Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Little More On David Brooks And Authoritatianism

Yesterday, I had some fun with Dean's excellent post wherein he was shocked to see yet another NYT columnist come out in favor of authoritarian rule. I linked to Leni Reifenstahl's Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will. Doing a little more digging today, I came across this wherein was this tidbit.
The film's most enduring and dangerous illusion is that Nazi Germany was a super-organized state that, although evil in nature, was impressive nonetheless.

In reality, Nazi Germany was only well organized to the degree that it was a murderous police state. The actual Reich government was a tangled mess of inefficient agencies and overlapping bureaucracies led by ruthless men who had little, if any, professional administrative abilities. From the Reich's first hours in January 1933 until the end in May 1945, various departmental leaders battled each other for power, and would do anything to curry favor with a superior Nazi authority and especially with Hitler, the ultimate authority.
I found that interesting as I had always associated organization and efficiency with the Nazi state. Clicking around the Interweb, I found lots of corroboration. Why I had thought that the Nazis were any different than the Soviets, the Peronists or the Italian fascists, I'm sure I don't know.


Dstarr said...

The Nazi's were not as efficient as their adversaries, the British, the Soviets, and the Americans. It shows up in production figures for aircraft, tanks, warships, and other war materiel. The hard pressed Soviets, working from a much smaller industrial base, while under invasion, produced two and three times as many tanks, artillery pieces, and fighter planes as the Germans did. So did the British. And American production completely swamped anything the Nazis could do. Although the Germans produced some flashy super weapons like jet fighters and ballistic missiles, the Anglo Americans topped them with nuclear weapons.

Jeff Burton said...

Dstarr - gotta disagree. The allies produced more (mainly because of America) - albeit with bigger populations, and centers of production and raw material sources far out of strategic bombing range. German military production was impressive. It's little known, but true that German industrial production peaked at the very end of the war, in spite of 1000+ plane raids daily, infrastructure in shambles, and chronic material shortages. So in terms of efficiency, Germans were right up there with the allies. They just could not match the volume.

Also, it was common understanding, even during the war, that German weapons, from small arms to artillery to armor to aircraft, were superior to the allies, especially America's.

I'm not disputing the post's point - the Nazis were terrible administrators, as you would expect when political connections count for more than competence. One example - by '43, there were 20 divisions of Luftwaffe ground troops - an incredibly irrational way to organize ground forces, with the air force having its own private army - all because the influence of Goering.

One thesis concerning the motivations for war is that the Nazis had so screwed up the economy by '39 that they basically had to go to war or else face internal collapse.

Dstarr said...

Lets look at some numbers. Tank production in 1944
Russia 28963
Germany 22100
USA 17565
Britain 5000

Figures from the appendix of "Why the Allies Won" Richard Overy 1995. This is just a sampling, more complete numbers are in the book. By 1944, with their back to the wall, The Germans finally brought their production up to roughly the level of the Allies. But in the key year of 1943, when the initiative passed to the Allies, German production was only one third of Allied production. In fact, Allied production dropped off in 1945 probably because they could see victory in sight.
As to quality, the war buffs still debate the merits of Allied vs Nazi equipment. But during the war, everyone appreciated the merits of the US M1 self loading rifle, the Tommy gun, the .45 auto pistol, the Lightning and Mustang fighters, proximity fuses, jeeps, C-47 transports.
I do not accept the thesis that the Germans were driven to war to prevent domestic economic collapse Neither do historians such as John Keegan, Winston Churchill, Samuel Elliot Morrison, Ronald Spector, William Shirer, or Rick Atkinson

K T Cat said...

Good comments, both. As for Nazi production, they figured they had the war won even as late as 1943, so they didn't put it in high gear until late in the war. One wonders just what the Soviets would have produced under strategic bombing. The Germans never really had a decent bomber, the schnellbomber idea having been discredited in the Battle of Britain.

As for the Americans, I read a good description of the Sherman tank - it was basically murder to put crews in them. You couldn't kill a Panther with anything less than 5 of them and Tigers were practically out of the question. There are several good videos out there on YouTube, some of them produced during the war as instructional lessons.

The ME-109 and FW-190 were both good planes and the ME-262 stellar, but that was about it in the air. The U-boats were spent as a force by the end of 42.

As for the bureaucracy aspect, in clicking around prior to this post, I discovered that the captured territories had no consistency in management and everything was ad hoc. The emphasis was on ethnic cleansing, not recruitment. By October 1941, the Nazis controlled 45% of the Russian population, almost all of which had reason to hate the communists. All they needed were uniforms, guns and leaders and they would have chased Stalin to the Urals and beyond.