|Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume 1|
|Prev||Chapter 8. CHAPTER VIII - ECONOMIC ASPECTS OF THE CONSPIRACY||Next|
It must be emphasized that the secret rearmament program was launched immediately upon the seizure of power by the Nazi conspirators. On 4 April 1933 the Reich Cabinet passed a resolution establishing a Reich Defense Council. The function of this council was secretly to mobilize for war. At the second meeting of the working committee of the Councillors for Reich Defense, the predecessor of the Reich Defense Council, which was held on 22 May 1933, the chairman was Keitel. Keitel stated that the Reich Defense Council would immediately undertake to prepare for war emergency. He stressed the urgency of the task of organizing a war economy, and announced that the council stood ready to brush aside all obstacles. Fully aware of the fact that their action was in flagrant violation of the Treaty of Versailles, Keitel emphasized the extreme importance of absolute secrecy:
"No document ought to be lost, since otherwise it may fall into the hands of the enemies' intelligence service. Orally transmitted, matters are not provable; they can be denied by us in Geneva." (EC-177)
The singleness of purpose with which the Nazi conspirators geared the German economy to the forging of a war machine is further shown by the secret minutes of the second meeting of the working committee of the Reich Defense Council, held on 7 February 1934. At this meeting at which Capt. Schmundt, Col. Guderian, Maj. Gen. von Reichenau, Maj. Warlimont, and Jodl-then a Lt. Col.-were present, Lieutenant-General Beck pointed out that:
"The actual state of preparation is the purpose of this session." (EC-404)
Detailed measures of financing a future war were discussed and it was pointed out that the financial aspects of the war economy would be regulated by the Reich Finance Ministry and the Reichsbank, which was headed by Schacht. (EC-404)
Under his secret appointment as plenipotentiary-General of the War Economy, Schacht had the express function of placing all economic forces of the nation in the services of the Nazi war machine. The secret defense law of 21 May 1935 in effect gave Schacht charge of the entire war economy. In case of war he was to be virtual economic dictator of Germany. His task was to place all economic forces into service for the conduct of war and to secure economically the life of the German people. The Ministers of Economics, Food, Agriculture, Labor, and Forestry, as well as all Reich agencies directly under the Fuehrer, were subordinated to him. He was to be responsible for the financing as well as for the conduct of the war; and he was further authorized to issue ordinances within his sphere of responsibility, even if these deviated from existing laws. (2261-PS)
The rearmament of Germany proceeded at a rapid pace. By summer of 1935 the Nazi conspirators were emboldened to make plant for the reoccupation of the Rhineland, and at the tenth meeting of the working committee of the Council the question of measures to be taken in connection with the proposed reoccupation of the Rhineland was discussed.
At that meeting, on 26 June 1935, it was said that the Rhineland required special treatment because of the assurances given by Hitler to the French that no military action was being undertaken in the demilitarized zone. Among the matters requiring special treatment was the preparation of economic mobilization, a task specifically entrusted to Schacht as secret Plenipotentiary for the War Economy. In this connection it was stated:
"* * * Since political entanglements abroad must be avoided at present under all circumstances, only these preparatory measures that are urgently necessary may be carried out. The existence of such preparations, or the intention of them must be kept in strictest secrecy in the zone itself as well as in the rest of the Reich." (EC-405)
Preparations of various types were thereupon discussed.
The rapid success of German rearmament is attributable to the work of Schacht. In the fall of 1934, the Nazi conspirators announced the "New Plan", which aimed at the control of imports and exports in order to obtain the raw materials needed for armaments and the foreign currency required to sustain the armament program. The "New Plan" was the creation of Schacht. Under the plan, Schacht controlled imports by extending the system of supervisory boards for import control, which was previously limited to the main groups of raw materials, to all goods imported into Germany. The requirement of licenses for imports enabled the Nazi conspirators to restrict imports to those commodities which served their war aims.
Subsequently, in February 1935, the Devisen Law was passed (Reichsgesetzblatt 1935, I, 105). Under it, all transactions involving foreign exchange were subject to the approval of Devisenstellen (Foreign Exchange Control Offices). By thus controlling the disposition of foreign exchange, the conspirators were able to manipulate foreign trade so as to serve their ends.
Every aspect of the German economy was geared to war under the guidance of the Nazi conspirators, particularly Schacht. In a study of the economic mobilization for war as of 30 September 1934, it was stated that steps had already been taken to build up stock piles, to construct new facilities for the production of scarce goods, to redeploy industry to secure areas, and to control fiscal and trade policies. The task of stock piling, it was announced, had been hampered by the requirement of secrecy and camouflage. Reserves of automobile fuels and stocks of coal were accumulated, and the production of synthetic oil was accelerated. Civilian supply was purposely organized so that most plants would be working for the German Armed Forces. Studies were made of the possibility of barter trade with supposedly neutral countries in case of war. (EC-128)
Financing of the armament program presented a difficult problem for the conspirators. In 1934 and 1935, the German economy could by no possibility have raised funds for the Nazis' extensive rearmament program through taxes and public loans. From the outset, the armament program involved "the engagement of the last reserves." Moreover, apart from the problem of raising the huge sums required to sustain this program, the Nazi conspirators were exceedingly anxious, in the early stages, to conceal the extent of their armament activities.
After considering various techniques of financing the armament program, Schacht proposed the use of "mefo" bills. One of the primary advantages of this method was the fact that through its use figures indicating the extent of rearmament, which would have become public through the use of other methods, could be kept secret. "Mefo" bills were used exclusively for armament financing. Transactions in "mefo" bills worked as follows: "Mefo" bills were drawn by armament contractors and accepted by a limited liability company. The spelling of the word "mefo" is taken from the name of this company, Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft, m.b.h. (MEFO). This company had a nominal capital of one million Reichsmarks and was merely a dummy organization. The bills were received by all German banks for possible rediscounting with the Reichsbank. The bills were guaranteed by the Reich. Their secrecy was assured by the fact that they appeared neither in the published statements of the Reichsbank nor in the budget figures.
The "mefo" bill system continued to be used until 1 April 1938. Up to that date 12 billion Reichsmarks of "mefo" bills for the financing of rearmament had been issued. Since it was no longer deemed necessary to conceal the vast progress of German rearmament, "mefo" financing was discontinued at that time. (EC-436)
Further sources of funds upon which Schacht drew to finance the secret armament program were the funds of political opponents of the Nazi regime, and Marks of foreigners on deposit in the Reichsbank. As Schacht boasted in a memorandum to Hitler dated 3 May 1935:
"Our armaments are also financed partly with the credits of our political opponents." (1168-PS)
The outstanding "mefo" bills represented at all times a threat to the stability of the currency because they could be tendered to the Reichsbank for discount, in which case the currency circulation would automatically have to be increased. Thus, there was an ever-present threat of inflation. Schacht nevertheless continued on his course, because he stood with unswerving loyalty to the Fuehrer, because he fully recognized the basic idea of National Socialism, and because he felt that at the end, the disturbances, compared to the great task, could be considered irrelevant.
High-ranking military officers paid tribute to Schacht's contrivances on behalf of the Nazi war machine. An article written for the "Military Weekly Gazette" in January 1937 stated:
"The German Defense Force commemorates Dr. Schacht today as one of the men who have done imperishable things for it and its development in accordance with directions from the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor. The defense force owes it to Schacht's still and great ability that, in defiance of all currency difficulties it, according to plan, has been able to grow up to its present strength from an army of 100,000 men."
After the reoccupation of the Rhineland, the Nazi conspirators redoubled their efforts to prepare Germany for a major war. The Four Year Plan was proclaimed by Hitler in his address at the Nurnberg Party Convention on 9 September 1936. It was given a statutory foundation by the decree concerning the execution of the Four Year Plan dated 18 October 1936 (Reichsgesetzblatt 1936, I, 887). By this decree Goering was put in charge of the plan. He was authorized to enact any legal and administrative measures deemed necessary by him for the accomplishment of his task, and to issue orders and instructions to all government agencies, including the highest reich authorities. The purpose of the plan was to enable Nazi Germany to attain complete self-sufficiency in essential raw materials, notably motor fuel, rubber, textile fiber, and non-ferrous metals, and to intensify preparations for war. The development of synthetic products was greatly accelerated despite their high costs.
Apart from the self-sufficiency program, however, the Nazi conspirators required foreign exchange to finance propaganda and espionage activities abroad. Thus, in a speech on 1 November 1937 before the Wehrmachtakademie, General Thomas stated:
"If you consider that one will need during the war considerable means in order to organize the necessary propaganda, in order to pay for the espionage service, and for similar purposes, then one should be clear that our internal Mark would be of no use therefore, and that Foreign Exchange will be needed." (EC-14)
This need for foreign exchange was reduced in part by virtue of the espionage and propaganda services rendered free of charge to the Nazi state by leading German industrial concerns. A memorandum dated at Essen on 12 October 1935, which was found in the files of the Krupp company, contains the subheading: "Concerns:-distribution official propaganda literature abroad with help of our foreign connections." It goes on to say that on the morning of 11 October the district representative of the Ribbentrop Private Foreign Office, Dienststelle Ribbentrop, made an appointment by telephone with Mr. Lachman to arrive at an appointed time. The memorandum continues:
"In answer to my question, with whom I was dealing and which official bureau he represented, he informed me that he was not himself the district representative of Ribbentrop's Private Foreign Office, but that a Mr. Landrat Bollman was such and that he himself had come at Mr. Bollman's order." (D-206)
After discussing the confusion in the field of foreign propaganda, the memorandum stated that Ribbentrop's Foreign office is creating a private organization for foreign propaganda, and that for this purpose the support of the Krupp firm and especially an index of addresses are needed. This request received the following response:
"I informed Mr. Lachman that our firm has put itself years ago at the disposal of official bureaus for purposes of foreign propaganda, and that we had supported all requests addressed to us to the utmost." (D-206)
These activities are demonstrated by another document found in the files of the Krupp company. A memorandum prefaced by Herr Sonnenberg, on 14 October 1937, reports a meeting at Essen on 12 October 1937. The government's request for assistance in foreign intelligence activities met this response:
"on our part we undertook to supply information to the Combined Services Ministry (R.K.M.) as required." (D-167)
Meanwhile the conspirators' program of self-sufficiency was proceeding with great speed. The production of steel, for example, as shown in official German publication, rose as follows:
The production of gasoline increased at any even greater tempo: from 387,000 tons in 1934 to, 1,494,000 tons in 1938 (Statistical Yearbook of the German Reich, 1939-1942).
The Nazi conspirators pressed the completion of the armament program with a sense of urgency betraying their awareness of the imminence of war. At a meeting on 4 September 1936 Goering pointed out that "all measures have to be taken just as if we were actually in the state of imminent danger of war." He pointed out that:
"* * * if war should break out tomorrow we would be forced to take measures from which we might possibly still shy away at the present moment. They are therefore to be taken." (EC-416)
The extreme urgency was manifested by Goering?s remark that
"* * * existent reserves will have to be touched for the purpose of carrying us over this difficulty until the goal ordered by the Fuehrer has been reached; in case of war they are not a reliable backing in any case." (EC-416)
Schacht was advised by a top secret letter dated 31 August 1936 that Hitler ordered all formations of the air force to be ready by 1 April 1937. (1301-PS)
After their successes in Austria and the Sudetenland, the Nazi conspirators redoubled their efforts to equip themselves for the war of aggression which they planned to launch. In a conference on 14 October 1938, shortly before the Nazis made their first demands on Poland, Goering stated:
"* * * Everybody knows from the press what the world situation looks like, and therefore the Fuehrer has issued an order to him to carry out a gigantic program compared to which previous achievements are insignificant. There are difficulties in the way which he will overcome with the utmost energy and ruthlessness." (1301-PS)
The supply of foreign currency had sunken because of preparations for the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Replenishment was considered necessary. At the same conference, on 14 October 1938, Goering declared:
"These gains made through the export are to be used for an increased armament. The armament should not be curtailed by export activities." (1301-PS)
Goering had received the order from the Fuehrer to increase armaments to an abnormal extent, the air force having first priority, and interpreted it as follows:
"Within the shortest time, the air force should be increased five fold; also the navy should create war weapons more rapidly, and the army should produce large amounts of war weapons at a faster rate, particularly heavy artillery and heavy tanks. Along with this a larger production of armaments must go, especially fuel, rubber, powders and explosives must be moved to the foreground. This should be coupled with an accelerated expansion of highways, canals, and particularly of the railroads." (1301-PS)
In the course of these preparations for war, a clash of wills ensued between Goering and Schacht, as a result of which Schacht resigned his position as head of the Ministry of Economics and Plenipotentiary for the War Economy in November 1937. He was removed from the presidency of the Reichsbank in January 1939. Regardless of the details of this controversy, Schacht's departure in no way implied any disagreement with the major war aims of the Nazis. Schacht took particular pride in his vast attainments in the financial and economic fields in aid of the Nazi war machine. In a letter to General Thomas Schacht wrote:
"I think back with much satisfaction to the work in the Ministry of Economics which afforded me the opportunity to assist in the rearmament of the German people in the most critical period, not only in the financial but also in the economic sphere. I have always considered a rearmament of the German people as condition sine qua non of the establishment of a new German nation." (EC-257)
In a letter written to General Von Blomberg, on 8 July 1937, Schacht wrote:
"The direction of the war economy by the plenipotentiary would in that event never take place entirely independent from the rest of the war mechanism but would be aimed at accomplishment of the political war purpose with the assistance of all economic forces. I am entirely willing, therefore, to participate in this way in the preparation of the forthcoming order giving effect to the Defense Act." (EC-252)
In the spring of 1937, Schacht participated with representatives of the three branches of the armed forces in "war games in war economy" at Godesberg. A report of these exercises, entitled "War economy tasks in Godesberg undertaken by General Staff between the 25th of May and the 2nd of June," records the speech welcoming Dr. Schacht:
"Before I start with the discussion of the war game in war economy, I have to express how grateful we all are that you, President Dr. Schacht, have gone to the trouble personally to participate in our final discussion today despite all your other activities. This proves to us your deep interest in war economy tasks shown at all times and your presence is renewed proof that you are willing to facilitate for us soldiers the difficult war-economic preparations and to strengthen the harmonious cooperation with your offices."
"I want to point out, however, that all matters and all information received has to be kept in strictest secrecy * * *." (EC-174)
The annexation of Austria was apparently a goal which Schacht had long sought, for in a speech to the employees of the former Austrian National Bank he declared:
"* * * Austria has certainly a great mission, namely, to be the bearer of German culture, to insure respect and regard for the German name, especially in the direction of the southeast. Such a mission can only be performed within the Great German Reich and based on the power of a nation of 75 millions, which, regardless of the wish of the opponents, forms the heart and the soul of Europe."
"We have read a lot in the foreign press during the last few days that this aim, the union of both countries, is to a certain degree justified, but that the methods of effecting this union was terrible. This method which certainly did not suit one or the other power was nothing but the consequence of countless perfidies and brutal acts and violence which foreign countries have practiced against us * * *."
"* * * I am known for sometimes expressing thoughts which give offense and there I would not like to depart from this consideration. I know that there are even in this country a few people-I believe they are not too numerous-who find fault with the events of the last few days, but nobody, I believe, doubts the goal, and it should be said to all grumblers that you can't satisfy everybody. One person says he would have done it maybe one way, but the remarkable thing is that they did not do it, and that it was only done by our Adolf Hitler; and if there is still something left to be improved, then those grumblers should try to bring about these improvements from the German Reich, and within the German community, but not to disturb us from without." (EC-297-A)
A memorandum of 7 January 1939, written by Schacht and other directors of the Reichsbank to Hitler, urged a balancing of the budget in view of the threatening danger of inflation. The memorandum continued:
"* * * From the beginning the Reichsbank has been aware of the fact that a successful foreign policy can be attained only by the reconstruction of the German armed forces. It [the Reichsbank] therefore assumed to a very great extent the responsibility to finance the rearmament in spite of the inherent dangers to the currency. The justification thereof was the necessity, which pushed all other considerations into the background, to carry through the armament at once, out of nothing, and furthermore under camouflage, which made a respect-commanding foreign policy possible." (EC-369)
The Reichsbank directors, as experts on money, believed that a point had been reached where greater production of armaments was no longer possible. That was merely a judgment on the situation and not a moral stand, for there was no opposition to Hitler's policy of aggression. Doubts were merely entertained as to whether that policy could be financed. Hitler's letter to Schacht on the occasion of Schacht's departure from the Reichsbank paid high tribute to Schacht's great efforts in furthering the program of the Nazi conspirators. The armed forces by now had enabled Hitler to take Austria and the Sudetenland. Hitler, in his letter to Schacht declared:
"Your name, above all, will always be connected with the first epoch of national rearmament." (EC-397)
Even though dismissed from the presidency of the Reichsbank, Schacht was retained as a minister without portfolio and special confidential adviser to Hitler. Funk stepped into Schacht's position as president of the Reichsbank (Voelkisher Beobachter of 21 January 1939). Funk was uninhibited by fears of inflation, and like Goering, under whom he had served in the Four Year Plan, he recognized no obstacles to the plan to attack Poland. In a letter written on 25 August 1939, only a few days before the attack on Poland, Funk reported to Hitler that the Reichsbank was prepared to withstand any disturbances of the international currency and credit system occasioned by a large-scale war. He said that he had secretly transferred all available funds of the Reichsbank abroad into gold, and that Germany stood ready to meet the financial and economic tasks which lay ahead. (699-PS)
It seems clear that the Nazi conspirators directed the whole of the German economy toward preparation for aggressive war. To paraphrase the words of Goering, the conspirators gave the German people "guns instead of butter." They also gave history its most striking example of a nation gearing itself in time of peace to the single purpose of aggressive war. Their economic preparations, formulated and applied with the energy of Goering, the financial wizardry of Schacht, and the willing complicity of Funk, among others, were the indispensable prerequisites for their subsequent campaign of aggression.