Hitler’s Views on Private Property and Nationalization
The answer to the question of Adolf Hitler’s position on private ownership and nationalization appears to be fairly simple. It is generally accepted that Hitler recognized private ownership of the means of production and rejected nationalization. To leave it at that, as is generally done, would mean being superficial because this statement is far too undifferentiated and leaves too many questions unanswered. In my book Hitler’s National Socialism I analyze the dictator’s economic and sociopolitical thinking.
Pollock: “Destruction of All the Essential Traits of Private Ownership”
In an article on the economic system of National Socialism published in 1941, the economist and sociologist Friedrich Pollock (a cofounder of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, which later became the nucleus of the Frankfurt school) pointed out the following:
I agree that the legal institution of private ownership was maintained, and that many attributes characteristic for National Socialism begin to manifest themselves, albeit still vaguely, in non-totalitarian countries. But does this mean that the function of private ownership did not change? Is the “increase of power of a few groups” really the most important result of the change which took place? I believe it reaches far more deeply and should be described as the destruction of all the essential traits of private ownership, saving one exception. Even the mightiest concerns were denied the right to set up new fields of business in areas where the highest profits were to be expected, or to interrupt a production where it became unprofitable. These rights were transferred in their entirety to the ruling groups. The compromise between the groups in power initially determined the extent and direction of the production process. Faced with such a decision, the title of ownership is powerless, even if it is derived from the possession of the overwhelming majority of the share capital, let alone when it only owns a minority.
As we know, Hitler’s method rarely consisted of simply radically removing an institution or organization but rather of continuing to erode its inner substance until there was virtually nothing left of its original function or original content. For the sake of the analogy only, we should note that the constitution of Weimar was never repealed either but that its substance and intention were eroded little by little and thereby abolished in practice.
In his early speeches Hitler advocated the nationalization of land but in principle still came out in favor of private ownership. As becomes clear from Otto Wagener’s notes, Hitler’s skeptical position on nationalization had to do with his socio-Darwinist convictions. Otto Wagener, who from early January 1931 until June 1932 headed the Economic Policy Department of the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or National Socialist German Workers’ Party) and was Hitler’s economic policy advisor, reports that Hitler had stated in 1930:
As far as this goes, the whole concept of nationalization in the form in which it has been attempted and demanded so far appears to me to be wrong, and I come to the same conclusion as Herr Wagener. We have to bring a pr
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