As the amount of time-traveling you do increases, the probability of Hitler winning World War II approaches 1.
You return home from your jolly time travel adventure in ancient Greece, having saved the world and being careful not to upset history and... hold on a moment? Are those swastikas?! Hanging from the White House?! Looks like you've been hit by Godwin's Law of Time Travel.
Talked to the wrong person? Nazi victory! Left technology back in the Roman Empire? Nazi victory! Stepped on a bug? Nazi victory! Left a tap running? Nazi victory! Took part in some historical event? Nazi victory! Prevented a Nazi victory? Nazi victory! Caused a Nazi victory intentionally? Well... you succeeded, dickhead.
About the only time travel that doesn't result in a Nazi Victory is traveling to times after WWII (including the future). Unless a neo-Nazi steals your time travel pod to help out Hitler.
The strangest thing about Time Travel is probably that a) the Nazis winning WWII is the most common accidental timeline shift and b) that will usually be the only change in the new timeline. It almost seems like Germany was supposed to win, and that history is trying to snap back to its original form. Perhaps Germany originally did win, and then a "neo-Ally" traveled back in time to drive Hitler into depression or convince him to betray the Soviets.
In reality, a Nazi victory (depending on how one actually defines "victory") seems to have been quite improbable. The Allies were in reality much more powerful in many ways — including both population and industrial capacity — than the Axis, and Hitler allying with Russia and Japan was always done in the knowledge that sooner or later one would turn on the other (Hitler just wanted to get the first stab in). There was no single, easily changeable factor contributing to the Allied success, and it is likely that many changes to history, perhaps stretching back to the outcome of the previous war or further, would be needed for Germany to have a decent chance of winning. In fact, any possible chance of them winning would have been so precarious that the inverse of the trope would make much more sense — that any time tampering starting with a timeline where the Axis won would lead to a world where they didn't. Even if they won, if you are a Continentalist historian then you'll argue that Hitler never plotted to Take Over the World and 'just' wanted a a German superstate dominating Europe, so the United States and many other non-European countries probably wouldn't be flying the Swastika. And even in Europe, chances are Nazi Germany would eventually dissolve itself back into its constituent republics just like the Soviet Union did, though likely not before every Jew and other "undesirable" in Europe was dead.
Godwin's Law of Time Travel can also be used in telling similar stories about other past war-losers and faded empires. The Confederacy, the Soviets, the Romans, the Greeks, the Mongols, the Egyptians, the Aztecs, and the colonial-era British are all possibilities. The Nazis are by far the most dominant in this field, however. Other than in steampunk, that is (but steampunk universes usually happen without time-travel).
When the time traveler tries to prevent the Third Reich altogether, and inevitably make things worse, it's Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act. For the consequences of "Nazis Win" scenarios and other such stories that don't always involve time travel, see Alternate-History Nazi Victory and Day of the Jackboot.
- DC Comics:
- Before Crisis on Infinite Earths, Earth-X was an alternate earth where the Nazis won.
- After 52, Earth-X is reborn as Earth-10. The Superman of Earth-10 is named Overman (literally, Übermensch) and is rather upset that he came into his powers after the Nazis won; there's nothing for it but to turn the Nazi Empire into as much of a Utopia as he can make it.
- A DC Elseworlds mini-series, Superman/Wonder Woman; Whom Gods Destroy, shows a world where Kal-El arrived on Earth before 1920 and became a hero during World War II. His presence led to the Nazis escalating their weapons programs to the point where they beat the Allies in the A-Bomb race, and nuked Metropolis, resulting in an uneasy truce between the US and Germany. It also had the nasty side-effect that the Nazis were able to quickly hide the Holocaust from the world - Superman learns of it in the '60s, and by then thanks to complex peace treaties, there's nothing Superman can do about it.
- One Swamp Thing comic during its Vertigo era had Swamp Thing summoned to an Earth ruled by the Nazis by the President of the United States who wishes that he could destroy the Earth (this was because he used plant-based material and not clay). Swamp Thing mulls about the action for a bit, but decides he can't destroy the world if there is still love and happiness and for the man to try to not let the atrocities that happened before happen again. Then, because the President left the gear he strapped Swamp Thing to in the swamp bed, the true Golem was summoned and the world was destroyed.
- Early issues of Excalibur introduced Hauptmann Englande, a version of Captain Britain from an alternate universe where the Nazis won WWII.
- The novel trilogy The Chaos Engine has the Red Skull using a Cosmic Cube to create this reality...or so he thinks. In reality, the Cube is faulty and works by searching alternate realities and merging elements of them together, or entire alternate universes depending on the scale of the wish. Thanks to the wish, the Nazis not only won World War II and conquered the planet, they rule an expanionsist, tyrannical and genocidal intergalactic empire under the Skull's leadership.
- Inverted in Secret Empire #0. According to it, the Nazis (or HYDRA) did win in WWII, but the Allies used a cosmic cube to change reality and create instead a world where the Allies won and Captain America was a loyal American soldier. The whole story is about Steve Rogers realizing this origin and trying to Set Right What Once Went Wrong (of course, be aware that "right" and "wrong" involve a heavy Deliberate Values Dissonance).
- Subverted in Animorphs. In one book the villain goes to several points in time to make humanity easier to conquer in the present. While the Animorphs are following him the villain makes a stop at D-Day to make sure Nazis win. But thanks to previous changes there are NO Nazis at All. What everyone finds is a British force invading a France-Germany alliance, no one can figure out which side has the good guys, and Hitler is just a driver of a jeep. Tobias wants to kill him anyway, but Cassie insists that they can't kill him just because he's Hitler since he hasn't actually done anything in this reality. But Tobias "accidentally" kills him a few minutes later anyway. While it may be true that the actual Nazis didn't win, they also still start off in an alternate-timeline-present that has America (including the Animorphs) in a very Nazi-like state, where everyone's racist and whatnot.
- Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder has a time traveler stepping on a butterfly in the Mesozoic era cause a fascist dictator type to win an election. Not actual Nazis but the dictator's name is Deutscher, which seems close enough to A Nazi by Any Other Name, particularly for a story written in 1952.
- In order to make his favorite magazine legal, the Hippy from Hell in Bill the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Ten Thousand Bars winds up changing history so that it's the Third Reich that spreads through the galaxy rather than Bill's own galactic empire.
- In Dean Koontz's Lightning, the Nazis themselves attempt this. They built a time machine and traveled into the 1980s to learn how they would lose the war, as well as arm themselves with some modern weapons.
- The book Making History features the protagonist sending a pill to cause male sterility back to the water supply of the village where Hitler would be born, erasing him from existence. Naturally, his absence during an incident in the trenches of the First World War results in the survival of a German soldier who would normally die, and he goes on to become a fascist, anti-Semitic dictator anyway—except he's smarter than Hitler, so he wins World War Two. The protagonist wakes up the next day and finds that he's in New Jersey rather than England, his grandparents having fled England in the face of a Nazi invasion. Major changes this has on the United States are that the anti-Communist paranoia during the Cold War is shifted against the Nazis, that racism is rife throughout the US to the point where black people are treated as second class citizens, and that homosexuality is still completely banned. This world also has much more advanced computing and electronics, for unknown reasons. There are a variety of other small differences mentioned. Horrible dramatic irony pops up because the poisoned water supply is later used to sterilize Jews and other undesirables, therefore committing genocide indirectly.
- Played with in "Missives from Possible Futures # 1: Alternate History Search Results" by John Scalzi. None of the alternate histories described result in Germany winning World War II (in most of them World War II never happens at all) — but a quarter of them result in Germany winning World War I. Which in many ways is even less likely than Germany winning World War II◊; in reality Germany had several lucky breaks go their waynote and still lost.
- Subverted in Roger Zelazny's Roadmarks. A highway runs from one end of time to the other with offshoots that lead to alternative time lines and poor Hitler still can not find the place "where he won."
- The Connie Willis novel To Say Nothing of the Dog, in which the disappearance of an obscure item of Victoriana in an English cathedral leads to the Nazis winning WW2. In the setting of Connie Willis's time travel stories, the danger of Nazis winning World War II is catastrophic, because in the backstory, the inventor of time travel was a descendant of Holocaust survivors, which would mean time travel would never exist in the first place. In Blackout/All Clear, the protagonists spend a lot of time worrying that whatever little thing they do will make the Nazis win.
- Warlords of Utopia by Lance Parkin, a novel in the Faction Paradox universe, has all the Alternate Universes where Hitler won declare war on all the Alternate Universes where ancient Rome never fell.
- Inverted in Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union, which takes place in an alternate timeline where Hitler got his ass kicked even harder than he did in our world. Among other changes, Germany was nuked at the end of the war, and the Holocaust killed only a third as many Jews as it did in Real Life. The book explores how these events (coupled with the subsequent collapse of Israel in 1946) make life more difficult for surviving Jews.
- Justified in TimeRiders. Paul Kramer intentionally changes history to ensure that Germany wins WW2 because he believes that this will prevent the Bad Future that he grew up in. Unfortunately, he goes insane fifteen years into his reign as the new ruler of Germany and sets off a doomsday device, resulting in The End of the World as We Know It. Thankfully, this is fixed by the end of the book.
- Played with in Living Space, a short story by Isaac Asimov. Thousands of years in the future, mankind has expanded into an infinity of parallel universes, and one day someone accidentally encounters Germans from a world where Hitler won doing the same (the title, "Living Space", is a translation of "Lebensraum"). Fortunately, the Germans have also had thousands of years of history since the Nazis and are now quite reasonable, and the two worlds agree to stay out of each other's way.
- Implied to have happened, albeit not in a specifically Nazi context, in Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. A group of time travellers hail from a world where Europeans did not find America in the 15th century, and a Modern Mayincatec Empire later conquered Europe in a horrific, genocidal war. They travel back in time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong by inspiring Christopher Columbus to discover the Americas... and end up giving rise to our world, in which the Spanish were the ones who conquered and enslaved the Mesoamerican peoples. The trope is later averted when the protagonists themselves also travel back in time to avert the disaster - but this time much more carefully.
- This trope serves as a major plot point in the ninth and tenth instalments of Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series. Doubles as a Take That! to both books’ lengthy delay, as it’s implied that Tippy Tinkletrousers’ cameo at the end of the previous (eighth) instalment was a result of this, preventing George and Harold from getting into jail.
- Spike.TV produced a TV special called Alternate History, talking about Nazi America in a realistic light and how it could have happened. It shows that Hitler could have made certain decisions or invented certain technologies [like nuclear weapons] that would have defeated the USA. The USA, now Nazi America, is similar to the US of today except under totalitarian rule and all non-white Americans are slaves or racially targeted to the point that many Americans ironically want to move to Mexico [instead of today where it's vice versa]. The lack of liberty and large non-white populations of America causes a civil war where the American people become "terrorists" against the government.
- In the 1980 series Darkroom, a man finds that he can send morse-code messages to a ship during WWII. He tries to give the United States an edge by telling them information from history-books— and the next day he opens the door to see a Nazi parade, since his changes ended up leading to a Nazi victory.
- This trope was also used in one of the early arcs in Galactica 1980.
- Saturday Night Live:
- One skit features George Foreman accidentally traveling back in time, where he's challenged to a boxing match by Hitler. Foreman of course wins, becomes the new Fuhrer, and then conquers the United States.
- Another skit shows an infomercial for the "Timecrowave," a device that sends TV dinners back in time simply to heat them up. When (Alec Baldwin) accidentally puts in a chicken dinner despite getting a roast beef dinner a minute before, several visual gags show history having been altered. One of those gags has Nazi banners hanging on the houses seen through a window.
- Averted on various alternative Earths. In all their travels, they never went to a world where the Nazis won and conquered the world. The closest ones were the world in the episode "California Reich" (where the United States is run by white supremacists and non-Aryan people are turned into cyborg slaves), and the Cold War World in the two-hour premiere (where the USSR rules the world).
- Of course, there were several worlds where the Kromaggs were in power, and they were indisputably A Nazi by Any Other Name.
- In the Timecop episode "Rocket Science", Jack Logan has to stop a time traveller who's helping Hitler, complete with the hero going back in time to prevent the Nazi Future by stopping the Nazis from getting the atomic bomb.
- Parodied by The Whitest Kids U' Know. Apparently, just resetting your internet history is enough for Nazi zeppelins and Nazi dinosaurs with laser eyes to appear.
- The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "City on the Edge of Forever" has a plot where McCoy saving the life of Kirk's Girl of the Week causes a peace movement that leads to the US losing WWII and the Federation never existing. The episode ends with Kirk letting her die to preserve history.
- In Star Trek: Enterprise, the Temporal Cold War arc was abruptly wrapped up by having the Big Bad travel back in time and ally with the Nazis. Furthermore, due to additional temporal meddling by another party, Russia was taken out of the equation so Germany was free to focus its efforts on the west, allowing them to invade America's eastern coast. Due to the Big Bad's presence there being a Stable Time Loop, killing him reset all of history and ended the Temporal Cold War.
- In Misfits, Nazi Britain occurs when an old man went back to try and stop Hitler, accidentally leaving behind his phone after being easily overpowered, which allows the Nazis to reverse engineer advanced technology from it.
- Averted surprisingly enough in the Legends of Tomorrow episode "Out of Time". A time-traveling Eobard Thawne supplies the Nazis with an atomic bomb which they use to destroy New York City. The Legends check history books and learn the Nazis still lost WWII, but the war lasted another 2 years and claimed an additional 12 million lives.
- In the Big Finish Doctor Who audio "Colditz", a minor character reveals that she's from Britain in the 1960s — controlled by the Nazis due to the Doctor's appearance in Colditz Castle. The line of causality ends up being quite confusing.
The Doctor: The German Reich!? Hahaha, I should have known. The oldest paradox in the book!
- Part of the premise of the play Copenhagen, although it's less a case of time travel and more a case of historical figures looking back from the afterlife and speculating about what might have happened if they'd done things slightly differently. The main focus of their speculation is a meeting that took place in the early part of WWII between the two main characters, good friends Bohr (who wound up working for the Allies) and Heisenberg (who was working for the Nazis), when both were hovering right on the verge of making a breakthrough that would lead to the development of atomic weapons, but neither had quite hit the necessary Eureka moment yet.
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has a case involving the wizarding world's Hitler. The protagonists (Harry and Draco's children) time travel to prevent Cedric Diggory's death. It results in two alternate timelines - and in the second, Voldemort wins, leading the duo to give up on messing with the past. But the result is that the cursed child (of Voldemort himself!) from the title learns that there is a Bad Future that she wants to make sure exists...
- In Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Einstein creates a time machine so he can kill Hitler before he rose to power, but returns to find that World War II still happened, except this time it was the USSR that invaded Europe. It is referred to as the Great World War II in the manual and is said to have been many times more destructive than our World War II.
- Red Alert 3 takes this even further: just as the USSR is about to lose its second engagement with the European/American Allies, Soviet soldiers go back in time to kill Einstein before he can supply the Allies with all those wonderful toys they used to win. When they come home they find that the USSR is winning! Hurray! Except now because the Allies and USSR were spending all their time bombing each other, neither of them saw the Japanese gaining power...
- The videogame Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich. It wasn't due to any accidental meddling, but a successful attempt of a supervillain to go back in time and provide Nazi Germany with the superpower endowing Energy X, leaving the heroes to set things right.
- In the Half-Life mod trilogy "Timeline", rogue scientists from Black Mesa use the dimensional portal technology to affect time travel, then go back in time to help the Nazis conquer America by helping them complete their atomic bomb and Sanger AmerikaBomber projects. Gordon Freeman is enlisted to stop or revert this.
- The adventure game Time Gentlemen Please has this as the central plot. Of course, Hitler has an army of dinosaur clones. And it all started with a simple attempt to watch Magnum PI.
- Inverted in a guest comic of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, where Doc kills Hitler only to find 100-meter-tall Jews terrorizing the city. The comic was later taken down.
- In The Adventures of John and Dave, Dave travels four weeks back in time, causing Nazis to win World War II.
- Parodied in Ansem Retort when Xemnas revealed that his manipulations in time moved the Nazi occult experiments from 1940 Germany to 1831 Rio de Janiero. When Red XIII asked why they didn't just go to 1940 Germany in the first place, Xemnas realizes that he made his plan unnecessarily complicated.
- According to Bug Martini, this is one reason why Time machines make crummy gifts.
- This comic was created by when the author of Exiern read this TV Tropes page.
- Mentioned in this Irregular Webcomic! strip, which of course references this very page.
- This has since become an Arc stretching through the different themes. Leading to another link to this page, and the assurance that further links to it are still to come.
- This Subnormality strip. Two professors are debating whether the mere decision to build a time machine would result in changes to the timeline. After the two professors start a bet over it, one professor gladly announces that he has received a grant to build one. Cue the professors instantly speaking German, the scene suddenly switching to depict them wearing lederhosen and Nazi swastikas across the landscape.
- Planet of Hats: In the episode "The City on the Edge of Forever":
Spock: It's the First Law of Time Travel.
Kirk: Which is?
Spock: Time travel: ergo, Hitler.
- Invoked purposely along with exploring the consequences of ignoring Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act in this short story by Yahtzee Croshaw.
- A broader version of this is usually played straight in the alternate history videos of Whatifalthist, such that it can be gleaned that he believes the modern triumph of liberal democracy is both historically unlikely and temporary, considering that so many of his timelines result in a totalitarian state of some kind (not just Nazi, but also Soviet-communist or Islamist) being a major superpower in the world, and not succumbing to any of the flaws that doomed their Real Life counterparts. This often happens even if the point of divergence has nothing to do with Nazism or politics at all, and seems especially likely when the change would appear to result in a better timeline than the real one (such as "what if the transatlantic slave trade never happened?")
- The American Dad! episode "The Best Christmas Story Never Told" features a Soviet variant. After traveling back in time to 1970s Hollywood, Stan meets a young Martin Scorsese and ends up convincing him to quit drugs. In effect, Scorsese never makes Taxi Driver. Without Taxi Driver, John Hinckley Jr. never becomes obsessed with Jodie Foster and thus never tries to assassinate Ronald Reagan in order to impress her. Without the sympathy vote that would've occurred as a result of the assassination attempt, Reagan loses re-election to Walter Mondale, who hands over control of the country to the Soviet Union. The back half of the episode has Stan going back again and attempting to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, and as every attempt fails (Stan decides to make Taxi Driver himself, but ends up alienating Robert De Niro and recasts with John Wayne, and John Hinckley Jr. reacts badly when Francine tries to suggest Jodie Foster is attractive enough to become obsessed over) he ends up having to shoot Reagan himself and settles for a Close-Enough Timeline (the Ghost of Christmas Past who let him time travel in the first place is able to buy him a new handgun as a Christmas gift overnight - Stan only shot Reagan and not James Brady, so the Brady Bill imposing background checks and a five-day waiting period on handgun purchases never passed).
- The Family Guy episode "Back to the Pilot" has Brian and Stewie travel back in time to the pilot episode of the show which was in 1999. While there, Brian warns his past self about the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks and he prevents them from happening. When they return to the present they find the United States is now a blasted wasteland. In this timeline, without the War on Terror for popular support, George W. Bush loses his reelection, and proceeds to resurrect the Confederacy and trigger a second U.S. Civil War. Brian and Stewie then attempt to fix it but things keep going wrong until there are dozens of Brians and Stewies all gathering in the same spot in time. Stewie finally solves the problem by going back to just before their original selves arrived in the past and the forcing that Brian and Stewie to return at gunpoint before they have a chance to do or say anything. This results in the timeline resetting itself and the Brian and Stewie we've been following to be erased from existence.
- Parodied in Freakazoid! when he half-accidentally prevents the Pearl Harbor attack, and thus presumably the United States' entry into World War II. Concerned about how the present may have changed, he returns to find things like Rush Limbaugh collecting money to help the poor, a complete lack of Chevy Chase movies, working cold fusion and Sharon Stone now being a Shakespearean actress. He congratulates himself on having made the world a better place. The part he didn't see? The Brain is now president, but one may debate on whether that's truly a downside.
- In the Futurama episode "All the Presidents’ Heads", the team travels back in times of The American Revolution to get rid of Professor Farnsworth's dishonorable ancestor. Fry accidentally screws Paul Revere's ride by borrowing a lamp from a church. When the team returns, they find that the British won the war (complete with Rule, Britannia! revamped in the style of the series' main theme playing in the background).
- In the first season finale of the Justice League animated series, the immortal villain Vandal Savage sends information, including how the rest of the war was supposed to play out and plans for technology that wouldn't have been developed for another couple decades, to his past self in order to help the Germans win. Subverted in that the first thing he apparently told the Germans to do was to get rid of Hitler and make Savage the Fuhrer. After Savage's defeat by the Justice League, the Germans reveal they've cryogenically frozen Hitler, and decide to revive him to lead them to victory.
- Towards the end of The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Countdown", Gumball and Darwin end up creating Alternate Timeline after Alternate Timeline. One of those timelines has the population of Elmore speaking German while looking very angry, which makes the Watterson brothers immediately go back in time again in a panic.
- In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Back to the Past", SpongeBob and Patrick go back to the past with Mermaid Man & Barnacle Boy's time machine. They find the younger versions of the heroes fighting Man Ray for the first time. Just as they are about to entrap him in a giant barrel of tartar sauce, they find that Patrick has eaten the whole barrel, leaving Man Ray able to defeat them. Returning to the present, SpongeBob and Patrick find that Bikini Bottom has now become a dystopian monarchy ruled by Man Ray, so the two must now go back to the past again and stop Patrick from eating the tartar sauce and destroying the future.
- The The Fairly OddParents! loves to play with this story.
- In episode "Father Time", Timmy accidentally destroys his dad's prized trophy, one he had won in the past in a school race. Timmy feels the best way to help his dad out is change the past so he never won the trophy. After time traveling back and achieving his goal, he returns to the present only to find that he has changed the course of his dad's life. He never married Timmy's mom and became dictator of the world, and Timmy technically doesn't exist. Timmy decides to go back in time again so he can make his dad win the trophy.
- In "The Secret Origin of Denzel Crocker" Timmy goes back in time to Mr. Crocker's childhood to find why he has become the insane, miserable, fairy-obsessed person he is. Through a sequence of events, Timmy winds up being the one that caused Crocker to turn into what he is.
- In "Timmy Turnip", after getting fed up with his maternal grandparents' culture, Timmy makes a wish that they never left their native country of Ustinkistan. Unfortunately, this means that Timmy ends up being born and raised in Ustinkistannote . In order to fix this, he goes back in time (in a turnip time machine) to get his grandparents to America.
- In "The Past & the Furious", Cosmo and Wanda celebrate their birthday by visiting past children of theirs, but Timmy's meddling with each kid causes the course of the present to be changed and Cosmo and Wanda to lose their fairy godparent licenses. Timmy and Sparky both attempt to go back and rewrite the timeline.
- In "Turner Back Time", Timmy goes back in time to an ancestor of his to teach him the right decision to make him rich. Even though Timmy and his parents are rich and happy in the present, they have rendered the town a dump and Timmy loses Cosmo and Wanda since he is considered happy.
- Rick and Morty:
- "Edge of Tomorty: Rick, Die, Repeat" features an alternate-universes variant; when Rick dies, his memories are transferred to a clone in another universe, which turns out to be a fascist dystopia. He dies again, waking up as a shrimp creature. "At least this time it's shrimps instead of fascists," he says before discovering that they're fascist also. This turns into a running gag. "When did this shit become the default?!?"
- In "Rattlestar Ricklactica," Rick leaves a book detailing how to create time travel in a planet populated by snakes. This leads to a snake going back in time to avert the assassination of snake Abe Lincoln, which somehow leads to snake Nazis conquering the world.