Adam Tooze But, as THE WAGES OF DESTRUCTION makes clear, Hitler was never remotely strong enough to beat either Britain or the. An extraordinary mythology has grown up around the Third Reich that hovers over political and moral debate even today. Adam Tooze’s controversial new book. Buy The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy New Edition by Adam Tooze (ISBN: ) from Amazon’s Book Store.
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The Wages of Destruction: Whatever else it was, Adolf Hitler’s short-lived regime was also a colossal industrial process by which the wealth and productive power of much of Europe was wrenched from its normal purposes and converted into a machine for killing.
For the economic historian, the great pitched battles of the second world war, from Stalingrad to Midway, are not primarily exercises in strategy, brutality or heroism but the titanic amassing of capital and human beings and their concentration on a point of space and history. Economic historiography has thrown rays of haggard light into some of the blackest corners of the Third Reich, even where, as in the case of the memoirs of Hitler’s last minister of armaments, Albert Speer, much dfstruction concealed or distorted.
In his long new book, the Cambridge historian Adam Tooze presents the Third Reich tolze an engine doomed to smash itself to smithereens not, as for Speer, from bureaucratic turf wars and Hitler’s chaotic office habits, but from its own birth defects.
Hitler’s Germany was always too hampered by shortages of raw materials, notably crude oil and rubber but also iron ore and coal, animal deshruction and fertiliser, foreign currency and even labour, to attempt an independent industrial and commercial detsruction in peace, let alone a campaign of European conquest.
For all the ingenuity of cynical opportunists such as Hjalmar Schacht, at the Reichsbank untiland Speer, at Armaments afterGermany passed through a succession of hair-raising financial tioze resource crises that hampered its armies and helped to bring on the final collapse.
As pf from a commanding height, Tooze points out for the reader fields and factories and autobahns, the delusive investment in radios and passenger cars, the financial and credit market subterfuges of the s, and the scramble for military aircraft and battle tanks and ammunition. He shows how German business was won over to armaments by the high destructiin on capital that Hitler permitted. As the war turns against Hitler, the air becomes dark and bitter cold, and we pass into Speer’s subterranean armaments factories and on to the selection ramp at Auschwitz.
For this reader, it took a day or two for a certain depression of spirit to lift.
One wonders how its author fared. The originality of the book, and what labels it as a performance of the 21st century, is the overwhelming role Tooze accords the United States as a figment of Hitler’s fears and imagination. He ignores Hitler’s prison wwages, Mein Kampfwith its anti-capitalist and anti-Jewish ranting, in favour of the so-called Zweites Buch Second Bookwritten four years later but not published until the s.
Faced with this longing for American eestruction, but without the vast scale of the American land mass or market to supply them, European states must be reduced to the status of a “Switzerland or Holland”.
The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze
A cooperative union of the European states, such as was promoted after the war, did not accord with Hitler’s racist obsessions. Instead, he found another justification for the conquest of the east – known as Lebensraum – in the scale of the American internal market.
Following on from this, and far more controversially, Tooze argues that given the disposition of industrial power in the world and his racist ideology, Hitler was correct to act as he did. Aware that it was only a matter of time before the American giant stirred, Hitler was wise to act with such precipitate haste, to launch the arms race, to annex Austria and the Sudetenland, to exploit a sudden diplomatic opportunity to invade Poland, to smash westwards ineven to invade the Soviet Union the following year.
This sort of provocative self-confidence may just be the economist’s way of mastering ghastly material and keeping it out of his dreams. On the credit side, Tooze’s search for a reasonable explanation to German conduct in addition to racism allows him to bring the Reichskristallnacht, the Holocaust and the other German brutalities in the east into the realm of Nazi political economy. Without in any way belittling the persecution of the Jews, Tooze reminds us that the Holocaust was an aspect of a campaign of mass murder which involved the forced starvation of Soviet prisoners and cities to feed the German population.
For Tooze, there was after a “compromise”, or rather a succession of them, between exterminating people and setting them to make ammunition or aircraft.
He reminds us that many of the Jews of Budapest, the last great Jewish community to be liquidated by the Nazis, went into aircraft factories.
Camp workers swung from the rafters to terrorise their fellow-inmates on the V2 rocket production lines in the Mittelbau. For this reason, wagges for countless others, Tooze cannot stand Speer and seems genuinely baffled that the man saved his neck at Nuremberg. On the debit side, a sequence of rational actions will often end in complete delusion, as the German poet Christian Morgenstern told his Wilhelmine readers.
It is all very well for Tooze to say that Hitler fo wise in to concentrate his forces towards the Caucasus, so as to secure oil supplies to fuel new aircraft to fight the British and Americans, but somewhere a sort of geographical common sense has fallen away. Tooze’s emphasis on American industrial power, illuminating as it is, has the effect of downplaying the Soviet Union, and reducing the fight with Britain to a sideshow.
Britain, which sacrificed its empire to defeat Germany in the war, is for Tooze merely a forward marshalling yard for the factories of Detroit and the American midwest. British victories are foregone conclusions.
The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy
The Battle of Britain was, “in retrospect, an extremely one-sided affair”. The outcome of Alamein “was never in doubt”. One wonders if Tooze has ever spoken to his parents about the war or to the men who fought those hard fights. They did not think the outcomes pre-determined. destrjction