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Hitler’s Confidential Memo on Autarky (August 1936)

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It is further necessary to increase Germany’s output of other ores, regardless of cost, and in particular to increase the production of light metals to the utmost in order to produce a substitute for certain other metals.

It is, finally, necessary for rearmament too to make use even now whenever possible of those materials which must and will replace high-grade metals in time of war. It is better to consider and solve these problems in time of peace than to wait for the next war, and only then, in the midst of a multitude of tasks, to try to undertake these economic researches and methodical testings too.

In short: I consider it necessary that now, with iron determination, a 100 per cent self-sufficiency should be attained in all those spheres where it is feasible, and that not only should the national requirements in these most important raw materials be made independent of other countries but that we should also thus save the foreign exchange which in peacetime we require for our imports of foodstuffs. Here I would emphasize that in these tasks I see the only true economic mobilization and not in the throttling of armament industries in peacetime in order to save and stockpile raw materials for war.

But I further consider it necessary to make an immediate investigation into the outstanding debts in foreign exchange owed to German business abroad. There is no doubt that the outstanding claims of German business are today quite enormous. Nor is there any doubt that behind this in some cases there lies concealed the contemptible desire to possess, whatever happens, certain reserves abroad which are thus withheld from the grasp of the domestic economy. I regard this as deliberate sabotage of our national self-assertion and of the defence of the Reich, and for this reason I consider it necessary for the Reichstag to pass the following two laws:

1) A law providing the death penalty for economic sabotage, and
2) A law making the whole of Jewry liable for all damage inflicted by individual specimens of this community of criminals upon the German economy, and thus upon the German people.

Moreover, only the performance of these tasks in the form of a Several Years Plan for rendering our national economy independent of foreign countries will make it possible for the first time to demand sacrifices from the German people in the economic sphere and the sphere of foodstuffs, for in that case the people will have a right to demand of their leaders, whom they blindly acknowledge, that they tackle the problems in this sphere too with unprecedented and resolute action and do not merely discuss them, that they solve them and do not merely record them!

Nearly four precious years have now gone by. There is no doubt that by now we could have been completely independent of foreign countries in the sphere of fuel supplies, rubber supplies, and partly also iron ore supplies. Just as we are now producing 700,000 or 800,000 tons of petroleum, we could be producing 3 million tons. Just as we are today manufacturing a few thousand tons of rubber, we could already be producing 70,000 or 80,000 tons per annum. Just as we have stepped up the production of iron ore from 2½ million tons to 7 million tons, so we could process 20 or 25 million tons of German iron ore, and if necessary even 30 million. There has been time enough in four years to discover what we cannot do. It is now necessary to state what we can do.

I thus set the following task:

I. The German army must be operational [einsatzfähig] within four years.
II. The German economy must be fit for war [kriegsfähig] within four years.

Source of English translation: “Unsigned Memorandum” (August 1936). In Documents on German Foreign Policy: From the Archives of the German Foreign Ministry. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1957-1964. Series C (1933-1937), The Third Reich: First Phase, Volume 5: March 5 – October 31, 1936. Document Number 490, pp. 853-62. (English translation accredited to U.S. Department of State Division of Language Services)

Source of original German text: “Aufzeichnung ohne Unterschrift” (August 1936). In Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, 1918-1945. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1977. Series C: 1933-1936. Das Dritte Reich: Die Ersten Jahre. Volume V, 2, 26. Mai bis 31. Oktober 1936. Document number 490, pp. 793-801.

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