07/16/2019 (Tue) 03:26:16
The agrarians’ vision would be enshrined into law by the Reichserbhofgesetz, proposed in September 1933. In its first draft it created a new category of estate, the Erbhof, owned by physically able gentiles with a farmsize of 7.5-125 ha who applied in the Erbhofrolle. Erbhoefe were to be protected from the market: their sale and use as mortgage security were banned, providing both security and severe constraints, and the debt of their owners (6 – 9 billion Reichsmark) would be paid collectively through the Rentenbank Kreditansalt, which would tax all Erbhoefe. As this was harmful to those with little debt they’d be compensated with preferential treatment in the settlement of East Prussia.
This faced severe opposition, with the Ministry of Economic Affairs (RWM) complaining that excessive protection would sap the peasants’ initiative and the Reichsbank refusing to accept the dismantling of conventional rural credit. A compromise was reached and the collective debt relief was abandoned. Though Schacht’s Reichsbank obstructed credit for Erbhoefe, courts followed a loose interpretation of the mortgage restriction (and even the restriction on sales) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture provided grants and loans, allowing rural financing to continue normally.
Another point of contention were the new rules of inheritance, which intimately intruded on old regional customs and infuriated the peasants themselves. Undivided properties would pass down to a male heir (Anerbenrecht), as was the custom in northern Germany, but there peasants used to have the freedom to make other arrangements and often compensated siblings who didn’t receive the main property. In south and western Germany, partible inheritance was the norm and the law was received with “blank hostility”. The restrictions on female inheritance, too, were unprecedented. Once again courts were lenient and agrarians compromised, accepting shared ownership within the first generation.
The principle of undivided inheritance also drew fears of a decline in fertility.
Through its meticulous regulations and oversight of farm life the RNS created resentment from peasants. Its centralization of milk deliveries was met in September 1935 with a “milk strike” and an increase in the black market. But Tooze says the peasants weren’t fully in the right: after receiving for decades lavish protection from the state, it now had the right to demand something back from them.
The RNS did achieve an increase in rural living standards to above pre-Depression levels, higher food production and a more resilient rural economy. Tooze excuses some of its shortcomings on the difficulties of handling a society in transition.
Germany didn’t attempt as radical of a modernization of its agriculture as the Soviet Union because it postponed a full resolution to the matter, like several others, until after the impending war.