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To what extent was Nazi economic policy ideologically driven?

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Introduction

To what extent was Nazi economic policy ideologically driven? Nazi ideology was obviously a strong feature within the Nazi party and influenced many decisions that were made to do with foreign policy, domestic policy and arguably most importantly economic policy. For years now it has been debated as to whether or not Nazi economic policy was ideologically driven. It has been claimed that Schacht contributed as much as Hitler to the construction of the third Reich because he1 had "continued to support him even when prospects had not looked bright".The main aims that the Nazis had in terms of the economy were, autarky, militarisation, the increased importance of corporate over private business and the support of the Mittesland.It is clear to me that many Nazi economic policies were ideologically driven, however there were exceptions where economic policies were driven by other factors. Almost all of the Nazi pre-war economic policies had some element of ideology behind them. The other driving factors behind economic policy were support of the Mittesland, reducing unemployment and general economic stability. As you would expect many of the early economic policies were not ideologically driven because there was pressure on Hitler to deliver his pre-election promises. As the Nazi regime began to develop their economic policies became more ideologically driven because they knew that war was a distinct possibility. One minor economic policy that the Nazis introduced immediately was to restore confidence in the countryside by creating The Reich Food Estate, which took control of the overall planning and organisation of agriculture. When the Nazis came to power the agricultural sector was still suffering from the effects of the depression which had caused prices to fall dramatically between 1929 and 1932. This was certainly linked to the long-term plan of autarky and therefore must be considered as an ideological policy that was laying the foundations for the future. The aryanization programme against business showed that the Nazis were prepared to let their ideology influence their decisions over small business. ...read more.

Middle

However it must also be remembered that Schacht was not a Nazi and did have practical business motives behind the Mefo bills which would help finance the Nazis plans. The Nazis were very concerned with the high unemployment levels when they seized power .The Nazis eventually reduced unemployment but what was the driving factor behind this aim? It is not clear whether the Nazis were genuinely trying to reduce unemployment because they were interested in the welfare of their people or whether they were trying to reduce unemployment to increase their popularity. Another reason why they could have tried to reduce unemployment would be to stimulate the economy so that it could be relied on in the war. All of the reasons are perfectly good for explaining why the Nazis introduced the work schemes in an attempt to reduce unemployment however I would argue that the main reason why the Nazis tried to reduce unemployment was to stimulate the economy and to increase their popularity. The Nazis did try to make it look as if they were interested in the welfare of their people because they knew that this would make them popular. They had come in to power on the back of promises to reduce unemployment significantly so it was important to the Nazis that they could deliver this promise because they would earn the trust of the nation. It could be said, however that there was an element of Nazi ideology behind their quest to reduce unemployment because they knew that if the economy grew and became more stable that it would help them in the war effort, Hitler had realised by looking back at the first world war that you need an economy that can sustain the war if you are to succeed. So within the aspect of reducing unemployment there is a mix of ideological and economic motives. It is debatable when trying to decide what the reasoning behind the New Plan was. ...read more.

Conclusion

At first glance the Nazis achievements are impressive but they took power at a time when the worst of the depression as over and were able to take credit for an economic up-turn that would have occurred naturally anyway. Therefore they were able to have many ideologically driven policies and also gained credit for the natural up turn in the economy. It must also be remembered that by the time war came the Nazis had taken the economy to the limit and their spending habits could no longer be sustained. Therefore I have come to the conclusion that Nazi economic policies were too much ideologically driven, had the Nazis economic policies been less ideologically driven and more realistic I have no doubt in my mind that they could have been more successful. In the first few years Nazi economic policy was not wholly ideologically driven, particularly towards the middle class. Before 1936 the Nazis clearly focused on their popularity mainly due to the fact that Schacht was in charge of economics and he was not too concerned with ideology. After 1936 when power was drained away from Schacht and given to key Nazi figures such as Goring the policies became much more ideologically driven. A typical example of this is big business where in the early years it was tolerated but after 1936 it was dealt with ruthlessly. Therefore Nazi economic policy was to a large extent ideologically driven and nearly all of their policies were driven by their ideological aims. However even though there were a few exceptions when policies were not ideologically driven, on the whole it must be concluded that the Nazi's ideological aims were the driving factor or a considerable factor behind the vast majority of their economic policies. 1 J.Noakes and G.Pridham, Nazism 1919-1945, state, economy and society, pg 266 2 J.Noakes and G.Pridham, Nazism 1919-1945, state, economy and society, pg 266 Louise Di Canio ...read more.

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