Monday, January 11, 2016
Fatherland — What if Germany Won and Hitler Lived to Old Age?
In the genre of Alternate History, "Fatherland" by Robert Harris remains a giant that others are measured by. This short video is the opening set-up to the film to follow, and concisely explains the POD (Point of Departure) for the story. It takes place in 1964, twenty years after the German victory. The book was hugely popular. HBO made the film with Rutger Hauer.
Throughout the novel, Harris gradually explains the fictional historical developments that allowed Germany to prevail in World War II. Although not specifically stated, the earliest point of divergence is that Reinhard Heydrich survived the assassination attempt by Czech fighters in May 1942 – which in reality killed him – and became head of the SS. The Nazi offensives on the Eastern Front ultimately pushed back the Soviet forces, with the Case Blue operation succeeding in capturing the Caucasus and cutting the Red Army off from its petroleum reserves by 1943. The Nazis also uncovered the secret of the Enigma machine code's having been broken by Polish mathematicians. A massive U-Boat campaign against Britain thereafter succeeded in starving the British into surrender by 1944, while the D-Day invasion by the Allies never occurred.
King George VI and Winston Churchill flee into exile in Canada. Edward VIII regained the British throne soon afterwards, with Wallis Simpson as his queen. Although the Germans pushed the Soviets east of the Ural Mountains, the conflict there continues.
The US defeated Japan in 1945 using nuclear weapons. Germany tested its first atomic bomb in 1946 and fired a non-nuclear "V-3" missile above New York City to demonstrate an ability to attack the continental United States with long-range missiles. Thus, the US and Germany are the two superpower opponents in the Cold War of this world.
Having achieved victory in Europe, Germany reorganises Europe east of Poland into Reichskommissariats. Following the signing of the Treaty of Rome, Western Europe and Scandinavia are corralled into a pro-German trading bloc, the European Community. By 1964, the United States and the Greater German Reich are involved in a Cold War.
The rump of the Soviet Union wages an endless guerrilla war with German forces in the Ural Mountains and Siberia. Mounting casualties (at least 100,000 since 1960, according to the novel) have sapped the German military, despite Hitler's statement (quoted in the novel) about a perpetual war to keep the German people on their toes. Dead German soldiers are returned to Germany in the middle of the night.
The novel takes place from 14–20 April 1964, as Germany prepares for Hitler's 75th birthday celebrations on the 20th. A visit by the President of the United States, Joseph P. Kennedy, is planned as part of a gradual détente between the United States and the Greater German Reich. The novel suggests that the Nazi hierarchy is eager for peace because its efforts to settle the conquered Eastern lands are failing due to continued resistance from Polish and Soviet partisan movements. Moreover, the Nazis failed to instill their ideology in the younger generation, and many young Germans turn away from it - though active opposition to the regime is limited.
The Holocaust has been explained away officially as merely the relocation of the Jewish population into areas of Eastern Europe where communications and transport networks are still very poor. Despite this, many Germans suspect the government has eliminated the Jews.