War and Economy in the Third Reich

War and Economy in the Third Reich

War and Economy in the Third Reich

War and Economy in the Third Reich


When Hitler came to power in 1933 he had two aims for the economy: a rapid recovery from the depths of the Great Slump and the creation of a vast economic foundation for Germany's renewed bid for world power. These eleven essays explore the tension between Hitler's vision of an armed economy and the reality of German economic and social life. Richard Overy argues that the German economy was much less crisis-ridden in 1939 than its enemies supposed, and that Hitler, far from limiting his war effort, tried to mobilize the economy for "total war" from 1939 onwards. Only the poor organization of the Nazi state and the interference of the military prevented higher levels of military output. Many of these essays challenge accepted views of the Third Reich. In his introduction Richard Overy relects on the issues the essays raise, and the ways in which the subject is changing. Often thought-provoking, always informed, War and Economy opens a window on a essential aspect of Hitler's Germany.


The present work is the fruit of twenty years of research and writing on the German economy under Hitler. It covers the period as a whole, from the early recovery in 1932/3 to the final stages of the German war economy. Some of the chapters grew out of conference papers; two of them, on Krupp and on rationalization in the German war economy (Chapters 4 and 11), have not been published before. The rest of the chapters reproduce journal articles. They all reflect a chronological progression in my interests, from asking questions about the role of rearmament and of non-military sectors in the German recovery, to emphasizing the very great efforts made to convert the German economy to war purposes after 1939. Naturally enough over the course of twenty years I have changed my mind about a lot of things, and learned a great deal. I blush at the infelicities of expression and uncritical assumptions of the early pieces. I hope there remains sufficient consistency here to avoid the danger that the conclusions of one chapter cancel out the evidence supplied in another. I have tried in the Introduction to link the different pieces together, and to suggest ways in which the subject has developed during the time the essays were written.

The only changes I have made involve textual inconsistencies or particularly jarring expressions. Otherwise they remain as they were published, and I am very grateful to the publishers and editors involved for permission to reproduce them. I would also like to express my thanks to numerous colleagues and friends who have argued these issues through, or have suggested fresh avenues, or have just plain disagreed. My work is all the richer for that. I would also like to thank the staff of the archives and libraries that I have worked in for their courtesy and helpfulness. I would particularly like to thank the staff, past and present, of the Imperial War Museum, where I first worked on my doctoral thesis in 1970, on records which have long since been restituted to Germany, and where I have continued to work on and off ever since. Finally I would like to thank my daughter, Becky, who typed a large part of the manuscript, and who no doubt wishes, like a great many others, that I would finally rationalize my own work practices and buy a computer.


King's College, London October 1992 . . .

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