In Hitler’s Four Year Plan Memorandum of August 1936, he outlined that “The German economy must be fit for war within four years.” In order to do this, he believed it was first necessary to “put a stop to the everlasting fluctuations of wages and prices” as set out by Hitler in source one. A scheme such as this would indeed prove “immensely popular.” From the evidence shown in this statement, it could be assumed that it is true to say “Hitler’s masterful organisation of the German economy made him both immensely popular and able to fight a prolonged war to 1945,” however whether these effects were carried to full fruition and indeed whether they were to the fault of the F(hrer is a matter which may come under scrutiny.There is evidence to suggest that many economic plans laid down by Hitler led to the growth and expansion of the economy and the ability to fight a prolonged war until 1945. For example, production levels saw a definite increase between 1933 and 1938 as we can see from source two, particularly production goods. This emphasis on industry would enable the production of more munitions to facilitate the extension of the war. This is backed up in source four by historians Noakes and Pridham: “The regime had succeeded in gearing much of Germany’s economic activity to rearmament and the country was better prepared for war than it had been in 1914.” Some companies such as chemical firm I.G. Farben benefited from labour forces without the independent trade unions under the regime. In the case of I.G. Farben, this led to vast contracts and profits enhanced over threefold. The Reichswerke Hermann Goering was another company which did well out of, and aided, Hitler’s economic strategies, although being a state-run institution this was always inevitable. The private industry was forced to invest 130million marks in the project, which produced not only steel, but coal, machinery and fuel – much needed resources for the war. By 1939, the firm was the largest industrial firm in Europe, however it still failed to reach targets outlined in the Four Year Plan.There were other economic successes under Hitler in the Third Reich, as we can see from source one, Hitler explained a “provision of labour… regulation of the market… control of prices and wages” had been achieved. All of these achievements helped to gain Hitler more popularity as mentioned later – “we had the living energies of the whole nation.”In fact, many of Hitler’s policies were key factors in gaining him “support” in one way or another, as well as his accomplishments and promises to the nation. For example, source four shows that there was in fact a “distinct improvement in most people’s material circumstances since 1933” and that despite the “massive rearmament burden” Hitler had succeeded in imposing on the population, Germany had managed to maintain “tolerable levels of consumption.” He remained popular in spite of the huge pressure the economy was under, due to the improvements being made for people in society. Ulrich Herbert believes that for a large proportion of the German public, the “image of National Socialism was characterised principally by reduction of unemployment, economic boom, tranquillity and order.” By 1939, official figures show that there was full employment under the Third Reich. This supports the idea of Hitler’s popularity, however can also give evidence that “Hitler’s masterful organisation” was not to blame. As we can see from source four, two other reasons for Hitler’s increase in popularity were the “regime’s monopoly of the media of information” and the “system of terror which it imposed on its subjects.”For some, it is true to say that Hitler was the only option. Source three shows that people were desperate for work and food: ” I’d have made a pact with the devil to get work. Hitler came along and offered me work, so I followed him.” In truth, to the unemployed of 1932, the Third Reich brought prosperity of a kind, increased job opportunities and increased job security, for example in the form of the new DAF organisation. More people were attending the cinema and listening to the radio, showing an increase in consumer goods. From the point of view of the middle classes, Hitler offered security from the Communist menace and a declining crime rate, a sure piece of evidence that Hitler’s popularity was widespread. Professor Ian Kershaw concurs, in that he believes the regime was able to “improve considerably the living standards… or at least raise hopes of an imminent improvement.”The subject of who was in fact at the head of the economy is one which is a matter of contention. From source five, we can see that Albert Speer was the Minister for Weapons and Munitions and head of the total war economy. Hitler’s decision to put him in power could be said to have been the deciding factor as to whether the economy prospered or not, however many put this down to Speer himself rather than Hitler’s appointment of him. The appointment of Speer can be said to have led to the success of the economy, and its capability therefore to cope with the burdens of war. Source five suggests that rather than Hitler’s “masterful organisation” being responsible, it was in fact Speer’s remarkable “achievements in greatly increasing production” as the head of the total war economy from 1942 onwards. In terms of war, in 1942 ammunition output rose 97%, and from 1941 to 1944, ammunition production increased six fold.In terms of production in general, source two, although showing an increase, also shows that this increase came from a very low level. Figures did not begin to return to the 1928 levels until 1936. Source four goes as far as to state that the goal of reaching a “defence economy” was not realised, due to priority being given to maintaining acceptable levels of consumption. The government found themselves faced with “guns vs. butter” – whether to choose consumer goods for the people or guns for the war. Choosing guns was essential to Germany’s survival of the war, yet Hitler also ensured a supply of butter. This prevented full-scale mobilisation of resources for war. There is also evidence to show that rearmament in fact failed due to the “inadequacies of German planning” and the prevention of “the adoption of a coherent strategy for rearmament” by flaws in the political system itself. By 1939, the regime’s leaders knew that a “serious economic crisis was just around the corner.” In the view of historian Tim Mason, economic problems within Germany eventually led to the war itself. Therefore, Germany had virtually no choice as to whether to fight the war or not.On the side of popularity, Mason and other Marxist historians argue that within the Third Reich, the workers were losers, kept in place by repression and propaganda, in which the prospect of benefits was fully exploited. Despite increased job opportunities and security, there were pitfalls, as workers had to endure longer working hours and less freedom. For the middle classes, the pressure to conform, monotony of party parades and harassment for donations was resented. Hitler in some ways proved to be unpopular.In spite of the opinion of many that Germany under Hitler was kept in place largely by repression and propaganda, weighing up the evidence it can in fact be said that his popularity very often stemmed from his promises or achievements within the Third Reich. As for whether “Hitler’s masterful organisation of the economy made him immensely popular and able to fight a prolonged war to 1945,” Hitler did succeed in implementing a massive rearmament programme, however, as is evident, his preparations would in the end not be enough to enable Germany to emerge triumphant from the war.


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