World War II German Military Weaknesses: Natural Resources / Strategic Materials -- Coal


Figure 1.--

Germany lacked virtually every natural resource needed by an industrial nation. The one critical resource Germany possessed in some abundance was coal. The Ruhr Valley is located in the central part of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia at here were located major coal deposits. The Ruhr region in western Germany thus became the core of the German industrial powerhouse that developed in the mid-19th century. The Ruhr was not the only place in Germany that had coal deposits, but the bulk of the contry's coal was located in the Ruhr. The first coal was mined in Germany (12th century). Coal mining only became important in the 19th century with the Industrial Revolution. This transformed the mining regions of the Ruhr Valley and neighboring Saarland into the industrial hearr of Germany and of Europe itself. It propelled Prussia's unification of Germany as Austria failed to industrialize. Germany at the turn of the 20th century was one of the the world's chief miner of coal, after only the United States and Britain (1900). Coal powered German industry and the rail trnsport system. It was the primary fuel for home heating. And with the advent of electrification, coal powered German generators. Germany was basically self-sufficent in coal, but it was not an important exporter. German industry required almost all of the production of German mines. This was a factor in World War I. German industry was dependent on imports, but not for fuel. The War was fought before oil and the internal combustion engine had become critical to warfare, although the lack of oil affected German air, naval, and mechanized warfare (tanks and trucks). World War II was very different. To wage war, Hitler neded oil, coal wold not due. Coal was vital for industry, but oil was needed for military operations. Ironically, while Germany had most of the coal it needed for domestic industry, the Wehrmacht's stunning industry caused an energy crisis. While German had coal, two developments emerged. First, domestic demand for coal increased because of the War. Second many of the countries Germany conquered or came to influence did not have coal or the quntity they needed. This was espeially the case of Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, but even France needed to import some coal. Most of the coal they had been importing before the War came from Britain, primarily the Welsh coalfields. Thus if the Germans wanted the economies of these contries to contine to operate and support the war effort, they had to supply coal from domestic production. Ths created a fuel shortage in Germany that did not exist before the War. The operation of the German Grossraum actualy worsened the energy situation in the Reich. The Germans even had to share some of their precious oil supply for the same reason. The operation of the captive economies varied in importance. The functioning of the Swedish economy was vital because Sweden was Germany's primary source of the iron ore needed to manufacture steel. German technology devloped a synfuel indstry to convert coal to petroleum products. This along with the Ploesti oil fields were German's primary sources of oil after Soviet deliveries ended after the Barbarossa invasion (1941).

German Coal Resource

Germany lacked virtually every natural resource needed by an industrial nation. The one critical resource Germany possessed in some abundance was coal. The Ruhr Valley is located in the central part of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia at here were located major coal deposits. The Ruhr was not the only place in Germany that had coal deposits, but the bulk of the contry's coal was located in the Ruhr. The first coal was mined in Germany (12th century). Germany at the turn of the 20th century was one of the the world's chief miner of coal, after only the United States and Britain (1900).

German Coal Mining

Germay produced more coal than any other country in Europe. More or less comparable to American production. Germany produced about 185,000 tons (t) of hard coal and 185,000 t of brown (lignite) coal. Thus Germany produced more coal than Britain, but less of the more vsluable hard cols. Britain produced about 231,000 t of hard coal which is has much more rnergy value lan brown coal. France only produced about 48,000 t of hard coal. The Soviets produced about 115,000 t of hard coal and 19,000 t of brown coal. The Germans not only produced large quantities of coal, but they were highly efficent producers. German mines were the most highly mechanized in Europe. This enabked them to out compete other European coal producers. The German coal output per man-hour exceeded that of Great Britain by one-third and was double that of neigboring France and Belgium. [USSBS, p. 91.] Germany did not, however, dominate the export trde in Europe. The coal imn minded went to supply th domestuc market. German production of coal increased with the early war victories. Coal mines in Czechoslovakia and Poland and smal improvmnts domestic expoansionm enabled the Germans to reach nearly 270 million tons of hard coal in 1944 [USSBS, p. 92.]

Importance

Coal was the resource on which German's industrial economy was based. Coal provided 90 percent of Germany’s energy consumption.

The Ruhr: German Industrial Powerhouse

Coal mining only became important in the 19th century with the Industrial Revolution. This transformed the mining regions of the Ruhr Valley and neighboring Saarland into the industrial hearr of Germany and of Europe itself. The Ruhr region in western Germany thus became the core of the German industrial powerhouse that developed in the mid-19th century and it was fueled by Ruhr coal mines.

Historical Importance

Ruhr coal propelled Prussia's unification of Germany as Austria failed to industrialize.

Usage

Coal powered German industry and the rail trnsport system. It was the primary fuel for home heating. And with the advent of electrification, coal powered German generators.

Self Sufficency

Germany was basically self-sufficent in coal, but it was not an important exporter like Britain. What German miners produced went to supply the domestic market of the Reich. This woukd prive to be problem as the War prigressed. To get the ecomomies of countries they conquered or infkuenbced to work, the Germans had to replace the coal those counties had been imprting from Britain. German's inability to fully replace the defeciit is ionecreasion thar production plummeted in occuoplied countrues.

World War I

German industry required almost all of the production of German mines. Coal was a factor in World War I. German industry was dependent on imports, but not for fuel. The War was fought before oil and the internal combustion engine had become critical to warfare, although the lack of oil affected German air, naval, and mechanized warfare (tanks and trucks). German olans to build a Berlin to Bagdad railway was in fact prompted by the desire to obtain a secure supply of oil.

World War II

World War II was very different. To wage war, Hitler neded oil, coal wold not due. Coal was vital for industry, but oil was needed for military operations. Ironically, while Germany had most of the coal it needed for domestic industry, the Wehrmacht's stunning industry caused an energy crisis. While German had coal, two developments emerged. First, domestic demand for coal increased because of the War. Second many of the countries Germany conquered or came to influence did not have coal or the quntity they needed. This was espeially the case of Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, but even France needed to import some coal. Most of the coal they had been importing before the War came from Britain, primarily the Welsh coalfields. Thus if the Germans wanted the economies of these contries to contine to operate and support the war effort, they had to supply coal from domestic production. Ths created a fuel shortage in Germany that did not exist before the War. The operation of the German Grossraum actualy worsened the energy situation in the Reich. The Germans even had to share some of their precious oil supply for the same reason. The operation of the captive economies varied in importance. The functioning of the Swedish economy was vital because Sweden was Germany's primary source of the iron ore needed to manufacture steel. German technology devloped a synfuel indstry to convert coal to petroleum products. This along with the Ploesti oil fields were German's primary sources of oil after Soviet deliveries ended after the Barbarossa invasion (1941).

Synfuels

Coal could not, hoeever, drive tanks, U-Boats, and aurcraft. For that the Wehrmacy needed oil. But oil could be produced from coal leading to a whole new industry--synfuels. German scientists taking advantage of Germany's one great natural resource developed a method to chemically synthesize liquid petroleum from the one hydrocarbon they had -- coal. Germany dominated the pre-War chemocal industry. Friedrich Bergius developed the process, inventing the first such oricess-- a high-pressure coal hydrogenation (1910). He and other German scientists gradually improved on the process. Bergius began working with Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Coal Research (KWI) in Mülheim. This was part of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute, Germany's premier scientific institute. (Today it is known as the more politically cirrect Max Planck Indtitute. They dicovered a second coal conversion process, known as the Fisher-Tropsch (F-T) procss. Using both processes, the Germans established the world's first technologically successful synthetic liquid fuel industry. [Stranges, p.13.] German chemical giant IG Farben played a major in the German Synfuel program. The first plant was built at Leuna (1927). The synfuel program did not provide Germn the oil it needed, but i provided a vitl addition to the oil that the Germans were cable toi get their hands on. It vame, however, at an emormous cost. The average F-T plnt cost were about RM 30 million ($75 million). And operating the plants were a lot more costly than pumping oil out of the ground -- exponentially higher. The average manufacturing cost for a barrel of synthetic oil was between RM 32-45 ($13-18). Processed fuel values averaged 23-26 pfennig per kg (approximately 31-44 cents per ∴ gallon. [Stranges, 13-18.] A barrel of crude oil traded for 93 cents on the U.S. commodities exchange (December 1939) And a gallon of regular gasoline sold for 13 cents at New York City service station. [FRASER]

Sources

Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research (FRASER), “Survey of current business statistics: 1940” Website: http://fraser.stlouisfed.org/publications/business_stats/issue/136/download/1105/fuels.pd

Stranges, Anthony. "A history of the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis in Germany 1926-1945” Presentation at the 2005 Spring National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, San Diego, CA. Published in B.H. Davis and M.L. Occelli (ed) Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis, Catalysts and Catalysis (Elsevier, B.V., 2007).

The United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS). The Effects of Strategic Bombing on the German War Economy.







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Created: 1:31 PM 12/26/2018
Last updated: 1:31 PM 12/26/2018