Tuesday, July 24, 2018

23. Other People's Money (Hitler cont)

Not long after the election of 2016, I started reading Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer. I continued my way through chapter 25 of the book and then the fall semester of 2017 effectively stopped me. See the bottom for all those posts. Now I'd like to finish the book over these next three Tuesdays, since I only have three chapters left.

Chapter 26: Other People's Money
1. In the summer of 1933, after Hitler took power in January, a British journalist toured Germany and concluded that Germany did not want war. Given this chapter, it was a fair conclusion. Hitler was far too concerned with rebuilding a impoverished, unemployed, and demoralized country to think about war. He had no great weapons. He had no great army.

This is an important observation. Germany would not annex Austria for another five years (March 12, 1938), and it would not take over parts of Czechoslovakia until September 30 of that year (leading to Neville Chamberlain's claim that allowing him would bring "peace in our time"). People get used to extremes. The frog doesn't realize the temperature is rising. The extremes that Germans would not have stood for in 1932 became normal over time. They got used to a new normal.

2. So Hitler and his government did indeed work on the economy at first, not a war machine. Indeed, this chapter clarifies some misconceptions. They did not waste money on building war equipment immediately because their technology at the time was inferior. First design better weapons and then build them. Instead, they used the trade deficit to accrue raw materials.

Another misconception Heiden clears is that the Nazi's favored free love and illegitimate births. Not so. Young couples received 1000 marks when they married, and they did not have to repay if they had a certain number of children in a certain number of years. In the first five years of the regime, 880,000 marriages took the offer.

Another misrepresented fact is the role of women in the work place. While the share of women in the work place shrunk, the fact that employment grew so well hides the fact that the absolute number of women in the work place rose by a quarter.

There was no one plan for building the army. 300,000 well trained Germans would be enough against any single foe in their environment. Gliding clubs, which had thrived under the ban on Germany's military would soon enough yield a Luftwaffe that new wind currents better than any enemy. "Obstacles produce great accomplishments" (660).

There were millions of men in SA uniforms, but it was assured that they were more a "new religion" than an army (664).

3. Meanwhile, they put the people to work. Hitler began a number of building projects to put people to work, just as FDR was doing in the US. Palatial buildings were erected in Munich. All over, theaters, museums, monuments, "merely to find employment for jobless hands" (657).

Every German of nineteen was to enter the labor service for at least a half a year. The chief implement was a shovel. The construction of the Autobahns began in September 1933. A law was issued that prohibited the use of a machine when a man could do the job.

So unemployment did indeed go down significantly.

4. Here Heiden asks, "This progress had been bought with the loss of free suffrage, the renunciation of free speech, with a press dominated by lies, with concentration camps for a minority and atrocities that could not be concealed" (665). The answer of course is "no." A better economy is not worth the loss of human freedom and dignity.

Indeed, Heiden goes on to question how much of this was truly a "National Socialist Miracle." Unemployment was already going down as part of the world recovery. According to one estimate, of all Hitler's actions to bring employment, only 300,000 of the 3.4 million newly employed were likely do uniquely to Hitler.

5. The tariffs that America had stupidly imposed in 1929 (with economists begging Hoover not to do it) had intensified the Depression and Germany now used them to their advantage. Germany created two kinds of Deutschmark, one relating to the outside world (the "blocked mark"), one relating to the inside world. Her goods weren't selling very well around the world, but the tariff war caused the prices of goods around the world to fall even more sharply.

This created conditions under which Germany could buy the raw materials she needed for rebuilding at cheap rates. Indeed, she insisted that she would pay half her reduced interest on debts to the rest of the world by giving them scripts to purchase things in Germany. If you calculate how much Germany spent in the world and the weight of her imports by what they would have been valued in 1928, you can see that Germany was actually at an advantage over many other countries.

Previously on Hitler:

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