Calling all history geeks: What if the German Empire had survived WW1?

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    Jan 28, 2011 6:59 PM GMT
    Supposing that the German Empire had somehow survived or even came out a little ahead in WW1 (by way of total US non-intervention and some curbs upon some of Kaiser Wm. II's impulsiveness) and Berlin is preparing venues to celebrate the 140th anniversary of Kaiser Wm. I's accession to the throne:

    How might the world be today?

    Would the NSDAP and its evil leadership ever have emerged, or remained a fragmented collection of fringe political groups?

    Would the German Jewish brain trust (which in our timeline were either killed or fled to the USA or the UK or other nations) brought about a similar level of remarkable prosperity, scientific and engineering advances as well as cultural and material wealth for the Reich (context: non-political word for "empire" or "realm") ?

    Would WW2 or some variation of it been avoidable?

    Would the USSR recovered from its revolution and humiliation at Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, or would the Bolsheviks been crushed by an German betrayal in the interests of restoring a (perhaps German-related royal) Russian monarchy?

    Would a stalemated France and UK permit an otherwise equally stalemated Germany from forming a strong Mitteleuropa and possibly home-porting a strong Hochseeflotte (German High Seas Fleet, roughly analogous to the British Grand Fleet)?

    Could an outright German victory have been possible, with the UK signing a treaty of non-aggression and paying limited reparations for lost merchant shipping, and France paying a bit more, and for rights for German shipping and the German Navy to bunker at French ports?

    I tend to think that a Versailles treaty with Germany holding the advantage might have a much more moderate hand.

    And would Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire survive intact for some time after armistice as well?

    Discuss. icon_smile.gif
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    Jan 29, 2011 4:40 AM GMT
    Good question. I've wondered about this for a long time, since it seems to me the root disaster of the 20th century was WWI. It's hard to see how the Central Powers could have outright won the war. Both sides were exhausted when the U.S. entered and tipped the balance toward the Allies. Some kind of negotiated "draw" would probably have been the outcome. Given the numbers of casualties and the enormous bitterness on both sides it probably would have been a long truce at best. On the other hand, the religious wars of the 17th century were pretty much ended by the Treaty of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years War.
    The survival of the German Empire and of Austria Hungary I think would have forestalled the rise of Naziism, provided that wild inflation and depression could have been forestalled. Wilhelm lived into the late 1930's and the Crown Prince was very much like him from what I have read. Neither was very wise or generous-hearted. Would either have accepted liberal reform? Austria's Emperor Karl was a young man and seems truly good-heaerted and prone to reforming his lands. Would he have been able to make the Empire tripartite, giving a voice to the Slavs? Would the Hungarians have accepted this? I think Karl would have tried to pull his empire away from Germany, fearing economic and poitico-military domination. Would he have got support in this from the French and British? The Italians would certainly have opposed this.
    In short, I think naziism and soviet domination of cdentral and eastern Europe might have been avoided if the Central Powers had either won or fought to a draw, but surely other conflicts would have arisen.
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    Jan 29, 2011 7:41 AM GMT
    I agree that the 3rd Reich would have been avoided. The 2nd Reich, even though led by an imperfect ruler, was at the forefront of social change. Social welfare legislation was introduced during Wilhelm I's reign under Bismarck, which led the foundation to today's welfare state that is the Federal Republic. In essence, the Reich has always been a federal monarchy, as the member states enjoyed quite a bit of autonomy, just as they do today, unlike their royal counterparts in other parts of Europe. Not all of the states were monarchies themselves, such as Hamburg, Bremen (city-state republics) and Alsace-Lorraine (Reichsland).

    Anyway, I believe if Germany had won the war, or at least had a truce, an uneasy peace would have returned, but industry, commerce and science would have flourished as they did under Wilhelm I, due to military armament and further social progress, as Germany would not have been drained of its brain power, or national pride. Thus, there would have been no need for any sort of revolution leading to a republic or a dictatorship. Today, Germans would have a libertarian leaning emperor in Georg Friedrich of Prussia, born 1976.
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    Jan 29, 2011 2:25 PM GMT
    Andreas73 saidI agree that the 3rd Reich would have been avoided. The 2nd Reich, even though led by an imperfect ruler, was at the forefront of social change. Social welfare legislation was introduced during Wilhelm I's reign under Bismarck, which led the foundation to today's welfare state that is the Federal Republic. In essence, the Reich has always been a federal monarchy, as the member states enjoyed quite a bit of autonomy, just as they do today, unlike their royal counterparts in other parts of Europe. Not all of the states were monarchies themselves, such as Hamburg, Bremen (city-state republics) and Alsace-Lorraine (Reichsland).

    Anyway, I believe if Germany had won the war, or at least had a truce, an uneasy peace would have returned, but industry, commerce and science would have flourished as they did under Wilhelm I, due to military armament and further social progress, as Germany would not have been drained of its brain power, or national pride. Thus, there would have been no need for any sort of revolution leading to a republic or a dictatorship. Today, Germans would have a libertarian leaning emperor in Georg Friedrich of Prussia, born 1976.


    Wow! That is awesome. I also think there would still be an Austrian monarchy as well as monarchies in Italy, around the Adriatic, and probably most of Europe.

    (I'm a bit of a monarchist, I must admit.)
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    Jan 29, 2011 6:15 PM GMT
    An intriguing but almost impossible topic, with too many variables. The conventional wisdom is that interlocking European treaties made WWI inevitable, regardless of Serbian nationalism and the character defects of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was possibly overcompensating for his deformed left arm, a genetic defect he suffered.

    Or was it the influence of Prussian militarism, after the unification of Germany engineered by Prince Otto von Bismarck in 1871, creating Wilhelm I of Prussia as the first Kaiser? As far as social progress under the Second Reich, you cannot include gay rights. The infamous Paragraph (or Section) 175 from the Prussian State became the federal law of the new unified Germany.

    An anti-gay statute that superseded a number of laws by previously independent Germanic States that had decriminalized homosexual activity during the 1800s. And this same Paragraph 175 was later incorporated into the laws of the Nazi Third Reich, and made even more oppressive in 1935 (I have delivered college lectures on this topic).

    So I dunno know about what-ifs. Many historians place the blame for the rise of the Nazis on the Allies at Versailles in 1919, and their refusal to heed the advice of US President Woodrow Wilson. Bent on revenge against Germany, they sowed the seeds of the next and worst world conflict.