Nazi Germany’s Pursuit of Bauxite: A Business Perspective through the Operations of Hansa Leichtmetall, 1940-1943

Hans Otto Frøland

Germany’s dependence on foreign bauxite ore is well acknowledged in historical scholarship. The Nazi Four-year-plan sought to surmount the constraint by encouraging German firms to acquire and stockpile bauxite from neighboring countries. Scholarship has focused on how decisions of strategic planners within the Nazi “military-industrial complex” have been converted into individual firm’s behavior as they operated in neighboring countries. By focusing on the behavior of the short-lived company Hansa Leichtmetall (1940-1943), a company which has not hitherto been studied, the paper presents the context of the company’s transnational operations and some findings about their financial aspects. Hansa expanded in southern Europe, and thereby challenged the German cartel order. Lessons from WWI had made German companies penetrate Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Hansa met a multitude of challenges. Investments failed and its current account was in deficit. Hansa had few assets and high debts. Its owner, the Ministry of Aviation, nevertheless let it operate until 1943. To overcome the German bauxite predicament money did not matter.