How economically succesful were the Nazis?

I often hear people say that the German economy under Hitler experienced the greatest amount of growth of any economy ever. However, I recently read “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” This book indicates that because the Nazis busted up the unions and generally depressed worker wages, the average standard of living actually fell in Germany under Nazi rule. Furthermore, the Nazi government gained at least some of its wealth from confiscating/stealing property of concentration camp victims and from plundering the gold reserves of countries it invaded.

So, my question is:

  1. By what standard, if any, did the Nazis experience such supposedly phenomenal growth (GNP, GDP, median income)?

  2. What period are people referring to when they say this? It seems to me that after the invasion of USSR, the Germans were expending more to keep up their empire than they were getting out of it (I could be wrong).

  3. If we exclude confiscated property/gold reserves, do the Nazis still have the greatest amount of growth ever?

Thanks for your help, and apologies if this has already been answered in this forum.

I’m by no means an expert but I’ll have a go anyway. Germany, pre-WW2, was in the reat depression so it didn’t take all that much to get phenomenal growth rates. Coupled with the fact that all the wealth from the jews (many who were bankers etc) meant that the average, non-jew got more money. Also, during the first year of the war, the spoils of war were flowing in and common rheotric claimed that it would all be over by christmas so there was no incentive to be frugal.

Also, theres the sotry about how the average person got MORE to eat throught the entire war than normal due to rationing. rationing was pretty much equal so the same amount of food was distributed more equally.

During war it seems like the economy is doing well, increased production and employment but in fact the government is going into debt that cannot be substained for long. Uh-oh, that sounds familiar.

The concensus, as reflected in the likes of Kershaw’s Hitler biography, seems to be that initially the Nazis could spend their way out of the depression. This wasn’t a long-term policy and they’d have run into trouble in a peaceful 1940s. As it was, post-1939 they had a wartime emergency to disguise the shoddiness of their economy (the People will accept sacrificies to win the war), they were able to use the war as an excuse to organise in ways impossible in peacetime (the whole “Speer achievement” in the face of Allied bombing) and they were able to develop the sheer dependency on raping the economic resources of occupied Europe. None of these were sustainable in even the medium term.

Even so, the domestic German economy seems to have been in noticable trouble - as judged by its subjects - by about the midpoint of the war.

I know little about the economics of Nazi Germany, but wanted to point out that there’s no necessary contradiction between a growing economy and falling median standard of living. That’s just making more stuff, but giving all of it and then some to a couple rich guys. Quite a common thing to happen, actually (say, if you look at proposed tax cuts in a certain Western nation).

To head off nitpickers: yes, I used the median here, but it is an appropriate measure for ‘average’ in this case. The mean would have to rise in a rising economy (given static population) of course, but that’s not so relevant, given the context of the OP.

Also, if your economy is growing by producing large amounts weapons, the median standard of living isn’t going to go up, as you can’t eat bombs or wear tanks. Building weapons only helps the standard of living for most people if those weapons are used to prevent outside invasion forces or are used to steal the wealth of others, and the cost of an invasion is more than the weapons, or the amount you take from other countries is more than what the weapons cost.

I think much of the “miracle” of the recovery of the German economy, whether real or illusory, is attributed to Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht, who became Hitler’s Minister of Economics in 1934.

He appears to have taken a cue from both the theories and policies of both Keynes and Franklin Roosevelt. I know he strictly controlled imports and exports, lowered interest rates, and tried to steer Germany back in the direction of a gold standard, but since I can’t balance my own checkbook I’d better just shut up and offer these links for further reading: