Thursday, April 2, 2009

DBTL 20: Where Are They Now? - 1945

It is the morning of 7 May 1945 in the Drowned Baby Timeline. To recap:

ADOLF HITLER has been dead for fifty-six years, having accidentally drowned while being bathed shortly after his birth.

ERNST RÖHM, ex-Führer of Germany, has been dead for eight years, having committed suicide just before the fall of Berlin to the Polish Army.

JOSEF PILSUDSKI has been dead for seven years. He lived long enough to fight off the German invasion of Poland in 1936, and to appoint the great hero of that war as his successor:

STANISLAW SKWARCZINSKI has been War Minister of Poland for seven and a half years. As Pilsudski's chosen successor, he has been instrumental in making his predecessor's vision for Poland a reality. Since passage of the Law of Devolution by the Sejm in 1939, the Polish Commonwealth has developed into a multi-ethnic federalist state.

GREGOR STRASSER is President of the Brandenburg Bundestag. Brandenburg is the oldest of the Polish Commonwealth's autonomous regions (or devos as they are popularly known), having been established in October 1939. Originally a German nationalist, Strasser has become one of the pillars of the Polish Commonwealth.

HERMANN GÖRING is Director of the Garden, the Polish Commonwealth's jet aircraft production plant. Unlike Strasser, he has no intention of going into politics.

JOSEF STALIN is General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It is a tribute to the utter terror Stalin inspires in his subordinates that the late LAVRENTI BERIA, ex-head of the NKVD, never once considered trying to depose or assassinate him. However, Stalin is well aware of the fact that the recent attempt to liberate Lithuania from its capitalist oppressors, and the subsequent invasion of the Polish Commonweatlth, was the greatest blunder of a career filled with blunders. Although Beria has taken the blame for the USSR's poor showing, Stalin knows that he is going to have to kill an awful lot of people, even by his standards, to cover up his own responsibility.

The body of ALEXEI KOSYGIN, ex-Mayor of Leningrad, was recently exhumed from the ruins of Leningrad's City Hall. Being safely dead, Stalin can turn him into a heroic defender of the Soviet Union and a martyr of Socialism.

The body of NIKITA KRUSHCHEV will not be so easy to find, since the Ukrainian party boss was torn apart by a mob during the uprising in Kiev.

They said it couldn't be done, but Polish President JOSEF BECK and Prime Minister EDWARD RYDZ-SMIGLY have done it. In the atmosphere of euphoria that pervaded Poland after the Second Soviet War, the half dozen political parties that made up the governing coalition, including the Socialists, the United Peasants Party, and the pro-government parties of the devos, united to form the Federalist Party. Now, for the first time since Poland's rebirth, a single party holds an absolute majority in the Sejm.

WLADISLAW SIKORSKI is the leader of Poland's conservative National Democrats, the Federalist Party's main opposition. The recent addition of the Belorussian and Ukrainian SSRs to the Polish Commonwealth has reduced his party's power in the newly-enlarged Sejm. Unless he can think of some way to overcome his party's limited influence, both it and the cause of Polish nationalism it stands for will be drowned in the rising tide of non-Poles.

BOLESLAW PIASECKI is the Duce of the National Socialists (aka the Nasos), Poland's anti-Semitic extremists. Piasecki is overjoyed by the addition of the ex-Soviet Republics of Belorussia and Ukraine to the Polish Commonwealth. The more the Poles become a minority within their own country, the more popular his own brand of xenophobic nationalism will become, and the closer he will come to his ultimate goals of abolishing the devos, establishing a Polish ruling class, and expelling Poland's Jews.

HEINZ GUDERIAN is widely -- and correctly -- perceived as the mastermind behind Poland's victory in the Second Soviet War. In recognition, he has recently been appointed First Marshal of the Polish Commonwealth by War Minister Skwarczinski, a post previously held only by Josef Pilsudski and by Skwarczinski himself. Guderian cannot help but contrast the honor he has been accorded in Poland with the shabby treatment he received in Germany under Röhm. Previously apolitical, he has now become a fervent Federalist, as have his many admirers among Poland's Germans.

MAXIME WEYGAND is widely -- though incorrectly -- perceived as the mastermind behind the Polish victory over the Red Army in August 1920. In recognition, he was appointed Premier of France in 1944 when it became clear that his predecessor, HENRI DE KERILLIS, was incapable of dealing with the Algerian uprising.

WINSTON CHURCHILL has been absent from public life since resigning as Military Governor of Hanover in December 1939 to protest the new ATTLEE government's decision to grant Indian independence in 1944. His memoirs of the Danzig War were moderately successful, and he has begun work on a multi-volume History of the English Speaking Peoples.

EDWARD ALBERT CHRISTIAN GEORGE ANDREW PATRICK DAVID SAXE-COBURG UND GOTHA became King of Hanover when the country formally gained its independence on 1 May 1944. As he and Queen Wallis are childless, the Hanoverian crown is likely to revert to the family of his younger brother KING GEORGE VI in the future. King Edward has established an excellect working relationship with his Prime Minister, KONRAD ADENAUER.

THEODOR HEUSS became first President of the Republic of Bavaria when the country formally gained its independence on 30 April 1944. His Prime Minister, LUDWIG ERHARD, first rose to prominence in Bavaria in 1940 by defying an order from Military Governor PIERRE LAVAL to create a secret slush fund for his personal use. The resulting scandal forced Laval's removal and made Erhard a hero among Bavarians.

ANTANAS MERKYS has emerged as the leader of the Lithuanian Devo's Independence Party. A plebescite on the fate of the newly-united halves of Lithuania is scheduled for 1 June, and Merkys plans to spend each day until then trying to convince the disparate peoples of his country that they should vote for full independence from the Polish Commonwealth.

BENITO MUSSOLINI is Duce of Italy. The recent success of Italy's secret research project to create an atomic bomb has left him in a curiously schizophrenic state. On the one hand, he feels a strong desire to use the bomb against the British and French bastards who put a halt to his attempted conquest of Ethiopia five years earlier. On the other hand, he knows that as soon as the bomb's existence is known, the British and French (at least) and the Poles and Russians (probably) will start building atomic bombs of their own, and Italy will be back to square one. Thus, while he is now master of the world, he is not quite sure what to do next. But he will think of something.

GROUP CAPTAIN ARTHUR C. CLARKE is the Director of the RAF's Rocket Research Project. The remarkable success of Poland's rocket weapons in the Eastern War has resulted in a sudden flood of resources for the Project, and Clarke has at last been able to give the green light to his long-cherished (and long-neglected) pet project: a multistage ballistic missile which he hopes will serve as the model for an orbital spaceship.

ALBEN BARKLEY is the President of the United States. He blames his defeat by Robert Taft in the 1940 election on his then-running mate, Ambassador JOSEPH KENNEDY, who was enveloped by a series of scandals during the fall campaign. Determined not to make the same mistake twice, at the 1944 Democratic convention Barkley passed on his first choice for a running mate, SENATOR HARRY S. TRUMAN. Although personally honest, Truman was too closely associated with the corrupt Pendergast machine for Barkley to risk choosing him. Instead, Barkley chose the popular Governor of New York, THOMAS WAGNER, JR. Wagner is currently discovering for himself the truth of his predecessor JOHN GARNER's adage about the Vice-Presidency.

Meanwhile, former Vice-President THOMAS E. DEWEY is now regarded as the Republican Party's front runner for the 1948 presidential nomination. From his office in New York City, Dewey observes and occasionally comments on the Barkley administration's policies.

Former President FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT retired from public life in January 1941. He now divides his time between his family's home in New York and his winter home in Warm Springs, Georgia. His memoirs of his eight years in the White House, which he co-wrote with his friend HARRY HOPKINS, have proved surprisingly popular.

The strange world of Wisconsin politics has produced a new national curiosity. The CPUSA's strident criticism of the Polish Commonwealth proved attractive to the state's large population of German-Americans, who had their own reasons for disliking Poland. In 1944 an ambitious local politician took advantage of the state's unusual political landscape (and the widespread disenchantment with the Taft administration's economic policies) to get himself elected to national office: "Comrade" JOSEPH R. MCCARTHY is now the sole Communist member of the US House of Representatives.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY is currently in Los Angeles, putting the finishing touches on a screenplay adapted from his bestselling novel To Sail Beyond the Sunset. ERROL FLYNN has already been signed to play the film's lead character, Captain Clark. Hemingway's efforts to get Warner Brothers to hire his fianceé LENI RIEFENSTAHL to direct have been unsuccessful.

ROBERT A. HEINLEIN is also in Los Angeles, having been hired by MGM to write the screenplay for their new science-fiction epic. Heinlein decided to use his novel Methuselah's Children for the purpose, though as he finishes the script's third draft he is beginning to suspect that the final result will bear little resemblance to his original. Still, the studio pays very well, always an important factor with Heinlein; he and his wife LESLYN have bought a new house in Burbank with the proceeds from his screenwriting stint.

ISAAC ASIMOV, PhD is in Newark, Delaware, having accepted a position with the University of Delaware's Department of Chemistry. It has been two years since his girlfriend GERTRUDE BLUGERMAN dumped him, citing his lack of job prospects. Since moving to Delaware, Asimov has rekindled a romance with his first love, a fellow chemist named IRENE.

ANNE FRANK started a diary when she was 13, but nothing ever really happens in Amsterdam, so she has let it lapse. However, after reading a Dutch translation of To Sail Beyond the Sunset, she has started writing stories set in outer space.

STANISLAW LEM has also read To Sail Beyond the Sunset, but he was not impressed. WITKACY's recent Fear and Loathing in Lwow, on the other hand, impressed him greatly with its "bad craziness", and Lem now considers himself a part of the growing Gonszo School of modern Polish literature.

HERSCHEL GRYNSZPAN has been living in Warsaw since his family fled Germany in 1935. He is currently making a marginal living playing clarinet in a band that plays jazz-influenced klezmer music. However, he and his bandmates are determined to make it to "the toppermost of the poppermost".

After a decade and a half spent knocking around Europe, ANDREAS VAN KUIJK has come to rest in Warsaw. There, operating as "Colonel Tadeusz Paruszewski", he has found a niche as a bottom feeder within Poland's burgeoning recorded music industry. The ambitious van Kuijk keeps a keen eye peeled for an up-and-coming act he can use to make himself rich.

CAPTAIN KAROL WOJTILA is currently stationed in the town of Chernobyl in the newly-organized Ukrainian Devo. He is rather dismayed to find that many Ukrainians blame the Jews for the terrors they have undergone at the hands of the Bolsheviks. The Polish army is able to keep any major pogroms from occuring, but is helpless in the face of hundreds of acts of random terrorism. Fortunately, one man can act where a hundred would be helpless...

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