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Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State Hardcover – January 9, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The publication of this book in Germany inspired a huge controversy. In an important, original contribution, Aly, the author of a number of major works on the Third Reich and the Holocaust, argues that the Nazi regime plundered the rest of Europe during WWII to the great material benefit of the German population. Germans lived quite nicely from the sausages, furniture, shoes and even Christmas geese that millions of German soldiers and SS men sent back home from all over Europe. Plunder by official state agencies also financed the war. These points hardly seem revelatory or controversial, but Aly, as is his style, pushes the argument to the nth degree, supporting it with a wealth of documentary detail. The crimes against humanity committed by the regime were not, he argues, the work of a few individuals or an evil external to the population and the course of German history in the 20th century. Rather, the Nazis met the population's overwhelming desire for material security and an improved standard of living. The Nazis redistributed wealth in favor of the lower classes and opened up avenues of social mobility for them. The Holocaust, then, was not just a result of the ideology of anti-Semitism but also of the policies of plunder that won the regime the support of the vast majority of the German people. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Historian Aly grapples with a problem that continues to bedevil and divide historians: why ordinary Germans supported the rise and maintenance of Nazi power and even, on a massive scale, took personal part in the atrocities inflicted on the Jews and conquered populations. Aly's answer is novel, provocative, but highly debatable. He utilizes reams of statistics to illustrate how the widespread Nazi program of expropriation of Jewish property and plunder of the resources of occupied nations was vital in lifting the standard of living of ordinary Germans. This, Aly asserts, provides the "missing link" between the "obviously deceitful, megalomaniacal criminal" regime and the popular support it enjoyed. Ordinary Germans supported the horrors of the Third Reich because they directly benefited from them. Despite flaws in his conclusions, Aly's work is a useful contribution to an ongoing historical debate. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; First Edition edition (January 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805079262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805079265
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,098,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
German author Gotz (Goetz) Aly describes National Socialism as a form of populist wealth-redistribution welfare-state socialism. One-third of German taxpayers paid more than two-thirds of the tax burdens of war (p. 293), and businesses were heavily taxed (pp. 60-68). Hitler favored social equality for all Germans (p. 300), and worked to correct social inequities, notably in education (p. 322).

Pointedly, National Socialism massively transferred wealth from non-Germans to Germans: "In terms of wartime revenues, internal and external, low- and middle-income Germans, who together with their families numbered some 60 million, accounted for no more than 10 percent of the total sum. More affluent Germans bore 20 percent of the burden, while foreigners, forced laborers, and Jews were compelled to cover 70 percent of the funds consumed every day by Germany during the war." (p. 292). Consequently: "On average, the vast and not particularly affluent majority of Germans enjoyed more disposable income during the war that they had before it." (p. 293). Nazism also appealed to those opposed to traditional moral conventions, and to those inclined towards anticlericalism and anti-elitism (p. 319).

Not surprisingly, once voted into power by the German people, Hitler never needed draconian methods to maintain power until the end. Nearly 90% of the German dissenters executed lost their lives after 1941 (pp. 303-304). Unlike Communism, Nazism never demanded absolute devotion (pp. 23-24). In 1937, merely 7,000 Gestapo employees sufficed to handle 60 million Germans, while, in later East Germany, 190,000 surveillance experts controlled 17 million people (p. 29).
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Format: Paperback
Recently, several new studies have emerged on Nazi Germany and the second war which disregard the military aspects of the conflict, and instead enrich our understanding by focusing upon the economic dimensions of the Hitler regime. One such book is Adam Tooze's "Wages of Destruction"; this is a second example. The author's thesis is articulated in the book's subtitle: "Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State." What does the author mean by the term "Nazi Welfare State"?; I have not seen that one before.

For Gotz Aly, the Nazis recognized the chaos and near successful Communist/Socialist revolution (Rosa Luxemberg and the Spartakists) that Germany experienced in the final stages of WWI and briefly thereafter, when for example Berlin looked like a scene from "All Quiet on the Western Front." The German civil population had suffered mightily during the war, coming close to starvation due to the allied blockade. As a result, the Nazi leadership determined that it would do everything possible to keep the civilian population happy and contented during the second war: low taxes; plenty of food; replacement of apartments and their contents lost due to allied bombing; and lots of financial goodies. The only problem with this tactic was how to finance it all. The answer was easy for the leadership--steal literally everything of value from Jews in Germany, captured areas, and even those resident in allies like Italy. In addition, force captured nations to subjugate their economies in order to make payments to Germany, as well as willingly allow their own consumer goods to be gobbled up by German soldiers who paid with makeshift currency that only led to inflation and near disaster for these economies, and wreaked privation upon civil populations.
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Format: Hardcover
Why is it that there never developed an underground resistance in Germany during WW2? According to this well researched book by Gotz Aly, it was because the Nazis spent like drunken sailors to keep the average German fat and happy during the war. The Nazis understood (from what happened in Germany during WW1) that as long as people were happy on the home front, their Armies wouldn't have to worry about their families and could concen- trate on fighting. They also mad sure that those soldiers who were not directly in battle would have ample resources with which to buy luxury goods that they could then send home.

Using all types of creative accounting, they never had to raise the tax rate that most Germans had to pay, even during the war. They were conspicuous in raising the tax rates on the wealthy and creating a war profit tax on businesses making enormous profits from the war. It's hard not to make money when your help practically works for free (force labor) and you never intend to pay for the raw materials that you purchase (steal).

So where did all this money come from? Well first of all it came via the Wehrmacht who shipped home multiple packages filled with stolen jewelry and other like items. The Wehrmacht paid it's soldiers with money extorted from the occupied nations as well as paying them in local currency that was converted at ridiculous rates. With all the extra money they had, the Wehrmacht was able to buy up anything that wasn't nailed down and strip most of the occupied nations of goods paid for with money that was inflated on the German side of the equation.

The Ministry of Finance took great pains to collect (with the help of the Wehrmacht and local collaborators) and occupation tax that was then used to pay their soldiers.
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