[Marxism] Did Nazi rule benefit the German people?

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at berkeley.edu
Thu Dec 21 11:05:03 MST 2006

  Lke Goetz Aly, Maurice Dobb highlighted the NAZI
manipulation of exchange rates (I wonder whether 
Aly was influenced by older English language 

"Appeasers and pro-NAZIS pointed to the fact, 
that Germany was helping these [Southern 
European, Rumania, Yugo-Slavia] countries to 
export by maintaining a so-called 'unfavorable' 
balance of trade and devaluing their currencies 
as evidence of the Quixotic role of Germany 
towards her
neighbors.  Certainly it was a complete inversion 
of traditional ideas of trade and finance. 
Whereas countries in recent years had competed to 
depreciate their currencies on the foreign 
exchange in order to stimulate exports by 
cheapening their prices abroad, here was Germany 
pursuing the goal of overvaluing her currency 
abroad!  Instead of a mercantilist worship of 
export surpluses, here was Germany encouraging 
import-surpluses in her relations with the 
agricultural countries of South-Eastern Europe. 
What did it all mean?  The whole thing only made 
sense when seen as a coordinated system of 
exploitation.  Then the answer was simple enough. 
The import-surpluses representing something for 
nothing in Germany's favor. The policy of 
over-valuing the Reichsmark on foreign exchanges 
was a monopoly policy of turning the terms of 
trade (i.e. ratio of imports to exports) in 
Germany's favor."  "Aspects of NAZI Economic 
Policy", Science and Society, vol. VIII, no 2 
(Spring 1944): 101

Evans's summary of Aly below:

At this point in the argument, Aly's exposition 
becomes quite technical and very hard-going for 
the reader, with a plethora of figures and 
calculations of tax burdens and exchange rates; 
but its broad outlines are clear enough. In every 
country they occupied, the Nazis either 
introduced a new currency or fixed exchange rates 
so that German soldiers, administrators and 
others could use a strong reichsmark to buy up 
goods cheaply and send them back home to their 
families. Buying goods abroad also helped control 
inflation at home. Special credit arrangements 
were made to assist in this process, and German 
troops in other countries were specifically 
allowed to receive money from their families at 
home to spend on goods they could not get in 
Aly cites to dramatic effect the correspondence 
of a number of German soldiers who described with 
enthusiasm what they were buying and sending back 
to their families, among them the young Heinrich 
Böll, who many years later was awarded the Nobel 
Prize for Literature for his novels and stories. 
"I've got half a suckling pig for you," he 
announced triumphantly to his family just before 
coming home on leave in 1940. After the regime 
lifted restrictions on how much could be sent 
home in this way, the number of packages sent 
from France to Germany by military post ran at 
more than 3 million a month. Soldiers' pay was 
increased toward the end of 1940 explicitly in 
order to help them pay for the foreign goods 
their families desperately needed.

At home, taxes on the general population were 
kept as low as possible in order to avoid 
discontent, while business was taxed more 
heavily, not least on the grounds that this would 
not incur the wrath of the population at large. 
Elaborate welfare arrangements and benefits were 
put in place to insure that families did not 
suffer while their principal breadwinner was away 
on military service. More important, occupied 
Eastern Europe was subjected to a ruthless policy 
of exploitation and expropriation, in which 
foodstuffs were seized in vast quantities from 
the granaries of the Ukraine to feed the 
population at home, while more than 3.5 million 
Soviet prisoners of war were deliberately left to 
die of disease and starvation, and German war 
plans envisaged up to 30 million or in some 
versions 50 million Slavic civilians perishing in 
the same way. A similar policy was put into 
effect as soon as the German Army occupied 
Greece, with huge quantities of food being 
shipped home while Athens succumbed to a famine 
of terrible dimensions.

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