The German people brought to their two postwar trials much experience in economic adaptation. Their economy was a highly dynamic one. It looked back on a record of tremendous changes in organization and performance, geographic and technological structure, all compressed into such short spans of time as about half a century by the outbreak of War I, and two further decades by War II. The war years themselves had been times of convulsive change and strain. Economic progress in the past had been bought with hard labor and inventive genius -- and with economic insecurity and failures. The fate of the defeated and impoverished had its historical precedents in the fate of the "freed" peasant, the dislodged artisan and small tradesmen, within the last two or three generations. And hope for another turn for the better could lean on that hard, disciplined work and enterprising ingenuity that had won fruits in the past. Thus, uninviting as the circumstances were that had to be met after the wars, they did not appear to the Germans as unmanageable as they would have to a people accustomed to a more static economy. There soon emerged a general will to go to work and meet the circumstances.
Nevertheless, one cannot but marvel at the recuperative power of the stricken economy. Did it spring from its own resources, or from external help and guidance? To what extent was it impeded, and to what extent nourished, by the loss of resources in the wars? In what follows we shall consider briefly three subjects that have a bearing on these questions: first, some differences in the international political setting; secondly, certain features of the governmental framework in Germany at the end of the two wars; and thirdly, the two inflations.