For the economic historian, the great pitched battles of the second world war, from Stalingrad to Midway, are not primarily exercises in strategy, brutality or heroism but the titanic amassing of capital and human beings and their concentration on a point of space and history. For all the ingenuity of cynical opportunists such as Hjalmar Schacht, at the Reichsbank until , and Speer, at Armaments after , Germany passed through a succession of hair-raising financial and resource crises that hampered its armies and helped to bring on the final collapse. As if from a commanding height, Tooze points out for the reader fields and factories and autobahns, the delusive investment in radios and passenger cars, the financial and credit market subterfuges of the s, and the scramble for military aircraft and battle tanks and ammunition. He shows how German business was won over to armaments by the high return on capital that Hitler permitted. For this reader, it took a day or two for a certain depression of spirit to lift. One wonders how its author fared.
|Published (Last):||8 December 2012|
|PDF File Size:||12.69 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||5.77 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
Start your review of The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy Write a review Shelves: history , war , economics , read-in For all its horrors, World War 2 is undeniably a really cool war to look at from a military perspective.
Taking over Austria, yes; seizing the Sudetenland, sure; closing off the Polish Corridor, of course; but why go to war barely 6 years after taking power, way before For all its horrors, World War 2 is undeniably a really cool war to look at from a military perspective. Taking over Austria, yes; seizing the Sudetenland, sure; closing off the Polish Corridor, of course; but why go to war barely 6 years after taking power, way before your own rearmament timetable is done?
The single goal of the Nazi Party was to transform Germany from the hemmed-in, middle-weight power it was into a true competitor to Britain, with its world empire, and America, with its continental resources. This primarily meant acquiring land, and Tooze assembles masses of agricultural statistics to show that the goal of Lebensraum, which strikes the modern reader as a bit weird 21st century Germany is much denser than even the most claustrophobic nightmares of Nazi planners , made a lot more sense in what was almost literally a peasant society in many regions.
Expanding to the east would also have the benefit of allowing Germany to gather enough resources to be closer to self-sufficiency, a major concern for a country almost totally lacking in vital strategic materials like oil or steel.
Removing the need to import important resources would have reduced the need to acquire foreign currency through export, as well as lessening the tension between production for domestic use and production for rearmament.
The reason for war beginning in was simply that waiting would have put Germany farther and farther behind those two powers, who were also beginning to accelerate their own military preparations. Good, in that Germany at a stroke disabled the entire military of one of its enemies and most of the military of another. Bad, in that in a real way they were no closer to victory. To make matters worse, different military initiatives required completely different production, so Nazi war planners found themselves jumping from priority to priority as targets shifted.
I had never realized that tanks were such a small percentage of the overall military budget, but as Tooze points out, aircraft gave by far the biggest bang for the buck. The main problem for German planners was that there was simply not enough of everything to go around; a precious resource like steel could be used for a gun, ammo for that gun, a railroad to transport that ammo, or a million other things, and there were just too many needs.
Those imports came from territories like Poland and Ukraine, directly at the expense of the Polish and Ukrainians, which meant that the Polish and Ukrainians had a direct incentive to help kill Jews, who were merely extra mouths to feed out of the leftover food. Jews were provided with calories per day. While Tooze raised my opinion of the quality of German wartime economic planning, he really brought home what a stupid idea it was to try to conquer all of Europe.
While individual military goals made more sense even still-questionable ones like Barbarossa , from a practical standpoint Germany might as well have been trying to conquer the solar system.
The Wages of Destruction