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This relatively short book is an enlightening addendum to Gerhard Weinberg's 1994 masterpiece, "A World at Arms: A Global History of WW2." It depicts, as its subtitle states, "the hopes of eight WW2 leaders" (Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Chiang Kai-shek, Stalin, Churchill, de Gaulle, and FDR) for the world each envisioned if they were victorious. Clearly Hitler and Mussolini were the big losers, and Stalin and Roosevelt the big "winners."
Weinberg's great strength as a historian is his extraordinary knowledge of the truly vast source material. ALL of his works are thoroughly footnoted, and the footnotes are often intriguing and eye-opening. Thus Weinberg can effectively back-up all his historical analysis, much of it groundbreaking more than 60 years after the end of WW2. Weinberg was a refugee from Hitler's Germany, presumably spoke German as his first language, and has worked in the archives since the 1940s. It was in the Nazi Archives that Weinberg discovered Hitler's little-known sequel to "Mein Kampf," written in the late 1920s. This work has subsequently been published.
But Weinberg is also an excellent writer of English historical prose. All his talents are well-deployed in "Visions of Victory." I will not detail all of Weinberg's revelations here, but comment briefly on the more "minor" figures of Mussolini, de Gaulle, and Chiang. Mussolini led a country woefully under-industrialized for his grand colonial designs. His folly resulted in hundreds of thousands of Italian troops perishing on the steppes of the USSR, and Germany effectively occupying non-Allied-controlled Italy from 1943-45, thus damning large areas of Italy to two additional years of destruction and starvation. De Gaulle did his best to frustrate Allied execution of the war; determined to hold on to France's colonial possessions in Indochina and Africa (leading to subsequent French defeats in Vietnam in 1954 and Algeria in 1962); but also represented the only credible French resistance to the Axis, and counterweight to Vichy. Chiang, though his regime was riddled with corruption, had a remarkably clear-eyed view of post-WW2 Asia, and thought it unwise for the U.S. to become involved in Indochina. Chiang also was not totally defeated, retreating to Formosa, which became the strong post-war U.S. ally of Taiwan and a successful market economy, and eventually democracy. Tojo was prime minister of the more significant power of Imperial Japan, and while initially reluctant to attack the U.S. at Pearl Harbor, he was bouyed by the Wehrmacht's seemingly imminent conquest of Moscow, and "took the plunge" on Dec. 7, 1941. Within two weeks, the Red Army had staged its successful counter-offensive and defense of Moscow, losing close to a million soldiers, but also inflicting heavy losses on the Germans. But Tojo entertained grandiose plans for Japanese rule in North and South America, extending even into the Caribbean. And though Japan controlled vast petroleum, metals, agricultural and forest resources in the former French Indochina, Dutch East Indies, and Burma, these materials had to be transported thousands of miles to the Japanese home islands. This, of course, became exceedingly difficult as the U.S military swept into the western Pacific. Moreover, Japanese cooperation and coordination with its German "ally" was dismal for two such ambitious regimes.
Churchill was an extraordinary leader of Britain in its darkest days and years, but he was intent on maintaining the British Empire (including, of course, the Indian Subcontinent), which led to friction with the anti-colonial Roosevelt. Churchill was voted out of office in 1945, before the end of hostilities in the Pacific theater. Churchill did, significantly, succeed in persuading Stalin to allow Greece to be occupied by Britain. But six years of war had drained the British purse and people, and rationing would continue in the UK until 1951.
Stalin, though victorious and determined to hold onto as many spoils as he could obtain, ruled over a Soviet Union hobbled by massive human and material losses, and deprived of U.S. reconstruction aid by his anti-West hostility. In "Visions of Victory," we learn how Finland lost its Arctic coast, and Norway gained a border with the USSR; how Poland received Bialystok, but Stalin insisted on retaining Lvov in the Ukrainian S.S.R.; how Poland received the large German port of Stettin as recompense for Stalin retaining the former Prussian capital (and port), Koenigsberg; and how Stalin's assent to the North Korean invasion of South Korea solidified U.S. resolve to maintain American military forces in Western Europe and eventually agree to a rearmed (West) Germany.
FDR's post-war plans probably came closest to complete fulfillment. The U.N. was created (with Roosevelt insisting on China as a permanent member, to the bemusement of Churchill and de Gaulle); an international trade treaty (Bretton Woods) was agreed upon, along with the World Bank; the European colonial empires were progressively dismantled; but Poland's wartime democratic government-in-exile was prevented from assuming power as the Soviet Union set up communist puppets in Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria; with communist regimes in the neighboring Yugoslavia and Albania.
But it is Adolf Hitler's "vision" for a victorious Germany that is most memorably elucidated in Weinberg's "Visions of Victory." Hitler's plans are sickening, and should disabuse anyone holding illusions (or fantasies) of Hitler's true intentions. Hitler's "Thousand-Year Reich" would be devoid of both Judaism and Christianity. All the Jews in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East were to be exterminated. Hitler intended to kill all political opponents, all Christian clergy, and even all his generals. The eradication of "useless-eaters" such as the handicapped, mentally ill, retarded, and even severely wounded German soldiers was to continue after Nazi victory, just as they had begun in 1940. The unlucky Slavic inhabitants of the eastern "Lebensraum" would be eliminated through starvation (as had already befallen millions of Red Army P.O.W.s) and slave labor, and, Weinberg speculates, would be subjected to mass-sterilization techniques being innovated in the Nazi death camps. German males would be allotted farms in the East on this newly-depopulated land, and, as the war continued to kill German men, these surviving Germanic males would be allowed multiple Germanic wives for rapid re-population. Liberal Arts education would be eliminated, to be replaced by military and physical-fitness training for future German soldiers. The buildings of the Reich would be of massive stones, designed to last more than a thousand years, and awe future generations as Roman, Greek, and Egyptian structures impress us today. Contracts for this stone were being finalized in Scandinavia in 1943, and concentration camps (e.g., Mathausen) were being positioned to provide slave-labor. Hitler's brave new world would be not only inhumane, but inhuman.
Instead of these further abominations, Nazi Germany's defeat led to 5.4 million German military deaths (the United States suffered ca. 410,000 military deaths in WW2: in Europe AND the Pacific), in addition to millions of maimed, and 3 million civilian deaths in the post-war expulsions of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe. Germany lost 1/3 of its territory, including coal- and industry-rich Silesia, and agriculturally fertile Pomerania, Mark Brandenburg, and West and East Prussia. The industrial ports of Stettin, Danzig, and Koenigsberg were lost, and much industrial equipment stripped by the Soviets (to reconstruct their own denuded landscape), as well as by France and, to a lesser extent, Britain.
But West Germany developed into a robust post-war democratic federation, and, with substantial U.S. aid, embarked on a successful, massive urban and economic reconstruction program. Eventually the Federal German Republic was re-united with the formerly communist German Democratic Republic (East Germany), and today provides a solid, democratic anchor in Central Europe, and enjoys a strong friendship with previously vilified Poland, and even with Russia.
If Hitler had had his way, there would be no Germany today, as he gave orders from his bunker in Berlin in April 1945 for German cities and industry to be razed, convinced that the German people had failed him, and thus deserved to be vanquished by their stronger foes. Of course, all of this could have likely been avoided if the German people had not democratically elected Hitler "Fuhrer" in 1933.