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Introduction

October 29, 2010

Nazi economic policy: Were the people better off?

Key Questions:

  1. How successful was Nazi economic policy?
  2. Were the people better off?

Aims of Nazi economic policy:

  1. To maintain the support of the population. (i.e. feeding the population, providing basic needs)
  2. To make Germany a global military and industrial superpower.

Resources devoted to either aim varied over time.

Foundations:

The most important aspect of Nazi economic policy was that there was no genuine planning or theory guiding it.  By Nazi viewpoint, the economy was not as pressing an issue as genetics or militarism, despite the fact that the latter was intrinsically linked to the strength of the economy; Hitler was firmly rooted in his ‘herrenvolk’ ideas, believing that the Aryan people would triumph no matter what, and himself often proclaimed that “the economy is something of secondary importance”.

Regardless, the economy was not completely set loose and uncared for.  Hjalmar Schacht, Reich finance minister from 1933 – 1936, based the recovery of the German economy in Keynesian economic theory, part of which theorises that consistently high government spending could act as a stimulant to the economy when unemployment is similarly high and business confidence/optimism is low, especially in areas such as physical infrastructure and long-lasting projects.

Later on moved on to a more specific sect of Keynesian economic theory, specifically ‘Military Keynesianism’, the policy being that of a government devoting large amounts of money to the military in order to stimulate economic growth, as opposed to other sectors.

Time periods of Nazi economic policies:

Nazi economic priorities changed over the course of the Third Reich: split into four periods.

  1. 1933 – 1936: ‘Partial Fascism’
  2. 1936 – 1939: ‘Four Year Plan’
  3. 1939 – 1942: ‘Blitzkrieg’
  4. 1942 – 1945: ‘Total War’

Nazi Germany had no definite or consistent economic theory; policies changed drastically as time progressed.  Therefore, there is no ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of Nazi economic policy as a whole; rather, there is the success or failure of individual periods in Nazi economic policy.

 

From → Introduction

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