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on 14 February 2007
An excellent read and a salutary reminder for people who, like myself, tend to focus on the political and military aspects of WW II, that there were other powerful forces at work as well. Tooze clearly shows that even absolute dictatorships just can't afford to neglect the balance of payments.

He argues, convincingly, that Speer's "armaments miracle" wasn't much of a miracle after all, but to illustrate the point he seems to overstate the achievements of the German arms producers in the first three years of the war somewhat. For instance, it may be, as he states, that the number of "combat-worthy medium tanks" doubled from May 1940 to June 1941 (page 433), but this was an increase from a very small base (not much more than a thousand). Moreover, many of these tanks were Czech, and rather than being 36- and 38-ton tanks as Tooze states, they were in the 10-ton class, and clearly unsuited for the medium tank function they were expected to fulfill. The fact that the Germans were forced to keep the Czech TNHP tank, which did not have one single part in common with German tanks, in production (as the Pzkpfw. 38t) to make up the numbers already says a lot about the relative impotence of the German tank industry at that time. Medium tank production in June 1941, the month the Soviet Union was invaded, was 38 Mark IVs and 133 Mark IIIs (plus 65 Czech 38ts), decidedly unimpressive compared to US tank production, which starting from scratch reached one thousand per month in little over a year, or compared to Soviet tank production which soon reached comparable levels under unimaginably difficult conditions. Even taking into account reduced steel quotas for the army and other constraints, there still seems to be something of an "armaments mystery" for the first half of the war, even if there was no real "miracle" in the second half.
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on 6 May 2013
By far the best book covering this period of German history that has been transleted into English.
Tough reading in parts --but worth the effort.
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This is a superb account of the Nazi economy and gives great insight into its manifold failures. I think this is a must read for any serious student of the period and for the interested amateur as well. It is well written too so you can get through the detail easily.

A clear recommendation!
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VINE VOICEon 8 September 2007
It was Watergate that taught us to Follow The Money. Strangely, few people have done this with the Nazi regime. Although the Third Reich was a major military power by 1939, all the guns, bombs and planes had to be paid for and just because it was a murderous dictatorship, this did not mean that it didn't have to follow a fiscal policy. For instance did you know that Germany stayed on the Gold Standard longer than the USA?

Adam Tooze has authored (I believe) the first major work on the Nazi economy since Alan Millward's of the 1960s/70s. He opposes Millward's thesis of the 'Blitzkreig' economy, geared to fight short continental wars and instead shows an economic policy that lurched from crisis to crisis, that was subverted to one man's wish to dominate the world.

Hitler started rearming Germany from the first day he took office and Tooze shows the remarkable feat that took place in such a short time. Germany, for all its ideology and violence, remained a capitalist economy and apparently the rate at which it rearmed was unprecendented. It is this sheer quantity of armaments that secured victories up to 1941.

Of course all the effort was doomed. Tooze demonstrates that all Hitler did was to start a global arms race. He also shows that Germany was constrained in how much it could rearm by critical shortages of material and workers. Although Germany started first, it would have been overtaken by Britain, France, USA and USSR by the mid-forties. Thus Hitler had no choice but to start his war in 1939. If he had delayed by even a year, then it would have taken less time to defeat him..

Tooze also shows, as have many others, that Albert Speer should have been hanged at Nuremburg. A rising star throughout the existence of the Third Reich, Speer wielded almost supreme economic power towards the end. However this power was build on the broken bodies of millions of slaves. He appears essentially to have been Europe's biggest slavemaster. Although Himmler may have been responsible for the violence and the death, it was to maximise Speer's production figures that it was all done in the first place.

This is a economic history first and foremost, but Tooze also revises the conventional view of the fall of France in 1940. Rather then being a masterstroke of strategic design and the application of the Blitzkreig, he demonstrates that it was a simple application of sheer weight of numbers. The Wehrmacht had no reserves and other sectors of the front were stripped to the bone to make up the numbers.

For me, a curious omission was the 'Bomber B' saga. Although Germany's failure to produce a strategic bomber is touched on with reference to the Heinkel 177, Tooze could have explored in greater detail the Luftwaffe's efforts to build a rival to the Lancaster and how they completely failed to do so during the 12-year life of the Third Reich.

Also it would have been useful to have a comparative study of the economic effort needed to produce the V1 and V2 compared to the Lancaster et al versus the impact these weapons had. Apparently more people died building the V2 than were killed when it landed on its targets.

Tooze does however validate the Area Bombing policy advocated by Harris and shows that if it had not had shifting priorities then it may have ended the war sooner. A demonstration of this is that by 1944/45, the Rhine and Ruhr were the cleanest it had been for decades as there was no industry there to pollute them. Since these still remained behind the lines then credit must be due to the aerial campaign.

A minor critique is that the book takes no prisoners on the economics front. You need to have a basic grounding in capital flows and foreign exchange to be able to follow some of the intricacies. Perhaps Tooze could be persuaded to include a brief guide in the second edition of what is sure to be a very popular book.
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on 11 May 2009
As the rave reviews already indicate, Adam Tooze has certainly put himself in the top ranks of historians of the modern period with this book, "The Wages of Destruction". In this brilliant analysis of the political economy of the Dritte Reich, from the origins in Weimar to the end in 1945, he overthrows many old myths and clears up many confusions, all the while speaking with the authority of a historian in complete command of all the necessary information and insight into his sources.

Tooze manages, insofar as that can be said, to make the insensible sensible, and to show the rationality and pragmatic response to political economic pressures on the part of the National-Socialist government in Germany. Instead of relying on cheap psychological analysis of people like Hitler and Goering, or simply declaring their policies to be "ideological" and then failing to actually explain how they were possible, Tooze shows in a tight narrative series of successive steps how each move towards the goals of the Nazi government led to the next act in this murderous tragedy.

Tooze's political economic analysis shows us the essences of the National-Socialist government's support and policies. As he shows, the Nazis relied on two classes for their support: industrial capital, in particular heavy industry, which sought to expand control over raw materials in Europe and to profit off an armaments boom while seeking to destroy the French and British competition (as well as the Communists generally), and on the other hand the very large group of smaller and middle level farmers in Germany, which sought an expansion in the available land. As Tooze shows, German development by the time of Weimar had been very uneven, with the living standards being significantly below the level of Western Europe generally, with a very inefficient and underdeveloped agriculture (which due to its low productivity therefore needed more land than British farmers did, for example), and at the same time a very strong recent industrial base. In some senses, Germany in the Weimar time was closer to early 20th century Russia than to the UK or the US of the 1920s.

The national-socialist ideology devised by Hitler came as the 'solution' for the problems of both these classes. Tooze shows extremely usefully how Nazism is really the ultimate in colonialism and settlerism; the entire ideology and strategy of Nazi Germany was aimed at annexing and then settling the lands of Eastern Europe, which were considered the necessary living space (Lebensraum) for the German people, whose population density, particularly in agricultural areas, was much larger than in France or the UK. This in turn would require the removal, literally, of the original population of that area. The comparisons to Manifest Destiny are extremely clear, even so much so that Hitler himself compared the future of the Slavic peoples after German settlement to the "Red Indians". At the same time, the goals of destroying the Communists on the one hand and 'removing' the Jews etc. on the other would ensure that the non- or anti-settlerist influences were permanently removed from the German domains. To achieve this goal, massive war would have to be waged, to defeat the main competitor on the continent on the one hand (France), and to conquer and annex the lands in the East on the other hand.

Tooze shows how this logic of settler imperialism went further and further, as the enormous investments required for German rearmament in turn required a clean break with all existing diplomatic and trade relations, while at the same time fostering a need to wage more and more war in order to keep realizing the enormous profits for the armaments industry. Similarly, the quest for raw materials to guarantee the German Imperium-to-be could only succeed through warfare, which in turn required more raw materials to produce the necessary armaments. All of this took place at the expense of both the mass of the German population, whose living standards were low and became lower, and of all the other peoples of Europe, which were ruthlessly subjugated or even destroyed. Tooze shows that the 'social projects' of the Nazi regime, in the style of the New Deal, were in reality mostly showpieces with little real content or effect, and that the economic boom of the mid-1930s and the decrease in unemployment was because of the immense investments in weaponry.

Finally, Tooze also shows how utterly ruthless the logic of settlerism really was when followed to its final goal; not only did this entail the destruction of perceived internal anti-settler elements, in the form of the Holocaust, but it led to a much larger 'Hunger Plan' which was designed to destroy the great majority of the population of Eastern Europe altogether through famine. Through the strength of the Red Army, the German leadership never had the chance to fully put this into effect, but had it succeeded, the Holocaust would only have been a smaller element in an even larger crime. Such is the unimaginably murderous policy of settlerism.

Despite the very heavy statistical material and the in-depth economic analysis, Tooze's contribution to the history of modern Europe is never boring at any point. The narrative and vision of this book is compelling and authoritative, and Adam Tooze's work is likely to be the definitive work on the ultimate settler state for a long time to come. I cannot recommend this book enough - if one reads only one book on Germany and WWII in one's lifetime, let it be this one.
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on 11 April 2010
At first I was a bit apprehensive about trying to tackle this book, seeing how I know next to nothing about economy. However that was not the problem. hile i still don't understand details of monetary policies this book is easy to understand despite that. It first touches on Weimar germany and why they were in such position. The attempts to boost economy are explained.

However main focus is of course Nazi economy. Tooze explains it quite well, from size of various sectors (industry, agriculture....), to how decission to rearm affected, well, everything. Conquest of Lebensraum is explained in economic terms, as is genocidal policy, both toward Jews and Slavs.

Tooze also debunks several myths, such as Speer miracle, decission to kill jews rather than employ them in production, employment of German women and why Hitler wasn't wrong when insisting on retaining certain soviet regions at all cost (e.g. Dombas)

All wars are fought for economic reasons. Tooze explains how this was the case in WW2 (going beyond simplistic "Hitler wanted Lebensraum" mantra) so if you want to see why hitler couldn't wait in 1939 for showdown or why he launched invasion of Soviet Union in 1941 this book will tell you why.
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on 12 April 2012
I originally expected the book to be about the German war economy only, but I was pleasantly surprised that it actually puts the economy in a wider perspective, both writing about the German war effort in general and - more importantly - about the role Nazi ideology played in German economic policy, war aims, and the conduct of the war, and even sheds light on some aspects of and possible reasons for the holocaust and other genocidal actions of the regime.

He presents us with a picture of a Germany that was not as modern as the most modern contemporary states (far less modern than the US, and even somewhat poorer than France or the UK), and much less developed than 21st century first world countries. We learn of the modern (at least by the standards of the time) and the backwards (but not very much backwards by the standards of the time) points of Nazi ideology, and how these informed their actions.

Definitely worth to read for anybody seriously interested in Nazism, actually I think this is the best concise history around not only of the Nazi war economy but of Nazi Germany in general.
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on 4 August 2009
So often books on the Nazi's are sold with the tag line that they have a major new take on the rise and fall of the German fascist regime. So often these books fall short of the mark and provide little if anything new to the debate about Nazism. Have no such fears about this book, you WILL rethink your thesis on Nazism, and factor in the major role of economics in the motivation of the Thnird Reich.
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on 28 August 2008
Heavy going, especially to begin with when dealing with the inter-war period, although this is necessary to understand why the war started when it did and not three years earlier or two years later.
Full of surprising insights, the sort of thing you would never normally think of, such as how shortage of railway wagons because of thousands being required to supply the Eastern Front disrupted the German industrial economy at home. I've never heard this mentioned before and yet, when you think of it, it's obvious.
Inescapable and ultimately insoluble problems caused by shortage of labour, food (seemingly the most severe shortage and the one which forced the regime into insane gambles ), even imported cattle feed.
Or the fact that the French economy was heavily dependent on coal imported from Britain and therefore unable to make much of a contribution to the German war effort after the fall of France when this supply was cut off.
Makes sense of the Swedish supply of iron to Germany (they depended heavily on German coal - as did the Swiss).
It also makes it clear that area bombing was more effective than recognized at the time or admitted since.

This book is good enough to make you realize just how poor most of the other histories of this period are.
Presumably the scale of primary research needed to uncover the truth puts most lesser writers off.
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on 12 May 2008
The author has produced what is surely the last word in explaining the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. This is an economic history, and this allows the real story of the Third Reich to be told. Like all history, the prosecuting of war really depends on the ability to raise and sustain a war machine - this has been the case for most of history. By concentrating on this fundamental fact, the book clarifies the actions of the Third Reich and it's leaders. Essentially, Germany in 1920 had the choice of either accepting it wasn't a major power and becoming a satellite state of the US, living as an exporting economy, or going down the road of war and becoming a world power and exploiting Europe as a conquered empire. Many in Germany at the time refused to accept the former, and through Hitler they made there bid to change the course of history. The author is careful to point out that although this course was fundamentally unsound in view of Germany's real position, there was a lot of logic behind the Nazis world view. Germany was critically dependent on imports of food and materials, it owed huge amounts of money to the US, and had foreign troops on it's soil. Hitler offered what looked like a credible alternative to the man in the street.
The book carefully explains how the Nazis built their war economy, and why it was used at the time and the way it was. Whenever it looked like Germany was losing it's advantage through early mobilisation, war was the only alternative to slow strangulation by naval blockade and air warfare.
After the entry of the US into the war in 1941 by offering aid to the UK, the Nazi leadership knew it had to win the war by 1942. (This thinking made the invasion of the USSR inevitable to the Nazi leadership, who were all to aware of the potential of strategic bombing).
To the Nazi leadership, a showdown with the US/UK was always going to happen, and it was better to happen on their own 'best terms' - i.e. before the US and UK could build an air fleet to destroy German industry. If all potential threats on the continent could be eliminated first, the Luftwaffe could then be built up into a force to protect the air over Europe.
One interesting thing the book also points out is the importance of the UK's blockade of Europe. Basically, Europe is dependent for imports of everything - food, materials etc. With the UK's naval blockade the economy of France (and most of Europe) basically collapsed by the end of the war, with Germany relying on the plundering of conquered countries (and slave labour) to keep financing the war. The rules of war in Europe have not changed since Napoleons time. An effective blockade of the continent soon causes huge problems, forcing Germany or whoever to look at desperate measures (invading Russia) to 'break out' of the blockade and find alternative sources of food/materials.
The author also explains the timing of the holocaust, and the timing of this too has an economic basis - food. In 1941/2 Germany found itself with too many mouths to feed and blockaded. The Nazis decreed that Germans would be the last to starve (as they had in 1918).
Unbelieavably it decided to kill millions of people in Poland to free up food, and then to mass starve the population of the western USSR. There was a plan to starve to death 20 million people as the policy of the German armed forces. This was planned and coordinated at the highest levels of both civilian and military authorities. A terrible story.
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