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Adolf Hitler
Location:  Nazism > Economic Practice

Nazi Economic Practice

Nazi economic practice concerned itself with immediate domestic issues and separately with ideological conceptions of international economics.

Domestic economic policy was narrowly concerned with three major goals:

  • Elimination of unemployment
  • Elimination of hyperinflation
  • Expansion of production of consumer goods to improve middle- and lower-class living standards.

All of these policy goals were intended to address the perceived shortcomings of the Weimar Republic and to solidify domestic support for the party. In this, the party was very successful. Between 1933 and 1936 the German GNP increased by an average annual rate of 9.5 percent, and the rate for industry alone rose by 17.2 percent.

However, some economists argue that the expansion of the Germany economy between 1933 and 1936 was not the result of the Nazi party, but rather the consequence of economic policies of the late Weimar Republic which had begun to have an effect. In addition, it has been pointed out that while it is often popularly believed that the Nazis ended hyperinflation, that the end of hyperinflation preceded the Nazis by several years.

This expansion propelled the German economy out of a deep depression and into full employment in less than four years. Public consumption during the same period increased by 18.7%, while private consumption increased by 3.6% annually. However, as this production was primarily consumptive rather than productive (make-work projects, expansion of the war-fighting machine, initiation of the draft to remove working age males from the labor force), inflationary pressures began to rear their head again, although not to the highs of the Weimar Republic. These economic pressures, combined with the war-fighting machine created in the expansion (and concomitant pressures for its use), has led some to conclude that a European war was inevitable. (See Causes of war.)

Internationally, the Nazi party believed that an international banking cabal was behind the global depression of the 1930s. The control of this cabal was identified with the ethnic group known as Jews, providing another link in their ideological motivation for the destruction of that group in the holocaust. However, broadly speaking, the existence of large international banking or merchant banking organizations was well known at this time. Many of these banking organizations were able to exert influence upon nation states by extension or withholding of credit. This influence is not limited to the small states that preceded the creation of German Empire as a nation state in the 1870s, but is noted in most major histories of all European powers from the 16th century onward.

It is important to note that the Nazi Party's conception of international economics was very limited. As the National Socialist in the name NSDAP suggests, the party's primary motivation was to incorporate previously international resources into the Reich by force, rather than by trade (compare to the international socialism as practiced by the Soviet Union and the COMECON trade organization). This made international economic theory a supporting factor in the political ideology rather than a core plank of the platform as it is in most modern political parties.

In an economic sense, Nazism and Fascism are related. Nazism may be considered a subset of Fascism, with all Nazis being Fascists, but not all Fascists being Nazis. Nazism shares many economic features with Fascism, featuring complete government control of finance and investment (allocation of credit), industry, and agriculture. Yet in both of these systems, corporate power and market based systems for providing price information still existed.

Rather than the state requiring goods from industrial enterprises and allocating raw materials required for their production (as in socialist / communist systems), the state paid for these goods. This allows price to play an essential role in providing information as to relative scarcity of materials, or the capital requirements in technology or labor (including education, as in skilled labor) inputs to produce a manufactured good. Additionally, the unionist (strictly speaking, syndicalist) veneer placed on corporate labor relations was another major point of agreement. Both the German and Italian fascist political parties began as unionist labor movements, and grew into totalitarian dictatorships. This idea was maintained throughout their time in power, with state control used as a means to eliminate the assumed conflict between management labor relations.