Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
automobile, nazi, economics, Volkswagen
This thesis examines the benefits and drawbacks of Nazi centralized economic planning. From an entirely political and economical standpoint, Hitler and the National Socialists’ highly regulated and restrictive policies were initially beneficial for Germany because they created a centralized economic vision and improved national morale. The liberal ideology of the Weimar Republic resulted in major class divisions within the nation, where laissez-faire economics left middle-citizens marginalized and at the mercy of profit-seeking big businesses. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 exposed the weaknesses of liberalism and resulted in a massive rise in political resentment. The regime accumulated power because their economic plan was anti-capitalist and aimed at benefiting the entire German collective. The party continuously promoted the idea of Volksgemeinschaft, which was a plan to create a strong and unified German community. Many German industrial businesses opposed the regime’s rise to power because their policies limited business freedom. Volkswagen, Bosch GmbH, and IG Farben are three companies that exemplify the pros and cons of Nazi centralization and the effect their policies had on the national economy. The party attacked the nation’s economic crisis by creating and subsidizing projects in the nation’s automotive sector because Hitler believed a nation’s standard of living could be measured by how many citizens owned a motorcar. Thus they created huge public works projects, such as the Autobahn and Volkswagen, to alleviate the labor crisis and improve the nation’s transportation sector. Volkswagen was a massive project entirely sponsored by the state that aimed to make the motorcar a basic good owned by all German citizens. It was a piece of Hitler’s Volksprodukt campaign that was supposed to help Germany become a richer consumer society. The nation’s automotive sector was also improved by the regime when they offered tax deductions for companies willing to participate in motorization projects. The incentive motivated private businesses to become involved in the nation’s vision and led many companies to greatly prosper, such as Bosch GmbH. As Germany’s automotive sector developed, the regime began promoting policies that would strengthen the nation on a macroeconomic level. In 1936 the NSDAP announced the Four Year Plan, a policy that hoped to make the nation entirely independent and self-sufficient in four years’ time. The party supported private businesses that bought into this vision, which prompted many companies to form close relations with the party. IG Farben, for instance, greatly benefited under Nazi rule because it rearranged its business to concentrate on the research and development of synthetic alternatives. Nazi centralized economic planning had Germany on course to not only become one of the most powerful nations in Europe, but the world. The Third Reich’s system eventually deservedly failed because it denied basic freedoms to private businesses and citizens and committed atrocious acts to races deemed inferior. Political centralization allowed the regime to accumulate too much power, leading to demands that the entire nation share their vision. Private businesses lost independence and were coerced to participate in national projects. In addition, Nazi law infringed on citizens’ civil liberties since the party had the power to imprison, fine, or kill anyone that opposed their ideology. Nazi centralization ultimately failed when they began using their power and authority to exterminate Jews and other innocent races. Volkswagen, IG Farben, and Bosch GmbH are three companies that help demonstrate the benefits and drawbacks of Nazi centralized economic planning and the effect it had on industrial Germany.
Stinchfield, Andrew, "Automobiles Autarky and Authority: The Effects of Nazi Centralized Economic Planning 1932-1942" (2013). Honors Theses. 738.