Failures in the Nazi economy..

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
Damper
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Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by Damper » 22 Dec 2009 17:30

This is my first post here, I've spent hours sifting through the various threads and I'm really impressed.

What prompted my visit here is a book I've just finished reading, 'The wages of Destruction bu Adam Tooze'. I'm not sure if anybody is familiar with it but it's an economic history of the Third Reich.

It's actually pretty fascination because it describes Nazi Germany in 1940 after having conquered much of Western Europe as being on the way to an economic disaster.

The key points of the book are that Germany lacked sources of Oil, Coal and various strategic metals such as tungsten. That capturing countries such as France instead of improving the economic situation actually worsened it. All of the conquered nations relied on overseas imports of Oil and most were net coal importers. So now to keep their economies ticking over they had to be supplied from Germany's (largely synthetic) fuel reserves. They did import oil from Romania but only a fraction of what they needed.

So after describing the difficult situation they faced the book goes on to describe how they failed to deal with it..

For example the Tiger tank... The UK and Britain with near limitless sources of oil and strategic materials refused to develop Heavy tanks largely because of their logistic demands... So why did Germany with a fuel crises keep producing a resource hungry fuel guzzler? Late in the war the Tiger II had serious problems with the armour because they lacked the alloys necessary for the armour plate. Likewise with the Panther whose Final drive had to be replace every 150 miles because of the shoddy materials used in it's construction.

Even with Albert Speer launching a 'Total War' economy towards the end, they still never seemed to live within their means when deciding on what equipment to produce.

So my question is if the Nazi's had abandoned projects such as the Tiger, Panther certain artillery pieces, and the V2, and instead concentrated on cheap easily produced weapons e.g. more tank destroyers, armoured cars... concrete fortifications (which was all a lot of the metal produced was fit for) would this have allowed the Reich to last longer than it did?

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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by mescal » 22 Dec 2009 18:04

Hello,

You'll find out that there are many here who appreciate Wages of Destruction

And some who don't like or don't understand it. (it's not to be mean - WoD is IMHO truly difficult to read if you don't have any economic background, especially the discussions on the foregin trade & monetray economics)
As stated by someone (Qvist ?), it's a book that has to be read very carefully, and at least twice or three times


You can see for example those threads where discussion on WoD appear :

German effort badly run ?
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?p=1321950

Warmaking potential
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 4&t=161189

and certainly many more in the Economic subforum.
So my question is if the Nazi's had abandoned projects such as the Tiger, Panther certain artillery pieces, and the V2 [...] would this have allowed the Reich to last longer than it did?
I do not think there is a straightforward answer to your question.
I'm not even sure Tiger or Panther were not worthwhile - they were expansive, but they had a very favourable kill ratio vs enemy tanks.

The problem I see is that you propose a reallocation of resources, whereas, as I understand WoD, the economic problem is more systematic than this.
The true shortage was in manpower - and also in foreign reserve to buy foreign goods.
And you still need manpower to build fortifications, assault guns ...
Olivier

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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by Damper » 22 Dec 2009 18:21

In the book Tooze does deal with manpower but concentrates on the various german foreign worker porgrams (basically slavery in the case of the workers from Eastern Europe). He tends to take the view that there should have been adequate workers to supply german factories while also maintaing the economies of the countries they were coming from, but the disorganised and brutal way they did it ensured this wasn't the case.

The germans never made sufficient arrangements for providing liveable conditions for most of the workers... I mean apart from the fact that it was evil, what was the point of transporting a worker thousands of miles from the east to Germany only to have him die of starvation or disease shortly afterwards.

The Tiger and Panther were very capable tanks, but only if Germany was capable of building them in sufficient numbers and then fueling them, which they weren't.

I mean instead of the Tiger and Panther maybe they would have been better with a simple evoloutinary step up from the Panzer IV which they could then produce in much higher numbers. Or they could have turned to less fuel hungry armoured cars of which they had probably the best designs of any combatant nation.

As for foreign reserves he does discuss that... I know the key import was of Iron ore from Sweden which kept going till late in 1944 and was cut off by the Allies rather than through running out of money. Likewise Germany's supply of Tungsten which was key for Machine tools (as well as armour piercing ammunition) was Spain which was again cut off by the allies.

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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 22 Dec 2009 21:33

I'd recommend 'Brute Force' by John Ellis. It makes a good companion to Wages of Destruction. Whle some of Ellis's text & conclusions are not agreeble this book does have over fifty tables or charts covering coparisons of Axis & Allied production of everything from Aluminum to AT guns, and tanks to coking coal. Other charts trace the loss of cargo embarked to Britain in ships, the loss of German submarines, the loss of heavy bombers, and the loss of synthetic fuels production in monthly or quarterly increments. Similar data and analysis are provided for the Pacific war as well. Brute Force is easily found in the used book market or librarys.

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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by LWD » 22 Dec 2009 21:43

I'm still working my way through Wages of Destruction. It's defintily not a fast read. Maybe if I had more of an ecomic background it would be faster but then again maybe not. I find after I've read a few pages I have to sit back and think about just what he's written. There are huge implications to some of what he says that he just brushes across (not that that's unreasonable indeed it's rather a complement).

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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by Damper » 22 Dec 2009 21:52

I know there's other threads dealing with the Nazi economy in general and Tooze's book in particular.

But I think my question relates to why the Germans were hell bent on trying to produce weapon systems such as the Tiger that they clearly couldn't support.

To me it seems to be a failure to face reality, they have a design and prototype for the various equipments and then take a decision to put it into production without considering their economic situation.
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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by LWD » 22 Dec 2009 22:14

Damper wrote:...But I think my question relates to why the Germans were hell bent on trying to produce weapon systems such as the Tiger that they clearly couldn't support. ....
Well one answer is that they could see the writing on the wall if they stayed "conventional" they needed something that would turn things around. Then there's the fact that there was a fasincation at higher levels (ie Hitler) with "wonder weapons" there was not the same fasination with logistics. Indeed one of the greatest failings of the German army in the run up to WWII was the lack of a log structure that would support anything other than a short war. Even later their support seems to have played second fiddle in many areas.

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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by Guaporense » 23 Dec 2009 01:11

Damper wrote:I know there's other threads dealing with the Nazi economy in general and Tooze's book in particular.

But I think my question relates to why the Germans were hell bent on trying to produce weapon systems such as the Tiger that they clearly couldn't support.
They could, the Tiger was an excellent weapon system. It was expensive, but it was good. Note that tigers traded with other tanks in 10 to 1 basis. In the Battle of Kursk, a group of tigers destroyed 111 tanks for the loss of 3. 8O (source: Glantz 1999). So, if a tiger was 3-4 times more expensive than allied tanks, so what? It was more than 3-4 times better!
To me it seems to be a failure to face reality, they have a design and prototype for the various equipments and then take a decision to put it into production without considering their economic situation.
Production of tanks was never an economic problem for Germany. The proportion of tank production in total munitions production was 3-6%, and munitions corresponded to 15% of military expenditures in 1941. The problem was lack of fuel and manpower.
"In tactics, as in strategy, superiority in numbers is the most common element of victory." - Carl von Clausewitz

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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by Damper » 23 Dec 2009 01:28

Guaporense wrote:
They could, the Tiger was an excellent weapon system. It was expensive, but it was good. Note that tigers traded with other tanks in 10 to 1 basis. In the Battle of Kursk, a group of tigers destroyed 111 tanks for the loss of 3. 8O (source: Glantz 1999). So, if a tiger was 3-4 times more expensive than allied tanks, so what? It was more than 3-4 times better!
I've read that particularly with the Tiger II, that the quality of the armour could at times be extremely poor, so that rounds that were deflected would often cause cracking. Also that as with the Panther the final drive as well as other parts with high stresses place on them, needed constant replacing. Also there was just the genuine poor reliabilty of both the Tiger I and II engine failure, due to poor quality engine parts espeically gaskets.

I know it was an engineering marvel, but really they didn't have the resources to manufacture them in the numbers or to the standard required, likewise with the Panther.

Surely they should have been designing AFV's with tailored to their limited resources. The Tiger II may have had a high ratio of tanks destroyed, but the assault guns and tank destroyers remained the biggest Tank killer in the German inventory.
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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by LWD » 23 Dec 2009 13:27

Guaporense wrote:
They could, the Tiger was an excellent weapon system.
Was it? I certaily wouldn't say so. Things like reliability and fuel consumption tend to decrease it's merit as a weapons system considerably.
It was expensive, but it was good. Note that tigers traded with other tanks in 10 to 1 basis. In the Battle of Kursk, a group of tigers destroyed 111 tanks for the loss of 3. 8O (source: Glantz 1999). So, if a tiger was 3-4 times more expensive than allied tanks, so what? It was more than 3-4 times better!
A single incident hardly proves the value of a system. How do you determine it was "3-4 times better"? Seems rather counter factual to me.
Production of tanks was never an economic problem for Germany. The proportion of tank production in total munitions production was 3-6%, and munitions corresponded to 15% of military expenditures in 1941. The problem was lack of fuel and manpower.
The first doesn't necessarily follow from the second. Indeed if it were true then why did Germany produce so many Stugs and other turretless ACVs?

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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by phylo_roadking » 23 Dec 2009 22:13

For example the Tiger tank... The UK and Britain with near limitless sources of oil and strategic materials refused to develop Heavy tanks largely because of their logistic demands...
Damper, this isn't strictly correct; by THEIR lights the British designed a series of tanks that WOULD have been regarded as "heavy"...except their long gestation periods AND starting with a time lag as they were designed as answers to the Tiger or were held back to be answers to it....meant that when the appeared they had BECOME - "Medium"! :lol:

Don't forget the WARTIME-designed Centurion WAS designated as a heavy until the Conqueror came into service....and then it was RE-designated a "Medium"! :lol: :lol: :lol:

At the same time they designed a series of failed "heavies" and "superheavies" - the A.39 Tortoise, the A.38 Valiant, the A.33 Heavy Assault...even T.O.G I and II, and the A.43 Black Prince variant of the Churchill; now THERE was a good-looking piece of kit!

What REALLY halted the British projects in their tracks ( :D ) was....the war unfortunately ended! The six Tortoise prototypes weren't finished until 1947 as work slowed to a near stop at war's end, and the six prototypes of the Black Prince were undergoing final testing at VE Day and Vauxhall's got no orders.

(Meantime the Americans had a whole series of "heavies" that didn't make it into full production...)
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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by phylo_roadking » 23 Dec 2009 22:15

I've read that particularly with the Tiger II, that the quality of the armour could at times be extremely poor, so that rounds that were deflected would often cause cracking. Also that as with the Panther the final drive as well as other parts with high stresses place on them, needed constant replacing. Also there was just the genuine poor reliabilty of both the Tiger I and II engine failure, due to poor quality engine parts espeically gaskets.

I know it was an engineering marvel, but really they didn't have the resources to manufacture them in the numbers or to the standard required, likewise with the Panther.

Surely they should have been designing AFV's with tailored to their limited resources. The Tiger II may have had a high ratio of tanks destroyed, but the assault guns and tank destroyers remained the biggest Tank killer in the German inventory.
Take a look at the poor history of the Tiger II's combat debut in Normandy.... :wink:

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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by Damper » 24 Dec 2009 03:56

phylo_roadking wrote:
For example the Tiger tank... The UK and Britain with near limitless sources of oil and strategic materials refused to develop Heavy tanks largely because of their logistic demands...
Damper, this isn't strictly correct; by THEIR lights the British designed a series of tanks that WOULD have been regarded as "heavy"...except their long gestation periods AND starting with a time lag as they were designed as answers to the Tiger or were held back to be answers to it....meant that when the appeared they had BECOME - "Medium"! :lol:

Don't forget the WARTIME-designed Centurion WAS designated as a heavy until the Conqueror came into service....and then it was RE-designated a "Medium"! :lol: :lol: :lol:

At the same time they designed a series of failed "heavies" and "superheavies" - the A.39 Tortoise, the A.38 Valiant, the A.33 Heavy Assault...even T.O.G I and II, and the A.43 Black Prince variant of the Churchill; now THERE was a good-looking piece of kit!

What REALLY halted the British projects in their tracks ( :D ) was....the war unfortunately ended! The six Tortoise prototypes weren't finished until 1947 as work slowed to a near stop at war's end, and the six prototypes of the Black Prince were undergoing final testing at VE Day and Vauxhall's got no orders.

(Meantime the Americans had a whole series of "heavies" that didn't make it into full production...)
I'm in no way claiming to be an expert, but all those designs you mentioned were never put into production, the British army in Normandy consisted of Cromwells and Shermans, as well as various SP guns mounted on older chassis, Surely the rejection of the those designs listed doesn't detract from my arguement?

I've seen the A.39 on display at Bovington to be honest I would have classed it as a tank destroyer, I assumed it was simply a vehicle for the 32 pounder anti tank gun then in development.

I would suggest that British tank design towards the end of the war was focused on finding a suitable vehicle on which to mount the 17 pounder or later the 77 HV.

After the disaster of British tank design early in the war, they did seem to learn their lesson. The sense of focus that made them design tanks according to their circumstances would have served the Germans well, who seemed to have totally insulated themselves from their economic realities.

Of course the Tiger was a marvelous design, but the build quality especially late in the war was shocking, and the fact that the majority of Tigers were destroyed by their own crews after they'd broken down or run out of fuel rather than from enemy action... well that points to something being wrong with the whole concept...

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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by phylo_roadking » 24 Dec 2009 21:04

I'm in no way claiming to be an expert, but all those designs you mentioned were never put into production, ... Surely the rejection of the those designs listed doesn't detract from my arguement?
That's the point - they weren't ALL rejected. Regarding the Tortoise, from Wiki -
The Nuffield Organisation responded with 18 separate designs (AT1 through AT18) drafted between May 1943 and February 1944, each design larger and heavier than the last. By February 1944 design AT16 was complete and was approved by the Tank Board who proposed that month that 25 be produced directly from the mockup stage without bothering with a prototype, to be available for operational service in September 1945. An order for 25 was placed by the War Office and work was begun.

Following the end of the war the order was reduced and only 6 vehicles were built.
I.E IF the war had dragged on, the Tortoise would have equally dragged its carcass into the field! :lol: (P.S. 32pdr gun, not 25)

It was regarded as the ultimate expression of the British "Infantry" tank; top speed MAY only have been 12 mph....but then again - how fast would infantry move across bunker-dominated battlefields? That's what it was designed for beginning in 1942 - bunkerbusting infantry support, particularly the Siegfried Line :wink:

As for the Black Prince - it DID see active service! Just not in WWII...but it was VERY sucessful in Korea, where it demonstrated superlative gradient climbing ability - just as its immediate predecessor the Churchill had.

But the thing that REALLY scuppered it wasn't any failure in the design by any means, or EVEN in it's case the end of the war...IT was scuppered by the OTHER tank design stream in the UK, othe CRUISER tank stream - which had JUST produced the Centurion! :)

Looking at how the British "did" tanks in WWII, if it had dragged on, we would have seen "I" tank units with Black Princes, "cruiser" tank units with Centurions....and a specialist very-late war "funny" unit with Tortoises for reducing the Third Reich's last strongpoints....for one of the benefits of the British way of doing things was several blocks of factories and contracted others (shipyards, railway locomotive works etc.) manufacturing the TWO different streams, thus maximising the number of whole vehicles that came out of the economy.

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Re: Failures in the Nazi economy..

Post by phylo_roadking » 24 Dec 2009 21:21

As a P.S....

Even THEN, with the end of WWII in May 1945, there was still a chance that the Black Prince might have gone into full production....but as we know, very rapidly the NEXT expected battlefield for the British Army became the rolling plains of West Germany in front of the Fulda Gap... :wink: And the Centurion was more suited - with its speed - to THAT theatre...

But the Black Prince as a Heavy tank was REALLY made obsolete even before it was used in Korea - by THIS being about to come off the drawing board - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conqueror_tank...it had everything the Black Prince did AND the speed the Prince didn't 8O And scope out the date of development starting -
The chassis was from the A45 Infantry Support Tank, started in 1944 shortly after that of the A41 Centurion
Again, it's a child of WWII British HEAVY tank design...

The Black Prince would only have had a place IF WWII had continued; a European Cold War turning hot wasn't the right place for it.

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