A standard thing that every philosopher, physicist, and martial arts student must do when commencing their training is to ask themselves what they would do if they had access to a time machine? More specifically, would they use this device to go back in time and kill Hitler?
Bakers as well.
At first glance, the question sounds almost childishly simple. Hitler was one of the greatest monsters recorded in human history, responsible for the deaths of millions of people. Who wouldn't try to kill him and prevent all that from happening?
A little bit of thought reveals the problems with that. For one thing, killing Hitler might not make a difference -- or even make things worse. It's hard to imagine something worse than the Holocaust happening, but it's worth pointing out that anti-Semitism certainly didn't begin or end with Hitler. And if he wasn't around, a different or even more sinister despot could have risen in his place. And the tensions among a reconstructing Germany, the Allied nations, and the Soviet Union could have boiled over in any number of ways, regardless if Hitler was there or not.
Some of them rather a lot worse than what we lived through.
So, no, placing a knife in your teeth and hurling yourself through time to kill Hitler isn't quite the no-brainer you think it is. Also! What if you went back in time to kill Hitler and then fucked it up? What if you didn't kill Hitler, and he stole your time machine, you colossal dicksore? Hitler now has a time machine! How fucked would we be then?
To find out, I programmed my computer to simulate every event in the world over for the past 70 years, assuming Hitler had a time machine, and then let it run over the weekend. Here's what it told me:
The first thing Hitler would do with a time machine would be to have sex with his own grandmother. He would have a few reasons for this, of course, including a rudimentary understanding of genetics, a desire to create a more pure version of himself, and a lingering attraction to his grandmother.
"Nein, Adolf, ee ist nicht gut."
Immediately feeling "wiser" after the deed was committed and concluding it a success, Hitler would set to his next task.
Considering you, the assassin from time, his greatest threat, he would of course desire to humiliate you in the deepest way possible: by sleeping with your grandmother.
Which is why time travelers must never travel into the past with a series of dated and addressed pictures of their Nona.
He wouldn't consider or even understand the risk this posed to the timestream, which ended up with him obtaining a time machine. Though, even if he did understand it, it would not likely stop him, as Hitler was a notorious fan of misguided schemes. And, as this would be his first trip into the future, there's a good chance he would mess up the timing, arriving in the wrong time or space and accidentally crushing your grandma. Is one of your grandmas already dead? That might have been Hitler.
Eventually though (and he's got time), Hitler would get around to the winning the war. With access to a time machine, this would seem to be trivial. Every time Hitler would come to a pivotal moment in the war, he could jump forward a few weeks to find out what he did and see how it turned out. If it didn't work, he would try something else. Suddenly, every gambit he tried would be a success and every strategy a masterpiece. Even with his propensity for harebrained schemes, the Allies wouldn't stand a chance against a Hitler with 20/20 foresight. Although it's hard to say precisely how this would turn out ...
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I would check, but my own time machine is broken at the moment.
... it likely would involve not engaging the Soviet Union when he did, doing more to delay America's entry into the war, or installing chain guns on his arms to get the jump on that assassin in the basement of Castle Wolfenstein.
Or at least taking the time to hire a better architect.
Fortunately, for the sake of all that is good and right, Hitler would face an unavoidable obstacle in his efforts: time paradoxes. Basically, any action he took that would change the course of the war would also prevent you from obtaining a time machine and traveling back in the past for him to steal it. In a single-universe model, for him to obtain a time machine, it requires the war to be lost.
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But, that's clearly not what's happening here. Even the arrival of you into the past with your time machine and clumsy knife skills would be enough to disrupt the timeline. In this scenario, Hitler and the rest of us clearly exist in some form of a quantum multiverse, where a new branch of the universe is spun off for every possible outcome of every event. Hitler would thus be able to time travel freely, but only in the sense that he's altering his course between different branches of the multiverse. He could arrive in branches of the multiverse where he won the war, no doubt full of science-fiction writers wondering about the opposite. But, he couldn't change every branch of the multiverse. For that, he would need something more powerful ...
If Hitler had access to a time machine -- and, at this point, we should probably presume that he has access to several -- he could travel back to the past and uncover any Christian artifact he should desire: the ArK of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, the Spear of Destiny, whatever he wants.
And then, he would presumably put on a funny hat and try to use its magic to seize control over the entire multiverse. Which would do precisely nothing. I'm not an expert on the occult, and feel intense pain when I approach any church or religious school, but I'm pretty sure that none of that old stuff was magic. That was God's power, if anything. Although the Nazis were definitely looking for Christian artifacts, the more reasonable guess why is that they were looking for evidence that they were made or used by Aryans, to prove that every famous person in history was an Aryan, and wow, aren't Aryans great?
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Pictured: Heinrich Himmler, a not-especially-great man.
So, even after bursting in on a surprised Jesus and his disciples, wrenching the cup from his hand, and disappearing in a flash of light, Hitler would still be frustrated by his continuing failure. For this, he would need real magic.
Eventually, Hitler would clue into the fact that if he wanted something with magical abilities, he would have to turn his time machine around and head in the opposite direction. Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, which means that, instead of an ancient grail, all Hitler needed to do was travel to the future and rip the Smart-Cup out of someone's hands.
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Featuring eternal life and 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity.
Assuming that Hitler doesn't jump around at random like an idiot (not a great assumption) and instead inches forward along the time-space continuum looking for weapons, he would again find a problem. All the weapons and advanced technology he'd really like would be kept locked up, leaving him only access to consumer products. Color televisions and space pens and inkjet printers are nice and all, but none of them would really alter the course of the war in all conceivable universes. Computer hardware simple enough to be reverse-engineered by Nazi scientists would also be pretty hard to come by. He could take a smartphone easily enough, but without 50 years of experience working with microelectronics, it's hard to say what the Nazis would do with it.
So, he would travel farther and ...
Eventually, of course, Hitler will reach a point in the future where everyday consumer technology is incredibly dangerous in the hands of a maniac.
The iPhone 12, let's say.
Fortunately for us and the entire metaverse, before he reaches that point, he'll have to travel past the point where time travel was invented. In an era where time travel is known and even commonplace, they would have all sorts of policies and procedures to deal with people like Hitler showing up. With technologies capable of detecting incoming time-sojourners, they would see him coming and arrest him on the spot. One imagines that every couple of days or so, the people of the future have to deal with Hitlers arriving from the infinitude of the multiverse.
The exact fate of Hitler is a little hard to determine at this point, depending a lot on the attitudes and moral framework the people of the future have. Given the sheer quantity of Hitlers they probably have showing up though, one imagines they would tire of imprisoning them, which is why most leading Hitler time-travel experts believe he would be fed into a time chipper.
It sounds nicer than it is.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist in many branches of the multiverse. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
See what happens when Anne Frank teams up with Goku to defeat Hitler in 5 Fan Fiction Sex Scenes You Won't Believe Exist and learn why HItler was akin to Wile E. Coyote in 5 Nazi Plans That Prove They Were Dumber Than You Think.
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