Assuming the rise of Nazi Germany is similar in this world as it is to ours, the seeds from which the Reich would grow were sown with the end of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles, on June 28, 1919. Being the primary belligerent of the losing side, Germany suffered harsh and humiliating terms, including crippling war reparations, near complete disarmament, numerous territorial concessions, and admission of guilt for causing the war.
In September 19, 1919, Adolf Hitler, a WWI veteran, joined a small political party at a beer hall in Munich, Germany. Through the power of his oratory skills and sheer force of personality, he manipulated its "Leader" Anton Drexler and eventually usurped him two years later, transforming this little party (the German Workers’ Party) into a burgeoning political movement. That party was the National Socialist German Workers' Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, abbreviated NSDAP), or Nazi Party.
Hitler based the Nazi platform on reversing the Treaty of Versailles, restrengthening the nation, and on a stab-in-the-back (Dolchstoßlegende) notion that the German military did not "lose" the war but was rather betrayed at a critical moment by traitorous civilians (Communists, Jews), thereby causing the war effort to fail. These policies proved popular among those embittered by the Treaty. The Great Depression allowed the party's popularity to grow even faster as impoverished Germans flocked to Hitler's banner. The Nazi Party grew steadily until it became the largest political entity in the Weimar Republic in 1933.
Having more seats than any other party in the Reichstag (the legislative body of the Republic) Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor (Reichskanzler) in January 30, 1933. The Nazi Party quickly moved to silence all opposition to its power by passing the Enabling Act of 1933. This act spelled the end of the Weimar Republic by granting Chancellor Hitler emergency powers, abolishing all other political parties, and stripping away almost all powers of the Reichstag. In 1934, after the death of President Hindenburg (who was all but a figurehead at this point) Hitler merged the offices of Reichspräsident with his own into a new one: Führer und Reichskanzler, more commonly referred to as Der Führer (The Leader). In this new government, Hitler wielded absolute power and Nazi bureaucracy became a collection of factions "working towards the Führer": Hitler issued vague instructions on many policies and expected his subordinates to work the details out on their own.
In the midst of the Great Depression, the Nazis restored economic stability and ended mass unemployment with massive military spending and extensive public work projects, such as the construction of the Autobahn (high speed highways). These acts boosted the regime's popularity. Driven by a desire to avenge the punishments of the First World War and its hated Treaty of Versailles, Nazi Germany made increasingly aggressive military actions. First, in 1935, the state reintroduced mass conscription, and in 1936 it moved to occupy the Rhineland region (a demilitarized zone); both actions constituted direct violations of the Treaty. Then, in 1938, it annexed Austria (the Anschluss) and the Sudetenland, a German-speaking region in Czechoslovakia. Finally, in 1939, it conquered the rest of Czechoslovakia, pushing Europe to the brink of war.
After this it is unknown how the war that would come diverged from our world's. All that is known is that the Reich allied with the Empire of Japan (Italy is never mentioned in the series) and together prevailed over the Allied Powers (USA, UK, Soviet Union, China, France, etc.) by 1945. Triumphant, the two new superpowers carved the world, including the former United States, between themselves.
Flags and Emblems
The Nazi flag was designed by Hitler as his party's flag in 1920. It features a simple red field, with a white disk, and at the center: a black swastika (hakenkreuz) at a 45 degree angle.
The Nazi swastika is a prominent symbol in the Reich, appearing on many properties and civil products such as phone booths. Soldiers (especially those of the SS) and police officers wear swastika armbands. Nazi officials typically wear a lapel that has the swastika on it. It represents the Aryan race and the Black Sun.
Presumably, Nazi puppet regimes incorporate the swastika in their flags as well. The flag in use for the Nazi-controlled portion of the former United States is similar to the old "Stars and Stripes" flag, except the swastika now adorns the blue field in the former place of the white stars that represented the forty-eight states.
In the opening scene of season two, an atlas at the back of a classroom in Fritz Julius Kuhn High School is briefly shown with Nazi territories marked in red. According to this atlas, the Nazis controlled the entire continents of Europe, Africa and the Middle East as well as European Russia, Iceland, Greenland, Iran, the majority of North America, Central America and the Caribbean islands, and many territories on east coast of South America, such as Venezuela, Guyana, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, and the eastern half of Brazil.
It is possible that Italy and the Eastern European axis were annexed into Germany at the end of the war, supported by the map in the opening of season two, but they are never mentioned and their fate is mostly unknown. During World War II, they all had extremely close ties to Germany, and states like Romania and Italy put enormous military and economic support into the Axis war effort.
Politics and Policies
The Nazi government is a "National Socialist" (fascist), totalitarian dictatorship. There are no freedoms of speech or press. All media appears to further and promote Nazi principles and ideologies. Possession of outlawed or "degenerate" media is met with harsh punishment. Freedom of religion is outlawed, and the regime appears to be atheistic. In our world, while the Nazis never made any official public condemnation of religion, it was a long term goal to eventually subsume all religions (particularly Christianity) and replace them with Nazism, which took its roots from a quasi-Germanic pagan standpoint.
Nazi ideology combined racial hygiene (racial purity), antisemitism, eugenics, and Pan-Germanism with the goal of creating a German hegemony over the world. Racism, particularly antisemitism, was a core pillar of the regime. The Nazis promoted what they called the "Aryan Race" or Übermensch (master race). These were primarily pure-blooded Germanic or Nordic peoples and pure-blooded peoples of West European descent (British, Irish, Dutch, etc). Untermenschen (sub-humans) included Slavs, Romani, Blacks, and especially Jews. These peoples were not considered worthy of life and were only meant to be dominated, enslaved, or exterminated.
Asiatic peoples rested somewhere in between these groups but were still considered inferior to Aryans. The Japanese appear to have escaped this classification, at least by Hitler, who bestowed the title of "Honorary Aryan" to the entire Japanese people. Many other Nazi officials, however, do not share this sentiment. (Hitler may have just used this bestowment to manipulate the Japanese.)
Chillingly, the Nazis have (very likely) all but completed their "Final Solution" in their territories, leaving ethnic groups such as Jews, Slavs, and Romani nearly extinct. So far all scenes in Nazi-controlled America do not indicate that any non-white, non-Aryan people (save for the Japanese) reside there at all. Other peoples deemed unworthy of life by the Nazis included the mentally and physically disabled, homosexuals, and "social misfits."
Economics and TechnologyThe economy of the Reich appears to be prosperous and technologically advanced. It is the leader of technological development in the world as evidenced by its advanced jet aircraft, monorails, modern automatic firearms like the G3 battle rifle and the MP5 submachine gun (that appear to predate in this world their development in our own. However, throughout the series; WWII-vintage German small arms like the Mauser Kar98k bolt-action rifle and the MP40 submachine gun were still used by GNR soldiers and SS officers in Nazi America and, quite possibly; the Wehrmacht in the rest of the Reich. There is a possibility that elite units of the SS are armed with the G3 and the MP5 while regular German forces still use the Mauser Kar98k and the MP40), and the fact that it is in sole possession of a nuclear arsenal.
This technological development has some basis in real life, as Nazi Germany were pioneers in a number of fields such as rocketry and jet technology. The Nazis also developed the first assault rifle.
A scene in High Castle shows the Nazis using LSD (developed in our world by a Swiss scientist in 1938 and further researched by the CIA in the 1950s) as an interrogation drug, although it is unsuccessful.
The Mark is currency of the Reich. It was originally introduced in 1924 as a permanent replacement for the Papiermark. This was necessary due to the 1920s German inflation which had reached its peak in 1923.
Divergences with Our World
- Erwin Rommel is still alive as of 1962 and is mentioned as an "old war hero". In our world, Rommel died in 1944, forced to commit suicide after he was implicated in a plot to assassinate Hitler. The cover story for this was that Rommel succumbed to injuries in a failed Allied assassination attempt. Rommel was among few Axis commanders, others included Isoroku Yamamoto and Reinhard Heydrich, who were directly targeted for assassination by Allied planners.
- Reinhard Heydrich, portrayed by Ray Proscia, is still alive 20 years after his real life death. Heydrich was a particularly brutal figure among the Nazi elite, Hitler even referred to him as the "man with the iron heart". Around 75% of the deaths in the Holocaust can be attributed directly to Heydrich. In High Castle, Heydrich was tasked with the subjugation of Africa after the war was won, it can be presumed the results were horrifying. When Heydrich invited John Smith to go on a hunting trip in Northern New York, he was afraid for his family, and gave his wife Helen Smith a gun while he was away, with the understanding that if he didn't come back and Heydrich approached his family that Helen was to shoot her children and herself as prevention of Heydrich's intentions.
- JFK International Airport in New York is called "Lincoln Rockwell International Airport". In our world, George Lincoln Rockwell was the founder of the American Nazi Party.
- Werner Heisenberg, presumably under the German nuclear weapon project (German: Uranprojekt), developed the atomic bomb which the Nazis use to end the war in the United States. In our world, Heisenberg is most well known for developing Quantum Theory and the Uncertainty Principle. While Heisenberg was a member of the German nuclear program, he was not one of its greater contributors.