What if Hitler Had Developed Nuclear Weapons?

Imagine how different our world would be had Hitler and his Nazis defeated the Allied powers. What if the Nazis achieved such a victory using nuclear weapons? Would Hitler have been as ruthless with these destructive weapons as he was with his invasions, rockets and the Holocaust? To help answer these questions we can look to Star Wars and the Death Star for some insight.


Hiroshima before and after the nuclear strike

The Death Star was a mobile space station developed by the Galactic Empire as "the ultimate weapon" to halt rebellions against Imperial control. Equipped with a superlaser powerful enough to obliterate an entire planet, the Death Star proved its destructive power when Grand Moff Tarkin ordered the planet of Alderaan be destroyed. No doubt the Galactic Emperor planned to destroy more planets, but as is noted in the film clip below, the true goal of the Death Star was to inspire fear and submission throughout the Galaxy.

Similarly, during World War II the United States developed nuclear weapons powerful enough to destroy entire cities and, hopefully, end the war. On August 6, 1945 the world's first offensive nuclear bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. In a split second, thousands of Japanese civilians were killed and 70% of the city was destroyed. Three days later, on August 9 another nuclear bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki with results similar to those seen in Hiroshima. Faced with the possibility of seeing all of their cities destroyed by these powerful atomic weapons, Japan announced their surrender to the Allies on August 15. World War II was over.

"I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb... It is an awful responsibility which has come to us... We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes."
—President Harry S. Truman, August 9, 1945

It is clear from Truman's quote that, had the Nazis developed atomic weapons first, he believed the Allies and the world would have been shown little mercy in use of the bomb's destructive power.

What to do with your students

Begin this discussion with your students by showing the video clip below from Star Wars: Episode IV. Ask your students to replace their thoughts of the Death Star with nuclear weapons and the Imperial Officers in the meeting with top Nazi leaders like Hitler, Himmler, and Goebbels.

After watching the clip, bring the students' attention to the following lines:

Read these lines again with your students and ask them to discuss how the Empire seeks to destroy the Rebellion.

Next, show your students the clip below that reveals the destructive power of the Death Star.

Ask your students how possessing a weapon like the Death Star could make them powerful. What would such a weapon allow a leader to do? Revisit the quotes above, specifically the quote about maintaining control through fear.

Now pose the question, "What if Hitler Had Developed Nuclear Weapons?" to your students. Discuss or have them write out their thoughts. Encourage your students to use Hitler's past actions to substantiate their claims.

More On:

The Death Star, Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, Alderaan, Galactic Empire, Emperor Palpatine

Lesson Plans
Further Reading

First posted on: April 6, 2014 by Wes Dodgens

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