December 30, 2017

1940. Guesses at What Peace Terms Would Look Like If Germany Wins

A Dire Outlook for the World
German police march before Hitler at the Nazi Party Congress rally in Nuremberg, September 10, 1937 (source)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of fascism before and during World War II. In late May 1940, with France on the verge of falling and Britain undertaking the Dunkirk evacuation, the Axis powers looked close to victory. New York Times correspondent George Axelsson considered the question: What will Germany's peace terms entail if the Allies surrender?

From The New York Times, May 26, 1940:
If Hitler Wins He Is Expected to Make Terms to Satisfy His Many Grudges

BERLIN, May 25 — If Germany wins this war—and she considers herself on the threshold of victory—the world must look for some sort of reversal of that Westphalian treaty that almost 300 years ago dissolved the old order of the Holy Roman Empire and made Germany a mere patch on Europe's map.

At Versailles the world saw the spectacle of well over fifty nations gathered to share the spoils of victory. The Westphalian documents were signed by only two victors—France and Sweden—and given a German success only the "big four"—Germany, Italy, Russia and Japan—are likely to sign the new treaty, with the possible inclusion of Spain to accept the stewardship of Gibraltar plus a few minor concessions on the North African mainland.

The peace conference, when and if it occurs, under these auspices therefore may be expected to turn out much simpler than the affair at Versailles and certainly more drastic and perhaps, more severe, on the vanquished than was the treaty of Westphalia.

Wide Revenge Expected

Surmises in Nazi quarters as to what a victorious Germany's peace terms would consist of are, of course, only conjecture. But it is reasonable to assume that Herr Hitler has so many grudges against various nations that a successful war will tempt him to avenge not only Versailles but also the treaty that ended the Thirty Year War so disastrously for Germany in 1648.

Should the Nazis win the war, Germany must be seen as the all-powerful guarantor of this new peace which will certainly exclude Britain from any further say in the affairs of the Continent. Germany will reserve for herself the right of interference in the affairs of conquered States with a vote in their councils. The treaty, furthermore, is likely to be incorporated into the fundamental law of those countries and form the basis of their subsequent treaties with the Western Hemisphere, particularly those with the United States.

One German explanation of why Herr Hitler did not wait for victory to reincorporate Belgian Eupen and Malmedy into the Reich to which they belonged before Versailles, was that he wanted to make the population a gift of the "advantages of membership in the German community" against the time of a peace settlement.

Future of Belgium

This provides another argument for those who think the Nazi peace will be hard on the vanquished; it suggests the Belgians will fare as badly as the rest of Germany's enemies. One of the motives of Nazi philosophy as often expounded by party members, at least in private conversation, is that small nations, choosing deliberately to place obstacles in the path of Germany, have no right to an independent existence.

The Germans already predict rather openly that Belgium has been invaded for the last time. They stress the racial and language divisions between the Walloons and "oppressed" Flemings which in turn suggests that Belgium might be split into two, each part separately under German domination with the Reich Army assuming the role of protector against any challenger disputing Germany's rights.

The May 10 memorandum accompanying the invasion specifically stated that the Reich had no intentions on Belgium's sovereignty or form of government. Therefore it is possible that at least the Walloons will be permitted to keep their country and the Royal House, although as a mere vassal.

Holland to Be Reduced

Holland, in a similar predicament, runs the risk of being reduced to the state of a colony.

England, deprived of further influence on the Continent, would likely find herself an isolated kingdom, Ireland would be given complete independence, as would Ulster. It is expected that the British colonies and dominions would decide, or try to decide, their own fate and they might all succeed in doing so with the exception of South Africa, which, there is reason to believe, Herr Hitler will wish to annex to Germany.

India and Australia would be left as prey for covetous neighbors but they would have a chance for independence if they fought for it.

Canada, already enjoying the protection of the Monroe Doctrine, might try independence or solve her problems by soliciting membership in the United States.

The Mediterranean would once more become an Italian sea, of course, at the expense of Gibraltar and Egypt and, it is likely, at that of Yugoslavia and Greece. Just now Bulgaria and Hungary are basking in the sunshine of Italo-German approval as do Spain, Sweden and Denmark.

Baltic and the U. S.

The future of the Baltic basin rests on the degree to which Russo-German friendship is maintained.

It is taken for granted that Herr Hitler will strongly oppose any attempts on the part of the United States to have a finger in the peace pie even as an "unofficial observer." Herr Hitler has often expressed distrust for American diplomacy as far as, in his opinion, it has sought to thwart his plans.

The fate of France in Herr Hitler's new deal remains the least grateful subject for the guesser. Defeat would certainly rob her of the departments of Alpes-Maritimes and the two Savoies in order to deprive her of a favorable frontier against Italy, and further of Corsica and Tunis. Whether she would also lose Alsace-Lorraine is a question that no German feels competent to answer just now.