What if Hitler had been assassinated in 1930?

What if Adolf Hitler had been assassinated in 1930?  How would history have been changed?

I believe there would have been no Second World War in Europe.  The more than 20 million troops who died in battle and more than 20 million civilians who were killed would have lived out their natural lives.  But the consequences after that?  A mixture of both good and bad..

Some say history might not have been changed all that much.  They say some other Nazi, such as Goebbels or Goering, would have stepped into Hitler’s shoes.   And that leader, they add, might not have made Hitler’s mistakes.  A more capable leader might have won the war.

Adolf Hitler

I don’t think so.  The Nazi party was organized around the cult of Hitler’s personality.  It wouldn’t have been so easy to find a substitute with his charisma.  I don’t think any of the others would have had his ability to maneuver his way into the chancellorship, then leverage that power into absolute dictatorship and lead a reluctant German officer corps into war.

In the absence of Hitler, Germany might well have become an anti-semitic right-wing dictatorship anyhow, like Poland, Hungary and other European countries.  The German government might have included a few Nazis.  Germany certainly would have re-armed and resumed its place among the great European powers.

But the German generals did not want to go to war with Britain and France.  We now know they would have attempted a coup if the Allies had resisted the remilitarization of the Rhineland or the annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.  If Hitler had not tamed them, they would not have consented to starting a general war in Europe.

After the war, the German generals claimed they might have won if Hitler had not rejected their advice on strategy and tactics.  But Hitler had a better strategic sense than they did.  He recognized that without a dependable source of oil, the blitzkrieg tactic would have stalled, because it depended on large numbers of motorized vehicles moving quickly.  He prioritized the invasion of Ukraine and the Caucasus, but the main objective of his tradition-bound generals was Moscow, the enemy capital.

 No Hitler, no Second World War in Europe.  What follows from that?

There would have been no atomic bomb in 1945 or perhaps.  Without a Hitler, there would have been no reason to undertake such a project.

Only the United States had the wealth and industrial power to undertake the Manhattan Project, and even then, the project would not have succeeded without the help of European refugee scientists.

There probably would still have been a Pacific War between the United States and Japan.  The cause of that conflict was the U.S. oil embargo against Japan to enforce a demand that Japan withdraw its forces from China.

Rather than comply with that demand, Japan seized the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), the only important source of oil in the Far East.  The Japanese attempted to neutralize British and American forces by conquering the Philippines, capturing Britain’s Singapore base and bombing the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Even though the United States would have lacked an atomic bomb, there would have been no need for an American invasion of the Japanese islands.  U.S. forces could have bombed and starved the Japanese into submission without an invasion and without nuclear weapons, probably with as much or more loss of Japanese lives than in the actual war.

Without Hitler’s war, the Red Army would not have marched into eastern and central Europe.  There would have been no partition of Germany, no Soviet satellite nations and no Iron Curtain across Europe.

There would have been no Holocaust, no European refugee crisis and no independent state of Israel in 1948 or perhaps ever.

Europe would not have been devastated by war.  European nations would not have needed U.S. economic aid or wanted U.S. military bases.  None of the industrial nations, neither the United Kingdom, Germany or the Soviet Union, would have been devastated.  All would have been economically competitive with the United States.

There wouldn’t have been a U.S.-led Western alliance.  Instead the great European powers probably would have regarded the United States as an economic and geopolitical rival.  War between European countries would not have been unthinkable.

The League of Nations would have continued to exist.  The United States probably would have joined eventually.

There would have been no European Coal and Steel Community, which was created to aid the recovery of Europe after the war and which evolved evolved into the European Common Market and European Union, which would not have come into .

Italy’s Fascist government would not have been overthrown.  Fascism, anti-semitism and so-called scientific racism would not have been discredited by Hitler’s example.

There would have been no German V-2 rockets, no intercontinental ballistic missiles and no Apollo program.  There would have been no moon landing in 1969 or perhaps ever.

Mao Zedong might well have taken power in China, and there might well have been a Cold War between the United States and Communist China.  But there would have been no Korean Conflict because Korea would not have been partitioned.I don’t know whether there would have been a more general Cold War between the Communist and Western powers.

In the 1920s, there was a kind of low-level cold war as the Soviet Union tried to instigate rebellion among the European working class and the subject peoples of the various European empires.   This died down in the 1930s as Stalin became fearful of the threat of Hitler.

I don’t know what would have happened in the alternate world—whether the Soviets would have continued to support revolution or whether they would prioritized “socialism in one country” and sought good relations with the European democracies.  All the right-wing dictatorships would have been anti-Communist on principle.

We regard Hitler and the Nazis as a benchmark for defining evil.  Who would have filled that role if Nazis had never come to power?  Stalin?  A historical figure such as Caligula or Vlad the Impaler?  A fictional character?  I don’t know.

All this is guesswork.  There is only one thing I am sure of.  Nobody in 2019 would have been aware of the catastrophe they escaped because of Hitler’s death in 1930.

What perils have we escaped of which we wee not aware?


The blast of World War II by the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Adam Tooze interview about Hitler and World War Two.

The ROA and UPA were pro-Axis Russian and Ukrainian fighters. Note the chart does not include civilian deaths.  Source: Wikipedia.   Click to enlarge.

World War II casualties on Wikipedia.

World War II casualties by the Centre Robert Schuman.

World War 2 Death Count by the Hitler Historical Museum.


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9 Responses to “What if Hitler had been assassinated in 1930?”

  1. whungerford Says:

    Speculation can be interesting. I don’t believe the German General Staff failed to understand what was needed for a successful war, that’s an incredible suggestion. I don’t believe only the US could have developed an atomic weapon. Many of the atomic scientists (Bohr, Einstein, Fermi) were Europeans. Japan saw war in Europe as an opportunity–without that, the attack on Pearl Harbor would have been unlikely.

    FDR might not have been elected four times and Ike elected never, which might have changed our story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philebersole Says:

      This video provides the argument that Hitler understood strategy better than his generals.

      Blitzkrieg was a highly energy-intensive method of waging war, but the German generals did not prioritize the capture of the Caucasus oil fields. They did not have the fuel necessary to continue a war of maneuver.

      The Manhattan Project’s success required not only top-notch scientific talent, but a budget that only the United States could have afforded, plus the energy resources of the Tennessee Valley Authority (for the uranium bomb) and the Colombia Valley (for the plutonium bomb). Even then they were only barely able to produce a bomb before the war ended.


  2. Benjamin David Steele Says:

    I was reading about how many in US leadership early on believed that Stalin was the greater threat than Hitler.

    If Hitler never came to power, these same people would still have feared Stalin. The Cold War was artificially created through lies. And even before the Cold War, they were hoping to annihilate Russia. With or without World War II, they likely still would have wanted to do a military strike against the Soviets or at least prop them up as the enemy.

    Then again, Stalin wanted to be allies with the West and maybe without war his view would have dominated. Maybe instead of generations of Cold War, there could have been generations of alliance. Without polarization of ideologies, maybe the US and USSR wouldn’t have become such extremes of corporatist capitalism and state capitalism.


  3. philebersole Says:

    Stalin wanted an alliance with Britain and France against Hitler. When the British and French rejected his offer, he formed an alliance with Hitler instead. By all accounts, he was a good ally of Hitler. He ordered the Communist parties in the USA, Britain and France, which had been calling for a ‘popular front’ against Fascism, to oppose the “imperialist war” against Germany.

    Stalin cut off the people of the Soviet Union from contact with the outside world because he didn’t want them exposed to outside ideas or knowledge of conditions in the outside world. This was true even during World War Two, when he depended on Britain and the USA for supplies.

    In the absence of Hitler, the 1930s in Europe would probably have been a continuation of the 1920s. European governments would gradually have come to accept the existence of the USSR and might have established trade relations based on mutual self-interest.

    The fear of the USSR in the 1950s was partly a fear of Communism, but also a result of the fact that the Red Army was probably a match for any European army and that the USSR also possessed nuclear weapons. In the absence of Hitler, there would have been no nuclear weapons and no Soviet satellite states in eastern and central Europe.

    Stalin also was feared because he was a mass killer on the same scale as Hitler. In the absence of Hitler, he would have had no competitor in this respect.

    However, Stalin was not as hated and feared as Hitler because his killings were directed inward, against the peoples of the Soviet Union, and not outward as Hitler’s killings were. Also, the Communist ideology professed humane and progressive ideals, while the Nazis never pretended to be anything but what they were.

    Probably the alternate Soviet Union would in time have had a thaw, just as in reality.


    • Benjamin David Steele Says:

      Andrew Alexander was a British conservative politician and Thatcherite. But he was opposed to the Cold War propaganda. He was one of the few people who had access to Soviet records during the brief period when they were open after the USSR.

      He pointed out that, according to Stalin’s own words in private messages, he had no desire to attack or invade the West. He also stated that the Soviets had no military capacity to do so, even if he wanted to.

      An important detail is that, under Stalin’s leadership, the Soviets never sought to include any territory as part of the USSR that wasn’t previously a part of the Russian Empire. In the end, Stalin was simply a Russian nationalist.

      Alexander also knew of documents from the US spy agencies. Even as politicians were lying to start the Cold War, the CIA knew that the Soviets posed no threat to the West at the time. But with the Nazis gone, they needed to invent a new enemy.



  4. philebersole Says:

    Joseph Stalin was not a Russian nationalist. He wasn’t even a Russian. He was an imperialist – the ruler of a multi-national empire, not too different from the British empire except that the subject peoples were not separated by water.

    If Tsar Nicholas’ army had marched into the heart of Europe, subjugated previously independent states and enforced its rule by repeated military interventions, that would not have been a matter of indifference.

    You suggest that the Red Army was a paper tiger and that American leaders knew it. In the years following World War Two, the Red Army was numerically larger than Western allied forces in Europe. It had defeated the German Wehrmacht, which the Western allies had been unable to do on their own.

    Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight we conclude that the Red Army was not so formidable nor Stalin’s intentions so menacing as were thought at the time. Perhaps not.

    There were additional reasons for fearing the Soviet Union. The NKVD, KGB and their successors operated worldwide, plotting coups and uprisings, creating front organizations to circulate lying propaganda and assassinating enemies—all the things that the CIA later on was rightly condemned for doing.

    Moreover there was a worldwide Communist movement, with the support of millions of people who believed that Communism was a path to a better world, but whose leaders, during the lifetime of Stalin, subordinated their own goals to the interests of Soviet foreign policy.

    The great example of this was the Nazi-Soviet Pact. The day before it was announced, Communist parties all over the world were calling for a popular front against fascism. The day after, they were united in denouncing the British-French “imperialist war.”

    Stalin was one of history’s greatest killers—by some counts, a greater killer than Hitler, although estimates have been revised downward by Timothy Snyder and others.

    The Soviet invasion of eastern Poland and the Baltic states was very like the Nazi invasion of western Poland. All persons who occupied governmental or leadership or potential leadership roles were rounded up and sent to Nazi concentration camps or the Soviet Gulag, where they died.

    When a mass grave of Polish officers was found in the Katyn Forest, it was assumed that this was a Nazi atrocity, since the Nazi policy was preventive murder of all potential opponents. But the dates of newspapers found on the bodies and other evidence indicated the killing took place while under Soviet occupation.

    In short, western Europeans had good reasons to be apprehensive about Soviet power.

    None of this justifies the crimes of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. It only shows that the origins of the Cold War are more complicated than a simple drama of good and evil.

    On the Western side, the Cold War was wages by supporters of American imperialism who opposed the rival Soviet imperialism, by supporters of capitalism opposed socialism, and by supporters of democracy and political liberty, who included many socialists, against a totalitarian dictatorship.

    It was complicated—more so that I thought at the time, more so than many people think now.


    • Benjamin David Steele Says:

      I get what you’re saying. But “Russia” as a nation, as with many other early nations, was actually an empire. The Soviet Union simply regained the territory of the former Russian Empire. Western nationalism was always mixed up with imperialism.

      And nationalism has had a strange relationship to ethnicity as national identities were socially constructed. Most Europeans didn’t identify with nation-states until the world war era. There is an interesting history involving nostalgia as a disease diagnosis.


      If you want to know Andrew Alexander’s viewpoint as a Cold War politician in one of the most powerful global superpowers, you can read his book. I found it fascinating. He makes the case that it isn’t hindsight since the Western intelligence agencies knew this at the time, as their own internal documents show

      So, the intelligence agencies, at the time, knew the politicians were lying. Why they allowed those lies to unchallenged is another question that Alexander explores. Those basic established facts, of course, don’t lessen Stalin’s crimes against humanity. But I’m not going to argue about it.


    • philebersole Says:

      The Russian Empire and the Soviet Union were states that ruled over varied peoples, not just Russians, but Poles, Ukrainians, Tatars, Uzbeks, Georgians, Armenians and others.

      Some of these peoples were liberated as a result of World War One. Some of the liberated peoples were reconquered as a result of the joint Soviet-Nazi war of aggression following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

      The Red Army went on to subjugate East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria, none of which except Poland—if it matters—was part of the old Russian Empire.

      All these countries were subjected to more than 40 years of political, economic, cultural and religious repression.

      The USSR put down a workers’ rebellion in East Germany in 1953 and a nationalist rebellion in Hungary in 1968. It invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 to put a stop to a Communist government’s liberalization. It forced the Polish government to suppress the Solidarity workers movement in 1981 by threat of invasion.

      The world owes a lot to the Red Army, which did most of the fighting and suffered most of the casualties during the war against Nazi Germany. That’s not a justification for the Iron Curtain.

      Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812. In the counterattack, the Tsar’s troops marched through Germany in 1813 and occupied Paris in 1814. But they did not stay in Germany and France for the next 40 years.

      Stalin was a totalitarian dictator and a mass killer. It took a long time to make the world aware of this. It should not be forgotten.

      Nothing that I’ve written excuses or mitigates the crimes and lies of the U.S. government during the the Cold War era and after. I will write more about this in a future post.


  5. quakerinabasement Says:

    Domestically, there would not have been a G.I. Bill, so hundreds of thousands of young Americans would ot have received a subsidized college education. Similarly, there would have been no federal program to help returning veterans shoulder the cost of home mortgages. The American economic boom of the Fifties would have been, at best, less pronounced and, at worst, nonexistent. The Baby Boom generation would probably not have spiked, meaning there would not have been a mass demand for entertainment and fashion directed at children and teenagers–no Elvis, no Captain Kangaroo.


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