In 1945, Goring was historically worse than useless through this period. Dissipation from drugs, excess weight and sheer funk made him just another toady in a Red Queen's court of utter loons. However, between his capture in May of 1945 and his trial at Nuremberg, he lost the excess weight, kicked his drug habits and snapped out of his funk. Alone among the major defendants, he was lucid and unrepentant. I have moved the trigger event from his capture to the July Plot of 1944. He is the least unlikely of the inner circle to make into a responsible leader.
To the Lair of The Fascist Beast by Scott PalterFinally, I take the Goebbels' myth of the National Redoubt and move it from its absurd alpine locale to the correct place for a true twilight of the gods, Fortress Berlin.
Our first historical change is that Goring sees and responds to the handwriting on the wall after the failure of the July Bomb Plot. Historically none of the Nazi leaders or senior generals realistically faced up to the mess they had created. They simply refused to deal with a situation where they couldn't win and also couldn't hope for negotiations that would leave them with some gains, some power or even their lives. To make this work we will have Goring face reality. He will need most of the remainder of 1944 to recover his health and some measure of influence. So by mid-January he has recovered equality with Bormann, Himmler, and Goebbels at Hitler's Court. He has diligently worked at mobilizing Air Force manpower for the final battles. He has not thrown away the last air units in a suicide offensive against the Americans, Operation Bodenplatt.
His analysis of the situation for Germany and the Nazis will be ultra realistic:
1. The war is lost. There will be no miracle of the House of Brandenburg. The only questions are how fast Germany falls. The difference will be measured in months, not years. Germany may live past May 8,1945. Germany will not live into 1946.
2. The Nazi leadership will all die. There will be no last minute deals. The only question is the legend they will leave behind.
3. The only outside chance of negotiations does not lie with the West. Regardless of how much Germany batters the West, they will not leave the war at this late stage. However, there is an outside remote chance to play on Stalin's paranoia by appearing to have done a deal with the West. Stalin dealt with the Nazis once. If faced with a tacit Nazi - Western Alliance it is vaguely possible he may deal again. If not it is better for the image to go down defending Europe from godless Tartar - Jewish Bolshevism.
Goring sees Hitler collapse on being informed of the Russian breakouts across the Vistula. He has been reestablishing his contacts among the Berlin Gestapo which he helped create in 1933. He has gained access to their extensive wiretaps by using his authority as Deputy Fuhrer to get passes for Berlin Gestapo families to be relocated to safe small towns in South Germany. He goes to Himmler and Goebbels with proof of Bormann's plots. In 24 hours a 2nd Night of the long Knives is organized. Bormann, Fegelein, Kaltnbrunner and the bulk of the Gauleiters are rounded up. Hitler's physicians are replaced by new ones from the Air Force who take him off the insane program of quack remedies and amphetamines he was on, giving him vitamins and tranquilizers instead. He is given faked evidence of a plot by Bormann to sell him to the allies. The new junta takes over in his place, leaving the sedated Fuhrer to contemplate his final testament and collaborate with Goebbels on propaganda speeches. A good double is retained for public appearances at briefings and public meetings around Berlin. The split of powers is as follows.
1. Goebbels gets custody of the Fuhrer and control over the actual Bunker. He can compose the final speeches and be with his Fuhrer.
2. Himmler is made Reichsprotector of Scandinavia (occupied Denmark and Norway). He also is made Deputy Fuhrer for North Germany and Foreign Minister. Essentially he gives over command of the police and Waffen SS outside his zone in return for a fiefdom and permission to conduct negotiations with the West. He is also left with a few dozen U-Boats to flee to Argentina if all else fails.
3. Goring takes the Party Ministry from the dead Bormann. He takes control of OKH from Keitel and Jodl. He takes the job of War Minister back from Hitler. He gets the Interior Ministry from Himmler, plus command of all SS and other party paramilitaries outside Himmler's zone which is bounded at Hamburg and Kiel. He is made deputy commander-in-chief of the Army under Adolph. Essentially he gets the government, military and the war. What he does with it will be detailed below. Guderian is his military deputy as head of OKH. Speer is his civilian deputy as a deputy Chancellor.
The first problems concern the collapsing northern half of the Eastern Front.
1. Immediate orders are given for mass evacuation from Poland and Silesia back to the Oder. The priority is troops and supplies first, civilians second. Stop lines are set up on the Oder to pull all troops and all civilians capable of fighting or labor service out of the retreating treks without regard to family structure or compassion. The Oder and Berlin will be Germany's final fortress.
2. Unlike in OTL, no other cities are declared fortresses. Where garrisons are cut off they can be left to die but none are intentionally sacrificed.
3. Civilian mobilization of the Landwehr is taken out of the hands of the party and put in the hands of the SS in the East and of Speer's people in the West. There will be a final callup of everyone capable of resistance or labor.
4. Instead of massacres and treks to nowhere, the foreign POW's, forced laborers, and camp prisoners in the path of the Russians will simply be dumped unless truly capable of forced labor on arrival. In other words only healthy male East Europeans will be herded to the Oder. The rest are just a logistical burden on the advancing Russians. However a few SS special commandos will murder several tens of thousands of captured Allied airmen. They will use Russian uniforms and fire Russian bullets. They will be sure to leave survivors to spread ill will between the allies. There will be no attempt to blow up the camps or hide the evidence. The propaganda line is to glory in what was done. The Nazis had tried to cleanse Europe of the Jewish infection and the Bolshevik one as well. Why should they hide their great deed?
5. The Army and Corps HQ radio stations in the West were left intact. Even without knowing about Ultra, it was a standard ploy to move units out from under an HQ to confuse the enemy. Given the German habit of frequent rotation of formations into and out of the line, this would not arouse much comment. The West was also likely to be cautious after the twin attacks in the Ardennes and Alsace. However the staffs and troops of the Fifth Panzer Army, Sixth Panzer Army and First Parachute Armies were in fact pulled out of the line and sent to safeguard Berlin. Fifth Panzer Army gets renamed Eleventh Army. Sixth Panzer Army gets renamed Third Army. First Parachute Army gets renamed Fifth Army. By early February they will all be on the Oder.
6. The command of the Western front is given to Manstein. He is told to withdraw in stages across the Rhine abandoning the Colmar Pocket, the Rhineland, the Palatinate, the Saar, the Eiffel, and Holland. Basically his mission is to screen Ike so it looks like an Allied push instead of German flight. His divisions from the Alsace offensive and another ten halfway decent ones are sent to Hungary to replace the SS and other units sent in OTL. In its place he is given the final dregs and Landwehr plus Hitler Youth. He loses all his major armored formations, all his artillery above division level and most of his good manpower. He gets jokes like the 9th Parachute Division (Air Force service personnel with no ground training) and the 4th Marine Division (navy base personnel with no ground training) that in OTL were used to defend Berlin. He will have 100 ?divisions' and more ration strength than Rundstedt and Model did in OTL. He will not lose Remagen to a botched bridge off a retreat. He will burden Ike with some twelve million Dutch and German civilians (the old, the young, the infirm and those cunning enough to escape the press gangs) to feed. His ?front' will be hasty trenches with no combat power. Ike will be up to the Rhine by mid - end February but only Patton will have a bridgehead. There will have been no slog to the Rhine but many more useless mouths to feed. He will probably be even more cautious as it will appear to him as if he is confronting a sensible German defense of a major river instead of them pissing away a major part of their forces west of the river as they did in OTL.
7. Kesselring will similarly be told to thin out his front by 50% while preparing for a staged withdrawal to the Alps. He's to take what labor he can easily pressgang but not get tied down in protracted antipartisan operations. The Salo people can come if they want or not - no one in Berlin really cares. The line of defense is to be the Adige (South Tyrol) and the Veneto. He is also to start sending two divisions a week to Hungary.
8. Budapest is basically abandoned. There will be no more relief attempts. Model will be pulled out of the West in February to manage the withdrawal from Hungary and Croatia. The retreat on and past Vienna will go as it did historically except that the Germans will do a much better job of getting sympathetic Yugoslavs out ahead of Tito.
9. Heinrici will be given Schroner's job covering Moravia but will have his armored reserves cut in half and his supplies mostly sucked into the new Berlin fortress. If he loses a few Carpathian towns ahead of schedule who cares.
10. The Army Group in Courtland will be evacuated over a six-week period from mid-January to the end of February. The two armies will go to the lower Oder. The civilians will be dumped on Denmark and North Germany.
11. There is no way to avert the disaster of East Prussia. However every effort will be made to mitigate it. The civilians will be shuttled out until the Reds cut the lower Vistula escape route. The troops and civilians will then be sea lifted out in March. The losses will still be extreme and the atrocities by the advancing Reds innumerable. However, most of the civilians and the bulk of the Army Group will be lifted out in February and March. Add 10K more dead to the sea disasters and distribute as in 10 above.
12. Hauser will be given the Stargard operation instead of the idiot Himmler. He will have more tanks, more men, and the best SS Panzer divisions. He will put an even bigger scare in Stalin. He will shield the evacuation of the transOder region.
13. Student, Steiner, Wencks and Guderian will get the joy of preparing the Oder and Berlin defenses. Berlin will be stripped of nonessential civilians. It will have a million healthy young people digging trenches and preparing the city for a siege with extremely competent professional supervision. It will have enough home guards to man the successive lines of defense. A few veterans and a mass of pressganged kids are good enough to hold their ground and die. It will have the vast bulk of the armor, artillery and supplies remaining to Germany. The stage will be set for Armageddon.
So by the end of March Stalin will be having fits. The West will have taken most of northern Italy (up to the line Balzano - Venice) and be across the Rhine virtually everywhere, while he is fighting major battles for tiny villages in Pomerania and Moravia. He will also have taken more losses to accomplish what he did, taxing his manpower reserves even more than historically (in OTL recaptured POW's and German camp prisoners were used to boost the line strength for the final months of 1945). By slighting his more southern fronts, he will still be ready to attack by April 16th. Let the fun begin.
The Germans will have noted the preattack preparations. That night before the barrage commenced they struck. Using the carefully horded remains of Goring's Air Force and the few remaining uncaptured air bases bases wave after wave of German planes came low over the East bank of the Oder. They dropped no bombs. Instead, at tree top height they sprayed nerve gas on the 2.5 million men; 41,600 guns; and 6,250 AFV's arrayed for the attack. It was pure murder. One hundred thousand Red soldiers died. Another two hundred thousand were put out of action. Konev was seriously inconvenienced. Zhukov was stopped cold before the Seelow Heights.
Stalin ordered retaliation. Red Army war gas stocks were rushed to the front, disrupting the attack plans further by hopelessly snarling the elaborately planned logistics. The attack on Zhukov's front was suspended. The full weight of the Russian effort would be made to support Konev's breakin (it was a breakthrough in OTL but with the gas I am presuming he will be inconvenienced).
Stalin's bigger problem was what to do with his Western allies. Ike basically stops on the Elbe as in OTL. Only this time there is no effort made to defend it. Himmler has a rump army in North Germany and Denmark. Manstein with Speer sent to be his civilian deputy has a screen in front of Ike's troops from the Harz Mountains to the Upper Rhine. Stalin does NOT want to share the prize of Berlin with the West. However, practically speaking this means bleeding the Red Army while the West watches. Stalin will have heard of Himmler's approaches to the West through the Swedish Count Bernadotte. Uncle Joe was not a man who needed much to fuel his paranoia. He will pour everything he has into the one great push on Berlin.
He will meet a carefully prepared German fortress, a Kursk in reverse. A million armed men including the best the Reich had left, all its supplies and most of its heavy weapons with another million press ganged laborers who in a pinch are reserve cannon fodder. Even reinforced by half of Zhukov's armies Konev will crawl towards Berlin hemorrhaging casualties. Hausser and Guderian will trade one for one on 15 year old pressganged HJ's for Red Army frontnik's. The tradeoff against trained soldiers will be 4-1. In the end, the Red Army will grind to a halt elsewhere as 4 million of the 7 million men will be fed through the one sector. Two million will fall to seal the city by mid-May and finally uncork Zhukov. Another million will fall through the five weeks of the siege.
The German air attacks will only stop when Patton overruns their last airfields in Bohemia. Essentially the West will have ended its war the 2nd week of May when they overrun Denmark and Bohemia-Moravia. With his peace plans exposed for the joke they always were, Himmler and Doenitz will lead a caravan of higher Nazis to Argentina and exile. Once they leave Norway, the German garrison commander will surrender to the British and Swedes (who is this TL enter the war the first week of May). Trieste, Fiume and all of Slovenia will be occupied by the West.
The final Gotterdamnrung will take place in the last week of June. Across an urban hellscape of 24 hour combat from one mined and fortified ruin to the next, only with gas attacks by both sides for added horror, the final hundred thousand survivors will die defending the government district of Central Berlin. Goring will add one last atrocity. He will leave in the rubble ahead of his final line as much radiological waste as the German nuclear program was capable of creating and proudly announce it to the world. Hitler and Goebbels will die by their own hands in the Bunker. Goring will go down fighting, side by side with the Hitler double defending the bunker complex in the wreckage of the old Prussian war ministry. A final breakout commando of Russian speaking SS led by Otto Skorzeny and the Flemish SS Leader Leon Degrelle will exfiltrate the pocket with the two talismans, the recovered skulls of Goring and the man believed to have been Hitler. They will lead a few tattered survivors and the two holy icons to the last two U-Boats waiting off the Baltic Coast. The last transmitter will broadcast Hitler's Final Testament, a screed of hatred to the world coupled with a nihilistic boasting of how only the true European crusaders had the moral courage to act against the diseases that ravaged Europe. It will be a hymn to the Aryan Race, the Great PanEuropean Anti-Bolshevik Crusade and the nihilistic vigor of Nazi biological racism. It will accurately predict the coming Cold War and blame the gutless European masses and the decadent West for bringing Stalin's horrors to Europe's heart. It will scream that history will absolve and honor their memory, including their final sacrifices. The signoff will be the music of last act of Gotterdamnrung followed by the Valkerie thyme.
There is no final German surrender. Every German and allied person trapped in the fortress is killed by the enraged Russians. The remaining civilians in the Russian zones of Germany and Austria will be carted off to Siberia never to return. There will be no West Germany as Germany will never be forgiven for the final atrocities. There will be no Potsdam conference. The Cold War begins on the ruins of the old war as Stalin will never believe that there was no secret deal. Stalin keeps his allied prisoners (Beria will return some after Stalin's death in 1953). Stalin keeps every inch of soil he holds including Norwegian Lapland and half of Iran. The Soviet Blitz against Japan will be a smaller offensive. Again, Stalin will keep everything he conquers including all of Manchuria, North China and Inner Mongolia. However, Japan will still hold most of Korea when it surrenders after the 3rd A bomb hits Yawata. Hitler's revenge will be a rump Germany under permanent Allied occupation and an Eastern Europe directly annexed by Stalin (Tito dies at the hands of a Soviet hit squad just before the incorporation of Yugoslavia and Albania). Soviet Europe will be both Communized and Russified. The old nations will die ethnically and culturally. The Greek Reds will be forced back into the Soviet lines in Macedonia. The fascist beast will have been slain in its lair.