The bullet torpedoed through the chest until it was deflected by the breastbone and neatly severed the aorta. Splintered shards of rib and spinal vertebrae ruined the liver as the bullet exited. Neurons hoarded dwindling bits of chemical energy, but blood no longer flowed, and so the brain followed the body in death within short seconds of the thud to the platform.
Screams pealed forth. Officers on either side of the dead leader ducked for cover. Comprehension ricocheted through the crowd. Chancellor Adolf Hitler had been assassinated.
Hermann Göring alone stood tall on assassination day. He had not scurried under the dais at the shot that, its societal ripples complete, quelled within weeks the ramblings of war Hitler had been shouting just before one bullet ended him. Göring won both public opinion and the ensuing power drama that played out among Hitler’s former lieutenants that spring.
“Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America nor, for that matter, in Germany,” Göring had said.
Chancellor Göring’s accumulated clout established this pacifistic tendency as Nazi foreign policy. But Göring was a military man, and he invested wisely the country’s assets Hitler had been tasking toward war.
“I think he really had been crazy,” Göring often mused late at night in his country manor, Carinhall.
Göring’s pride and joy was his Air Force, his Luftwaffe. He increased its strength to a dominating defensive presence over his two decades in power before his fatal aneurysm in 1953, the same year Josef Stalin had died. The two had allied and brought a peace dividend to their countries, a peace that editorialists and historians debated might never have happened had Hitler lived.
The academics were evenly divided. Would Hitler have lashed out eastward? Westward? “Invading Russia was suicide,” went the Bavarian school of thought. The Sudeten scholars argued as vigorously that Hitler was maniacal enough to carry through on his aspirations of world domination, a mania that inevitably would have butted up against Russia after the low hanging fruit—annexation of Austria and the beloved Sudetenland—had been consumed.
Göring’s Air Force guaranteed none could threaten Germany and the bonus that accrued allowed the country to flourish economically. German scientists, a national treasure, had solved atomic fission. Nuclear plants proliferated throughout Europe as Germany exported the technology for the good of a greater European common market economy. Spain’s Franco and Italy’s Mussolini acquiesced quickly after Göring’s rise and each abandoned his militaristic ways. The soon-to-be former fascists saw that a thriving middle class in a rich economy could keep them fat, happy, and in power for a very long time. It worked out, more or less, for both of them, Franco dying at an overripe age of 87 on a state visit to CanAmerica in 1979. It had been high drama that played out on live TV as he suffered cardiac arrest while addressing a joint session of the Congressional Parliament.
His continued dalliances with the House of Saud in an attempt to develop oil as an energy source consistently failed due to the widespread adoption of German nuclear technology, which was clean and safe, not to mention efficient; German trains were always on time. Daimler-Benz’s nuclear fueled autos would never be supplanted by what some imagined might be gasoline guzzlers. “It would change the Earth’s climate,” the wiser politicians had opined of oil. “Why would we do that?!”
The Canadian-American merger engineered by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and President Charles A. Lindbergh, whom FDR had reluctantly added to the 1932 ticket, was an existential necessity if North America was to compete with the European economic juggernaut. President Roosevelt had intuited the wisdom of this colossal union. He had had a stroke, however, in Warm Springs, Georgia and died just one year into his presidency before he could gain any traction on the idea with a recalcitrant Republican House of Representatives that was rumbling about impeachment in response to FDR’s court packing shenanigans. Lindbergh played off the emotions of FDR’s death and sold the notion of a “Great Society” that would accrue from the merger with Canada.
Lindbergh and King also ignored Saudi entreaties. The CanAmerican automobile industry churned out millions of nuclear-powered vehicles every year and saw no need to muck with that status quo. (John D. Rockefeller’s previously brightly lit star dimmed fully as Standard Oil moved toward bankruptcy.) The Middle East region fell into decades of economic oblivion. Tens of millions of Arabs, Lebanese, Jordanians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Kurds, Syrians, and Persians squabbled to no end over how to transform the region into a destination for the tourist trade in Europe and CanAmerica. They could never agree on strategy.
The Palestinian homeland included some of the best Mediterranean beachfront property; Joppa was beautiful and an important port. But competing factions always managed to eviscerate any real estate development projects that might turn the Holy Land into a fun-and sun playground. Germany’s flourishing Jewish community gave lip service to the notion of a Jewish state, but could never muster the political will to engage in the region. Antisemitism, in the 20th century’s extended economic boom, was dormant in Germany and throughout Europe, an apple cart Jewish politicians and community leaders most decidedly did not want to upset. With free and easy access to Jerusalem, Zionism faded and talk of a Jewish homeland became moot.
Professor Kendra Scott-Jenkins had gotten the idea from a podcast her History Department colleague had turned her on to. She had recently learned of the hundredth anniversary of the 1933 assassination of Adolph Hitler, a minor historical figure who had been Germany’s Chancellor for only one day before being shot.
“Hey, you know that history podcast we both like? I used it to assign a story idea to my creative writing class. Counterfactual history, what if some obscure/one-day-in-office German Chancellor had lived, how would the 20th century have turned out differently? Y’know… stuff like that?”
“Sounds interesting. Got anything good? I could stand a distraction,” said Elizabetta.
“Turns out, I do. The kid’s writing is competent enough but his re-formulation of history… just wow!”
“Like the whole world plunged into a war much deadlier than The Great War.”
“Yeah, and these outsized details… bombing most of the U.S. Navy docked in Hawai’i; millions of gays, Jews, and Gypsies murdered in extermination camps; Roosevelt elected President four times; over 150,000 troops on 5,000 ships—five thousand!—landing on a French beach to take back a conquered Europe; Germany attacking Russia—like that’d ever happen a second time—and get this, atomic bombs dropped over Japan.”
“Wow, we bombed Japan? Lemme read that thing.”