An assessment of the economic methods Hitler used to convince ordinary Germans to support his genocidal agenda.
Historians, sociologists and pundits have long speculated on how the Nazi regime managed to persuade its gentile citizens that exterminating Jews and conquering nearby countries was in their best interests. German historian Aly (The Nazi Census, not reviewed, etc.) puts forth an explanation that’s both plausible and incomplete, contending that the Reich gained acceptance through the judicious distribution of wealth to ensure that lower- and middle-class citizens prospered even during wartime. Despite massive expenditures, the Nazis managed to avoid taxing the bulk of the populace through a series of economic maneuvers both brutal and clever. Confiscated Jewish wealth helped defray costs, and in situations where the Reich actually compensated Jews for their losses, it did so by issuing bonds worth a fraction of the amount of the commandeered goods. The Nazi party also borrowed against its future military successes and worked to devalue currency in conquered nations, a move that increased the spending power of soldiers who wasted no time in shipping parcels of luxury items to their eager families back home. The author paints Hitler as a man who brought disparate social classes together in Germany “by plundering other peoples.” Conceding that it’s nearly impossible to obtain precise values from incomplete data, Aly presents an exhaustive array of representative examples from which he extrapolates his theories. There can be little doubt that Hitler’s generosity to the German people played a large role in their acceptance of his agenda, but the mere fact that taxes were lowered and social programs enhanced cannot wholly explain their complicity with the Reich’s agenda. (Describing them as “well-fed parasites,” the author has no interest in justifying their behavior.) Without an exploration of psychological and sociological factors that also played a role, questions remain.
Presents one intriguing piece of a much larger puzzle.