German material stockpiles and shortages

General WWII era German military discussion that doesn't fit someplace more specific.
Wolery
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German material stockpiles and shortages

Post by Wolery » Sat Jan 20, 2007 7:34 pm

Hello all! First post.

I must admit I have more questions than answers, but I figure better to ask than remain ignorant.

I'm wondering, especially given Britian's WWI blackade, did the OKW ever plan for a war in which trade with other countries might be cut off? And if they did, did they recommend to Hitler that he stockpile a couple of years worth of critical materials (like rubber and oil)? Did he listen.

All of this adds up to what if any, material were the Germans short on during the war? And could they have avioded these shortages with greater forsight?

Thanks in advance.

phylo_roadking
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Post by phylo_roadking » Sun Jan 21, 2007 7:21 am

Hi Wolery; there's a huge canon of material on this subject. Basically from 1933 to 1939, a HUGE spending programme by the Nazi government in Germany funded by short-term loans and financing helped build her war machine from the numbers imposed by the treaty of versailles. This programme soaked up an incredible amount of imported material that the Nazis were able to buy on the open market from other nations - rubber, oil, iron ore from Sweden etc. And used SO much that while small "strategic" stocks could be built up, nothing like the huge amounts a long war required. There wasn't the time, the planning for a long war, or the surplus available from the military buildup to do so.

Two things resulted in this; Germany developed a number of "ersatz" industries to provide substitutes - not just ersatz coffee from acorns and breadcrumbs, jam from sugarbeet lol but also artifical rubber and petroleum. and other materials.

The other thing it resulted in is only coming to light now and very peicemeal; throughout the war, as long as transport was available and routes open a large amount of trade with other "neutral" nations was carried on. The trade in Swedish iron ore is one, but now there are a lot more accounts of foreign trade coming to light through studies of other things. For example. recent study of the Nazi banknote-forging operation has revealed that while this MAY have started as a way of disrupting the war economies of Britain etc., tens of millions of forged pounds/dollars/Swiss francs etc. were used abroad to buy in war material. (And other things; it funded Nazi espionage across the world, and one of the recently revealed uses was the Italian Carabinieri General who finally confirmed that Mussolini was in the Grand Sasso was bribed....with forged money!)
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Wolery
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Post by Wolery » Sun Jan 21, 2007 11:27 am

Wow. Arcorns into coffee. And I complain when I don't get a good latte! :?

That's fascinating. I thought Germany, sans oil, rubber and a few other esoteric goods, had enough material to support their war industry within the country.

So did the Germans have enough oil until the fall of Romania?
And is it really true that Hitler didn't put Germany on a war economy until 1943?

Or is there a good book or link I could read up on this?

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Post by phylo_roadking » Sun Jan 21, 2007 6:10 pm

I think (someone correct me?) the figure was they had nationally - in the sense of overall planning - about 65% of what they ideally needed. After the loss of Rumania this dropped to about 30% - including "ersatz".

Yes, Germany entered the war with all the intent of fast quick victories - AND all those first victories of course put the native raw materials of the occupied countries at her disposal. (Didn't include any more oil - France's Algerian fields hadn't been discovered of course) There was no overall centralised planning of the economy purely for war aims or materiel - it was still being organised and financed on the pre-war model, and a percentage of industry was still producing consumer goods etc. The idea of "totalische krieg" and 100% mobilization of the economy for war production only came when they developed SOME inkling of how the USSR could and would outproduce Germany. And as Allied bombing started to disrupt industry.

The industry of occupied countries did produce SOME output for the war effort; heavy industry - vehicle manufacturing, aircraft production etc. began producing German models and types, or parts that were sent to germany, but between sabotage and go-slows in factories (which increased exponentially as the various resistance organisations mobilised properly) transport, raw materials shortage, overt Resistance action (cutting the power supply for three months to three major factories producing aircraft parts, the SOE's first such operation in France, comes to mind) and of course as German factories were destroyed and production was ramped up anyway hundreds of thousands of "volunteer workers" were shipped to Germany away from factories in the rest of Europe......production in occupied countries only ever ran at around 40% at best of what was hoped for.
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Post by Black Baron » Mon Jan 29, 2007 7:42 pm

Blockade runners & raider prizes added to the material situation, the Norwegian whaling fleet being perhaps the biggest prize/contribution. The U-boats were not as successful, but still brought in 6-800 tons?

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Post by phylo_roadking » Mon Jan 29, 2007 7:57 pm

the Norwegian whaling fleet being perhaps the biggest prize/contribution.
....which the British sought to checkmate by first the raids on Vaasgo and the Lofoten Islands, not just destroying oil stocks but also processing plant, but then by the hugely sucessful air interdiction of Norwegian coastal waters.
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Post by Black Baron » Mon Jan 29, 2007 8:27 pm

But the ships were sent to France, all but 2 making the trip.

"Having met with Nordmark, still towing the rapidly deteriorating Duquesa, on February 15, the prizes were sent home, except for the newest catcher, Pol IX, which was re-named Adjutant, and retained as an auxiliary minelayer. All the catchers bar two, Star XIX and Star XXIV, reached Bordeaux safely,"

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Post by phylo_roadking » Mon Jan 29, 2007 8:38 pm

And functioned as naval auxiliaries for the rest of the war, not whalers.
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Post by Black Baron » Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:29 pm

Which is more valuable to war effort. Whale oil discharged in France.

Here's a link showing where some of those ships went & did.

http://www.warsailors.com/raidervictims ... #olewegger

Star XXII - built 1936, 303 gt. - Became Auxiliary Anti Submarine vessel UJ 1217, torpedoed and sunk by Russian submarine M-107 (Kofanov) at Syltefjord on Sept. 11-1943, 70 38N 30 26E. (another source says in collision and sank in the Gulf of Finland on March 14-1943).

Star XXIII - built 1936, 357 gt. - Became Auxiliary Anti Submarine vessel UJ 1218, then UJ 1112 (iii). Returned 1945.

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Post by Carl Schwamberger » Sun Feb 04, 2007 3:46 pm

Wolery wrote:

"That's fascinating. I thought Germany, sans oil, rubber and a few other esoteric goods, had enough material to support their war industry within the country."

No. Definitly not. Some of the shortfall was made up by trade through nuetrals as mentioned in a earlier post. This was hampered by the ability or inability of the Reich to pay for the goods with items of equal value. A secund source of 'make up' resources were items litterally looted from the occupied nations. The downside to this was the conquored territories often did not have the iems needed. The example above of France having no oil is one. The substitute or erzatz industry was technically advanced, but the volumes of production needed could not be obtained in the few years avaialable. ie: to build coal reduction plants for auto fuel required steel & other metals and skilled engineers desperatly needed everywhere else.

"So did the Germans have enough oil until the fall of Romania?"

In the longer run no. Petrol for the Wehrmacht was increasingly obtained by reduction of oil products other to needs. First for non essentials, then in the occupied nations, then for German industry. The conversion to less effcient fuels in industry across nazi controlled Europe hurt production for war materials in the longer run. In the shorter run less automotive fuel than desired was worked around by shifting transport in the infantry divsions from partially automotive in 1939-1940 back to horse transport. The extremely heavy loss in aircraft & vehicals in 1941-43 alleviated the potiential shortage of fuel as so many vehicals were destroyed there was enough remaining for theose still operable.

"And is it really true that Hitler didn't put Germany on a war economy until 1943?"

Technically yes. However shortages & rationing of essentials had occured ealier. It was just not part of a coherent or well organized industrial policy. The 'Todd Organization' of pre 1943 was tuned to the requirements of the nazi industrial policy of 1933-1940. The adjustements to the reality of sustained warfare came slowly & late. Note however German occupied territorys were on a 'war economy' from the moment of conquest. That is confistication of things need for the military was common & definitly at the expense of the comfort of the local population.

"Or is there a good book or link I could read up on this?"

Ellis's "Brute Force" is a easily comprehended comparative study of the German, Japanese, & Allied production of key items. While its 400+ pages of statistics may seem intimidating it is a easier start than the others.

Albert Speer's 'Inside the Thrid Reich' is an interesting look from the view of the German minister of production for the last two years. Tho it lacks depth & research necessary to check the elderly Speers memory.

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Post by Wolery » Sat Mar 10, 2007 5:22 pm

Didn't the Germans have VAST stores of coal and lower quality iron? I thought the Ruhr was just chucked full of these things.

And this is slightly off topic, but how in the world can France have more tanks and better of them in 1940 compared to the Germans when the Germans had a bigger economy, PLUS by all acounts, here and otherwise, they were already spending themsleves into the ground?

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Post by Reb » Tue Mar 13, 2007 5:10 am

Wolery

One the reasons that dumb war started was Hitler was thumping his chest and bragging about how big his military was. It wasn't.

But England and France didn't know that so they started building up quick as they could. And they actually built up better than Adolf in every way except the one that counted (that sheer aggressive will to succeed)

The wild ride over France in 1940 gave the impression to the world that Hitler's war machine was this highly mechanized invincible panzer force which was far from the truth. It all hinged on ten panzer divs which had nearly half the pz man riding in PzKw II - Pz III was not even available in any significant numbers yet.

By far the vast majority of the German army was horse drawn and remained so until the bitter end. Oddly enough it would probably have been cheaper to use motor transport but that transport wasn't there. Hitler and Goering had promised "guns AND butter." Its doubtful that the offensive against the USSR could have happened without all the captured trucks Hitler confiscated in occupied territories.

In those days only the US was strong enough to do both and it was considered expedient in the US to pretend that wasn't the case and send the boy scouts out to collect tin and papers. 8)

What makes the German Army so interesting is not how strong it was but how much it accomplished despite not being particularly strong. Particularly given the interdpartmental clashes over resources - such as Goering and his Luftwaffe Field Divs!

Its interesting to note that too much propaganda can be a bad thing - Hitler's subordinates were truly suprised when Ivan came calling - they really seemed to think that scrambling for position in the hiearachy meant something - but meanwhile the titanic was sinking.

As to Fuel? Take a hard look at the Ardennes offensive or the Ost Front in late '44. Really - in the Ardennes the US could have blown their dumps and pulled back 50 miles and the offensive would have run out of steam with no fighting! In the east we saw the spectacle of horses pulling trucks! They were pretending to be an army. What's amazing is that they accomplished as much as they did.

cheers
Reb

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Post by phylo_roadking » Tue Mar 13, 2007 9:15 am

Didn't the Germans have VAST stores of coal and lower quality iron? I thought the Ruhr was just chucked full of these things
W., "chock-full" and full enough are two different things during a war :wink: Coal is great - what can you do with it? You burn it for electrical power, and the Germans had and did this, electrification of rural areas was a big push before the war. You can use it in industry...and it needs to be good coking coal or converted to coke for smelting. And you use mbyproducts from it like bakelite and early plastics. Low grade iron CAN be improved but is vastly expensive to do so, so you make low-grade items with it - steel cores for concrete etc. - while quality ore is brough it from Sweden, good for rolling/machining/stamping/pressing when smelted, and good for case-hardening as armourplate.

Where the Germans DID succeed at using coal for during the war was learning how to crack coal for "ersatz" petrol, actually a benzene distillate.
And this is slightly off topic, but how in the world can France have more tanks and better of them in 1940 compared to the Germans when the Germans had a bigger economy, PLUS by all acounts, here and otherwise, they were already spending themsleves into the ground?
Ok, a number of things in here. First off - who says Germany had the bigger economy? It may have reached a high point during the war of being much higher, but prewar you have to take into account France's economy as a whole - which includes her resources from her colonial possessions abroad.

As for tanks - You have to remember German armour design and construction "officially" started in 1933. They had a few short years to begin not only mechanizing the army as a whole - which it never succeeded at - but creating tanks from the very basics. not only how to power, armour and arm them - but also how to use them. See elsewhere on the forum, or books like Len Deighton's "Blitzkrieg" - outdated greatly now but a good basic primer to start from. So in a few short years, from 1933 to 1939 Germany went from a tankless and almost totally armourless 100,000man army to a war machine spearheaded by its panzer divisions.

How? Well, just like the Russians gave Germany covert training and experimental facilities tio train pilots and develop aircraft - she also gave them facilities at Kazan to to design and build panzers, from well before the Nazi era. So the commanders of the Weimar Republic's Reichswehr army was already dabbling in how to design tanks in sefveral classes weights for MANY years before 1933. Not in quantity - or even quality! LOL - but it was ongoing. It was the products of this that appeared early in years after 1933 as the Panzer I and II, with the III on the drawing board. Remember also that Germany secured the Czech Skoda works and Czechoslovakia's Skoda T-35 and 38 tanks, and these equiped several of the panzer divisions in 1940.

Whereas France had been able to continue designing tanks in ALL classes and weights continuously from the end of the First World War, and was continuing their development right up to the outbreak of war; what she DID have was a very poor post-WWI policy of how to use them - parcel them out among the infantry just like in 1918! But like all tanks - even German ones! - they had major problems - basically because they hadn't been tested in war! Very unreliable, VERY few had radios, frequently light machinegun armament even in medium-class tanks, heavier tanks had bigger-bore guns...but the biggies were short-barrelled low-velocity things. So basically the French had more - but used them badly and whats more planned badly how to use them. Whereas the Germans merely SEEMED to have superior numbers because they used them better, and concentrated nearly all of what they had for the thrust through France.

If for example you look at the German forces that invaded Holland and Belgium almost siultaneously...you'll see that they had armour okay - but wheeled, very few tanks at all. Same in Norway earlier in the year - the Germans used some armour, but mostly armoured cars of various types, and a few tanks.
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Post by sid guttridge » Thu Mar 15, 2007 5:20 am

Hi Guys,

Germany tailored its war effort to suit its means. Given its own large industrial economy and that it came to control much of the most industrialised continent on the planet (and here I include Sweden and Switzerland, which could trade with no one else if Germany did not wish it), these means were substantial, if poorly organised until 1943-44. Immediately before the war Germany had also managed to get financial control of important mines in Spain as a return for aiding Franco in the Spanish Civil War - much to Mussolini's fury, as he had done far more to aid Franco. They also had access to mineral production from Vichy North Africa over 1940-42.

However, in certain key areas Germany was seriously short of strategic materials, and as Phylo has pointed out, a study of German trade with neutrals shows where, as does a study of the cargoes of blockade runners. For example, rubber was the main cargo of blockade runners from Japanese-controlled territory. Elsewhere on Feldgrau Enrico Cernuschi has detailed the high-value, low-bulk goods, such as industrial diamonds, that Italian civil air liners brought back from South America over 1940-41.

The British founded a Ministry of Economic Warfare, specifically to put the squeeze on Germany in these areas. For example, in 1940 it bought the future exports of Turkish chrome until 1943 in order to keep them out of German hands. It similarly tied up Romanian oil exports in 1939-40 and bought as many neutral Danube oil barges as possible to prevent their use to supply the Axis. (In an early covert operation, they even tried to sink concrete-filled barges at the Iron Gates narrow point to block the Danube to shipping in 1940, in flagrant violation of several Balkan countries' neutrality and international rights of use.)

Germany managed to maintain about six months of oil reserves for most of the war. However, once US bombing of Romanian oil fields and German synthetic oil plants became effective in the spring and summer of 1944 these quickly ran out.

If Germany had problems acquiring some strategic resources, they were minor compared with Italy's. Ask Enrico Cernuschi about this.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by phylo_roadking » Thu Mar 15, 2007 7:05 pm

W., also one thing to remember is that before the war all of Germany's military buildup wasn't by nationalised total-war economy - everything was bought and paid for! In 1933 Von papen negotiated a whole series of huge foreign loans for Hitler, and it was these that financed everything that Nazi germany did for the next few years - not just the re-arming...but the autobahns, rural improvements, public works and labour schemes etc. So Germany only rearmed and built up stocks of war materiel as far as she could afford to.
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