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The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  1,227 ratings  ·  123 reviews
In this groundbreaking new history, Adam Tooze provides the clearest picture to date of the Nazi war machine and its undoing. There was no aspect of Nazi power untouched by economics�it was Hitler�s obsession and the reason the Nazis came to power in the first place. The Second World War was fought, in Hitler�s view, to create a European empire strong enough to take on the ...more
Hardcover, 832 pages
Published March 22nd 2007 by Viking Adult (first published 2007)
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Aaron Arnold
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
For all its horrors, World War 2 is undeniably a really cool war to look at from a military perspective. However, anyone who plays the Could Germany Have Won game (or even a few rounds of Axis & Allies) is confronted sooner or later by the fact that a lot of Germany's military decisions seem a bit... eccentric, to put it mildly. Taking over Austria, yes; seizing the Sudetenland, sure; closing off the Polish Corridor, of course; but why go to war barely 6 years after taking power, way before ...more
Mike
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ever since middle school I have been a huge WWII buff. I couldn't get enough of the Manichean clash of good versus evil (with good triumphing naturally). As I grew up I developed a more nuanced view of the war. Neat planes and cool tanks were replaced by the appreciation grand strategy and the details of battles. But as the old saying goes, amateurs talk about tactics, but professional study logisitics. And nothing can get to the heart of logistics more than the study of the industrial economies ...more
Kyle
Oct 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nazis
As it turns out the way to write real history is by taking things seriously. Slave labor, genocide, hunger plans, making neat entries in logbooks concerning the planned deaths from famine in the early months of your next invasion- these are treated by historians in apocalyptic and sensational ways that safely place what the Nazis did and what they were thinking in some kind of pointless realm beyond understanding. But the leadership of the lumpen Nazi movement didn't suffer from mass insanity ...more
fourtriplezed
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, world-war-2
Very long and dry at times but fascinating. For the non economist and lay history lover such as my self this really gave me the answers to a lot of questions I had had that were never been discussed in any depth in the many previous books and items I had read and the various documentaries I have seen about the Nazi economy.
Christopher Saunders
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
Adam Tooze's The Wages of Destruction offers an extraordinarily deep dive into Nazi Germany's economic structure and policy. Tooze's book argues that Nazi economics defy categorization within an easy capitalist-socialist box; instead, they introduced a state-directed (though not state-run) economy with the primary, even sole effort of preparing Germany for war. Thus Hitler introduces modest welfare programs and expansive internal improvements while crushing unions, coddling major corporations ...more
Athan Tolis
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you do a word search on this book, I bet you the two first entries will be coal and steel. What we have here, basically, is a history of German coal and steel production from 1933 to 1945: what motivated it, what it actually was used toward, and who made it possible.

Needless to say, the book is interesting precisely because coal, steel and (to a lesser extent, presumably for lack of data) wheat, oils and fat are the currency in which author Adam Tooze deals in Nazi Germanys motivation, timing
...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: academic, history, war, 2019
Tooze's The Wages of Destruction is the definitive book on the Nazi economy. It is as gripping as these kinds of books get, but at the end, still an economic history, and therefore rather dry and specialized reading.

Germany post-WW1 was a country of middling prosperity by per capita measures, lacking raw resources, and dealing with the legacy of war reparations and the immediate post-war hyper-inflation. Through the 20s, the German finance ministry steered a moderate course, maintaining a
...more
Gwern
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating account of the economic transformation of Germany under the Nazis, the repression & distortion of the German economy, the strategic confusion & ignorance of their best options revealed by shifting armament priorities (such as the underemphasis on tanks & overemphasis on surface ships), the difficulties imposed by exchange rates, how often Germany teetered on the brink of disaster, and how Hitler's constant focus on the danger of the American juggernaut guided his grand ...more
Tripp
Apr 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People with lots of time
h my, Adam Tooze's Wages of Destruction is quite a book. It an economic history of Nazi Germany and it provides economic reasons for Nazi policy making. This alone should raise interest (or potentially hackles). The discussion of lebensraum is illuminating. Most texts write this off as sheer propaganda or delusion, but Tooze shows that the German economy of the early 20th century was actually quite behind a number of competitors and that the very large agricultural work force was difficult to ...more
Anna
Nov 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A historian friend recommended this epic tome to me. I will admit it took me a little while to get into, mainly because the hardback edition is unwieldy. The writing, however, is anything but. Tooze has an academic yet engaging style, managing a difficult balancing act with abstract economic concepts and horrific war crimes. He also writes with specific aims in mind - to overturn popular conceptions of Blitzkrieg, of working womens role in the Reich, and of Hitler's economic rationale for ...more
Chris
I have found one book that truly is monumental. Adam Toozes the Wages of Destruction is an incredible economic history of the Third Reich. Made even more interesting by the fact that the author connects seemingly mundane economics processes and problems with the political policy decision of the Nazi leadership. These economic issues are shown be one of the main driving forces behind Hitlers conception of the world and the foreign policy decisions that those conception of the world propelled him ...more
Laurent Franckx
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
The saying "The amateurs discuss tactics: the professionals discuss logistics" has been attributed to almost everybody from Napoleon to Darth Vader (no, not really). Whoever the author of this insight was, most professionals would agree with it (full disclosure: I have served as an officer in the Belgian army logistics).
I can therefore only applaud the increasing number of books that discuss the second world war from the perspective of logistics, and, more broadly, the industrial and economic
...more
Ryan
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow! What a book. I'll write lengthy review at a later date. 4 stars only because of some common historical inaccuracies. Despite that, it was a very indepth view of The Third Reich's economy and well worth the read.

Let me just leave you with this quote for now:

Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics.

Gen. Robert H. Barrow, USMC 
...more
Randy Mcdonald
Nov 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Tooze provides abundant evidence for his argument that Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, far from being a uniquely advanced economy full of V-2s and Volkswagens, actually lagged behind its competitors. The vast Fordist demi-continent of the United States was for many Germans, an obvious competitor and model, but so were Britain and France, with their vast empires, their high wages, and their relatively abundant agricultural land. Germany, in Tooze's convincing depiction, was a country with an ...more
Emmanuel Gustin
The Wages of Destruction is a brilliant contribution to our understanding of events in the 1930s and 1940s. It destroys many of the myths in which the Nazi regime has been wrapped, and shows that it was neither the miracle of efficiency claimed by apologists for dictatorships, nor the irrational buffoonery projected by some of its critics. Tooze documents how Hitler's government was driven to some of its most desperate actions by economic constraints, and highlights how cold economic logic was ...more
Santiago Soria
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Definitely one of the best books Ive ever read. It explained, in detail, how Germany was able to become such a huge treat to the world despite its economic difficulties. It goes from the very first few years since that fateful day When the treaty of Versailles was signed, and put Germany in a thick debt position, until the war was over and Germany was splinted in two by the west and the east powers.


I should say that this book only covers the war from the German perspective, but its
...more
Dan
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, owned
An excellent book detailing the successes and failures of Nazi economic policy, which also demonstrates and deconstructs the Nazi myths which continue to propagate through modern society.

Godwin once suggested that, if you spend more than a few minutes on social media, youll inevitably find someone comparing someone or something else to Hitler or to the Nazis*. What he didnt mention is that this, in turn, will inevitably devolve into a fight about the nature of the Nazi state. These arguments
...more
Steve
This is plainly an important book and one that probably quite rightfully won the Wolfson History Prize in 2007. However, I personally rate it at three stars because it is overlong and not as well composed as it should be. Indeed, it ranks up there with Peter Galison's IMAGE AND LOGIC (another book by a historian) that desperately required the services of a skilled and ruthless editor. The book is too long (at 676 pages of prose, 800 overall) and the detail gets in the way of the story. A 250 to ...more
Pieter
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economie
As an economist I enjoyed the reading of this book from the very first page to page 676. The subject is highly undervalued by authors writing about WW II. The reader starts to understand the importance, not only of military strategy and political persuasion. Romans, Napoleon and the military leaders during WW I appreciated economic power and its ability to crush the enemy in the long run. Not on the battlefield but in the factory and in the office.

The history starts with Gustav Stresemann, a
...more
Mark Saha
Aug 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a slog to read but worth the effort in exposing the economic side of Hitler's madness.

Germany was an economic basket case when he took power, and the improvements he appeared to bring to the standard of living were illusory and unsustainable. The conquest of France did nothing to improve Germany's situation, because French industry depended on British coal and raw materials. Germany struggled to provide these for their own industry, so French industrial assets were useless. The
...more
Stefan
Apr 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The Wages of Destruction is a brilliant, fascinating exploration of Nazi Germany's economy. Adam Tooze does an excellent job at writing about the personalities and issues of the Germany's economy, and logically dispels a variety of myths cultivated by prior historians. Tooze did a superb job at objectively describing the realities around the Holocaust, the German "war machine", slave labor, the relationship between the Nazi party and commerical/industrial companies, and how the problem of low ...more
James
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
an unending procession of statistics, human misery, and rational, bureaucratic evil. tooze presents many of the myths surrounding the third reich and demolishes them in kind. this book should be required reading for Wehraboos who still believe in albert speers innocence or argue that the germans would have won the war if they attacked moscow instead of kiev in fall 1941. tooze is also an incredible writer with a keen eye for the absurd. Ex:

When the order to ship large numbers of Eastern workers
...more
Michael Elkon
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books that I have ever read. Tooze writes in a clear, concise manner and, as we would expect for an economist, laces the book with all manner of graphs and charts explaining the performance of the Nazi economy. I've read a lot about WWII (including all three of Richard Evans' books on the Third Reich) and yet I was constantly learning new things from Tooze. Among the stand-out observations:

1. The Nazis were quite comfortable allying with Big Business in Germany. They got
...more
Keith McGowan
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book is exceptionally well researched and provides a comprehensive description of the economic underpinnings of the Nazi war machine. However, the writing is incredibly dense with paragraphs routinely filling an entire page if not spilling over onto a second page.
Katherine Addison
Weirdly riveting economic history of Nazi Germany.
Ari
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: harvard-offsite
This is a history of the German economy, from the late 1920s through 1945. I learned quite a lot, and in particular learned that some things I thought I knew, weren't so.

There is a widespread belief that the Nazis weren't at "full war production" until 1942. I now am persuaded that that is basically false, and that Nazi Germany mobilized a remarkably high share of the economy for military purposes, starting as early as 1934. There was still significant civilian production early in the war, but
...more
Malcolm Connell Wardlaw
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It is hard to know where to begin writing a review about this compendium economic history of the Third Reich. In fact, the story begins long before the Third Reich in the collapse of the German economy during the First World War (and subsequent collapse of the war effort).
It is readable, engaging, contains fascinating new insights of the reasons for the decisions Hitler made (many of which appear wildly reckless without knowledge of the economic and political backdrop against which they took
...more
Dan Walker
Sep 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, economics
I've thought for a couple of years that the definitive history of WWII has yet to be written. The Wages of Destruction may just be that book. At the very least it is an important first step in shattering the myths surrounding "The Good War."

It doesn't start out that way. For me, it really just addresses the idea that a centrally-planned economy is the best way to run a war. Conventional wisdom is that to win, a nation must wage "total war," in which all elements of society are directed to a
...more
Andrew Tollemache
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Wages of Destruction" is Adam Tooze's seminal book detailing the precarious balancing act the German state in the 1920s and especially under the Nazis in the 1930s took to rebuild its industrial, financial and most importantly military capacity. Tooze's book does an amazing job of both taking down the commonly held notion that Nazi Germany went to war in 1939 with a dominating industrial war machine when instead the whole process was more of a high wire balancing act that could have imploded ...more
Matt
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An enlightening and novel (certainly to me, which is unsurprising given my ignorance -- but I think also in the context of the existing literature) perspective on WWII, answering questions I didn't know I had about why it played out the way it did. Places a much greater emphasis on fundamental material and economic factors than the popular accounts I've casually absorbed over the years, but doesn't neglect ideology, contingency and human decision-making. And somehow the glimpses we get of Nazi ...more
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Adam Tooze (born 1967) is a British historian who is a professor at Columbia University. Previously, he was Reader in Modern European Economic History at the University of Cambridge and professor at Yale University.

After graduating with a B.A. degree in economics from King's College, Cambridge in 1989, Tooze studied at the Free University of Berlin before moving to the London School of Economics
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“The Third Reich made it its mission to use the authority of the state to coordinate efforts within industry to devise standardized and simplified versions of key consumer commodities. These would then be produced at the lowest possible price, enabling the German population to achieve an immediate breakthrough to a higher standard of living. The epithet which was generally attached to these products was Volk: the Volksempfaenger (radio), Volkswohnung (apartments), Volkswagen, Volkskuehlschrank (refrigerator), Volkstraktor (tractor).34 This list contains only those products that enjoyed the official backing of one or more agencies in the Third Reich. Private producers, however, had long appreciated that the term ‘Volk’ had good marketing potential, and they, too, joined the bandwagon. Amongst the various products they touted were Volks-gramophone (people’s gramophone), Volksmotorraeder (people’s motorbikes) and Volksnaehmaschinen (people’s sewing machines). In fact, by 1933 the use of the term ‘Volk’ had become so inflationary that the newly established German advertising council was forced to ban the unlicensed use of the term.” 3 likes
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