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Hitler’s Confidential Memo on Autarky (August 1936)

Although the name of Hitler’s party suggests a socialist management of the economy, he did not advocate a specific economic doctrine in the traditional sense. Nonetheless, the fundamental goal of his policies, namely a war of conquest in Eastern Europe, necessitated the organization of a wartime economy. This meant that even during peacetime Hitler had to systematically orient the national economy toward a coming military conflict. As long as German private industry continuously increased its efficiency and productivity and made itself available for general war preparations, Hitler had no intention of doing away with it. But despite the progress that had been made in these areas during the first years of the Nazi regime, Hitler still faced numerous supply shortages that could not be remedied. In this confidential memorandum from August 1936, Hitler explains why he believed it was necessary from an ideological-military standpoint for the German economy to achieve autarky [self-sufficiency] within four years. His comments became the basis of the so-called Four-Year Plan, which began in October of that year. Under the direction of Hermann Göring, the new plan for economic management aimed, in particular, to centralize the mobilization of labor, restrict imports, impose wage and price controls, and allocate and synthesize raw materials. In the process of achieving these goals, Göring also systematized the exploitation and expropriation of the Jewish population.

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The political situation.

Politics are the conduct and the course of the historical struggle for life of the peoples. The aim of these struggles is the assertion of existence. Even the idealistic ideological struggles [Weltanschauungskämpfe] have their ultimate cause and are most deeply motivated by nationally [völklich] determined purposes and aims of life. Religions and ideologies are, however, always able to impart particular harshness to struggles of this kind, and therefore also to give them great historical impressiveness. They leave their imprint on the content of centuries. In such cases it is not possible for peoples and States living within the sphere of such ideological or religious conflicts to dissociate or exclude themselves from these events. Christianity and the migration of peoples determined the historical content of centuries. Mohammedanism too convulsed the Orient, and with it the Western world, for half a millennium. The Reformation caught up the whole of Central Europe in its wake. Nor was it possible for individual States – either by skill or by deliberate non-participation – to steer clear of events. Since the outbreak of the French Revolution, the world has been moving with ever increasing speed towards a new conflict, the most extreme solution of which is called Bolshevism, whose essence and aim, however, is solely the elimination of those strata of mankind which have hitherto provided the leadership and their replacement by world-wide Jewry.

No State will be able to withdraw or even remain at a distance from this historical conflict. Since Marxism, through its victory in Russia, has established one of the greatest empires in the world as a forward base for its future operations, this question has become a menacing one. Against a democratic world ideologically rent within itself stands a unified aggressive will founded upon an authoritarian ideology. The means of military power available to this aggressive will are meantime increasing rapidly from year to year. One has only to compare the Red Army as it actually exists today with the assumptions of military men 10 or 15 years ago to realize the menacing extent of this development. Only consider the results of a further development over 10, 15 or 20 years and think what conditions will be like then!

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