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Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  340 ratings  ·  42 reviews
A "provocative" account of great "intellectual significance," illuminating the economic workings of the Third Reich—and the reasons ordinary Germans supported the Nazi state (The New York Times Book Review)

In this groundbreaking book, historian Götz Aly addresses one of modern history's greatest conundrums: How did Hitler win the allegiance of ordinary Germans? The answer
Hardcover, 431 pages
Published January 9th 2007 by Metropolitan Books (first published April 30th 2005)
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Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jaclyn by: Allison (via Caldwell)
I was absolutely thrilled with this book. Recommended by Allison by way of Caldwell, this book delighted me for three main reasons:
1. The figures on the economies of Nazi allies and Nazi-occupied countries were staggering and incredibly enlightening. It is amazing what the bureaucrats, especially those in the finance ministry of the Third Reich, were able to get away with.
2. Albeit rather trite, I appreciate that Aly looked at the "socialism" part of national socialism, rather than adding anoth
Dec 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
You don't know much about the Nazis. That's because we don't get much about the Nazis in school and most of the "common knowledge" about them is wrong. For example, many people are under the false impression that the Nazis were "right wing" or conservative, yet the term "Nazi" is short for "National Socialist German Workers Party." That doesn't sound like a right wing party to me. This book, while it is not entertaining, will teach you that the Nazis were a left wing group that gained and kept p ...more
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a bit dry unless you love WWII history and economics. I'm not a huge economics guy but this was interesting as the Germans were brilliant in figuring out how to fund their conquest and occupations of other countries by coming up with ways to have these other countries pay for the German occupation.

One example, German troops came into France with special currency usably only in France. They paid for everything they took or needed from the civilian populace. The French banks were require
David Bird
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: in-extremis
Aly presents a very simple thesis about the Nazi regime: that it inspired the widespread loyalty that it did in significant measure because it made life good for the average (non-Jewish) German. He notes that taxes were kept considerably lower than in other belligerent states; that the material standards were kept high; and that the secret police force was surprisingly small.

He describes how the appropriation of property from Jews and others marginalized by the regime, and occupied countries, w
Mar 02, 2009 rated it liked it
The conventional view is that the Holocaust was mostly about racial ideology, and only partly about plunder. With reading books such as this one (and one of my other current reads, The Secret War Against The Jews) I’m really starting to believe it was probably the other way around!

Update after finishing the book:

We’ve traditionally seen the Holocaust as a racial war by Hitler’s Europe against its Jewish population; as a program of extermination accompanied by incidental plunder. The picture that
Michael Connolly
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
During the First World War, the standard of living of the German people suffered, which reduced support for the war. In order maintain support for World War II, the Nazis made sure that the German people lived comfortably during the war. This required a great deal of money, which the Nazis acquired, primarily from three sources: (a) taxing the rich, (b) looting the countries they invaded, and (c) confiscating the property of the Jews. Race, religion and prejudice clearly played a role in the Hol ...more
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is brilliant. It's interesting for three reasons:
(1) an examination of Germany's real intentions in the war; (2) how governments run wars; and (3) how economies function during wars.

Germany's 'economic miracle' caused massive debts, which it attempted to reconcile by basically stealing other people's money. This makes the book very pertinent to the world today.

In many ways it's far more interesting than the accounts of the battles, though drier. The details are remarkable, such as Germ
Jan 18, 2020 rated it liked it
I picked this up to better understand how and why German citizens were complicit in Nazi genocide. This line from the book sums it up - "The Nazi leaderhsip did not transform the majority of Germans into idealogical fanatics.. Instead it succeeded in making them well fed parasites." The other revelation was the massive scale of the machinery put in place to steal - no other word for it - and channel wealth from Jews and occupied countries to the German public and the war effort. Turns out a well ...more
Oct 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Gotz Aly shows how every German benefited from the Nazis' system of plunder during WWII and justifies how that plunder kept the German populace quiescent. While it's way too detailed on the financial records, it's an utterly fascinating read. He gives the monetary reasoning behind the Holocaust and destruction the Nazis perpetrated and has it all make sense. You'll never look at WWII the same way again.
TS Allen
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Two clear conclusions emerge from these elaborate calculations. First, at least two-thirds of German war revenues were earned from foreign or 'racially foreign' sources. Second, the remaining third of the costs were distributed extremely unequally between the various economic classes in German society. One-third of taxpayers bore more than two-thirds of the burdens of war, while the vast majority of Germans paid only a small amount left over."
Vasil Kolev
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting and detailed look in the financing of the Nazi state and its implications. The ideas they had were novel, and managed to accomplish a lot with the relatively small resources they had, and some of their policies have stood on their own and found their way in our current states.
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
In this book I see unfortunate parallels between what is happening today and what happened in the past. For instance, "people not tremendously interested in the potential costs of their short term welfare to their neighbors or to future generations." And, "Anti-authoritarian glee at the toppling of the old order with the authoritarian devotion to a new utopia...." Plus "...the German people perceived Hitler not as strident social divider and excluder but rather as a great integrator." Those stat ...more
Malcolm Connell Wardlaw
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating study of something I have always wanted to learn more about: how did Nazi Germany pay for the war?
Ali (a German historian of Turkish ancestry) goes into considerable detail to document what was in effect state-sponsored piracy combined with a Ponzi scheme. The whole racket depended on the issue of debt that could only be paid off if Germany won the war (since the Nazi state would then have been able to sell off a vast portfolio of assets in the conquered territories of the
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Other reviews here have covered Ross' arguments well, so I'll just share a couple of my favourite quotes from the book.

1. “Concern for the people’s welfare- at any cost- was a mark of the Nazi system from its inception.” (3)

2. “The material interests of millions of individuals first had to be brought together with anti-Semitic ideology before the great crime we now know as the holocaust could take on its genocidal momentum.” (6)

3. Nazi “domestic policies were remarkably friendly toward the Germ
morning Os
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed his introduction a bit too much (because he claims that the Nazi regime was exceptionally a "young" one!), and didn't know to what extent he is taken seriously as a scholar since I do not study German history. I had to contextualize his work and found a review by John Connelly online ( Connelly's review was helpful in confirming the novelty of this work (as many reviewers mention, this is the first book to highlight how Nazis financed WWII thro ...more
Stephen Selbst
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gotz Aly shows how the Nazis financed World War II in significant measure by theft of the wealth of European Jews and by the systematic plunder of conquered nations and putative allies. The actions, he argues, allowed the Nazis to prop up living standards within Germany without the need for broad based tax increases. In fact, Nazi soldiers systematically shipped back to Germany goods otherwise in short supply, both luxury items like wine, spirits and fashion goods, but also daily necessities lik ...more
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: wwii, holocaust
The money quote:
The cooptation of civil servants allowed for the peculiar combination of populist opportunism, selective government manipulation, and premeditated genocide that characterized the Third Reich. This constellation, rather than any particular German fondness for bureaucracy or Prussian subservience, helps explain the success of the Nazi movement. ... The regime unleashed the force of individual initiative in both long-standing and newly created government agencies. It broke through
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Viva socialism viva!
How National Socialism (NAZI) financed its war of total control, not only for its own people's acquiescence but the submission of enemies and allies, in a few short years. Always expertly misrepresenting their true objectives and actions, such as justifying their theft and plunder of the rich Jews or other country's wealth, by some then acceptable reasons in the eyes of the world and public.
Today's socialism (Communism re branded ) with a new logo and fresh looks re argues fr
Sue Perry
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have to admit I didn’t quite finish this book because I got a bit bogged down in the details. However I would still recommend it. The revelations of how the Nazis set about economically ruining the countries they occupied, with no care for the welfare or even survival of the local people, were absolutely shocking, and something I’d never heard of before. A very poignant read on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. I recall my grandmother used to say that if we hadn’t fought off Hitler, we’d all have ...more
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
People usually wonder how it is possible that Germans fell in love with terrible Nazi ideology. There are many reflections about it but this book proves that the truth is simple - everything was about the money. "Hitler's Beneficiares" is an economic view on the Third Reich ruled by the NSDAP. A comprehensive analysis of national socialism shows that this system is based on robbery in many forms. It is good to remember this especially now, when many demagogues are becoming more popular.
Randy Silverstein
Jun 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you ever wondered how the Nazis were able to lead an advanced society into a murderous conquest, this book explains it. "If Hitler's was a dictatorship of consent, that consent was not based on an ideological conviction held by a majority of Germans. It was bought and paid for through the systemic bribery of social welfare payments and services."
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, thought
Amazing. A book that takes history on the reason side and not about emotions. Sadly, this book also explains why the recent history is taught in school only as emotion plus years by state propaganda tools.
Eurethius Péllitièr
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Meticulously well researched. Just missed out on five stars because the few mentions of Britain seemed to have a colonial blind spot - failing considering Colonialism in how Britain built funds and seeing British colonial invasion better in Africa (1 mention)
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You did that hungry!! I loved it, every twist and turn caught me by surprise!! I can’t wait to read more of your books....
May 01, 2007 rated it liked it
It only took me 6 years and probably as many restarts to finally read this book but it was worth it. He cites so many aspects of the same data - extensive data about where goods and money went during the Nazi regime - that it's hard to process but it's the only way to make the point.

He shows that Nazi plunder of invaded countries and the taxes and levies imposed on them funded the war machine and kept the German population at the time well taken care of an happy. It's mentioned that when German
Jun 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
So far I'm enjoying this book. Aly's focus on the economics and social policies of the Nazis I think is highly enlightening. Years ago there was a book I believe called, Anti-semitism: The Socialism of Fools, and what Aly describes here is how Nazi racial ideology provided a means to support the house of cards that was the Nazi economy. Some reviews I have read suggest that Aly may draw too materialist an explanation of why Germans continued to support Hitler, and I have not gotten so far as to ...more
David Hill
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-wwii
This was a bit of a tough one to get through. I find the subject interesting, but it's not a very exciting topic. It's complicated, and there were many times I would have liked more background information.

The book is about how the Nazis financed the war while simultaneously keeping the folks at home happy and well fed. By keeping Germans happy and well fed, they were less likely to rise up against the Nazis. Clearly, their technique worked. There were no significant uprisings against the Nazis.
Jan 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
The book is easy to read although you can easely get lost in the annotations that the author uses, I found that in a first read it is better to ignore them. Also I bought the portuguese version but the images were not translated from german which was a shame. Fortunately my wife speaks german and I asked her to translate some for me which I found very usefull.

Other than that it makes it easier to understand not the active support that the germans gave to Hitler but the silent consent of the majo
Rob Barry
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Book: Hitler's Beneficiaries
Gotz Aly

Nazi strategy of creating a welfare state, funded by the oppressed, to make the recipients of the benefits amenable to propaganda -- and giving them a vested interest in the Third Reich.

Underlying the heady sensation, however, was the nagging pull of bad conscience, an uneasy feeling that one was damned to either total victory or total destruction.
Mar 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very dry, very scholarly, lots of numbers. The book does an excellent job, though, of demonstrating the oft-ignored "Socialist" part of National Socialism. In particular, just how utterly rapacious the socialist system can be in its rawest form.
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Götz Haydar Aly is a German journalist, historian and social scientist.
After attending the German School of Journalists, Aly studied history and political science in Berlin. As a journalist, he worked for the taz, the Berliner Zeitung and the FAZ.
Presently, from 2004 to 2005, he is a visiting professor for interdisciplinary Holocaust research at the Fritz Bauer Institut in Frankfurt am Main.

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