“What if?” has to do with choices. Yogi Berra stated it most eloquently some years ago with his concept of choice: “. . . when you reach a fork in the road, you take it.”
We spend our lives making choices, some serious or important, others necessary or optional. A child selecting an ice cream flavor, a student selecting a college, or a driver selecting his new vehicle are all examples of choices being made by individuals for individuals, themselves or others. In these instances their choices have little effect outside the family or a close group of friends.
Another group of choices affecting many includes that made by a company president or manager and will broadly affect many numbering in the hundreds or thousands of individuals, usually employees, suppliers, investors and unrelated others.
But it is when we reach the level of governments that choices made are the most dramatic and far reaching, affecting millions. This essay will consider two governments: Austria-Hungary of the 19th century, Nazi Germany of the 20th century and their relationship to each other.
Franz Joseph I Emperor of Austria
The Austrian Empire was very large and powerful, stretching from the German-Swiss border in the west, eastward across central Europe to the Russian-Romanian border in the east, and south to the borders with Italy, Serbia, Montenegro and the Ottoman Empire. To the north were the German and Russian Empires. Included in the Austrian Empire lands were parts of Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Italy and all the lands internal to those described, including what would become the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary. Ruling this vast land was Emperor Franz Josef and his wife Elisabeth, the popular Kaiserin Elisabeth von Osterreich, thought by many to be the most beautiful woman in Austria, if not all of Europe.
Kaiserin Elisabeth von Osterreich
Royalty was always concerned about having an heir to the throne. Lack of a male heir had in the past led to civil wars and worse. Some went so far as to suggest that the queen or empress had a duty to produce “an heir and a spare.” Emperor Franz Josef and Elisabeth had four children, but only one male, Rudolf. As things turned out, they could have used a spare.
The only son born of the union became the most controversial member of the royal family. Rudolf, Erzherzog Und Kronprinz Von Ōsterreich, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, whose reformist and liberal ideas were stifled by his conservative father with whom he disagreed violently and often, strongly resisted his father’s efforts to conform and measure up to his father’s expectations. Rudolf felt frustrated and trapped in an impossible situation.
Rudolf certainly was not the son Franz Josef would have preferred. His strong disagreements with his father on political matters, particularly Austria’s ties with Germany, dominated their discussions. He was always wise enough to avoid public arguments with his father, but newspapers in Vienna and Budapest picked up the dispute and published Rudolf’s views under an alias. Risky opinions, however, were diverted to privately published pamphlets which were imported to Austria and distributed.
Crown Prince Rudolf
Modern writers have deduced that Rudolf was manic depressive. Maybe so, but it was his love life that presented the largest problem. There weren’t that many candidates to marry Rudolf. He had rejected some from Spain and Portugal, and finding a Catholic girl of royal birth in the rest of Europe was not so easy. It was decided he would marry Princess Stephanie of Belgium, and she was shipped to Vienna to learn the ropes. It took a while, but her tutors eventually discovered Stephanie had not yet reached puberty. And no one had ever explained the facts of life to her. The marriage was postponed, but it finally occurred in 1881, shortly before her 17th birthday.
Rudolf and Stephanie appeared to be happy together at first. They had a daughter, the only child Stephanie would produce because she had contracted a venereal disease from Rudolf. His own struggle with that disease had been treated with morphine, to which he had become addicted. Eventually, Rudolf and Stephanie drifted apart, and each found comfort with new lovers.
Rudolf, then age 30, became heavily involved with a 17-year-old, Baroness Marie Vetsera. It may not be true, but German diplomats insisted Rudolf and Franz Josef had had a strenuous argument, with Franz Josef insisting the relationship with Vetsera had to end. A day or so after that, Rudolf and Marie left for a stay at a royal hunting lodge at Mayerling, a village on the Schwechat River in eastern Lower Austria. Don’t let the word “lodge” fool you. This was no hut. Rock stars buy homes the size of the Mayerling lodge.
Frustrated in his designs for having himself crowned king of Hungary and unhappy in his marriage, he fell into despondency. In the morning of January 30, 1889, he and the baroness Maria Vetsera, with whom he had begun relations in October 1887, entered into a suicide pact and were found shot dead in the hunting lodge at Mayerling, in the Vienna woods.
Upon Rudolf’s death, his uncle Charles Louis became heir to the throne. When Charles Louis died in 1896, his son Francis Ferdinand became the heir. His assassination in Sarajevo led to World War I, Hitler’s rise to power, and World War II.
These are the historical facts related to Rudolf’s suicide.
What if? – Austria-Hungary
But, what if he didn’t commit suicide. What if he had been able to make peace with Franz Josef, however fragile and delicate it might have been. What if Rudolf had overcome his addiction and despondency and had divorced himself from the depths of the dark side that had taken over his life? Then he as heir to the Austrian throne would have become the new emperor upon the death of Franz Josef in 1917 and not Karl as did happen. But his ascendency to the throne would have had more far reaching effects.
- The World War (WW-I) would start after arch-duke Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo, but Ferdinand would be heir only after Rudolf committed suicide. Without Rudolf’s suicide there would be no World War, at least not for these reasons.
- Franz Josef would die in 1917 and Rudolf would become emperor when Rudolf was 58 years old.
When he ascended the throne, he would bring Stephanie with him as empress. Karl would have no claim to the throne.
- Empress Elisabeth, who had ruled with Franz Josef, would probably retain her title as Queen of Hungary, but Rudolf, who had had designs on the title of King of Hungary for years and had repeatedly petitioned Franz Josef for the title, might, as emperor, force his mother into retire-ment and claim the title for himself.
- During Franz Josef’s reign he had maintained a close relationship between Austria and Germany. Rudolf never accepted the close ties which he argued against and resisted. With Rudolf on Austria’s throne, relations with Germany would cool.
- With Rudolf and Stephanie sharing the Austrian throne, Austrian ties with Belgium (Stephanie’s homeland) would improve increasing the likelihood of a military alliance between the two nations and present a potential invader of Belgium with an enemy on its flank.
- Austria-Hungary would enter the 20th century intact and remain so under Rudolf, but with 20th century cultures around the world seeking independence or self-rule, the probability of remain-ing intact dims.
- With the risk of a world war removed or at least prevented for the immediate future, millions would not die and substantial treasure would be saved.
- The effect on many nations would vary: Bulgaria, Turkey and the Ottoman Empire would remain essentially unchanged and retain control over the Levant and the Middle East; England and France, who had designs on the Ottoman territory, would be denied access.
- Without Russia and Germany at war in World War I, Russia would not capitulate to Germany in 1917, thus denying the Bolsheviks the major support they needed for the revolution led by Lenin which ultimately would bring Stalin to power. The unsuccessful Bolshevik revolution saved the Russian people from the horrors Stalin would have imposed on them had he come to power.
Rudolf’s decision to live or die affected much of what transpired in Austria-Hungary, as enumerated above, but there were broader implications to his decision. If he committed suicide, the world would be subjected to World War I which the Allies would win and the map of Europe would be redrawn. Nine new nations would be created under the Treaty of Versailles: Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and the reconstituted Austria-Hungary in Austria and Hungary. Finland and the three Baltic nations would be formed from the western boarder of Russia; Czechoslovakia would be formed from northern Austria-Hungary; Poland, which had been removed from the map of Europe in 1795 by Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia, would be re-established mostly from Russia with ad-ditional lands from eastern Germany for the Polish Corridor and parts of western Poland, and a major part of southern Poland taken from Austria-Hungary above Czechoslovakia. Additional lands from Austria-Hungary would form Yugoslavia and part of western Romania. What remained of Austria-Hungary would be formed into the two independent states of Austria and Hungary.
In the “What if?” alternative, Rudolf would live on to become emperor of Austria-Hungary, there would be no WW-I and the described map changes would not occur.
Back to reality, the growth of Nazi Germany and World War II.
With the passage of history through the turn of the new century it became exceedingly clear that nothing had changed: Wars, threats of wars, unsettling events and changes to governments by design or through a coup d’état, violent or otherwise, continued. During the years 1900 through the pre-WW I period, violence continued and escalated until WW I erupted. The defeat of the Central Powers by the Allies initially appeared to be a victory over the warlords and terrorists. However, in less than a decade of the ending of WW I, it became evident that the apparent period of post-war peace merely spawned new crafty warlords and more terrorists The political rise of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in 1919 and 1920, respectively, accompanied by the assumption of power by other warlords such as, Stalin and Hirohito, soon made it clear that the world was experiencing a pause in war, not peace, as peace-loving nations had hoped. In 1965, Hubert H. Humphrey, Democratic vice-president, noted in a speech at Arlington Memorial Cemetery, “Today we know that World War II began not in 1939 or 1941 but in the 1920’s and 1930’s when those who should have known better persuaded themselves that they were not their brother’s keeper.” This pause was not devoid of other acts of war and terrorism while the world waited for WW-I to resume
When WW-I ended with the defeat of Germany, the German high command felt betrayed by their political leaders. The German army was in France, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands, and was threatening Paris. No foreign army had set foot on German soil during the conflict. It was their view that the war had not been lost, but had been temporarily suspended while Germany retrenched. There would be no support of the Weimar Republic from the German armed forces.
It was now 1920. The ink had yet to dry on the peace treaties and the new warlords were making their initial moves. Hitler’s storm troopers (SA) began to terrorize political opponents in Germany. Mussolini formed a Fascist government and marched on Rome. Non-Fascist parties were dissolved in Italy. Hitler’s “Beer Hall Putsch” failed. Alex Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain form a new government in Great Britain. The new world of Europe was rapidly taking form to the detriment of peace.
1924 dawned as a pivotal point in history. First elections are held in Italy under Fascist methods: Mussolini was favored by 65%. Baldwin was elected British Prime Minister with Winston Churchill named Chancellor of the Exchequer. Adolf Hitler was sentenced to five years imprisonment but was released after eight months. During his brief stay in the Landsberg am Lech fortress prison, on October 16, 1924, he wrote Mein Kampf. In the opening dedication, he cited 18 “heroes” who fell during the attempted coup on November 9, 1923. The book (written in two volumes) was Hitler’s announcement to the world of his program of blood and terror. In vol. 2, ch. 14, he clearly stated, “Germany will either be a world power or will not be at all.” This self-revelation was of such overwhelming frankness that few among its readers had the courage to believe it. These latter statements were taken from the translator’s introduction, who then went on to state that the technique employed by Hitler was that there was no more effective method of concealment than to broadcast his intentions with maximum publicity. The world was being advised of Hitler’s hatred and his plans for “correction.” They failed to realize his intent, and millions died as a consequence.
Hindenburg was elected President of Germany. A Fascist recreation organization called Dopolavore was introduced in Italy. Hitler published Vol. 1 of Mein Kampf and reorganized the Nazi Party which now numbered 27,000. Fascist youth organizations were founded: “Hitlerjugend” in Germany and “Ballilla” in Italy. Dr. Joseph Goebbels was named Nazi Gauleiter of Berlin. Hirohito succeeded his father as Emperor of Japan. Inter-Allied military control of Germany was terminated. The Program of the N.S.D.A.P. (Hitler’s Nazi Party) was published. The Kellogg-Briand Pact, outlawing war and signed in Paris by 65 states, came into force. Italy signed a 20-year treaty of friendship with Ethiopia. Himmler was appointed “Reichfuhrer S.S.” by Hitler.
By 1930 the last of the preliminary steps leading to Nazi consolidation of power had taken place. Nazi politician Wilhelm Frick become a government minister in Thuringa. This appointment will be a significant aid to Hitler in the future. Heinrich Bruning formed a right-wing coalition government in Germany. Catholic-Fascist Heimwehr units were established in Austria. A right-wing government was formed in Poland. Austria and Italy signed a treaty of friendship. The Nazis gained 107 seats from the center parties in German elections. Britain, France, Japan, Italy and the United States signed a treaty on naval disarmament. Ras Tafari becomes Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. The last Allied troops leave the Saar and Rhineland.
With the end of the third 20th century decade, the entrenched Nazi Party was prepared to move. German millionaire Hugenberg undertook to support the Nazi Party, which was now 800,000 strong, up from its 1925 strength of 27,000. Others followed Hugenberg’s example. A Heimwehr coup d’etat in Austria failed. Pierre Laval was elected Premier of France. Presidential elections held in Germany result in: Hindenburg 18 million votes, Hitler 11 million and Communists 5 million. Hindenburg is elected in a run-off election. Hitler refused Hindenburg’s offer to become Vice-Chancellor. Franz von Papen was named German Chancellor. The German Reichstag election results: Nazis 230 seats, Socialists 133, Center 97 and Communists 89. Julius Gombos, anti-Semitic Nationalist, formed a government in Hungary. Austrian born Hitler received German citizenship and Wilhelm Frick appointed him Regierungsrat in Brunswick. General Kurt von Schleicher was named German Chancellor following von Papen’s resignation.
By 1933, Hitler and the Nazi Party were firmly entrenched. Adolf Hitler was appointed German Chancellor. Hermann Goering was named Prussian Prime Minister, and Goebbels was named Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda. The Reichstag fire in Berlin is attributed to Hitler but the accusation is carried no further. Chancellor Dollfus suspended parliamentary government in Austria. Hitler was granted dictatorial powers through the Enabling Law. The Nazis win the Danzig elections. Austria dissolved the Nazi Party. Political parties, other than the Nazi, are suppressed in Germany. The Nazis gain 92% of the German electorate vote. A Nazi Party is organized in Czechoslovakia by Konrad Henlein, and in Norway by Vidkun Quisling. The Nazis suppress German labor unions. A boycott of Jews began in Germany. First concentration camps are erected by the Nazis in Germany — by 1945, 8-10 million prisoners will have been interned and at least half of them killed. Edouard Daladier became Premier of France.
Hitler and Mussolini meet in Venice. A German plebiscite votes for Hitler as Fuhrer. Revolution in Austria overturns the Social Democrats. The Nazis assassinate Austrian Chancellor Englebert Dollfus. Hitler promotes a blood bath in Germany with the purge of the Storm Troopers who helped bring him to power On June 30, 1934 he killed at least 77 party members including the Sturm-Abteilungen group of Ernst Rohm and supporters of Gregor Strasser. In addition, Schleicher and many others were assassinated. The USSR was admitted to the League of Nations and Stalin began a purge of the Communist Party. Japan renounced the Washington treaties of 1922 and 1930. Winston Churchill warned British Parliament of the German air menace.
During 1935 Germany incorporated the Saarland into Germany following a plebiscite. Nazis repudiated the Versailles Treaty and reintroduced compulsory military service. The USSR concluded treaties with France, Czechoslovakia, Turkey and the United States. Mussolini rejected Anthony Eden’s concessions over Abyssinia and invaded. The League declared Italy an aggressor and imposed sanctions. Anti-Hapsburg laws were abolished in Austria. Schuschnigg and Starhemberg staged anti-Heimwehr coup d’etat in Vienna. Croix de Feu, a Fascist organization, was founded in France. In 1936, Edward VIII become King of England. Britain, France and the United States signed the London Naval Convention. Italy, Austria and Hungary signed the Rome Pact. German troops occupied Rhineland. The Spanish Civil War began. The Abyssinian War ended with Italy annexing the country and King Victor Emanuel being proclaimed Emperor of Abyssinia. Mussolini and Hitler proclaim the Rome-Berlin Axis. Elections held in Germany gave Hitler 99% of the vote. Schuschnigg, the Austrian Chancellor, became leader of the Fatherland Front. Count Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law, was appointed Italy’s Foreign Minister. An Austro-German convention acknowledged Austrian independence. An anti-Comintern Pact was signed by Germany and Japan. Germany began building the Seigfried Line. China’s Chiang Kai-shek declared war on Japan. France and Italy devalued their respective currencies. Britain’s King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne “for the woman I love” and was succeeded by his brother George VI. Edward was named Duke of Windsor.
During this same period, Hitler formed the German Luftwaffe. How, you may ask. After the conclusion of World War I, the Versailles Treaty barred Germany from having an air force. With the connivance of WW-I flier Hermann Goering, Hitler created nation-wide clubs of young men to learn gliding. Theoretically, they were civilian organizations who met to build and fly gliders. In fact, the glider clubs were a training program for pilots to learn the basics of flying and to prepare designs for military training and combat aircraft in anticipation of the future formation of a German air force. When Hitler repudiated the Versailles Treaty, his Luftwaffe was already a living concept. All that was needed by Germany was time for fabrication and test. All that was needed by the world was a nation or nations willing to challenge Nazism before it became full-grown. Hermann Goering, Reichstag president, was awarded the title of Reich minister for air forces. The world’s leading nations, led by pacifists and isolationists, did nothing as expressed so eloquently by United States Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey in his speech of 1965 — and so was born the dreaded Luftwaffe.
By 1937, the drift toward conflict had increased considerably and war seemed inevitable. Poland refused to agree to demands that Danzig be returned to Germany. Italy and Yugoslavia signed the Belgrade Pact. Amnesty was declared for illegal Austrian Nazis. Schuschnigg and Mussolini met in Venice. Stanley Baldwin retired and Neville Chamberlain becomes Prime Minister of Britain. Prince Konoye was named Japanese Premier and a more aggressive Japanese war policy began. Germany guaranteed the inviolability of Belgium. Riots erupted in the Sudeten area of Czechoslovakia. Sudeten Germans left the Czech Parliament. Italy joined the anti-Comintern Pact. Lord Halifax visited Hitler and began a policy of aggression appeasement. Roosevelt reluctantly signed the U.S. Neutrality Pact. Britain signed naval agreements with Germany and the USSR. Italy withdrew from the League of Nations. Japanese planes sank the U.S. gunboat Panay in Chinese waters.
During the next two years, efforts by Chamberlain and Halifax to avoid war by appeasing Hitler were unsuccessful and only added fuel to the fire. Chamberlain advocated appeasement of the Fascist states: he believed that Hitler was a rational statesman and that a policy of appeasement would ultimately satisfy Hitler’s demands. Hitler appointed himself as War Minister and Ribbentrop as Foreign Minister. Mussolini and Hitler met in Rome. Schuschnigg and Hitler met at Berchtesgaden and Germany marched into Austria. Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia demanded autonomy. Runciman visited Prague and reported in favor of Nazi claims. Germany mobilized and France called up its reservists. Japan withdrew from the League of Nations. Chamberlain met Hitler at Berchtesgaden and Godesberg. Hodza resigned
from the Czech cabinet. The September Munich conference between Hitler and Chamberlain ended with Chamberlain returning with Hitler’s signature on a piece of paper. While waving the paper above his head, he declared to the crowds that meet him at the airport that “I believe it is peace for our time … peace with honor.” Germany occupied the Sudetenland on October 10, 1938. Eden resigned in protest against Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement with Winston Churchill leading the country’s outcry. President Benes resigned. Slovakia and Ruthenia were granted autonomy. Hungary annexed Southern Slovakia. Emil Hacha was installed as puppet President of Czechoslovakia. Anti-Jewish legislation was enacted in Italy. Keitel, Guderian and Halder now became the new leaders of Germany’s army. Roosevelt sent appeals to Hitler and Mussolini to settle the European problems amicably. Germany and the United States recalled their respective Ambassadors.
Roosevelt demanded assurances from Hitler and Mussolini that they would not attack 31 named states. Once again, Chamberlain and Halifax visit the Axis but this time in Rome. Germany occupied Bohemia and Moravia, placed Slovakia under “protection,” and annexed Memel. Hitler renounced the non-aggression pact with Poland and the naval agreement with England. He then concluded a ten-year alliance with Italy and a non-aggression pact with the USSR. Conscription was adopted in England. Britain and France, followed by the United States, recognize Franco’s government. The Spanish Civil War ended and Spain joined the anti-Comintern Pact and left the League of Nations. Hungary quit the League of Nations. Molotov became the USSR Commissar for Foreign Affairs. Italy invaded Albania. England and Poland sign a treaty of mutual assistance.
So it is 1939, the playing field has been chosen, the players have selected the team on which they choose to play, and the grim reaper sits on the sidelines, sharpening his scythe. The game is about to begin and tens of millions of combatants and non-combatants will be consumed in the resultant conflict. Everyone familiar with the history of the period 1939-45 is aware of what happened and they know the outcome of the game. But did it have to happen as history reported it? Were there alternatives? Possibly. One version of an optional scenario is reviewed below.
What if? – Nazi Germany
Lebensraum. All that Germany needed was adequate space in which to live, develop and function. Hitler took this concept one additional step: Nazi Germany needed territory necessary as a nation for its continued existence or economic well-being. Question: Did the additionally acquired landmasses satisfy lebensraum? If the answer is yes, then why the need for all that followed the attack on Poland.
By the summer of 1939, Hitler had Greater Germany well established, but his plans still included an attack on Poland and the Soviet Union.
The military status of the players: France had the Maginot Line and one of the largest standing armies of the world, if not the largest. The French high command was dominated by officers with obsolete military concepts, especially as it applied to tank warfare. Only one junior officer appreciated the use of tanks, Charles de Gaulle, who was ignored and derided. Belgium felt secure with its series of fortresses and the assurances that Hitler had made in 1937. England had a small, but professional, army, the largest and most powerful fleet in the world, and was protected by the English Channel. Nullifying her strengths, however, was the negative position of her prime minister: In a radio broadcast on September 27, 1938, on Germany’s annexation of the Sudetanland of Czechoslovakia, England’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made his position, and so that of England, clear to Hitler and the world. He stated, “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.” The USSR had large military forces but they were obsolete and riddled with corruption. In addition, Stalin’s past purges of officers had seriously weakened his command. Besides, he had the non-aggression pact with Hitler, so what was there to worry about? Germany had the strongest, most efficient killing machine on the European continent. What it lacked militarily it had established, through rumor and intimidation, in the minds of its opponents, with the help of Halifax, Chamberlain, Daladier, Blum, Laval and many others. With the occupation of the countries surrounding Germany, Hitler had obtained the Skoda Works to supplement Krupp, and more than sufficient raw materials to maintain his forces.
In terms of economics and agriculture, the facts supported Nazi Germany. In 1934, Germany started the Erzengungsschlacht program to expand domestic food production. By 1937 the country was producing 90 percent of the food it consumed. As a part of the 1939 nonaggression treaty with the USSR, Germany would receive one million tons of wheat per year and an expedited supply of soybeans from Manchuria. By 1941, Germany was the best-fed of Europe’s combatant nations. A rationing plan would provide Germans with at least 95 percent of the calories received in peacetime — 2,000 calories per day. Concurrently, France was hardly any richer than she was in 1914 and certainly was ill-prepared to fight a war.
In the United States, President Roosevelt led an isolationist nation “protected” by two oceans and the 1935 Neutrality Pact. One of the more outspoken advocates of neutrality was Charles Lindbergh in 1938-39 who was so outspoken in his views that many considered him pro-Nazi. Others who were instrumental in moving the U.S. into neutrality were DeValera of Ireland and Pope Pius XII. During the pre-war period, the U.S. had a very small poorly equipped army, an almost non-existent air force, and a modest treaty regulated fleet.
With these facts it is no wonder that Hitler looked to expand Germany at the expense of Poland. In addition, Poland’s refusal to return Danzig to Germany in 1937 after the Nazis had won elections in 1932 certainly didn’t help Polish-German relations. The German capital ship construction program, which had already spawned six modern (treaty violation) battleships: Bismarck, Tirpitz, Graf Spee, Scharnhost, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen, was still in operation and scheduled for reaching maximum effectively in 1945 The U-boat fleet was already operational and growing. The Luftwaffe, though equipped with rapidly aging aircraft, was large, efficient and growing in strength, quality and efficiency. The army, with its new concept panzers, was unequaled in the world and the nation, with its newly acquired land mass and its industrial and agricultural capacity had the ability to support the Nazi military machine.
But what if Hitler decided to defer his attack on Poland to a later date, and possibly suspend further aggression, if not permanently, temporarily. Assume that reason overcame his blood lust and he listened to his advisors. With the strongest military machine on earth and a strong economy, he need not fear anyone. As long as he didn’t attack Poland, he had nothing to fear from either France or England. For that matter, with the appeasement-oriented governments in power, it was highly unlikely that any nation would oppose him, including the United States. So, reason prevailed, and he decided to behave himself.
In the amended view of 1939, he would retain all that he had acquired through theft, guile and negotiation. As a new world power, the profit-oriented commercial and industrial nations of the world would flock to his new borders eager to do business with their new trading partner. (For those readers who may doubt this scenario, consider the recent  news and investigative reports of 10+ years, and continuing, of Chinese theft of United States nuclear secrets, which now placed U.S. West coast cities under threat of nuclear attack, and the subsequent decision of President Clinton to afford China “special nation” status while concurrently pressing Congress and the heads of the Departments of Commerce and State to increase trade and reduce controls over trade with China, their new trading partner).
By not invading Poland, Hitler would receive the blessings of the nations of the world relieved that peace, as defined by Hitler, would continue.