Hitler's Economy: Nazi Work Creation Programs, 1933-1936

Hitler's Economy: Nazi Work Creation Programs, 1933-1936

Hitler's Economy: Nazi Work Creation Programs, 1933-1936

Hitler's Economy: Nazi Work Creation Programs, 1933-1936

Synopsis

When Hitler assumed the German Chancellorship in January 1933, 34 per cent of Germany's work force was unemployed. By 1936, before Hitler's rearmament programme took hold of the economy, most of the jobless had disappeared from official unemployment statistics. How did the Nazis put Germany back to work? Was the recovery genuine? If so, how and why was it so much more successful than that of other industrialized nations?

Excerpt

Hitler’s rapid conquest of unemployment, a feat more brilliant than any of his later Blitzkrieg victories on the battlefield, constituted National Socialism’s strongest claim to legitimacy. When Hitler came to power on January 30, 1933, official labor market statistics counted over six million German workers—about 34 percent of the labor force—as jobless. Hitler reduced unemployment by over one-third during his first year in power. Within eighteen months, unemployment had been cut by 60 percent. One is inclined to agree with economist Gerhard Kroll’s observation that “a reduction of unemployment by a third in one year borders on the miraculous.” Economics is not religion; “miracles” have to be explained. How did the National Socialists, who had little respect for traditional economic expertise, bring off this Wirtschaftswunder and put Germany back to work? How did a system now generally recognized as brutal, barbaric, and chaotic apparently conquer unemployment so effectively and efficiently, before the rearmament program took hold of the German economy?

The Nazi Third Reich continues to attract attention in large measure because, in the minds of many, it represents the incarnation of evil. Viewed from this perspective, German National Socialism had nothing positive to offer—it was nothing but mindless brutality of the worst order. But there is another side to this story. Coming to power less than fourteen years after Germany had been humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles and at a time when over a third of Germany’s active labor force was unemployed, Hitler and the Nazis supposedly restored to the German people their work, their bread, and their national dignity.

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