Wartime Economy Under Speer

Mobilisation of Economy for War

Germany had been preparing for war since the introduction of the Four Year Plan, but did not reach a full state of mobilisation until 1942. Although the German army had shortages, these did not impact them until 1941 as forces became stretched with war in the Mediterranean and Operation Barbarossa. Hitler had not anticipated war would begin in 1939 and this was one reason for shortages. Armaments production suffered from structural weaknesses, as production needed for the different weapons for the different branches was expensive and required skilled labour. Goering also lacked the political, economic and technical knowledge to carry out the Four Year Plan effectively. Albert Speer, appointed Armaments Minister in 1942 described Goering as incompetent.

Work of Speer

Hitler recognised the need for more rationalisation of industry by 1941. It was only when the Armaments Minister was killed in a plane crash in 1942, and was replaced by Albert Speer, that any effective action was taken to improve German armaments production. Under Speer, they centrally coordinated the allocation of labour, equipment and materials and used fewer factories, with more mass production techniques, and shift work to ensure 24 hour production.

Impact of Bombing

Between May 1942 and 1945 the allies carried out a sustained bombing offensive against Germany’s industrial capacity and civilian morale. Speer’s production gains happened despite heavy bombing. Although the bombing did have an impact on production, they managed to keep producing throughout it.

Mobilisation of Labour Force

The outbreak of war led to an increase of those conscripted into the army. At the same time, there was a need to increase the production of armaments. With a limited supply of men, they ensured that only non-essential labourers were sent to the frontline and used foreign labour in the factories. HItler was opposed to using women for labour, so did things like shut small businesses and transferred the employees to factories.

Use of Foreign Labour

From June 1940-1942 foreign workers came mainly from occupied countries in Western Europe. After the invasion of the USSR, there was an increase in the number of prisoners of war, and Hitler agreed that they could be used as slave labour.

In what ways did Hitler mobilise the labour force without using women?
Your answer should include: Shutting Businesses / Transferring Employees / Keeping Workers / Frontline / Foreign Labour
Explanation: Shutting non-essential businesses and transferring employees, keeping essential workers off the frontline, and using foreign labour.
When did slave labour increase?
Your answer should include: Invasion / USSR
Explanation: After the invasion of the USSR.