The Soviet Union: Operation Barbarossa Redux – A Major Factor in How the Axis Won WW2 in the High Castle Universe
At 01:00 local time on 22 June, 1941, the massive force of the German Wehrmacht opened fire across the Soviet Union’s Western frontier from the Baltic to the Black seas. In doing so, they were the first shots of the greatest military struggle in human history.
Hitler’s invasion of the USSR expanded the Second World War in what was his greatest undertaking to date – the conquest of the Soviet Union. In doing so, Hitler aimed to succeed where Napoleon in 1812 and Charles XII of Sweden in 1707 had abjectly failed.
The Eastern Front, by any fair measure, is where the delicate balance of victory or defeat lay during the Second World War.
According to British historian Andrew Roberts, 4 out of 5 Wehrmacht troops killed in combat during the Second World War died by the bloody maw that was Stalin’s Red Army.
Hitler’s Greatest Purpose: The Destruction of Bolshevism
In Nazi ideology there was no greater enemy than that of the Soviet Union. The Nazis believed the Slavic peoples to be “untermenchen” – or subhumans. Furthermore, the western USSR had the largest Jewish population of any nation in 1941.
Moreover, Hitler saw Soviet power as the product of the “Judeo-Bolshevic conspiracy”, a ridiculous conspiracy theory claiming Soviet Communism was a device developed by the Jewish people to enslave the human race.
Prescribers to this theory point to the various high profile Jewish Bolsheviks, such as Leon Trotsky and Grigory Zinoviev as evidence. Never mind that these theorists could not account for the obvious – Soviet despot Josef Stalin. Stalin, who even attended Russian Orthodox seminary prior to discovering his religion of Marxism-Leninism, clearly never sat down to a Seder on Passover.
More to the point, the western Soviet Union was what Hitler saw as German “lebensraum,” or living space, for future colonies nourishing his new Germanic civilization, reverting its current inhabitants to serfdom.
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Listen to WW2 historian Paul K. DiCostanzo’s Guest Appearance on Podding Through Time & it’s deep dive into Soviet history leading up to Operation Barbarossa!
This coveted area included the fertile farming lands of the Ukraine, immense coal reserves in the Donbass, a wellspring of oil in the Caucasus region, and a massive reserve of slave labor. In Hitler’s original conception of Operation Barbarossa, Germany sought to control the Western USSR from Arkhangelsk to Astrakhan.
The acquisition of a strategic prize such as Eurasia would have provided the German war machine with bottomless resources, eliminating Germany’s historical material constraints during the war. As a result, furthering German ambitions for conquest to nightmarish propositions; lending heavily to how the Axis won WW2 in The Man in the High Castle universe.
Fictional Success vs. Historical Failure in The Man in the High Castle Universe
Despite tremendous success in the first two years of its Eastern crusade, Nazi Germany’s fight against the Red Army ultimately spelled its doom.
Yet in the High Castle Universe, Hitler clearly succeeded where he failed historically. Joe Blake recalls Stalin’s execution occurring in 1949, four years earlier than his historic death from a fatal stroke.
How could this outcome have changed the High Castle Universe? When examining the possible falling dominoes in its timeline, the critical differences are the full peace with the British Empire and France that did not exist in our reality. As well as the potential for Japanese intervention in the Soviet Far East.
A Possible Major Turning Point for How the Axis Won WW2 in The Man in the High Castle Universe – A Different “Second Front”
As a result of the cessation of hostilities in the West, the so-called Western Allied “second front” which culminated in the D-Day assault never occurred. Instead, the burden of a second front became the Kremlin’s concern against Japan in the Far East.
Hitler, like many of his countrymen, were of the firm belief that Germany lost the First World War because they fought on two fronts.
This belief is clearly spelled out in Mein Kampf, and was a scenario given deep consideration by Hitler before issuing the order to invade the USSR in June 1941.
It does however seem likely in the High Castle universe that the war on two fronts dilemma would have been the struggle of the Soviet Union’s alone; with an Imperial Japanese invasion of the Soviet Far East by the Kwantung Army in Manchukuo.
Japan Shares the Spoils: The Northern Strategy
A successful German invasion of the Western Soviet Union would have been a critical turning point for Imperial Japan.
Japan was an Axis ally to Nazi Germany via the so-called Tripartite Pact, who had considerable interest in controlling the Soviet Far East.
The Soviet region of Siberia contains many highly desirable natural resources for an expanding imperial power like Japan: materials including gold, uranium, iron ore, timber, and most critically its bounty of energy deposits for the oil starved Japanese.
Yet historically Japan was extremely hesitant regarding the prospect of opening a second front against the USSR.
With over a million Imperial Army troops fighting the Chinese United Front, de facto oriented around the Chinese Nationalist leader Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek since 1937, Japan had its hands tied trying to conquer and subdue the vast Chinese mainland.
Moreover, after several fruitless border skirmishes against the Red Army prior to war with the Western Allies – most notably at Khalkhin Gol in 1939 – the Japanese were very gun shy to invade the Soviet Far East from Manchukuo (modern day PRC Manchuria). So much so in fact, Japan and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact in April 1941 to forestall such a clash.
Due to the work of now famous Soviet spy Richard Sorge working in Germany’s Tokyo embassy, as well as other critical code breaking sources, it was revealed that Japan would have attacked only when it believed the USSR was on the verge of collapse, which historically never occurred.
Had such events came to fruition, Japan would have bolstered their military capability significantly with access to the aforementioned Siberian resources.
Such a conquest would have certainly changed Japan’s historical decision to conquer the “southern resources area,” plunging their empire into war with the US and Britain in 1941 – at least for a time.
As these dominoes fall, each piece paints a disturbingly realistic image of how The Man in the High Castle universe might have coalesced.
With the Western Allies and Soviet Union under a jackboot, and Imperial Japan sharing the spoils – the US would have truly realized isolation. Thus creating a scenario where the Axis powers controlled far more resources than they did historically; presenting a unique position to focus their ambitions on a surrounded North America.