Friday, September 18, 2009

Economy and Trade in Nazi Germany

The economy of Nazi Germany during the reign of Adolf Hitler (1933-1945) developed a hothouse prosperity. The economic system in Nazi Germany was mainly supported by high government subsidies that were favored by Hitler himself. Adolf Hitler believed that "the economy is of something of secondary importance." Therefore, he left the economic duties out of his political platform when he first introduced himself to Germany and the western world. The Nazis rose to power during a time period of high unemployment in Germany, but they later gained full employment due to massive rearmament.

Here is a basic synopsis of the Nazi German trade:

  • Discouraged trade with countries outside the German sphere of influence.
  • Make southern Europe largely dependent on Germany.
  • Developed strong relationships with big business.
  • Abolished trade unions.
  • High exports of synthetic rubber, steel, and textile.
  • Limit trade partners
  • A number of bilateral trade agreements were signed between Germany and other European countries (mostly countries located in Southern and South-Eastern Europe) during the 1930

By the late 1930s, the aims of German trade policy were to use economic and political power to make the countries of Southern Europe and the Balkans dependent on Germany. The German economy would draw its raw materials from that region, and the countries in question would receive German manufactured goods in exchange. Already in 1938, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece transacted 50% of all their foreign trade with Germany.
Throughout the 1930s, German businesses were encouraged to form cartels, monopolies and oligopolies, whose interests were then protected by the state.
In his book, Big Business in the Third Reich, Arthur Schweitzer notes that:

"Monopolistic price fixing became the rule in most industries, and cartels were no longer confined to the heavy or large-scale industries. [...] Cartels and quasi-cartels (whether of big business or small) set prices, engaged in limiting production, and agreed to divide markets and classify consumers in order to realize a monopoly profit."


-Shaquel Smith


  1. Those are some great thought I had that I figured may have a role was that once the German Empire began rapid expansion it was either at war or very close to war with many of the nations that surrounded it and that had important roles in the world economy...that may have gone a ways towards retarding trade...

  2. The wars definitely affected the trading system of Nazi Germany. Hitler was not fond of economic affairs. Therefore, Germany, during the Hitler days, only traded with the few allied nations of Nazi Germany. But the wars definitely retarded trade, also Hitler attitude.

  3. I agree that Hitler did not consider the economical standpoint of his empire to be a major factor. But, that is sort of the way fascism works. Once in power, fascists usually adopt whatever economic program they believe to be most suitable for their political goals. Fascist regimes which last for long periods of time make drastic changes to the economy from time to time to match their current goals. The wars definitely did have an effect on the trading system of Nazi Germany; however it was more the policies of Hitler’s regime towards the economy which made trade insignificant.

  4. Interesting, certainly makes for a good introduction to the subject. Do note that for any serious research Wikipedia can be a starting point, but you should end up citing academic books and articles.