German armament producers, such as Krupp, started stockpiling scrap metal for the “next war” before the ink was dry on the Treaty of Versailles.  The Treaty severely limited German military manning, armament, and even industry manning.  Even the scrap metal from disarmament was hoarded.  German industry found and exploited loopholes in the treaty also.  Factories owned by the German firms such as Krupp outside Germany were not subject to search by the Interallied Military Control Commission.  Another loophole was only fabrication of military equipment was forbidden, designing wasn’t.  Krupp put his weapons design team up in an office near the Wehrmacht headquarters and kept them designing till Hitler renounced the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.[1]

Krupp is a good example of using foreign plants to get around the Treaty restrictions.  He had a plant in the Netherlands and as the inspectors made their first rounds, quickly sent 1500 artillery pieces that had been built, but not delivered before the cease fire, to his Holland plant before the inspectors could find them.  When the inspectors noted the 1500 cannon discrepancy from what they found and what the French had estimated based on the number of shells that landed on their forces, the inspectors had Krupp open up the assembly line and paid him to build 1500 more just to turn around and destroy them.[2]

The German Armament industry actually improved from the forced destruction of its assembly lines and foundries.  Where as French, British, and American munitions plants still had the facilities to build World War I equipment at the start of the Second World War (the 105mm howitzer in front of Price Memorial is an example – a Model 1918 artillery piece built in 1941) German industry had to rebuild and therefore could modernize as it did so.[3]

Some of the industrial firms went so far as to bill the Allies to help pay for their reconstruction.  Krupp billed France for payment of a fuse patent held by Krupp that the French had used.  He also used the French formula for figuring what was owed by how many shells had fallen.  The French grudgingly paid about one fourth of what Krupp billed.[4]

Once Hitler rose to the position of Chancellor, the arms makers started stockpiling steel at around eight times their normal rate.  They also started plans for full scale military production.[5]

The interwar German military hierarchy saw the need for blitzkrieg or a true combined arms effort in warfare.  Yet only a small minority saw the need for heavy long range aircraft for what became known as strategic bombing.  Almost to a man, the World War I fighter pilots and infantry officers now in positions to make policy felt dive bombers were the secret to success in the air war.  They felt that Germany’s central position in Europe meant at most medium range and load bombers were more than enough to handle the requirements for “strategic” bombing.[6]

Lack of long range aircraft of any type hurt both the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe in Russia.  As the Wehrmacht moved forward, so must the Luftwaffe.  The further into Russia both moved, the further the logistics line grew.  The further into Russia the Wehrmacht went, the wider front both were responsible for.  By August 1941 the readiness of both Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe suffered more from lack of parts than from Soviet forces.[7]

The Treaty of Versailles forbid the very existence of the Luftwaffe so Germany worked around that.  Instead of designing “bombers”, the aircraft industry designed fast “commercial” aircraft only capable of holding a half dozen passengers at the most.  Room for bombs was planned in but defensive armament was forgotten.  Once the Luftwaffe could form, its aircraft were mainly compromises between transport and bomber.[8]

In these mediocre bombers went an overly complicated bombsite.  Accurate “pinpoint” bombing required a well trained and highly skilled master.  The average aircrewman was not up to the job.[9]

The compromise bombers with their restrictively small bomb loads coupled with an inaccurate bomb site pushed the “dive bomber” clique over the top.  Göring, Milch, and Udet sold Hitler on the idea of using dive bombers for pinpoint strikes to go with the combined arms blitzkrieg warfare.  On top of this, Göring insisted on all future bombers having dive bombing capabilities.  This hit the Ju-88 very hard.  The weight of the Ju-88 doubled to try to meet this requirement.[10]  The results were a poor dive of no more than thirty degrees and a much slower and less maneuverable aircraft – and it was the good Luftwaffe bomber!  Just think of what it could have done at original fighting weight!

Following Hitler’s assumption of power, he immediately got involved with the particulars of re-arming Germany.  Herr Hitler’s assessment of France led to his dismissal of the need for “strategic” bombers.  Tactical aircraft would be less sophisticated and require fewer resources to manufacture.  They would also meet any need in a “contemporary military confrontation.”[11]

Both Hitler and Göring realized developing the Wehrmacht into a weapon capable of conquering Europe meant the Luftwaffe needed to be able to gain and maintain air superiority.  Development of aircraft capable of doing so became a high priority.  By 1936, several of the aircraft that are now synonymous with the Luftwaffe of World War II were in development or production.[12]

Hitler, now sold on the dive bomber as a cure for all ills, added his own demands to aircraft development rules.  He ordered that all future fighters would be fighter-bombers.  The Bf-109 and Bf-110 jabos, or jagdbombers, were made capable of carrying bombs, but to get good results required special training not available outside special units such as Erprobungsgr. (Test Group) 210 or LG-2.[13]  This requirement held up production of aircraft such as the ME-262 and made some good performing aircraft into mediocre fighters.[14]  When Hitler demanded of Willie Messerschmitt that the Me 262 be able to carry bombs, Messerschmitt assured him it could.  The bomb racks would fit on the wings.  The fact that no wiring was there to operate the racks apparently wasn’t important enough to tell Herr Hitler.[15]

What rearmament that was done under Hitler’s chancellorship, was done financially on the sly.  Rather than have the initial rearmament budget as a line item to be discussed in the Reichstag, the armament industry was funded by MEFO bills.  These were given in lieu of payment along the lines of a bond.  The manufacturer then was to use them to buy necessary raw materials and subcontracted parts.  The new owners could use them to buy what they needed for the rearming of Germany. Somewhere down the line, the MEFO bills would be deposited in a state bank, where they would be paid for out of the German budget.  The government budget did pay for the rearming, but it was never a budget line item for anyone to find.[16]

Another way MEFO bills were paid for eventually was through seized assets.  Enemies of the State, communists, Jews, and other such traitors, would have all their assets seized and the money was applied to the funds to pay off the MEFO bills.[17]

I. G. Farben came to power during this reconstruction of the German economy and industry.  A conglomerate of dye manufacturers (Interessen Gemeinschaft der deutschen Teerfarbenindustrie) I. G. Farben specialized in utilizing coal tar, a by product of the steel making processes of the day.  In 1926, I. G. Farben started developing a plant that could make synthetic gasoline and synthetic rubber.  In order to make this more economical, they paid heavily into the political coffers of the up and coming National Socialist party in exchange for higher tariffs on imported petroleum products.[18]

Milch did serve the Luftwaffe well on some points.  Mainly through his efforts, the aircraft industry’s labor force expanded from a January 1933 manning of 4,000 to 16,870 in 1934 to 204,100workers in 1938.[19]

Reichsmarschall Göring, aside from being the head of the Luftwaffe, also held the purse strings of the entire military.  He alone decided which service got how much money for development of new modern weapons.  He gave the Luftwaffe half of this budget.  That meant the Navy and the Wehrmacht split the rest.  When it actually came down to specifically funding development of Panzerkamphwagens (armored fighting vehicles), not much was left.  This limited the ability to spend a proper amount of time developing new tanks and working all the problems out before production.[20]

Through out the prewar years, the German armaments industry was hampered by a shortage of raw materials.  This was due to the rest of Europe monitoring the imports of Germany and the world wide depression that hit so hard.  Not all the marks could be spent on stockpiling raw materials for the German war machine.  German consumers had to be pandered to also.[21]

These ‘limited resources’ led the German High Command to restrict the time ‘wasted’ on development.  This meant fewer models went into production and the design of each had to meet all the requirements.  As requirements changed throughout the war, the “approved” designs were tinkered with more and more to continue to get the job done.  Only when this would not work would a new design be authorized.[22]

While at the start of the war, German industry may have been short on raw materials, after the capture of Poland, and France especially, the captured stockpiles of raw materials more than made up for the poor planning and mishandling of necessary war material.  In 1942, the “looted” materials and machinery was hauled back to Germany.  Instead of installing the machinery in factories to increase output, German industry put the confiscated equipment in storage.[23]

Some industrialist such as Krupp did start stockpiling raw materials as early as 1920, but as a whole group, the armaments industry prepared for World War II as if the failed von Schlieffen Plan of World War I with its “Paris for lunch, Moscow for dinner” was going to magically come true this time.

Shortfalls in production came early for Germany.  In aircraft production, Germany had given the Luftwaffe enough aircraft of all types so that September 1939 saw the Luftwaffe at a combat strength of 98.9%.  September of 1940 saw a combat strength down to 85%.  By December 1941 Luftwaffe combat strength was down to 63.3%.[24]

July 1940 saw the production of fighters peak at 220 per month (Lord Beaverbrook had 440 fighters come of the assembly lines that month).  August 1940 saw only 173 fighters (Bf-109s and Bf-110s) built in Germany.  With the loss rates being experienced during the Battle of Britain, Oberst Werner Junck, Luft Flotte 3’s fighter commander, pointed out to Reichsmarschall Göring the need for increased fighter production during a conference at Karinhall 15 August 1940, Göring replied, “I must take your pulse to see if you are all right physically – it seems you have lost your senses.”[25] 

That was not the first time Göring had been told and summarily dismissed the need for increased fighter production.  Some had even pointed out the Luftwaffe would need to have a fighter-to-fighter kill ratio of 4-to-1 to be able to handle the Royal Air Force with the attrition rate suffered by the Luftwaffe in August 1940.  Bf-109 production at Regensburg and Augsburg had the assembly line still only running for only six hours a day.  When General Thomas, Luftwaffe production coordinator pointed the same thing out, Göring became red faced and stated any such move would be deadly to moral in Germany.[26]

At the end of 1941, the Luftwaffe had gone through its full complement of aircraft twice!  In both 1940 and 1941, the losses incurred had completely cycled the Luftwaffe through the number of aircraft it started that year with.  And losses were only going to get worse.[27]

Industry never successfully shifted from prewar production to full mobilization till Albert Speer forced it in mid 1944.  This was in spite of the mobilization plans begun as early as 1926!  Krupp did not shift from one shift 8 hour days till forced too in 1944.[28]

The Luftwaffe’s highest officials spent much of their time and effort infighting and trying to build their own little empires.  This limited the possibility of them making good decisions for the future of the Luftwaffe.[29]

Göring, Milch and Jeschonnek all had blind obedience to Hitler’s infallibility.  This led to each one of their decision making processes to atrophy from lack of use.[30]  When decisions had to be made and Hitler was wrong, these three were particularly unable to reason out the correct solution by the end of the war.[31]

To Udet especially, as head of the Luftwaffe technical development, the dive bomber was the perfect solution.  It got better results for less materials used to manufacture.[32]  The World War I fighter pilot clique as a whole was enamored with the idea of dive bombers.  This was primarily due to the joy they had in flying them during testing![33]

During the remilitarization of Germany, the Luftwaffe stockpiled medium bombers and fighters.  At the time they were superior to the aircraft the Allies were fielding.  The superiority and stockpile did not last.  British, Soviet, and later American aircraft wore down the supply.  Not only were airframes lost, but the experienced crews were lost, too.  They would not be there for later missions, or probably more importantly, they wouldn’t be there to train replacement crews.  Nor did Germany pursue aircraft development in a systematic fashion.[34]

While the later part of the war did see the introduction of the FW-190 series (including the TA-152) and the Me-262, both outstanding fighters, they were the exception to the rule and never were allowed to go into production in enough quantity to have a full impact.[35]

During the war, Adolf Galland, on a tour of the Messerschmitt factory, observed the plant was too disorganized to efficiently achieve good results.  Milch, in response to the aircraft industry’s constant complaint of lack of raw materials such as aluminum, found the Messerschmitt plant using aircraft aluminum to make ladders and sheds.[36] Yet, by the G model of the Bf-109, the tail structure, or empennage, was made from wood due to a lack of aircraft aluminum.[37]

In contrast to the German arms industry’s lack of backing the war effort whole heartedly, Lord Beaverbrook, in charge of the aircraft industry for Britain called the RAF fighter Command daily to see how many fighters he had to pull from factories and repair depots to meet the RAF’s needs for the next day.[38]

By the start of World War II, German industry was enamored with complicated advanced weapons.  An example is the anti-aircraft fire control directors installed on the German Navy’s modern ships such as Bismarck.  It had a speed setting for the attacking aircraft.  This was meant to give gunners the proper lead when aiming and shooting at attacking aircraft.  The British torpedo bomber of the day was the Swordfish, a cloth covered open cockpit biplane more commonly known as the Stringbag.  Carrying a torpedo, it might be able to make 90 knots.  The German fire control system had a minimum of 110 knots.[39]  This meant that an obsolete design could attack a modern German warship and only be shot by accident.

.           German armaments industry began losing workers to the mobilization of men for the Wehrmacht.  At the start of the war, foreign laborers were conscripted from the occupied countries.  As the need for arms expanded, there was a shortfall in the labor pool available.  Leaders of industry approached the government suggesting a new source of labor for their factories.  Germany was already making some of these people work for the State.  Krupp and his cohorts suggested that using this source of workers for the industry would benefit the State also.  The labor source was the concentration camp system.[40] 

While the conscripted laborers from France, Poland, the Netherlands, and other occupied nations were not as efficient workers as the German workers lost to the war, their deliberate slowness and sabotage was still more productive than the use of concentration camp inmates.  The conditions the concentration camp labor force was kept in were purposely below the existence level.  The average life expectancy of one of these laborers was roughly three months.  Then the factory had to train new ones.  The ability of the musselmen (slave laborers so beaten down by conditions as to be basically walking dead) to do delicate or intricate work was severely debilitated by their extremely poor physical condition.[41]

While Albert Speer finally fully mobilized the German industry in 1944, the use of slave labor started before that.  I. G. Farben set up its synthetic rubber plant at Monowitz Poland and used slave labor from Auschwitz III, a camp specifically established for the use of I. G. Farben.[42]  Approximately 405,000 slave laborers passed through Auschwitz during the war.  At any given time after the opening of I. G. Farben’s Buna Werkes, around 65,000 slave laborers were “employed” there.[43]

I. G. Farben was not the only corporation to seek out and utilize concentration camp labor.  The following is a highly abbreviated listing of major corporations that utilized slave labor and the camps they used:

(Edited) List of the Major Companies
Involved in the Concentration Camps[44]

To meet Messerschmitt’s needs, slave workers from Ebensee concentration camp in Austria were forced to dig out tunnels to make an underground factory for the assembly of Me 262 Swalbe jet fighters.  As a sub-camp of Mauthausen, once Ebensee’s inmates were finished, a work force from Mauthausen would probably have been drafted.[45]

Krupp was not guiltless either.  Baron Krupp personally approached the SS for labor in 1942.  As the list above shows, Krupp once his request was approved, went at it full bore.  Not shown in the list is a factory that was under construction at Auschwitz.[46]


Forced labor at the construction of a Krupp's factory in Auchwitz[47]

To further understand Germany’s industrial games completely, specific examples of weapons developed by them must be used.  For the aviation industry, the Bf-109 fighter aircraft by Messerschmitt will be used.  For the rest, the jointly developed Panzerkamphwagen V Panther and Panzerkamphwagen VI Tiger series will be examined.

Interior view of an abandoned Messerschmitt airplane factory near Flossenbürg, where inmates of the nearby concentration camp were forced to work.[48]


 

[1] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 32.

[2] Ibid, 31.

[3] Ibid, 28.

[4] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 25.

[5] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 72.

[6] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 99.

[7] Murray Williamson, Strategy for Defeat: The Luftwaffe 1933-1945. (London: Quintet 2000) 71.

[8] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 100.

[9] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 100.

[10] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 101.

[11]  Murray Williamson, Strategy for Defeat: The Luftwaffe 1933-1945. (London: Quintet 2000) 13.

[12] Brandon Kyle Leniart, World Ward II in Europe (http://www.angelfire.com/ct/ww2europe/index.html, http://www.angelfire.com/ct/ww2europe/germanaircraft.html 6 July, 2004)

[13] Richard Collins Eagle Day (New York: Avon 1966) 42.

[14] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 102.

[15] Richard Suchenwirth Historical Turning Points in the German Air Force War Effort (New York: Arno Press 1960) 121.

[16] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 73.

[17] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 72.

[18] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 75.

[19] Murray Williamson, Strategy for Defeat: The Luftwaffe 1933-1945. (London: Quintet 2000) 17.

[20] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 112

[21] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 142.

[22] Editors of Time-Life Books Fists of Steel (Alexandria Virginia: Time-Life, 1988) 146.

[23] Murray Williamson, Strategy for Defeat: The Luftwaffe 1933-1945. (London: Quintet 2000) 78.

[24] Murray Williamson, Strategy for Defeat: The Luftwaffe 1933-1945. (London: Quintet 2000) 81.

[25] Richard Collins Eagle Day (New York: Avon 1966) 98.

[26] Richard Collins Eagle Day (New York: Avon 1966) 98.

[27] Murray Williamson, Strategy for Defeat: The Luftwaffe 1933-1945. (London: Quintet 2000) 84.

[28] Richard Suchenwirth Historical Turning Points in the German Air Force War Effort (New York: Arno Press 1960) 46.

[29] Richard Suchenwirth Historical Turning Points in the German Air Force War Effort (New York: Arno Press 1960) 3-5.

[30] Murray Williamson, Strategy for Defeat: The Luftwaffe 1933-1945. (London: Quintet 2000) 21.

[31] Richard Suchenwirth Historical Turning Points in the German Air Force War Effort (New York: Arno Press 1960) 13.

[32] Richard Suchenwirth Historical Turning Points in the German Air Force War Effort (New York: Arno Press 1960) 29.

[33] Richard Suchenwirth Historical Turning Points in the German Air Force War Effort (New York: Arno Press 1960) 30.

[34] Brandon Kyle Leniart, World Ward II in Europe (http://www.angelfire.com/ct/ww2europe/index.html, http://www.angelfire.com/ct/ww2europe/germanaircraft.html 6 July, 2004)

[35] Brandon Kyle Leniart, World Ward II in Europe (http://www.angelfire.com/ct/ww2europe/index.html, http://www.angelfire.com/ct/ww2europe/germanaircraft.html 6 July, 2004)

[36] Richard Suchenwirth Historical Turning Points in the German Air Force War Effort (New York: Arno Press 1960) 121.

[37] Brandon Kyle Leniart, World Ward II in Europe (http://www.angelfire.com/ct/ww2europe/index.html, http://www.angelfire.com/ct/ww2europe/germanaircraft.html 6 July, 2004)

[38] Len Deighton Battle of Britain (London: Coward, McMann, & Geoghengan, 1980) 164.

[39] John Deane Potter Breakout (New York: Bantam 1982) 114.

[40] Jewish Virtual Library, Forced Labor (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/labor.html 7 July 2004)

[41] Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site: Slave Labor(www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/english/slavelab.htm 7 July 2004)

[42] Holocaust Learning Center, US Holocaust Museum, Concentration Camps, 1942-1945. (www.ushmm.org http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php 7 July 2004)

[43] Jewish Virtual Library, Auschwitz-Birkenau (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/auschbirk.html 7 July 2004)

[44] Jewish Virtual Library, List of Major Companies Involved in the Concentration Camps (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/campcos.html 7 July 2004)

 

[45] Mark Vadasz, Jewish Virtual Library, Ebensee(Austria) (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/ebensee.html 7 July 2004)

[46] A Teachers Guide to the Holocaust, Forced Labor (http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/gallery  7 July 2004)

[47] A Teachers Guide to the Holocaust, Forced Labor (http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/gallery  7 July 2004)

[48] A Teachers Guide to the Holocaust, Forced Labor (http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/gallery  7 July 2004)

 

 

The Bf 109 as the Archetype of the Luftwaffe