Analyse the relationship between the Nazis and big business
The relationship between the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and big business is one of the most contentious issues of the Nazi regime. The very name ‘The National Socialist Party’ has contributed to many misconceptions of Nazi economic values. This essay will introduce three key arguments. Firstly, during the first three years of Nazi rule, the business boom enabled Hitler to experience a progressive relationship with big business. After 1936, the failure of rearmament and increased state intervention prompted many big businesses to question Hitler’s economic policies. During the wartime period, Germany’s biggest business profited from the use of slave labour but were aware that Hitler’s visions defied economic rationality.
The emergence of conflicting historical interpretation on the extent of large businesses’ influence in Hitler’s political decisions has intensified debate. For Marxists, Hitler’s intimate relationship with German big businesses required a simple explanation; that Nazi capitalism was responsible for engineering the rise of fascist politicians into power[footnoteRef:1]. The Marxist theory fails to acknowledge the authority the Third Reich possessed over many big businesses, and is now subject to widespread rejection from academic scholars[footnoteRef:2]. The historiographical picture now presents two main interpretations for historians to endorse: Tim Mason’s ‘Primacy of Politics’ and Ian Kershaw’s ‘power cartel’ theory. [1: Barkai A. Nazi Economics, Ideology, Theory, and Policy (Oxford, 1999) p10.] [2: Kershaw I. The Nazi Dictatorship Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation (London, 2012) p47.]
The capital invested by business elites who were staunch supporters of Hitler’s economic visions achieved little political success. Turner argued that historians have misconstrued the importance of individual investment in the Nazi Party’s ascent to power. Turner identified that business elites who were less avid supporters such as Friedrich Flick, often invested in the NSDAP as a policy of long term self-insurance by spreading their capital across Germany’s main political parties[footnoteRef:3]. However, Turner had failed to consider that certain big businesses were perturbed by Nazi anti-Semitism; a policy that prevented many business elites from injecting capital into the Nazi Party. [3: Turner, Henry Ashby. "Big Business and the Rise of Hitler." The American Historical Review 75, no. 1 (1969): 56-70. ]
Current historiography suggests many businesses remained unconvinced by the feasibility of the Nazi’s economic policies before 1933. However, Hitler’s anti-capitalist speech at the 1932 Dusseldorf meeting represented an overwhelming victory for the Nazi big business relationship. Initially feared as an ardent socialist whose policies would scupper big business growth, Hitler crucially reassured industrials that the Nazis would not thwart big business growth with leftist economic...