• The Wages of Destruction

  • The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy
  • By: Adam Tooze
  • Narrated by: Adam Tooze, Simon Vance
  • Length: 30 hrs and 19 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (281 ratings)

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The Wages of Destruction  By  cover art

The Wages of Destruction

By: Adam Tooze
Narrated by: Adam Tooze,Simon Vance
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Publisher's summary

"Masterful.... [A] painstakingly researched, astonishingly erudite study.... Tooze has added his name to the roll call of top-class scholars of Nazism." (Financial Times)

An extraordinary mythology has grown up around the Third Reich that hovers over political and moral debate even today. Adam Tooze's controversial book challenges the conventional economic interpretations of that period to explore how Hitler's surprisingly prescient vision - ultimately hindered by Germany's limited resources and his own racial ideology - was to create a German super-state to dominate Europe and compete with what he saw as America's overwhelming power in a soon-to-be globalized world. 

The Wages of Destruction is a chilling work of originality and tremendous scholarship that set off debate in Germany and will fundamentally change the way in which history views the Second World War.  

This audiobook contains a downloadable PDF of tables and figures from the book. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2021 Adam Tooze (P)2021 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic reviews

"One of the most important and original books to be published about the Third Reich in the past twenty years. A tour de force." (Niall Ferguson)

"Tooze has produced the most striking history of German strategy in the Second World War that we possess. This is an extraordinary achievement, and it places Adam Tooze in a very select company of historians indeed.... Tooze has given us a masterpiece which will be read, and admired; and it will stimulate others for a long time to come." (Nicholas Stargardt, History Today

"It is among Adam Tooze's many virtues, in The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy, that he can write about such matters with authority, explaining the technicalities of bombers and battleships. Hovering over his chronicle are two extraordinary questions: how Germany managed to last as long as it did before the collapse of 1945 and why, under Hitler, it thought it could achieve supremacy at all." (Norman Stone, The Wall Street Journal

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answers a long awaiting question

very nice and elaborate.
also manacung in how similar the third reich's economic system was to what we currently have.
only issue is how the writter keeps on using the derogatory term "Capitalism" to indicate free markets... the Communist propaganda is a hard habit to loose.

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Ties the story together in an amazing way

I expected the best from Adam Tooze, having happily devoured audios of The Deluge and Crashed (and avidly awaiting the release soon of Shutdown). My expectations were more than fulfilled. I long ago absorbed all the standard narratives of World War 2 in classrooms, documentaries and shallower books, but this only deepened my curiosity: how did this battered nation seemingly spring up from ruin, march across the world stage, and shake (and ultimately rearrange) the world order? This is the book I was waiting for, to connect all the vital parts and details. Here is a masterful telling of a huge body of events, yet producing all sorts of unforeseen insights, through various connecting side stories. It goes far beyond a dry recitation of, say, steel production statistics. It breathes life into those facts, with riveting personal (and corporate) stories, moving seamlessly from on-the-ground details to the big picture and back, from culture to politics to personalities to finance to weapons systems to battles, through countless connecting narratives. In retrospect I am startled at my ignorance on something like the full role of Hermann Goering in Nazi history. Similarly the doings in occupied territories sprung into new detail and dimensions. I knew the Nazis as vicious kleptocrats, but now I get the whole tapestry of this, the vital nuts and bolts alongside the big picture. Narrator Simon Vance does his usual top job.

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Couldn’t sit through the narrator

Arrogant matter of fact voice, sorry I stopped at the preface I couldn’t possibly sit through 30 hours of a pompous arrogant voice

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Great Read

Highly engaging read. Hard to put down. Explains economic and ideological rationale for what is often written off as idiosyncratic miscalculation.

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Important new angles on a much covered topic

Viewing the upcoming battle of the century with an itemized inventory of the two sides resources one rapidly understands Hitler was on a suicide mission from day one. How the 4:1 advantage of the allies eventually expressed itself, whether in young men, coal, oil, grain, steel, or subsets of alloys or weapons.

It was also interesting to see the abject incompetence in 1940 of the British and French. How different the next 5 years would have been with some brighter generals. To see how, right from the beginning the British Empire plus strong support from the US was a looming monster that would have consumed Germany even without the earlier phenomenal efforts of the USSR in bleeding the nazis dry. Interesting how Germany extracted more fuel and grain from the East under contract before the war than they could as hated occupiers.

Many lessons and new perspectives.

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Excellent and Unique View

Best I have read in terms of tying German strategy with economic realities Germany faced after WW1 and in going up against Russia and the United States. Clearly and logically explained and well narrated.

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Superb

This book helped me to challenge many assumptions that I had held about WWII. Absolutely fascinating.

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Detailed

I liked how detailed it was in describing the war, strategy and its financial impact.

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Fantastic Book

This is a well written analysis of Nazi economic history that gives a unique and persuasive take on this period. A must read for those who think they know all they need to know about this era.

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Great book with excellent detail

Simon Vance. He is the best at recording. I sometimes look for books, including this one, by seeing what he’s performed. This book is a great detailed look at not just the nazi economy. It looks at the men who made the decisions and who was really responsible for the success led and failures. If you are interested in WW2 this book will explain in accessible detail how the nazis built the weapons of war, and more.

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  • Derrick
  • 11-29-21

Genuinely brilliant

I have been reading histories of WWII for over 50 years. I have become a little jaded; wondering how often one can come across something that truly adds something fresh given the mountain of books already written on every facet of that terrible conflict. Then this comes along.
I came to it via "Crashed"; Tooze's superb analysis of the 2008 financial meltdown. This, however, is better. Why? Because Tooze explains the dynamics of Hitler's war in a way that is not just new, it is unique.
He lays bare the economic drivers to the Nazi approach to WWII in a way that is clear, authoritative and totally credible. It really has changed my views on the war. It gives the first rational and credible explanation I have read for why on earth Hitler declared war on the USA. It offers a new context to the primacy (or otherwise) of Drang Nach Osten; the drive to the East. It adds powerful context as to just how reckless a gambler Hitler was given the threadbare economic underpinnings of his regime. It makes an important contribution on the importance of slave labour to the economics of the Nazi war machine and does a great job of bringing more rigour to the true role played by Albert Speer as opposed to his own reworking of history.
This is a truly brilliant, important book.

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  • HellRazor
  • 08-31-21

Woulda, coulda…shoulda.

What am I to make of this book?

As a someone interested in history, recently getting curious about macroeconomics, I thought that I’d delve into a book about how the Nazis had pulled the Germans out of a devastated post WWI economy to finance their wartime efforts for the Second World War.

I’m not sure what I expected but I can’t say that I came away with much real insight after finishing this book. It’s not that the book was dry, or overly academic in some way, it’s just that the meal was not satisfying enough, it left a hole in your intellectual solar plexus.

How & why did Hitler forge the military blunders that cost Germany victory that appeared early on to be within its marital grasp? Many historians, armchair & otherwise, are only to willing to furnish us on the cheap with all the patent answers of self-complacent hindsight.

But one always finds oneself reaching to scratch the same annoying intellectual itch that, at the time when past was present, it must have looked quite different to the ones in the driver’s seat, doing the driving.

So I was perhaps searching for the delivery of unaccustomed answers from a different angle to quench the fire of my ignorance that was perhaps a key to this misunderstanding.

But alas, after finishing this book, I’m as mystified as I was prior to starting it.

Wages of Destruction is not so much a history of the economics of the process in question as it is a history with some nominal economics thrown in- like a handful of croutons on a sort of wilted tossed salad of the subject, when what you were really after was a five course banquet.

Perhaps I ought to give the book a second chance and sit down to make another meal of it?

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-30-21

Crucial for understanding WW2

This is a very good book focusing on an aspect of the war that doesn't get enough attention normally, although there are some flaws in the author's understanding of political systems, but that doesn't really affect the overall conclusions reached. The beginning of the book is somewhat heavy as it focuses quite a bit on monetary policy which is a somewhat dry topic, although certainly very important for the history of the war. The rest is easier to understand and follow, focusing and different aspects of the war economy, like for example what was done to increase production in certain sectors (i.e aircraft, ammunitions etc.) and also some historical narration around that generally, like what was going on in the war at that time to place it in the general context of WW2.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in WW2, even if you are not really interested in economy or do not understand much of it, you can certainly get out a lot of this book, especially after the beginning.

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  • nines
  • 08-12-21

Superb analysis of Nazi economy

This is a superb piece of work, excellently narrated and it is very welcome that there is now this audio version.

As someone once said "it's the economy, stupid". Those argues in great depth and with thorough research that the downfall of the third reich was due to the economic failures, poor planning and lack of resources as much as purely military matters. His debunking of the Speer myth is very good too.

No one with an interest in WW2 should be without this piece of work in one format or another.

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  • World Traveller
  • 08-06-23

Important insights into the Nazi regime from an economic perspective

A major study of the German economy which answers many questions about the apparent irrationality of Hitler’s war strategy. Not easy listening but very worthwhile.

I had understood that the Nazis engaged in a work creation program akin to Keynesian policy but this book shows that the Nazis focussed almost exclusively on rearmament (which incidentally had work creation benefits.

The most chilling aspect is the link between the Holocaust and food scarcity from 1941 onwards. The victory in France (thanks to a late change in strategy) and the Ribbentrop/Molotov pact were stunning but Hitler still calculated that he had to invade the Soviet Union to take its resources if he was to defeat the “world Jewish conspiracy” led by Roosevelt and Churchill.

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  • olympian
  • 10-05-22

Interesting lens to view German's WW2 through

Interesting to hear about the details that went into different aspects of making German's WW2 economy work, and what some of the driving forces were and how they affected overall diplomatic policy.

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  • Arkhidamos
  • 08-23-22

Subtly terrifying and absolutely superb

I admit to being baffled by one of the other reviewers who said they didn’t think this was an economic history. Perhaps they thought Hitler and Schacht and the others had some magical equation and that the book would lay out how that unfolded in 1930’s Germany. In reality economics, as someone once said, is concentrated politics. Hitler and his government had political goals, and sought to subordinate the economy to those goals. This book lays out how they did it, why key actors such as the capitalist magnates of German industry and finance went along with it, and how the priorities evolved in light of the internal logic of the Nazi economic system, in light of external events and in light of the peculiar impetus imparted by the racial hierarchy of Nazi social policy.

I describe the book as subtly terrifying. In a way I have simply never seen, it fully humanises and rationalises Nazi goals, using direct quotations from the people leading the state and economy and from primary sources. From the drive to establish a counterweight to America, to the realities of how to feed and extract labour from a continent occupied by Germany and blockaded by the largest navies in the world, Tooze’s ability to establish the political motivation of the Nazis fully makes intelligible key decisions, such as the death camps and the barbaric treatment of the Slavs. Intelligible, not an expression of evil, banal or otherwise, but the fullest expression of homo oeconomicus, and all the more absolutely horrifying for it.

Tooze also smashes myth after myth, about the economic “miracle” which Nazism was touted as, or the myth we Brits tell ourselves about how we stood alone against the full might of fascist tyranny. The economic and military imbalance between the empire, still the most powerful military on earth with huge reservoirs of food, factories and manpower, and Germany was staggering. Tooze brings this out beautifully, still more with the economic imbalance between backward, horse-powered Europe and the increasingly motorIsed USA. It also curbs some of the wilder things one commonly sees about the USSR, which, as Tooze outlines, was very nearly at the limits of its endurance, given the truly calamitous casualties caused by Stalin’s mishandling of the war from the beginning. For these and many other reasons it is the finest book on political economy I have read. I even went out and bought the paperback afterwards for ease of flicking to some key parts.

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  • Tommcd6402
  • 05-11-22

Good but overlong

This book is very interesting but it’s about 3 times as long as it needs to be and dry as a desert.

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  • William Crow
  • 12-29-21

Absolute Banger

Probably the best book on the second world war I've ever encountered. contains some challenging material - especially for those on the right of UK/US politics who might find some of the stuff about the inspiration for Hitler's project difficult - but a must listen if you're into the history of the period.

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  • Sam Purchase
  • 10-13-21

Superb

Exceptional analysis and one to return to for a second go I think. Well read too.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-15-23

Very detailed!

Great book to read to understand the broader German war machine from start to finish

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  • JayD
  • 01-27-23

Engaging and comprehensive

A remarkably clear, concise and rational account of the economic forces at play in Europe leading up to and including the Second World War, and the manifold ways these forces contributed to the destruction of Europe. The economic perspective presented in the book goes a long way to help explain the often baffling, counterintuitive and seemingly inept decisions made by Nazi leaders that are so often glossed over in other accounts. The reassessment of Speer’s role is especially insightful, leaving little doubt as to the culpability of Nazi leadership in the genocide that followed.

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