It is a good question how Germany before the Second World War in only a few years was able to restore and update its military industry, despite the defeat in World War I and difficult conditions of the Versailles Treaty.

It is a good question of how Germany before the Second World War was able to restore and update its military industry only in a few years’ time, despite the defeat in World War I and difficult conditions of the Versailles Treaty.

The answer is obvious – some countries (former and future opponents)assisted Germany a lot.These countries had their own interests in Germany then (in 1940s).

Earlier, we have already explained why Germany and the Soviet Union traded a lot (link).

But the Soviet Union was not the main trading partner for Germany.

The German economy at that time could not exist without foreign sources of raw materials.


March 20, 1940, New York.Speech by the Senator Ernest Landin at a banquet.The German-American Chamber of Commerce.
Photo is provided by Igor Pyhalov

Raw materials for German industry were supplied from abroad (50-100 %):



aluminum Aluminum (bauxite)

mineral oils

Mineral oils

Who was the main supplier of strategic raw materials for the Third Reich?

It is known that England re-exported to Germany copper ore from South Africa, Canada, Chile, the Belgian Congo.

For example, in 1934, Great Britainre-exported copper to Germany and it cost 3.9 million marks. This amount was equal to one-third of all German imports of copper and in 1935 it was even bigger – already 6.8 million marks.

The import of wool from England doubled: from 21 million marks in 1934 to 47 million marks in 1935. It was equal to about half of the imports of wool to Germany.
It is interesting that the supply of raw materials continued despite German solvency problems. In February of 1933, and then every year after that, special treaties were being signed:foreign creditors received no money from Germany but only special certificates.

As for iron ore – the main supplier of it was Sweden.In1933-1936 Germany received three quarters of all Swedish exports of iron ore.

In 1938imports in the Third Reich of these materials were about 9 million tons.It is known that content of iron ore in Swedish materials is high and that is why it is possible to determine that about 60% of the German iron was produced from the ore supplied by Sweden.

U.S. companies were not only trading with Germany but had their own businesses in this country.In Germany there were more than sixty American companies with overseas offices: General Motors, General Electric, Standard Oil and others.

The American company Babcock & Wilcox – which produced steam boilers – had their factories in the Third Reich as well.When Germany started its fleet modernization – despite the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles – the company Babcock & Wilcox increased its production.

As for Britain – the largest military state – the industrial company Vickers owned a 49% stake in the German military and the chemical company Duco AG, 8 % of the shares of Dynamite AG, a 3.5% stake in Deutsche Gold-und Silber-Scheideanstalt, as well as a certain number of shares of IG Farbenindustrie.

After Hitler became a leader the British company Dunlop Rubber and significantly increased its productive capacity.

To sum up, it is important to highlight the fact that the interests of the UK and the United States were different from those of the Soviet Union‘s trade with Germany.

The Soviet Union typically received from Germany only the most important military technologies (link).

Text by Igor Pyhalov

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