German World War II Economics: Exploitation of the Captive Nations

NAZI World War II economic strategy
Figure 1.--For the NAZIs, their whole plan of conquest backfired on them. Hitler's war plan was to seize the resources of the East (essetially the Soviet Union) and use those resources to turn Germany into an unassailable continental power. This was the whole poit og going to war--seizing Lebensraum and the vast resources of the East. But this did not occur. The resources of the East proved chimeral for Hitler. Stalin was shipping greater quantities of oil and other critical msaterials to Germany before the NAZI invasion than the Germans were able to obtain after the invasion.

A major question that has not been asequately addressed in the copius scholarship in World War II is how effectively the NAZIs exploited the resources and economic potential of the occupied nations. Germany proceeded to loot the national banks of the conquered nations. Obtaining the gold from the treasuries was critical for the NAZI war effort. The NAZIs oriented the economy toward war production and meeting domestic demand, not internation commerce. Thus critical raw materials from countries they did not conquer (Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey) had to be purchased with gold. The NAZI success in exploiting the economies is a complicated question. Of course the policies they pursued wee morally reperhensible. This virtually goes without saying. But a very different question is the effectiueness of NAZI policies. Here the record is mixed and the comclusioin dependent on what indices the reader estanlishes. It is undeniable that the NAZIs finnces Hitler's War on the backs of the peoples of the occupied countries. They managed to keep the privations felt in other countries until the last full year of the War, 1944. It was in that year that the Germsan people began to experience the consequences of the War their leadership launched pn their behalf. By this time the stratehic bobing campign reached its intensitiy and the advancing Allied armies meant that the despoiling of the wealth of the occupied countries was no longer possible. For the NAZIs, their whole plan of conquest backfired on them. Hitler's war plan was to seize the resources of the East (essetially the Soviet Union) and use those resources to turn Germany into an unassailable continental power. But this did not occur. Stalin was shipping greater quantities of oil and other critical msaterials to Germany before the NAZI invasion than the Germans were able to obtain after the invasion. The Germans were never able to bring Soviet mine and factory production back on line to any great extent. And most of the agricultural resources of the East were used to feed the Whermacht rather than returned to feed Germany. Germany did nore effectively utilize the resources of occupied Western Europe--especially France. But here too the picture is mixed. While the Germns did exploit the wealth of the capotive nations in the West, what they exploited was the existing wealth and producive csapacity at the samne time that America, Britain, and the Soviet Union were massvely expanding arms production. Germany also did not effectively used the economies and industries of the captive nations, especially the countries occupied in Western Europe. Germany did use the captive nations as a source of raw materials. Romania in particular was a critical source of petroleum. (Romania was a NAZI ally, but coersion was an important factor in forming alliances with coutries like Romania.) Germany did not, however, prove very effective in fully utilizing the indutries of captive nations. France in particular had a large, sophisticated armaments industry. This industry was not converted to support the German armed forces. The economies of France and the Low Countries could have made a major contribution to the NAZI-war effort. The NAZIs in 1940 seemed more concerned in making sure that France would never again be a threat in the West. As a result, therwas not effort to gear up French armaments production. By the time the NAZIs realized that the War was not already won, it was to late to take full advantage of French industrial capacity. Thus planes, tanks, artillery, and other key weapons were not constructed in France for the Germans. Given the industrial forces being marshalled against Germany in America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, the Germans needed tofully utilize the industrial capoacity of the conquered nations. They failed to do so. In part this was because a goal of the NAZIs was to turn neighboiring countries into subservient agricultural countries that would feed agricultural harvests and raw materials to Germany. In the end the criminality of the NAZI world view sewed the seeds of its own production.

Gold Reserves

Germany proceeded to loot the national banks of the conquered nations. Obtaining the gold from the treasuries was critical for the NAZI war effort. The NAZIs oriented the economy toward war production and meeting domestic demand, not internation commerce. Thus critical raw materials from countries they did not conquer (Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey) had to be purchased with gold. Very little German production was available for export, especially as the War contnued.

Basic Question

The NAZI success in exploiting the economies is a complicated question. Of course the policies they pursued wee morally reperhensible. This virtually goes without saying. But a very different question is the effectiueness of NAZI policies. Here the record is mixed and the comclusioin dependent on what indices the reader estanlishes. It is undeniable that the NAZIs finncecHitler's War on the backs of the peoples of the occupied countries.

German Home Front

The NAZIs managed to keep the privations felt in other countries until the last full year of the war, 1944. This was a priority of Hiler who recalled how privations on the homne front undermined German morale in World War I. It was in 1944 that the Germsan people began to experience the consequences of the War their leadership launched pn their behalf. By this time the stratehic bobing campign reached its intensitiy and the advancing Allied armies meant that the despoiling of the wealth of the occupied countries was no longer possible. >br>

Hitler's Economic Strategy: The East

For the NAZIs, their whole plan of conquest backfired on them. Hitler's war plan was to seize the resources of the East (essetially the Soviet Union) and use those resources to turn Germany into an unassailable continental power. This was the whole poit og going to war--seizing Lebensraum and the vast resources of the East. But this did not occur. The resources of the East proved chimeral for Hitler. Stalin was shipping greater quantities of oil and other critical msaterials to Germany before the NAZI invasion than the Germans were able to obtain after the invasion. The Germans were never able to bring Soviet mine and factory production back on line to any great extent. This was in part due to Soviet efforts to destroy or render facilitids unuable. But genocidal NAZI policies such as attacks on civilians, rounding up civilisans for war wirkn in Germny, and cutting off food supplies to cities destabilized efforts to restart productive activities. And of course the Soviet Union did not collapse like "a house of cards" as Hitler expected. And most of the agricultural resources of the East were used to feed the Whermacht rather than returned to feed Germany.

Exploiting Occupied Europe

Germany did nore effectively utilize the resources of occupied Western Europe--especially France. But here too the picture is mixed. While the Germans did exploit the wealth of the capotive nations in the West, what they exploited was the existing wealth and producive csapacity at the samne time that America, Britain, and the Soviet Union were massvely expanding arms production. Germany also did not effectively used the economies and industries of the captive nations, especially the countries occupied in Western Europe. Germany did use the captive nations as a source of raw materials. Romania in particular was a critical source of petroleum. (Romania was a NAZI ally, but coersion was an important factor in forming alliances with coutries like Romania.)

Inability to Expand Production

Germany did not prove very effective in fully utilizing the indutries of captive nations. France in particular had a large, sophisticated armaments industry. This industry was not converted to support the German armed forces. The economies of France and the Low Countries could have made a major contribution to the NAZI-war effort. The NAZIs in 1940 seemed more concerned in making sure that France would never again be a threat in the West. As a result, therwas not effort to gear up French armaments production. By the time the NAZIs realized that the War was not already won, it was to late to take full advantage of French industrial capacity. Thus planes, tanks, artillery, and other key weapons were not constructed in France for the Germans. Given the industrial forces being marshalled against Germany in America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, the Germans needed to fully utilize the industrial capoacity of the conquered nations. They failed to do so. By the time that Goebbels began talking about "total war" it was too late for the NAZIs. Speer did suceed in raising German production. He was unable to increase production in France and the other captive ntions. In part this was because a goal of the NAZIs was to turn neighboiring countries into subservient agricultural countries that would feed agricultural harvests and raw materials to Germany. In the end the criminality of the NAZI world view sewed the seeds of its own production.

Specific Countries

NAZI policies and economic capabilities varied from country to country, thus a complete view of the NAZI exploitatiom of the captive nation requires a look at each individual country.

Belgium


Czechoslovakia


Denmark


France

One subject that we have not yet been able to properly assess is the extent to which Vichy France economically supported the NAZI war effort. We know that Vichy supported the German war-effort. We do not know just how effective that support was. Pétain on October 24, 1940 met with Hitler at Montoire. At that meeting Pétain and Laval discussed Franco-German cooperation. They were unable, however, to get any commitment from Hitler on key issues such as the post-War border of France and the return of the French POWs. Hitler had not yet made up his mind on these issues. The fact was that Hitler had little respect for France or the potential benefits of a French ally. He had convinced himself that the War was already won. The ally he really wanted was Britain. Vichy did make an important economic contribution to the German war effort, but it seems limited in terms of the potential economic potential of France. Of course the issue of economic collaboration merges into the subject of NAZI exploitation.

Greece


Norway


Poland


Yugoslavia









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Created: 2:16 AM 10/18/2008
Last updated: 11:31 PM 12/8/2012