The Men of the Hapol and Nazism's Economic Empire

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 10:50 AM
Monroe Room (Palmer House Hilton)
Jennifer Jenkins, University of Toronto
A generation of diplomats, who entered the Foreign Office in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, were instrumental in forging the global trade ties at the heart of Nazism’s economic empire. Working in the HAPOL (Handelspolitische Abteilung), these men implemented Reich Economic Minister Hjalmar Schacht’s far-flung system of clearing agreements with newly-industrializing countries. While Nazism’s economic penetration of the Balkans is best researched aspect of this topic, the full reach of Schacht’s system—particularly its connections with non-European countries and its global reach--has not yet been illuminated.

Putting Schacht’s “New Plan” (1934) into practice, the men of the HAPOL forged a new map of global economic exchange. Many aspects of these plans remained on paper, but others (via clearing agreements, currency unions and the ever-growing phenomenon of economic collaboration) were effective pieces of Nazism’s war economy. This paper analyzes how the HAPOL implemented Nazism’s economic outreach beyond the Eastern Europe and the Balkans and into Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. In this reading the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 had a double function as both political and trade agreement; the commercial agreement signed between Hitler and Stalin, negotiated by HAPOL official Karl Schnurre, provided the foundation for the political agreement. Following the work of Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann and others, this paper argues that the Pact created a huge NS-Soviet trade zone from 1939-1941, which played an important role in the war’s first phase. It also left significant traces in Germany’s global trade relations in the period after 1945. Standing on the edges of the Ministries’ Trial of 1948, many men from the HAPOL entered the “second act” of their careers as diplomats and trade officers for the Federal Republic.