Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
prr
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Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by prr » 20 Dec 2008 16:52

Just read an interesting article by John Kenneth Galbraith on the reasons why Germany lost WWII, published in December 1945 Fortune Magazine, Germany Was Run Badly. Based on the documents of Albert Speer, his thesis was that the German armaments production was far from efficient. It suffered from micro-management by Hitler, who allowed incompetent leaders to stay in power if only they were loyal to him. He also stated that the German factories were not run as productively as they could have been, with only one shift, without German wives still working in the home and with tens of thousands of servants continually employed (as opposed to working in factories or in the military).

Now part of this is supposedly because Galbraith was drawing on Albert Speer, who took over arms production halfway through the war. I recall reading that Speer said that if he was in power throughout the war, Germany would have marched into Russia with twice the armaments that it actually did have. So some of this might be self-serving ideas of Speer.

I scanned a copy of it and put it up on my site: http://www.paulrittman.com/BadlyRun.pdf

I ran across a reference to this in Adam Tooze’s work, The Wages of Destruction. Tooze didn’t seem to agree with Galbraith’s thesis. Throughout his work, Tooze indicated that Germany was continually beset with shortages of raw materials, which might explain why German factories wouldn’t have been run around the clock. This of course is one of the reasons why Germany was so concerned about Lebensraum. Tooze also drew a connection between this and the state-run (socialist) economy of Nazi Germany; Galbraith as a liberal was not too keen on drawing this lesson from Germany’s story. Finally, Tooze said that Germany was well aware that they had to go back to the west and fight against Britain and the US, and that a lot of their arms production was devoted to producing/designing material that would be used in an air/naval campaign against those Allies, and not against the USSR--as an explanation as to why the Germans didn't throw everything they had against the USSR from the get-go.

OK. What do folks here think about this question? Were German factories unnecessarily run at a much slower pace than could have been? Was the Wehrmacht plagued by incompetent leadership—and to be fair, by leadership that was more incompetent than that of the Allies?

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Attrition
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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by Attrition » 20 Dec 2008 17:28

'State run' doesn't necessarily mean socialist. The nazi state wasn't socialist; after all, not even Weimar could claim that.

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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by Borys » 21 Dec 2008 09:39

Attrition wrote:The nazi state wasn't socialist
Please check what the "S" in NSDAP stands for. The "A" is also quite telling.
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Attrition
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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by Attrition » 22 Dec 2008 12:10

Come on, do you take terms like 'Peoples' Republic' seriously? Look at the nazi party programme and compare it with what the nazis did. You'll be calling the USA a democracy next.

Socialism for all its faults is not racist, is not imperialist and doesn't approve of offensive war. It is lukewarm on abolishing the bourgoisie, even tolerating the rentier class and private ownership of the means of production under some form of state control of the wider economy.

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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by LWD » 22 Dec 2008 13:58

While I agree that the Nazi's were hardly socialist. (I seam to recall there was a socialst wing of the party but it didn't last long). The points below are irrelevant.
Attrition wrote:...Socialism for all its faults is not racist, is not imperialist and doesn't approve of offensive war. It is lukewarm on abolishing the bourgoisie, even tolerating the rentier class and private ownership of the means of production under some form of state control of the wider economy.
As to whether it was badly run or not it depends on when you are talking about and how you are defining it. PUshed for a general opinion I'd say yes ot was badly run. It did do a good job of creating a military that was quite strong in 39-41 but didn't have the depth to last and even wihtout the war would have started falling behind in the 40s.

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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by prr » 22 Dec 2008 16:33

LWD wrote: As to whether it was badly run or not it depends on when you are talking about and how you are defining it. PUshed for a general opinion I'd say yes ot was badly run. It did do a good job of creating a military that was quite strong in 39-41 but didn't have the depth to last and even wihtout the war would have started falling behind in the 40s.
Yes Tooze was saying that in 39, the motivation for Hitler was that we have nothing to gain by waiting, and that they were themselves saying that the gap (in military readiness, between Germany and the Allies) would be closed. IIRC this was also one of the points in the Hoffbach Memorandum--that war would come no later than 43-45, and sooner if international politics would allow it.

Let me probe a bit here, because (due to words I used) the discussion seems to have taken a turn that I wished it hadn't. I'd like to focus on this issue of it being run badly, not on whether or not it was socialist. OK, LWD, do you think that there was little that Germany could do to avoid "falling behind"? Was this simply a lack access to natural resources, limited manpower, etc? Or do you believe that, if run with the fabled "German efficiency," that the Germans could have defeated the Soviets? Galbraith went so far as to say that there is no way Germany should have lost the war, and wouldn't have, but for undermobilization and overconfidence in the early years. Would you agree with this point?

Galbraith denies a real labor shortage in Germany, saying that they ruled much of Europe and could tap into that labor pool. THey did import several hundred thousand Poles (inside the borders of 1939 Germany); but how much production of tanks and aircraft could they have safely placed outside of Germany? Wouldn't this have been vulnerable to sabotage--or to re-conquest by teh Allies?

Galbraith seems to admit that if we stick to the borders of Germany, we can accept the existence of a labor shortage, but that this isn't applicable, because the Germans ruled so much land outside their borders. Any comments on how applicable this is? How realistic would it have been for Germany to conscript the labor of huge numbers of Russians and Slavic peoples for tank and aircraft production?

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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by LWD » 22 Dec 2008 17:26

prr wrote: ...OK, LWD, do you think that there was little that Germany could do to avoid "falling behind"? Was this simply a lack access to natural resources, limited manpower, etc? Or do you believe that, if run with the fabled "German efficiency," that the Germans could have defeated the Soviets? ...
If the German aim is to defeat the Soviets I think they can do that. However what they have to do is build infrastructure and good relations with the west in the ealry 30's and plan on fighting in the mid to late 40's. One serious problem with very efficient organizations is that if the direction at the top is bad they can end up doing the useless very efficiently. Witness the results of the German occupation.

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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by wm » 22 Dec 2008 20:14

prr wrote:THey did import several hundred thousand Poles (inside the borders of 1939 Germany)
I think it was about 1.4M from the territories of Poland under German occupation, almost million from areas annexed to Germany. Most of the 350,000 Polish POWs captured by Germans during the 1939 invasion were also sent as forced laborers to Germany.
Of course it didn't matter if you worked in occupied Poland or was sent to Germany. In both cases you probably supported the German war economy.

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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by prr » 22 Dec 2008 20:20

wm wrote:
prr wrote:THey did import several hundred thousand Poles (inside the borders of 1939 Germany)
I think it was about 1.4M from the territories of Poland under German occupation, almost million from areas annexed to Germany. Most of the 350,000 Polish POWs captured by Germans during the 1939 invasion were also sent as forced laborers to Germany.
Of course it didn't matter if you worked in occupied Poland or was sent to Germany. In both cases you probably supported the German war economy.
Which would serve to refute Galbraith's claim that Nazi-occupied areas were not exploited. I would hope that he wasn't thinking that Hitler should have (better, could have) ordered Mussolini or Franco to provide laborers for workers camps.

I dunno, I've always heard (and assumed) that the Nazi-occupied areas were raped for anything that could help the war effort. I'm just wondering what the evidence is to support G.'s thesis.

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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by LWD » 22 Dec 2008 20:25

Thre's also a question of the value of forced/slave labor. Digging ditches is one thing but building weapons and muntions is another. Lots of damage one can do accidently or by just not paying enough attention. If they are motivated towards sabatog it's a perscription for disaster.

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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by Attrition » 22 Dec 2008 22:07

LWD wrote:While I agree that the Nazi's were hardly socialist. (I seam to recall there was a socialst wing of the party but it didn't last long). The points below are irrelevant.
Attrition wrote:...Socialism for all its faults is not racist, is not imperialist and doesn't approve of offensive war. It is lukewarm on abolishing the bourgoisie, even tolerating the rentier class and private ownership of the means of production under some form of state control of the wider economy.
As to whether it was badly run or not it depends on when you are talking about and how you are defining it. PUshed for a general opinion I'd say yes ot was badly run. It did do a good job of creating a military that was quite strong in 39-41 but didn't have the depth to last and even wihtout the war would have started falling behind in the 40s.
Irrelevant? A somewhat amoral conclusion don't you think?

As for Germany's 'peacetime war economy' of the 1930's, it couldn't last within Germany's 1919 boundaries and in the international context of competing empires was always a minnow relative to the USA and was overhauled by the British and French in 1938.

There was a modest anti-capitalist faction in the nazi party led by Gregor Strasser but that was tamed in in 1926. His brother got the push from the party in 1930 and what was left of the anti-capitalist nazis were massacred in the Night of the Long Knives. No wonder Hitler was thought by some to be an agent of captalism.

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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by wm » 22 Dec 2008 23:47

prr wrote: Which would serve to refute Galbraith's claim that Nazi-occupied areas were not exploited. I would hope that he wasn't thinking that Hitler should have (better, could have) ordered Mussolini or Franco to provide laborers for workers camps.
180,000 from Italy, 8,000 from Spain :) see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forced_lab ... rld_War_II .
By 1944, slave labor made up one quarter of Germany's entire work force, I think they really left no stone unturned.

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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by prr » 23 Dec 2008 00:11

wm wrote:
180,000 from Italy, 8,000 from Spain :) see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forced_lab ... rld_War_II .
By 1944, slave labor made up one quarter of Germany's entire work force, I think they really left no stone unturned.
Interesting, although still quite a bit less than the German-occupied countries, even those of much smaller populations than Italy.

At any rate, that one-fourth statistic (7.6 million foreign service workers and POWs) is pretty impressive. The wikipedia page (if we're going to credit it as a source) says that the majority of German factories had contingents of prisoners.

Yes it sounds like they left no stone unturned. The source on the wikipedia page (for the 1/4 figure) says that in 42, the average output for Russian miners (forced to work by the Germans) was 37% of their German counterparts.

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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by Mostlyharmless » 23 Dec 2008 13:32

prr wrote:Finally, Tooze said that Germany was well aware that they had to go back to the west and fight against Britain and the US, and that a lot of their arms production was devoted to producing/designing material that would be used in an air/naval campaign against those Allies, and not against the USSR--as an explanation as to why the Germans didn't throw everything they had against the USSR from the get-go.
I think Tooze is giving the German leadership too much credit for far sightedness as he is such an obvious fan of Speer :D. For example, it is hard to see how completing the Volkswagen factory was going to help an air/naval campaign. Also if Germany had defeated the USSR, it would not have needed most of the synthetic oil plants. Hitler was surprised by the British and French declarations of war. The official plan assumed that war was only likely in 1943-44 (the naval Z-plan for example). The synthetic oil programme made sense on that assumption. I suspect that nobody changed the plans even when they no longer made sense.

There was an earlier thread on German versus USSR steel production http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 6&t=119848 that might suggest that the limitation on, for example, tank production was not lack of raw materials. However, Lend Lease might have allowed the USSR to concentrate more on weapons, so it is not absolutely clear.

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Re: Was Germany's War Effort Badly Run?

Post by LWD » 23 Dec 2008 14:25

Attrition wrote: ...
Irrelevant? A somewhat amoral conclusion don't you think?
What has morality got to do with it? They are irrelevant to the question.
... in the international context of competing empires was always a minnow relative to the USA and was overhauled by the British and French in 1938....
Always? I don't think so even post WWI the German economy was significant. It could have been more so if different paths had been chosen.

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