Prologue – Jan 1st, 1936
In later years, when care-worn he ruled an Empire spanning three continents locked in mortal struggle against a relentless and powerful foe, Adolf Hitler would fondly remember 1936. In the previous three years, he had lifted a people of 80 million out of abject poverty and despair, given it back its sense of pride and the belief in its fate-preordained place as Herrenvolk – a Master Race. That had been a great achievement, but it was only in 1936 that the restoration of German glory and German power had began in earnest. He had openly renounced the shameful treaties of Versailles and Locarno, reinstated conscription and reasserted German sovereignty over the whole national territory by means of the march into the Rheinland. Although dwarfed by later victories, that march had actually been his greatest gamble; Never again would he have as little to back up his bluff as that time. Never was the probable reaction of his opponents so hard to fathom, since their mettle hadn’t yet been tested.
The forty-eight hours after the re-occupation had been the most nervous in his life. Had the French reacted militarily, he would have had to pull back with his tail between his legs. He went to Berghof to await news of the outcome of his gamble. In the dawn of the third day, after a sleepless night, he had greeted the rising sun on the large terrace of his mountain retreat. The sun had failed to show up, covered as often in that time of the year by leaden clouds, but some feeble light filtered through the overcast. And basking in that grey light, he had known at last that the Thousand Year Reich would become a reality and not just a flight of fancy. He had finally known that he was a genius ordained by fate to save the German race, and not just some politico with delusions of grandeur. And after the Rheinland, his people knew this too.
1936 had also been the year of the Berlin Olympics, and the civil war in Spain… But the Rheinland… that was when he knew that the western powers were too weak in spirit to oppose his will. England – admirable as it’s Empire was – was complacent and insular. France, cowardly and cringing. And America? At the time, the mere idea that America could one day become a serious threat to his Reich was laughable. America was more insular even than Britain, rich but spoilt and indulgent, and preoccupied with her internal troubles. Their entire army by 1936 would hardly have been adequate for a good German parade. No, in 1936 the Führer feared Soviet Russia, and respected Britain but doubted America would have much impact on the future of Germany except perhaps as trading partner.
Later came the great political coups, the Blitzkriegs, the great conquests… the ever more destructive weapons and more powerful foes… And somehow, no other year had ever made him as happy as 1936. It had been a good year; and yet, 1936 was the year that set the German Reich irrevocably on the road towards DOOMSDAY!