Fri 18 Apr, 2014 01:20 pm
Did Germany overall benefit economically from killing millions of Jews, Gypsies and other 'undesirables'? Individuals and certain private companies benefited, of course, but what was the overall economic impact? Ignoring the hideous human toll for the moment, can the net profit/loss to the German nation be quantified?
Germany was effectively a closed economy from late 1939 onward--any attempts to calculate the economic impact of any Nazi policy are essentially meaningless, because there was no foreign exchange. Prices quickly became pegged to the desirability of the product, and increasingly as the war went on, the most valued product were food. The prison camps produced no food for the national economy.
There was, however, a profound effect on the German war effort. The SD (security services) commandeered trains to transport people to the prison camps. This was at a time when everything the army needed to prosecute their war in the Soviet Union was in chronic short supply. The Germans relied heavily on horses for transport, and almost every infantry division had only horses for logistical support. The prison camps had motorized transport (what little transport they used), which of course, used precious fuel. Since war production used the resources which would otherwise hve been making agricultural equipment, fatmers relied increasingly or horses, which were in turn harder to get, and a farmer's horse would be and often were seized for use by the army. Food production in Germany declined as a consequence, and less and less food was produced in occupied territories, where farmer's hid their food or simply stopped producing food which they could neither sell nor eat. Nevertheless, the manpower needs of the SD/SIPo were met as quickly as possible, and their logistical support had priority. No one can even say how many SD and SS personnel were employed in the concentration camps, but the number of camps swelled to more than 300 by the time of the "Final Solution," and the Jewish Virtual Library estimates that including POW camps and temporary camps, the Germans built more than 15,000 camps during the war. Enormous manpower resources and logistical support were needed to build and sustain the system.
As with just about everything about the Nazi regime, it was a disaster for Germany and Germans, in addition to those who suffered in the camps. It was a monumental folly, for which the internees and the German people paid a heavy price.
Germans hated Jews and had for centuries. I want to suggest to you that this
answer is not only a vast oversimplification, but also a barrier to recognizing some of the
most important implications of the Holocaust for modern society. Of course, antisemitism
abounded in interwar Germany; indeed, as Jerry Muller of Catholic University has
superbly demonstrated, it achieved a new lease on life after 1918 by virtue of grafting itself
onto widespread fears of revolution from the Left.