World War II: German Industry

World war II German industry
Figure 1.--German in the 1930s had the largest industrial establishment in Europe. It was not, however, a fully mechanized industrial nation. Few farmers or workers had cars. Here we see a German family, probably a farm family, coming to town. (Or could it be the village taxi?) Notice the complete lack of vehicles on the street. Put your cursor on the image for a close-up of the family. This was in sharp contrast to the United States. Will Rogers famously said about the Depression, "America is the first country to ever go to the poor house in the autmobile." That industrial inbalance would doom Germany's ability to wage mechanized, mobile war. America not only fully supplied its own mobile armies, but helped supply the Soviets, British, and other Allies.

Germany even after World War I had the largest industrial establishment in Europe. It was that industry that was the backbone of the Central Ppwers war effort. The War had not been fought on German territory and except for the Saarland and Rhineland, Germany was not occupied by the Allies. Germany did loose some territory as a result of the Versailles Peace Treaty, but the country's industrial complex was left largely intact. The country's scientific establishment supporting that industry was also intact. The strength of that establishment can be seen by the number of Noble Prizes German scientists were awarded, One loss to German's industrial capacity was the disolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This meant that the Skoda arms complex was now in Czechosolvakia, a new independent democratic country, orieted toward Britain and France. While Germany remained the most important industrial country in Europe, one area that Germany did not persue intensively was the automobile industry. Germany of course had some notable automobile manufacturers (Mercedes and Porch), they did not mass produce cars like American automobile companies (Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Stutabaker, and others). The average german worker could not afford cars, especially the expensive cars made by German manufactuers. There were also weaknesses in the German industrial economy, the need to import raw materials. The most notable being petroleum. Nor did Germany have anywhere near the capability to build aircraft that its poptential opponents have. Imperial Germany in World War I did not have the same indistrial capability of the Allies--even before America entered the War. The industrial ballance of power was even less favorable for NAZI Germany as Hitler comtemplated another war. The Germany that the NAZIs seized control of was by any objective assessment not a country capable of wageing another world war. Only a leader patholically commotted to war would have contemplted such a decission. Germany would go to war with essentially the same industrial and scientific complex of Imperial Germany (the NAZIs did little to expand either). Yet the countries they would wage war against had greatly expanded their industrial and scientific complexes. The relative industrial ballance between Germany and the Allies (Britain and France) did not change appreciably in the inter-War era. What did change was the industrial capacity of the two European outriders--the Soviet Union and the United States. Tsarist Russia in World War I did not have the industrial capacity to properly equip its spldiers. The Soviet Union did. American had greatly expanded its industrial capacity. And one area that grew out of all prortion to Germany was the automoble industry--particularly important in a modern mechanized war.

Assessing War Economies

Assessing a c country's bility to make war is a very complicated undertaking involving a large number of variables. It is possible, however, to get a good rough idea by looking at the production of a few critical materials: steel, aluminium, and oil. Steel is the single most important material in the production of araments. Aluminium is needed for the production of aircraft. Oil is required for wageing mobil war. No country could have maintained a major war effort without these three materials.

German Industry

Germany even after World War I had the largest industrial establishment in Europe. It was that industry that was the backbone of the Central Ppwers war effort. The War had not been fought on German territory and except for the Saarland and Rhineland, Germany was not occupied by the Allies. Germany did loose some territory as a result of the Versailles Peace Treaty, but the country's industrial complex was left largely intact. The country's scientific establishment supporting that industry was also intact. The strength of that establishment can be seen by the number of Noble Prizes German scientists were awarded, One loss to German's industrial capacity was the disolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This meant that the Skoda arms complex was now in Czechosolvakia, a new independent democratic country, orieted toward Britain and France. While Germany remained the most important industrial country in Europe, one area that Germany did not persue intensively was the automobile industry. Germany of course had some notable automobile manufacturers (Mercedes and Porch), they did not mass produce cars like American automobile companies (Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Stutabaker, and others). The average german worker could not afford cars, especially the expensive cars made by German manufactuers. There were also weaknesses in the German industrial economy, the need to import raw materials. The most notable being petroleum. Nor did Germany have anywhere near the capability to build aircraft that its poptential opponents have. Imperial Germany in World War I did not have the same indistrial capability of the Allies--even before America entered the War. The industrial ballance of power was even less favorable for NAZI Germany as Hitler comtemplated another war. The Germany that the NAZIs seized control of was by any objective assessment not a country capable of wageing another world war. Only a leader patholically commotted to war would have contemplted such a decission. Germany would go to war with essentially the same industrial and scientific complex of Imperial Germany (the NAZIs did little to expand either). A good snapshot of of German industrial capacity in 1940 has been compiled at the Panzerworld site: Raw material production.

Achievements of NAZI Diplomacy


Axis Allies

NAZI Germany's two major allies were Italy and Japan. Italy had a small steel industry, but small coal reserves limited steel production. Italian industry concentrated on specialty steel. The country had virtualy no oil production. Japan had the largest steel industry in Asia, but prodiction was a fraction of that of the mjor European countries and America. Japan was completeky depedenant on imports to fulfil its oil needs. And in 1940 was importing its oil from the United States.

Allied and Soviet Capabilities

Yet the countries they would wage war against had greatly expanded their industrial and scientific complexes. The relative industrial ballance between Germany and the Allies (Britain and France) did not change appreciably in the inter-War era. What did change was the industrial capacity of the two European outriders--the Soviet Union and the United States. Tsarist Russia in World War I did not have the industrial capacity to properly equip its soldiers. The Soviet Union did. American had greatly expanded its industrial capacity. And one area that grew out of all prortion to Germany was the automoble industry--particularly important in a modern mechanized war.

Soviet Capabilities

Soviet capabilities have to be considered separatly from those of the Allies. This is because the Soviet Union began World War II as a NAZI slly. Both countries invaded Poland (1939). The Soviets also alltacked Finland (1939). They then annext the Baltic Republics (Estonia, Lativia, and Lithuania). They then seized a substantial area of Romania (1940). As part of the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agreession pact, the Soviets shipped lrge uantities of critical raw materials to Germany (1939-41). Only after the NAZI invasion (June 1941) did the Siviet Union join the war against Germany.

Allied Capability

The United States was the largest producer of steel even before World War I. American had greatly expanded its industrial capacity. And one area that grew out of all prortion to Germany was the automoble industry--particularly important in a modern mechanized war.






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Created: 8:04 PM 1/12/2008
Last updated: 5:59 AM 2/18/2013