Hitler's Beneficiaries Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State

Götz Aly




Trade Paperback

448 Pages



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In this book, historian Götz Aly addresses one of modern history's greatest conundrums: How did Hitler win the allegiance of ordinary Germans? The answer is as shocking as it is persuasive: by engaging in a campaign of theft on an almost unimaginable scale—and by channeling the proceeds into generous social programs—Hitler literally "bought" his people's consent.

Drawing on secret files and financial records, Aly shows that while Jews and citizens of occupied lands suffered crippling taxation, mass looting, enslavement, and destruction, most Germans enjoyed an improved standard of living. Buoyed by millions of packages soldiers sent from the front, Germans also benefited from the systematic plunder of conquered territory and the transfer of Jewish possessions into their homes and pockets. Any qualms were swept away by waves of government handouts, tax breaks, and preferential legislation.


Praise for Hitler's Beneficiaries

"A probing analysis of Nazi economic policies."—The Boston Globe

"[A] fine English translation after having created a fierce debate in Germany [and] a fresh model for grasping how the Nazis gained such broad support from so many Germans for as long as they did . . . Aly makes a serious and well-researched attempt to put the 'socialism' back in National Socialism. And in so doing, he offers his own explanation for why so many Germans closed their eyes to the systematic expropriation of Jewish property and ultimately to the deportation of their Jewish fellow citizens, not to mention the Jews in the many nations occupied by or allied with the Nazis across the European continent . . . Hitler's Beneficiaries is based on a wealth of military and economic documents, and it is chock full of data on consumer spending power, money-laundering techniques, and bankers' and civil servants' inventiveness in making theft look legal—or invisible. The book also makes clear that even with the money and goods plundered in the occupied territories from both Jews and non-Jews, only a German military victory would have let the German economy survive the enormous debt burden it had accrued . . . The historian Jonathan Petropoulos has written, 'The Nazis were not only the most notorious murderers in history but also the greatest thieves.' Hitler's Beneficiaries offers stark proof that the murder and the theft were in many cases integrally linked. The Holocaust was unquestionably accompanied by outrageous greed."—Dagmar Herzog, The New York Times Book Review

"This remarkable book tackles in an entirely original manner one of the greatest paradoxes of the Nazi state: why did the German people increasingly support Hitler's rule even after it unleashed a world war that ultimately led to its own destruction? The answer, based on massive evidence and convincingly argued, is that the Nazi regime won the support of middle and working class Germans by creating greater social and economic equality at home and ensuring that its own 'racial comrades' would be well fed and clothed, all with the proceeds of mass murder and unprecedented continent-wide robbery. This rewriting of history, which dismantles the conventional distinction between fanatical Nazis and sober civil servants, will irreversibly transform our understanding of the Third Reich, revealing it as a consensual dictatorship whose popularity was rooted in grand larceny and the profits of crimes against humanity on an unimaginable scale."—Omer Bartov, author of Germany's War and the Holocaust: Disputed Histories

"In this book Aly once again brings to bear his formidable research skills, his knack for pursuing original lines of inquiry, and his incredible capacity to uncover neglected and seemingly innocuous documents . . . [A] fascinating and important book about the Nazi economic policies that facilitated the regime's capacity to implement the Final Solution."—Christopher R. Browning, author of Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland

"Thoroughly researched and fluently written, this book offers a new, brilliant, gripping and convincing dimension to the understanding of one of the most puzzling questions in the history of our times: why did so many Germans, both Nazis and 'ordinary people' support the persecution of the Jews. Enough with ideology, sociology and psychology: it was mostly about profit."—Tom Segev, author of The Seventh Million: Israel Confronts the Holocaust

"Hitler's Beneficiaries recalls the nightmare of older classical liberals like Alexis de Tocqueville and Max Weber, who feared that with the coming of mass society people would forsake liberty to enjoy materialism and its 'petty pleasures.' Götz Aly has written a brilliant yet disturbing book that shatters our complacencies."—John Patrick Diggins, author of Max Weber: Politics and the Spirit of Tragedy

"Shifting the focus from racist fanaticism as the key factor in the success of Nazism to the economic gains from looting and genocide, Aly provides fresh insights into the kleptocratic calculations behind Hitler's great popularity. A bestseller in Germany, this important new book will stimulate renewed debate on why millions of ordinary Germans were lured into cheering for Hitler in peacetime and total war, and how we might come to grips with the enormous and still puzzling dynamism of one of the most murderous movements of the 20th century."—Volker R. Berghahn, author of Europe in the Era of Two World Wars

"Götz Aly is a highly original thinker who has made a range of breakthroughs in Holocaust Studies."—Raul Hilberg, author of The Destruction of the European Jews

"Never before has the symbiotic relationship between . . . the attractive and the criminal elements of National Socialism been so acutely and enlighteningly depicted. This book is one of those rare works that sharpen our perspective on the darkest period in German history."—Financial Times (Germany)

"However rationally Aly describes the Holocaust, the horror is not lost. In fact, when one is confronted with the idea of racist insanity as a coolly calculated element in policies aimed to keep taxes low and reduce inflation, the very opposite is true . . . In places, this book reads like a detective story."—Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"Aly has turned the debate about the Holocaust upside-down. No future discussion will be able to ignore Hitler's Beneficiaries."—Frankfurter Rundschau

"In light of the immense number of participants in and profiteers from the 'fiscal' plundering of Europe, Aly opens up a new perspective on the question of guilt."—Die Zeit

"After reading Aly, no one can still give credence to the claim of not having the looting of Nazi-occupied territories. Everyone profited. Aly is doing some major housecleaning."—Neue Zurcher Zeitung

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt


One of the inspirations for this book was the series of negotiations carried out by Stuart E. Eizenstat to recover damages from the Swiss and German governments on behalf of victims of persecution during World War II. Eizenstat was,...

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  • Götz Aly

  • Götz Aly, the author of Hitler's Beneficiaries and Architects of Annihilation, among other books, is one of the most respected historians of the Third Reich and the Holocaust. He has been a visiting fellow at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and currently teaches at the Free University of Berlin.

  • Götz Aly Susanne Schleyer