As a German I could not resist. Writing this made me feel equally elated and sick in the stomach.
Hitler dies shortly after starting the WW II. A saner and more capable commander in chief leads Germany to victory over the European neighbors, an armistice with Britain and an arrangement with the U.S. The Soviet Union is never invaded. Under the new leadership the all-out Holocaust does not happen. The war ends in 1942, sparing the Reich and its neighbors the worst destruction. Consequently, the Manhattan Project is stopped before it really started. The Reich and its allies/vassalles now consists of most of continental Europe. Its vast natural, human and industrial resources make it the leading world power.
This victory and Hitlers death lead to an air of optimism in the leadership and public. The Nazi ideology becomes less paranoid; instead, influenced by the Italian Fascists, it fully embraces modernity. Industrial, technological and scientific progress is the new paradigm. The Fascist government, much like China's today, is able to devote resources at will wherever it desires.
A new beginning is declared; a host of ambitious new projects is publicly funded in order to boost the civilian economy after the war. Chiefly among them are two futuristic new discoveries: Nuclear power and space flight, of which leading proponents are already in Germany. The German race policies are softened. The new elite of scientists and engineers enjoy special status and are exempt from any remaining restrictions.
In 1946 the Generaltechnikmarschall (Chief Marshal of Technology) holds his famous speech in front of an audience of 1,000,000 at the Volkshalle construction site:
Wie wir uns bisher von allen Widersachern befreit haben, so werden wir auch die Fesseln der Schwerkraft abschütteln und frei sein! Das heldenhafte Deutsche Volk wird die Menscheit zu den Sternen führen, wie es ihm vorherbestimmt ist!1
Oberth and von Braun are given virtually unlimited resources to develop manned spaceflight. The DWA (Deutsche Weltraum-Agentur, German Spaceflight Agency) becomes the global hub of spaceflight development, attracting scientists and engineers from all over the world. Frank Malina and Theodore von Kármán move to Germany and establish a jet propulsion laboratory at the Technische Universität Berlin, joined by Sergey Korolev and Friedrich Zander from Moscow. Fermi returns from America and, together with Otto Hahn, leads the newly founded Institut für Nuklearforschung in Berlin-Wannsee.
These pioneers remember this as the best time in their life. The enthusiasm, the collaboration, the discussions through the night. Oberth writes in his memoires:
And the best thing was: When von Braun and I agreed in our nightly discussion, we would go to the Herr Technikmarschall right in the morning, unkempt and all. He would beam at us like a child on Christmas morning when the secretary let us in: "What have you got for me?" We would pitch our idea. He would ask "does it serve progress?". We would nod. He would ask "and can you do it?", and we would look at each other because we were not at all sure we could. But nothing seemed out of reach. There simply was no ceiling, quite literally. So we would nod. And he would smile, and nod, too. And then he would with a stroke of his pen provide funding, for the Moon, for Mars, for the Asteroids. I think he would much rather have been in our Institut than behind his desk, but these signatures were the only way he could participate. So he was, in a way, our most reliable team member, for more than 20 years.
Money is never an issue. The post war economy is running hot, given the convergence of German engineering, a decisive lead in key technologies and the state-sponsored cooperative Fascist economy. One example of many is that Germany by the late 1950s basically powers the world with the reliable, standardized Fermi-designed nuclear power plants it exports by the hundreds. They are sold as a turn-key leasing model including staff and fuel. The revenue of the state-owned IG Atom soon eclipses the budget of many mid-level countries. Not only is there no dearth of money, to the contrary: The huge trade surplus must go somewhere.
In 1949 the first satellite reaches orbit, followed by the first manned flight two years later. From there the development is exponential. The moon is reached in 1956. Nuclear propulsion is hard to get right, but the world's brightest minds achieve the first successful launch in 1957. The massively increased launch capacity makes it possible to establish a moon base and have a number of space stations in orbit by 1964, providing a stepping-stone for Projekt Mars. The planet is reached in 1969, a first colony established in 1980. Asteroid mining is explored in 1985; the first asteroid is nudged into an Earth orbit in 1992 where it is mined for metal and water, followed by many more. The solar system is literally swarming with swastikas.
1 As we have freed ourselves from all adversaries before, we will shed the shackles of gravitation, too, and be free! The German people shall lead mankind to the stars, as it is its destiny!