9 June 2014 – City Lab (formerly Atlantic Cities) this week made a connection between highways and Hitler. Highways, it said pointing to new research, were highly influential in Hitler’s rise to power.

Authors of the research are  economists Nico Voigtlaender of UCLA and Hans-Joachim Voth of University of Zurich in a new working paper, Highway to Hitler.  The articles says:

“By analyzing voting records between November 1933 and August 1934 alongside highway patterns, Voigtlaender and Voth found that any opposition to Hitler swung in his favor significantly faster in areas where the Autobahn was being built than elsewhere. With the country still recovering from the Great Depression, Germans might have seen the new roads as a sign the Hitler regime could jumpstart the economy.

“‘We find strong evidence for changes in voting behavior in one of the most salient examples of infrastructure spending,’ Voigtlaender tells CityLab. ‘Also, we show this in a context of attracting votes from the opposition — ie people who were hardest to convince.’

“As Hitler rose to power in 1933, he wanted to show that his government could get things done in a way the Weimar government had not. Building the Autobahn was the perfect demonstration.”

Hitler told the crowd to  ‘”get to work’ — and within a year construction was underway in 11 major corridors. The propaganda that followed referred to “roads of the Führer” as a way of connecting highway completion with an effective Nazi regime”.

Although there were variations in the voting patterns that followed, “those living near a new highway were quicker to acquiesce to Nazi rule”.

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