I'm aware that the "national socialist" (Nazi) party was by most accounts only socialist in name, e.g.:

Unfortunately for [Otto Strasser], he had taken seriously not only the word “socialist” but the word “workers” in the party’s official name of National Socialist German Workers’ Party. He had supported certain strikes of the socialist trade unions and demanded that the party come out for nationalization of industry. This of course was heresy to Hitler, who accused Otto Strasser of professing the cardinal sins of “democracy and liberalism.” On May 21 and 22, 1930, the Fuehrer had a showdown with his rebellious subordinate and demanded complete submission. When Otto refused, he was booted out of the party.

Likewise, two German economic historians write that

There occurred hardly any nationalizations of formerly private firms during the Third Reich. In addition, there were not very many enterprises newly created as state-run firms either. The most spectacular exception to that rule was the Reichswerke Hermann Göring which was founded in 1937 for the exploitation of the German bad-quality iron ore deposits. [...]

On the contrary the reprivatization of enterprises was furthered wherever possible. In the prewar period that was the case for example with the big German banks which had to be saved during the banking crisis of 1931 by the injection of large sums of public funds. In 1936/37 the capital of the Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and Dresdner Bank in the possession of the German Reich was sold to private shareholders and consequently the state representatives withdrew from the board of these banks. Also in 1936 the Reich sold its shares of Vereinigte Stahlwerke. The war did not change anything with regard to this attitude. In 1940 the Genshagen airplane engine plant operated by Daimler-Benz was privatized; Daimler-Benz bought the majority of shares held by the Reich earlier than it wished to.

I'm curious however if the Nazi regime resorted to any nationalizations, for example, of Jewish assets. (And if they did so, did the Nazi then followed the pattern suggested above by "reprivatizing" such assets to "Aryan" private owners?)


3 Answers 3


One of my side hobbies is antique tin toys, specifically the elaborate live steam models made in the Nuremberg area from 1880 to the late 1930's. Most of those companies were Jewish owned, which has led me to research the fate of the companies. They are a microcosm of what became of Jewish owned businesses in general.

Three methods were used against the Jewish owned tin toy companies.

Cutting off banking services. One of the largest tin toy makers in Nuremberg, Bing, fell to this in 1932, unable to borrow from banks to make good on losses incurred in a new division. This was due as much to fear on the part of the banks in losing their loan as anything... the 'Nuremberg laws' were not in force at that time. Some of the Bing family did get out of Germany, with Stefan Bing arriving in the UK to work with British toy makers that he had previous dealings. Stefan was interned, along with all German citizens in the UK, on the Isle of Man in March, 1940, and died there before the war ended.

Sale forced by circumstances. By the mid 1930's, the handwriting was clearly on the wall, and many Jewish businesses were sold cheap, to avoid having the Nazis take control. The toy maker Doll was essentially given to the Fleischmann company in 1936, to avoid that fate. The Fleischmann family had Jewish roots but was able to get an Aryan certificate (certifying that the were 'pure German'), while the owners of Doll, Isodor Sondhelm and Max Bein, were not. The Bein family was able to escape through Holland and the UK to the US in 1938. Isodor Sondhelm was not able to escape, and was listed as a suicide at age 88 in Nuremberg prison, in 1944.

Change of leadership. Instead of outright confiscation, the Nazis would replace the company's board of directors with people of its choosing. The board then disposed of the assets as they saw fit. The Josef Falk and Ernst Plank companies met this fate, with Falk being liquidated in 1936, and Plank sold to Noris Projektor in 1938.

Outright confiscation or nationalization does not appear to have been used against these Jewish owned companies, although the end result to the owners was essentially the same as if they had been confiscated.


To me, nationalizing a company connotes reasonable compensation for its former owners.

By this definition, and insofar as I'm aware, Jewish assets weren't nationalized; rather, they were confiscated.

Quoting the wiki article on Aryanization:

Theft of property

By 1 January 1938, German Jews were prohibited from operating businesses and trades, and from offering goods and services. On 26 April 1938, Jews were ordered to report all wealth over 5,000 Reichsmarks, and their access to bank accounts was restricted. On 14 June 1938, the Interior Ministry ordered the registration of all Jewish businesses. The state set the sales value of Jewish firms at a fraction of their market worth, and used various pressure tactics to ensure sales only to desired persons. Among the largest "Aryanization profiteers" were IG Farben, the Flick family, and large banks. The proceeds from "Aryanized" firms had to be deposited in savings accounts, and were made available to their Jewish depositors only in limited amounts, so that in the final analysis Aryanization amounted to almost compensation-free confiscation.

In the Autumn of 1938, only 40,000 of the formerly 100,000 Jewish businesses were still in the hands of their original owners. Aryanisation was completed with the enactment of a regulation, the Verordnung zur Ausschaltung der Juden aus dem deutschen Wirtschaftsleben (Regulation for the elimination of Jews from German economic life) of 12 November 1938, through which the remaining businesses were transferred to non-Jewish owners and the proceeds taken by the state. Jewellery, stocks, real property and other valuables had to be sold. Either by direct force, by government interventions such as sudden tax claims, or by the weight of the circumstances, Jewish property changed hands mostly below fair market value. Jewish employees were fired, and self-employed people were prohibited from working in their respective professions.

  • That's a good point, but what did they with them afterwards? Did the state retain them? (On the other hand, I think the Soviet confiscations were also described as "nationalization", I'd have to double check that.) Commented May 6, 2019 at 3:04
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    Regarding terminology: a quick search found a page about Romania and confiscations/nationalizations under communism tourofcommunism.com/2014/03/11/… The terms seem used intechangeably over there, i.e. the official wording at the time was "nationalization" even though it was effectively confiscation. Commented May 6, 2019 at 3:11
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    Here's antoher (Western non-leftist) article that discusses the Soviet confiscations interchnageably as "nationalizations" nonetheless chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/… It also discusses cases (e.g. Mexico US) where the claimed compensation was only paid in part. Also the Suez canal etc., where the compensation paid was less than demanded. So there's a considerable grey area even assuming the two terms (nationalization/confiscation) are not interchangeable. Commented May 6, 2019 at 3:36
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    "To me": That descibes "good" or "acceptable", or "less blunt" nationalisations. But by no means are these the only types found in history. If the result is a nationalised thing, then it doesn't matter whether there was ('fair') compensation or any at all, to clasify that as nationalisation, socialisation? Commented May 6, 2019 at 9:08
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    “To me, nationalizing a company connotes reasonable compensation for its former owners.” You’d be wrong in a large fraction of cases.
    – user76284
    Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 21:18



They nationalized steel and cars, many SS businesses, and so on. They also nationalized the central bank. Per wikipedia Nazi economy article the government made 95% of all loans so that's mostly financial Nationalization as well. The large retail establishments were nationalzied for anti-Semitism reasons. Farming, construction and some retail were private as in the ussr. The arms industries were privatized usually, and there were private companies in all sectors.

The USSR did not allow private companies officially, even though they had a lot of foreign investment and informal private business. The Nazis allowed private business although the worthwhile parts were mostly nationalized. Also, Nazis limited trade significantly under an autarky policy. Nazi Nationalization was directed at both labor goals, such as the German labor front Volkswagen, and strategic goals such as iron and steel.

  • +1 Reichswerke became the largest company in Europe[7] and probably in the whole world, with a capital of 2.4 billion reichsmarks and about half a million workers
    – user9790
    Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 10:52
  • But weapons and munitions were both nationalized under the Ministry of Armaments
    – user9790
    Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 10:53

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