DP13594 Fiscal Destruction: Confiscatory Taxation of Jewish Property and Income in Nazi Germany

Author(s): Albrecht Ritschl
Publication Date: March 2019
Keyword(s): antisemitism, Capital levy, extortionary taxation, Nazi Germany, persecution
JEL(s): N14, N34, N44
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=13594

Nazism got to power with the stated goal of destroying the economic livelihood of Germany's Jewish population. For the most part, dispossession of Germany's Jews was a highly bureaucratic process. This paper identifies the main fiscal instruments used in this process and assesses the quantitative impact. The principal finding is that the fiscal booty from the dispossession of Germany's Jews was small: the Jewish share of Germany's real wealth matched the Jewish population share quite well. I also find that together with prohibitive bureaucratic obstacles, punitive taxes on emigrants provided a substantial disincentive to emigrate and often rendered emigration outright impossible. This incentive was only mitigated when confiscatory capital levies were imposed also on the resident Jewish population in 1938. Nevertheless the spoils from Jewish dispossession were nowhere nearly large enough to warrant an economic interpretation of the Holocaust as in (Aly, 2007). Germany's Jews were on the whole better trained than the average German but not necessarily much richer.