Koch Was Not Alone in Aiding the Nazi War Machine
by Dusty Sklar
JANE MAYER'S RECENTLY PUBLISHED Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, is causing a stir. She reports that Fred C. Koch, the father of billionaire rightwing political activists Charles G. and David H. Koch, founded a company, Winkler-Koch Engineering, which built a large oil refinery in Hamburg for the Nazi regime. According to Mayer, the refinery was personally approved by Hitler and played a vital role in the German war machine and in the growth of the Koch family fortune.
Yet Koch was not alone among the illustrious Americans who did business with Hitler before and during the war. The list is quite long. It includes, but is not limited to:
Alcoa: Through its aluminum monopoly, before and during World War II, Alcoa ensured that Germany had an unlimited supply to build its weaponry, while America suffered massive shortages. In June of 1941, Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, said: "If America loses this war, it can thank the Aluminum Corporation of America."
Chase Manhattan Bank: Five months after Pearl Harbor, Carlos Niedermann, head of the Paris branch, wrote his New York supervisor that his branch enjoyed the "very special esteem" of top German officials, which caused "a rapid expansion of deposits." Working in close collaboration with the German authorities, the branch seized the assets of at least a hundred Jewish accounts thought by the Gestapo to be particularly worth going after, and handed them over to the Nazi occupiers.
Dow Chemical: They sold huge quantities of magnesium to the Nazis for the making of incendiary bombs and instructed them about technical innovations in refining oil.
Ford: Hitler paid tribute to Henry Ford in his biography and kept a portrait of him in his office, and with good reason. In the early 1920s, Ford began publishing in his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, a series of articles alleging that a huge Jewish conspiracy was taking over America and causing the world's troubles. He bound the series into four volumes called The International Jew. Hitler saw in Ford a kindred soul, and in 1938 awarded him with the Grand Cross of the German Eagle (shown at left). Ford trucks, assembled in Cologne, were ready just in time for the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Ford's Cologne plant used slave laborers between 1941 and 1945.
General Motors: Hitler favored exports GM's exports director James D. Mooney with an award. In 1934, the company publication, General Motors World, declared: "Hitler is a strong man, well fitted to lead the German people out of their former economic distress.... He is leading them, not by force or fear, but by intelligent planning and execution of fundamentally sound principles of government." In 1935, GM built a factory in Berlin with the intention of creating "Blitz" trucks for the Wehrmacht's Blitzkreig, which proved instrumental in the swift conquests of much of Europe. Albert Speer, Nazi minister of armaments and war production, admitted that the rubber supplied by GM was vital in helping the Nazis to wage war as they did. Decades later, GM's own historian said:
The auto industry spearheaded the remarkable recovery of the German economy that boosted the popularity of the Nazi regime by virtually eliminating within a few years the mass unemployment that had idled a quarter of the workforce and contributed so importantly to Hitler's rise.
GM's subsidiary happily obliged when the Nazis asked leading businesses to get rid of Jews; Jewish employees, dealers, and suppliers were dismissed.
IBM: Hitler awarded prestigious decorations to Thomas J. Watson, IBM's chief executive officer. Its German subsidiary, with the support of the American company, helped the Nazi government with a punch-card mechanism for identifying Jews, Gypsies, and other 'undesirables,' thus making it possible to destroy that population in Germany and the occupied countries. Each concentration camp kept tabs on inmates using IBM's technology; IBM trained SS personnel in how to use their machines to record the movement, sorting, and mass execution within the death camps. Without this technology, the camps could never have achieved their horrendous numbers, and the Final Solution would not have been as final.
ITT: During the war, International Telephone & Telegraph provided German armed forces with switchboards, telephones, alarm gongs, buoys, air raid warning devices, radar equipment, fuses for artillery shells, and ingredients for rocket bombs.
Standard Oil of New Jersey: From 1936 to 1939, they joined with Du Pont and GM to fuel the German armies. According to captured German records: "The fact that since the beginning of the war we could produce lead-tetraethyl is entirely due to circumstances that, shortly before, the Americans had presented us with the production plants complete with experimental knowledge. Without lead-tetraethyl the present method of warfare would be unthinkable."
Union Banking Corporation: While Prescott Bush (shown at right), father of the elder President George Bush, was its director, the Union Banking Corporation represented the interests of the German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen, in the 1930s. Bush was also linked to the Consolidated Silesian Steel Company, on the German-Polish border, which used slave labor from the concentration camps.
THEN THERE WERE the Dulles brothers, Allen and John Foster, partners in the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, which facilitated American investment in Germany. Nearly 70 percent of the money going to Germany in the 1930s came from America, many of them clients of Sullivan and Cromwell. John Foster supported the America First movement, which advocated American neutrality. When he heard from a German industrialist that Auschwitz was being built and what it was going to be used for, Foster kept the information to himself.
William E. Dodd, our ambassador to Germany, said in 1937: "A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. I have had plenty of opportunity in my post in Berlin to witness how close some of our American ruling families are to the Nazi regime.... Certain American industrialists had a great deal to do with bringing fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy. They extend aid to help Fascism occupy the seat of power, and they are helping to keep it there."
Dodd might have been speaking of Irénée du Pont, who used GM money in 1936 to finance America's Black Legion, an organization with close to 200,000 members (including numerous police) whose purpose was to kill union organizers, prevent the auto industry from unionizing, and terrorize Communists, Jews, and other minority-group members. Black Legionnaires wore hoods and black robes with skulls and crossbones. Earlier, in 1933, the DuPonts started financing fascist groups in America, one of which, American Liberty League, drummed up hatred of blacks and Jews and admiration for Hitler. They distributed fifty million copies of Nazi pamphlets.
In 1934, together with friends of the Morgan Bank and GM, DuPont backers organized a coup d'etat plot against President Franklin Roosevelt. In November of that year, Marine General Smedley Butler (shown at right) gave secret testimony before the McCormack-Dickstein committee — a precursor to the House Committee on Un-American Activities — describing the plot, which was complete with concentration camps for “Jews and other undesirables,” he said. Butler had been solicited by a Wall Street law firm with a $3 million offer to lead the coup. While Roosevelt denounced the plutocratic plotters, the media quickly dismissed Butler's testimony and none of the conspirators was ever charged or even called to testify before Congress.
The same year as the coup plot, Ambassador Dodd learned that Hitler had solicited William Randolph Hearst, lord of the press in America, to find out how Nazism could project a better image in America. Hearst was paid $400,000 a year to be friendly to the Nazis in print.
NOT ALL of these corporations and individuals were anti-Semitic. Many must have been motivated simply by the anticipation of massive profits. Yet anti-Semitism was quite rampant among the captains of industry in America beginning in the 1920s, when it was married to anti-socialism, anti-Marxism, and red-baiting. Henry Ford's book, The International Jew, was translated into many languages. Hitler read it in German, and said that he found inspiration and encouragement in its pages. The New Deal was seen as socialistic meddling and FDR as a pawn of Jewish interests, if not a Jew himself. (He was often called Rosenfeld, and the New Deal the Jew Deal.)
When the full horror of the Holocaust was revealed, how disturbed were these corporations and individuals? After the war, they concocted myths of innocence, and the country was only too happy to believe them. But without the complicity of American corporations, Hitler would not have been as hellishly effective as he was.
Dusty Sklar is a contributing writer to our magazine and the author of Gods and Beasts: The Nazis and the Occult, as well as numerous stories and articles.