Hopefully, a loose outline for a book …
Norse Fire: The Nazi Civil War of 1991
With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that the Nazi Regime reached its zenith in 1960 and started going downhill shortly afterwards. Nazi Germany dominated Europe, with the exception of Britain, and was ringed by a series of client states that provided valuable resources as well as a buffer zone between the Reich and its enemies. The ‘racial purification’ campaigns had slaughtered large numbers of undesirables, Slavs were reduced to slaves in what had once been Russia and the Nazi Party’s dominance seemed unbeatable.
However, the Reich faced several major problems, all of which were beyond its ability to solve. The first was the persistent cold war with the Atlantic Alliance, dominated by America and Britain, which was a steady drain on the Reich’s resources. The second was growing resistance to Nazi Rule in the client states, forcing the Germans to support their puppet regimes with troops and economic support they could hardly afford to spare. The third was the steady pressure of the South African War, which had turned into a bloody slaughter that claimed the lives of thousands of German soldiers per year. The fourth, perhaps the most significant, was a constant economic decline that was steadily weakening the Reich.
In 1960, German technology had been the best in the world. However, by 1980, the United States had moved ahead, taking advantage of the ‘brain drain’ from Germany to ensure that the United States developed an insurmountable advantage in weapons and applied science. This was caused, at least in part, by a command economy that managed to be less efficient than the old Soviet Union, a problem caused by the division of German economic facilities among the various branches of the state. Worse, bright young Germans tended to flee to America when they had the chance, forcing the SS to hold families hostage. (And females were not expected to be anything other than mothers, daughters and wives, thus removing another source of brainpower from the equation.)
The results were disastrous. By 1985, the Reich was importing vast amounts of American computer technology (which led to unrest) – and facing a disastrous military situation. The United States had deployed a missile shield that, they claimed, could stop 90% of warheads aimed at the United States. Even without the threat of a global holocaust, the United States was simply deploying much better weapons.
These problems were made worse by a growing split in the German ranks. ‘West’ German were more ‘liberal’ than their rulers preferred, often embracing American ideals and goods smuggled in over the border. They served as the core of protest movements in the Reich itself. ‘East’ Germans (born in Occupied Poland and Russia) were far more hawkish. Living in settlements that were effectively armed camps, they had no love at all for the Americans to anything else that smacked of weakness. Their living conditions were regimented; they rarely lived without any form of military service. Indeed, while the SS was hated and feared by the West Germans, the East Germans regarded the SS as heroes. The attempts to institute the Church of the Aryan Man were most successful in Occupied Russia.
The only thing that could have saved the Reich were economic and political reforms. However, the Reich could not afford to make such reforms, as there were too many interests tied up in maintaining the status quo. Put simply, the Reich was governed by a council – the Reich Council – composed of senior officials from the military, SS, economy and party leadership. There was no scope for elections – or for anything other than officials who fought for their own scraps rather than considering the good of the Reich as a whole.
And when the Reich was openly challenged by its own people, the government proved largely incapable of handling it.
The First Rumblings
The Nazis had never worried very much about protests in their client states. Their general rule was to crack down on protesters with maximum force, the iron fist in the iron glove. However, they were largely unprepared for protests within Germany itself and, when they started to appear, responded poorly.
Protests (and non-Nazi political parties) had long since been banned. However, this didn’t stop people grumbling, then realising that other people were grumbling. The first protests came from students who railed against the new regulations for travel outside the Reich, then were joined by mothers and wives protesting the South African War and, most worryingly of all from the Reich’s point of view, wildcat strikes among highly-paid German workers. The Reich could and did handle a handful of subversives (indeed, the SS maintained a small army of spies to watch public gatherings) but it had problems trying to decide how to deal with a mass movement. The first attempts at repression scared some, but galvanised others. Maybe a number of leaders had been arrested, but others appeared soon enough.
This was actually boosted by the spread of American-designed personal computers. The Reich hated the machines, unsurprisingly, as they were actually useful for sending illicit messages from one group of dissents to another. Indeed, the students were often far more adept at using them than the SS. By 1990, the students and other dissenters had developed a network for sharing messages underground, while the SS could barely keep up, let alone crack down on the leadership. (Matters were not helped by the inherent sexism of the Nazi Regime. They didn’t realise that the closest thing the movement had to a leader was a young female student.)
In 1991, the first mass protest march took place in Berlin. The SS was caught completely by surprise as hundreds of thousands of people came out on the streets, demanding an end to the South African War and political reform. A whole list of demands, ranging from practical to absurd, were distributed around the city, while the SS was still trying to decide what to do. In the end, the protesters dispersed, leaving the entire city on edge. They’d made their point.
The Reich Council was shocked to discover that so much organisation had taken place right under their nose. The meeting they’d called immediately after the protesters had dispersed was, unsurprisingly, more than a little heated. The council divided between doves, who privately agreed that the South African War had been a mistake, and hawks who wanted to crack down on the protesters with maximum force. This provoked a whole series of arguments; if the Reich didn’t crack down, it would look weak … but if it did crack down, the economic repercussions could be disastrous. Eventually, however, the hawks won the day and started making plans for the next protest march.
This took place two weeks later. This time, the SS was ready. When the protesters arrived, the SS moved forward to intercept them, guns at the ready. However, they had underestimated the degree of support the protesters had among elements in both the German Army and the Berlin Police Force (some of whom had friends and family in the march.) When the SS opened fire, the army and police opened fire on them. A confused multi-sided street battle broke out, which eventually resulted in the SS being driven from the streets and the protesters storming the Reich Council building.
Realising they were committed, the mutinous units talked to other units across Germany and convinced many of them to switch sides. As the Reich Council fled in disarray, the protesters seized their buildings and started gleefully trying to organise a new government. However, it was not going to be smooth sailing. Fighting right across West Germany – and the client states – had left the military in disarray. In the meantime, the SS had largely secured East Germany and was girding itself for war.
The Provisional Government
The Provisional Government was very much a mixed bag. None of the factions had given serious thought to what would happen when they took over, as they had anticipated a long campaign before the Reich Council finally surrendered. Now, the council consisted of protest leaders, several senior military officers and even a pair of high-ranking economic officials who were trying to make the best they could of a bad situation. The Provisional Government was not particularly strong, nor did it have access to instruments of force.
However, it did have some advantages. First, it largely controlled most of the air force and navy, including the nuclear boats. Second, it was willing and able to pledge political independence to the client states in exchange for assistance with the upcoming civil war. Third, and finally, it was quite capable of developing ties with the Atlantic Alliance and asking for help. Given time, it was agreed that the Provisional Government would be a major force.
Organising the country for war, however, proved a daunting task. On one hand, almost every able-bodied German male had some form of military training. On the other, it was grimly acknowledged that the SS were fanatical and could call on deeper reserves of manpower than the Provisional Government. Indeed, the SS had more tanks at their disposal from Day One than the Provisional Government. (Much of the Army’s deployable force was either on the borders or in sheds.) Matters were not helped by a growing spirit of independence among the newly-drafted men. They weren’t so inclined to take orders from their seniors, despite the urgency of the situation.
The most important matter, however, was making approaches to Washington. This the Provisional Government did, requesting help as a matter of urgency. Washington was divided, as was London. Some elements wanted to help, if only to put the Reich to bed once and for all, others were worried about the prospect of a nuclear holocaust. The rump government still controlled the missile fields in Siberia, after all. In the end, it was decided to play a waiting game, but offer humanitarian supplies if necessary.
The Reich Council (what remained of it) had fewer problems establishing its authority in the East. It was, after all, the most intensely loyal part of the Reich. However, it faced several problems of its own, starting with the urgent need to recover its position before the Provisional Government established itself. Defence lines were set up, large numbers of settlers were called to the colours and the state prepared itself for war.
There was no thought of compromise. None of the council believed that any compromise could be worked out that both sides would find acceptable. Some of them did propose a permanent split between West and East Germany, separating the two sides, which was considered as a potential fallback solution. However, no one had any illusions. A split in the Reich was the same as admitting defeat in the Cold War.
It was the Reich Council that took the initiative and launched the first strike against the Provisional Government. The SS moved forces into Germany, then attacked the former council building directly, hoping to kill the Provisional Government. After the first shock had worn off, the defenders counterattacked, beating the commandos away from the building and killing most of them. The war was about to begin.
The SS had always prided itself on having the most deployable forces in the Reich. That was not actually untrue. The Waffen-SS had always been intended as the Reich’s trouble-shooters (quite literally) and everything they used was designed for rapid deployment. Accordingly, once reinforced by drafted manpower from the East, they started advancing through Poland towards the rough border of the Provisional Government’s power.
This was not unexpected (the Americans had seen the preparations and passed on a warning) and the Provisional Government scrambled to put together a response. First, cruise missiles and then aircraft were used to harry the SS, taking out bridges and roads the SS needed for rapid deployment of their forces. Second, small teams of soldiers were armed with antitank weapons and told to delay the SS as much as possible. The tactics worked, slowing the SS badly, but as they kept pushing forward they retaliated with cruise missiles of their own.
The first major armoured clash took place on the border of Poland, with several army units confronting the SS directly. It was a brutal engagement, all the more so as neither side was interested in taking prisoners. (Rumours of SS atrocities against the civilian population had spread widely.) The SS was, at first, knocked back. However, close-air support aircraft came to the rescue, allowing them to regain their position and counterattack. By the time the glitch in coordination was fixed, the SS had managed to break through the regular army’s lines and press towards Berlin.
The Attack on Berlin
The Provisional Government was, understandably, distraught at the thought of actually being beaten. Some elements wanted to flee, others wanted to fight or come to terms with the rump government. The more clear-sighted leaders, however, realised that the rump was unlikely to show mercy to any of them. The only hope was to keep fighting and force the SS into an attack on Berlin itself. The city was rapidly evacuated of non-combatants, while the military prepared for a desperate stand.
Rational military thought would have encouraged the rump to lay siege to the city and then wait for the defenders to starve. The rump, however, was not rational. It was alarmingly aware that it was losing its best opportunity to win the war without having to fight to regain the Reich’s power in Western Europe. Accordingly, it ordered the SS to attack Berlin itself.
It became a nightmare. Days became weeks as the military tried to force its way into a city where every building was heavily defended, all the while growing slowly aware that large forces were gathering to liberate the city. Eventually, the Provisional Government’s forces, now ready for the fight, counterattacked and drove the SS away from the city. By then, it was a broken force. The fanatics might have tried to keep the others going, but the remainder were bitterly disillusioned by the fight.
The defeat at Berlin sparked off a series of disputes among the rump government. Unsurprisingly, the disputes turned violent. Anyone who wasn’t inclined to fight to the finish was unceremoniously removed from the council and killed, leaving the fanatics in charge. However, their best efforts to hide the news of the defeat failed badly. The Provisional Government was gleefully broadcasting the news of their failure into Russia, allowing the settlers to see how badly their young man had been squandered. Worse, news of the defeat galvanised the local insurgents. Desertion, not a major problem, started to affect the rump as the settlers realised that their homesteads were in serious threat.
Once it had recovered from the near-defeat, the provisional government started organising an advance forward into Russia. It was a careful advance, rather than a blitzkrieg, but it faced relatively little opposition until it reached the Ukraine. There, they found themselves fighting a multi-sided insurgency against both German settlers and locals who could hardly tell the difference between one faction of Germans and the another.
This provoked many discussions among the provisional government. Should they arm the insurgents and help them attack the rump, knowing that their fellow Germans would be killed by the fighting, or should they wait, re-gather their forces and continue the war after winter had passed and spring had arisen? It didn’t seem like a bad idea, they thought; the victory at Berlin had allowed the provisional government to call on manpower from the former puppet states, while the navy gave them an advantage in raiding the enemy coastline.
The dissenters, however, worried about the long-term risks. A long war would be disastrous. It would be better to seek peace, perhaps splitting the nation in two, than continue the war, knowing that whoever came out ahead would be gravely weakened. Several attempts at peace probes were shot down by the rump, whose new leadership saw no future if it couldn’t return to absolute power. It seemed that there was no hope of a real victory – or of nothing, but stalemate.
The Provisional Government had taken a number of prisoners during the Battle of Berlin. Some were fanatics, others were more inclined to question what they had been told after watching so many of their fellows dying in the battle. Several of them were told that the war would only grow worse, then released to make their way back to the East. One of them, in particular, had connections throughout the settler community and managed to convince others to listen to him. If the war continued, he said, the only winners would be the Russian insurgents.
After careful planning, the settlers launched a coup directed against the rump government, which overwhelmed the leadership. Confused, the military did nothing as the settlers took power, then opened talks with the provisional government. The gist of their agreements was that there would be a permanent split between East and West Germany; the provisional government agreed, reluctantly, not to supply the insurgents with weapons. The remaining SS fanatics were disarmed and allowed to join the settlers. The war was effectively over.
The Provisional Government formally accepted the loss of Germany’s client states in 1992, although economic ties would remain for years to come. Sorting out the mess the Nazis had made of the economy would take years; Germany would go through some very hard times before the economy started to recover. However, West Germany eventually become an economic – and largely democratic nation in its own right, which was more than could be said for East Germany. The East continued to fight brutal insurgencies up until 2010.