Why Hitler wanted to conquer a new “Lebensraum in the East”

Economic factors played a decisive role in Adolf Hitler’s thinking, as I demonstrated in detail in my book Hitler. Seduction policies. Hitler’s goal was to conquer a new “living space” (Lebensraum) in the East, that is, in Russia. He did not hide this ambition and even openly stated his objective in Mein Kampf, in his Second book, and in many speeches.

Hitler adhered to a theory which was also defended by Marxist theorists such as Rosa Luxemburg and Nicholai Bukharin, the theory of “contracting markets”. Hitler viewed the path taken by German companies, which made them dependent on exports, a serious mistake. In Hitler’s opinion, the sales markets would continue to shrink due to the industrialization of the former agrarian countries. Therefore, focusing on exports would lead to a dead end; only Lebensraum in the East could solve the problems of Germany.

Isn’t this proof that World War II was fought in the interests of capitalism? On the contrary. Hitler, after all, firmly rejected what he called the strategy of “economically peaceful conquest of the world”. In his view, the heavy dependence of the German economy on exports was a dangerous error in judgment. Hitler wanted to make Germany an autarky, independent of the world economy by conquering new “Lebensraum in the East.”

He was not at all concerned with opening up new sources of raw materials and new sales markets to private capitalist enterprises, for he had in mind a planned economy for the post-war period and in the conquered territories. Shortly after launching the attack on the Soviet Union on July 28, 1941, Hitler declared: “A judicious use of the powers of a nation can only be achieved with an economy planned from above. “And about two weeks later he said:” As far as the planning of the economy is concerned, we are still very early… ”He repeated this sentiment about a year later:“ Even after the war, we would not be able to relinquish state control over the economy, ”because, he continued, otherwise every interest group would think exclusively about the realization of its own desires. .

Hitler’s admiration of the Soviet economic system grew and he confessed that he considered it far superior to the capitalist system. Addressing a small circle in August 1942, Hitler observed:

If Stalin had continued to work for another ten to fifteen years, Soviet Russia would have become the most powerful nation in the world, 150, 200, 300 years may go by, it is such a unique phenomenon! There is no doubt that the general standard of living has increased. People did not go hungry. In short, we must say: they built factories here where two years ago there were only forgotten villages; factories as large as the Hermann Göring factories.

On another occasion, also to a small group, Hitler declared that Stalin was “quite a genius” for whom “one must have unreserved respect”, especially given his overall economic planning. There was no doubt in his mind, Hitler added, that there had been no unemployed in the USSR, unlike in capitalist countries like the United States.

On several occasions, the dictator evoked during the round tables that it would be necessary to nationalize the large joint-stock companies, the electrical industry and all the other branches of industry which produce “essential raw materials”, for example the steel industry. The war was of course not the right time to implement such radical concepts of nationalization. Hitler and the National Socialists were aware of this and, in any case, they had to do everything possible to dispel the fears of nationalization of the industrialists of the country. A note from Heinrich Himmler of October 21, 1942, for example, states that “during the war” a “fundamental change in our completely capitalist economy is not possible.” Anyone who had to “fight” against this would set off a “witch hunt” on themselves. In a report prepared by an army captain in July 1944, the question “Why do the SS engage in commercial activities?” was answered as follows:

This question has been asked specifically by circles which think purely in terms of capitalism and which do not like to see the development of public enterprises, or at least of a public nature. The era of the liberal business system demanded the primacy of business, that is, business comes first, then the state. In contrast to this, National Socialism takes a stand: the state runs the economy, the state is not there for business, business is there for the state.

In a conversation with Benito Mussolini on April 22, 1944, Hitler said he had become convinced that capitalism had run its course and that nations were no longer willing to defend it. Only “fascism and National Socialism” would survive the war, he said, and “perhaps Bolshevism in the East”.

Rainer Zitelmann is the author of The rich in public opinion.

Picture: Wikimedia Commons.

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