I just finished reading Hitler’s Secret Partners, by James Pool. While being interesting for all the usual reasons – interesting topic, well written, fascinating details – the book is particularly interesting for insight into why WWII happened the way it did.
In Pool’s analysis, WWII happened mainly because Hitler was running a pyramid scheme. If that sounds completely crazy to you, read on before you judge.
How did a WWI corporal poorer than the proverbial church mouse come to absolute power in a decade or so of whirlwind politicing and dirty dealing? Hitler was financed by moneyed interests in the business community of post-WWI Germany.
That story is interesting enough in and of itself, and Pool does a good job of exploring those relationships.
But the key insight in this book which brings a perspective to the second world war’s roots that I’ve never seen before is that Hitler required huge sums of money … for himself (hundreds of millions spent on homes, etc.) for his party (ensuring loyalty of key henchmen, and cash for the rank & file), for rearmament (billions and billions for new weapons and a vastly larger army, and a hundred other concerns.
Hitler got some of this money from corporate interests like IG Farben and Krupp, the arms manufacturers, and more from business interests that he and/or the Nazi party acquired, but not nearly enough.
The Anschluss, or rejoining of Austria to Germany, gave Hitler access to millions in gold, and millions more in currency and goods that that Nazis plundered, but his ever-larger armies, irregulars like the SS and Brown Shirts, and the massive self-glorifying public works projects that Hitler championed required ever more and more money.
Getting the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia gave Hitler vastly more war material, but not a lot more portable property that could be converted into cash. And yet, the expenses continued to rise.
Thus, Pool argues, Hitler was almost forced to go to war with Poland, and other subsequent countries.
This is typical of a pyramid scheme, of course. It must grow or die – and die it will, eventually, in a finite ecosystem. But when it dies, it takes it’s awful toll – and this is just what Hitler did.
Even the holocaust and systematic destruction of European Jewry had an economic motive to it, in addition to the ugly primal hatred and anti-Semitism of the Nazis.
Interesting perspective – I highly recommend this book.