The handling of the economy was poorly coordinated and this accounts for the weakness in German war production in the years 1939-45. How far do you agree with this view?

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‘The handling of the economy was poorly coordinated and this accounts for the weakness in German war production in the years 1939-45.’ How far do you agree with this view?

The Second World War placed enormous strains on the German economy and labour force. Between 1939 and 1941, German military expenditure doubled and by 1941, 55 per cent of the workforce was involved in war-related projects. Despite these efforts, German productivity was disappointing and below that of their enemies. The chaotic organisation and poor co-ordination of the economy undoubtedly hindered the war effort during the years however; it seems inaccurate to argue that this solely accounts for the weakness in German war production. What proved more critical was the lack of raw materials and labour and this was a result of both the shortcomings of Goering (who wasted resources producing ersatz goods when cheaper imports were available) as well as the ideological contradictions of the regime (which meant that women were not initially conscripted and that six million Jews were exempt from contributing to the war effort.)

To begin, it is true that the mobilisation of the German economy was marred by inefficiency and poor co-ordination. The pressures resulting from the premature outbreak of war created problems, since many of the major projects were not due to be ready until 1942-3. Further, the regime was unable to establish a clear and authoritative control over the economy. Instead, a host of different agencies all continued to function in their own way. The polycratic regime with its overlapping agencies all competing with one another in order to ‘work towards the Fuhrer’ led to chaos and economic weakness. For example, although there was a Ministry of Armaments, it existed alongside the ministries of Economics, Finance and Labour. In addition, there was political infighting between the leading Nazi figures - for example, the Gauleiters tried to control their local areas at the expense of the plans of the state and the party - and also considerable financial corruption. The Nazi state was therefore too chaotic, with too many competing agencies and power blocs for any consistent policy to be formulated. There were also a number of groups responsible for armaments: the office of the Four Year Plan, the SS bodies and the different branches of the armed forces (Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and navy). The armed forces were determined to have the very best munitions possible and as a result the drive for quality was pursued at the expense of quantity. This meant that after two years of war, with the armed forces advancing into the USSR, Germany’s economic mobilisation for total war had not achieved the expected levels of armaments production. Thus, it is undoubtedly true that the economy was poorly co-ordinated in the years 1939-45 and that it hindered the war effort.

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However, in 1942, Albert Speer was appointed as Todt’s successor in the post of Minister for Weapons and Munitions. The appointment of Speer marked a turning point in terms of improving the performance of the economy. Speer implemented his programme of ‘industrial self-responsibility’ to provide mass production and included relaxing controls on businesses that previously had demanded the need to fit in with Nazi wishes. In their place a Central Planning Board was established in April 1942, which was in turn supported by a number of committees, each representing one vital sector of the economy. Speer was able to co-ordinate ...

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