Are there connections between U.S. bankers and moguls and the Nazis?
September 30, 2014 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Articles like this talk about links between the Nazi regime and the Rockefellers, Warburgs, and others. Is there any validation for this line of thought?
posted by DMelanogaster to Law & Government (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well, nothing's cited.

Here's a simple claim: "Standard-Germany president Emil Helfferich testified after the war that Standard Oil funds helped pay for SS guards at Auschwitz." If he did, there's surely a record of it in an impartial source that isn't alternately calling feminists or Bushs nazis. I haven't found any such, and all the others just copy this stuff verbatim.
posted by BungaDunga at 6:43 PM on September 30, 2014

Look, people say this kind of stuff all the time. Even in US election campaigns. It's called a Big Lie, simpler to understand than a little lie, which would require some analysis.

"Standard Oil funds helped pay for SS guards at Auschwitz." Fine, Germany was presumably taxing Standard-Germany. So Standard's (tax) funds helped pay for the guards.

I'm going out on a limb here, but this sounds like a classic Big Lie and I expect no one will be able to cite anything showing that Standard Oil made voluntary donations earmarked for the Auschwitz guards, or even bought them a beer.
posted by JimN2TAW at 6:57 PM on September 30, 2014

So German Wikipedia has slightly better citations (all the English citations and some of the German ones go back to one book from the 1970s), but the fixation on Standard Oil/DAPG in these articles does kind of feel like a conspiracy theory. The following seems clear:
  • Emil Helfferich (head of DAPG) was a member of the Keppler Circle/Freundeskreis Reichsführer-SS.
  • Keppler et al. were giving money to Himmler (directly, if I understood correctly). It's not at all clear to me if this was company money or their own money.
  • During the war, DAPG were in business with IG Farben.
  • The IG Farben certainly profited from Nazism.
In other words, most of the basic pieces of this story are true, but it's not clear to me how much relation the connections between them bear to reality. It seems like if money flowed from DPAG to the SS, it went through Helfferich and Himmler, far from Auschwitz. IG Farben paid the SS for forced laborers at Auschwitz III (which is also called Monowitz) and used them in a plant making synthetic rubber and gas. Standard Oil (the US one) had done a deal with IG Farben regarding the rights to produce synthetic rubber, but IIRC (from what I just read) they largely disentagled themselves when the war started. DAPG were in the synthetic oil business with IG Farben, but not at Auschwitz, as far as I can tell (no idea about forced labor at that plant). In summary, anyone making money off DAPG didn't finish the war with clean hands, but I can't tell who that was precisely.

That mess aside, plenty of German subsidiaries of US companies (e.g. Ford, GM) benefited from Nazism and it's hard not to argue the parent companies benefited as a consequence.
posted by hoyland at 8:03 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I looked into the Bush allegations and at the time (years ago now) heavily modified the Wikipedia article to remove things that were poorly sourced and largely polemical. A lot of people assume that having your assets seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act means you were deemed a criminal, but UBC got those assets back after the war so it was more of a trusteeship situation. Pres himself, as you may know a Senator from Connecticut in later years, seems a decent chap overall and much more of a liberal Republican of the era. It was George H.W. who underwent an ideological shift and fell in with the Goldwater-Reagan crowd.

In a broader sense, though, there was a great tension in the prewar era over who the real enemy was. For many Americans, it was Bolshevism, and they were willing to overlook what may have merely seemed a slightly more zealous anti-Semitism than was present here to have us fight the USSR together. Many others simply hoped for peace, given the slaughter of the First World War as a template they wished to avoid. This obviously would leave a lot of people on the wrong side of history, especially when the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed and the defeat of Germany became a great moral cause.

I don't, however, believe there is some sort of broad conspiracy to uncover here. Rather, it is the work of historians to uncover how, for example, the German IBM subsidiary benefited from slave labor, yet was quietly reabsorbed into the multinational parent company after the war.

they largely disentagled themselves when the war started

This is where the Trading with the Enemy Act comes in. The German subsidiaries were taken into a kind of trusteeship under US law, and thus operating somewhat independently. (In many cases, and this seems to have been the case with IBM for example, there were pre-existing relationships that served as backchannel communications.) Money could not flow from one to the other, so it's debatable how much you can assign any responsibility to the US headquarters.

In terms of the concentration camps, of course, this was something of a boiling frog problem. By the time Farben et al. had built the factories and were heavily involved in the slave labor business, it was too late for many -- and of course the full breadth of the Final Solution would not appear until nearly the end of the war. It's probably much more important to think in terms of individual war crimes than of a wilful corporate policy to back genocide.
posted by dhartung at 12:08 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is a lot of research by reputable historians on this, but a lot of it known to me only in German.
One article in English I found quickly is this one from the website of the DÖW a reputable research insitute

Although the article is about the transfer from The Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut into the Max Planck Society it has some good information on what the link was to the Rockefeller Foundation (from middle of page two).

Also this might help you find more info Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism

Another good source would be the website of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI)
posted by 15L06 at 6:22 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

The book, Trading with the Enemy: The Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949 by Charles Higham is a fairly well documented take on corporate and individual relationships with the Nazi state of that era. It 's available via used book sources and may even be available on the web in .pdf format in total or, at least review chapters. Pretty good read and acts as a point of departure for more research.
posted by WinstonJulia at 3:07 PM on October 3, 2014

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