East Germany Table of Contents
National socialism added to authoritarianism the politically charismatic idea of the "movement," i.e., the Third Reich's mobilization for war. To that end, Nazi economic policy emphasized accelerated rearmament and autarchy, and the German chemical industry developed artificial rubber, plastics, synthetic textiles, and other substitute products to make the Third Reich independent of imported raw materials. Because the NSDAP had won the support of German industrialists, private ownership, although subordinated to party control, was left intact. The government also began an extensive public works program and expanded and improved the transportation system.
The Four-Year Plan, adopted in 1936, resulted in a conflict between Hermann Göring's nationalist approach, which aimed at removing Germany from the international economy through industrial self-sufficiency, and the internationalist approach to industry advocated by Hjalmar Schacht, minister of economic affairs. Göring, at the time a minister without portfolio, prevailed with his "guns versus butter" slogan.
His Four-Year Plan Office assumed responsibility for developing production quotas and market guidelines. Major industrial enterprises, particularly war matériel producers such as Krupp (steel and armaments), I.G. Farben (chemicals), and Siemens (shipbuilding), were expanded. The enlarged war matériel industry significantly reduced unemployment. Owing to the preferential wage scales offered by war matériel producers, large numbers of Germans abandoned agriculture to seek jobs in industry. During World War II, the Nazi regime instituted a labor draft and also used disenfranchised foreign and slave labor to supply the growing needs of the war economy.
A most significant feature of the Third Reich was the formal institutionalization of a system of terror made possible by the SS. In the mid-1930s, Himmler's SS assumed control over both the Gestapo and the Nazi concentration camp system, thereby solidifying Hitler's totalitarian control (see Holocaust , this ch.). Gestapo arrests, which had focused originally on communists and socialists, were extended to other social groups, most particularly to Jews. The concentration camps, which were filled with the Third Reich's undesirable elements during mobilization, were to supply forced labor for SS-run projects and industries during World War II. Meanwhile, the attention of the German masses, for whom there had been no real social revolution, was diverted ideologically toward the goal of lebensraum, which was to be achieved by coercion and military conquest. By the late 1930s, mesmerized Germans, roaring their approval in mass demonstrations, were ready to follow their führer to war.
Data as of July 1987