Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State Hardcover – 9 Jan 2007
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"This remarkable book tackles in an entirely original manner one of the greatest paradoxes of the Nazi state: why did the German people increasingly support Hitler's rule even after it unleashed a world war that ultimately led to its own destruction? The answer, based on massive evidence and convincingly argued, is that the Nazi regime won the support of middle and working class Germans by creating greater social and economic equality at home and ensuring that its own "racial comrades" would be well fed and clothed, all with the proceeds of mass murder and unprecedented continent-wide robbery. This rewriting of history, which dismantles the conventional distinction between fanatical Nazis and sober civil servants, will irreversibly transform our understanding of the Third Reich, revealing it as a consensual dictatorship whose popularity was rooted in grand larceny and the profits of crimes against humanity on an unimaginable scale."--Omer Bartov, author of "Germany's War and the Holocaust: Disputed Histories" "A pathbreaking work."--Amos Elon, author of "The Pity of It All: A History of the Jews in Germany" "In this book Aly once again brings to bear his formidable research skills, his knack for pursuing original lines of inquiry, and his incredible capacity to uncover neglected and seemingly innocuous documents. While I do not share Aly's views about the underlying economic causes of the Holocaust, I nonetheless consider this a fascinating and important book about the Nazi economic policies that facilitated the regime's capacity to implement the Final Solution."--Christopher R. Browning, author "of Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in ""Poland""" "Thoroughly researched and fluently written, this book offers a new, brilliant, gripping and convincing dimension to the understanding of one of the most puzzling questions in the history of our times: why did so many Germans, both Nazis and 'ordinary peop
About the Author
One of the most respected historians of the Third Reich and the Holocaust, Gotz Aly is the author of "Architects of Annihilation," among other books. Winner of Germany's prestigious history award, the Heinrich Mann Prize, Aly has been a visiting fellow at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D. C., and currently teaches at the University of Frankfurt. He lives in Berlin. "
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The term "Nazi" means National Socialist Workers' Party. That seeming innocuous phrase has been omitted from the consideration of its meaning, according to Aly. "National" and "Socialist" are the key terms. "National", meant just that - policies were aimed at benefitting Germany. "Socialist", of course, is a philosophy designed to benefit the most people - particularly those of the lower economic classes. Aly argues with detailed evidence that this is precisely what the Nazis achieved during the 1930s and through the war years. That it succeeded right up to the end of the Reich is testimony to the effectiveness of the Nazi economic methods. The average German began, and remained the "beneficiary" of a highly manipulated financial system.
It was a complex system. Aly begins by explaining how the Nazi leaders were a group of youthful, dynamic characters. They represented change, particularly in a restructering of the class system. The deprived were to be granted first priority in social benefits. While the 1930s witnessed a slow improvement, the onset of war allowed sweeping economic and social change. This was accomplished primarily by shifting the burden of war costs to the occupied nations. France was the testing ground for many new fiscal techniques designed to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in Germany, while bleeding the local populace of essential goods by imposing "occupation costs". One technique was simply to issue a military scrip to buy local goods. Soldiers were able to ship home foodstuffs and other goods not readily obtainable in Germany. The method worked less well in Russia where the "scorched-earth" policy reduced available foodstuffs and other goods. By the time the Wehrmacht entered the Balkans, however, it had numerous finacial tactics available to apply there.
Throughout the Reich's conquered territories, it was the Jews who bore the greatest of these burdens. A number of new laws allowed financial institutions and tax collectors to fill their coffers. Heavily taxed, then dispossessed of belongings, savings, homes and, of course ultimately their lives, the Jews "contributed" to the Reich's ongoing success in several ways. Their homes and belongings were taken and sold, often to the refugees from Allied bombing campaigns. Resettlement in real homes and apartments, sometimes fully furnished, instead of being sent to refugee camps, maintained German morale. The technique provided the gloss of "successful" government policies. Instead of being swayed by charismatic leadership or effective propaganda, Aly argues successfully that personal comfort bound the populace to an adventuresome regime. As he describes it, the Holocaust will never be properly understood until it is seen "as a campaign of murderous larceny". This book makes a major contribution to that understanding. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
In addition Aly has a tendency to make clumsy assumptions from his research, not least in his statement that the support for the regime remained high, particularly in the latter stages of the war, due to the fact that the German people were bribed or bought into complicity with the Reich's crimes by their economic policies. This I feel is too simplistic and does not pay due attention to other factors which may help explain Hitler's ability to survive right up until the end of the War. For example Hitler's grasp of power was far more complete than in other countries such as Italy where the monarchy was still in existence to readily replace Mussolini. With all power vested in Hitler as Fuhrer, Germany had no such luxury. It also ignores the genuine fear of the approaching `Hoards from the East' that research has shown spurred many Germans to resist right until the end. In addition what could have practically been done in a bombed out Berlin to remove Hitler when the more pressing concern of survival and meeting their basic needs would have been a greater priority than regime change.
To argue as Aly does, that the German people where essentially bribed by the Nazi regime is too simplistic and needs to be looked at within in the greater context of National socialism and its ability to control the German people. However his discoveries of new economic documentation does bring something new to recent on Hitler's dictatorship and for this reason is worth a read if only to spark debate as it clearly has.
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Real estate and liquid wealth of Jews (buildings, businesses, stocks, deposits, precious gems and metals, jewelry, garments, luxury items) was nationalized and legally treated as a credit to government trust funds which were put in charge of handling those assets. Involuntary “creditors” were separated from the control over their former funds and were given per diem allowance for everyday needs of about $1500 per week. Over time, when Jews disappeared in camps, their property was classified as “abandoned” and either was used as a guaranty of government bonds, or sold for quite low prices. Those who invested in buying this property effectively received indirect subsidies from the government. However poorer Germans received their benefits, too. Despite the low selling prices for the Jewish property, its sheer amount made the government to collect huge sums on the property liquidation sales. These funds were used for the social programs for all Germans and for building the Werhmacht’s war machine, which was used to get more and more European Jews and their wealth into reach of Nazi regime. These policies resulted into unprecedented support of the regime from all Germans.
As a result, 4 billion Reichsmark (or about $60 billion in the current equivalent) were confiscated from Jews from 1939 to the end of WWII. Considering that before the WWII a bit more than 200 thousand Jews were living in Germany, on an average $1.2 million were expropriated form every abstract Jewish family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children – from a simple reproduction estimate).
To take away Jewish property in the occupied and allied European countries Nazi regime had to jump through additional hoops. According to the Hague Convention, which Nazi Germany tried to comply formally, an occupying power could not have seized and sold property of the civilian population. However, these regulations did not extend over the local authorities of being occupied countries, and this loophole was used for confiscating property of the European Jews. Thus, because of these requisitions, in 1940 budget revenues of France has increased by 211%, Belgium - 200%, Holland – 180%, and Norway – 242%. In 1941 this revenue boom continued, and reached 125% in Belgium, 131% in Netherlands, and 100% in Serbia.
Of course lion share of this spoil was extracted from these countries by Germans, but ordinary people of the occupied and allied countries also directly and indirectly benefited from this big grab of Jewish property. Overall, during war years 20 billion Reichsmark (or about today’s $300 billion) worth property was extracted from the European Jews. Especially these money were needed to finance needs of the Eastern Front. Thus, campaign of 1942 which allowed Germans to reach Caucasus and Volga, as well as campaign of 1943 which ended in the giant battle of the armored armadas near Kursk, were indeed funded by “Jewish money”. However, in reality, contrary to conspirological theorists, “financiers” were doing that involuntarily, and in most cases posthumously (obliteration of the Jews – 4 million – peaked in 1941-42).
So, it was not the 6 million (or 9 million pre-WWII European Jews) which was the target number of Nazi policies. That number was only a means to reach the real target number of 24 billion confiscated Reichsmark ($360 billion in current equivalent), which is about one and a half times more than GDP of the state of Israel with its 8 million population, contemporary technology and work productivity, and a more than a half-century direct and indirect financial infusions from USA. Or, again, calculated per an abstract 4 member family, that target number was about $160 thousand confiscated from each European Jewish family.
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