World War II was the last great geopolitical power struggle, and the Allies’ victory had lasting consequences for the remainder of the century. In fact, many the political borders around the world today, almost 70 years later, are still the same ones that were negotiated at the end of the war. We all know what happened after the war; with fascism defeated, and Europe still recovering, there remained two superpowers which almost immediately became locked in a struggle for global supremacy. But what might have happened if the Axis powers (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan) had won the war? How might the map have changed?
Philip K. Dick imagines such a world in his alternative history novel, “The Man in the High Castle”. In this world, the Axis victors, a German-Italian axis and a Japanese axis, have divided up the remaining territories around the world, either by directly conquering them or creating puppet states (such as Vichy France). It is a very different, and rather terrifying, world.
The novel begins in 1962, 15 years after the end of World War II in this alternative timeline, and the world that Dick imagines looks like this:
In this alternative timeline, the point of divergence comes when Franklin D. Roosevelt, American president-elect, is assassinated in 1933 before taking office. His successors are unable to lift the US out of the Great Depression, and they also stick to an isolationist policy, refusing to build up their military capabilities or assist their allies. With America weakened, the Germans conquer the USSR and Europe, and the Japanese conquer Hawaii, Alaska, and the Western U.S. states without much resistance. The Germans then invade the Eastern United States, and in between the Eastern and Western thirds, they set up a Rocky Mountain Buffer Zone between them and the Japanese. In this new world, it is the Germans and Japanese, rather than Americans and Russians, who become the two opposing forces of the Cold War.
You might notice another odd thing about the map above: What happened to the Mediterranean sea? In the novel, the new German Fuhrer, who takes power after Hitler becomes incapacitated, uses technology to drain the sea and convert it into farmland. I don’t see this project as viable or practical, even if it was technologically possible, but the Nazis would probably have been crazy enough to try it.
Of course, no one can know for sure how things might have turned out if the Nazis had won, but it’s fun to guess. These kinds of thought experiments make you really think about how events in history are connected. If you change one link in the chain of events, I imagine that the end result would differ dramatically from the original result. In this case, all it took was an assassination several years before the start of the war to change the entire political structure of the Earth. Would it have really turned out this way without FDR leading the US through the Great Depression and the war? We can’t say, but as you read alternative history fiction, you have to sometimes just go with it. The author is trying to introduce a completely different version of the world, and how the world got that way is less important than where things go from there.
Finally, I want to mention that the novel is currently being adapted for a new series to be available for streaming on Amazon Prime next year. It sounds like a very dismal world to spend time in, but then again, so is Westeros, so I’m excited to see the show.
For more on The Man in the High Castle, see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_in_the_High_Castle