Preparing for Victory: Heinrich Hunke, the NaziWerberat, and West German Prosperity Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • When we think about the Third Reich, the first images that come to mind are not those associated with buying and selling. Though an increasing number of studies have appeared on consumer habits and policies toward consumers, the literature on the Nazi period has been dominated by a focus on production, specifically war production. For every study of the consumer economy, there have been dozens on the Four-Year Plan, the use of foreign and slave labor, and heavy industry. In recent years a number of historians have begun to question this imbalance. Hartmut Berghoff and Wolfgang Koenig have argued that the regime encouraged “virtual consumption” through images of a future postwar era of peace and prosperity: the people's car, the people's refrigerator, and other products that would be available to all once victory had been achieved. Nancy Reagin and Irene Guenther have provided compelling material on the responses of female consumers to the decreasing availability of many household items, starting with the introduction of the autarkic Four-Year Plan. Nonetheless, this recent wave of interest in issues of consumption has tended to concentrate on the prewar years of the regime; after 1939, most historians merely emphasize the growing shortage of goods as the war dragged on. One exception is Goetz Aly, who has maintained that allegiance to the regime was secured through the dissemination of goods stolen from Jews and the occupied territories. But his arguments have not convinced everyone, and his focus on the distribution of goods merely as a means of generating political support says little about how it fit in with wider patterns of consumer expectations and long-term economic thinking.

publication date

  • December 2009