How Hitler Could Have Won World War II: The Fatal Errors That Led to Nazi Defeat

How Hitler Could Have Won World War II: The Fatal Errors That Led to Nazi Defeat

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by Bevin Alexander

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Most of us rally around the glory of the Allies' victory over the Nazis in World War II. The story is often told of how the good fight was won by an astonishing array of manpower and stunning tactics. However, what is often overlooked is how the intersection between Adolf Hitler's influential personality and his military strategy was critical in causing Germany to


Most of us rally around the glory of the Allies' victory over the Nazis in World War II. The story is often told of how the good fight was won by an astonishing array of manpower and stunning tactics. However, what is often overlooked is how the intersection between Adolf Hitler's influential personality and his military strategy was critical in causing Germany to lose the war.

With an acute eye for detail and his use of clear prose, acclaimed military historian Bevin Alexander goes beyond counterfactual "What if?" history and explores for the first time just how close the Allies were to losing the war. Using beautifully detailed, newly designed maps, How Hitler Could Have Won World War II exquisitely illustrates the important battles and how certain key movements and mistakes by Germany were crucial in determining the war's outcome. Alexander's harrowing study shows how only minor tactical changes in Hitler's military approach could have changed the world we live in today.

How Hitler Could Have Won World War II untangles some of the war's most confounding strategic questions, such as:

  • Why didn't the Nazis concentrate their enormous military power on the only three beaches upon which the Allies could launch their attack into Europe?
  • Why did the terrifying German panzers, on the brink of driving the British army into the sea in May 1940, halt their advance and allow the British to regroup and evacuate at Dunkirk?
  • With the chance to cut off the Soviet lifeline of oil, and therefore any hope of Allied victory from the east, why did Hitler insist on dividing and weakening his army, which ultimately led to the horrible battle ofStalingrad?

    Ultimately, Alexander probes deeply into the crucial intersection between Hitler's psyche and military strategy and how his paranoia fatally overwhelmed his acute political shrewdness to answer the most terrifying question: Just how close were the Nazis to victory?

    Why did Hitler insist on terror bombing London in the late summer of 1940, when the German air force was on the verge of destroying all of the RAF sector stations, England's last defense?

    With the opportunity to drive the British out of Egypt and the Suez Canal and occupy all of the Middle East, therefore opening a Nazi door to the vast oil resources of the region, why did Hitler fail to move in just a few panzer divisions to handle such an easy but crucial maneuver?

    On the verge of a last monumental effort and concentration of German power to seize Moscow and end Stalin's grip over the Eastern front, why did the Nazis divert their strength to bring about the far less important surrender of Kiev, thereby destroying any chance of ever conquering the Soviets?

  • Editorial Reviews

    Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
    Hitler's skills at spotting an opponent's weaknesses brought him an uninterrupted string of victories from the fall of Weimar in 1933 to the fall of France in 1940. Afterwards, argues Alexander (Robert E. Lee's Civil War), he began believing his own press clippings. Invading Russia became a recipe for defeat when Hitler insisted on simultaneously persecuting a population he could have won over and pursuing offensives without regard for the operational situation. Above all, Alexander continues, Hitler failed to see that Germany's way to victory led not through Moscow but through Cairo. Even a fraction of the resources squandered in Russia would have enabled Germany to create a Middle Eastern empire that would have forced the U.S.S.R. to remain neutral, marginalized Britain and kept the U.S. from projecting enough power across the Atlantic to invade the continent against an intact Wehrmacht. This is an often-rehashed, often refuted position. German scholars like Andreas Hillgruber and Gerhard Schreiber have successfully and painstakingly demonstrated that the Mediterranean was a strategic dead end, despite its seeming operational possibilities. As a counterpoint to Hitler's shortcomings as a war leader, Alexander offers the usual Wehrmacht heroes--Rommel, Manstein, Guderian. In praising their operational achievements, however, he omits discussion of the generals' consistent collaboration with their f hrer in military matters, or about the absence of significant dissent throughout the war. Instead, Alexander accepts the generals' long-discredited argument that had Hitler been willing to listen to those who understood the craft of war, things might have been different. This one-sided perspective significantly limits the book's value to both specialists and general readers. (Dec. 5) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
    Library Journal
    This study is another history of World War II--but with a new slant. Historian Alexander (Robert E. Lee's Civil War) argues that if Hitler had done things differently, he could have overrun the Middle East and acquired its oil, beaten the Allied forces to a standstill in Europe, and forced peace treaties that would have given him control of almost half the world--and the opportunity to have a go at the rest. Asking "What if" is a popular pastime among historians, and this history offers the reader insights into the points in the conflict where the tide could have changed. The author has produced a well-written, concise history of the war against the Nazi military machine that emphasizes those campaigns the author uses to reinforce his point. Recommended for most history collections. [For a broader look at Hitler, see Ian Kershaw's Hitler, 1963-1945: Nemesis, reviewed on p. 90.--Ed.]--Mel D. Lane, Sacramento, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
    Kirkus Reviews
    Creepy title aside, this is a crisp, effective WWII narrative, highlighting the many moments, invisible in the mechanized chaos of battle, where the worm might have turned against the free world. Decorated veteran Alexander (The Future of Warfare, not reviewed, etc.) emphasizes that he does not intend to ameliorate the magnitude of Hitler's crimes or provide a"speculative history." Instead, he offers levelheaded dissent to the prevailing"Greatest Generation" view of Allied excellence, claiming that crucial points from 1940 onward could have been seized by the Nazi war machine had not the solipsistic perversities of Hitler's madness stymied each opportunity. He begins by depicting the multiple Nazi victories between Hitler's ascension in 1933 and the rapid conquest of France in 1940: Alexander posits (as did certain of Hitler's generals) that a series of surgical strikes in North Africa and the Middle East would have rendered the British military irrelevant and allowed the Nazis enough control over shipping and natural resources to establish rule over southwestern Europe and ultimately threaten the Soviet Union. Instead, Hitler focused all resources on an unsustainable frontal attack on Russia and on implementing genocide. Alexander examines shifting military fortunes in every stage of the war to explore how Hitler's obsessions undermined actual and potential achievements of the Wehrmacht. In Stalingrad, for example, the Führer's strategically crude determination that"all positions must be held" led to the gruesome destruction of the German Sixth Army. One of his officers in the disastrous Russian campaign concludedthatHitler"actually recoiled from risks in the military field," refusing to allow surrender of territory. Especially after the 1944 attempt on his life, this compulsion merged with his toxic grandiloquence to convince him that German forces were perpetually on the verge of decisive counterattacks. More generally, the leitmotif here seems to be Hitler's urge to destroy the German people alongside those for whom he professed hatred: as in his deliberate provocation of three great industrial powers to form an alliance against him. An engrossing military history, with chilling undertones of what might have been.

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    Crown Publishing Group
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    Read an Excerpt

    Around 400 B.C. the great Chinese strategist Sun Tzu brushed in the characters for the most profound sentence ever written about warfare: "The way to avoid what is strong is to strike what is weak."

    Adolf Hitler knew nothing of Sun Tzu. But for the first seven years of his dictatorship of Germany, from 1933 to 1940, he avoided strength, struck at weakness, and achieved such stunning success that he was on the threshold of complete victory.

    After 1940, however, Hitler abandoned a course of action that would have completed his victory. He attacked frontally into the strength of the Soviet Union, allowed Britain and the United States time to build immense military power, and was unable to prevent them from striking into Germany's weakness. The collision of the Allies and Germans brought on the most titanic clash in history. But the outcome had already been foreshadowed by Hitler's fatal mistakes in 1940 and thereafter. By 1945 Germany was shattered and Adolf Hitler dead.

    Hitler was one of the most evil monsters the world has ever known. But he was also a skilled politician. His political mastery boosted him into power and allowed him to hide his wickedness behind great economic, territorial, and military advances that he gained for Germany. Hitler did not seek rational goals, however. His aims were those of a maniac. He believed he could elevate the German people into a "master race" through restriction of marriages and sexual relations only among "Aryans," refusing to recognize that Europeans had been interbreeding for a millennium and there could be no such thing as a pure "race" of Aryans or anything else. He wanted to gain Lebensraum, or living space, for theGerman people in Russia and Ukraine, and intended to kill or starve millions of Slavs living in those lands. Beyond this Hitler wanted to kill whole categories of people--Jews, Gypsies, persons with mental and physical disabilities, and anyone who objected to his desires.

    Hitler possessed great skill in spotting and exploiting the vulnerabilities of opponents. Using these gifts, Hitler gained an unparalleled string of victories that commenced with his installation as German chancellor in January 1933 and ended in the summer of 1940, when his victory over France convinced him he was an infallible military genius. He did not see that the victory came not from his own vision, but from that of two generals, Erich von Manstein and Heinz Guderian.

    Believing Britain would no longer be a major problem, Hitler turned his attention to killing Jews and other peoples he despised, and to the destruction of the Soviet Union.

    From this point on, these twin drives--war against Soviet Russia and perpetration of the Final Solution--consumed most of Hitler's attention and the vast bulk of the resources and manpower of the German Reich.

    This course led straight to his destruction. It did not have to be. Hitler's strategy through mid-1940 was almost flawless. He isolated and absorbed state after state in Europe, gained the Soviet Union as a willing ally, destroyed France's military power, threw the British off the Continent, and was left with only weak and vulnerable obstacles to an empire covering most of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. This empire not only would have been unassailable from the outside, but would have put him into the position, in time, to conquer the world.

    This did not happen. Hitler's paranoias overwhelmed his political sense. He abandoned the successful indirect strategy of attacking weakness, which he had followed up to the summer of 1940, and tried to grab Lebensraum directly and by main strength. He was unable to see that he could achieve these goals far more easily and with absolute certainty by indirection--by striking not what was strong but what was weak.

    Even after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, he might have gained a partial victory if he had not possessed two more lethal defects--insistence on offensive solutions to military problems when his strength was inadequate, and attempting to keep all the territory he had seized when retreat would have preserved his forces. These failings led to disastrous offensives--Stalingrad, Tunisia, Kursk, the Bulge--and "no retreat" orders that destroyed huge portions of his army.

    The way to victory was not through a frontal attack on the Soviet Union but an indirect approach through North Africa. This route was so obvious that all the British leaders saw it, as did a number of the German leaders, including Alfred Jodl, chief of operations of the armed forces; Erich Raeder, commander of the German Navy, and Erwin Rommel, destined to gain fame in North Africa as the Desert Fox.

    After the destruction of France's military power in 1940, Britain was left with only a single armored division to protect Egypt and the Suez Canal. Germany had twenty armored divisions, none being used. If the Axis--Germany and its ally Italy--had used only four of these divisions to seize the Suez Canal, the British Royal Navy would have been compelled to abandon the Mediterranean Sea, turning it into an Axis lake. French North Africa--Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia--could have been occupied, and German forces could have seized Dakar in Senegal on the west coast of Africa, from which submarines and aircraft could have dominated the main South Atlantic sea routes.

    With no hope of aid, Yugoslavia and Greece would have been forced to come to terms. Since Hitler gained the support of Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, Germany would have achieved control of all southeastern Europe without committing a single German soldier.

    Once the Suez Canal was taken, the way would have been open to German armored columns to overrun Palestine, Transjordan, the Arabian peninsula, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. This would have given Germany unlimited supplies of the single commodity it needed most: oil.

    As important as oil was for the conduct of modern war, the greatest advantages of German occupation of the Arab lands and Iran would have been to isolate Turkey, threaten British control of India, and place German tanks and guns within striking distance of Soviet oil fields in the Caucasus and along the shores of the Caspian Sea. Turkey would have been forced to become an ally or grant transit rights to German forces, Britain would have had to exert all its strength to protect India, and the Soviet Union would have gone to any lengths to preserve peace with Germany because of its perilous position.

    Germany need not have launched a U-boat or air war against British shipping and cities, because British participation in the war would have become increasingly irrelevant. Britain could never have built enough military power to invade the Continent alone.

    Unless the strength of the Soviet Union were added, the United States could not have projected sufficient military force across the Atlantic Ocean, even over a period of years, to reconquer Europe by amphibious invasion in the face of an untouched German war machine. Since the United States was increasingly preoccupied with the threat of Japan, it almost certainly would not have challenged Germany.

    Thus, Germany would have been left with a virtually invincible empire and the leisure to develop defenses and resources that, in time, would permit it to match the strength of the United States. Though Britain might have refused to make peace, a de facto cease-fire would have ensued. The United States would have concentrated on defense of the Western Hemisphere and the Pacific. Even if the United States had proceeded with development of the atomic bomb, it would have hesitated to unleash it against Germany.

    This book is about the opportunities Hitler possessed that might have led to victory. But such was not to be, because of his inability to see the indirect way to victory, and his fixation on frontal assault of the Soviet Union.

    Meet the Author

    Bevin Alexander is the author of five books of military history, including Lost Victories, which was named by the Civil War Book Review as one of the seventeen books that has most transformed Civil War scholarship. His battle studies of the Korean War, written during his decorated service as a combat historian, are stored at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. He lives in Bremo Bluff, Virginia.

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    How Hitler Could Have Won World War II: The Fatal Errors That Led To Nazi Defeat 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I am finishing up Bevin Alexander's How Hitler Could Have Won World War II and I cant put the book down. Great detail on every key battle along with great insight on Hitler's fatal decisions. The author does a good job of showing the reader the flaws with not only Hitler's military decison making but also those of the Allies commanders. Love this book.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    The book how hitler could have won world war two is an excellent piece of history worthy of, well, book history. It tells just how close to tright now I could be speaking German. Very good theme, but at times depressing on pondering if Hitler hadn't made those moronic mistakes!
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book was fascinating. I found myself shaking my head at how hard it was for Germany to LOSE the war after conquering France in 1940. Just shows that Hitler was as bad a military strategist as he was good a politician. Some of the decisions made by him were so blatently bad you wonder if there were some other forces at work. Highly recommended for both historians and military strategists. Very readable.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is one of my favorite books I have ever read,it is a must read for any military history buff.
    K-E_Moore More than 1 year ago
    It's chilling to realize how easily Hitler might have won the Second World War. Although having access to less industry, manpower, and natural resources than his principle opponents (England, USSR, and United States), the amount of military talent that Hitler had at his command was staggering. From the father of blitzkrieg Heinz Guderian to the unpredictable genius of Erwin Rommel, a Hitler that let the military talent at his disposal win the war for him could have ended the 1940s in possession of France, controlling (formerly) British North Africa, siphoning the oil wells of Persia, and holding a dagger to the underbelly of the Soviet Union, a hostage for resources and a free hand... if he didn't decide to simply take the oil and wheat that the Soviet Union so desperately needed. Bevin Alexander does a superb job outlining the dozen or so points at which Hitler, offered victory on a silver platter by his forward-thinking military men, spurned the dish and pressed forward into the disaster that befell him. What, Alexander asks, may have been the result of bagging the British Expeditionary Force instead of letting it go at Dunkirk? Allowing Goering to continue to level sector command centers, crippling Fighter Command at a critical hour? Captured Malta instead of Crete? Gave Rommel his full support and let him close the Suez Canal and squat atop the Persian oil wells, threatening Britain's reinforcement line to North Africa and her most beloved colony, India, in one fell swoop? What if Hitler had settled on one strategic objective in Barbarossa (instead of three) or held back his ideology-driven killers from murdering peasants who loathed Stalin? Allowed Manstein to relieve Paulus at Stalingrad? His generals to lure the Red Army into tactical death traps instead of demanding that they stand and fight? With an unsparing eye, and the caveat that he in no way wishes that Hitler had taken the route to victory, Alexander presents a well-researched study into the way that the man who made the German Army capable of fighting World War II made it impossible for Germany to win. This highly original proposition is sure to encourage many a conversation among minor and major historians alike into one of the most well-known modern war.
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    Guest More than 1 year ago
    When most people think of WWII they think of the allies' victory with there astonishing man power and there brilliant tactics. What many people don¿t see is that Adolf Hitler made key mistakes that lead to his own demise. This book shows readers just how close we where to losing the war and what Hitler could have done differently to change to outcome. The Author Bevin Alexander asks the question ¿what if¿ and goes behind the strategy of the Nazi empire to point out major mistakes and what they should have done. He asks questions like: why in 1940 did the German panzers stop there advance and let the British to regroup and retreat at Dunkirk? I enjoyed reading this book because it took a new look on WWII and how it could have turned out. The book contains vivid maps that the reader can look to for major battle locations and get a feel for what the landscape was like. I thought that in some parts of the book did drag along and made it hard to read. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that likes WWII stories, and to anyone who wants to learn more on the Nazi¿s attempt to take over the world.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book is recommened to anyone who is interested in history or warfare. This book tells how close the fascist dictator came to winning WWII. It can be very disturbing at times on account of how close we came to losing. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!!
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    i have read this book about three times and each time i come across something that i missed and it was all really interesting and makes you think what if hitler would have actually won the war.