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German arms production

German arms production in WW2 from 1939-1945

The annual German armaments and military equipment production (excluding ammunition) and a comparison of the necessary strategic raw materials. Additional, the origins of the strategic raw materials and effect of the Allied bombing offensive on the German arms production.

assembly line of German Focke-Wulf Fw 190
A WW2 assembly line of German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 single-seat fighters.

The surprisingly quickly gained ‘Blitz’ (lightning) victories in the years 1939 to 1940, as well as the initial great successes with the Operation Barbarossa, evidently proved the correctness of the ‘Blitzkrieg’ (lightning war) strategy.
Thus, on July 14, 1941, Hitler announced a disarming and conversion program for the German arms production, 1941, for the reason that ‘in the final battle, no new great opponent could be formed anymore’.

Thus, in 1941, the German armaments’ production remained at the same relatively low level in the actual year of the decision of WW2, while Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and America increased considerably.
Up to now arms production in Germany was carried out in the course of the war according to the same scheme: the German workers manufactured the armaments, were subsequently conscripted and used these self-made weapons. Once the campaign had been successfully completed, the bulk of the army was released back into the factories to produce new armaments.

However, as early as the autumn of 1941, it became clear that the victory over Russia was not possible anymore this year. This is also recognized by Hitler, but he is not willing to change the priorities for armaments.
On the Russian Front, the new tanks of the Red Army like the T-34 and KV-1, which are now emerging in ever-increasing numbers, are growing the difficulties. The German standard anti-tank gun 3.7-cm PAK 36 is not effective against it, and even the strongest German tank, the Panzer IV with the short 7.5 cm cannon, is also weaker.

This raises considerable problems for the German arms production, which are further increased by the rivalries inside the Wehrmacht. In March 1940, a Reichs Ministry for armament and ammunition under the Major-General of the Luftwaffe, Dr Fritz Todt was created. Todt, with his ‘Organization Todt’, had already organized the building of the ‘Reichsautobahnen’ (highways) and of the ‘Westwall’ (Siegfried line) and was responsible also to build the new ‘Atlantikwall’ (Atlantic wall), but his successes in the arms production are rather modest.

On February 8, 1942 Todt had a meeting with Hitler in Rastenburg (East Prussia) about the confused armament situation. A few hours later his plane crashes for unexplained reasons and Hitler’s young chief architect, Speer, is immediately appointed as successor.
Speer immediately recognizes that Hitler wants to maintain a sort of ‘pseudo-peace’ for Germany, and thus, for example, is against the use of women as workers in the industry. Obviously, Hitler had a pathological fear of a loss of popularity and wanted to avoid unrest, strikes and possible revolts or insurrections under all circumstances from the experiences of World War One.

There is also no parent control of armaments priorities between the army, the air force, Kriegsmarine (navy) as well as the new rising Waffen-SS. A development stop for the air force was already decided in 1941, since the war was regarded as won and no new and better aircraft models were needed.

All this can be solved by Speer, and he reaches a much larger German armament production until 1944, but he can no longer catch up with the lost time. If the armaments of 1944 had been available two or three years earlier, it would have been sufficient to win the war, but at that time Hitler’s enemies had, in spite of all, a powerful and oppressive predominance.

German arms production by weapon types

Vehicles and transportation:

Type of Weapon1939194019411942194319441945 (2-3 months)Overall
Battle tanks962 1,573 3,399 4,386 5,813 7,983956 25,072
Flamethrower tanks-87478111020-345
Armored command vehicles443413213113441-516
Tank destroyers----90 3,280 1,750 5,120
Assault guns-184548789 3,279 5,172988 10,960
Self-propelled anti-tank guns-173214 1,222 1,69545716 3,777
Assault artillery---34304 1,227112 1,677
Self-propelled artillery-4016183 1,36267087 2,358
Armored anti-aircraft guns15---8736164527
Reconnaissance vehicles324422618992867555113 3,024
other armored vehicles5533460545310959142 2,450
Demolition vehicles (Goliath aso)100-- 1,088 4,494 3,102138 8,922
Armored personnel carriers232337813 2,574 7,153 9,486 1,285 21,880
Semi-tracked tractors? 3,224 7,489 7,627 9,827 7,840696 36,703+
Semi-tracked trucks--- 10,704 37,427 27,761724 87,329
Military trucks and lorries 32,558 53,348 51,085 49,707 52,896 103,314 4,582 347,490
Military cars??? 24,152 105,693 96,492? 226,337+
Military motor-cycles??? 34,017 33,046 27,830 2,577 97,470+
Locomotives? 1,688 1,918 2,637 5,243 3,495? 14,981+
Train wagons? 28,200 44,845 60,892 66,263 45,189? 245,389+

Not only the numbers were increased dramatically between 1942 and 1944, also the quality and combat effectiveness were partially strong increased, as – for example – the combat weights of the produced armored vehicles reflecting this fact:

Combat weights of the produced armored vehicles:

Numbers 2,154 5,138 9,278 19,824 27,340
Combat weight in tons 37,325 83,188 140,454 369,416 622,322
Average combat weight per unit 17.3 16.2 15.1 18.6 22.8

t_arrow1 see also: German AFV production (in detail).

Infantry weapons:

Type of Weapon1939194019411942194319441945 (2-3 months)Overall
Pistols??? 467,253 959,540 1,038,340 145,140 2,610,273+
Rifles (K98k, K41, K43, G 33/40)? 1,371,700 1,358,500 1,149,593 1,946,200 2,282,380 310,118 8,418,491+
Machine-guns? 170,880 (incl SMG) 324,800 (incl SMG) 77,340 165,527 278,164 56,089 c. 674,280
Sub-machine guns MP 38, 40, 44?(in MG)(in MG) 152,683 240,073 500,074 131,672 c. 1,400,000+
Anti-tank hand-weapons (up to Dec 42 Pz.B. 38,39,41 - from Aug 43 Panzerschreck)???880 50,835 209,000 21,000 281.715+
Panzerfaust (anti-tank hand weapon)---- c.500,000 2,870,000 (only Oct-Dec), 1,500,000 or more before 2,056,000 c.7,000,000+
Mortars? 4,380 4,230 18,551 25,955 29,598 3,675 86,389+

Artillery and guns:

Type of Weapon1939194019411942194319441945 (2-3 months)Overall
Artillery guns of all types 1,214 6,730 11,200(details below)(details below)(details below)(details below) 159,144+
Light anti-tank guns (3.7-cm-PAK, 4.2-cm-PAK, Pak38)(see art)(see art)(see art) 4,798 2,481--(see art)
Medium anti-tank guns (7.5-cm-PAK 38, 40, 41, 7.62-cm PAK (r) )(see art)(see art)(see art) 4,344 12,400 12,151618(see art)
Heavy anti-tank guns (8.8-cm-PAK, 12-cm-PAK) ---- 1,224 2,058367(see art)
Light anti-aircraft guns(see art)(see art)(see art) 15,527 19,602 16,863+ 1,771+(see art)
Heavy anti-aircraft guns(see art)(see art)(see art) 1,028 6,138 7,714+?(see art)
Infantry guns(see art)(see art)(see art) 1,687 2,802 6,458876(see art)
Nebelwerfer (rocket launcher)(see art)(see art)(see art) 3,864 1,706 3,767460(see art)
Light art (mainly 10.5 cm)(see art)(see art)(see art) 1,476 4,533 9,000604(see art)
Heavy art (10-cm K18, sFH, 17-cm-K)(see art)(see art)(see art)931 1,773 3,652475(see art)
Super-heavy art (21-cm-K, 20.3-cm-K, 24-cm H, K3, K5, K38, E, M1)(see art)(see art)(see art)3312312561(see art)


Type of Weapon1939194019411942194319441945 (2-3 months)Overall
Bomber planes737 2,852 3,373 4,337 4,649 2,287- 18,235
Fighter planes605 2,746 3,744 5,515 10,898 25,285 4,935 53,728
Ground attack planes134603507 1,249 3,266 5,496 1,104 12,359
Reconnaissance planes163971 1,079 1,067 1,117 1,686216 6,299
Seaplanes, floatplane100269183238259141- 1,190
Transport planes145388502573 1,028443- 3,079
Gliders-378 1,4617454421118 3,145
Communication planes4617043160787441011 2,549
Trainers588 1,870 1,121 1,078 2,274 3,693318 10,942
Jet fighters-----564929 1,493
Jet bombers-----15064214
Fi 103 flying bomb (V-1)----- 23,672 6,509 30,181
A-4 rocket (V-2)----- 4,128 1,669 5,797


Type of Weapon1939194019411942194319441945 (2-3 months)Overall
U-boats585021922229228398 1,220
Torpedo boats??6666-24+

It is noteworthy that the significant increase in arms production between 1942 and 1944 (over 300%) was made possible without access to more resources. It was especially done through much greater productivity and stripping out the civilian industrial sector. Therefore the following overview:

Annual strategic raw material production (m. metric tons):

Coal 332.8 364.8 402.8 407.8 429.0 432.8 50.3
Ore 18.5 29.5 53.3 50.6 56.2 32.6?
Steel 23.7 21.5 28.2 28.7 30.6 25.8 1.4
Aluminum (in 1,000 metric tons - especially important for aircraft production) 239.4 265.3 315.6 420.0 432.0 470.0?

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Important influences on Germany’s military production

destroyed Krupp armaments works in Essen
A part of the plant of the Krupp armaments works in Essen after the RAF bombing raids. Apart from the large chimney’s is virtually nothing not destroyed anymore.
Underground production plant
With enormous efforts were production plants outscored from the Allied bombing offensive and shifted under the earth – or at least decentralized in remote and distant areas. In this way it was possible to triple the arms production between 1942 and 1944, despite the more than 16-fold increase of the bombs which were dropped in this time.

Several factors had an important influence on the ability of Germany to produce armaments, munitions and military equipment during World War 2.

This includes the dependence on raw materials from the occupied and conquered territories or it’s import from neutral countries. Similarly, the Allied bombing offensive resulted in significant losses and forced a costly relocation of production facilities.

The importance of occupied and neutral countries for strategic raw materials for Germany:

Monthly average in 1,000 tonnes for 1943:

selected, important strategic raw materialsGreater GermanyOccupied TerritoriesOverallProportion of the occupied territories in %
Iron ore (particularly from France and Belgium)950.0437.0 1,387.031.5 %
Coal 23,200.0 6,400.0 29,600.021.6 %
Crude steel (mainly from France) 2,550.0337.0 2,887.011.7 %
Aluminium20.89.730.531.8 %
Pulp5.314.519.873.2 %
Total 26,726.1 7,198.2 33,924.321.2 %

Importance of manganese ore from Ukraine 1941-1943 (in 1,000 tonnes manganese content):

selected, important strategic raw materialsGreater GermanyOccupied TerritoriesOverallProportion of the occupied territories in %
Iron ore (particularly from France and Belgium)950.0437.01,387.031.5 %
Coal23,200.06,400.029,600.021.6 %
Crude steel (mainly from France)2,550.0337.02,887.011.7 %
Aluminum20.89.730.5 31.8 %
Pulp5.314.519.873.2 %
Total26,726.17,198.233,924.321.2 %

Important raw material imports from neutral countries 1942-1944:

Countryraw material194219431944
Sweden Iron ore (in 1,000 tons) 8,000 10,300 (=38%) 4,500
Pulp (in 1,000 tons)174150110
PortugalTin ore (in tonnes)649 1,236?
Tungsten ore (in tonnes)611463895
TurkeyChrome ore (in tonnes)- 4,950 11,700

These tables are showing, for example, that such an important strategic raw material like iron ore (for steel production) in 1943 was coming by 42% from Greater Germany, 38% were imported from Sweden and 20% were delivered by the occupied territories.

Failures in arms production as results of the Allied bombing offensive:

Selection of the period from October to December 1943:

WeaponManufacturingFailureOverallProportion of failure in %
StuG assault gun909177 1,08616.3 %
PzKpfw V Panther77614492015.6 %
PzKpfw VI Tiger1737925231.4 %
Semi-tracked carriers45721066731.5 %
7.5-cm Pak 40645557007.9 %
8.8-cm-Pak 43/411176318035.0 %
light FH 18/40 gun2683230010.7 %
heavy 10-cm gun 1826194542.2 %
Trucks 11,373 2,257 13,63016.6 %
Overall 14,744 3,036 17,78017.1 %

Selection of Germany cities, based on the few effective and most ineffective bombing attacks in the view of loss of production:

Cityfirst 500t attacktotal dropped bombs in tonsPopulation 1939Population share of GermanyValue of the industrial production in 1000 RM (c.$450)Share of industrial production of GermanyTotal production failure in monthsFailure based on the total production of whole Germany
Wuppertal29.05.1943 5,883 401,672 0.50 % 77,242 0.82 % 4.4 0.30
Düsseldorf31.07.1942 24,000 726,261 0.91 % 153,262 1.63 % 2.2 0.30
Dortmund04.05.1943 17,538 542,261 0.68 % 84,866 0.90 % 3.4 0.26
Bochum13.05.1943 11,175 305,495 0.38 % 84,820 0.90 % 2.8 0.21
Bremen22.06.1942 13,890 450,084 0.56 % 114,132 1.22 % 1.9 0.20
Leipzig20.10.1943 4,764 831,615 1.07 % 157,822 1.68 % 1.2 0.17
Oberhausen14.06.1943 3,067 191,842 0.24 % 47,785 0.51 % 2.0 0.09
Hagen01.10.1943 4,502 151,760 0.19 % 32,082 0.34 % 0.6 0.02
for comparison:
Berlin01.03.1943 35,000 4,338,756 5.46 % 717,251 7.41 %irrelevantirrelevant
Stuttgart11.03.1943 20,822 458,429 0.57 % 176,790 1.84 %irrelevantirrelevant
Munich09.03.1944 16,666 893,954 "1.12 %" 161,865 1.72 %irrelevantirrelevant
Cologne31.05.1942 30,679 887,724 1.11 % 132,600 1.41 %irrelevantirrelevant
Essen03.04.1943 31,146 666,743 0.83 % 113,512 1.21 %irrelevantirrelevant
Gelsen-kirchen25.06.1943 8,035 317,568 0.40 % 88,667 0.95 %irrelevantirrelevant

Progress of the bombing war 1940-1945 (in tons of bombs dropped):

Year:194019411942194319441945 (4 months)total (projected 1945 to a full year)
on cities in Germany 10,000 = 0.4 % 30,000 = 1.3 % 40,000 = 1.7 % 120,000 = 5.1 % 650,000 = 27.7 % 500,000 (1,500,000 projected for the year) = 63.8 % 2,350,000 (actual 1,350,000)
for comparison; on cities in UK 38,844 21,858 3,260 2,298 9,151 761 (2,283 projected for the year) 77,694 (actual 76,172)

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13 thoughts on “German arms production”

  1. Does anyone know if Germany was capable of mass producing the cannon shell required by the Luftwaffe at The Battle Of Britain. I’ve heard a claim the cannon shell they needed were supplied to them by neutral countries.

  2. Fernando Navarro Robuschi

    Hi! I wanted to ask you about a common myth, which states Germany had very poor logistics to supply its troops on the Eastern Front, and that that doomed it to inevitably fail in the eastern front. I don’t deny the first part, of course (incompatible railway tracks, vast distances, partisan activity, poor-maintained roads, etc.) but the second part is jus a myth, right? I mean, logistics alone could no have possibly bring victory to the USSR…

  3. Much of what was left of the vaunted Luftwaffe was defending the skies over German cities, or flying missions on the Eastern Front… seems odd we don’t hear more of the air war in the East after Stalingrad…

  4. According to Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction (2006): “On the eve of war 14.6 million German women were working, with 51% of women of working age (16–60 years old) in the workforce. Nearly six million were doing farm work, as Germany’s agricultural economy was dominated by small family farms. 2.7 million worked in industry. When the German economy was mobilized for war it paradoxically led to a drop in female work participation, reaching a low of 41% before gradually climbing back to over 50% again. This still compares favorably with the UK and the US, both playing catchup, with Britain achieving a participation rate of 41% of women of working age in 1944. However, in terms of women employed in war work, British and German female participation rates were nearly equal by 1944, with the United States still lagging.” This idea of Hitler being against women in the workforce, isn’t supported by the reality of what happened.

  5. two uncles taken from the Netherlands to work in a German armaments factory. Often had labour disruptions and workers were punished for this. What aws the name od this factory and where was it located. Thanks.

    1. Yet it is when the bombing really got started. Check Richard Overy’s The Bombing War to understand how ineffective strategic bombing was, yet very costly for the Allies.

      1. Richard Overy pretty much claims that the Bombinb campaign was effectice. He says it in the exact same book your mentioned.

  6. Phillips Payson O’Brien is his book “How The War Was Won” is suggesting that at least 55% but even 60% of German war production was targetting air warfare, 12-13% sea warfare and only about 30% of munitions went on land warfare. With all efforts including V-weapons, concreat sheltet construction because allied strategic bombing that share of air war might have been bigger than 60%.

  7. Hello!

    Interesting data set but what is the source of this material; figures etc?

    In addition would you know where I could find an allied POW chart showing total number of allied captured by Germany and allies?


    1. Hi !
      All data here are used to develop realistic War Games (means the outcome most be the same thna in history if every decision taken by the opponents is the same).
      So from a lot of sources the ‘strong’, safe, confirmed and true datas to reaxh this goal are used and it’s impossible to mention all of them here.

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