Hitler on economic policy (1936)

This confidential memo, written by Adolf Hitler about Germany’s economic policy, was written in August 1936:

“In the briefest outline, Germany’s economic position is as follows:

1. We are overpopulated and cannot feed ourselves from our own resources.

2. When our nation has 6 or 7 million unemployed, the food situation improves because these people lack purchasing power…

3. But if [a] rise in employment fails to take place, then a higher percentage of the people must gradually … become valueless through malnourishment. It is, therefore, in spite of our difficult food situation, the highest priority of our economic policy to see that all Germans are incorporated into the economic process, to restore normal consumption.

4. It is not possible to satisfy [food consumption] from the domestic German economy. For, although numerous branches of production can be increased, the yield of our agricultural production can undergo no further substantial increase. It is equally impossible for us at present to manufacture certain artificial materials which we lack in Germany, or to find other substitutes for them.

5. It is, however, wholly pointless to keep on noting these facts, i.e., stating that we lack foodstuffs or raw materials; what is decisive is to take those measures which can bring about a final solution for the future and a temporary easing for the transitional period.

6. The final solution lies in extending living space of our people and/or the sources of its raw materials and foodstuffs. It is the task of the political leadership one day to solve this problem. It is [therefore] necessary to increase German production of iron to the utmost… It is further necessary to prohibit forthwith the distillation of alcohol from potatoes. Fuel must be obtained from the ground and not from potatoes… It is further necessary for us to make our supplies of industrial fats independent of imports as rapidly as possible and to meet them from our coal. This task has been solved chemically…

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 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…

In short: I consider it necessary that 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…

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… I thus set the following tasks:

I. The German army must be operational [einsatzfähig] within four years.

II. The German economy must be fit for war [kriegsfähig] within four years.”