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The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy [Kindle Edition]

Adam Tooze
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"One of the most important and original books to be published about the Third Reich in the past twenty years. A tour de force." -Niall Ferguson "Tooze has produced the most striking history of German strategy in the Second World War that we possess. This is an extraordinary achievement, and it places Adam Tooze in a very select company of historians indeed ... Tooze has given us a masterpiece which will be read, and admired; and it will stimulate others for a long time to come." -Nicholas Stargardt, "History Today" "It is among Adam Tooze's many virtues, in ""The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy,"" that he can write about such matters with authority, explaining the technicalities of bombers and battleships. Hovering over his chronicle are two extraordinary questions: how Germany managed to last as long as it did before the collapse of 1945 and why, under Hitler, it thought it could achieve supremacy at all." -Norman Stone,


This chilling, fascinating new book is the first fully to get to grips with how Hitler's Nazi empire REALLY functioned. There was no aspect of Nazi power untouched by economics - it was Hitler's obsession and the reason the Nazis came to power in the first place. The Second World War was fought, in Hitler's view, to create a European Empire strong enough to take on the United States - a last chance for Europe to dig itself in before being swept away by the USA's ever greater power. But, as THE WAGES OF DESTRUCTION makes clear, Hitler was never remotely strong enough to beat either Britain or the Soviet Union - and never even had a serious plan as to how he might defeat the USA. It took years of fighting and the deaths of millions of people to destroy the Third Reich, but effectively World War II in Europe was fought in pursuit of a fantasy: the years in which Western Europe could settle the world's fate were, by 1939, long past. This is a major book by a major author and will provoke an enormous amount of controversy and debate.


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5.0 von 5 Sternen A real eye-opener 24. Mai 2015
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Exceptionally well written and a source of countless new insights into this horrifying period of German history. 3 Wörter verbleiben erforderlich
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.6 von 5 Sternen  75 Rezensionen
193 von 204 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Ground breaking 17. April 2007
Von Tom Munro - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
What does this book say that is different than what has gone before? Heaps. In recent years it has become clear that Germany lost the second world war because the Soviet Union was able to out produce them in the making of armored vehicles. Britain and the United States were able to produce huge numbers more aircraft. The conclusion has been that Hitler's gamble in invading the Soviet Union was the key behind the loss of the war.

What this book suggests is that Germany had lost the war before it invaded the Soviet union and its success up to 1941 had been a lucky break. The author even suggests that Britain alone had some chance of over time developing a preponderance of military force. It also puts paid to what must be now seen as the myth of Munich. Previously it was thought that Britain and France failed to re-arm in time to fight Hitler effectively. What this book shows is that by 1940 Britain and France had armies that were superior in both numbers and equipment. Their navies were vastly superior to Germany's and their air forces at least equal. When France fell, although Britain lost its field army its air force was equivalent to the German in numbers and quality and its Navy vastly superior to anything the Germans and Italians could put to sea. More over the British were able to out produce the Germans in aircraft even prior to the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

The success of the German armies in 1940 was due to the allied command failing to respond to the German strategy. If the allies had been a bit more aggressive they could have fought it out to at least a draw and Germany did not have the resources to fight anything more than a short war. The idea of blitzkrieg was an invention of allied generals seeking to rationalize their defeat rather than a meaningful analysis of what happened. The French never even fully committed their air force to the struggle and most of it was captured on the ground.

The problem was that although Germany had access to the industrial plant of Northern Italy, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands they were not able to use it to match either the Soviets or the British in war production. The reasons are complex but relate to the patterns of European trade and the success of the European blockade. If we take aircraft for example the French production which flowed to Germany was miniscule. France had access to manufacturing plant and supplies of bauxite but it was not able to produce. The reason was that it used to import coal from Britain for its electricity production. With the British blockade the main source of coal became Germany. However Germany was not able to increase its production sufficiently to overcome the short fall. In addition the amount of food produced in Europe fell. Previously the production of meat and dairy products in countries such as Denmark had been dependant on the import of grain and stock feed from South America. That was not available and the amount of food available for the dairy industry collapsed as did food production. In the rest of Europe food production had been based on the widespread use of chemical fertilizer. Apart from the issues of the blockade huge amounts of the chemicals used for fertilizer production was diverted to the making of explosives. In addition to the fact that French workers were moved on to subsistence rations and there was no power available the country had been dependant on motorized transportation. Again most of its oil imports came from abroad. With the outbreak of the war the only available oil products came from Romania or from synthetic oil made in Germany. This was barely enough for the needs of the armed forces (there was in reality not enough to keep the Italian Navy operational) and France reverted to a pre-petroleum transport economy.

It is this economic background that gave rise to Hitler's decision to invade the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had the natural resources that would enable European industry to out produce Britain and America. Rather than rashly starting a two front war Hitler knew that he could never develop the naval might necessary to conquer Britain simply by the occupation of Western Europe. The conquest of the Soviets was a key step in Hitler's strategy and not irrational. Of course none of the German general staff thought that the Soviets could stand up to an invasion of over 3 million men. However the Soviets were able to do so and then they were better able to marshal their resources so that they could outlast the Germans.

This is a very good book which will force everyone to re-think their attitudes to not only the second world war but the historical run up to it. It is unusual to have a book which is of such significance.
102 von 110 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A very good book 24. April 2007
Von Philip Sim - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Tom Munro's review has an excellent summary of the arguments in the book, so I shan't add to it.

I would encourage students of the Second World War to buy this book. This is a rare book that looks at the war entirely from the economics perspective, resisting the temptation to discuss military matters as many were wont to do. This results in a remarkably clear picture of the homefront picture.

This is important as it helps to address some of the myths of about the Second World War, especially with regards to the German economic performance vis-a-vis the other economies. These myths gave rise to puzzles that were usually not addressed.

For example, if it were true that the Germans lost because they had a smaller economy than the US, the British Empire and the Soviet Union, and the Germans knew this, then why did they launch a war in the first place, not against one, but all of the great economic powers? This was usually explained unsatisfactorily by the 'irrationality' of the Nazis.

As the author demonstrated, there was logic to the madness. The Nazis operated under a flawed assumption about how economics work, and believed that it was only by having a large economy that Germany could compete - and survive as a great power - against the other great powers, especially the United States. Thus, by this logic, Germany had to expand and conquer to build up its economic strength. The more likely war was to become with the US, the more Germany must throw everything into a 'do-or-die' gamble to grab enough economic resources to survive.

This is not a wholly novel argument, but I have never seen it argued so clearly and backed by so much economic and historical data.

The same could be said for the genocide of the Jews and other peoples by the Nazis. On the surface it seemed nothing but insane cruelty and barbarism. Yet again, Tooze demonstrated that there was logic in the madness, that once again, the Nazis, operating from their flawed picture of the world, chose a perfectly rational solution by their light. As food was one of the most critical items in shortage in the Nazi war economy, and enough must be provided for the German people, then the lesser people must be starved or killed outright. The less worthy would be killed off earlier, while the more able would be worked to death as slave labour. It was a perfectly economical solution in Nazi eyes.

Finally, I found Tooze's examination of "Speer's Miracle" to be absolutely enlightening. I was under the impression that Speer's efforts after the death of Todt helped to economise the German war effort and pushed it towards greater productivity, allowing Germany to survive longer. The author showed that this was not the case, that most of the measures attributed to the productivity increase was put in place before Speer's appointment. What happened was Speer repeated the traditional pattern of Nazi war production, where much resources were at first pump into one area, then another, according to perceived needs of the Nazi leadership. Thus, resources were first flooded into tank production, then withdrawn and poured into U-boat production, then finally, pulled again and put into aircraft production. This resulted in short bursts of great productivity in one arm or the other. But Germany never really became stronger overall, and Speer's Miracle was nothing more than a facade.

To add to this, Tooze launched a devastating indictment against Speer's claim that he did not know about the Nazi genocide and slave labour programmes, pointing out that much of the labour used in Speer's armament programmes came from concentration camps or slave labour camps.

In the end, the greatest strength of his book was the straightforward assembly of many facts and events into a single timeline showed clearly the mad logic that drove the Nazi relentlessly towards war, and then equally inevitably towards brutality and genocide.
87 von 100 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Brilliant! 10. November 2006
Von Andreas Mross - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I studied this exact topic (Veimar Germany, the rise of Hitler and then WWII) in high school and have since read extensively on WWII. I would have said I knew most of what there was to know about the subject. Very soon into this book, I realised I was mistaken. "Wages of Destruction" is a real eye opener, and makes for a far more coherent story than you may have seen in TV documentaries or been taught in school.

One thing that bothered me in the usual telling of the WWII story is the motivation behind Germany's aggressive actions, which in the traditional telling of the story begins and ends with "because Hitler was insane". This is a great attempt to look at the 20th century from a German perspective and to explain the strategic logic behind many of Germany's actions during the period; the invasion of France, the treaty with the Soviets, Barbarossa, the concentration camps. All take on a different light when viewed through the lense of grand economic strategy.

The writing is absolutely top notch; fluid and imminently readable. And despite the often dry subject matter, I found I truly couldn't put this book down. There are some dull passages on fiscal policy, and on the personal politics of some of the Nazis, but these often lead on to a hard hitting conclusion.

The author seems a bit too keen to "shatter myths", which grates after a while. Sometimes it felt like you were intruding into a private argument between the author and some other history professor. Struggle on through these passages and you will find a thrilling story.

There are few books I would call essential reading on WWII. This book is one of them. "The Forgotten Soldier" is perhaps another.
74 von 89 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Good book, however, it has some serious errors 13. Dezember 2009
Von Rafael G. - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
The author of the book has a rather deterministic view of the possible outcome of the second world war. While I may disagree with him, I think that he presents his view with sound arguments, but he is not very intellectually honest (or maybe he doesn't know many statistical material concerning the second world war). My criticisms here concern mostly his coverage of the military aspects of the war, with of course, tend to be inferior to his coverage of economic aspects of the war, with are his specialty.

He wants to defend his view that the outcome of the second world war was given as victory to the allies and that Germany didn't stand a chance of surviving a war against them, however he defends that view using distorted statistics. For example, at the Battle of France, Tooze claims that the Allies had 4,500 combat aircraft while Germany had 3,600. But according to E.R Hooton 2007, p. 47-48, the Allies actually had only 2,930 aircraft ready to be deployed while the Germans had 5,640 aircraft ready to be deployed. Which helps to explain why the Germans managed to have airsuperiority at the battle of France. Other examples abound in the book. For the battle of Kursk, Tooze uses a statistic of 2,450 German tanks and SP guns vs 5,130 soviet tanks and SP guns. In fact there are several different estimates for the number of tanks present at the battle, according to Bergström 2007, we have 3,000 German tanks and SP guns versus 3,600 Soviet tanks and SP guns. In several parts of the book he apparently selected his statistics to reflect his views that Germany was fighting against completely overwhelming odds in terms of materiel and men. I have written only two examples here, but with time I can find dozens.

He also says, implicitly, that in the 1944-45 period was the period were German casualties were much greater than preceding periods. He then cites that 1.8 million Germans soldiers died in 1944 and 1.4 million Germans soldiers died in 1945. These statistics are taken from Rudiger Overmans' survey on German military deaths in WW2, this survey has the highest number of German military deaths of the many sources I know. Overmans calculates the number of total military deaths by summing up KIA (2.3 million) + MIA (2 million) + died of wounds (0.5 million) + died in captivity (0.5 million) = 5.3 million. Overmans concluded that 1.75 million died in 1944 and 1.29 million in 1945. Then Tooze rounds up these statistics to 1.8 million and 1.4 million. So in fact, he takes the highest statistic of German military death available and even increases it! But speaking of Overmans's survey it is quite ridiculous to sum up MIA and the number that died in captivity, since the soldiers missing were captured and then died in captivity (in other words: double counting), unless you include the number of soldiers that died after the war, with is not relevant to his purpose of arguing that combat was more intense to the Wehrmacht in 1944-45 than preceding years.

So how the picture looks like if we view only the number of KIA per year?

According to van Creveld 1982, these are the total number of German KIA by fiscal year:
1939-1940 (12 months): 73,829
1940-1941 (12 months): 138,301
1941-1942 (12 months): 445,036
1942-1943 (12 months): 418,276
1943-1944 (12 months): 534,112
1944-dec.1944 (4 months): 167,335, yearly rate: 502,005

The fact is that German combat KIAs were roughly constant from 1941 to 1945, and Soviet combat casualties too: in 1941 the USSR lost 4.3 million men in 6.5 months (KIA+MIA+WIA) about 660,000 per month, in 1945, the USSR lost 2.8 million in 4 months, 700,000 per month. Since around 90% of German KIA was in the Eastern front there is not evidence that the war was more intense in 1944 than in 1941. While since German soldiers were better trained in 1941 than in 1944, I can even argue that the wehrmacht suffered more in 1941 in terms of loss of combat power and fighting edge than in 1944, since the soldiers lost in 1941 were the cream of the army while in 1944 most losses were composed of not-as-good recruits.

To book exaggerates the contributions of the Western allies to the war, in fact, the casualties that Germany suffered against the western powers were almost insignificant compared to the losses against the Soviet Union. Even in 1945, second to Glantz, Germany had 67% of her casualties in the eastern front, which makes sense since in January 1945 (with marks the peak of the allies relative participation in ground warfare), of the 338 divisions equivalents of the wehrmacht, 228 were in the eastern front while only 73 in the western front. In the 3 years from june 1941 to june 1944, about 95% of Germany's casualties were in the eastern front. According to Glantz the western allies probably only contributed to shortening the war in 12 to 18 months. The most important strategic contribution of the Western Allies was the crippling of the Luftwaffe between 1943 and 1945, which permitted an increase of the speed of advance of the Russians in the eastern front, since resources were shifted from production of bombers to counter the Red Army to the production of fighters to counter Bomber Command and the US's 8th airforce.

Tooze critizes Albert Speer, the minister of armmaments during the last 3 years of the war, and the view that Germany`s production of munitions was badly run during the first years of the war. But, during his term (1942-1945) per capita productivity in munitions production more than doubled. No other country reached such high levels of increases in productivity of the munitions related industries. We have two possible reasons: Germany`s munitions production was blady run in the first years of the war, or, at the last years Germany`s production of munitions was incredibly well run. He cannot dismiss the increase in productivity from 1941 and 1944, calling it an statistical illusion.

Also, by comparing relative strengths in the fronts, the allies only had about 90 to 100 divisions in the western front in 1944-45, while Germany had over 300, of with about 200 to 250 were fighting the 400-500 Russian divisions deployed in the eastern front. In terms of personnel the US had 1.4 million frontline soldiers in Europe by december 1944, while Germany had 5 million soldiers deployed in June 1944, the British complemented the Americans with 800,000 soldiers. So the western allies had 2.2 million men versus around 5 million German soldiers in all of Europe. So, I can argue that without the USSR the allies wound never stand a chance of winning the war with the resources that they historically deployed in the European theater. Since most of the economic power of the allies was in the British-American coalition, this fact represents an asymmetry with Tooze's arguments that economic strength determined the outcome of WW2. In fact, economic strength is very important, but it doest solely determines the winner of an armed conflict. In Vietnam, the US had hundreds of times the resources of North Vietnam, but didn`t manage to protect South Vietnam.

Anyway, Tooze main argument is that by attacking the USSR, Hitler embarked on a journey to his own destruction. He is entirely correct in that regard. And he is correct to point out that using information available in 1941, that the USSR was weaker than history proved it to be. Also, it is correct to state that the lack of raw materials was a factor in Germany's defeat, but it wasn't a major factor since munitions weren't the biggest problem in the German war effort, manpower was the biggest: They didn't have enough soldiers to fill the 3 thousand kilometers of the eastern front, nor the soldiers needed to drive out the allies from Normandy. And the population of Germany would not increase with the conquest of the Soviet Union.

Also, Tooze doesn't discuss the fact that German munitions production followed a rather different path than Soviet and American production. Germany produced munitions after they were needed, tank production increased in 1943 because of increased demand in 1942. Fighter production increased in 1944 in response to increased demand in 1943. These were severe strategic errors. In fact, it appears that Tooze argues that Germany was doomed from the start and the victories of the Wehrmacht between 1939 and 1941 were lucky shots. Well, in 1939 to 1941 the Wehrmacht faced opponents with numerical parity, according to wikipedia, in the Battle of France, there were 3.3 million allied soldiers vs 3.31 million German soldiers, while in Barbarossa, accoring to Nigel Askey, there were 3.316 million German soldiers vs 3.31 million soviet soldiers. At the start of operation Blau, according to Glantz, there were 2 million German soldiers vs 1.8 million Soviet soldiers. All these 3 cases ended with the same result: annihilation of the forces opposing Germany. History showed that when you face Germany with numerical parity you lose. To stop the Wehrmacht, the Red Army lost 29 million soldiers in 4 years, gradually eroding the best soldiers of the German army, transforming the wehrmacht into a shadow of its former self, which was not as "invincible" as the "classic" wehrmacht of the 1939-1942 period.

So the allies took note: since they could not achieve qualitative parity they needed numerical superiority. By June 1944 there were 2.4 million German front line soldiers facing 6.7 million Soviet front line soldiers (in terms of total personnel it was 3.9 million Germans vs 10.5 million Soviet), source: Glantz 1995, while in the western front the allies massed 5.4 million personnel (2.2 million front line soldiers), opposing 1.5 million German personnel (~1 million front line soldiers). Note that the western allies needed a larger proportion of the personnel in logistics and other non combat functions than the USSR and Germany, for quite obvious logistical reasons (the Atlantic sea + English channel). The outcome of the following months was a natural conclusion of overwhelming manpower odds. But also, in the crucial battles of Normandy and Bagration, allied success was in a significant regard a consequence of deception, where the Wehrmacht failed to understand were the main trusts would come, so they only allocated reinforcements in both cases after the odds became extremely bad and the battle was already lost.

So, concluding, Wages of Destruction is a good book, but way overrated as it tries to explain more than can be explained with only the economic aspects of the war. Also his theory of a poor and peripheral Germany compared to the US doesn't stand a closer inspection: from 1901 to 1932 Germany produced 32 Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry and medicine, the US produced only 6, the USSR (and the Russian Empire), only 2. These countries were the actual periphery in the pre-WW2 world. For example, the economic superiority of the US didn't translate in massive military superiority in the European theater because of the geographical factors at work (the Atlantic ocean) preventing the deployment of hundreds of American divisions in the European theater, in fact, they deployed only 1.4 million soldiers in the European Theater opposing less than 1 million German soldiers (out of the 5 million front line personnel, mostly concentrated against the USSR). And while the Eastern Front was the decisive front, there Germany in fact had significant economic superiority (producing 4 times more steel, 5 times more aluminium and 5 times more coal than the USSR in 1943) and failed to convert this economic superiority in military superiority over the USSR, particularly in the decisive years of 1942 and 1943. Concluding, basic economic strength played an important role in the war but they were not the main determinant in the outcome. If it were, Germany would have crushed the USSR before the Western Allies could help, so any continental invasion would be destroyed by the hundreds of German divisions freed-ed from the Eastern front. In other words, economics doesn't explain why Germany lost from their strategic position in 1941. The will of the Soviet people is a definite factor to take into account.
17 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Many, many answers 2. Februar 2010
Von Jack - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
This book explains a lot. I have read 150 books on WWII but looking at events through the economic lenzes helps explain a lot of why certain events played out like they did. For example, I knew that money was tight for the Nazi govt but I did not know how pervasive it was with the citizens. Germany was 40% agricultural but couldn't raise enough of its own food. Although they had plenty of farms and animals--pigs, cows, horses--they were dependant on imported feed for the animals. Could not raise enough feed for the animals they had. The naval blockade by the British played a much bigger role than I realized. Germany had low grade iron ore and were thus very dependant on the "neutrality" of Sweden who supplied them with 80% of their iron ore needs. Because foreign exchange was so tight for the Nazis and the gold reserves were totally gone it explains why the Nazis stole the gold stocks within 3 days of overrunning each of the 11 countries they took over. When they started to overrun the 11 countries they got control of much more raw material for war. Since the Germans had little money they could not expand the ore processing facilities within Germany so taking over the iron making furnaces of other countries helped a lot.
I always assumed Germany started the War because they were fully prepared but this book explains why they were not. Although Germany had plenty of coal mines the rail network was inadequate for transporting the coal to the cities for the people to use for heating or the iron works for smelting ore--not enough tracks or boxcars to haul it. Nothing seemed to be adequate, there was even a shortage of ammunition--unbelievable if you are going into a shooting war. In short, nothing was what you might expect in a country readying itself for war. It's a miracle Germany lasted so long in war with the level of preparation they had. All in all, this book is like drinking from a firehose but with patience and slow reading it will expand your understanding of what was going on behind the scenes and the role that money played, or the role that the lack of money played.
As you read the book there is mounting evidence that there were no neutrals in Europe--all were in bed with the Nazis either out of fear or for the money, including: Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Italy, and some even became combattants to ensure a share of the spoils they had come to expect but later switched sides when their judgement was proven wrong.
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