A stunning account of the economic workings of the Third Reich—and the reasons ordinary Germans supported the Nazi state
In this groundbreaking book, historian Götz Aly addresses one of modern history's greatest conundrums: How did Hitler win the allegiance of ordinary Germans? The answer is as shocking as it is persuasive: by engaging in a campaign of theft on an almost unimaginable scale—and by channeling the proceeds into generous social programs—Hitler literally "bought" his people's consent.
Drawing on secret files and financial records, Aly shows that while Jews and citizens of occupied lands suffered crippling taxation, mass looting, enslavement, and destruction, most Germans enjoyed an improved standard of living. Buoyed by millions of packages soldiers sent from the front, Germans also benefited from the systematic plunder of conquered territory and the transfer of Jewish possessions into their homes and pockets. Any qualms were swept away by waves of government handouts, tax breaks, and preferential legislation.
Gripping and important, Hitler's Beneficiaries makes a radically new contribution to our understanding of Nazi aggression, the Holocaust, and the complicity of a people.
The publication of this book in Germany inspired a huge controversy. In an important, original contribution, Aly, the author of a number of major works on the Third Reich and the Holocaust, argues that the Nazi regime plundered the rest of Europe during WWII to the great material benefit of the German population. Germans lived quite nicely from the sausages, furniture, shoes and even Christmas geese that millions of German soldiers and SS men sent back home from all over Europe. Plunder by official state agencies also financed the war. These points hardly seem revelatory or controversial, but Aly, as is his style, pushes the argument to the nth degree, supporting it with a wealth of documentary detail. The crimes against humanity committed by the regime were not, he argues, the work of a few individuals or an evil external to the population and the course of German history in the 20th century. Rather, the Nazis met the population's overwhelming desire for material security and an improved standard of living. The Nazis redistributed wealth in favor of the lower classes and opened up avenues of social mobility for them. The Holocaust, then, was not just a result of the ideology of anti-Semitism but also of the policies of plunder that won the regime the support of the vast majority of the German people.