Bryan Caplan  

Hitler's War Aims: Bloodlands Edition

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Bloodlands' take on Hitler's war aims fits neatly with my earlier exegesis of Mein Kampf:
...Stalin had an economic revolution to defend, whereas Hitler needed a war for his economic transformation.  Whereas Stalin had his "socialism in one country," Hitler had in mind something like National Socialism in several countries: a vast German empire arranged to assure the prosperity of Germans at the expense of others.  Stalin presented collectivization itself both as an internal class war and as a preparation for foreign wars to come.  Hitler's economic vision could be realized only after actual military conflict - indeed, after a total military victory over the Soviet Union.  The secret of collectivization (as Stalin had noted long before) was that it was an alternative to expansive colonization, which is to say a form of internal colonization.  Unlike Stalin, Hitler believed that colonies could still be seized abroad; and the colonies he had in mind were the agrarian lands of the western Soviet Union, as well as the oil reserves in the Soviet Caucasus.  Hitler wanted German, as he put it, to be "the most autarkic state in the world."  Defeating Britain was not necessary for this.  Defeating the Soviet Union was.  In January 1941 Hitler told the military command that the "immense riches" of the Soviet Union would make Germany "unassailable." [emphasis added]
The inspiration for Hitler's master plan, appropriately enough, was... Christopher Columbus and Company:
Colonization would make of Germany a continental empire fit to rival the United States, another hardy frontier state based upon exterminatory colonialism and slave labor.  The East was the Nazi Manifest Destiny.  In Hitler's view, "in the East a similar process will repeat itself for a second time as in the conquest of America."  As Hitler imagined the future, Germany would deal with the Slavs much as the North Americans had dealt with the Indians.  The Volga River in Russia, he once proclaimed, will be Germany's Mississippi.
If Hitler had succeeded, the schoolchildren of 2200 would no doubt have heard of his courage and vision.  And the ocean of innocent blood he shed?  Well, times were different back then...


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COMMENTS (8 to date)
Hyena writes:

But times were different back then. In fact, if you start reading all but the most trite and familiar pieces left from the past, the way people think is almost incomprehensible to us now in many cases.

World War II, the motives of the imperialists, the colonization of the Americas are all utterly foreign to us. Just as foreign as some things which go on in poorest corners of the developing world.

I wager that it is changes in nutrition brought about by the green revolution and industrialized agriculture in general.

Liam writes:

You know Bryan, there is one interesting thing I once read about WWII and of the many blunders Hitler made and the number 1 being genocide. Not for the obvious reason or morality, but due to the fact he was so busy tying up resources in order to destroy even more resources.

But then, isn't that the nature of war.

It makes me wonder if any economist could ever support a war of aggression.

Alex Nowrasteh writes:

Adam Tooze in his book THE WAGES OF DESTRUCTION writes clearly and concisely about Hitler's economic vision, paralleling what you're saying but in much more detail. Colonization and a continent wide empire were necessary to build an economic system as prosperous as the US, so Hitler thought.

http://www.amazon.com/Wages-Destruction-Making-Breaking-Economy/dp/0143113208/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1288355053&sr=8-1

Patrick R. Sullivan writes:

Hitler hadn't heard of Napoleon?

FC writes:

Yeah, no. Stalin had the benefit of inheriting a continental empire. Most of the conquering had already been done; he just had to mop up the occasional Ukranian or Chechen.

Kurbla writes:

Nazis didn't do anything new - nationalism, war, conquest, racism, genocide, slavery, killing retarded ... all that is old tradition of western civilization and humanity. Nazis fascinate people because they were more fanatical and determined than others in recent times, but that's all.

Italian fascists had much more radical and interesting theories. But, they were less fanatic in practice. One of the strangest paradoxes of the WWII was that, although fascism is notorious and generally associated with racism, Italy, the first and ideologically the most radical fascist state was not racist, it became racist only when it was occupied/liberated by Allies, who are generally associated with fight against racism. It is so strange ...

Brett writes:

Hitler undoubtedly possessed dreams of conquest and a supreme German empire. In speeches he shared his dreams and instilled within his followers the belief that he would restore Germany’s glory and lead them out of the depression left by their defeat in WWI. Expansion was not a new idea, for all of human history groups have struggled to expand their power and territory. However, in the middle of modern Europe, it was truly a unrealistic dream for landlocked Germany. Surrounded by allied nations with stable borders, Hitler had no chance of waging a war of such scale without being targeted by larger and more powerful nations. In hindsight, Hitler should have adopted a system similar to Stalin’s and focused on stabilizing Germany within its original borders.

Another mistake of Hitler’s was the killing of millions of his own citizens. Certainly such genocide was morally wrong and horrific. However, Hitler’s genocide also caused him significant economic loss. Hitler eliminated much of his labor force and surely alienated others. Hitler did not just eliminate common laborers, but doctors, bankers, and entrepreneurs. Hitler lost a lot of skilled laborers and professionals that could have aided in the restoration and stabilization of Germany.

Big Ric writes:

I must agree that it is obvious that Hitler was going for an all-out German empire. He, in his mind, still had the idea that "manifest destiny" thrived. I agree that this idea was no different from back when European nations began their "takeover" of the Americas. The only difference is that nowadays and during Hitler's time is that manifest destiny was finally saw as immoral.

I must say that I think that Hitler's economy was for the most part flawless. The point was made that perhaps his vendetta against the Jews was not good economy wise. I think however, though, that his deep-seeded hate for the Jews was going to come out no matter what and that in the end the Jews would have done more bad economically than good. The fact remains that Hitler completely took over the industry of Germany. He determined everything that came out, what was made, ect. We must also take into account that his propaganda machine was unstoppable. I must conclude that his only downfall was the inability to take over Russia. believe that if he could have taken Russia out of the picture, the bigger countries (i.e. the US and Great Britain)would not have stood a chance.

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