already set well before the Archduke's death. To actually prevent it would have take a lot of different actions to defuse Europe's political powder keg.
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