In the book “The Price of Destruction. The Creation and Fall of the Nazi Economy”Adam Tuz has collected and systematized unique material that makes us take a fresh look at the history of World War II. Hitler's project of colonization and violent modernization turned out to be utopian in many ways due to the banal reason for the lack of calories and muscle strength.
So, mid-1941. On June 22, Hitler writes an encouraging letter to his idol Mussolini:
“Whatever it was, Duce, our situation as a result of this step will not be able to worsen; it can only improve."
However, by September it became clear that the German army could not continue to advance with the same lightning speed. And this was the main idea of the Barbarossa plan - by swift strikes, not to give the Red Army time to regroup and replenish supplies. The victorious reports of the Wehrmacht generals in the very first months were replaced by doubts about the possibility of organizing new offensives by the forces of exhausted troops. And even a clear underestimation of the enemy's forces forced us to think about the expediency of an offensive to the east. Halder wrote:
“By the beginning of the war we had about 200 enemy divisions against us. We now have 360 Russian divisions. These divisions, of course, are not as armed and not as staffed as ours, and their command in tactical terms is much weaker than ours, but, be that as it may, these divisions are. And if we crush a dozen such divisions, the Russians will form a new dozen."
Halder, of course, was modest in describing the enemy and forgot to focus on the high quality of Russian weapons, which the Germans had never encountered in any theater of operations before. Be that as it may, it is from this moment that the main tragedy of Nazi Germany, deprived of territories and natural resources sufficient for waging a war, begins. And with that, and with the other the Germans treated, as it turned out, very freely.
Already at the beginning of September 1941, Germany felt the cold breath of a distant war. The Reichsbank released a report in which it stated that inflationary pressures on the market are increasing. Store shelves were empty, the consumer basket was shrinking, the volume of money supply in a short period of time increased by 10%, and the mass of buyers rushed to the black market. Barter has appeared unprecedented since the post-war era. It was decided to withdraw the excess mass of money by raising taxes, and from the summer of 1941 the rate for legal entities was raised by 10%, and in January 1942 - by another 5%. The situation on the energy market was not developing in the best way. Coal mining in Germany by the beginning of the summer of 1941 did not cover the costs of the state. Steelworkers complained that the shortage of coal is about 15%, and in the future could reach even a quarter of the industry's needs. Moreover, by the end of 1941 one could expect interruptions in the supply of electricity and heat - the coal famine was also approaching the infrastructure of settlements. Keitel saved the day when he forced the Wehrmacht to abandon the previously approved weapons programs from August 41. That is, the Germans had not yet failed near Moscow, and the army already needed to squeeze their appetites. The Luftwaffe was most fortunate in this story - they just refused to increase the number of the aircraft fleet, but the ground forces could suffer more seriously. Already from October 25, 1941, the supply of steel for the Wehrmacht decreased to the pre-war 173 thousand tons. Hitler saved the situation literally two days later, canceling all restrictions on purchases for the ground forces. The reason for this situation was not only a shortage of energy resources, but also an acute shortage of workers. Germany needed a labor force - by the end of the third year of World War II, there was practically no male population in the manufacturing sector at the age of 20-30. Losses at the front now had to be replaced by older workers of military enterprises - in the following year, several hundred thousand men went to the army, and it was very problematic to replace them. At the same time, it was not necessary to count on help from the female population - it already accounted for 34% of the workforce, which was the highest value among Western countries. And the German industry required millions of workers …
On February 27, 1942, the inveterate uncouth Nazi Fritz Sauckel, who joined the party back in 1923, became the General Labor Commissioner for the Third Reich. Looking ahead, I will say that this position became fatal for Sauckel - in 1946 he was hanged in Nuremberg for crimes against humanity. It is noteworthy that before the defeat near Moscow, "newcomers" human resources worked mainly in agriculture and made up only 8, 4% of the workforce. When the winter near Moscow, tragic for the Germans, happened, industrialists pulled over a good part of the blanket. Sauckel, in accordance with requests, mobilized almost three million people from the beginning of 1942 to June 1943 for work in Germany. Most of them, naturally, were young men and women from 12 to 25 years old. By 1944, Sauckel's office had driven 7,907,000 people into slave labor, which was one fifth of the entire labor force of the Third Reich. That is, in two years, the labor force has increased the share of foreigners in the country's ever-needing economy by a factor of two. Adam Tuz cites in the book the typical words of Secretary of State Milch about the role of "Ostarbeiters" in production:
"Ju-87" Stucka "is 80% Russian."
In military factories, the share of slave labor was even higher - about 34%.
Paradoxically, the Germans were negligent about the potential opportunities of the occupied territories. With an acute shortage of workers at the beginning of the war, they allowed themselves to starve hundreds of thousands of unfortunate prisoners of the Red Army. And even when the Barbarossa crisis was gaining momentum, the prisoners of war taken to Germany continued to exist in dire conditions. Civilian workers, driven (or lured by deception) from all corners of the occupied territories, were also kept in inhuman conditions throughout the war. The Gestapo barely had time to catch the fugitives from the dire conditions of the Ruhr industrial conglomerate. At first, Sauckel succeeded in replenishing the mortality loss with new supplies from the East, but this did not work everywhere. Industrialists often complained:
"Hunger can kill up to ten percent of unskilled workers, who can be replaced with new ones within a couple of days, but what to do with a specialist employed in a complex production?"
At the same time, many workers had to be taken back to their homeland in order to avoid epidemics, as well as because of the negative reaction of the native Germans. Eyewitnesses wrote about such "trains of death":
“The returning train was carrying dead passengers. Women traveling on this train gave birth to children on the way, who were thrown out of an open window on the way. In the same car there were people with tuberculosis and venereal diseases. The dying lay in the boxcars, where there was not even straw, and one of the dead was thrown onto the embankment."
The Germans did not try in any way to hide the facts of such an inhuman attitude towards people from the civilian population - stinking trains with the dying often stood on the railway sidings. As a result, information about all the "delights" of working for the Third Reich reached the eastern lands, and since the fall of 1942, the entire labor force was now recruited exclusively by force.
Economic considerations were clearly at the peak of ideology in the situation with the genocide of the Jewish population of Europe. It was obvious that the total destruction of the vast human resource would leave the country's industry without workers. In total, the Germans burned crematoria in ovens, starved to death in the ghetto and simply shot at least 2.5 million Jews. This despite the fact that Sauckel was able to forcefully drive into slave labor during the entire war only three times more! Adam Tuz calculated that after the crisis of 1942, as a result of their atrocities, the Germans lost a total of about 7 million people - here are Jews, Red Army prisoners of war, and Ostarbeiters who died from unbearable conditions.
Nutrition by generating
One of the factors behind the high mortality rate among foreign workers in labor camps has been a banal food shortage. Racking their brains on how to ensure the required level of labor productivity with an invariably scarce food, the bosses of the industrial complex came up with the idea of "food by production." In fact, in this case, fats, proteins and carbohydrates were simply redistributed among the workers. If he fulfilled the daily norm, then he received a normal ration, and if not, then he would have to share it with the one who exceeded the norm. This is how natural selection worked in a bestial Nazi grin. When the situation on the labor front became completely unbearable for the Germans, at the end of 1944 this logic of distributing food depending on the production rate became ubiquitous.
Another, much more bloodthirsty tradition is the practice of destruction through hard labor. Since Auschwitz, in the concentration camps, prisoners have been brutally exploited, the seas with hunger and total unsanitary conditions. Besides the infamous I. G. Farbenindustrie, concentration camps were not shunned by Siemens, Daimler-Benz, BMW, Steyr Daimler Puch, Heinkel and Messerschmitt. In total, up to 5% of all the needs of the military economy in the labor force were provided by prisoners of concentration camps. I must say that the Germans, in euphoria, even suspended the creation of new death camps, in which people did not live, but were destroyed on the first day of arrival. By 1942, the Nazis overdid it a little, the tactics of destruction by labor gained too much momentum - more were dying than the SS had time to replenish. The response was improved medical supplies, a bonus system for tobacco and extra rations.
If you look at a retrospective of German attitudes towards the workforce during World War II, it turns out that from the very beginning a kind of disregard for foreign workers reigned. The Holocaust machine was at work, knocking out millions of potential workers from the economy, and hundreds of thousands dying from overwork. But with the deterioration of the situation on the fronts towards the end of the war, the Germans naturally paid special attention to the workers involved. And even they were able to improve productivity in various ways - for French workers it reached 80% of the German level, and for Russian prisoners of war, even in the best times, it did not exceed 50%. And by 1944, the Germans had to seriously limit the moloch of the Jewish genocide. In March, the last major action to exterminate the Jews of Hungary took place. However, throughout the war the Germans were simply torn apart by the contradiction between hatred of Jews and the Slavs and the economic feasibility of using slave labor. And the battle for calories in the Third Reich played a significant role in this.