The USSR suffered significant Real National Product loss due to losing territory and their associated economic assets. The United States and the United Kingdom both were able to grow their national products in real terms during the war years.
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Germany’s Real National Product
However, it is the German Real National Product that is most interesting. From 1939 through 1942 Germany’s Real National Product flat lines. Germany’s prewar economic planning was implemented and followed. Including the following:
- Germany implemented economic recovery policies to end high unemployment mainly through public work programs beginning in the early 1930s.
- The Four Year plan was implemented in 1936 orienting the German economy towards rearmament and preparing for war. Between 1936 and 1939, two thirds of industrial development came from war preparation.
- Autarky, the policy of self-sufficiency, to remove dependence on imports and trade was initiated. Germany recognized the potential of future British blockades.
- The first stages of Lebensraum, or living space for the German people, was achieved as Germany controlled Poland as well the USSR’s breadbasket, Ukraine and Byelorussia.
- German occupied territories from France to Norway were providing raw materials and finished goods at German dictated prices.
- Germany’s labor force had very little bargaining power as the state effectively banned labor unions and dictated pay and other labor benefits.
Germany’s Autarky policy leading up to World War II was a key component of the Nazi regime’s economic strategy. The policy aimed to achieve economic self-sufficiency in order to reduce the country’s dependence on imported resources and to prepare for a potential war.
The Autarky policy was implemented through several measures, including the Four Year Plan, which was introduced in 1936. The plan aimed to increase domestic production of key resources such as coal, iron, and oil, and to develop alternative sources of raw materials. The government also encouraged the use of synthetic substitutes for materials that were in short supply, such as rubber.
The Autarky policy also involved measures to reduce imports and increase exports. The government-imposed tariffs and trade barriers to protect domestic industries, and encouraged the development of new industries that could produce goods that were previously imported. The government also sought to increase exports to generate revenue and reduce the country’s trade deficit.
However, despite these efforts, Germany was never able to achieve true economic self-sufficiency. The country remained heavily dependent on imported resources throughout the war, and the Autarky policy was ultimately unable to provide the resources and materials needed to sustain the country’s war effort.
Occupied Territories – France
Germany initially planned for a swift and limited war that would not require a full mobilization of its economy. As a result, the integration and mobilization of French industry did not feature prominently in Germany’s economic plans at the time. However, the situation changed when the Blitzkrieg stalled in the harsh Russian winter, forcing Germany to mobilize not only its own economy but also that of the territories it had occupied for the war effort.
After achieving victory over the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, the Reichskreditkassen was established on May 3, 1940, which was introduced an occupation currency. The exchange rate between the franc and the occupation currency was set at 20 to 1, representing a significant overvaluation of the Reichsmark. This overvaluation made French goods relatively inexpensive for Germany.
Yet Germany did not get the economic results they expected. With Operation Barbarossa the Soviet Union’s economy nosedives but the German economy only has an imperceptible tick upwards.
Although the regime made some progress in preparing for war and revitalizing the economy during the period of 1933 to 1939, its economic achievements were not without constraints. The Four Year Plan was only partially realized, and the goal of achieving self-sufficiency through the policy of autarky was not fully attained as there were shortages of raw materials and labor from 1938 onwards.
Real National Product of UK, US, USSR, and Germany, 1937-45 Data
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Source Harrison, Mark. “Resource mobilization for World War II: the U.S.A., U.K., U.S.S.R., and Germany, 1938‐1945.” Published in the Economic History Review, 41:2 (1988), pp. 185