Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, June 9, 2023

Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze - 2008- 829 Pages

Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze - 2008- 829 Pages

One of my core interests is the Holocaust. Of course this needs to be understood in terms of the places and the era in which it occurred, Germany and the territories it conquered during WW Two.

The Holocaust (1933–1945) was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million European Jews by the Nazi German regime and its allies and collaborators.The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum defines the years of the Holocaust as 1933–1945. The Holocaust era began in January 1933 when Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in Germany. It ended in May 1945, when the Allied Powers defeated Nazi Germany in World War II. The Holocaust is also sometimes referred to as “the Shoah,” the Hebrew word for “catastrophe.” From The Website of The US Holocaust Museum 

Tooze's book goes into copious detail about how the economy in Nazi Germany was shaped by the goals and beliefs of Adolph Hitler and his supporters.

One of the platform ideas that helped make the Nazi party popular was their harsh criticism of the post WW One Versiles Treaty. The Treaty, among other things,prohibited Germany from rebuilding its military, imposed reparations and confiscated territory. The Nazis blamed the extreme decline in the German economy on the Treaty. They saw it as engineered by an international Jewish conspiracy. 

Tooze shows us how, with the full cooperation of wealthy German industrial concerns like I.G. Farben, BMW, Siemens, Damiler-Benz and others began a massive built up of the German Army and the airforce.

"The cultural crises of early twentieth-century Europe, the vacuum left by the secularizing tendencies of the late nineteenth century, the radicalizing horror of World War I, all demand attention from anyone seriously interested in plumbing the deeper motives of National Socialism. How else can we understand a regime that took as its central objective the destruction of European Jewry, an objective apparently devoid of all economic rationale, a project that, if it can be understood at all, seems to be intelligible only in terms of a violent theology of redemptive purifica tion?" From the book

Hitler wanted to expand Germany territory way into the east, basically killing the Jews and starving millions. The plan was to use this space to produce food for Germans.  

Tooze details the internal political developments within Germany. A top priority was to insure adequate food supply at home. Nazi leaders realised unless Germans had good diets they would not support the party.

In Hitler's mind the complete extermination of the Jews of Europe was always a top priority. At first he did not talk a lot about it but as Tooze illustrstes it was by early 1940 a dominant factor.

Tooze shows how concentration camps figured into the German economy as a cheap source of labor. The Holocaust was also explicitly viewed as eliminating people viewed as nonproductive, the old, ill, young children.

Russian prisoners of war up to 600,000 died from over work and starvation, as did millions in the Ukraine and Russia.

At first Jews were allowed to emigrate if they could pay huge fees. Jewish owned businesses were turned over to Germans.

Ultimately the German leadership knew they would probably be Defeated once America with its huge economic capability entered the war.

"This book is the first in sixty years to offer a truly critical account of the performance of the German war economy both under Speer and his predecessors and it casts stark new light on his role in sustaining the Third Reich to its bloody end. For it is only by re-examining the economic underpinnings of the Third Reich, by focusing on questions of land, food and labour that we can fully get to grips with the breathtaking process of cumulative radicalization that found its most extraordinary manifestation in the Holocaust. The first aim of this book, therefore, is to reposition economics at the centre of our understanding of Hitler’s regime, by providing an economic narrative that helps to make sense of and underpin the political histories produced over the last generation." From the book

 Tooze has produced a brilliant highly illuminating history.

Adam Tooze holds the Shelby Cullom Davis chair of History at Columbia University and serves as Director of the European Institute. In 2019, Foreign Policy Magazine named him one of the top Global Thinkers of the decade.

Mel Ulm


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