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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Untermenschen as energy source, December 19, 2012
This review is from: The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy (Paperback)
I found the book fascinating on many levels. Having some knowledge of the work of Nietzsche along with the acceptance of Aryan "manifest destiny" that was widespread around the turn of the 20th century in the U.S., espoused by those such as Theodore Roosevelt, who accepted their superiority and right of mastery over the "lower races"-- blacks, native Americans and pacific islanders. Knowing the extent of this thinking, the extension of this zeitgeist to racial genocide is put in a different light.

The title of this review is based on the "hunger plan" that was elucidated to show the interplay between paranoid deeply held racial-ethnic hatred and the pragmatic decision to make the use of these sub-humans while they are being destroyed. The unspoken motto could have been, "Whats good for the German Reich will be a service for the world"--not only will there be a cleansing of such racial dross, but their corporeal mantel will be consumed in the service of creating the machinery of their own destruction. The plan, "that called for the explicit starvation of no less than 30 million inhabitants of the Soviet Union" was formulated months before the the details of the final solution was formalized. While the priority for Jews was extermination, and for Slavs to be used for labor, the two imperatives merged due to developing exigencies. So large numbers of Russians died during slave labor, and some Jews survived when they were needed for work.

Tooze does not bring in the human aspects of the carnage of the Nazi machine, which in a strange way reproduces in the reader the dispassionate mentality of those who were crunching the numbers and doing the logistic calculations as this barbarity was occurring. The writer is given a pass to use the same cool calculations for heuristic purposes as those such as Speer was using in real time, in his case those seven digit numbers each one representing real humans. And for the moment while reading it, we are following the logic and the reasonableness, and eschewing any emotional identification with those whose fates were being sealed.

The author spends several chapters challenging the public perception of Albert Speer as being a decent person who got caught up in an evil system. He challenges the still current belief that pursuance of the goals of his country, that happened to be engaged in total war, even though his personal organizational skills resulted in extending the war for periods when tens of millions of people perished, did not make him personally culpable. Somehow, while the Eichman defense of "only obeying orders" failed, the Speer defense of skillfully mastering events to the point of issuing orders--is seen as mitigating the genocidal outcome of this great performance rating. Tooze doesn't buy this, which is a bit of a detour in the cool tone of his thesis.

Out of the myriad dispassionate details of the tome, we get to understand something more, be are taken to the headquarters of Zentral Planning and can almost hear the click of the typewriters and the rolling of the mimeograph machines. The gears of government, and of commerce, interacting with the industrial chiefs, vying for profit, during the six years of clash of empires.

A worthy book, for many different readers.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 9, 2013 5:35:24 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2013 5:38:13 PM PST
John Jay says:
I bought this book used from an Amazon partner. A friend was reading it; this friend had also been reading "Freedom's Forge: How American business produced victory in World War II", by Arthur Herman.

I bought the Kindle edition of this book and enjoyed it immensely. I was in the Navy from 1943 until 1946 and had taken a keen interest in war production; my experience in the war was as a young officer on an LST for two years at sea. My ship was among 10,000 others prepared to invade Japan when the war ended.

Freedom's Forge recounted far more of the story of American production than I had ever known; but its facts seemed to me to be as accurate as possible.

The story of German production and of Hitler as a demented leader may be what "The Wages of Destruction" covers. But I have not been able to get past the title. I have only read a few pages; and they seemed to view Hitler's Germany as human and not evil incarnate.

Now the problem with the title is its plain meaning. The Wages of Sin is Hell. Hitler and his ilk are all in Hell. What "destruction" is meant by the title?

My friend wanted me to give him my book because the one he read was from the local library. I won't give it away until I read enough to know what is good about the book.

The idea that Germany is small compared to the nations it required to finally destroy its war machine is true. But more than being small, it was the most evil organized force in history. There is an economic story to tell. But it will not be easy to tease that story out from all the murder that surrounded it.

Recently I have been watching Oliver Stone's "The Untold History of the United States" -- since the Great War of 1914-1918. This TV epic explains economic history and politic-economy as a foundation for what happens. The epic is quiet on the sins of totalitarian communism. But it is loud and clear on the sins of the capitalist democracies in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Germany is now a solid part of the Western world. And China and Russia have become plutocracies similar to Western nations outside Scandinavian welfare sate examples.

I wonder what the author Tooze's take on Hitler and Nazism will contribute to current understanding of problems of inadequate demand and high unemployment in America and Europe.

Hydrogen bombs prevent military Keynesian solutions from playing out on the battlefield. But they may play out in space and cyberspace. They may also suggest prosperity-oriented Keynesian ideas--also called functional finance.

Understanding WW II via "Freedom's Forge" is great. Where "The Wages of Destruction [or Sin] ???" will eventually lead, I do not have a clue about.
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Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II
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