Why Did Hitler Start A World War In 1939, Instead Of Waiting For 1945… As The Plan Had Been?

The answer is that the Nazis did not start, technically speaking, and from their point of view, a world war in 1939. 

As the Nazis themselves whined many times, they did not start World War Two. Hated, racially inferior France attacked the poor Nazis savagely… and the French dragged beautiful, racially superior Britain into the conflict.

This is entirely correct from the Nazi perspective… And completely false otherwise.

France could see the mad Nazi armaments’ plan, its spoliation of Jews and other enemies, which were ruining the German economy, making war ever more probable, and France could see the racist, insanely fanaticized Nazi youth, which could not wait to kill and die on the battlefield. France had decided to not let Germany become ever more insane with its genocidal programs, and not to let the Nazis deploy more weapons and especially its new high tech submarines. On paper, France had enough forces to defeat the Nazis, and a much stronger strategic position. But the mood in France, with half the population of Germany, and no berserk racially charged youth, was grim.

By 1942, a Franco-British juggernaut, helped by US industry and credit, would swamp the crazy Nazis: that was the Franco-British plan. French and British planners had no doubt they would destroy the Nazis, it was just a matter of time. Once that psychology was installed, and the Nazis were aware of it, there was no turning back: time worked for the Franco-British alliance, as in WW1.

France also had a nuclear weapons program the Nazis knew of… But could not do anything about, as the top Nazi physicists thought a bomb was impossible (the French program ended in… “Manhattan”…) Except the Nazis knew French nukes had to do with Norway (where French heavy water was made to slow down neutrons). And Norway and Sweden, facing the indomitable Royal Navy at Scapa Flow in Scotland, was where Hitler’s iron came from… Also Britain was building a vast air force, larger than the Luftwaffe, and with long range bombers. The war had not even started and time was working against Hitler… Now that the two superpower democracies in the west had woken up.

So enmity against the Nazis was everywhere: Poland to the east, France to the west, and the threat of having the iron road cut off in the north, where the French were preparing some monster weapon. The Nazis went into world war, completely unprepared for it. They had less than 100 U boats, all of a type that was obsolete (relative to what they had on the drawing board). The Nazis had around 1,000 Czech rather light tanks, plus 1,400 of their own, with less than 400 of their best tank, the Panzer III (they had only a few Panzer IV). The French had more than 4,000 tanks, including German tanks were numerically and technically inferior to the Anglo-French armored forces, which were equipped with a greater quantity of medium and heavy tanks (however, German crews were trained and experienced in the new combined tactics of tanks, anti-tank guns and dive bombers, being able to exploit the advantages of the Panzer III, in particular, the modern radio communications system and the deployment of three men in the turret resulting in greater efficiency in the field, winning the Battle of France… from their experiences in Spain; France and Britain learned quickly, in less than ten days.. By then they had lost the Battle of France…) 

The Nazis suffered huge losses during the Battles of France and then England. Sea Lion, the invasion of Britain, was not a possibility: the Nazis did not have the ships, and they did not have the planes (they had lost 1,150 aircrew in the Battle of France, and 1,250 planes). Then Nazi paratroops were wiped out in Crete (their victory was posthumous). And the Nazis had little oil. Incapable of defeating Britain, attacking the USSR was thus a necessity, Hitler explained to his 10,000 general officers… with the perverse Nazi logic that, if things are bad, and one cannot make them better, one could always make them worse.

The Nazis had started work on one aircraft carrier. France had more than one operational or in the works, and Britain had several in operation. Roosevelt, in 1933, had launched a program to build 24 fleet aircraft carriers… Hitler could win, only if its adversaries help him. But this happened to him many times. And it happens regularly in history, the last example being the Taliban… In 2021.

However, France has the longest and fiercest military history in the world, and Britain is arguably only second to France. Winning so many wars, for so long, implies a knowledge of the breathing of war, how to pace oneself… and when to get serious. By 1939, both powers, long the dominant superpowers of Europe (France for 16 centuries, Britain for 9 centuries) understood institutionally that the situation was serious, and Nazism had to be eradicated.

The Nazis had lost control of the situation. They also had lost their minds to their own propaganda: they described Britain and France as weak democracies, and believed they never would become anything else. Whatever “democracy” is supposed to mean. In truth, France (and Britain) had military traditions going all the way back to Julius Caesar, and even earlier. France and Britain were, first of all, military powers with their own military traditions, honed fighting each other at some point for nearly 5 centuries…. Dealing with enemies on the battlefield is in their blood, so to speak. They know, or used to know, what it takes to survive.

History teaches well, but is bedeviled by details. So most of the teaching is in the details.

Patrice Ayme

This is an answer to:

Why did Hitler start WWII in 1939, even though some told him to delay the war until 1945, when Germany would have been much stronger?

1938. The French and British Prime Ministers arrive in Berlin to meet with Nazi dictator Hitler. The British empire had 550 million inhabitants (and would join the UK is the war, and the French empire more than 100 million. The Nazis had 80 million subjects… and were landlocked…

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