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Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State Paperback – January 8, 2008
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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.
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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Real estate and liquid wealth of Jews (buildings, businesses, stocks, deposits, precious gems and metals, jewelry, garments, luxury items) was nationalized and legally treated as a credit to government trust funds which were put in charge of handling those assets. Involuntary “creditors” were separated from the control over their former funds and were given per diem allowance for everyday needs of about $1500 per week. Over time, when Jews disappeared in camps, their property was classified as “abandoned” and either was used as a guaranty of government bonds, or sold for quite low prices. Those who invested in buying this property effectively received indirect subsidies from the government. However poorer Germans received their benefits, too. Despite the low selling prices for the Jewish property, its sheer amount made the government to collect huge sums on the property liquidation sales. These funds were used for the social programs for all Germans and for building the Werhmacht’s war machine, which was used to get more and more European Jews and their wealth into reach of Nazi regime. These policies resulted into unprecedented support of the regime from all Germans.
As a result, 4 billion Reichsmark (or about $60 billion in the current equivalent) were confiscated from Jews from 1939 to the end of WWII. Considering that before the WWII a bit more than 200 thousand Jews were living in Germany, on an average $1.2 million were expropriated form every abstract Jewish family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children – from a simple reproduction estimate).
To take away Jewish property in the occupied and allied European countries Nazi regime had to jump through additional hoops. According to the Hague Convention, which Nazi Germany tried to comply formally, an occupying power could not have seized and sold property of the civilian population. However, these regulations did not extend over the local authorities of being occupied countries, and this loophole was used for confiscating property of the European Jews. Thus, because of these requisitions, in 1940 budget revenues of France has increased by 211%, Belgium - 200%, Holland – 180%, and Norway – 242%. In 1941 this revenue boom continued, and reached 125% in Belgium, 131% in Netherlands, and 100% in Serbia.
Of course lion share of this spoil was extracted from these countries by Germans, but ordinary people of the occupied and allied countries also directly and indirectly benefited from this big grab of Jewish property. Overall, during war years 20 billion Reichsmark (or about today’s $300 billion) worth property was extracted from the European Jews. Especially these money were needed to finance needs of the Eastern Front. Thus, campaign of 1942 which allowed Germans to reach Caucasus and Volga, as well as campaign of 1943 which ended in the giant battle of the armored armadas near Kursk, were indeed funded by “Jewish money”. However, in reality, contrary to conspirological theorists, “financiers” were doing that involuntarily, and in most cases posthumously (obliteration of the Jews – 4 million – peaked in 1941-42).
So, it was not the 6 million (or 9 million pre-WWII European Jews) which was the target number of Nazi policies. That number was only a means to reach the real target number of 24 billion confiscated Reichsmark ($360 billion in current equivalent), which is about one and a half times more than GDP of the state of Israel with its 8 million population, contemporary technology and work productivity, and a more than a half-century direct and indirect financial infusions from USA. Or, again, calculated per an abstract 4 member family, that target number was about $160 thousand confiscated from each European Jewish family.