With Amazon’s dramatisation based on The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick now in its second series, and the BBC producing a dramatisation of SS-GB by Len Deighton, it seems that the Nazi’s winning World War II is still a popular idea.
So here are a dozen other novels exploring the same idea, some of them dating back to before the Second World War itself.
Swastika Night by Katherine Burdekin
This is a novel we’ve mentioned many times before on this blog, because it really is one of the classics of the genre. It was published in 1937, under the pen-name Murray Constantine, so it’s not really an alternate history as most of the other books here are. Rather, it’s a warning of what might come if Hitler achieved his Thousand Year Reich. Set 700 years in the future, it tells of an Englishman who sets off on a pilgrimage to Germany where Hitler is now worshipped as a mighty blond god. He discovers a land so oppressed that the race itself is weakening, and then he discovers a secret from the past that could result in his death, or the death of the regime.
If Hitler Comes by Douglas Brown & Christopher Serpell
During the Second World War itself a whole string of novels and films came out warning of the threat to the British way of life if Hitler should win. Popular films included Went the Day Well by Alberto Cavalcanti (based on a story by Graham Greene) and The Silent Village by Humphrey Jennings. This was one of the earliest of the novels, coming out in 1940. When Winston Churchill became Prime Minister that same year, his rival for the position was Lord Halifax who advocated entering a negotiated peace with Hitler. The novel was a direct response to such a position, taking the form of a post-war report by a New Zealand journalist describing what happened after Britain was delivered wholesale into Hitler’s hands.
The Sound of His Horn by Sarban
One of the things that was generally known about the Nazis was their belief in the supernatural and their love of extravagant ritual, and that is what comes into play in the first great post-war alternate history novel. A British naval officer escapes his captors in Crete in 1943, but is knocked unconscious. When he comes to it is over 100 years later and the Nazis control the world. In the estate where he finds himself, the Nazi Count goes hunting for women who have been genetically modified to resemble birds and animals. When the officer tries to escape, the Count sets out to hunt him as well.
The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad
This is one of the peculiarities on this list. It’s not really a story about Hitler winning at all, though it does turn into a story in which we might wish Hitler had won. It this alternate reality, Hitler gave up radical politics after the First World War and emigrated to America where he got involved in science fiction. His greatest novel was The Lord of the Swastika which won the Hugo Award shortly before his death. In this reality there was no Second World War, the Soviet Union has taken over much of the world and only a vacillating United States stands between it and total world domination. Readers, therefore, look fondly at the world of Hitler’s novel (reproduced within Spinrad’s novel), which shows a powerful hero and his dedicated Knights of the Swastika who embark on a great crusade for genetic purity to save the world.
Moon of Ice by Brad Linaweaver
In this version of history, the Nazis were the first to develop the nuclear bomb, which is how they were able to win the Second World War. But America also developed the bomb, so now, in the 1970s, there’s a nuclear stand-off between peaceful, stagnant Nazi Europe and Libertarian America where the rich live in opulence and the poor live in squalor. This uneasy balance of power is threatened by the arrival in New York of Hilda Goebbels, the anti-Nazi daughter of Hitler’s Propaganda Minister. She is bringing her father’s secret diaries for publication, and in extracts from them we discover some of the crazier aspects of Aryan society, including the belief that the earth is hollow, the moon is made of ice, and a virus can be created to wipe out all non-Aryans.
Fatherland by Robert Harris
Nowadays, this is probably the most famous of all of the novels about Hitler winning the Second World War. In this version, it is 1964 and dignitaries from around the world are arriving in Berlin for the celebrations of Hitler’s 75th birthday. As all of this is going on, a Berlin policeman is called on to investigate the death of a high-ranking Nazi official. As he starts to look into the case, he realises that senior officials are being systematically murdered. The Gestapo take over the case, but the policeman doesn’t give up and, with the help of an American journalist, uncovers a plot that goes back to the war itself and threatens to overturn the state itself.
Making History by Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry is a highly successful actor and television personality, but he has also written a number of very popular novels, of which this is one. It features a young Cambridge academic who works with the son of a Nazi doctor at Auschwitz to travelback in time and doctor the water in Hitler’s home town with male contraceptive so that Hitler’s father is rendered infertile and Hitler is never born. The plan works, but results in a world in which the Nazi Party was created by someone more ruthless but more effective than Hitler, so that without a Second World War, Greater Germany now rules all of Europe, while the United States has become more conservative and restrictive in its own right. So the academic has no choice but to try to change history once more.
After Dachau by Daniel Quinn
Two thousand years ago, the Nazis developed the atomic bomb before everyone else. As a result, they conquered the whole world except for America, which is too weak to stand against them. And once in control of the world, they advanced their racial policies aggressively, so that now, two thousand years later, there is no-one in the world who is not a white Aryan. However, in this world reincarnation is real, and souls transmigrate from one living person to the next. That is how the soul of a black woman from Second World War era America finds herself occupying the body of a young white man. Due to a series of accidents, the young man starts to recall his earlier life, and through those memories we learn the drastic truth about the racial policies pursued after Hitler’s victory.
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
Philip Roth has spent his entire career detailing the Jewish experience in contemporary America, but in this extraordinary novel he looks back at an earlier and more dangerous time. In the years before the Second World War, America pursued a policy of disengagement from Europe, but there were strong voices raised in support of Hitler’s ideas, including rabble-rousing radio personalities and the celebrity pilot Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh did dabble with politics, and here Roth imagines that he won the Presidential election and started to introduce policies similar to those enacted by Hitler. The effects on a young, middle class Jewish family in New Jersey is devastating, as former friends distance themselves, people start to disappear, and one member of the family is sent to a new Labour Camp. It’s an uneven book, but at it’s most effective it is one of the most powerful alternate histories you will read.
The Small Change Trilogy by Jo Walton
The three novels that make up this trilogy, Farthing, Ha’penny and Half a Crown, start out as a country house murder mystery. But we quickly learn that in this world Britain ousted Churchill and made peace with Hitler, a peace brokered at this very country house. Now the murder of one of those peacemakers is being pinned on the Jewish husband of the estranged daughter of the family. But the plotters reckon without the police inspector sent to investigate the crime. That, however, is just the start; subsequent novels take the Inspector ever deeper into the dangers and duplicities of the new regime.
Resistance by Owen Sheers
With books on this list by Len Deighton, Robert Harris, Stephen Fry and Philip Roth, it is clear that this is a type of story that appeals to authors not normally associated with science fiction, so it is perhaps no surprise that the Welsh poet Owen Sheers should pick this theme for his first novel. But what he does with it is quite extraordinary. When Germany invades Britain, all the men in a remote Welsh valley disappear, off to join the resistance where, we surmise, they are all killed. Which leaves the women to run the farms, a hard life at the best of times but made even harder in this harsh winter with limited resources. Only the small, war-weary German garrison is there to help, and an uneasy relationship builds up, that will have terrible consequences when the snows melt.
The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew
Shortlisted for a number of awards, Mayhew’s novel is proof that the theme of a world ruled by the Nazis still resonates today. Set in 21st century England, a province of the Greater German Reich, the story concerns an obedient daughter whose father is a loyal functionary of the state. She is set to be a champion ice skater, and does nothing to disturb the status quo. But her best friend is opinionated and rebellious and constantly challenges the received opinions the girls grew up with. But when the regime finally takes notice of her outspoken friend, the perfect daughter has to stand up for something, and it changes the way she sees the entire world.
Hitler Victorious edited by Gregory Benford & Martin H. Greenberg
In addition to all the great novels we’ve listed here, the idea of Hitler winning the Second World War has inspired some truly wonderful short stories. We would particularly pick out “The Fall of Frenchy Steiner” by Hilary Bailey, “Weihnachtsabend” by Keith Roberts, “Two Dooms” by C.M. Kornbluth and “Thor Meets Captain America” by David Brin. All of these and many more are included in what is probably the definitive collection of this sort of story.
From Nebula and Hugo Award–nominated Carolyn Ives Gilman comes Dark Orbit, a compelling novel featuring alien contact, mystery, and murder.
Reports of a strange, new habitable planet have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate this world, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate.