The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 19 Apr 2021 09:05

KDF33 wrote:Yes, this is what most analysts have done and IMO why they missed the real underlying trends.
We haven't discussed this specific issue before, IIRC, so I lazily tried the superficial case on you. You've forced me to be more productive.
KDF33 wrote:1941 creates a statistical illusion, given that it saw (1) the re-tooling of the fighter aircraft plants, (2) the artificially-deflated production of ammunition and (3) the shutdown of army weapons production in the 2nd half of the year.
These factors undoubtedly decreased productivity. My argument will be, however, that our data analysis so far - Tooze's obscure USSBS source, Wagenfuhr's index, even the firm level reports contained in Scherner's article on the aircraft firms - does not provide a means for disentangling your factors (1-3) from the several other dynamics playing out, such as:
  • 1. Learning effects.
  • 2. "Underlying" productivity (using your term), e.g.. changes in demographics as more productive cohorts left industry and more productive joined, unaccounted loss of work hours to bombing, increased industrial dispersion that hampered system productivity, systemic unscheduled (and unaccounted at macro-level) downtimes for raw material shortages.
  • 3. Price-quality quandaries that bedevil calculations of inflation generally but particularly so regarding military products for which there is no free market mechanism. Deflation of later-war prices is a huge source of variance here, as Tooze's discussion amply demonstrates (see also Harrison's Accounting for War for the issue in Soviet context).
  • 4. Other statistical indeterminacy creating noise in one or another direction.
  • 5. Structural German efficiency improvements.
Let's assume, arguendo, that German wartime, top-line productivity trends mirrored other countries. If factors (2) and (3) have significantly adverse trendlines as the war progressed (they almost certainly did), and if factor (4) conceivably did as well (up for discussion), then something like factor (5) must explain Germany matching the world-wide wartime efficiency trend.

On the issue of whether Germany matched the international trend, I can't think of good international comparative work offhand - can you? At the broadest level I get the argument that it did, but don't have fine data resolution.

That's a broad outline of where I'm going. Obviously a longer-term project.

Thanks for the work putting together on the labor stats. Interesting approach and helpful. I'll surely refer back to it in the future.

For now one more thing on your post:
KDF33 wrote:1944 (scenario 2): 25 billion RM / 2,450,000 workers* = 10,204 RM worth of armaments by worker
On the theme of statistical indeterminacy having a directional valence, this is one potential source. By proxying armaments-sector worker productivity (i.e. valued added per worker) via final armaments output per worker, I foresee a problem - illustrated by an example from aviation (~50% of the sector):

As war progressed, the "buy to fly" ratio (raw materials purchased / metal content of the plane ) decreased. Therefore the ratio of value added in aircraft plants to final output (aircraft) increased, as the proportional value of input (aluminum etc.) decreased per plane. If that dynamic is true (seems pretty solid on the record), then your metric systemically underestimates worker productivity increase in armaments.

We could avoid that problem by analyzing efficiency at a level that includes both the final-armaments worker and the aluminium plant (as is my general wont). But of course that moves us to a level of description where it's more difficult to say anything useful beyond the most general, as you seem to recognize.

-----------------------------------------------

In the background I'm re-reading much of Tooze - haven't done so except to mine citations in a few years. "No Room" is extremely problematic, more than I thought. Probably will be my next post in this thread.
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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 19 Apr 2021 09:36

KDF33 wrote:(1) the re-tooling of the fighter aircraft plants
You're the first to point this out to me. I'm guessing you came up with it on your own but if not is there additional research around it?

I wonder whether the OKL archives - maybe Milch's Nuremberg files - contain discussion. I can see the LW thinking "Well we're just escorting Ostheer on its joyride to Moscow this year; let's take this downtime to retool everything before the big fight with W.Allies."

One nuance may be that '41-'42 appears to be when long-planned reworking of much LW production to more modern assembly-line practices really got going. Uziel's Arming the Luftwaffe has good discussion and diagrams, such as Erla's pre- and post-modernization factory floor layout. Budrass, Scherner, Streb's "Fixed-price contracts, learning, and outsourcing: explaining the continuous growth of output and labour productivity in the German aircraft industry during the Second World War" in The Economic History Review as well. LW might have introduced new types to factories when it planned to retool the factories anyway. Doesn't impact your efficiency narrative but does my narrative about LW complacency.

At a broader level - re this thread - it raises the question of why LW took until '41/'42 to retool towards modern assembly-line practice. Scherner and Tooze spend so much time emphasizing that it wasn't Speer's idea that they don't stop and ask why outmoded practices were maintained until '41/'42. Was that the case in Britain? USA? SU?
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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 19 Apr 2021 13:13

KDF33 wrote:Tooze uses the same breakdown. Each sector's share of overall armaments production for 3rd quarter 1943 amounts to:
For everyone else reading along, Tooze is using Wagenfuhr's breakdown for 3Q '43. He sees W's armaments index as being roughly valid for that period, which is its index/price baseline. Its problems arise from poor deflation backwards in time - particularly regarding the construction industry - and from inconsistent indexing. These factors bias the index downwards for the early war (per Tooze). As all constant-price indices rely on deflation/inflation and consistent indexing, this is a big problem outside 3Q '43.
KDF33 wrote:The first 2 items account for 88.5% of German armaments output. That's where the armaments workers we're looking for would be concentrated.
Generally true but with some significant caveats that have directional valence for our topic: Because Wagenfuhr excludes instruments and optics from armaments*, Tooze and your calculation do too. Bassett's (USSBS non-Wagenfuhr) index sees particularly high later-war productivity gains in this field, and Tooze shockingly says these gains "may be related to incorporation into Speer's system of Rings and Committees." No Room, p.457. Wait what? Doesn't that contradict like your entire career?

Basset's index is flattened due to no deflation pre-'43 (discussed more below) and insufficient after. The instrument/optic productivity ratio would exceed 200 but for that problem.

*This is especially loony. A logistics truck is armament but the sight that aims guns isn't?

-------------------------------------------------------------

Yes, reader, you heard me right: the armaments index that Tooze advances over Wagenfuhr's HAS NO DEFLATION PRIOR TO 1943.

Here's some cost figures for Ju-88:

Image

Per Uziel's Arming the Luftwaffe:
In 1941 the price of a Me 109F
was between 50,100 and 62,200 RM, depending on the size of the order. In 1945 unit price
of the heavier and more powerful G and K models of the same aircraft decreased to only
43,700 RM regardless of the size of the order.
Combined, Me-109 and Ju-88 are probably >half of LW production, therefore probably >1/4 of armaments production. Obviously deflation is needed.

To be fair to Tooze, he rhetorically concedes as much, stating "the Bassett figures clearly need to be handled with the same care that is required in interpreting Wagenführ's highly problematic data."

Yet Tooze's broad refereeing between the two shows none of the recommended care:
That said, the general picture painted
by the Bassett figures is surely more plausible than that hitherto taken from
Wagenführ, certainly for the period before 1942. 7.6 billion Reichsmark is
a far more credible estimate for the value of armaments produced in 1939
than Wagenführ's figure of 5 billion, as is a share of 17 percent in industrial
production. The peculiar 'kink' in armaments production between 1940 and
1941, which is the defining feature of the Wagenführ index, disappears
from the USSBS data altogether. T
...basically to Tooze the higher 1939 figure feels right and conforms to the productivity argument he's making - in support of which he offers Bassett's index. The last clause is circular, the first just a gut feeling.

My gut feeling is that 5bn RM on armaments in 1939 - around 100,000 Me-109's at 1943 prices - doesn't seem too low.

I suspect the reason USSBS reports cite Wagenfuhr over their own index (Bassett) is they realized Wagenfuhr's was better.

------------------------------------------------------

The most frustrating, confounding aspect of "No Room" is Tooze's treatment of labor usage for civilian purposes within Wehrmacht-contracted firms. To set this up, a brief recap of the landscape in which Tooze is arguing:

Tooze categorizes as "voluntarist" (and wrong) both the Millward under-mobilization thesis and the Overy-Muller (DRZW) inefficiency thesis. The Overy-Muller and Millward theses were formerly opposed; Overy-Muller had largely discredited Millward at the time of Tooze's writing. Both hold that the Nazis could have chosen (voluntarily) to increase production; Tooze says they could not have.

Here's the part I want to emphasize:
In early 1941, engineers employed by Todt's Ministry of
Munitions investigated 3027 armaments plants employing 2.2 million work-
ers, the hard core of armaments production. They found that of those sup-
posedly working on Wehrmacht contracts, 28 percent were actually em-
ployed on low priority contracts, including civilian work.37 This implies that
the number of those actually employed in armaments production in 1941
may have increased by only 66% relative to September 1939, which is less
than the increase in the armaments index over the same period.
[]
After having debunked
the data on which the Blitzkrieg thesis depends
, we are therefore left asking
no less serious questions about the plausibility of the 'inefficiency story'
spun by Overy and Müller.
This is some trickery:
Having more workers in civilian production (therefore fewer in military) does indeed diminish the Overy-Muller efficiency thesis. But doesn't it partially revive the Millward under-mobilization thesis? The Todt Ministries are telling us that all those workers we thought mobilized for war were not, as a practical matter, mobilized for war. But Tooze has guided the reader to see infamy in anything redolent of Millward and, lest this bit of evidence cause back-sliding, he reminds us ("having debunked the data on which the Blitzkrieg thesis depends..."). Voluntarism has been debunked in general, therefore an attack on any particular Voluntarist strain should lead one back to Tooze rather to a different strain of Voluntarism.

This is where my theory of "soft under-mobilization" comes in. It rejects the false dichotomy between inefficiency and under-mobilization, seeing them as connected - often indistinguishable - phenomena. Tooze's example (from DRZW) is perfect: Todt's ministry uncovered 616,000 "armaments workers" who were not producing armaments. Whether we consider their non-production "inefficiency" or "under-mobilization" does not matter: it was unproductive German armaments capacity.

From the standpoint of the German state, which allocated these workers to firms for armaments production, their non-production reflects inefficiency in controlling the principal-agent problem between state and firm. From the standpoint of the national account of war vs. civilian spending, the workers' production contributes to the latter and is a significant part of the ~10% difference between British and German mobilization by % of GDP in '40/'41.

Note that the study finding >600k non-producing "war-workers" applied only to those firms contracted with Todt's ministry, which at the time covered only some of Army production. GSWW v.5/1, p.912. There is no good reason to believe that firms supplying the LW and KM were any more honest about their labor deployment. As a result, this factor might alone explain a majority of German under-mobilization through '41, measured by military share of GDP vs. UK.

After the Winter Crisis 41-42, the German state forced firms to surrender unproductive (militarily) labor. It did so via, inter alia, threats to imprison firm officials for misallocating labor. While this penalty was rarely applied, it sent the proper messages to the business establishment. GSWW v.5/1, ch.V. In the background of this were programs to close inefficient businesses and revisions to contract terms with (non-LW) arms suppliers.

In the background of these government policy changes were ongoing learning effects normal to any new workforce and industry, such as was the majority of German arms manufacturing. How to disaggregate the effects of these different dynamics is the decades long debate.

The meta-error I see in that debate is to seek answers based only on top-line productivity trends or by invoking only one of the background trends to explain the top line. Disaggregation is needed and, as stated in my outline post upthread, would probably establish that some form of German systemic policy change is necessary to explain the full story.
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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by stg 44 » 19 Apr 2021 15:25

ljadw wrote:
19 Apr 2021 07:57
stg 44 wrote:
15 Nov 2020 04:24
Politician01 wrote:
14 Nov 2020 13:31
I recall a passage (From Murray Luftwaffe?) where a German Luftwaffe General marveled at all the aircraft that were to be built, asking: "What are we going to do with all these fighter aircraft"?
IIRC it was Jeschonnek responding to Milch when he offered him something like double the fighters in the next year and Jeschonnek responded with something like "I don't know what I would even do with that many".
And, Jeschonnek was not wrong .
You'll have to explain what you mean

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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by KDF33 » 19 Apr 2021 15:46

stg 44 wrote:
19 Apr 2021 15:25
You'll have to explain what you mean
It's useless. ljadw exists within his own reality. Engaging with him will merely clog up the thread. Trust me, I've gone down that rabbit hole previously.

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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by ljadw » 19 Apr 2021 16:03

When Jeschonnek said : ''I don't know what I would even do with that many fighters, he was not wrong, twice
First : a doubling of the fighter production was useless and only wast, unless if it was possible to double also the number of new pilots,something which was excluded .
Secondly : even if it was also possible to double the number of new pilots, this would not help Germany, as fighters were a defensive weapon,and Germany could not win against the Wallies by focusing on a defensive weapon . The only opponent that Germany could hope to defeat (I know that it was an illusion ) was the USSR ,and fighters would not be very important in the East,while bombers could help to force the outcome .
In July 1943 ,shortly before the start of Citadel, Hitler told Kammhuber (who wanted to have more night fighters ) : When I have defeated Russia, you can have everything for the defense of the Reich. However, then you will no longer need it .
Source : Hitler's War .P 189 .
And, Hitler was right : priority to the fighters would not make Germany winning the air war against the Wallies, it would only be an obstacle to victory in the East .
The only way to defend successfully the Reich against air attacks from the Wallies,was to defeat the USSR .
With hindsight, we know that victory in the East was also an illusion, but hindsight should be banned on a history forum .
From the same source ( P 188 )
in 1942 5500 fighters and 5600 bombers/dive-bombers were produced .
in 1943 8000 bombers and 10900 fighters .
This was a wrong policy : running with the hare and hunting with the hounds .
Or Germany had to chose the defensive strategy and producing 4000 bombers and 14900 fighters, or it was the offensive strategy :14900 bombers (if possible ) and 4000 fighters .
If both were impossible ,one had to focus on the Flak .

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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by KDF33 » 19 Apr 2021 17:01

stg 44 wrote:
19 Apr 2021 15:25
You'll have to explain what you mean
You see? I told you he exists within his own reality. He's also starting to clog up the thread all by himself.

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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 22 Apr 2021 15:18

KDF33 wrote:Now we can build an index of armaments workforce. Using USSBS data, we get:

11/30/1939: 1,024,000
11/30/1940: 1,330,000
11/30/1941: 1,501,000
11/30/1942: 1,966,000
11/30/1943: 2,239,000

Compare my inducted figure of 2,239,000 for 11/30/1943 to the primary source figure [Wagenfuehr's Gesamtplan of 1944] of 2,280,000 for 3rd quarter of 1943. That's a difference of 1.8%.
This is clever but its congruence with Wagenfuehr's Gesamtplan of '44 and with its methods means it's susceptible to the same problems. I'll let Tooze describe these, from Statistics and the German State:
Nevertheless, Wagenfuehr's Gesamtplan was far from complete. The
problem of attributing inputs to outputs remained unsolved. The rows
in Wagenfuehr's table purported to show the labour, iron, energy and
transport consumed in the production of each type of weapon. In fact,
they recorded only the resources consumed in the final process of
assembly. Wagenfuehr was able to include sub-contracted specialized
components, such as the labour and steel that went into casting the hull
of a tank. However, his table did not record any of the resources that
went into the mass of generic components from which the tank was
assembled. In the Gesamtplan these were counted in the rows showing
the inputs used by mechanical engineering and other key suppliers,
rather than in the row supposedly showing the inputs required by tank
production. And it was this flaw which Kehrl picked upon when he was
presented with Wagenfuehr's first draft.84 Rough estimates were not
enough. The Zentrale Planung required precise figures on the allocation
of labour.
As Tooze points out, armaments constituted ~20% of German GDP but Wagenfuehr could classify only 4.6% of the labor force in their production - between final assembly and tied sub-contractors. Armaments workers were not >4x more productive than German workers as a whole (especially considering the higher rate of unskilled foreigners, most of them forced laborers); one problem was the missing generic inputs.

In 1943, ~3/4's of armaments value-added came from (1) basic inputs (metals, transport, electricity, capital employed) and (2) the unaccounted parts manufacturers. (The ~3/4 assumes equal productivity between direct armaments and other industry sectors - there's double uncertainty because we don't know that to be true until we know armaments productivity).

We could create an index for (1) by analyzing metal allocations (figures for '42 and onward? I only have early war from USSBS and DRZW), electricity usage, rail freight ton-km devoted to armaments, and capital usage. From that we'd get a residual giving at least have some insight into (2)'s valued-added. Then we'd need labor force stats for this sector's productivity.

I suspect at least three significant things relate to a disjuncture between productivity in the relatively small final armaments sector (as measured by Wagenfuehr) and productivity of the German war economy as a whole:
  • Rationalization in materials usage, mainly metal. Aluminum consumption increased only 86% between '44 and '40 (per USSBS), yet AC index >tripled.
  • Disproportionate productivity gains by the anonymous mass of non-tied suppliers.
  • Machine tools becoming more effective for German wartime production conditions.
Your output measure would nonetheless be an accurate proxy for productivity - therefore of its trend - were Germany to have maintained constant ratios of (1) basic input : output and of (2) small suppliers : large/final. (1) pretty clearly doesn't hold, (2) is ambiguous.

On machine tools, there's clearly a trend towards specific-purpose tools and away from the general purpose tools that predominated in prewar German industry (USSBS Machine Tools report). Skilled workers could operate general-purpose tools, unskilled workers could not. In Das Ende eine Mythos?, Scherner and Streb attempt to show that supposed Speer-induced increases in productivity in the powder industry were in fact due to better/more capital (i.e. machine tools). Once again, the authors are too focused on debunking Speer to ask questions about what this might mean for the pre-Speer German war economy. Were firms willing to invest in special-purpose tooling when, as DRZW relates, many firms (e.g. the giant Bochumer Verein) were anticipating imminent return to peace Fall Gelb and Barbarossa? Probably not, as they'd get their skilled workers back soon, who were highly productive on the general-purpose machine tools, while the special-purpose tools would be worthless. USSBS says that Germany's machine tool industry always had excess capacity so if German firms had wanted to convert to unskilled war labor earlier, they probably could have.
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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 24 Apr 2021 10:23

Interesting discussion, thanks.

I noted this snippet in Niall Ferguson's The Cash Nexus and thought it might also have added to the difficulties in moving manpower between different sectors of the German economy during the early years of the war:
The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World 1700-2000; Ferguson, Niall (Penguin Books, 2002; 1st pub. Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 2001)

p.59
Concealed unemployment, and the attendant stagnation or outright decline of productivity, meant that state enterprises after 1914 were more often net recipients of state funds than revenue generators. A good illustration of this point is the way the German railways went from being a substantial source of revenue before the First World War to being a vast job-creation scheme in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich [Note: 26: Paddags, ‘German Railways’, pp. 9, 22 f., 28.]. On average, 30 per cent of the Reich deficit between January 1921 and November 1923 was accounted for by net expenditures on the Reichsbahn. A substantial part of the railway deficit was due to over-manning, as well as to the government’s failure to index passenger fares [Note 27: Calculated from figures in Webb, Hyperinflation and Stabilisation in Weimar Germany, pp. 33, 37.]. This policy was continued by the Nazis, who increased the number of railway employees by nearly a million. The contrast with the pre-war position in Prussia could hardly be more stark.
I don't know what Ferguson's source is for the figure of that extra million railway employees and would be interested to know if that is borne out by other evidence.

Regards

Tom

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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 24 Apr 2021 11:27

No idea what Ferguson is on about. Probably his inveterate rightwing disposition causes him to think of public infrastructure as a profit sector rather than, say, public infrastructure.

In particular, the Reichsbahn's freight haulage (t-km) more than doubled pre-war and far exceeded Weimar levels, so even if employment was higher (haven't bothered to check) it was well worth it. WW2 industry could not have been sustained absent the significant increase in Reichsbahn output. RB may have been a make-work program in '33-'35 but by '39 - and throughout the war - every bit of its effort was needed (and then some).

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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by ljadw » 24 Apr 2021 11:44

Staff of the Reichsbahn was more than 1 million in 1920 and 563000 at the end of 1932 .
It is possible that the figures from Ferguson include foreigners who were drafted during the war, especially in the East .

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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by ljadw » 24 Apr 2021 11:53

The Most Valuable Asset of the Reich : P 165
Staff :
1933 : 593000
1939 : 958000
1944 : 1,581,000
Thus Ferguson is right .

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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 24 Apr 2021 12:12

ljadw wrote:
24 Apr 2021 11:53
The Most Valuable Asset of the Reich : P 165
Staff :
1933 : 593000
1939 : 958000
1944 : 1,581,000
Thus Ferguson is right .
Does ljadw know what Ferguson's argument is or which metrics might prove or rebut it?

DRB traffic (freight t-km) increased by 57% '39-'43; its employment by 59%. Productivity was even* during the war; the topic is not relevant to the underperformance of the early-war German economy.

*The 2% dip in nominal productivity is explainable by the difficult conditions in the East (getting blown up by partisans harms productivity), where >100k DRB employees worked.
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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by ljadw » 24 Apr 2021 14:15

Ferguson said that the number of employees increased by a million. This is corrobated by Mierzejewski.
The question was if there was an evidence for what Ferguson said . The answer is : yes .
That's all .

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Re: The under-performance of the early-war German economy

Post by ljadw » 24 Apr 2021 14:46

Potgiesser (Die RB im Ostfeldzug P 58 ) gives 11899 Germans and 633935 non Germans working on the railways in the East on January 1 1943 and on page 142 1,370,000 Germans working on the railways in the Reich in April 1944 .

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