Another major factor contributing to the inefficiency of Nazi war production was the shortage of labour. The German economy increasingly relied of foreign workers whose productivity was 60-80 per cent lower than that of the German worker, not surprising, given the appalling way most of the foreign workers were treated. Workers from the east, in particular, were treated with a contempt that acted to lower their productivity. From 1940 Polish workers suffered numerous restrictions, including being forced to wear a yellow badge marked with a ‘P’ and not being able to use public transport. The use of foreign labour became of even greater importance once all the able bodied German men were called to the front. From 1943 to the end of the War, 2.5 million extra foreign workers were employed. However, in an attempt to increase production, Fritz Sauckel, Plenipotentiary General for Labour Allocation, attempted to improve the situation. In March 1944, all eastern workers were given the same rate of pay and benefits as other foreign workers. These attempts were too little, too late, however, as thousands died on projects such as the V2 rocket production for want for basic food and shelter. As a result of such poor treatment, the recruitment of millions of forced labourers failed to solve Germany’s labour problems.
In addition to this, Germany also failed to utilise the female workforce in Nazi war production. The restriction on women labourers during World War II may seem to some minor, trivial and unimportant, but it emerged as a significant factor in Germany’s failure as a dominant power and their inefficient war production. Between 1939 and 1944 Germany was suffering from a large labour shortage and only an extra 200,000 women entered the workforce. Hitler’s view of the women’s role revolved around ‘Kinder, Küche, Kirche’ (children, kitchen, church); this encouraged women to leave work and spend their days concentrating on the three Ks, as this was considered to be their place in society. When the Second World War fast became a ‘total war’ it did not affect the employment of women in the German workforce, with over 1,360,000 women still in domestic service. In comparison to this, other countries such as Britain and America, utilised the very real asset that was the female work force. When a ‘total war’ occurred, Britain and America were the forward thinkers in the game. In 1941 the British government introduced conscription for all unmarried women aged 20-30. As the War went on, older single women and then married women were also conscripted. Women could choose to join the armed services, civil defence or industry. Without more than two million women of Britain being drafted in and doing the ‘men’s work’, Britain would not have been able to keep operating so efficiently during the War. Similarly, in America, 200,000 women joined the armed forces and millions more joined the labour force; nearly one in four married American women worked outside the home.
Hitler derided the Americans as degenerate for putting their women to work. The role of women, he said, was to be good wives and mothers and to have more babies for the Third Reich. This statement was of course true for the majority of countries at this point in history. However, the difference was that, again, Hitler’s ideology could not be deviated from, whereas other countries were a lot more willing to embrace change in order to secure the safety and victories of their nations. It was not solely this that prevented a female workforce, however, as women who married and produced children were given many benefits. For example, the ‘Mother’s Cross’ medal and the Law of Encouragement of Marriage (1933) which provided 1000 marks (roughly nine months wages) for couples to marry and for each child born, the couple could keep a quarter of the loan. This was a huge disincentive to work, as women were not tempted to supplement their husband’s wages. With a significant lack of women in the German workforce it meant that Germany’s arms and munitions would suffer. Hitler’s stubbornness and single-mindedness on such matters did not reassure Germany’s chances of success in the War and made Nazi war production extremely inefficient. Furthermore, it is the greatest irony of the Second World War that while the Nazi Regime scoured Europe looking for labour, it was in the process of murdering six million Jews.
The closest the Nazi Regime got to more efficient war production was the reorganisation of the production structure, however, this also had faults. In 1941 Hitler issued the Führer Order on the ‘Simplification and Increased Efficiency in Armaments Production’, which demanded that Todt (Minister for Armaments and Ammunition) should rationalise the armaments industry. In 1942 Albert Speer, previously Hitler’s personal architect, was appointed as Todt’s successor, this marking the real turning point; Speer developed Todt’s plans for the rationalisation of industry and the more efficient control of raw material distribution. By launching a ‘total war’ campaign as part of the regime, he called for a universal labour service and the closure of all non-essential businesses. Speer held responsibility for all industrial output and materials by 1943. Not only did Speer manage to finally prioritise Nazi war production, but kept the industrialists and businessmen satisfied by creating a Central Planning Board to collectively coordinate production in a more efficient way. In addition to this, Speer, wherever possible, encouraged industrialists to join his ministerial team and excluded military personnel from the process. Speer was vital in coordinating and rationalising the Nazi war production process and implemented many new initiatives such as; employing more women in the arms factories, making more effective use of concentration camp prisoners as workers and preventing skilled workers being lost to military conscription. Speer’s importance was shown in the figures produced: tank production increased by 25 per cent, ammunition increased by 97 per cent and total war production increased by 59 per cent. However, despite the vast improvements, the Allies still out produced Germany. Although the appointment of Speer enormously improved the efficiency of Nazi war production, it was still not enough to change the course of war.
Overall, it is clear that the German economy did not expand sufficiently to meet the demands of ‘total war’ and Nazi war production in the years 1939-45 was essentially inefficient. This was primarily due to the shortage of raw materials and the shortage of labour. The key to this economic failure was the fact that the conquest did not make up the shortfall in these two essential components of any industry. Yet economic development was also hindered by other influencing factors such as the lack of restructuring, which reflected the pre-war period and the conflicts between the impulses of an ideologically destructive regime and one for economic growth. Although the rationalisation process did increase productivity, it was not enough to override the fundamental problem of the lack of raw materials and labour.