Industrial production needs such as raw material, power, and tooling prior to Germany’s invasion of the USSR shows German advantages in the iron categories but at a disadvantage everywhere else. These measures partially represent Germany’s and Soviet Union’s industrial capacity to wage war.
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These numbers alone don’t tell the whole industrial capacity story. Germany expected a series of short wars. Poland, Norway, and France played out per German expectations. Nothing else did. Russia initially followed the pattern in fact Hitler believing the war won in September 1941 ordered a large-scale armament production reduction. While Great Britain and the USSR quickly mobilized nontraditional workers backfilling and increasing the labor forces as they transitioned to industrial war production, Germany pursued a more balanced guns and butter economy. The United States would follow a path much like Great Britain’s in mobilizing industry and labor for war production.
“This decline in civilian manpower is the more remarkable, because Germany did not exhaust her reserves of manpower in the course of the war, she began the war with about the same proportion of occupied women (outside agriculture) as Britain. But while in Britain the number of women in full- or part-time work increased 45 percent in the course of the war, the number of German women mobilized remained practically unchanged. In Britain, the number of domestic servants was cut from 1.2 to 0.5 million in the course of the war; in Germany it fell only from 1.5 million to 1.3 million. There were other sectors of the economy that had large reserves of labor which could have been utilized for war work. Among them were the public administration system employing some 3.5 million workers, which Speer attempted unsuccessfully to reduce; and civilian industry which had a considerable cushion until the last stages of the war.”
Source: Galbraith, John, K Director, and Klein, Burton H, Assistant Director, “The United States Strategic Bombing Survey; The Effects of Strategic Bombing on the German War Economy”, October 31, 1945, Page 10
Raw Material Deficit
Furthering Germany’s industrial capacity shortfall was their deficiency in certain raw materials. Germany along with their occupied territories, Austria and Czechoslovakia, found themselves deficient in raw materials needed to support modern mobile warfare. Most significantly in oil, but also in metals such as cobalt for military grade steel, copper for electrical equipment, aluminum for lightweight airframes, tin for corrosion-resistant steel can linings, etc. Not only was Germany lacking internal access to strategic raw materials they also lacked world-wide access such as enjoyed by Great Britain and the United States.
With Lend-Lease and reverse Lend-Lease Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States were able to plug some of their Allies’ industrial capacity shortages. Among the many items sent to the Soviet Union were machine tools to support their Industrial build up. In return the Soviet Union shipped chrome ore, manganese ore, platinum, gold and wood to the United Kingdom and the United States.
German vs. USSR Volume of Industrial Production, 1940 Data
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Source: Harrison, Mark “Industrial mobilisation for World War II: a German comparison*.” Page 17, https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/mharrison/public/opk2000mobilisation.pdf, Data accessed May 20, 2022, *This paper appeared as a chapter in The Soviet Defence Industry Complex from Stalin to Khrushchev, pp. 99-117. Edited by John Barber and Mark Harrison. Basingstoke and London: Macmillan Press, 2000
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