In The Wages of Destruction: the making and breaking of the Nazi economy, Adam Tooze sheds new insights into the Nazi regime and its actions by presenting them through the lens of economics. In the same way that Gerhard Weinberg’s A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II changed our appreciation of the conflict by presenting the first history of that war to provide a truly global account of the conflict, Tooze sheds new light into how economics were central to the Nazi’s conduct from the moment they took power.
I believe that this book’s most important contribution is how it ties Hitler’s ideology as expressed in Mein Kampf and his “Second Book” with the horrors later perpetrated by the Nazi state via a logical economic framework. Their activities aren’t merely acts of madmen overlaid on a virulent racist ideology, but rather a logically systematic, economically rational effort to implement Hitler’s vision. Hitler was no blundering buffoon, and attempts to portray him as such allow us to dismiss him, diminish the horrors of that time, and relegate these events to the history bookshelf. If nothing else, by shattering that myth, this book reminds us again how our own deeply-ingrained prejudices can logically translate into actions, less horrific than the Nazis, perhaps, but nevertheless deleterious in their cumulative effect on our supposed enemies.