Call For Return Of Germany's Colonies Not Atavism But Coded Protest Against Autarky
Tuesday 2nd June 1936
A report by one of the directors of Germany's central bank, the Reichsbank, came to light which set out an economic argument in favour of restoring the nascent colonial empire that Germany lost in the Great War. It was a thesis supported by the Reichbank's high profile chief, Hjalmar Schacht. Restoration of the colonies would make good Germany's growing shortage of foreign exchange - supposedly due in part to a "Jewish boycott" - by supplying raw materials such as fats, tobacco and coffee from imperial possessions.
According to the promoters of the scheme, it was backed by Hitler and the passage in Mein Kampf where he appeared to put expansion in Europe before empire building had been misunderstood. In reality it had not. The demand for the return of colonies provided nothing more than a convenient tool with which to needle the British who went on to respond with ever more futile projects to appease Germany on this score, achieving nothing beyond unsettling the settlers in her African colonies. The Reichsbank was an island of economic rationality as Germany descended into autarky thanks to its huge rearmament programme, the true cause of her balance of trade difficulties. Of course popular resentment at the loss of colonies existed but it had no significant influence of policy. It survives in the luxury image still today accorded to bananas although Germans are entirely free to buy cheap fruit on the world markets whilst the British and the French buy expensively from their former colonies.