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Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State (2007)
New York: NY, Metropolitan Books, 2007
- Content as most Germans were, there was little chance for a domestic movement that would have halted Nazi crimes. This new perspective on the Nazi regime as a kind of racist-totalitarian welfare state allows us to understand the connection between the Nazi policies of racial genocide and the countless, seemingly benign family anecdotes about how a generation of German citizens ‘got through’ World War II.
- p. 2
- Such material benefits suggest how the regime maintained its popularity during the war. Indeed, concern for the people’s welfare—at any cost—was a mark of the Nazi system from its inception. Between 1933 and 1935, the leadership owed its domestic support to its efficient campaign against unemployment. However, the regime succeeded in combating joblessness only by incurring a fiscally irresponsible level of state debt. Later the regime would require a not particularly popular war to keep government finances afloat.
- pp. 3-4
- Hitler was able to maintain general morale by transferring Germany’s military offenses into an increasingly coordinated series of destructive raids aimed at plundering other peoples. The Nazi leadership established a framework for directly sharing the spoils of the military victories with the majority of Germans—the profits derived from crippling the economics of occupied and dependent countries, the exploitation of work performed by forced laborers, the confiscated property of murdered Jews, and the deliberate starvation of millions of people, most notably in the Soviet Union. Those benefits, in turn, made the recipients amenable to Nazi propaganda and gave them a vested interest in the Third Reich.
- p. 4
- Even the traditional anti-Jewish pogroms in medieval Europe were not always based on religious hatred alone. Often, anti-Semitism was combined with plunder for plunder’s sake.
- p. 5
- Namely, how did National Socialism, an obviously deceitful, megalomaniacal, and criminal undertaking, succeed in persuading the great majority of the German people that it was working in their interest? One answer is that as harshly as the Nazi leadership applied its racist ideology to Jews, the handicapped, and other ‘undesirables,’ their domestic policies were remarkably friendly toward the German lower classes, soaking the wealthy and redistributing the burdens of wartime to the benefit of the underprivileged.
- pp. 6-7
- By exploiting material wealth confiscated and plundered in a racial war, Hitler’s National Socialism achieved an unprecedented level of economic equality and created vast new opportunities for upward mobility for the German people.
- pp. 7-8
- In one of his central pronouncements, Hitler promised 'the creation of a socially just state,' a model society that would' continue to eradicate all [social] barriers.'
- p. 13. Hitler’s speech to workers at the Berlin’s Rheinmetall-Borsig factory (Oct. 10, 1940)
- The National Socialist German Workers Party was founded on a doctrine of inequality between races, but it also promised Germans greater equality among themselves than they had enjoyed during either the Wilhemine empire or the Weimar Republic. In practice, this goal was achieved at the expense of other groups, by means of a racist war of conquest. Nazi ideology conceived of a racial conflict as an antidote to class conflict. By framing its program in this way, the party was propagating two age-old dreams of the German people: national and class unity. That was the key to the Nazis’ popularity, from which they derived the power they needed to pursue their criminal aims. The ideal of the Volksstaat—a state of and for the people—was what we would now call a welfare state for Germans with the proper racial pedigree.
- p. 13
- Another source of the Nazi Party’s popularity was its liberal borrowing from the intellectual tradition of the socialist left. Many of the men who would become the movement’s leaders had been involved in communist and socialist circles.
- p. 16
- Not surprisingly, some of the first measures enacted after the Nazis came to power were aimed at alleviating the threat, felt by the majority of Germans in the wake of the Depression, of eviction and repossession. Several early Nazi laws restricted the right of creditors vis-à-vis debtors so as to prevent ‘the impoverishment of the [German] people.’ The 1938 Old Debt Eradication Law invalidated hundreds of thousands of titles to collectible debts. The Law for the Prevention of Misuse of Repossession, passed in 1934, was directed against what was seen as the ‘nearly unlimited freedom enjoyed by creditors’ in the past.
- pp. 21-22
- By 1939 the national debt had reached 37.4 billion marks. The reemployment of millions of jobless and the rearmament of German military forces had been financed by borrowing gigantic sums of money. Even Goebbels, who otherwise mocked the government’s financial experts as narrow-minded misers, expressed concern in his diary about the exploding deficit.
- p. 39
- [The Nazis] handed out billions in price subsidies to farmers…. As early as December 1939, a high-ranking financial administrator complained that the privileging of farmers ‘is in many case so grotesque that it can scarcely be kept secret from the rest of the populace, segments of which are being called on to make real sacrifices.’
- p. 55
- Significantly, the will to achieve social reform was strongest among those leaders within the Nazi Party who were also the most actively involved in pushing forward the agenda of ethnic genocide. The idea of a huge pension increase in 1944 was budgetary insanity. Yet some within the Nazi hierarchy supported it for the ‘psychological dividends it would pay among our working ethnic comrades [Volksgenossen].’ They called for ‘blue- and white-collar workers to be put on equal footing’ to give them a preliminary taste of the harmonious future to come, which would be achieved through a ‘generous reform of the social welfare state in the interest of working people.’
- pp. 56-57
- Some within the Nazi hierarchy… called for 'blue- and white-collar workers to be put on equal footing’ to give them a preliminary taste of the harmonious future to come, which would be achieve through a ‘generous reform of the social-welfare state in the interest of working people.’
- p. 57
- The trend toward soaking business and the wealthy gained further momentum in the fiscal year 1942-43. The disproportionately large increase in domestic tax revenues that year can be traced to the state’s imposing the so-called estate inflation tax.
- p. 62
- [A]1942 levy required property owners to pay ten years of the tax in advanced in a single lump sum. Because property owners were prohibited from raising rents, they alone bore the burden. In addition, the Reich appropriated other revenues that had previously belonged to local authorities.All told the state collected the considerable sum of 8.1 billion reichsmarks (in today’s currency the equivalent of around 100 billion dollars) in additional revenues in 1942-43. The financial newspaper Bankwirtschaft hailed the windfall as ‘a satisfactory result in terms of both limiting consumer spending power and improving the state budget.
- pp. 62-63
- Many property owners feared they would be ‘fleeced’ by government rent controls, compulsory reserve funds, or increases in the basic real estate tax. Indeed, a few months later, Economics Minister Walther Funk announced: ‘So-called real value assets [Substanzwerte] will represent an especially lucrative source of state revenue after the war.’ And in early 1944, Reich economists began discussing new ways ‘to better exploit property owners to cover state debts.’ Polemics against landlords continued to appear in party organs such as Das schwarze Korps, the official newspaper of the SS.
- p. 63
- The fact that those affected by the real estate inflation had paid 4.5 billion reichsmarks of the levy in cash temporarily throttled the circulation of hard currency. Representatives of property owners’ associations agreed to the measure because the state again promised to get rid of the tax once and for all. Nevertheless, many property owners feared they would be ‘fleeced’ by government rent controls, compulsory reserve funds, or increases in the basic real estate tax… And in early 1944, Reich economists began discussing new ways ‘to better exploit property ownership to cover state debts.’ Polemics against landlords continued to appear in party organs such as Das schwarze Korps, the official newspaper of the SS… Since the start of the war, landlords had been legally prevented from renovating their properties. Nevertheless, rents still included tenant contributions towards rebuilding work…. Discussions of the property tax were framed by the general principle that materially better-off Germans were to bear a considerably larger share of the burden of war than poor ones.
- pp. 63, 65
- The policy of plunder was the cornerstone for the welfare of the German people and a major guarantor of their political loyalty, which was first and foremost based on material considerations. The unshakable alliance between the state and the people was not primarily the result of cleverly conceived party propaganda. It was created by means of theft, with the spoils being redistributed according to equalitarian principles among the member of the ethnically defined Volk.
- p. 291
Why the Germans? Why the Jews?: Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust (2011)
New York: NY, Metropolitan Books, 2011
- In 1894, historian Theodor Mommsen wrote that the root cause of the anti-Semitic ‘affliction’ was ‘envy and the basest instincts,… a barbaric hatred for education, freedom, and humanism.’
- p. 31
- Hitler and others promised that as soon as the National Socialist revolution had removed Jewry, economic exploitation would be overcome and a socially just utopia would be nigh.
- p. 89