Germany's War Economy


The Economy had to Prepare for War

1. Hitler transformed the German economy to prepare the country for war.

2. A Four-Year Plan was started in 1936, concentrating on war preparations. The Nazis needed to quickly build up industries making weapons and chemicals, and increase Germany's agricultural output.

3. Hermann Goring was put in charge of the economy. He aimed to make Germany self-sufficient - this meant producing enough goods to not need imports from other countries.

Supplies to Germany had been blocked during WWI, causing severe shortages. By becoming self-sufficient, Hitler hoped to avoid this problem in future wars.

4. many workers were retrained to do jobs that would help the war effort, such as producing weapons and working in chemical plants.

5. But Hitler knew that ultimately Germany would need to conquer new territories and capture their resources to become genuinely self-sufficient.

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Outbreak of War forced Changes

1. When WWII broke out in 1939, the German economy wasn't ready. More changes were needed.

2. A quarter of the workforce was already working in war industries, especially weapons production. 2 Years later this had become three-quarters.

3. A lot of German workers were conscripted into the army, so the Nazis had to use foreign workers to keep the economy going. This included civilians from occupied territories, prisoners of war and slave labouers.

4. Eventually, in 1942, after several years of fighting, Hitler put Albert Speer in charge of the war economy.

  • Speer focused the economy completely on the war effort.
  • he improved efficiency and greatly increased weapons production.
  • Germany also used raw materials from occupied lands to support its production.
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Daily Life was Affected by the War

Germans had to make sacrifices to help the war effort:

1. Wages were less than they had been before the Nazis took control and working hours increased.

2. Rationing affected people's quality of life. Food and clothes rationing began in 1939, but while Germany was winning the war, most goods could still be bought easily.

  • Rationing meant that some people ate better than they had before the war, though it soon became impossible to eat meat every day. Toilet paper and soap became difficult to get hold of too. And to save fuel, the use of warm water was restricted to two times per week. Germans also made use of 'ersatz' (or 'substitute') goods. For example, ersatzkaffee ('substitute coffee') was made from acorns or other types of seed.
  • Later in the war, things became harder for ordinary Germans. By 1942, German civilians were living on rations of bread, vegetables and potatoes - these rations decreased as the war progressed (and were much less than British rations).

3. More women and children had to work, especially after 1941 when German forces suffered some heavy defeats in Russia. By 1944, 50% of the German workforce were women (up from 37% in 1939).

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