20150 Issued in May 2014, Revised in January 2019 NBER Program(s): Public Economics, Political Economy Can autocracies win electoral support by showcasing economic competence?We analyze a famous case – the building of the Autobahn network in Nazi Germany.At the same time, Germany was in an economic depression. Between the depression and the Treaty of Versailles, the time was ripe for Hitler to rise to power.
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Exactly 73 years ago, on April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in a bunker in Berlin, bringing to an end the life of one of history’s most notorious figures.
His speeches were powerful and people believed what he said.
Hitler joined the Nazi party and soon became its leader.
Still, Hitler’s death signaled the final nail in the coffin for the Axis Powers in World War II.
Less than a week after the news broke, German forces unconditionally surrendered in Europe, and by September the war had officially ended.
In addition, Nazi propaganda used the Autobahn as a powerful symbol of successful economic policy, putting an effective end to austerity – so that many Germans credited the Nazi regime for the economic recovery.
In line with this interpretation, we show that support for the Nazis increased even more where highway construction coincided with greater radio availability – a major source of propaganda.
Using newly collected data, we show that highway construction was effective in boosting popular support, helping to entrench the Nazi dictatorship.
Direct economic benefits such as declining unemployment near construction sites are unlikely to explain the increase in pro-Nazi votes.