Mason vs Overy
Tim Mason has argued that rearmament and public construction works put a heavy strain on the German economy in this period. He has argued that the only way the Nazi government could release this pressure was to expend the armaments they had produced by going to war. In this way, he argues, it was the economy that drove Germany to war and not Hitler's foreign policy goals.
However, Richard Overy has challenged this interpretation of what drove the country to war. He has stated that although Nazi Germany did indeed face economic problems in 1939, they were not severe enough to drive the nation to war. Instead, he argues, it was the ideology of the Nazi leadership and their aims in foreign policy that led to German aggression.
The Four Year Plan: Success or Failure
The office of the Four Year Plan was established in 1936 in order to ensure that Germany would be ready for war by 1940. However, this does not necessarily mean that Hitler was aiming to start a war in 1940, only that he wished to be prepared for one.
The creation of the office meant that Goering, already the head of the resurrected Luftwaffe, became an extremely powerful figure as the office eclipsed the ministry of economics under Dr. Schacht who was seen as too cautious.
One of the key aims of the plan was to bring about autarky (economic independence) as it was vital to guarantee that Germany could support herself if she entered a war whilst remaining a pariah state with no real allies. However, since it is virtually impossible for a country to become a true autarky, the four year plan aimed instead to reduce Germany's dependence on imports by maximising the use of ersatz (substitute) commodities, for example producing oil from coal.
However, the plan failed to reach its targets and soon turned to another method of bringing about autarky, invading other states and seizing their resources.
Essay Title: "To What Exten Did Nazi Foreign Policy Drive German Economic Policy"