What could Germany have done differently to win WW2?

Like many of us I've long been fascinated by the Second World War. Of late I've been wondering if the Germans could have won it by taking a different course, or courses of action.

For example:

Put the whole economy on a War footing in 1939.

We did it, the US made substantial changes to their industrial output to focus on material, weapons etc but it seems the Nazi regime never really did, or left it too late.

Concentrate on the Battle of the Atlantic.

No supply convoys and the UK would have been starved into submission by maybe 1940. No unsinkable aircraft carrier, no launchpad for OVERLORD. And no need for them to make a land invasion.

Kept bombing RAF airfields, not cities

While the RAF did a fantastic job, if the Luftwaffe had kept on hitting the airfields, would the RAF have been defeated?

Not invade Russia

BARBAROSSA seemed to have overstretched their forces; if they'd focussed on either beating the UK or seeking a truce / surrender, rather than invading the USSR, would they have prevailed?

Maintain better OPSEC

ENIGMA etc was broken in large part due to idle signal staff not following procedures - not to mention signing off "HH". When the Kriegsmarine added an extra wheel to their machines we were starved of ULTRA decrypts from them for nearly a year. BP is reckoned to have shortened the war by nearly two years, if they'd maintained proper discipline, or not assumed ENIGMA was unbreakable they may have prolonged the fight and even possibly develop atomic weapons.

Not used slave labour

Would willing workers have been more productive than slaves? And is killing millions of those deemed unreliable the most sensible COA - ignoring the horror of doing so?

Developed a realistic heavy bomber

The FW Condor could have been the basis of a heavy bomber; if they had developed one and used it, would they have flattened eg London, strategic targets etc?

Simplified their weaponry and methods of production

Quantity having a quality all of its own; making less complicated weaponry (especially their armour) may have proven beneficial, although I am aware of recent mention of the USSR grossly inflating the effectiveness of their tanks against the Nazi opposition, in order to match their doctrine. The tail wagging the dog. G4 wins wars. Etc.

Removed Hitler

Despite the early successes in WW2, it seems as if his decisions played an acute part in the Germans losing the War. If their forces had been controlled by professionals, how different would the outcome have been?

ETA: Mechanised...

As mentioned elsewhere, the Wehrmacht relied on horses to an astonishing degree. It would have been far more efficient for them to have switched to motorised transport early on ( as we did).
 
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All of that kind of presupposes that Nazi Germany could have stopped being Nazi Germany.

The war against the Soviet Union was the Nazi Main Effort from the outset, for both political and ideological reasons. Attacking the west was a latter-day Schlieffen Plan designed to secure a flank for the inevitable attack east. There was no point to it otherwise.
 
After the withdrawal from Dunkirk, Britain was all but defeated. If Hitler had stopped there and not bombed/threatened invasion, then we would, I remain convinced, have sued for peace.

That was mistake one

Mistake two was Barbarossa. Had the Germans sat back and consolidated, had they waited for a Soviet assault, then the Russian army of 1941/1942 or even 1943 would have collapsed on the attack, both logistically and tactically - likely something the Russians would have been unlikely to ever pull back from.
 
All of that kind of presupposes that Nazi Germany could have stopped being Nazi Germany.

The war against the Soviet Union was the Nazi Main Effort from the outset, for both political and ideological reasons. Attacking the west was a latter-day Schlieffen Plan designed to secure a flank for the inevitable attack east. There was no point to it otherwise.
That is exactly the right answer... The essence of the NAZIs, were a gambling nature to keep pushing its luck and an inability to actually carry any decent allies with them, without p***ing them off with another campaign like declaring war on america.
 
Hitler not being Hitler.

Dictators don't really win wars, unless they sideline in being a great military strategist's.

His downfall was his own ego and his immediate support base, a mish-mash of fanatical ideologues and borderline psychotics. Had he stood back, not tried to micro-manage the war personally, and with a raft of fine military minds under his control, they could have won it for him.

He could also had the right idea with Vichy France. He should have installed like-minded puppet Governments into all the occupied countries, similar to what the Soviets did in 1945+ so that they could manage themselves and free up the troops for conquering the rest of the world
 
Wasn’t there a chronic oil shortage in Germany? I was under the impression that Barbarossa was at least in part driven by the need to secure oil production in the Caucasus.
Where would their oil have come from to prosecute the war?
 

BaldBaBoon

War Hero
Good subject, always like the " what if " scenarios as well.

Simplified their weaponry and methods of production

This was always mentioned in regards to a lot of German designs. While often they were impressive feats of engineering, they often were over designed, complicated, not user friendly, required special materials/training/tools.

Cannot recall the source but I do recall being told that the Russian tanks had an external armour skin that were agricultural, pitted, badly finished with no attempt top smooth them down, whilst their German opponents panzers were as well refined as you would imagine......something along the lines of dozens of hours wasted in what is effectively cosmetic finishing on a combat vehicle with a life expectancy of only a few hours.

Political pressure on designs.

There are dozens of designs that came into production that had no apparent battlefield role that specifically required them or went into a role that was being done quite well without them.

Your Uber tanks and the huge amount of resources they consumed such as the King Tiger and the ones being developed such as The Maus. Too heavy, too thirsty, too few etc etc.
 
Perhaps their destiny was ordained, given their ideology. Persecution and genocide on an industrial scale, enslavement of occupied populations, that kind of thing was always going to provoke a visceral response amongst their enemies. If they had stuck to mere territorial acquisition (eg Argentina/UK/Falklands), perhaps it might have been different.

What really fcuked them though was somewhat out of their hands. Japan kicking the USA in the nuts was possibly the most stupid thing ever done by any country, ever. To then ally with Germany pretty much condemned Germany to defeat.
 
Using forced labour to manufacture sophisticated instruments for aircraft and submarines should have been an foreseeable error that any rational organisation avoided, as the risk of sabotage not being discovered until the devices were in operation was catastrophically high. The factory owners knew it, as it was their business and they were making big money from it (Yes, BMW we are talking about you), but that was the Nazi government's top down strategy towards both their economy and the war.

Of course that approach did for them in the end to the extent that when the theoretical opportunity arose to assassinate Hitler via Operation Foxley it was cancelled, partly because it was feared that with him out the way someone competent might take over which would prolong the war.

Perhaps if AH had studied management theory instead of art things might have been very different.
 
1. Used the period May '40 to June' 41 more productivity. It was a wasted year, while Hitler decided what to do.
2. Focused on the middle East: with very modest forces, Rommel nearly won. With the commitment of a fraction of the forces committed to Barbarossa, the Axis could have captured Egypt, denied us use of the Suez canal and Med, and created access to Arabia (and oil).
3. No Barbarossa or one with more limited aims.
The problem with the above is, the German attack on Russia, and all the things that Hitler got wrong (though Barbarossa was the worst) were due to things that were inherent part of Nazism, so alternative history relies on there being an alternative AH.
 

ches

LE
The salient points in the OP are mainly those that historians agree are critical issues that faced the Germans in the late 30's. Mobilisation for total war probably key to it all.

I'd also add something that historians also mainly agree on, the German tactical planning placed too much emphasis on the fast manoeuvre warfare blitzkrieg stuff as opposed to ensuring their logistics tails were well catered for, having the majority of your forces mobile & well equipped instead of the vast majority being powered by Shanks's pony with a lot of the loggies using the actual pony to haul up the POL for the few armoured & mechanised units in the van of the fighting.

That is hand in glove with the lack of mobilisation - no POL reserves of any note when if you're planning on wandering in a few thousand miles of Russian steppe terrain, a bit of petrol is going to be an advantage. Likewise for those units who do have to use ponies, make sure their supply lines are fit for purpose. When most of you nags end up croaking due to starvation or being eaten cos in Hans is starving then you're on a hiding to nothing.
 
After the withdrawal from Dunkirk, Britain was all but defeated. If Hitler had stopped there and not bombed/threatened invasion, then we would, I remain convinced, have sued for peace.

That was mistake one

Mistake two was Barbarossa. Had the Germans sat back and consolidated, had they waited for a Soviet assault, then the Russian army of 1941/1942 or even 1943 would have collapsed on the attack, both logistically and tactically - likely something the Russians would have been unlikely to ever pull back from.

This....

Firstly, after Victory in France, persist in seeking an armistice with Britain and don't attempt to force its Defeat. Pull out of metropolitan France and the Low Countries in return for economic concessions and some key strategic possessions, notably Syria (as a springboard to take oil rich Iraq and potentially bring in Turkey as an Ally) and the Dutch East Indies. Carry out their original plans for relocating Europe's Jewish population to a former French possession under Red Cross auspices if they must (given that anti-Semitism was core to Nazi ideology) - i.e. Versailles in reverse.

Build up for Barbarossa properly, not necessarily deploying (which would have alerted Stalin), but building up the German fuel stocks and increasing mechanisation of the Wehrmacht ready for war in 1942.

That said, I suspect that this may actually have been Hitler's original mental plan, or something like it. Where the wheels came off was Britain's refusal to negotiate and Goering convincing him (after the heady success in France) that he could instead secure our capitulation from the air. Another underappreciated own goal was his petulant fall-out with Franco at Hendaye, which meant Britain kept access to the Mediterranean.
 
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Good subject, always like the " what if " scenarios as well.

Simplified their weaponry and methods of production

This was always mentioned in regards to a lot of German designs. While often they were impressive feats of engineering, they often were over designed, complicated, not user friendly, required special materials/training/tools.

Cannot recall the source but I do recall being told that the Russian tanks had an external armour skin that were agricultural, pitted, badly finished with no attempt top smooth them down, whilst their German opponents panzers were as well refined as you would imagine......something along the lines of dozens of hours wasted in what is effectively cosmetic finishing on a combat vehicle with a life expectancy of only a few hours.

Political pressure on designs.

There are dozens of designs that came into production that had no apparent battlefield role that specifically required them or went into a role that was being done quite well without them.

Your Uber tanks and the huge amount of resources they consumed such as the King Tiger and the ones being developed such as The Maus. Too heavy, too thirsty, too few etc etc.


Though I’m not sure Britain was all that much better on either of those points really, at least until the latter part of the war. See everything from the Merlin Engine to the Covenanter and M3 Lee/Grant
 
Build up for Barbarossa properly, not necessarily deploying (which would have alerted Stalin), but building up the German fuel stocks and increasing mechanisation of the Wehrmacht ready for war in 1942.


As I say, I think that if Barbarossa had been a defensive battle, the Russians would have been bled white - particularly given that leaving off the losses from the BoB, the entire weight of the Luftwaffe could have been focused on Russian artillery units and logistics chain (which would have been stretched far beyond its limits on the attack)
 
Wasn’t there a chronic oil shortage in Germany? I was under the impression that Barbarossa was at least in part driven by the need to secure oil production in the Caucasus.
Where would their oil have come from to prosecute the war?
There was. The majority of the Wehrmacht relied on horse driven carts and the feet of the Landsers.
There was also a worrying shortage of rubber or metals such as molybdenum or tungsten. Not for nothing did Germany have to build large factories for the production of synthetic rubber or synthetic oil.
 
As I say, I think that if Barbarossa had been a defensive battle, the Russians would have been bled white - particularly given that leaving off the losses from the BoB, the entire weight of the Luftwaffe could have been focused on Russian artillery units and logistics chain (which would have been stretched far beyond its limits on the attack)

Agree, although in 1941 Stalin was certainly unwilling to be the first to make a move. Perhaps by 1942 he would have taken a more "now or never" approach.

Similarly, by adopting a carrot and stick approach to Britain, slowly making life more and more miserable whilst keeping on talking, Germany may eventually (late 1941?) have secured the collapse of Churchill's administration and an armistice. All they had to do was stand on the strategic defensive in Europe (letting Britain take the war to them along with the subsequent attrition), increase the economic stranglehold and use expeditionary warfare to nip off our colonies at leisure.
 

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