Hitler's plans were very ambitious and he favored extreme expansionism.

He is said to have said (not exact):

Some countries are spread over continents and some are mere cities

However, in his conquest of Europe (and maybe beyond?) he was sure to face opposition from Britain and other world powers which he did eventually. My question is, would it ever have been possible to win the war? Even if Britain had fallen, it would have fought on through it's colonies. America couldn't have been kept out of the war if the entire world was falling.

Could have Germany ever fought against and defeated the entire world?

  • 3
    "Entire world" is exaggeration in describing the Allies. Axis had their own partners, many were coerced or threatened or motivated by some other motive but same was true for many "allied nations". Also, off-topic as it is primarily opinion base. "Would have, could have, should have" sort of questions do not lead to solid answers
    – NSNoob
    Aug 29 '16 at 8:52
  • 6
    speculation about alternate history has no place here... But to give an opinion: if everything had gone according to the German plan, there would have been no WW2.
    – jwenting
    Aug 29 '16 at 11:33
  • At the start of the war with USSR , during the first 4 months, Germany had 3 mill. captives, most of which were eager to fight against USSR regime. But Hitler insisted on their annihilation. Nazist Germany could easily win... if it were not Nazist Germany..... As the history of the 20th cent. shows, Germany could easily prevail over the Europe. Without wars. The war itself was their terrible mistake. So, they had to lose.
    – Gangnus
    Aug 29 '16 at 15:31
  • This question is asked repeatedly and in this formula ("the World") the answer is no. You need to substitute the word "Nazi" for "German" to start with. Aug 29 '16 at 20:43

Possible, yes. Likely, I don't think so.

What were the Nazis after, in the first place?

We have to keep in mind the strategic goal of Nazi Germany: "Lebensraum", access to natural ressources not found on German soil, and a better geostrategic position on Europe's map.

As such, it is a common fallacy to say "if they only hadn't attacked Russia". Because Russia was the whole point of Nazi Germany's grab for power. It had an abundance of arable land, and resources in the form of oil and ores. The communist movement was the greatest threat to the Nazis, politically speaking. Geostrategically, it was easier conceivable to remove the threat of Russia from one side than to defeat France and Britain on the other side of Germany. (Especially in the light of the outcome of the first world war.)

To point that out specifically, Germany had little to win by conquering France and Britain. The wealth of those countries was in oversea colonies, and Germany just did not have naval power to make a grab for those as well.

Russia's wealth, by comparison, seemed to be within reach.

So, what was it that the leaders of Nazi Germany envisioned as their mid-term goal?

The military goal for Operation Barbarossa was the Arkhangelsk-Astrakhan line, gutting Russia's industrial capacity and putting the new border on easily defendable natural borders like the Volga river.

It is important to understand the motivation for Germany's early moves in the war. Annexing Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland were directly building up to Operation Barbarossa. The invasion of Poland was answered by a declaration of war by France and Britain -- something Germany could well have done without.

The resulting invasion of Denmark and Norway was done to protect the supply of Swedish iron ore, which Germany was dependent on.

The attack on France was to remove the direct threat to Germany's western border. When France capitulated, that threat was removed. But Britain could not be convinced to withdraw from the war, not by awkward diplomacy (Ribbentrop...), not by force (Battle of Britain and the threat of Operation Sea Lion), and this is where Germany's strategy started to fall apart. Additional distractions showed up, like the North Africa campaign (initiated by Italy, and again against Britain which the Nazis had hoped to keep out of the war entirely), Crete, and Greece.

But this was all strictly a side-show. All these operations were merely for general protection of the strategic position. The whole point of Germany's warfare was to defeat Russia.

So, was it ever possible for Germany to win World War II?

I will not talk about "likely", just about "possible", and to that the answer is YES.

Getting Britain out of the war, as early as possible, would have been a major success. It would have freed up significant resources -- Luftwaffe units not lost in the Battle of Britain, paratrooper forces not blunted by the invasion of Crete, ground forces not tied down in Greece and North Africa. Plus, it would likely have meant keeping the USA out of the European war as well.

What would it have taken to achieve this? There is a variety of ways it might have happened:

  • Better diplomacy. Ribbentrop was a complete dud as Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Churchill was as steadfast an enemy as Germany could get. Things might have gone better here. (Though, as commentators pointed out, Germany had little to bargain with here. What little they had, together with military threats, could still have been delivered more competently.)
  • Enigma not being broken. That would actually have been rather easy -- the invention of the reflector by Willi Korn increased the key space significantly, but also weakened the cipher as no character could be encoded to itself. Adding another rotor or two instead would have made Enigma much more resilient to cryptanalysis.
  • U-boat warfare. German submarines sank significant amounts of crucial supplies, to the point where Britain considered those losses non-sustainable for some time. Some more success here (e.g. through better recon / air support) could have been a factor into tipping the balance.
  • Battle of Britain. While Operation Sea Lion was pretty much a joke when we look at it today, the threat of it was very much felt by Britain at the time. Having lost signifcant forces in France, Britain felt very ill-prepared to face an invasion (Churchill's brilliant rhetorics nonwithstanding). With a better-prepared Luftwaffe, and the focus of attacks remaining on airfields, radar installations etc. (instead of shifting to bombing London as they did), that threat might have been made even more immediate.

All that is not even going into what could have been done different on the Eastern Front -- troops actually being prepared for winter warfare, Wehrmacht actually pressing for Moscow instead of repeatedly trying to reach a decisive encirclement of Russian forces in the open plains, things like that.

The key would have been to force Britain into an armistice. Or perhaps even persuading them into a pact with the devil before Poland was invaded. Again, I don't say it was likely, but it was possible, yes. Without Britain (and, by extension, the USA), Germany might have reached the A-A line, and it is hard to see Russia coming back from that.

All that being said, of course we would likely be looking at subsequent wars in decades to come. The Nazi philosophy was murderous -- Hitler was very plain as early as 1925 ("Mein Kampf") that he would not stand for any neighbouring country even capable of threatening Germany. So conflict with Britain would have been pretty much inevitable.

I shudder to think how that might have played out with Germany in secure possession of Russian and Romanian oil fields and ore mines...

  • 2
    Ground Forces in Greece and North Africa were there only because of Mussolini's failed attempts to emulate Hitler's conquests. Britain may have made peace with Germany after fall of France but would they allow Italy to threaten their line of supply to India and other Asian colonies by dominating Mediterranean sea? I doubt that.
    – NSNoob
    Aug 29 '16 at 9:06
  • @NSNoob: I ignored the Mussolini question as the answer is long enough as-is. Yes, Italy was quite successful into getting Germany into sideshows they could ill afford.
    – DevSolar
    Aug 29 '16 at 9:08
  • 4
    Not to mention, What could Ribbentrop possibly offer to Britain to make them withdraw from the war? A peace with Nazi Germany meant giving Europe in a plate to Germany and why should Britain allow that? Threat of German invasion could not materialize as long as Royal Navy stood strong. Kriegsmarine was in no position to decimate British naval advantage and Luftwaffe was proving ineffective in forcing the Britons to make peace. For an effective diplomacy, you have to have something to offer to other party. Germany didn't have anything to offer.
    – NSNoob
    Aug 29 '16 at 9:10
  • 1
    @NSNoob: Aside from all that, I had to write up this answer if for nothing else than counterpointing that eternal "if they hadn't attacked Russia" stuff that keeps popping up whenever this question is raised. That's just so much beside the whole point that it's annoying.
    – DevSolar
    Aug 29 '16 at 9:19
  • 1
    @axsvl77: The idea was to enslave whatever workforce they needed (and could control) to work the fields, and quite casually starve the rest to death, or kill them outright. Once the actual combat at the front ceases, you have many hundred thousand soldiers free to do the dirty deed. There is only so much partisans can do if the occupying force is fully prepared to wipe out the native population...
    – DevSolar
    Aug 29 '16 at 14:31

In a world of If, Nazi Germany couldn't win against the whole world but might have been able to negociate peace to keep what they won.

If they didn't wage war against the Soviets they would have been quite fine in Europe, only Britain to stand against them. They could have negociated a cease-fire to focus on something else, like beating totally French colonies and securing a nice chunk of North Africa. They could also have fought with the Soviets against Britain and Fascist Italy could have been usefull, Japanese could have been helped to fight against America etc etc...

So if Nazi Germany wasn't led by Hitler who was stupid enough to attack one of his closest ally and would have bothered to wait a bit to act, Nazi Germany COULD have "won" the second World-War by ending it quite soon. Then, would wage war once their power has been secured in their new lands etc etc etc.

As they did, it was utterly impossible. No one ever won while pressed on many fronts without proper backup.

Hope it helped.

  • And there it is again, "if they hadn't had attacked Russia"... :-(
    – DevSolar
    Aug 29 '16 at 8:26
  • @DevSolar Attacking Russia was not a choice. It was inevitable. Either the third reich could wait and let Stalin attack them on his time and field of choice or they could seize the initiative and strike first.
    – NSNoob
    Aug 29 '16 at 8:53
  • 1
    This answer comes with the sole assumption that had the Third Reich not attacked Soviet Union, Soviets would have let them be. With every German victory in the West, Stalin grew more and more nervous. It was only a matter of time before Stalin had sufficiently prepared his forces for the Push Westward.
    – NSNoob
    Aug 29 '16 at 8:58
  • This answer was made with the assumption that a cease fire with Britain could have been made. If you're at peace and securing your conquests, you're in a much better situation. Stalin would have waited for his power to be enough to topple Nazi Germany, but what if America thought that after all Stalin was the biggest threat? But, since Hitler decided that striking first was the way to go...
    – LamaDelRay
    Aug 29 '16 at 10:09
  • The Nazi's defeated Soviet Russia in six weeks...but the Nazi ideology demanded and indeed got a policy of total extermination...in the end their own extermination. Sep 1 '16 at 11:43

No, not without a major change in philosophy.

If Nazi Germany had been able to somehow defeat the Soviet Union, they certainly would have "controlled" a large portion of Eurasia for a small period of time. However, guerrilla warfare in the conquered territories would have made holding these territories difficult. Administering the conquered Russians would have been very resource intensive, just as it was resource intensive to administer France and other conquered territories. The Nazis would have been stretched to thin.

What about the whole world? Could the Nazis have conquered China, India, and Africa? The answer is an emphatic no way; there is only one proven way to conquer and administer a huge empire for a long period of time. This proven method was demonstrated by the British time and time again; it involves just a little military action and a whole lot of patience, which Hitler didn't have to much of. In a sentence, the British spent 300 years double-crossing and co-opting indigenous ruling structures around the world. Why they did this, and how they did it for so many years, is another question. The fact is that the Nazi did not have the social philosophy to do this.

A grim alternative is that the Nazis would simply exterminate entire conquered populations. Perhaps they would try to liquidate the whole of Russia? I honestly don't think they would be able to do it; it would be just to much blood.

Another thought is worth considering though; maybe Germany actually won WWII? Sure, the stated goal was to control Eastern Europe and ethnic cleansing. They didn't succeed in this. But what if we re-interpret the Nazi goals? What if "Lebensraum", mentioned in the excellent post by DevSolar, was simply the end British economic hegemony over Germany? In that case, they succeeded as the British Empire collapsed within two decades of WWII. And in retrospect, Germany is doing pretty good these days economically. So maybe Germany won?

This too required a change in philosophy, and buying into the vision of the conquering Americans.

  • I saw a documentary once about what would happen if England was fell. The goverment had already set up such guerilla units just in case. But in the documentary said that the nazis would have taken a policy of "for every one of us you kill, we will drivd to the nearest village and kill 100 random people"
    – Ovi
    Aug 29 '16 at 14:14
  • @Ovi That was their real practice in the East. The main method - burning off a whole village with all inhabitants.
    – Gangnus
    Aug 29 '16 at 15:33
  • @axsvl77 What blood? Fire and gas did all the work. German soldiers had only to look for not a body will get away from it. Germany brought all-Europe colonial methods into Europe itself. And Europe almost become such colony, too.
    – Gangnus
    Aug 29 '16 at 15:37
  • I'm speaking about the blood of the victims. I just can't believe that they could slaughter 100 million people. The Nazis may have been cruel and evil, but the scale would be just to much.
    – axsvl77
    Aug 30 '16 at 0:51
  • Germany could absolutely have defeated Britain and Russia in World War 2...but not Nazi Germany...not after it invaded Soviet Russia. Politics got kicked to the curb for a purely ideological struggle...against Russia and Russians? Good luck with that one... Aug 30 '16 at 14:40

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