Supposedly Adolf Hitler had in his possession a blueprint of a working atomic bomb. Its destructive power is estimated to be similar to or on par with "Fat Man" which was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.

With the bomb ready by April 1945, how could the Nazi leader use it to rewrite[1] WW2 and dominate Europe with the knowledge he already has? How could the Axis powers deploy the bomb assuming it is in the interest of Hitler to share the technology with his closest allies.

Assuming in this case that America was fully occupied with revenge for Pearl Harbour.

[1] change the outcome of war in favour of the Axis powers.

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    $\begingroup$ "Assuming America was fully occupied with revenge of Pearl Harbour." The "Europe First" policy adopted by the Allies meant America wasn't fully occupied with avenging Pearl Harbor. "Assuming it is in the interest of Hitler to share the technology with its closest ally." Who is this "closest ally" you're referring to? $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 1:23
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    $\begingroup$ The Nagasaki "fat man" bomb was a plutonium fission weapon. There was no thermonuclear component to its explosion. Hydrogen bombs are thermonuclear weapons. If the Hitler bomb was a hydrogen bomb, its explosive yield would certainly exceed Nagasaki's twenty kiloton explosion. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 4:49
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    $\begingroup$ -1 for not doing your homework about the state of WWII in Europe circa 1945. Come on, man. $\endgroup$
    – Adam Wykes
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 6:19
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    $\begingroup$ The Czechoslak time travel film "Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea" (1979) has a similar concept. Nazi survivors hi-jack a time machine & take a suitcase nuclear weapon back to Hitler to avert the defeat of Germany. The last half hour cuts a swathe through more time paradoxes than most time travel films tackle. It was on You Tube. Well worth a look. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 6:25
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    $\begingroup$ As several people have already answered, by 1945 it was far too late to change the outcome. Can you change the timeline? You might create a somewhat plausible alternative history if you can prevent Operation Overlord or make it fail. But the real tipping point was Stalingrad. $\endgroup$
    – Guran
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 8:40

7 Answers 7


Take Berlin Hostage.

This wouldn't win the war, but it's a more interesting answer than "nowhere", and in line with Hitler's belief that he was fighting the Götterdämmerung.

1 April 1945: Germany Has Already Lost.

The German situation on April 1st, 1945 was unsalvagable. Their army was in ruins. Their capacity to make up for losses done. All the men and material necessary to invade Berlin and end the war were already in place. And they were being attacked on two sides by multiple armies. There is no one place to strike.

By April 1945 the war in Germany was over. The Germans faced overwhelming odds on all fronts. The Soviets had 2.5 million soldiers ready to assault Berlin defended by only 750,000 under-equipped and worn out Germans. They were already over the Oder River and preparing for the final push.

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In the West Army Group B was surrounded in the Ruhr Pocket and the Germans had lost their industrial heartland. They had already crossed the Rhine and were driving east and south. The Western Allies voluntarily stopped at the Elbe River (the Soviets were promised Berlin) and turned south to prevent a possible Axis retreat to the Alps.

enter image description here

Attack the West?

Maybe a port of supply like New York? The effect won't be felt for weeks. Maybe a capital like London or Washington DC? The political decisions had already been made, and the Allied high command was too flexible for a knockout blow like that. Maybe a port in Europe like Amsterdam or Rotterdam? The Western Allies now had many ports to choose from, and a good supplies built in.

More to the point, attacking the Western Allies won't stop the Soviets, so any target in the West is right out. You have to strike the Soviets. But where?

Moscow? Delay the Soviets, Surrender to the Allies?

Striking Moscow seems the most logical. Soviet government was very centralized, and Stalin had a personal hand in many decisions. With the Supreme Soviet decapitated, the Soviet military and government would be in chaos. There's a slim chance this could lead to an anti-Stalinist uprising, or a civil war over control of the government. But more likely the hatred for the Germans and final victory being so close would at least delay this fight until after Berlin is taken.

Moscow was also a major rail hub. Its loss would throw the already shaky Soviet logistics into further disarray. Even so, they had the men and material already poised to strike Berlin. Such a disruption would be too far back in the supply line to affect the war in the coming weeks.

Still, if you have one throw of the dice this is it. If the Soviets proved unable to take Berlin the Western Allies would happily do it for them. At least the generals would be happy for the glory of the prize, the tends of thousands of soldiers who would die in the assault would not. For the Germans, they would find the Western Allies far more forgiving than the Soviets.

How To Get The Bomb There? Or Anywhere?

One problem: the Germans had no way to get a bomb to Moscow. Or New York. Or anywhere.

A nuclear bomb in 1945 was an extremely heavy, bulky item. Fat Man weighed 10,000 lbs. It required the largest, most powerful, and most advanced bomber in the world, the B-29, to carry and drop it. Even then it had to be modified to carry the bomb. The Germans had nothing like the B-29.

Even if they had a bomber, how could they make it thousands of miles through Allied dominated airspace?

Put it on a V-2 rocket? Again, too large, too heavy. The V-2 had a warhead of just 1,000 lbs.

Only One Bomb.

Even if Hitler gave the plans for a working atomic bomb to, say, Japan, Japan would not be able to produce a bomb of their own. Neither would Germany. They'd have the one bomb, that's it. The problem is refining the nuclear material is extremely slow, expensive, complicated and energy intensive. And in 1945, nuclear bombs were extremely inefficient with this precious material.

One of the aspects which is underappreciated about the Manhattan Project, and why it was so expensive and took so long, was the production of enriched uranium or plutonium in the amounts needed for a nuclear bomb is extremely difficult. So difficult and so important that the Manhattan Project set up TWO enormous facilities to produce it using two different methods.

Neither Germany nor Japan had anything like the facilities to do this, nor the safe space for such a large and fragile facility. If we assume they can scrape together enough material for one bomb, we cannot assume they can make another.


With nowhere decisive to drop the bomb, and no way to get it there, Hitler would be left with one option: threaten to blow up Berlin. While the Soviets would probably be happy to see Berlin and everyone in it wiped off the map, they would not be so happy to see a million of their soldiers vaporized in the process.

This would lead to a very awkward situation. If Hitler could convince the Allies he had a working bomb, he could retain control of Berlin while the Allies finished off the rest of his empire. The Allies would set up a blockade and Berlin would begin to starve. This stalemate would not last long.

Eventually, someone sensible on his staff would assassinate Hitler. Someone not eager to see Berlin destroyed by atomic fire or starvation. Someone like Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments and War Production, who famously tried to salvage as much of Germany's infrastructure as possible in the closing months of the war.

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    $\begingroup$ Among the many good points made in this excellent answer, the one you have made that I don't see in the other answers is that "having the blueprints" is nothing compared to the refining process. Nice. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 1:43
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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth I suspect you overestimate the Soviet reservation against a million of their soldiers getting killed, given many of their tactics and strategies in the war. $\endgroup$
    – enderland
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ Fun fact: Germany did try to send uranium to Japan to aid building a bomb. See submarine U 234. The submarine was captured and the uranium most likely integrated into the Manhatten project helping to build the bomb against Japan… $\endgroup$
    – Holger
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ I'd argue that millions of Russian soldiers would not be vaporized. The blast radius of Hiroshima's and Nagasaki's explosion was 'only' about a mile. Generous estimates put the death toll at 250k, and conservative around 100k. So unless every soldier was packed into that 2 mile wide circle... Additionally, we had access to tons of German communications, so we'd probably know they only had one bomb. Part of the reason Nagasaki and Hiroshima forced Japan into surrender was the (empty) threat of additional bombings (we only had the two bombs). $\endgroup$
    – SethWhite
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ "TWO enormous facilities" does not do that part justice at all. - "When it was built in 1944, the four-story K-25 gaseous diffusion plant was the world's largest building, with over 1,640,000 square feet (152,000 m2) of floor space and a volume of 97,500,000 cubic feet (2,760,000 m3)." ... employing about 12k people. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 0:47

The answers already given illuminate the military aspect perfectly and nothing can be added to especially Schwern’s post.

However, I see one more shot that Hitler could have and that is using the bomb as part of a plot to turn USA and Russia against each other.

This assumes that Russian espionage already knows the Americans are working on a nuclear bomb, but they know nothing of Hitler’s. Or that he can let them find out about the Manhattan Project.

With this preconditions met, feed the Russian military intelligence false information that the Allies intend to break their deal, take Berlin and in fact all of Germany for themselves, and then continue the war into Russia.

Then throw the bomb on the largest concentration of Russian forces outside of Berlin that you can find. Everyone would assume it was an American bomb.

The whole scheme might be believable to a paranoid Stalin. The Cold War had already started in 1945. On April 12th, Roosevelt would die and Truman distrusted Stalin, something I'm sure Stalin was aware of.

If you can make Stalin seriously believe that the Allies have turned on him, there's a chance he will accept a German surrender, or even ignore the already practically defeated Germany, and march what's left of the Red Army to engage the Allies.

At this point, a peace is a distinct possibility. WW2 was a struggle for power, the whole ideology stuff was just for propaganda. The USA had almost reached their goal of removing Europe from the list of superpowers, but with the Red Army advancing upon them, there is a serious risk that they would lose central Europe, which would be a devastating blow and make Russia so much more powerful. Reviving the good business connections the Nazis had enjoyed to American elites could see Germany joining the Allies in a fight against Russia.

It's a long shot. Maybe not the best scenario. The main idea here is that with one bomb, you will not win WW2, no matter where you drop it. But combined with some subterfuge and trickery, maybe you can turn events around using the bomb only as a tool.

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    $\begingroup$ Now, this is thinking outside the box. Nice. $\endgroup$
    – Beska
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ This assumes an unrealistic amount of stupidity from the Soviets, both in attributing the bombing to the American forces and in subsequently teaming up with the Nazis to take on the Allies. A far more likely, even inevitable, outcome of a Soviet declaration of war against the Allies in 1945 would have been for the Soviets to continue their conquest of continental Europe against the rest of the Allied forces. Turning the Soviets against the rest of the Allies in 1945 would only ensure that more (or all) of Germany fell under Soviet occupation. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ @HopelessN00b I am uncertain of the Soviets would actually win a war against the rest of the Allies in 1945. If the war kicked off immediately the allies had 4.5 million to stalin's 6 million troops in Europe, and the allies had an edge of about 2 in armor and airplanes. They had longer supply lines, but they also had nukes coming on line shortly. However, it seems more likely than Russia allying with the remaining Germans that Germany would become a blasted hellfield of a battlefield. $\endgroup$
    – Yakk
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Yakk Tank warfare is about a lot more than numbers of tanks, particularly with the Soviet preference for heavy tanks, and the Allied/American preference for very light tanks. Regardless of who would have won, the point is that Germany baiting the Soviets and Allies into a war with each other in 1945 wouldn't have saved Germany. The Soviets wouldn't ally with the Nazis, even in that instance, as the Nazis had broken their non-aggression pact to invade Russia (and as you correctly point out, a Nazi-Soviet alliance in 1945 would just turn Germany into more of a devastated battlefield anyhow). $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Tom Britain could probably have prevented that plan from succeeding. Britain had broken the encryption used by large parts of the German military, and the Germans didn't know. Moreover a person in MI6 was leaking some of the decrypted messages to the Russians. So it is quite likely the Russians would have been warned in advance of such an attack. $\endgroup$
    – kasperd
    Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 9:31

1945 bomb isn't a superweapon

Unlike the high-yield thermonuclear devices of the cold war, a 1945 nuke doesn't really give you any capabilities much beyond conventional weapons.

A bomb like that gives you 10-20 kilotons of TNT equivalent, devastates a single location, and kills on the order of magnitude of 100 000 people. A raid of strategic bombers can drop kilotons of conventional bombs, achieve comparable or larger devastation, and kill a comparable amount of people - as has happened many times in WW2. Conventional strategic bombing in WW2 has done far, far more damage than the nuclear bombs; even if we look only at the case of Japan at the very end of war, the nukes were only a small part of the total damage.

Being able to build a nuke isn't a war-changing event in WW2 - with the same enormous amount of resources as a Manhattan-like-project requires you can simply build more conventional bombers and bombs to achieve the same destruction in a conventional manner. Germany having nuclear knowledge wouldn't change the war outcome; USSR having nuclear knowledge wouldn't change the war outcome; and USA not having nuclear knowledge wouldn't change the war outcome. Even if some country had full knowledge of nukes, it doesn't mean that it's worth for them to spend the required resources to manufacture them, it's quite likely that they should and would keep their military production as-is anyway.

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    $\begingroup$ While I agree with you that the damage a nuclear bomb can do is less than what conventional weapons were capable of, I'd argue that in fact there use in World War II was a war-changing event. Dropping the bombs resulted in the surrender of Japan. The weapons had an effect much greater than the actual damage they caused. If they hadn't been dropped, the US would've lost a million soldiers in the invasion of Japan, and the devastation to Japan, both from the war and chaos after it, would have been much much greater. Japan would still lose, but there would be no government left to surrender. $\endgroup$
    – Ross Ridge
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 8:06
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    $\begingroup$ @RossRidge, there's an argument that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren't the decisive factor in Japan's surrender, but that it had perhaps more to do with the Soviets declaring war on Japan. After all, Japanese cities had already been bombed using conventional weapons, and not to a small effect. $\endgroup$
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 8:59
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    $\begingroup$ @ilkkachu I prefer this link, in large part because your link implies that this was new news in academic circles in 2005, when Hasegawa's book was published, which it wasn't. It was considered a long-settled issue when I went to school for my history degree, before that book came out. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ @HopelessN00b Please don't link to sites with crappy JS that hijacks your browser. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ @RossRidge - The use of nuclear bombs was a war-changing event, I agree... but thinking about it (and about Peteris's point) I wonder how much that "s" in "nuclear bombs" matters. It might have been less about the damage a single bomb can cause, since the US was still building nuclear bombs, and could (and would) keep dropping them until Japan surrendered. This may be a somewhat different scenario than Germany having exactly one bomb to detonate, and not having more ready to threaten other countries with (not even a second to demonstrate with), so no way to even back up a bluff. $\endgroup$
    – Megha
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 22:27

With only one bomb in his possession, Adolf Hitler actually has no chance to win the war.

The only conceivable enemy who could be successfully "decapitated" by a single nuclear strike would be the USSR, since it was a highly centralized system and the sudden removal of Joseph Stalin, the Politbureau, the NKVD and the Stavka (Soviet military high command) would essentially cause the Soviet economy and war effort to grind to a halt. However, this would also mean the Germans would need to have some reliable means of delivering a nuclear weapon to Moscow.

The British Empire was far more decentralized, so a strike on London would decapitate the Imperial War Cabinet, but the Dominions and the British Raj (Imperial India) would not be affected and certainly could continue to carry on the fight on their own. The United States would be damaged by a strike on Washington DC, but the American States would be in much the same situation as the British Empire, and American field commanders like MacArthur, Patton and Eisenhower had considerable autonomy, so could continue to carry out their last set of instructions from George C Marshall.

And of course, unless you are going to say the United States isn't carrying out the Manhattan project, a Nazi nuclear attack is most likely going to be met by an atomic bomb attack on Berlin....


There is no way that Nazis could drop an atomic bomb and end the war, especially with America building them. A nuke dropped by Germany anywhere would not have seen the stopping of war but the redoubling of efforts to build them and drop them which would have just lead to bombings all over.

The reason it worked with Japan is because that was already a lost battle and it was a wake up call that they had lost. Germany's bomb would have been looked as a "look at what these evil people are willing to do, we need to fight fire with fire"

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    $\begingroup$ The prevailing wisdom is that the atomic bombings of Japan were not the decisive factor in their surrender, but rather the Soviet declaration of war was. The Japanese surrendered to the Western allies to avoid being occupied by the Soviet Union. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ @HopelessN00b And they'd be wrong. The japanese were ready to continue to throw away lives and they held still much of asia which kept Russia outside of Japan proper. The atomic bomb caused the citizenry to see just how hopeless the war was and terrifying the power they faced was which directly lead to them revolting and deposing the emporer and surrendering. It had nothing to do with some tactical knowledge that they were removed from. $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ No, it's the prevailing wisdom among historians and people who are experts on the subject matter. What you say about the Japanese citizenry's response to the atomic bombings indicates that you are not knowledgeable on the subject. So, think what you want, but you're wrong. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ @HopelessN00b No it's not. In fact, it is looked at as warping of facts and poor research praised by idiotic journalists that are anti-nuclear arms/energy. At best it a delusional warping of facts influenced by bias and worst it is blatant propagandist revisionism that not only causes people to be misinformed about history which may make events repeat but it's also distinctly harmful to their own cause arguing that people really aren't afraid something so terrified that it has resonated throughout all generations since. $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ It's been a settled issue in academic circles for decades that the nuclear bombings did not influence the Japanese surrender. In fact, the only place your position holds any influence is in mass media, where people don't know what they're talking about. Believe what you want, but it's demonstrably untrue, and subject matter experts will look down on you for holding it. May as well walk into a meeting of Egyptologists and explain why aliens must have built the pyramids. The Bomb Didn’t Beat Japan … Stalin Did $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 21:18

Strike Moscow under the guise of the US, or the US under the guise of the Russians.

Make it look like one side didn't intend to stop with the Germans with a planted paper trail. This will at the very least turn a percentage of the Allied forces to distrust and hostility, and will certainly upset world politics in a climate where both nations already distrust each other. If you can capitalize on the distraction this causes, you can certainly turn the tide.

Now that would not have won the Germans the war in 1945, but it could have worked in 1943.


This is probably just a wild sci-fi level thought, but here it goes:

Use the bomb as an EMP

Europe is not very big. I mean it is large, but it's not much larger than an American state. If one were to detonate a nuclear bomb in the atmosphere high up, it could deliver an emp. This would in turn destroy any airplanes and tanks.

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    $\begingroup$ Most airplanes/tanks in WWII didn't use many circuits susceptible to EMP. That's why the Enola Gay didn't crash after detonation at Hiroshima. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 7:52
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    $\begingroup$ Also, EMP radius is not that huge. Europe is that huge. Europe is 15ish times bigger than Texas. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ The only part of a WWII aircraft or tank that contained electronics would be the radio, everything else is mechanical: cables, gears, hydraulics, wires to electric motors. Radios sucked and were not vital. They weren't vulnerable to EMP anyway. The transistor wasn't invented until 1947. Any electronics would be vacuum tubes, relays, resistors, and capacitors. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck Europe: total area - 10,180,000 km2, Texas: total area - 696,241 km2. In metric system, Europe is bigger. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 7:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Daerdemandt United States: total area - 9,833,517 km2. In metric system, Europe is bigger than USA $\endgroup$
    – Bosoneando
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 11:02

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