During the occupation of Western Europe, the Germans seemed to hesitate between confiscating either the output of the economies or the factors of production - labour, raw materials and machinery. The occupier could plunder and destroy the economies, or make the production capacity of these countries serviceable to its war efforts and thus even stimulate it. As a consequence of the fact that in the Third Reich diverse sources of power were taking decisions without coordination, there were periods in wich the occupier in the first place stipulated production for its warfare and periods in wich the occupier undermined local production by taking resources and labour. Recent research in the Netherlands, Belgium and France makes it possible to compare the developments in these countries. En all three countries, after a short period of plunder, one finds from the late summer of 1940 on a period of exploitation by giving orders to the occupied economies. Because the German economic planning was very inefficient and inflexible, these economies were not integrated into the German planning system. Orders the German industry lacked the capacity for, were simply transferred by German companies to companies in these countries. As a result the economies in these countries started to recover and even to flourish, Only in 1942, when Albert Speer started to exploit the German economy systematically, the economies of the three countries were integrated in the German economic planning. In Germany Speer managed to realise an economic revival, but this was only possible by taking labour and raw materials from these countries. Consequently, as the economies of the three countries lost about 50% of its production to the warfare, the economic output in these countries was declining, while the economies of the belligerents were booming.

Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)

Klemann, H.A.M. (2008). War and exploitation. The economic exploitation of Western Europe, 1940-1945 [Oorlog en exploitatie. Te economische exploitatie van West-Europa, 1940-1945]. Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis, 56–71. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/15663