** Germany World War II -- German industry front orientation

World War II: German Industry: Front Orientation

Figure 1.--We all know that the bulk of the Heer (German Army) was deployed in the East during World War II and it was here that the Soviet Red Army tore the heart out of the Heer. There is no question of that. From Operation Barbarossa (June 1941) was employed on the Eastern Front. There are no Western historians of any importance that do not agree on the massive contribution made by the Red Army. In contrast, we find many Russians today believe that the Soviet Union single handedly won World War II. We see many down playing the important role of the Western Allies. But what we would like to know more about, is what share of German industry, science, and technology was devoted to the two fronts? Russian contributors seem to just assume that industry was simply was a reflection of the men deployed. This is simply not the case. Naval and Air warfare, for example, requiters a far greater industrial component than land warfare. Notice the jumble of different German vehicles here and imagine the logistical problem of maintaining them.

We all know that the bulk of the Heer (German Army) was deployed in the East during World War II and it was here that the Soviet Red Army tore the heart out of the Heer. There is no question of that. From Operation Barbarossa (June 1941) was employed on the Eastern Front. There are no Western historians of any importance that do not agree on the massive contribution made by the Red Army. In contrast, I find many Russians today believe that the Soviet Union single handedly won World War II. We see many down playing the important role of the Western Allies. But what I would like to know more about, is what share of German industry, science, and technology was devoted to the two fronts? Russian contributors seem to just assume that industry simply was a reflection of the men deployed. This is simply not the case. Naval and Air warfare requiters a greater industrial component than land warfare. I began to think about this while reading the Weinberg book on the War. He states that more than half of German industry was devoted to the War in the West. [Weinberg] His book is well documented, but here he does not run the numbers or offer sources. Now we have not seen this topic discussed in other World War II histories. We would be very interested if any readers have seen assessments as to how much of the German war effort besides manpower, was devoted to the two theaters. We have seen no statistical assessment in the World War II books I have read as to how much of German war industry was devoted to the two fronts. I can offer some penitent indicators and would be interested in what other readers have to say.

Overall Asessment

Most World War II histories focus on military action--the graet campaigns and notable commanders. The more mudane matters like the home front and the economy recedive lsess attention. There is some attention to the Anerican Arsenal of Democracy, but much less to the German war economy. As a result, I and most of the people with which I have discussd World War II issues, just assumed that the Geramsn war economy was primarily oriented toward the titantic struggle with the Soviets on the Eastern Front. Given the huge number of casualties and the exstensive use of tanks and other armored vehicles, it made sence that German industry was primarily devoted to supplying the Ostheer. I first began to wonder about this after reading the Tooze book on the NAZI economy. It is the definative study, but does not have the slam, bang accounts most World War II readers are after. It is all to easy to get stuck in the details, but he clearly shows that the other sevices, especially the Luftwaffe received an enormous quantity of German industrial output [Tooze]. Recently I read the Weinberg book on the War and he sats that the West received the majority of German industrial production, but did not run the numbers. [Weinerg] So I dedcided to run some numbers. And the numbers I began to see surprised me. Of course these varied over time, but ballpark figures are that the Lufwaffe receive somhing like 50 oercent of German industrial production, the Heer (30 percent) and the Kriessmarine (20 percent). [Adam] Another source suggests that the Heer never received more than 20 percent. [Allen] I was astonished by this, but as one of the sources explains, "Aircraft, aero-engines and submarines were intensely demanding of skilled labour and precision machining, while the military engineering works of hardened U-boat pens, the Atlantic Wall, flak towers et. al. likewise absorbed a lot of concrete, steel and man-hours." [Adam] Thev Wonder Weapns required larrge quantities of scarce raw materails. Now if this is the case, it signicantly changes the standard view of the war in the East. Now even if these assessments under estimate the industrial spport devoted to the Heer. it clearly diireed subatan=tallly from the manpwer devoted to the Ostkrieg. As it as primarily fought by the Heer and the Luftwaffe and Kreiegsmarine primarily fought in the West, it would seem that a surprisingly small portion of NAZI war production actually went to the Ostkrieg--and this would be the decisive campaign of the War.

Overall Manpower Components

Available data often refers to overall manpower by front without specifying the servive compomenyts. So is useful to ise both data srts as we acquire them. Most available accounts describe three fronts (the Western, the Mediterranean, and Eastern). There actually was a fourth front--the Northern Froint, meaning Norway. Now granted, this was an active frint for a very short time (April-June 1940), but Hitler was so concerned with Norway, that he kept am occupation force of about 0.5 million there throughout the War. Noe the East was the major battle field of the War, but not for the entire War, and the other three theaters taken together meant that for a condiderab period, Germany could not fully concentrate on the Ostkrieg. And it should be mentiined that for Barbarossa (June-December 1941), the Germans were able to focus om the Soviet Union in large measure because the Soviets aided the Germnans by supplying massive quanities of oil and other critical war materials. It was the resulting destruction of the French Army that meant the the Soviets would have to fight it out with the Germans without a major active combat front in the West. Even so, if you look at the three Western fronts (Northern, Mediteranean, and Western Europe) there was a considerable drain on German figting strength, especially by 1943. By the time of the D-Day landings, the German force in the West peaked at some 1.9 milliom men. This was about 65 percent of Ostheer, but if you add in the Germans in the Mediateranean Theater and Norway the numbers exceed that of the Ostheerr. This was a major factor in the Soviet Operation Bagratiion that destroyed Germznb Army Group Center (Jult 1944).

Eastern front

The Eastern front was the campaign launched by Hitler with Operation Barbarossa to seize the Lebenstraum he dreamed of and described in Mein Kampf (1924). It woul prove to be the decisive campaign of the War. The Germans called it the Ost Krieg. The Soviets called it the Great Patriotic War. The Americans and British called it the Eastern Front. It was here that after their victories in the West that the bulk of the German military was deployed (1941-43). Only with prepasrations for the Allied Cross Channel invasion did deployments in the East and West approach parity. The Germas had important allies in the Ostkrieg (Finns, Hungarian, Italian, Romanian, and Spanish). The strength of the Ostheer was 3.8 million/3.1 million Germans (1941), 3.7 million/2.6 million Germans (1942), 3.9 million/3.4 million Germans (1943), 3.7 million/2.5 million (1944), and 2.0 million Germans (1945). [Glantz and House] (The combat strength varies during the years, the numbers are from May-July each year.)

Western front

Commonly authors give the imoression that the Western Front did not become active until the D-Day landings (June 1944). This is simply not the case. In fact becuse of the NAZI-Soviet Pact (August 1939), the only military forces the Germans faced durung the first 2 years of the war were in the West (1939-40). First was the large, but poorly armed Polish Army (1 million men), large and well-armed French Army (5 milliom, the small unprepared Dutch Army (less than 0.3 million), the moderate sized Belgian Army (0.7 million), and the small, but well armed British Expeditioinary Dorce--BEF (0.4 million ). The BEF at the time was the only fully-mechanized military force. The total for was about 7.5 million men. This was larger than the German Army at the time (about 5.5 million men). [Karl-Heinz] The Germans shatered the Western Front front in lss than and year and destroyed these armies, only the BEF escaped destruction as a result of the Dunkirk Evacuation (May-June 1940). The Soviet Union did not oppose the German Army, but instead launched its own series of aggressions. But it did more than that, it supported the German aggressions in the West. It provide resource poor Germany with the resoueces it needed to wage the War in the West and sestrioy the Western armies. The reason that the Red Army has to face the Wehrmacht vurtually alone is that Stalin helped the Germans destoy the Wesern asrmies, espcially the French Army. But Stalin's aid to the NAZIs did nore than that, it helped Hitler build up the power that he needed to invade the Soviet Union. The result was Operation Basrbarossa (June 1941) and the Ostkrieg the greates military stuggle in human history (1941-45). It should not be thought that that the Germans could just ignore the West. They not only had to occupy the West, but had to to station firces to prevent a Anglo-American invasion. At the time of Barbarossa, the German occupation force was very small, only about 0.1 million men as Hitler shifted the Wehrmacht east in proparatiin for Barbarossa (1941). [Smith] This began to change after the Dieppe Raid (April 1942). The Germans began building up their forces in the West. This had to be done ast the sane time yhe campaihn in the East was reaching a critical phase. These forces seized control of the unoccupied Zone as a result of the Torch landings in North Africa (November 1942). The Germans also began building the Atlantic Wall.

Mediterranean front

The Mediterranean Front opened up with an Italian Army (215,000 men) in Libya (September 1941). They were opposed by the British Western Desert Force -- WDF (only 36,000 men). Surporisingly, the small British WDF not only stopped the Italians, but defeated them and drove into Libya. It lookd like the British would compoletely defaet the Itlalians in Libya as they has done in East Africa. To prevent that, the Geramsn intervened. A force commanded by Gen. Erwin Roimmel who had palyed an imoprtant role in the Battle of France befan landing in Tripli (February 1941). Hitler begana calling his command the Afrika Korps. He and OKW just wanted him to bolster Italian forces and hold the line in Libya. The primary focus on preoaring for Barabarossa. This the AK initially had only a small force of Germans (35,000 men). Rommel was not one to follow orders. Insread of conducting defensive operations as ordered, he launched offensive demonstrating tacytivcal brilliamce and eventually driving the British back into Egyot, almost reaching the Suez Canal before being stopped at El Alamein, just 100 km from Alexandria (July 1942). As a result of Rommel's victories, Hitler expanded his command, although it continued to be very small compared to the Ostheer. We are not sure of the peak German commitment. Riomnn had 115,000 men at El Alamein, but thst included the Italians. The British victory at El Alamein and the Torch Landings came at about the same timne as the Siviet Stalingrad offensive (November 1942). Hitler rushed 150,000 men to Tunisia who would be lost (May 1943). This was followed by a short camapign in Sicily (July 1943). The Allied landings in Sicily was a factor in Hitler discontinuing the Kursk offensive and moving forces west. The large Italian Army basically refused to fight. The smaller Gerrman force (about 50,000 men) put up a spirted defense and managed to evacuate. This led to the Italian campaign. Here the Germans had toi fight allong as the Italian switchd sides (September 1943). The Italian campaign was the major German commitment to the Mediteranean theater (0.4 million men). And this was at a time when their position in the East was deterioriating and the Allies were preparing the cross-Channel invasion. The total German commitment to the Mediterranean Theater have to include the Balkans. The actual Balkans invasions of Yugoslavia and Greece was over quickly (April-May 1941), but the ensuing partisan campaign lasted for the rest of the War. It tied up hundreds of thousands of Axis triips. We do not yet have thed number of German troop. Of course Allied armies were no involved here, but the Western Allies provided vital support for the resistance effort.

Northern front (Norway)

The Germans invaded Norway (April 1940) and after a briuef fight the British abd French withdrew (June 1940). A major resistance campaign did not develop. As im the rest of Western Europe, German brutality discouraged active an active combat resistance. Despite this the Germans maintained an occupation force of sone 0.5 milliom people in Norway. This does not included the far north where the Eastern Front fighting spilled over. Norway with a populztion under 3 million people was the most heavily occupied country during World War II in terms of ocupation forces divided by country population. The Germans commited several hundred thousand men to occupying Norway, eventually some 0.5 million troops, includng the Heer, Luftwaffe, and Kriegsmarine. The German garison included 6,000 SS troops commanded by Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Rediess. The ratio was an incredible one German soldier for every six Norwegians. Norway had a strateh=gic importbce, but this level of occupation defies understanding. Hitler was intent bon holding Norway and kept this hige occupationforce there to the end of the War.

Air war

Battle of the Atlantic

Service Compments


The Heer or army was Germany's senior secice. We believe that as low as 30 precent of Germany war industry was devoted to the Heer. As a result because only the Heer was primarily devoted to the East. The actaly industrial allocation would have been less than 30 percent, probaly aome like 20 oercent or less. German For most of Prussian/German history the Heer was the only service and all the great victories in German history were vachieved by the Heer. The Kriegsmarine was a huge disappointment in World War I. The air service had some heros but eventually was shot out the skies by the Allies. Not only was the Heer the senior sevice in World War II, but the great bulk of German manpower was devoted to the Heer. And it would be the Heer that would have to win or loose the War on the Eastern Front withh very limited assistamce from the either the Kriegsmarine or the Luftwaffe. While German manpower was largely committed in the East, less of German industry and technological development was devoted to supporting the Heer effort in the East. Actually with the huge successes of Barbarossa in the East, Hitler and OKW concluded that the war there had been won (September 1941). They were anxious to get back at Britain and have another crack at the Royal Air Force. One sources who I have been discussing this issue repoerts, "Actually, from the summer of 1941 there was a sharp pivot from the Heer to the Luftwaffe in production priorities -- the assumption was that the war with the USSR would be short and victorious and the Heer's equipment and supplies would be sufficient to conquer the East and keep it secured, while the longer-term strategic concern was the coming air war with Britain and the United States. [Adam] His assessment is part based on a detailed study of the NAZI economy. Tooze points out that the decisions made in the summer of 1941 explain the production increases, especially aircraft production, in 1943 1nd 1944 [Tooze, pp. 451-52.] Another source also maintains that Heer overall, let alone the Ostheer, received only a samll portion of German's industreial output. He writes, "The German Army never received more than 20 percent of Germany's armament output for ALL its weapons and equipment, whether on the eastern Front or elsewhere. Example: until 1943 the complete AFV program (incl armored cars, armored personnel carriers, tanks, assault guns etc) received 4 percent. The German Navy, after 1940 mostly for Uboats, was at nearly 11 percent. By far the largest component was for 'aircraft' (which includes flak, radar, et.c as they were under Luftwaffe control), where the west dominated completely. The answer is surprising to some, but the west ate up the majority of German industrial effort (not even counting the damage done by the strategic bombing campaign). [Allen] One matter that needs to be computed is that most German tanks were deployed and used in the West (1939-40). Deployment as prinarily in the East (1941-43). The peak year for tank construction was in 1944 -- nearly 8,000 tanks. [German ...] Deployment was, however, no longer primarily in the East. Preparation for the Allied cross-Channel invasion, the fighting in France, and the Bulge offensive meant that large numbers of 1944 prodution went to the German forces in the West.


The Krigsmarine or navy was the junior service. I had initially estimated that the Kriegmarine consumed only about 10 percent of the German war industry. It now looks like 20 percent is closer to the fact. Almost all of this was devoted to the war in the West, primarily the Battle of the Atlantic. There was was some naval action in the East (Baltic and Black Sea), but this was minor compared to the Atlantic. And a important part of German activity in the Baltic was fitting out ships and crews for operations in the Atlantic. The Germans built some massive battle ships such as Bismark (50,000 tons and (52,000 tons). Hitler gave a high priority to U-boat construction aftervearly successes. And even after the U-boat threat was defeated (July 1943), immense resources were devoted to developing the advanced Type-21 Electroboat.


The Luftwaffe or air force was the second most important service and had great priority, in part because Goering was the head of the Luftwaffe giving it a major advantage in priority. The Luftwaffe may have consumed 50 percentnof German war production. That is an extrodnarily high portion. And I would like to see further confirmation on this. And except for Barbarossa (June-December 1941), the Luftwaffe was primarily deployed in the West. As soon as the Strategic Bombing Campaign began in force, much of the Luftwaffe was pulled back to defend German cities. This meant that something like 35 percent of the German industrial effort was devoted to the West just considering the air war. Often cited is the German production increases in 1943-44. It is important to note that much of that increae was in aircraft constuction. One author suggests that at least 55 percent, but even 60 percent of German war production was the air war. [O'Brien] With all efforts including V-weapons and concrete and steel construction prjects, the air war hare may have exceeded 60 percent. Anoter historian writes, "And [the view] has become too dominated by the Eastern Front. Forty-eight percent of German [economic] output was diverted to the Luftwaffe in 1944, not to fighting the Eastern Front. And the Luftwaffe was predominately taking on the Western allies. So I think a realignment is required." [Holland] Now if that was the case, given the dispositioin of Heer and Kriegdsmarine in the West, it ould nean that tht the Ost Heer was getting much less than hakf if German war production, perhaps only about a third.


Artillery was an important part of the war and is mostly associted with armies. This was the case thoughout history, although navies gradually aquired artillery as well. German artillery in World War II was very different. It was not mostly used by the Heer as most readers probably assume. We do not yet have a good assessment of what proportion of German industrial production was devoted to artillery. Now you might might think that most of this committed in the east. But actually huge artillery impalements called flak batteries were created around all important German cities to send up flak against Allied bombers. Now I do not have a lot of data, but know that the majority of German 88s were committed to these flak batteries. And thefe were some 39,000 of these batteries meaning and enormous deployment of artilleri pieces. [Boog, pp. 204-14.] This may have meant some 200,000 artillery pieces. And given the Allied bombers came day and night using up a huge quantity of ammunition. An artillery piece in the field was not in constant action. Depending on the piece they were often hidden and camoflauged which meant that they might go for days without firing a single shot.

Wunderwaffe/Wonder Weapons

The Germans devoted huge resources into their Wunderwaffe (wonder weapons) like the V-weapons and jet aircraft. The weapons were given significant priorities. We do not know what proportion of the German war economy was devoted to the development and production of these weapons. They had minimal impact on the war, but substantial resources were devoted to developing them. They required scarse material resources as well as many highly skilled scientists and technicians also in short. We would say at a minimum these programs required 5 percent of the German war economy and were almost entirely devoted to the war in the West. Many were to be fird from emplacements in the Atlantic Wall, but the strategic bombing effortbcaused that plan to fail.

Construction Projects

NAZU Germany completed a range of important construction projecrs, most as might be expected were military projexts. And most were oriented toward the war in the West. The best known NAZI construction program was the Autobahn. This as the one project that did not have a military purpose. The primary NAZI military transport system was the Reichbahn--the rail system. Ironically the primary military use of the Autobahn was in the final 2 months of the War by the hevily motorized U.S. Army. It is no accident that it would be President Eisenhower who would sponsor the American Inter-State Highway System a decade after the War. The other major NAZI construction projects were all military. Hitler and Speer would spend hours planning gigantic architectural projects. In the end his war and mass ethnic killing would take presedence. Before the War, the Germans built the West Wall, their version of the French Maginot Line. It was not as elaborate ast the Maginot Line, but was a sizeable effort. After the War began, the major construction projecs were all in the West: the Atlantic Wall, stretching from Norway south to Spain, wonder weapon emplacements, massive U-Boat pens in French ports, and flak towers in German cities. The Atlantic Wall alone required 1.2 million tons of steel. (Steel production is commonly used as a primary metric of industrial power.) That 1.2 million tons is close to the quantity of steel used to build all of the German panzers--includung the massive Tigers. In the East, the Germans were more interested in destroying than construction. The only major effort we can think of is rail lines. The Soviet rail gage lines had to be replaced with German gage lines.

Land War in General

Now as to the land war in general. It has to be remembered that the Soviets were a NAZI ally (1939-41). So ALLl the land campaign against the Germans was the Western Allies until well into the War (June 1941). And beginning with D-Day (June 1944), the Allied land contribution became an important part of the overall land campaign on the Continent. We are not sure how to compute that in numerical terms, but it is obviously more than 10 percent when calculated in manpower--German military deaths. Now we do not say this to minimize Soviet contribytionn to the defeat of the NAZIs. It was obviously enormous deaths. We are not sure how that could have been accomplished with out the Red Army ripping the heart out of the Whermacht in the East. We say it to refute the idea often expressed by Russians and left-wing Americans on the internet that the contribution of the Western Allies was minimal.


Adam, Paul. Royal Navy, Quora post (August 14, 2019).

Allen, Gordon. Quota post (August 15, 2019).

Boog, H. Luftwaffenführung.

Hollamd, James. Interbviewd by Rob Mudge, "World War II: 'Patterns of human behavior repeat themselves," DW Wensite (July 5, 2020).

Frieser, Karl-Heinz. The Blitzkrieg Legend: The Campaign in the West (Naval nstitute Press: Anapolis, 2005). The original German editioin was published in 1996.

Glantz and House. Several books are ivolved. David M. Glantz and Jonathan M. House. (2015). When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler Modern War Studies (second ed.) (University Press of Kansas: 2015), pp. 301–303. Earlier editiions. Glantz and House. (1998, p. 107). Glantz and House (1995), p. 68.

O'Brien, Phillips Payson. How the War Was Won: Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in (Cambridge Military Histories: 2015). World War II is often depicted as a titanic land battle, largely decided by land armoes, the mot imprtant being the Eastern Front in Europe. O'Brien has a completely different view giving more emphasis to the air and naval war.

Smith, Meredith. "The civilian experience in German occupied France, 1940-1944," History Honors Paper (Conncticut College: (2010).

Tooze, Adam. The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of th Nazi Economy (Penguin Group: New York, 2007), 800p.

USSBS Survey Board of Experts. "Germany and the Second World War", United States Strategic Bombing Survey(USSBS) Vol. 5. A majority of the Survey Board's members were civilians in positions of influence on the various committees of the survey. Only one position of some influence was given to a prominent military officer, USAAF General Orvil A. Anderson, and that too in an advisory capacity.

Weinberg, Gerhard L. A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II (Cambrige Universit Press: New York, 2005), 1178p.

"Germans arms production" WW2 Weapons.


Navigate the CIH World War II Section:
[Return to Main German World War II industry page]
[Return to Main German industry page]
[Return to Main German World War II page]
[Return to Main German World War II home front page]
[Return to Main country homefront page]
[Return to Main World War II displaced children page]
[About Us]
[Aftermath] [Biographies] [Campaigns] [Children] [Countries] [Deciding factors] [Diplomacy] [Geo-political crisis] [Economics] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[Military forces] [POWs] [Resistance] [Race] [Refugees] [Technology] [Totalitarian powers]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War II page]
[Return to Main war essay page]
[Return to CIH Home page]

Created: 4:30 AM 8/13/2019
Last updated: 6:32 PM 4/23/2021