Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

If you time-travel into the past and then try to kill Hitler, it won't work as intended. It may even backfire.


If you were given the power to travel through time and Set Right What Once Went Wrong, what would you do to prevent the atrocities of the past? Well, for many, the answer is obvious: kill Adolf Hitler. This would prevent World War II, the Holocaust, and their myriad side-effects... right?

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work that way.

First of all, it often proves near-impossible to kill the man in the first place—like most dictators he's protected by various bodyguards and security forces. After all, the guy survived about 42 real life assassination attempts. Trying to circumvent these by targeting him before his rise to power begins will usually turn out to be ludicrously difficult as well. Locating a lone, disillusioned war veteran wandering around post-WWI Europe is perhaps the ultimate needle-in-a-haystack search. Although there is that eight-month prison sentence he served in 1924, if you think you can arrange a suitable prison-yard shanking... *ahem*.

And secondly, even if you do manage to kill him, something even worse will appear in his place; an even smarter and crueler Führer who wins the war for the Axis, or an individual killed in battle instead grows up to terrorize the world, assuming Josef Stalin doesn't take advantage of the fact that Germany isn't invading Russia in this new timeline and it's the Soviet Union that starts World War II this time. If someone actually does stop Hitler, they'll almost always have to undo it to prevent this.

Even worse, if you manage to kill Hitler with no backfire, millions will be saved and the second world war will be averted. So you get a Temporal Paradox, where you will have no reason to go back in time and kill Hitler, which means you won't, which means Hitler will live, which means that millions will die in the world war and extermination camps, this means that you will go back in time and kill Hitler... after a while, you'll start to get a little dizzy.

Finally, you may screw up so badly you will wish you had never been born. Imagine you are a holocaust survivor, whose every loved one died miserably before your eyes. After the war you devote your entire life to discovering time travel and once accomplishing this feat, at the cost of many more years, you set out to kill Hitler in the only way to ensure he never gains power. . . before he was born.

There's just one problem. You continuously hunt his parents down, yet they somehow keep escaping your vendetta. After numerous failures you are finally caught by the authorities, and Adolf's Parents become mentally unstable from the attempts on their lives; as a result, they become the abusive parents history makes them to be. If you are lucky, you escape to the future instead of dying in a prison cell watching the inevitable. But the worst part about it is you realize that all these events would never have happened if a you had never traveled through time. Making you ultimately responsible for the deaths of your loved ones and millions more.

It appears to be a cosmic law that something bad has to go down in the period between 1930 and 1946. Perhaps it's how World War II defined the 20th century; the technological advances, the political foundations, and the example of man's inhumanity to man at its absolute worst that changed whole societies' perception of evil is ever present with us today. To imagine a world without it is to change everything. It may also be that Hitler, for all that he's considered the pinnacle of modern evil, is still a creature of his time and place; killing one man who did evil doesn't get rid of the circumstances and structure that put him in the position to do evil in the first place.

Of course, maybe it's just the Anthropic Principle at work. Some people could reasonably be offended by a story that treats centuries of anti-Semitism like the work of one man. Preventing World War II by one guy playing James Bond or Superman arguably denigrates the efforts of the Real Life soldiers who died to win it. The war is a sensitive subject in general, for obvious reasons, so such a story might never be published. And besides, a story in which someone tries to change history for the better and succeeds, by pitting meticulous planning and futuristic technology against a 1930s-era failed artist, would be boring.

You could also just become responsible for one or more of those failed attempts history never pinpointed to anyone.

Compare Joker Immunity, Godwin's Law of Time Travel, and Clock Roaches.

Examples of Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act include:

Anime and Manga

  • In the Devilman story "Late Spring in Vienna", Akira and Ryo end up in Austria in the 1920 to "kill a demon..." A real one, turned into a Count. He has decided to buy a portrait of his wife Sophie, painted by a poor painter that has no choice - he preferred to keep it because he loves Sophie. A Jewish art dealer makes the arrangement, but the same evening Sophie dies, burnt by her demon husband. Akira and Ryo kill the lord demon and then came back to their time, hoping that history is in good shape after what they done. Then, back in the 20s, the painter is furious after Sophie's death, and places the blame on his dealer: "I hate you, I'll spend my entire life to destroy you and your whole race!" and the art dealer starts to run after him: "Hey, what are you saying? Where are you going like that? Adolf? Adolf Hitler!"

Comic Books

  • This trope is subverted Marvel's Dark Reign: The List #1: Hawkeye asks the other Avengers "if you could go back in time and kill Hitler, wouldn't you?", to which Bucky Barnes/Captain America answers: "I did." Given the way Marvel's Timey-Wimey Ball works, this simply spun off an alternate universe.
  • Note that in standard Marvel chronology someone did get to kill Hitler. Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch, burned him alive immediately after stopping the suicide that ended Hitler's life in the real world. Yet, in a way, he was still a failure. The original Human Torch was trying to take Hitler in alive to stand in front of a war tribunal but had to kill him to prevent him from blowing up the whole bunker. Hitler used his dying breath to make sure his death was reported as a suicide instead of being vanquished by the enemy so to the public the outcome was the same. It turns out Hitler is exempt from being saved too.
    • Also note that since in the Marvel Universe Hitler can body surf from clone body to body it's entirely possible for Bucky to have killed him and then Jim Hammond to do it again later.
  • The Hitler thing was mentioned in a time travel arc of a Godzilla comic book. However, when the villain used his time machine to put Godzilla into the Titanic iceberg, the Big G's escape not only caused the famous collision, but the use of his nuclear breath warmed up the water, increasing the number of survivors.
  • In an X-Men comic, someone makes the mistake of mentioning this idea to Magneto—who is a Holocaust survivor. Predictably, he explodes. In the movie it was the anxiety of separation from his mother in the camps that first revealed the powers of the Master of Magnetism. Without such violent circumstances, Magneto would be a very different person.
    • Another X-Men story, the mini-series True Friends, has Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers accidentally travelling to the late 1930s. Kitty, who is Jewish and learned about the Holocaust from her grandfather, himself a camp survivor, decides to assassinate Hitler and most of his staff, until she is forced to choose between changing history and saving Rachel from the Shadow King.
  • In a Fantastic Four comic book from the John Byrne era, the Invisible Woman, the Torch and She-Hulk find themselves in 1930s New York with Nick Fury. Fury decides to go to Germany and kill Hitler, and the other three try to stop him. They find Fury being interrogated by some goons while Hitler watches; they overpower the goons and free Fury, and Sue Storm gives an impassioned speech about not altering the timeline. Fury nods, starts walking out the door—and then turns and shoots Hitler. It turns out that it was All Just a Dream.
    • In a recent[when?] storyline, where a future Dr. Doom comes back to kill Reed, it is actually stated that timelines tend to correct themselves; for example, if you prevent Lincon's assassination, people remember the time he was almost killed in the theatre... a couple of days before being killed in a bathtub slip.
      • Of course, stuff like that is Depending on the Writer- the Marvel multiverse is said to exist partly because time travel almost always changes things...but simply creates an alternate timeline. So for the above example, there would be a universe where Lincoln was killed in the theatre, and one where he wasn't. And probably at least one where he slipped on the soap, but not because of any universal correction as All the Myriad Ways.
  • In the first story arc of Midnighter's solo series, he is sent back in time to kill Hitler in the trenches of World War One, only to be stopped by the Time Police. Yeah, Garth Ennis isn't known for his subtlety.
    • Later, in the same story, Midnighter manages another go at things but... a bit late in the game. He decides to go for it anyway and it turns out Hitler is so messed up in the head that it spooks our hero. The guy basically runs away from the crazy.
    • In their downtime, The Authority likes to go to alternate universes and kill their Hitlers.
  • In All-Star Squadron #2, Per Degaton noted that he could not time travel to the date of Pearl Harbor due to "interference" in the time stream. (The same writer, Roy Thomas, also had Rama-Tut experience timestream static. Perhaps the presence of so many people attempting to time travel to a certain point creates congestion, similar to many people attempt to use the same exit from a road.)
  • In one classic Strontium Dog prog, Johnny Alpha and Wulf travel back in time to arrest Hitler and put him on trial before the Court of Ultimate Retribution. They have to pick him up moments before his suicide however, otherwise there would be nothing to try him for.
  • The appropriately named graphic novel I Killed Adolf Hitler both subverts and invokes this trope as the center to its entire plot. A down-on-his-luck hitman is hired to go back in time and kill Adolf, using a time machine that is only good for one round trip. Only he bungles the job, and Hitler steals the time machine and escapes to the present. With no way back home, he's forced to live through the intervening years the normal way, waiting for the day the time machine arrives so he can stop Hitler.
  • In a recent[when?] issue of Booster Gold, Booster off-handedly asks if this mission is stopping another time travelling Hitler assassin.
  • In Pre Crisis Superman comics, it was established that although Superman could time travel by flying faster than light, he was physically incapable of changing the past—some obstacle would always crop up to prevent it, even a highly improbable obstacle. He first learned this lesson as Superboy when, after having just discovered he could time travel, he went back to prevent Lincoln's assassination. Against all likelihood, he bumps into the adult Lex Luthor, who had simply been time traveling to take a break from the stresses of supervillainy. The encounter with Luthor delays Supes so he can't stop Booth's bullet. When Luthor realizes that he has inadvertantly helped kill Lincoln, even he is aghast, and he goes home, badly shaken.


  • In Timecop 2, the protagonist was sent back to prevent Hitler being killed, fails and returns to the future, to a world run by Nazis, complete with time travel technology.
    • The man addressing the Senate committee in the first film gives killing Hitler as an example of why the unpredictable nature of time travel means it has to be policed.
  • Hitler himself is an example of the time travel exemption in the Australian film As Time Goes By:

Mike: But you've got a time machine - you could stop it.
Joe Bogart: Couldn't stop the Holocaust - got rid of Strasser, and this dumb painter named Adolf showed up and did it all exactly the same way. Who'd'a read about it?



  • Darren Shan's Cirque Du Freak saga plays with this idea in conversation in Sons Of Destiny. As the main character, Darren, speaks to Evanna, they converse about the time travelling powers of Mr. Tiny. Evanna says that the events of history are pre-written, only the characters can change. Darren brings up Hitler, to which Evanna says that if he was killed off some other person would replace him, keeping the main events of history in check.
  • This idea is expanded with a narrative Take That in Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies: 'Shoot the dictator and prevent the war? But the dictator is merely the tip of the whole festering boil of social pus from which dictators emerge; shoot him and there'll be another one along in a minute. Shoot him too? Why not shoot everyone and invade Poland?'
  • In a fictional "documentational" book for time travelers, a scenario is mentioned where someone assassinates Hitler while he is still a young artist. The assassin never returns—in this version of Time Travel, dramatically altering history creates a parallel universe, and he returned to his present day in that universe instead of "ours".
  • In Stephen Fry's 1997 novel Making History, Hitler's parents are prevented from conceiving, but his absence allows the taller, more handsome, cleverer Rudolf Gloder to ride the tide of frustration that gave birth to the Nazi party, and the results of his reign are worse for the world than Hitler's. Gloder has negotiated a stop to the war with Germany still in control of most of its conquests, and has reined in the anti-Semitism to the point that it hasn't inspired total war from his adversaries. This example is even more impressive when you consider that the entirety of Fry's mother's family (aside from her parents) were killed in Auschwitz. On top of that, Fry is also gay.
  • In the Alternate History novels of Harry Turtledove, World War II never goes down in Germany, but a fourth war between the United States and the Confederacy (after the original, another in the 1880's, and the World War I analog) occurs in the same time period. There is a World War II in Europe, but it's the CSA, Britain, and France that are fascist, the USA-allied Germany having won World War One and thus still ruled by the Kaiser. Not to mention Jake Featherston's Nazi parallel 'Freedom Party', complete with genocide against Confederate blacks. (In this alternate, we meet Hitler, an obscure Sergeant in the German Army, still seething with hate but insignificant.)
  • In Alastair Reynolds' novel Century Rain, World War II is, in fact averted (although not by killing Hitler, he lives till old age) but the result is a negative one, as it effectively halts the progress of science and technology at pre-1940s levels. 'course, it happens in a separate world, not our world, created as some kind of museum to protect human past. And IIRC, technology may have been artificially halted to prevent rockets from banging on the roof.. Effective. Most great leaps in technology pre-Internet was done in, or for, war.
  • A passing mention of this is made in Robert A. Heinlein's The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. The plot involves an agency that can travel through time and across parallel universes. One of their early attempts at improving the world involved assassinating (humanely, they simply ensured that his parents were using birth control on the day of his conception) a Hitler-like dictator. His brutal reign doesn't happen, but what was originally a small-scale nuclear war turned into a global one, since the Hitler-analogue had kept the alternate America out of the war. They rid the world of the evil dictatorship, sure, but they also rid it of all life other than cockroaches. Unusually for this trope, they didn't take their failure as a sign that there are things they shouldn't be messing with; instead, they decided they needed better projections about what would happen should they make a change.
    • Another Heinlein passing comment is that eliminating Hitler was what led to Nehemiah Scudder's fundamentalist theocracy in the USA.
  • Alfred Bester's short story "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed" also displays a similar paradox. The story involves a professor burning with rage over his wife's affair, who decides to eliminate the other man. He does this by first killing the man's father before he was born, to no effect, he then goes and kills his grandfather. Again nothing. Soon, he's gone on a killing spree against many key figures in history, all in the hopes that one of them would end the existence of his wife's lover. He discovers that no matter how much he changes history, it all continues to make no change in the present. All he succeeds in doing is erasing himself from history.
  • The Iron Dream is a rather unusual example set in an Alternate History where Hitler emigrated to the US after World War I to become a Sci-Fi/fantasy author. In this world, the Soviet Union conquers all of Eurasia and Africa. But this is all background material—Spinrad instead uses Hitler's book-within-the-book The Lord of the Swastika to point out the Unfortunate Implications of Golden Age militaristic SF.
  • In the novel Days of Cain by J. R. Dunn, the Moiety is an history-monitoring agency run by mysterious hyper-evolved humans from the end of time, whose directive is that history must remain absolutely untouched so they can study it (in this sense, it's the opposite of the agency in Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity, who constantly tinker with history in order to improve it). The novel centers around a search for rogue agents who are trying to stop the Holocaust (which must be preserved to maintain historical integrity). Interestingly, it's revealed that the other customary linch-pin of history, the John F. Kennedy assassination (as well as the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and the death of Mary Jo Kopechne), were the Moiety's attempt to stop the Kennedys' rise to power (which was not supposed to happen and was the doing of another rogue agent).
  • Orson Scott Card's book Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus is probably the epitome of averting this trope... and contains an implication that the depicted act of changing the past happened twice. What convinces the heroes in Pastwatch to go back and alter history (keeping Europeans out of the new world while helping the Mesoamericans make technological and cultural progress so the two hemispheres meet on an even, non-genocidal footing) is evidence that their own timeline is the result of a previous intervention (Columbus originally led a horrific crusade against the Muslim world that crippled Europe and left it easy pickings for a later invasion by advanced Tlaxcalans).
    • What happened in the previous alternate timeline is conjecture—what the time travelers learn from it really is (in rough order of importance): 1) it's possible to develop technology to send items back in time (until the discovery they were only observing the past), 2) telling Columbus to go eastward (their original plan) would be a waste of time, 3) whatever their decision, they needed to leave a recording giving a detailed account of what change they made and why.
    • Of course the real irony is that, since the previous time travelers didn't leave a memo, there is no way of knowing whether the world the other time travelers created is actually improved over the world where Columbus did—whatever it was he did.
  • In the two-part alternate history novels Fox At The Front and Fox On the Rhine, Operation Valkyrie actually ends up working all because of a sneeze. Hitler dies, and guess what happens? The above described situation with Himmler takes place almost exactly as described. Though, things do end up seemingly better than in real life, as everyone's favorite Magnificent Bastard ends up being The Hero, and Himmler ends up dying in a much worse way than Hitler. Oh yeah, and we get to throw our first nuke at at the Soviets instead of Japan.
  • John Scalzi's short story, "Missives From Possible Futures #1: Alternate History Search Results," gives eight possible scenarios resulting from Hitler being killed on August 13, 1908, in Vienna, Austria, each more unlikely (and more hilarious) than the last.
  • One of the main characters in Sergey Lukyanenko's novel Dances on the Snow (a part of the Genome trilogy) mentions that simulations were done on what would happen if certain key historical figures were to be eliminated before they did what they did. The result was that no single person, even Hitler or Stalin, are important enough in the grand scheme of things to significantly alter the chain of events that resulted in the world history. It should be noted that no time travel technology exists in the novel, this was purely a simulation.
  • In Li Harbin's Time Ghost series, killing Hitler has apparently gone wrong so many times that all time travel units have blocks on traveling to any time in which the man was alive, because the consequences are dire and It Got Worse each time people tried to do it. This becomes a plot point when one Time Spy decides to prevent World War One instead, thinking it would change things so that World War Two didn't happen, which via chain reaction would mean that World War Three (which nearly wiped humanity out entirely) wouldn't happen. The resulting clusterfuck takes up the bulk of Time Ghost's main plot as this goes very, very, very wrong.
  • Connie Willis's time-travelling historians can't go back to any event which is over a certain threshold of "significance" to world history. "The net" (the name for their time machine) won't open for them, or if it will, results are unpredictable. In-universe, someone did once try to go to Germany to kill Hitler in the early days of the net and ended up in South America. Similarly, you can't go to Waterloo or Lincoln's assassination. Since historians can be in the past for extended periods and travel freely once there, it's never explained why you can't go to a different location a bit earlier and travel to the site of the event you're interested in (perhaps the net somehow knows what you're up to?) but then it's never really explained why it's lethal to exist in the same time period twice, either.
  • In Robert Asprin's Time Scout series, people important to history can't be killed. Period. There's no real explanation, but you'll trip, or sneeze, or die, or your gun will jam, or something, but you will fail. Essentially, in-universe Plot Armor.
    • The explanation is that when you're in the past, you don't change history, you merely fulfill your already-taken-place-just-hasn't-happened-to-you-yet part in it. So while you can mess about fairly freely in 'the shadows of history', you can't possibly change the way any event was recorded, because history already records that you clearly failed to change it. One villain's cover story involves him discovering an ancient photograph of himself doing something he has not yet done (it's a lie, but the story is accepted as perfectly legitimate effect of the time travel rules).
  • A version with the Kennedy assassination is the center of the plot of Stephen King's Eleven Twenty Two Sixty Three. It turns out that anyone who does manage to change history ends up disrupting the fabric of time.
  • Animorphs plays with this in Megamorphs 3: Elfangor's Secret, but ultimately averts it, because by the time they get to World War 2, history is already so screwed up that killing Hitler won't matter-he's just a jeep driver in that world. So when Rachel wants to kill him, some of the others are telling her it's no big deal, while Cassie doesn't see how they can kill Hitler in this world just because he's Hitler, given that he didn't do any of the things he did in the regular world. But Tobias "accidentally" kills him a few minutes later.
  • "Wikihistory" by Desmond Warzel is a short story examining this trope.
  • Abney Park came out with a novelization of their band's fictional backstory. In it, they subvert the trope by kidnapping baby Hitler and raising him aboard an airship full of pirates.

Live-Action TV

  • In one bit of The Colbert Report this was Zigzagged in Stephen's book Operation Javelin.
  • In the new Twilight Zone, an agent comes back in time and kills an infant Adolf Hitler. In order not to be punished, his maid kidnaps a beggar's baby and it is raised as Hitler, becoming the one we know.
  • In the original Twilight Zone episode "No Time Like the Past", a time-traveler attempts to snipe Hitler during a speech from a hotel window. He is forced to abandon the attempt when the maid calls the police on him.
    • The same episode averts the whole "doesn't think to go back farther" thing, as the time-traveler also attempted to prevent the sinking of the Lusitania. It doesn't work either.
    • Screw Hitler. The lesson of TZ seems to be : First kill the Dangerously Genre Savvy maids. They're just a leetle *too* efficient.
      • Or just take some Christmas lights with you.
  • Brought up numerous times in Doctor Who, especially the Expanded Universe. In one of the novels, the Doctor helps Hitler to prevent other aliens from making things worse. Another criticised the whole "kill Hitler before the War" theory as a hypocritical exercise in futility, since the only person who would ultimately be able to kill Hitler before he'd actually done anything to merit death (especially as a baby) would be someone who could willingly murder an innocent (a.k.a another Hitler).
    • Doctor Who has always used the Daleks as a metaphor for the Nazis, so the following exchange from Genesis of the Daleks is about as close to this trope as we're going to get:

The Doctor: Just touch these two strands together and the Daleks are finished... Have I that right?
Sarah Jane: To destroy the Daleks? You can't doubt it.
The Doctor: But I do! You see, some things could be better with the Daleks. Many future worlds will become allies just because of their fear of the Daleks... But the final responsibility is mine, and mine alone. Listen: if someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you, and told you that the child would grow up to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?
Sarah Jane: We're talking about the Daleks, the most evil creatures ever invented. You must destroy them! You must complete your mission for the Time Lords.
The Doctor: Do I have the right?

    • Then there's the Autumn 2011 season, which gives us the extremely plot-heavy episode "Let's Kill Hitler". The Doctor gets forced at gunpoint by Amy's friend Mels to go back in time to kill Hitler. Meanwhile, the crew of the Teselecta, a time-traveling infiltrator robot crewed by miniature humans who punish Karma Houdinis, tries to punish Hitler in 1938, only to realize they've come too early (they normally abduct them just before their deaths). Before they can rectify their mistake, the TARDIS comes crashing through the window, saving Hitler's life. Hitler takes the opportunity to shoot the robot, hitting Mels instead. Rory then punches Hitler in the face and locks him in a cupboard, and he is never heard from again that episode while the actual plot starts. The rest of the episode deals with the right and wrong of using time travel in this way.

Hitler: Thank you, whoever you are. I think you have just saved my life.
The Doctor: Believe me, it was an accident.
Amy: What do you mean, we just saved his life? We cannot have just SAVED HITLER!

      • "Shut up, Hitler!"
  • In one rather heavy-handed episode of Sliders, it was discovered that a world in which California was essentially a Nazi state, complete with the ethnic cleansing of minorities, had never had a Hitler (as per one character's befuddled reaction when Hitler's name is dropped), and had therefore never "learned its lesson", namely the horrors of racial oppression and genocide.
  • In another Twilight Zone episode, the central character somehow takes over the body of a young Hitler. After tormenting him for a while, the protagonist prepares to force Hitler to commit suicide. However, Hitler reasserts control just before throwing himself into the river. In shock over the whole experience, he wonders why the protagonist, who had identified himself as Jewish, did these horrible things to him. In a combination with the Butterfly of Doom, the protagonist realizes that he had possessed Hitler before he had acquired any anti-Semitic feelings, and his possession caused those feelings. His attempt to prevent the Holocaust directly caused it.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. In "Storm Front" Captain Archer is urged by one of the people in the Alternate Universe where Germany is winning WW2 to use his phase cannons to destroy Berlin, but he tells her to be patient and let him correct history his way. This is a somewhat odd example, as history had already been massively screwed with, and conceivably Archer could have sterilized all of Earth to no ill effect, as the one event he did need to change would reset everything anyway.
  • In the season five premiere of Lost, Pierre Chang explains to a foreman that the unlimited energy source beneath the Orchid greenhouse can be used to manipulate time. The incredulous foreman replies "What, we're gonna go back and kill Hitler?" to which Chang replies "Don't be absurd! There are rules! Rules that can't be broken!"
  • Red Dwarf. Hitler is actually saved from successful assassination when Lister steals his suitcase (with a bomb inside) during one time travel (where he uses "evolved" film developer).
  • In Supernatural Gordon uses this trope to try and justify killing Sam to Dean, asking him if he was able to sit next to a very young, aspiring Hitler, would he shoot him?
  • In The Drew Carey Show, Drew contemplates whether it would be moral to kill Hitler, and concludes he couldn't because then there would be no A & E.
    • But then he revises his opinion because he'd be on that channel all the time as the guy who killed Hitler, yeah!
  • A non-time-travel example appears in Sanctuary. It is revealed that Druitt has killed Hitler months before D-Day, but the German high command has been using body doubles to make it appear that he's still alive. In fact, they are glad Hitler's gone. Druitt realizes that Germany can't be brought down simply by killing one man. Interestingly, in the pilot episode, Helen claims that Druitt is a time traveler from the future, which would make this trope true, if his backstory wasn't Retconned later into a Victorian scientist who became a teleporter after injecting vampire blood.
  • In series 3 of Misfits an old Jewish man who's bought Curtis' power attempts to travel in time and kill Hitler. He accidentally drops his 2011 phone, Hitler finds it and Nazi tech leaps forward sixty years in an instant. When he gets back to 2011, he has created a world where Nazi Germany won the war and now rule Britain.
    • So Kelly gets given the time-travel power and uses it to go back and take the phone off Hitler. And then chin him. And ask him why he's "such a fookin' dick". And then "kick the shit out of him".
  • In the Second City Television (SCTV) sketch "Abraham Lincoln and his time machine", Abraham Lincoln accidentally creates a time machine, which just happens to look much like the time machine in the '60s movie adapted from the H. G. Wells book. He takes a peek at his own death, and based on what he sees, goes back and dogs the steps of John Wilkes Booth all through his childhood and young adult life, to the extreme of switching with his fiancee on Booth's wedding day, to hide behind the wedding dress veil as a disguise to get close to him, in many, many separate attempts to assassinate Booth. This turns Booth into a neurotic adult, desperate to get this madman off his back, who has pursued him relentlessly his whole life, and is the source of motivation for Booth to therefore ultimately kill Lincoln.


  • In the song "Parantaja" by Finnish garage metal band Riivaaja, a man of Jewish descent devises a time machine, travels to the past and assassinates Hitler. He returns to his own time to see the Soviets having completely taken over, and figures the only solution left is to go back to the past and assassinate himself.
  • Dan Bern's song "God Said No" has the narrator asking God to send him back in time to kill Hitler (as well as prevent the deaths of Kurt Cobain and Jesus). God refuses (duh), saying that if He did send the narrator back, he wouldn't actually do the things he claims he would, instead getting caught up in other, more self-serving activities.
  • Spoofed in Anal Cunt's "I Went Back In Time And Voted For Hitler", wherein the singer doesn't go back in time to kill Hitler but instead to vote for him.

Tabletop Games

  • Time travel is possible in the Warhammer 40,000 universe using the warp. However, it is impossible to control (it's akin to being caught in a swell at sea) and only in very rare cases does it actually boost a person forwards or backwards (the Fallen, for example, are scattered across Time as well as Space).
  • In the Champions module "Wings of the Valkyrie," the heroes must go back in time to save Hitler after another time traveller kills him before the Nazi Party rises to power... creating an Alternate History where things came out even worse (Germany went communist; the West lost the alternate version of World War Two to the German-Soviet alliance; a falling-out between the victors led to World War Three; several cities have been nuked and the major powers don't seem at all afraid of doing it again when the next war breaks out; the United States is sliding into homegrown fascism). Most people in the alternate 1987 have a general sense that civilization is inevitably going down the drain. It caused some complaints from less Genre Savvy readers who had trouble with the premise that offing Hitler might actually make the world worse.
    • It should be noted that the original version submitted by the credited author presented the heroes with an alternate history in which killing Hitler creates a worldwide Utopia; the point of the original version was to present the players with an opportunity to debate morality and present a hard choice about whether to restore the original history. Editorial meddling (and possibly concerns that such a module might be a campaign-ender) resulted in the published version, which greatly embarrassed the credited author. The less genre savvy readers included Holocaust survivors and (IIRC) the Anti-Defamation League, who had trouble with the premise that slaughtering 6,000,000+ Jews (and others) might actually make the world better.
  • In GURPS Time Travel, it is said that many new recruits to the Time Patrol ask this question: they are given more or less the same answers detailed at the top of this article.
    • It's also acknowledged, in a way, in the GURPS Infinite Worlds setting (which is more about crosstime travel). Some agents of Centrum (the antagonist timeline) have noticed that Homeliners get downright irrational (or even more so than usual) about timelines where Hitler exists, especially if he's winning. To Centrum, he's just another genocidal despot like so many in (other people's) history.
  • Played with in Genius: The Transgression. You can kill Hitler, but it won't do anything (except get the Time Cops mad at you). Hitler has been killed six times over, so the setting's Time Cops started cloning him. If you head back to 1921 Hamburg, you can get a tour of the cloning facility. In an added twist, the Time Police got there a bit late—there was a Nazi party that led Germany to World War II and the Holocaust, but Hitler wasn't behind the reins first time around...
    • There's a very high rate of suicide among timecops who have to protect the Nazis.
  • In the time-travel RPG Continuum, the Thespian's Fraternity is a guild of actors who use various disguises and impersonate historical figures throughout time to prevent Narcissists from changing the Known universe. It's very rude to ask them how many times they've had to impersonate Hitler; the common reply is "Further information is not available here."
  • Feng Shui uses this trope in order to explain how superficial shifts (changes to temporal events that don't involve capturing Feng Shui sites) work in the setting. If you killed Hitler in the 19th century hoping to keep Nazism and its various atrocities from going down, it would not work, because somebody else would simply take Hitler's place.

Video Games

  • In the Real Time Strategy game Command & Conquer: Red Alert and its sequel, Einstein invents a Time Machine to go back in time and kill chrono-erase Hitler at the one moment in history where his location in civilian life was absolutely verified, being just outside the gates of Landsberg prison on December 20, 1924, moments after completing his sentence for his role in the Beerhall Putsch. He succeeds in preventing the original WWII, but this power-vacuum leads to Stalin starting up a war just because he was bored. This lead to a similar, much larger conflict, where the Soviets and the Allies (Germany being a part of the Allies now), fight a new war (with even weirder weapons).
    • Stalin may have been bored, but the main reason was (wait for it)... he saw it as his destiny... in a series of dreams!!
    • And then, just to make it even weirder, in Red Alert 3, as the Soviets are about to be defeated, they realise Einstein (and the advanced technology he created) is the key to the Allies' victory against them. So the Soviets pull an Einstein on Einstein, erasing not only him but the nuclear technology he invented. This causes the Soviets to be a much more powerful force - but they inadvertently create a new world power, the Empire of The Rising Sun. They are then forced to ally with the Allies against this new menace - and the Soviets end up losing in the canonical ending anyway. Great Job, Time Travelling Soviets!
      • On the plus side, by taking nuclear weapons out of the picture, game developers were free to make a war game that added a third faction from the era but did not involve winning by dropping a nuclear bomb on the Japanese. Thats would just be tacky.
      • Although Einstein seems to have the exemption too because a whole corporation springs up in his place to supply the Allies with weapons and chrono technology.
  • In the early flight combat sim Corncob 3D, Hitler was apparently killed by a thrown bottle earlier in his life. In place of WWII, however, there was an alien invasion. Somewhat inexplicably, F4U Corsairs are still developed and flown against the alien threat.
  • In The Real Time Strategy game War Front: Turning Point, Hitler is assassinated very early in WWII. This, however, makes things worse: under the even more effective leadership of his successor, the Nazis are able to occupy Great Britain. And when they are eventually defeated, things go haywire: Russians take Germany's fall as the chance to advance into Western Europe, triggering a new conflict with the Allies.
  • In an unused poster in Portal 2, you are informed to, in event of time travel, avoid both your past and future selves, your dad, and Hitler. An unused and unrecorded Cave Johnson line states that all alternate parallel universe versions of you (or whatever test subject he was talking to at the time) are Hitler. He also warns you not to kill him if you meet him during the tests.

Cave Johnson:"Alright this next test may involve trace amounts of time travel. So word of advice: if you meet yourself on the testing track don't make eye contact. Lab boys tell me that'll wipe out time - entirely. Forward and backward. So do both of yourselves a favor and let that handsome devil go about his business."

  • Somewhat averted in Titanic: Adventure Out Of Time. The protagonist is a former British government agent, waiting in his apartment in the London of 1942 for a German bomb to land on him. He reflects on the past, and how it could have been altered. Somehow, he then ends up back on the Titanic, given a second chance to complete his mission. If you succeed, and manage to escape on a lifeboat with three particular items, Hitler never comes to power, WWI is similarly averted, and peace and prosperity reigns in Europe. Of course, if you escape but with two or fewer of the three items, in any particular order, there are various other horrible fates waiting for Europe, such as Soviet dictatorship under Stalin (without any Hitler to counter him, his power grew far greater) or the world wars not only going ahead, but Germany invading Britain. Amusingly, one of the items is a painting done by Hitler, which if recovered, makes him a famous artist, and thus he has no time to involve himself in politics.

Visual Novels

  • Heinz Heger in Shikkoku no Sharnoth has apparently been going for something like this. Whether it works or not is left ambiguous, but he himself views it as a failure.

Web Comics


Queen Beetle: [If Hitler] wasn't a monster anymore, you'd never do this in the first place. There'd be no reason to "fix" a nice Hitler.


Samantha: His success is your fault? But he's the most overrated artist of the 20th century! What could have possibly been worse?

  • Inverted in Black Adventures, where N and Black travel back in time to save Hitler.
  • Played straight in this arc of This Is Douglas, where the main characters are foiled by a Grandfather Paradox.
  • Spinnerette Issue 8 begins with a time traveling Ben Franklin unwitting saving Hitler from as of now unknown time traveling assassin while completely nude. Starting here
    • Franklin's super power is also based on this same principle.
  • Square Root of Minus Garfield has this comic, where killing Hitler invokes one of the strip's Running Gags.
  • Discussed in this Real Life Comics; Greg wants to go back in time and change something trivial (Las Vegas choosing to build a giant TV instead of a life-size U.S.S. Enterprise) and Tony points out all the cause-and-effect even a twenty-year change would cause before adding "Why do you think I haven't gone back to the mid-1930's and killed Hitler before World War II started?"
  • Played with by xkcd when Black Hat guy goes and kills Hitler... in 1945 in the bunker, while the Red Army is storming the city and Hitler is just about to commit suicide. Played straight from the perspective of the person who persuaded him to do it, since it was a reasonable assumption that he'd know to do it before World War II. Black Hat guy was right after all when he said they should have used the time machine to do something fun, instead of wasting their only chance at time travel in a futile attempt to satisfy the other's person's "obsession with this Hitler guy."
  • Looking for Group spin-off has "Dick being a Dick" version: don't kill Hitler, but make him guess in vain for the rest of his life.

Web Original

  • This parody PSA is an inversion, with a time-traveling Hitler narrowly avoiding getting hit by a car.
  • Fake Science blog explores some "twists" on this beaten path here.


  • "Time Travel Travesty" inverted the trope, in that the time-traveller wanted something bad to happen. An evil genius comes up with an Evil Plan, go back in time to kill Hitler causing the Soviet Union to take over Europe. His henchman called him out on it, stating he's just copying the plot of Command & Conquer: Red Alert. Unlike Red Alert though, the universe just explodes.

Western Animation

  • Spoofed in Family Guy where Stewie and Brian go back in time to save Mort Goldman, who accidentally ends up going back in time to the German invasion of Poland. Upon returning, Brian asks if Mort, a Jew might end up going back in time to stop Hitler, to which Stewie responds that they've returned 30-seconds before Mort initially goes goes back in time. He then pushes Present!Mort back into the time machine and blows it up with a laser.
    • In "Back to the Pilot", Stewie and Brian travel back to 1999, where Brian takes the opportunity to warn his past self about 9/11. When they return to 2011, they discover that the disaster was averted, but the country is a Post Apocalyptic nightmare because of George W. Bush. They set things right by going back and telling the versions from the start of the episode not to try changing things.
  • Subverted as a Discussed Trope in South Park: in the episode "Make Love, Not Warcraft", Cartman directly asks Clyde if he would go back in time and kill Hitler given the chance, then adds that he himself wouldn't, because he thinks Hitler was awesome.
  • In Justice League, the immortal Vandal Savage sent a laptop containing current technology to himself, allowing him to depose Hitler, creating a present in which Savage rules the world under the Nazi banner. However, after the good guys beat him, Hitler was dethawed from cryogenic suspension, putting WWII back on track.
    • Mostly. According to Stan Berkowitz, part of the reason Savage's Germany was winning was because Savage directed Germany's resources and manpower toward the war, rather than genocide. So when the Justice League defeated Savage, that resulted in a timeline where WWII was fought but the Holocaust was cut short or never happened at all.
      • Following that... then Israel may not have been formed, greater populations of minorities, Roma etc. in Europe, and all the other implications of the Holocaust not happening. Huh.
  • In the Futurama episode "The Late Phillip J. Fry," Farnsworth kills Hitler after reaching the creation of a new, identical universe following the end of the current one. We don't see the consequences, but later on he attempts to kill the next universe's Hitler and accidentally kills Eleanor Roosevelt instead.
  • Robot Chicken demonstrates a possible loophole to this trope: a skit during the episode called "Dicks With Time Machines" features...well, dicks screwing around with past. However, the last one doesn't try to kill Hitler, but instead chooses to publicly humiliate him by showing footage of him on the toilet at one of his rallies. This effectively destroys Hitler's ability to get anyone to listen to him and changes the name of the skit to "Heroes with Time Machines".


  • Atlanta Radio Theatre Company, who do audio dramas in the vein of old fashioned Radio Drama, had a story called The Assassin, where the time traveler trying to halt World War Two goes back in time to assassinate a six year old boy, to prevent the formation of Nazi Germany. The catch? Hitler was the guy who eventually replaced the dictator-to-be that was assassinated by the time traveler.
  • One recurring joke in John and Hank Green's Brotherhood 2.0 videos is the Evil Baby Orphange, a project suggested by a fan in the midst of a conflict over whether killing Baby Hitler was ethical: instead of killing him, kidnap and bring him to a mountain retreat with other kidnapped historical despots.
  • There is a 1966 Swedish play, Å, vilken härlig fred!, about war, democracy, and civil rights that touches on this. One scene is in an alternate history where Nazi Germany won WWII and... not very much seems different. A movie poster announces the latest 007 film—007 Gert Fröbe, that is—and the latest teenage fad is rück und rüll music, but otherwise the actors read the actual newspaper of the day and discuss current events that the audience would be familiar with. But: when one of the actors complain about Hitler getting the Nobel Prize ("a fat geezer who spends his time at the Riviera wrapped in a blanket making bad paintings") a member of the audience leaves to come back later with some uniformed policemen who drag the actor off stage.
  • This time machine tale takes a moment from stealing cereal through time and creating paradoxes to explain why it won't work.
  • Why the grandfathers? asks this short story.

Real Life

  • There were at least 42 attempts on Hitler's life and they all failed, some in preposterously inconvenient ways.
  • Memoirs of people who knew Hitler remarked how every attempt of his life only furthered his belief that destiny/God was on his side.
  • Both the Western Allies and the Soviets contemplated assassinating Hitler. Both ultimately decided against it for several reasons. First, they viewed Hitler, and the Nazi Party, as a symptom of a much bigger problem: extreme German nationalism, born out of the stab-in-the-back myths of World War 1 which held that Germany was not defeated on the battlefield but by traitors on the homefront. This meant killing Hitler may have had the effect of turning him into a martyr and strengthening the will of Nazi Germany to fight on. Secondly, removing Hitler would most likely cause one of his inner-circle to come to power, and probably would have left Heinrich Himmler in charge. Himmler was the one that actually orchestrated and executed the Holocaust (albeit on orders from Hitler), as well as commanded the SS. And he was far less of a megalomaniac and more of a realist, at least where prosecuting a major war is concerned. The allies largely concluded that keeping Hitler in charge would actually help them defeat Germany faster. And thirdly was the fear of reprisals against civilian populations or Axis-held POWs in retaliation for overtly assassinating Hitler.
    • Of course, historians to this day could debate the extent to which this assessment was accurate, or if killing Hitler really would have caused the German war effort to collapse after all, and whether they were right to think that Hitler and the Nazis were merely symptoms of the problem of extreme German nationalism or had evolved beyond that and were something distinctly nasty in their own right.
    • It is extremely unlikely that Himmler could have maintained the loyalty of the German military, given that none of its senior officers remotely liked or trusted him. And while Himmler was less megalomaniacal than Hitler, he was also less intelligent.
  1. No, not John Wilkes Booth, although that would be interesting...