When Hitler assumed the German chancellorship in January 1933, 34 percent of Germany’s work force was unemployed. By 1936, before Hitler’s rearmament program took hold of the economy, most of the jobless had disappeared from official unemployment statistics. How did the Nazis put Germany back to work? Was the recovery genuine? If so, how and why was it so much more successful than that of other industrialized nations? Hitler’s Economy addresses these questions and contributes to our understanding of the internal dynamics and power structure of the Nazi regime in the early years of the Third Reich.
Dan Silverman focuses on Nazi direct work creation programs, utilizing rich archival sources to trace the development and implementation of these programs at the regional and local level. He rigorously evaluates the validity of Nazi labor market statistics and reassesses the relative importance of road construction, housing, land reclamation, and resettlement in Germany’s economic recovery, while providing new insights into how these projects were financed. He illuminates the connection between work creation and Nazi race, agriculture, and resettlement policies. Capping his work is a comparative analysis of economic recovery during the 1930s in Germany, Britain, and the United States.
Silverman concludes that the recovery in Germany between 1933 and 1936 was real, not simply the product of statistical trickery and the stimulus of rearmament, and that Nazi work creation programs played a significant role. However, he argues, it was ultimately the workers themselves, toiling under inhumane conditions in labor camps, who paid the price for this recovery. Nazi propaganda glorifying the “dignity of work” masked the brutal reality of Hitler’s “economic miracle.”
To have pinpointed the fragmented and decentralised as well as inefficient and inhumane traits to work creation programmes is among the greatest merits of Silverman’s study. Particularly useful are the passages on the hitherto neglected local and regional initiatives and the international comparison with employment policies in the US and the UK of the early 1930s.
Completely and fully researched from a variety of primary German sources, this book provides a thorough study of work creation at the beginning of the Third Reich and strengthens the structuralist approach to Nazism…No future study on Nazi economic policy will be complete without reference to this work.
This is an exceptionally thoroughly worked out piece of research on a historiographically complicated and disputed issue. It examines the puzzle of German work creation in the early years of the Nazi dictatorship—how it was that a quite small-scale program apparently produced one of the most striking economic recoveries from the Great Depression in any industrial country. The virtue of Silverman’s study is that he gives for the first time an analysis of the politics of drawing up the Nazi program of 1933—the so-called Reinhardt program—and he then provides a detailed depiction of how the plans were translated into reality. There are some fascinating insights into local politics.
In this book, a highly knowledgeable scholar brings prodigious, multi-archival research to bear on an important phenomenon that has long puzzled historians and economists: the striking success of the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler in surmounting the mass unemployment of the Great Depression. The result is a solid, ground-breaking study—the most ambitious inquiry into this topic to date.
- 384 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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