Economic policies and benefits

Many German people had suffered during the First World War and the Depression, so welcomed Hitler's economic policies with open arms. There was full employment, new public works and ordinary workers even had the opportunity to purchase a car to drive on the new autobahns [Autobahns: German motorways ].

Economic policy summary

Hitler's economic policy had four main ideas:

  1. Full employment - the idea that everyone should have a job. By 1939, there was virtually no unemployment in Germany.
  2. Beauty of Work - the Nazis set up the SdA (Beauty of Work) to help Germans see that work was good, and that everyone who could work should. In fact - because the Nazis had abolished the trade unions, banned strikes, and given more power to the industrialists - real wages fell and hours were longer under Hitler.
  3. Re-armament begun in 1935 - the idea of 'guns before butter'.
  4. Autarky - there was an unsuccessful attempt at making Germany self-sufficient.

The good life in Nazi Germany

Despite the loss of political and religious freedom, life improved in Germany for many ordinary people who were prepared to 'toe the line' and look the other way.

Hitler and a new Volkswagen

Hitler opening a new Volkswagen factory.

  • Everybody had a job, and a wage. To people who had been unemployed and starving, 'work and bread' was a wonderful blessing worth every civil liberty they lost.
  • The Nazis set up KdF (Strength through Joy), which gave workers rewards for their work - evening classes, theatre trips, picnics, and even free holidays.
  • The Nazis devised a scheme to allow workers to buy a Volkswagen Beetle car for a small weekly payment.
  • The autobahns improved transport and travel.
  • People appreciated the public works - eg new schools and hospitals.
  • The streets were safe and there was no crime.
  • Germany was strong and successful in world affairs.
  • Nazi rallies provided colour and fun.
  • Nazi Youth groups provided activities and holidays for young people.
  • Nazi ideology gave people hope and confidence.

How Hitler increased employment

Hitler introduced many policies to fulfil his goal of full employment:

  • He stopped paying reparations and invested the money in German companies.
  • He began a huge programme of public works including planting forests, and building hospitals and schools. He also built public buildings such as the 1936 Olympic Stadium. The construction of the autobahns created work for 80,000 men.
  • Rearmament created jobs in the armaments industry.
  • The introduction of national service meant all young men spent six months in the RAD [RAD: The labour service in which young men in Germany had to do a six-month compulsory stint. ] and then they were conscripted into the army. By 1939, 1.4 million men were in the army, so they were not counted as unemployed.
  • Many Jews were sacked and their jobs given to non-Jews.
  • Many women were sacked and their jobs given to men.

Did Germany become self-sufficient?

The policy of autarky [Autarky: (A closed economy.) Hitler's ideology that wanted Germany to cease trade with the outside world and rely entirely on its own resources. ] was a failure. In 1937, Göring was made Economics Minister with the job of making Germany self-sufficient in four years. However, the measures he introduced were not successful:

  • Controls were put on imports, but, if anything, imports of luxuries increased.
  • Scientists tried to make oil from coal and to find substitutes for rubber, petrol, cotton and coffee.
  • Farmers were subsidised to produce more food, and food imports were reduced.

Revision tip and answer preparation

Revision tip

Create a diagram that illustrates the ten things that were good about life in Nazi Germany.

Answer preparation

As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:

  1. To what extent were Hitler's economic policies a success.
  2. How Hitler's economic policies benefited the German people.

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