Let me indulge in a wonderful fantasy for a monent. The bomb isn’t moved, Hitler gets killed. It is the 20th of July 1944 and Hitler is dead. It such a beautiful thought. If you’ve seen the movie operation Valkyrie, you know what happens next. The anti-nazi resistance in the army carries out a coup, only now Hitler can’t turn this around. So what would (probably) have happened?
Does the Nazi state die with Hitler?
If Hitler had died, Fromm would have sided with the conspirators and never attempted to coutermand their orders later. France would have fallen to the conspirators with the support of von Kluge. This much is obvious.
While the conspiriators had failed to properly cut communications, if Hitler can’t speak on the radio or assure officers he is alive, this becomes a lot less valuable. To the people it will also make a psychological difference.
The main question is probably whether Major Remer would have still switched sides if Hitler had died. Was Major Remer firmly loyal to the Nazi regime beyond Hitler at that time? Did he switch sides mainly due to the pervasive cult of personality surrounding Hitler? His loyalty had been questioned by plot members because of how he proudly wore his Hitler Youth medal. If he had gotten Goering, Keitel or Jodle on the phone, what then? Would Goering have been aware of the situation in time to make such a call? Probably not. Jodl and Keitel would have needed to get in touch with him. People at the wolf’s lair might have been panicking more or been more indecisive if Hitler was actually dead.
Could Keitel and Jodl have commanded Remer to switch by themselves? Would they have tried or wasted time trying to contact Goering or Himmler first? Furthermore, if the bomb hadn’t been moved, it might have killed Keitel and Jodl alongside Hitler, meaning it would have all been left to Goering. Goering would have likely needed more time to comprehend the situation. In that case the nazi’s would lose valuable time.
While Remer already had suspicions that there was a coup going on, he didn’t actually switch sides till Hitler was confirmed to be alive. He kept enforcing the orders of the plotters. Perhaps notion that Remer would obey orders under martial law, if Hitler was actually dead, had been correct. Especially if Fromm actively supported the plot. Goebbels might still have been arrested and the various nazis who were already arrested might have remained in custody. The government buildings would have remained sealed and Remer wouldn’t have gone to arrest the plotters.
Or perhaps Remer would have remained rather undecisive at least initially. Regardless, if Goering hadn’t been able to turn Remer almost as quickly as Hitler had, crushing the coup might have proven a lot more difficult. France would be under military control and they would have had more generals on their side in Germany.
If Remer switches sides, this makes things a lot more difficult but would it have been entirely decisive by itself? Quite possibly… but mainly if he switched as he fast as he did in real history… which is relatively unlikely with Hitler (and especially Jodl and Keitel) dead. If Stauffenberg’s group succeeded in taking over communications and actually arresting Goebbels and Goering, then the new interim government would likely achieve power.
The entire role of the SS in crushing the coup becomes dubious as well. If Himmler really did have some knowledge of the conspiracy and allowed it to happen (as various sources suggest), what would his role be exactly if Hitler had been killed? Would he have supported Goering as Hitler’s successor and helped him crush the coup while trying to increase his de facto power and turn Goering into a puppet? Would he have allowed Goering to fall and them seized power himself? Would he have enabled the coup (which specifically accused radicals within the SS)? Surely he couldn’t have openly deposed Goering from the get go and Goering was the only one with a real legitimate claim to leadership.
If the remaining SS doesn’t react fast enough, if Himmler doesn’t quickly get Goering to present himself as the legitimate head of state, who will crush the coup? The SS wouldn’t be able to stop the army. So there is a significant possibility that the coup would have succeeded. What next?
Separate peace, but with who?
The plotters hoped to make peace as soon as possible and to prevent another disaster of befalling Germany. While the Allies had demanded unconditional surrender, the Western powers had shown with Italy that they could deviate from that. For the United States, the most important enemy remained Japan. There was still significant distrust between the Soviet Union and the Western powers. If Hitler and Nazism were overthrown, all atrocities were ended, and an anti-nazi government offered a quick peace, the common enemy that united the 3 powers would suddenly be gone. Both sides may have feared the other one reaching a separate peace first. FDR would have been under significant pressure to not waste more American soldiers in Europe and focus on revenge for Pearl Harbour. Anti-communist elements in congress as well as military figures like MacArthur and Patton may have increased pressure in that regard. Finally Pope Pius XII supported the plotters and would have certainly called for negotiations and called on the bishops to do the same. Catholics were extremely important to FDR’s coalition. FDR was up for re-election later in 44. Operation Sunrise shows the extent to which the West and the East distrusted each other and the Americans were willinf to be lenient with nazis.
A separate peace with the Western allies appears probable as a result and it was viewed by reactionary plotters like Goerdeler as the only real option. They were the so called Westerners.
Stalin may have feared such a separate peace and desired a de facto return to Molotov-Ribbentrop, something he considered initially even in 1943. He may have trusted right-leaning social democrats and conservative revolutionaries to be good allies against the liberal captalist democracies of the West. If the reactionarie were too dominant negotiations with the Soviet Union might have been much more difficult.
While Stalin had found nazism more acceptale (more left-leaning) than fascism, he had never the less been able to reach agreements with the latter and discovered the unpredictability of the former. Since he had abandoned hostility towards the social democrats in 1935 he may have been willing to do the same for the conservative revolutionaries. A pact with the third position by the stalinists may have developped. Obviously Stalin would have been more open to dealing with them, than a purely reactionary leadership.
Stauffenberg appears to (eventually) have been open to this possibility of a separate peace with the Soviet Union as were Leber and the other social democrats. Even though they remained firmly anti-communist. Stauffenberg did not rule out the possibility of communist participation completely, but both he and the Kreisau circle remained very hesitant about contacting the underground KPD. It all really depends on how much Stalin was willing to throw them (and communist political influence) under the bus (again) for the sake of military and political advantages for the Soviet Union.
While Stauffenberg and the left-leaning opposition are often portrayed as Easterners, this is too simplistic. While more open to negotiating with the Soviet Union if necessary, this did not enjoy an overly strong preference.
Negotiatios with both factions would have probably happened and it is highly possible they could have played both sides against each other eventually. The questions is just which side would have signed peace first… and on what terms????!!!!!?????
Wait, wait, wait… before that… how does this affect future negotiations by co-belligerents and or allies like Finland (that had tried to avenge the Winter War through the continuation war), Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and so on??? Oh ****!
Well, Germany would be willing to throw its allies under the bus and the reverse. Finland had been betrayed previously. In actual history, Finland signed the relatively humiliating around a month later.
If the situation ended in a Molotov-Ribbentrop 2.0 Finland may have found itself thrown under the bus again.
This really depends though on how strong a Western backlash to a “betrayal” by the Soviet Union would be. Sympathy for Finland had been strong during the Winter War, yet largely vanished during the continuation war, although Finland did get the best deal. An early anti-Soviet Backlash would have at least resulted in the UK and the USA ending its official policy of being at war with Finland. But would anti-communists have been willing to give it real aid this time, if the Soviet Union threatens to invade it again after a new pact with Germany? Finland had learned not to count on this of course.
If they again receive no aid, the geopolitical situation is back to what it was in 1940, how fanatically would Finland be willing to fight the at this point relatively exhausted Soviet Union (which no longer receives Western aid)?
The Soviet Union has lost around 60 % of the total number of troops they had spent on the continuation war, Finland only 50 % of its average size army and less than a third of its 700.000 peek force. The country itself has suffered very little devastation unlike the Soviet Union.
On top of that the Soviet Union had obviously lost millions against the Germans. Without Western aid, it was significantly weaker than at the end of the Winter War. New concessions beyond those mode by Finland at the Moscow Peace Treaty would likely not be granted. Finland would even prefer a return to the status quo from before the Winter War.
While the Finnish government wanted peace since Stalingrad, they had opposed bad terms for a long time. With the Western Allies gone as a threat or source of Soviet aid, they could have had the courage to demand a return tot he Moscow Peace Treaty, the pre-Winter War status quo, or something in between.
Finland’s situation would be easier if a separate peace was reached with the Western Allies, creating an anti-communist bloc. Then it would have had both Germany and the Western allies on its side.
Or!!!!! Finland would have acted first and sped up the peace negotiations while the Soviet Union was still dealing with the danger of Germany reaching a separate peace with the Western allies. It could have offered the Soviet the prospect of Finland being a benign neutral state. (What it became after WWII anyways) but now under better terms. So an anti-communist benign neutral bufferstate.
No reparations, further loss of territory, putting political leaders who supported the Continuation War on trial, or political influence by the Soviet Union, none of that humiliating Moscow armistice garbage. No banning of counterrevolutionary groups deemed fascist by the Soviet Union, like the White Guards, instead the communist party remains outlawed. The semi-fascist Patriotic People’s Movement would probably not be outlawed either and depending on how hawkish the climate would be (and how strong fear of renewed Soviet hostilities would become) it might have gotten renewed influence. The country would have remained a more right-wing democracy. The attempt at democratic communisation along Allied lines would likely have been abandoned by the Soviet Union.
While at the time of the coup, Finland was less than 2 months away from agreeing to a semi-humiliating armistice, Bulgaria was going to have a left-wing coup at the same time and Romania was only a little over a month away from its royal coup. But so what if the Allied Front suddenly collapsed? Would the coups not have happened? Would the right-wing governments remain?
An attempted Soviet advance into Romania had stalled just before the coup took place and would take about a month to finally succeed.
Romania had previously been squeezed with German approval during Molotov-Ribbentrop, just like Finland. Like Finland it abandoned Germany not too long after the coup. If Stauffenberg had succeeded, they might have also carried out negotiations on their own faster.
Since the National Democratic Bloc had already been created in June, the communists would have likely still been a part of a future government, but without Red army influence, they may have remained less influential and (as happened in Western countries during the start of the Cold War) they may have been kicked out if anti-communist sentiment and distrust resulted in a long-term tense ceasefire.
Otherwise the communists may have become integrated into an anti-liberal and third positionists regime. Ion Antonescu might have retired more quietly, perhaps even only temporarily, if he wasn’t already making peace himself after Hitler got killed.
Romania had most to lose though, since the Red army was at its border and Stalin would probably want the territories he had previously stolen under Molotov-Ribbentrop back. Especially if he can’t get the same from Finland.
There is an obvious dominio effect here. A lack of royal coup in Romania and the Red advance ending would also favour the Bulgarian government in negotiating a peace that prevents a communist takeover.
Bulgaria might try to go for those guarantees Stalin wanted to give it in 1940. It might become a de facto non-communist Soviet ally. Stalin really wanted to reach an agreement in 1940. If the possibility of a leftist coup evaporates and the red army stalls at Romania, Bulgaria might agree to a mutually beneficial deal. The left-wing coup carried out in September would be less likely to succeed if Stalin were to return to pre-1941 policies, before the agressive spread of communism became the norm. Its monarchy might have continued in the long run. Prime minister Bagrianov may have become a more effective peacemaker.
Since Horthy attempted to remove German influence after the Romanian royal coup, a similar thing would have happened a month sooner with Hitler dead and Romania abandoning the war earlier. In this case, it would almost certainly not have been thwarted by the nazi’s. Hungary had the least to worry about in any peace negotiations.
Overal things would work out pretty well for the governments in all 3 Balkan states. But what exactly could Germany expect from either side? I have a headache so I’ll tell you later…