Where Are They Now? — Inglourious Basterds

Man, it’s hard to write an introduction to this one without spoiling large portions of the film. Never mind. If you’ve seen it, you’ll understand why this particular “Where are they now?” is a little different from the others. And if you haven’t, you should. It’s Tarrantino’s best film to date.

The first thing that needs to be clarified is when the film takes place. I don’t recall any specific dates in the film itself, but a few educated guesses can be made. The Germans still occupy Paris, and indeed, the city does not even seem threatened by the Allied advance, so therefore it’s at least a week or so before August 15, 1944, when the battle to liberate Paris began with a general worker’s strike. Conversely, the Allies have definitely landed in France, and indeed, are only a night’s hard drive away from it, so it must be at least a week or so after D-Day, which was on June 6. Let’s split the difference and call it mid-July, 1944. So, as the sun rises over Normandy on the morning of July 16, 1944, and Lt. Aldo Raine gives Col. Hans Landa a pointed lesson in the difference between oberying the spirit and the letter of one’s orders, we have six surviving cast members and a world that will be vastly different from our own.

Word of the events in Paris is going to spread quickly, and it’s Gen. Ed Fenech who is likely to receive the word first. Naturally, he’ll take it to Churchill at once, and no doubt the Prime Minister will make one of his famous speeches after conferring with Roosevelt and Stalin.

My guess is that he would announce the deaths of Hitler, Bormann, Goering and Goebbels, and declare a temporary cease fire on the Western Front – conditional upon the immediate surrender of Germany’s new leadership. This is a godsend to the July 20 plotters, and Erwin Rommel assumes command of all German forces and orders the cease fire.

Hans Landa, Aldo Raine and Smithson Utvich are feted in London, although Landa is never seen in public without a bandage around his head. In Paris, Marcel is likewise feted, as the populace celebrates the now-inevitale German pull back.

The Germans pull back more quickly on the Western front than on the Eastern one, leading to grumbling from Stalin and the odd skirmish between German and Russian forces. It takes a week or two for Rommel to realise why: the retreating Germans are trying to destroy evidence of the death camps. He responds by inviting Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill to join him on an investigation of the camps, bringing with them whatever forces they wish. Roosevelt refuses on the grounds of his health, sending Truman in his place. All four men are horrified by the camps (although in Stalin’s case, his horror probably had more to do with the inefficiency of them), and the story is publicised widely. Landa makes public appearances denying any knowledge of the genocide. Raine makes public appearances disputing his claims.

There is some discussion of what is to be done with Germany now, and Stalin suggests sending the Wehrmacht east to fight the Japanese. Rommel agrees to the idea, as soon as he can find a replacement – if Germans are going to fight, he will command them. Churchill and Truman initially oppose the idea, until Eisenhower, Montgomery and Patton talk them round.

A tentative accord is reached, and it is agreed that Germany will surrender all captured territories, return indepedence to Austria and Czechoslovakia and renounce all claim to East Prussia, which will hencforth be a part of Poland. All other territorial boundaries will return to their pre-war alignments, although Stalin tries hard to hang on to the Baltic states. It is agreed that the new United Nations will ratify these decisions, when it meets in 1945.

Meanwhile, the war in the east drags on, but the renewed morale of Allied forces, plus the additional manpower and materiel now available for the war effort, has a ruinous effect on Japan. Island hopping continues, but a little faster than in our reality. In particular, Japanese forces in mainland China are faced with a sharp upturn in the rate of resistance, and the possibility of a Russian invasion of Manchuria in the very near future.

On the boat home from England, Aldo Raine and Harry Truman become drinking buddies, and Truman sees to it that Raine, Utivich and the deceased basterds receive decorations and memorials by the truckload. Hans Landa, on the other hand, is an embarassment. After interrogation by the OSS, he is hidden away on his island, as he requested – where he is effectively imprisoned, albeit in some luxury.

In November, Roosevelt is elected to a fourth term as President, and begins making plans to attend the innaugral United Nations meeting come March. As “the city where the war ended”, Paris has been chosen as the site of the new United Nations headquarters. It is also the site of the Shoshanna Memorial and Cinema. Roosevelt’s consternation over the possibility of a Russian invasion of China, which now appears a certainty, finds expression mostly in the increased funding showered upon the Manhattan Project, and in the reassignment of as much of the US ground forces as can be spared from Europe to south east Asia.

By the time March rolls around, the possibility of a Jewish state in Palestine is on everyone’s lips, most often those of Erwin Rommel. Although never an anti-Semite, Rommel now sees a Jewish homeland not just as recompense for the Nazi genocide, but also a means of quieting his restive nation, where tensions between Jew and non-Jew are at an all-time high.

Although the Bomb was not completed on time, research continues, although there is now less pressure for quick results. The civil war in China, each side covertly funded by its own Allied supporters, rages on, although the Nationalists slowly gain the upper hand.

The first United Nations meeting is attended by the leaders of most of the world’s states – the recently surrendered Japan is not represented, and nor are several neutral nations – and does pretty much what it was expected to. It ratifies the treaties already signed to end the war, and creates a Jewish state in Palestine, to begin on January 1, 1946. It also announces an end to the colonial era, to begin with all due speed. This last measure is largely the brainchild of the Americans, who use the experience of recent occupation (or in Britain’s case, the threat of it) to persuade the various European colonial powers that it’s a bad idea. (They lead by example, too – the Phillipines is the first nation to be so freed.) With one exception – Papua New Guinea, which is absorbed into Australia as a territory – all colonized nations other than those held by Spain are freed by the end of the decade.

This is not to say that the world is a peaceful place: many nations now freed of colonial overlords dissolve into civil wars, which the United Nations tends to prefer resolving by persuading the nations to split apart if at all possible. By 1960, there are over 200 member states in the United Nations, but De Gaulle’s United Europe proposal (similar to the current EU) has stalled – not least due to Paris being the UN’s headquarters.

Also, in 1960, Smithson Utvich dies from a hunting accident, and Aldo Raine attends his funeral. Only belatedly is it noticed that Hans Landa has gone missing, and upon closer examination, it’s revealed that no one has seen him for at least six months. Landa spends the next few months stalking Raine, confident of his greater intelligence. In the end, his desire for vengeance gets the better of him, and the two die with their hands locked around each others’ throats.

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