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

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,061 ratings  ·  102 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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4.44  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,061 ratings  ·  102 reviews

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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
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
Oct 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 an ...more
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.
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 Germany’s motivation, t
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
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 em ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, history, academic, war
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 balanc
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 women’s role in the Reich, and of Hitler's economic rationale for riski ...more
I have found one book that truly is monumental. Adam Tooze’s 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 Hitler’s conception of the world and the foreign policy decisions that those conception of the world propelled hi ...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 econ ...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 po
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 c ...more
Santiago Soria
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Definitely one of the best books I’ve 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 it’s understand
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, reviewed
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, you’ll inevitably find someone comparing someone or something else to Hitler or to the Nazis*. What he didn’t mention is that this, in turn, will inevitably devolve into a fight about the nature of the Nazi state. These arguments u
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
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 Ger
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 gai
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 am ...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.
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 t
Dan Walker
Sep 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, history
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 sing
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 o ...more
Krisley Freitas
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, wwii
Simplesmente extraordinário!
Do fim da República de Weimar ao fim da Segunda Guerra Mundial Adam Tooze expõe detalhadamente a situação econômica, política e militar da Alemanha.

O livro é bem detalhado e abrange diversos aspectos da sociedade alemã e do cenário internacional, como: negociações do pagamento das reparações impostas pelo Tratado de Versalhes, a crise de 1929, a alta taxa de desemprego no início dos anos 30, o esforça para manter a balança comercial alemã equilibrada, a luta contra a
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 speer’s 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 worker
Mark Adams
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an important account of how Germany was able to pull themselves up after WWI to covertly rearm and reinvigorate the German economy in the face of the restrictions and reparations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. There is also plenty of insight about the inherent limitations of German geography and agriculture.

The creative accounting, duplicity, economic gymnastics and business shenanigans employed by Hitler's government to get Germany into position to break open the wounds inflicted
Jan 30, 2019 added it
I’ve read a lot about the military history of the Third Reich. This excellent tome - it is unashamedly long - delves into the details of the economic history. It offers a convincing explanation for why the Nazi regime made decisions, using arguments relating to politics and ideology, but always backed by the harsh reality of the economic position that Hitler placed Germany in versus the overwhelming economic might of the US, Britain and the Soviet Union.

The author doesn’t go for the cheap “inev
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
not the easiest of reads by any stretch of the imagination, but worth it for any scholar of the period, as the author examines in detail exactly why the Nazi experiment at dominating Europe was such a failure, causing death and destruction across the continent. Tooze examines most of the clichés that have built up since 1945 and demolishes a few sacred cows, in particular Albert Speer's self generated image as an apolitical technocrat (although that has already been partly dismantled by Gita Ser ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't like Economic books and WWII is up there with the civil war on my least interested parts of history. That being said this is a rather amazing book that sets out its premise of why Germany acted the way it did and what were the alternatives. The author is well spoken and his writing is engaging. This is a way of looking at the politics of the war that is seldom if ever done so for that alone its worth reading. The only reason I don't give it 5 stars is well I don't like economic books or ...more
Diego Saldarriaga
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the first "history book" about the second world war that I read. And is mostly focused on the economic part. I got it recommended because it demystifies the economic miracle under the nazis and it does a great job explaining the logic between ideology and policy-making.

What can I say? Great book. I wish I had better memory to remember al the nitty-gritty details. It is super thorough on its sources. From macro-economy level to the Speer/Hitler/Goering surviving documentation of their mee
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Finish reading this book? 2 27 Jul 27, 2012 03:37AM  
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  • The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation
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  • Hitler's Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich
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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 f
“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.” 2 likes
“But what Hitler and his government did promise was an end to parliamentary democracy and the destruction of the German left and for this most of German big business was willing to make a substantial down-payment. In light of what Hitler said on the evening of 20 February, the violence of the Machtergreifung should not have come as any surprise. Krupp and his colleagues were willing partners in the destruction of political pluralism in Germany. And the net effect, by the end of 1934, was precisely as intended: a comprehensive popular demobilization.” 1 likes
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