Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Monday, August 07, 2006

THE WAGES OF DESTRUCTION: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy Adam Tooze. Allen Lane £30,

Adam Tooze appears to have written a real home run:

FT.com / Arts & weekend / Books - The featherless eagle: By Bertrand Benoit: THE WAGES OF DESTRUCTION: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze. Allen Lane £30, 832 pages:

Adam Tooze... The Wages of Destruction, a masterful economic history of the Third Reich. Tooze, an economic historian at Cambridge... painstakingly researched, astonishingly erudite study not only uncovers new explanatory strands for the events that led to and ended the war....

Based on solid statistical foundations, his central and perhaps most counter-intuitive finding is that the Germany that went to war in 1939, steeled by six years of hectic rearmament, was no mighty industrial steamroller but a weak economy, starved of resources and foreign exchange and crippled by an oversized and utterly unproductive agricultural sector. Despite rapid industrialisation in the late-19th century, standards of living in 1938 Germany were only half those in the US and two-thirds of the UK’s....Adolf Hitler’s country from the mid-1930s onwards was teetering on the brink of collapse. By 1940-41 it had reached crisis, failing to commandeer the steel and fuel to reverse the unfavourable and fast-degrading balance of power between its underfunded military and that of the Allied powers.

For most of the period covered, from Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 to the regime’s downfall in 1945, Germany’s economic policy boiled down to scarcity management. It was this, Tooze contends, that dictated the Blitzkrieg nature of the 1940 offensive against the west....

Once forced into a defensive position after the attack on Russia ground to a halt in the winter of 1941, the war was lost. If the economic managers of the Third Reich had any success at all, it was in ensuring that the conflict lasted four more years. This came at extraordinary human and moral costs. Occupied territories, mainly in the east, were ruthlessly looted for raw material, food and workforce.... Civilians and prisoners of war....

Tooze... does not dismiss politics as a factor in his narrative. The “ignorant condescension”, mainly racially motivated, shown by the Germans towards Soviet Russia was, he says, among the regime’s most determining miscalculations.... Tooze also refreshes our understanding of the Anglo-American bombing campaign of 1942-45. The raids on the Ruhr region, he argues, dealt a mortal blow to Germany’s military-industrial complex. But the RAF’s futile attempts at repeating in Berlin the firestorm it had sparked in Hamburg in July 1943, instead of tightening the hold on the coal-and-steel choke-point of the Ruhr, was “a tragic operational error.”...

One of Tooze’s most fascinating conclusions is how much Hitler’s economic understanding was informed by the US. Roosevelt’s America was not only the ultimate enemy, dominated as the Nazis thought by Jewish capitalism, but a role model.... [I]t was America’s vast territory and internal market that informed and, in his eyes, legitimised Hitler’s view that Germany could only prosper through the colonisation of the east. This Lebensraum theory, whereby local populations would be driven away or eradicated as the American Indians had been, was the Nazi answer to America’s frontier mentality. In fact, many aspects of Hitler’s economic thinking were nothing but a distorted interpretation of the US economic model...

I think Tooze is absolutely right in his assessment of Hitler's view of America.

Add this to the top of the pile immediately!

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