The Role of the National Socialist Economy in World War II
It has been argued by historians that the economic system of the Third Reich was the main feature leading to Germany's defeat. This study concerns itself with this question. To begin with I will discuss the Nazi ideological attitudes which had a profound influence on the policies of the Third Reich. These basic ideologies give great insight into the aims of Adolf Hitler. Next the specific economic ideologies will be discussed with reference to the Nazi notions of the role of economics. Although Hitler was an economic illiterate he concentrated on gaining control of all economic areas and gearing them to fulfill his various aims. Also, to the detriment of the Nazi war aims, ideological considerations often took precedence over economic needs. An example of which can be found in the extremely wasteful persecution of the Jews by the Nazis. Possibly the greatest insight into Nazi pre-war economic ideologies can be seen in regard to the career of Hjalmar Schacht. His numerous conflicts with the Nazi hierarchy show the two opposing sides in pre-war Nazi economic thought. The Nazi economic mobilization for war was centered around the theory of Blitzkrieg. It has been said that this method of war was greatly responsible for Germany's defeat in later war years. Actually this theory of war was very successful and resulted in the Nazi control of the majority of Europe. The inefficient Nazi methods of mobilizing the conquered territories proved to be more detrimental to the war effort than did Blitzkrieg. Next I will discuss the reasons for the demise of Blitzkrieg and the rise of Total War. The reason that Germany was able to shift over to a Total War footing as late as 1942 is embodied in the careers of Fritz Todt and Albert Speer. As will be seen the greatest single Nazi inefficiency was its inability to organize the economy. These two men were paramount to the realization of Nazi economic organization. Most notably I will focus on Speer who, with the help of Todt's techniques, effected the shirt to Total War. I will conclude with a discussion of the Nuremburg Trials, centering on the experiences of Speer. Who was guilty in these Trials? Since post-war trials are a relatively new phenomenon, I will discuss their validity with regard to the Nazis.