** World War II German Military Weaknesses natural resources strategic materials coal








World War II German Military Weaknesses: Natural Resources / Strategic Materials -- Coal


Figure 1.--Coal was vital to the German economy. German industry was powered by coal and was the trains which dominated German transport ran on col. Coal was also indespenable in the Grrman home, for both home heatinhg and cooking. Here German housewives at the end of the War, hurry to astopped coal train hoping to fill a bucket of coal.

Germany lacked virtually every natural resource needed by an industrial nation. The one critical resource Germany possessed in some abundance was coal. The Ruhr Valley is located in the central part of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia. It was her Grma industry developed, porimarily bedcause of the abundabt coal deposits. The Ruhr region in western Germany thus became the core of the German industrial powerhouse that developed in the mid-19th century. The Ruhr was not the only place in Germany that had coal deposits, but the bulk of the contry's coal was located in the Ruhr. The first coal was mined in Germany (12th century). Coal mining only became important in the 19th century with the Industrial Revolution. This transformed the mining regions of the Ruhr Valley and neighboring Saarland into the industrial heart of Germany and of Europe itself. It propelled Prussia's unification of Germany as Austria failed to industrialize. Germany at the turn of the 20th century was one of the the world's chief miners of coal, after only the United States and Britain (1900). Coal powered German industry and the rail trnsport system. It was also the primary fuel for home heating. And with the advent of electrification, coal powered German generators. Germany was basically self-sufficent in coal, but it was not an important exporter. German industry required almost all of the production of German mines. This was a factor in World War I. German industry was dependent on imports, but not for fuel. The War was fought before oil and the internal combustion engine had become critical to warfare, although the lack of oil affected German air, naval, and mechanized warfare (tanks and trucks). World War II was very different. To wage war, Hitler neded oil, coal wold not do. Coal was vital for industry, but oil was needed for military operations. Ironically, while Germany had most of the coal it needed for domestic industry, the Wehrmacht's stunning industry caused an energy crisis. While German had coal, two developments emerged. First, domestic demand for coal increased because of the War. Second many of the countries Germany conquered or came to influence did not have coal or the quntity they needed. This was espeially the case of Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, but even France needed to import some coal. Most of the coal they had been importing before the War came from Britain, primarily the Welsh coalfields. Thus if the Germans wanted the economies of these contries to contine to operate and support the war effort, they had to supply coal from domestic production. This created a fuel shortage in Germany. Shirtages develpped before the War because of NAZI mismanagement. Thy became much more severe during the War. The operation of the German Grossraum actualy worsened the energy situation in the Reich. The Germans even had to share some of their precious oil supply for the same reason. The operation of the captive economies varied in importance. The functioning of the Swedish economy was vital because Sweden was Germany's primary source of the iron ore needed to manufacture steel. German technology devloped a synfuel indstry to convert coal to petroleum products, furtherbincreasiung demand for coial. This along with the Ploesti oil fields were German's primary sources of oil after Soviet deliveries ended after the Barbarossa invasion (1941).

German Coal Resource

Germany lacked virtually every natural resource needed by an industrial nation. The one critical resource Germany possessed in some abundance was coal. The Ruhr Valley is located in the central part of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia. This is where German industrial development began because it was wher the major coal deposits were located. The Ruhr was not the only place in Germany that had coal deposits, but the bulk of the contry's coal was located in the Ruhr. The first coal was mined in Germany (12th century). Germany at the turn of the 20th century was one of the the world's chief miner of coal, after only the United States and Britain (1900).

German Coal Mining

Germay produced more coal than any other country in Europe. More or less comparable to American production. Germany produced about 185,000 tons (t) of hard coal and 185,000 t of brown (lignite) coal. Thus Germany produced more coal than Britain, but less of the more vsluable hard coals. Britain produced about 231,000 t of hard coal which is has much more enrgy value than brown coal. France only produced about 48,000 t of hard coal. The Soviets produced about 115,000 t of hard coal and 19,000 t of brown coal. The Germans not only produced large quantities of coal, but they were highly efficent producers. German mines were the most highly mechanized in Europe. This enalked them to out compete other European coal producers. The German coal output per man-hour exceeded that of Great Britain by one-third and was double that of neigboring France and Belgium. [USSBS, p. 91.] Germany did not, however, dominate the export trde in Europe. The coal they minded went to supply the domestuc market. German production of coal increased with the early war victories. Coal mines in Czechoslovakia and Poland and small improvmnts domestic expoansionm enabled the Germans to reach nearly 270 million tons of hard coal in 1944 [USSBS, p. 92.] Production was not impaired by the bombing. It is gard to bomb a coal mime as iy is already underground.

Importance

Coal was the resource on which German's industrial economy was based. Coal provided 90 percent of Germany’s energy consumption. It was this absolkutely vital to the German war economy.

The Ruhr: German Industrial Powerhouse

Coal mining only became important in the 19th century with the Industrial Revolution. This transformed the mining regions of the Ruhr Valley and neighboring Saarland into the industrial hearr of Germany and of Europe itself. The Ruhr region in western Germany thus became the core of the German industrial powerhouse that developed in the mid-19th century and it was fueled by Ruhr coal mines.

Historical Importance

Ruhr coal propelled Prussia's unification of Germany because Austria failed to industrialize. What existed if heacy industry was primarily located in Bohemnia--the core Czech proivince around which Czechoslobakia was builyb after World War II.

Usage

Coal powered German industry and the Reichsbbaun-- the highly efficent German rail trnsport system. It was also the primary fuel for home heating. And with the advent of electrification, coal powered German generators.

Self Sufficency

Germany was basically self-sufficent in coal, but it was not an important exporter like Britain. What German miners produced went to supply the domestic market of the Reich. This woukd prive to be problem as the War prigressed. To get the ecomomies of countries they conquered or infkuenbced to work, the Germans had to replace the coal those counties had been imprting from Britain. German's inability to fully replace the defeciit is one reasion that production plummeted in occuplied countrues in World War II--an imprtant problenm fir the German war economy.

World War I

German industry required almost all of the production of German mines. Coal was a factor in World War I. German industry was dependent on imports, but not for fuel. The War was fought before oil and the internal combustion engine had become critical to warfare, although the lack of oil affected German air, naval, and mechanized warfare (tanks and trucks). German plans to build a Berlin to Bagdad railway was in fact prompted by the desire to obtain a secure supply of oil.

Inter-War Era

Coal was vital to German industry/ Some 90 percenyt of Germany's energy needs were provided by coal. [Toprani, p. 360] This was the case before, during and after World War II. And the way the coal was distributed was mostly by rail. Barge deliveries were of some importabce, but rail was the primary destribution system. Germany had one of the most efficent, if not the most effucent rail systems in the world -- the Recicsbahn. Although they beagn building the Autobahn, that was mostly for show. [Tooze, p. 47.] Automobiles abd trucks played a minor role in German transport. Few Germans could afford cars. And unlkie America, no German company began building a car that workers could aford. Hitler eventually came up with the idea--the Volkwagen. But mo wiorkers actually got cars befre the War intervened. The Reichsbaun of course did not just carry passangers, it was vital to German indutry. It was primarily how raw marewrials and funished product was transprted. And coal was perhaps the most important raw material the Reichsbaun transported. After Hitler seized power did not fare well (1933). There were two matters three matters that adversely affected the Reuchsbaun. First, SA thugs burst into Reichsbaun offices and seized cointrol (1934). The Reichsbaun was a major operation, in fact the largest enterpriose in the capitalistbworld. Thus it was the source of many well-paying jobs for the NAZU faithful. Large number of competent empoloyees were dismissed and replaced with ardent NAZIs. A few Reicsbaun mnanagers were hauled off to coincentration camps. [Mierzejewski] Second, Hitler's focus was on rearmament, not on expanding the train servive. As a result few resources were provuded to expand the Reuchsbaun or even adequanteky maintain rolling stock and lines. A major problem was the steel shortage. At the yome of the Munich Crisis, the Reichsbaln was near collaose. [Tooze. p. 258 and 343] Third, to please the public, fares were reduced this increasing demnand for services. The result of all of this was serious coal shortages wghuch began to appear as eraly as 1937--a full 2 years 2 years before the War. This was not a production problem. Germany increased coal producrion nnually (1933-43). [Overy, pp. 116-17.] The shortages were due to: 1) increased demnd abd 2) a distrubution problem--meaning Reichsbaun trnasport. [Mierzejewski]

World War II

World War II was very different. To wage war, Hitler neded oil, coal would not do. Coal was vital for industry, but oil was needed for military operations. Coal shortages affected arms production, at times severely. [Tooze, pp. 343-44.] And Goebbels in his diary would go on and on about coal shortages. One entry just before Christmas 1939 read, "The cpal situation in Berlin is approsxhing catastrophic proportions. I shall make representationsd to all yhe asuthorities resoonsible. We lck trnbporttion; this is our weak link everywhere." [Goebbels, December 22, 1939, p. 72.] Ironically, while Germany had most of the coal it needed for domestic industry, the Wehrmacht's stunning successes caused an energy crisis. the core of the problem was NAZI misamsmsgement, the failure to devote resources to the Reichbahn to not only prepare for the War, but even maintain the rolling stock and lines already in operation. Than two new problems emerged as a result if the War. First, domestic demand for coal increased because of the War. Second many of the countries Germany conquered or came to influence did not have coal or the quntity they needed. This was espeially the case of Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, but even France needed to import some coal. Most of the coal they had been importing before the War came from Britain, primarily the Welsh coalfields. Thus if the Germans wanted the economies of these contries to contine to operate and support the war effort, they had to supply coal from domestic production. Ths created a fuel shortage in Germany. This was a problem that developed befoire the War, largely because of NAZI muismamagement of the Reuchsbaun, but it greatly imvresed durung the War. NAZI propaganda began to talk of coal thieves to deflect thair misamanmagement of the economy, in this case priamily the Reichsbahn. And even greater problems were to develop with the advent if the War. [Tooze, p.343.] The operation of the German Grossraum actualy worsened the energy situation in the Reich. The Germans even had to share some of their precious oil supply for the same reason. The operation of the captive economies varied in importance. The functioning of the Swedish economy was vital because Sweden was Germany's primary source of the iron ore needed to manufacture steel. German technology devloped a synfuel indstry to convert coal to petroleum products. This along with the Ploesti oil fields were German's primary sources of oil after Soviet deliveries ended after the Barbarossa invasion (1941). The Reichsbahn would be destroyed by the strategic bombing campaign,ending the deliveries of coal to German cities, but this occurred relatively late in the War.

Synfuels

Coal could not, hoeever, drive tanks, U-Boats, and aurcraft. For that the Wehrmacy needed oil. But oil could be produced from coal leading to a whole new industry--synfuels. German scientists taking advantage of Germany's one great natural resource developed a method to chemically synthesize liquid petroleum from the one hydrocarbon they had -- coal. Germany dominated the pre-War chemocal industry. Friedrich Bergius developed the process, inventing the first such process-- a high-pressure coal hydrogenation (1910). He and other German scientists gradually improved on the process. Bergius began working with Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Coal Research (KWI) in Mülheim. This was part of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute, Germany's premier scientific institute. (Today it is known as the more politically cirrect Max Planck Indtitute. They dicovered a second coal conversion process, known as the Fisher-Tropsch (F-T) procss. Using both processes, the Germans established the world's first technologically successful synthetic liquid fuel industry. [Stranges, p.13.] German chemical giant IG Farben played a major in the German Synfuel program. The first plant was built at Leuna (1927). The synfuel program did not provide Germn the oil it needed, but i provided a vitl addition to the oil that the Germans were cable toi get their hands on. It vame, however, at an emormous cost. The average F-T plnt cost were about RM 30 million ($75 million). And operating the plants were a lot more costly than pumping oil out of the ground -- exponentially higher. The average manufacturing cost for a barrel of synthetic oil was between RM 32-45 ($13-18). Processed fuel values averaged 23-26 pfennig per kg (approximately 31-44 cents per ∴ gallon. [Stranges, 13-18.] A barrel of crude oil traded for 93 cents on the U.S. commodities exchange (December 1939) And a gallon of regular gasoline sold for 13 cents at New York City service station. [Fraser] Not only was synfuel expensive, but it increased the demand for cial already in short supply.

Sources

Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research (FRASER), “Survey of current business statistics: 1940” Website: http://fraser.stlouisfed.org/publications/business_stats/issue/136/download/1105/fuels.pd

Goebbeks, Josef. The Goebbels Diaries, 1939-41. This was of particular concern to Goebbels vecause as Gauliter of Berlin he recived countless complaints from infoviduals abnd buduness which could not obtain coal for home heating and buiness operations.

Mierzejewski, Alfred C. The Most Valuable Asset of the Reich: A History of the German National Railway>/i> Volume 2, 1933-1945 2nd Edition.

Overy, R.J War and Economy in the Third Reich.

Stranges, Anthony. "A history of the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis in Germany 1926-1945” Presentation at the 2005 Spring National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, San Diego, CA. Published in B.H. Davis and M.L. Occelli (ed) Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis, Catalysts and Catalysis (Elsevier, B.V., 2007).

Tooze, Adam. The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of th Nazi Economy (Penguin Group: New York, 2007), 800p.

Toprani, Anand. Oil and Grand Strategy: Great Britain and Germany, 1918–1941.

(The) United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS). The Effects of Strategic Bombing on the German War Economy.







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Created: 1:31 PM 12/26/2018
Last updated: 6:59 PM 5/29/2021