How Hitler’s roads won German hearts and minds | VOX

Interesting conclusion from Hans-Joachim Voth and Nico Voigtländer, writing at VOX.

Long before the Nazi regime committed its singular crimes, it had become remarkably popular in Germany (Evans 2006). Voting records from 1933 and 1934 reveal the effect of one factor that, according to many historians, boosted support for the regime – the building of the Autobahn. Using detailed information on the geography of road-building, we isolate the effect of construction on voting behaviour by analysing the ‘swing’ in favour of the regime over a nine-month period (November 1933 to August 1934). We find that opposition declined much faster where the new ‘roads of the Führer’ ran.

Direct economic benefits for residents in Autobahn districts may have played a role, but they were probably small. More importantly, the new roads provided concrete proof of the regime’s actions, delivering on its promise to get ‘Germany moving again’. Within a couple of months of taking power, a highly ambitious highway construction project was under way at 17 different locations all over the country, affecting more than 100 electoral districts. In other words, the visible progress of road construction made the regime’s ability to follow through on its promises salient for many Germans.

Combined with effective propaganda trumpeting the regime’s successes, the roads succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of many Germans. Nor were they the only ones to be impressed. When the US Army rolled into Germany at the end of World War II, one of the officers taken with the ease of transport on motorways was Dwight D. Eisenhower. When he became President of the United States, he lead the initiative to built the country’s interstate highway system.

Read more at Nazi pork and popularity: How Hitler’s roads won German hearts and minds | vox.