In October 1936, the US Ambassador to Nazi Germany, William Dodd, who was previously a history professor, wrote a letter to president Franklin Roosevelt elaborating on US-Nazi business collaboration. In the letter, Ambassador Dodd revealed that “more than a hundred American corporations have subsidiaries here [in Nazi Germany] or cooperative understandings”. Dodd noted that the US chemical corporation, DuPont, has links to German companies “that are aiding in the armament business”. DuPont’s chief partner was the German chemical corporation IG Farben, which was centrally involved in strengthening the Nazi war machine. IG Farben was later implicated in slave labour practices and the Holocaust.
US companies benefitting from fascism
According to US Ambassador Dodd, the Standard Oil Company (New Jersey sub-company) sent $2 million to Nazi Germany in December 1933. Standard Oil was also making $500,000 a year in helping the Germans to produce ersatz gas, that is synthetic fuel, an important substance for war purposes. Such dealings as this, we can presume, would not have been rebuked by the US State Department. They concluded in 1937 that European fascism was suitable to American economic needs.
Ambassador Dodd wrote that US aircraft manufacturers had developed relations with the German steel corporation, Krupp; which, like IG Farben, ably supported the Nazi regime while Krupp played a decisive part in strengthening Hitler’s armed forces. The Krupp company was later incriminated in human rights abuses, such as pertaining to slave labour. A month after his ambassadorship in Nazi Germany ended, Dodd acknowledged in a January 1938 interview, “Certain American industrialists had a great deal to do with bringing fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy. They extended aid to help fascism occupy the seat of power, and they are helping to keep it there”.
Moreover, the German business tycoon Gustav Krupp, owner of the company that bore his family’s name, had assisted in bringing Hitler to power in 1933 through his influence. Other powerful German industrialists and bankers had, likewise, performed a part in securing the chancellorship for Hitler, like the magnate Fritz Thyssen (of Thyssen AG steel company) and Hjalmar Schacht (Reichsbank president).
Read more: Op-ed: How British, US links increased with Nazi Germany during Hitler’s power
George H.W Bush’s rise to prominence
Thyssen, born into one of Germany’s wealthiest families, was introduced to Hitler in 1923 by the country’s former dictator Erich Ludendorff, who persuaded the industrialist to attend a rally where Hitler was to speak. Later on, Thyssen became intimately linked with the New York-based Union Banking Corporation, managed by American banker Prescott Bush, who was also a director at this company which represented Thyssen’s US business interests. Prescott Bush was the father and grandfather of future presidents, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Prescott Bush, whose dealings with the Nazis lasted until 1942, was a shareholder at a number of other companies connected to Thyssen. Prescott Bush had links to a separate firm that was involved in Nazi slave labour, the Consolidated Silesian Steel Company (CSSC). He made substantial profits from his transactions through Thyssen, who had joined the Nazi Party in December 1931. Thyssen dispensed with hundreds of thousands of Reichsmarks to Hitler’s cause, while he encouraged other industrialists to bankroll the Nazis.
As a result of Prescott Bush’s extensive doings with Thyssen, and therefore the highest echelon of Nazi business, his name is closely linked with Hitler’s rise to power. The money accrued by him in these shady businesses assisted in setting up his son, George H. W. Bush, in the US oil industry from the late 1940s. Prescott Bush would become a senator by 1952.
Schacht, reinstated as Reichsbank president by Hitler and another who contributed financially to the Nazi Party, was a close friend of Montagu Norman, the long-time Bank of England governor. Norman, as stated, had in 1934 sent millions of pounds to the Nazis, and he was a godfather to one of Schacht’s grandchildren. In March and June 1939 the Bank of England, still under Norman’s guidance, helped to sell huge quantities of gold bars that the Nazis had stolen from occupied Czechoslovakia.
Read more: Modi’s nuclear-armed India following in the footsteps of ‘Hitler’s Nazi Germany’: PM Khan
Investments of IHC, Coca Cola, GM & IBM
A major US manufacturer, the International Harvester Company (IHC), was investing in Germany through selling weaponry there. In the mid-1930s IHC’s dealings with the Nazis was growing by 33% each year, as divulged by IHC president Sydney G. McAllister to Ambassador Dodd.
Other big name US multinationals were profiteering in Nazi Germany, such as Coca-Cola, which had a bottling plant in the city of Essen. Coca-Cola sold 4.5 million cases of its beverage in Germany during 1939, a massive increase from 100,000 such cases in 1933. Coca-Cola was one of the main sponsors of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, an event which aided in legitimising the Nazi state on the international stage. In the summer of 1940, as the Germans conquered most of western and northern Europe, Coca-Cola followed along with other corporations by expanding into Nazi-occupied countries.
General Motors (GM), the world’s largest auto maker and a US multinational, fully bought up an Opel factory in the German city of Rüsselsheim in 1931. General Motors’ dealings with Germany soared from 1933 with Hitler’s takeover – and the company’s president from 1937 to 1940, William S. Knudsen, was an outspoken admirer of Hitler; in September 1938 Knudsen met in person with Hermann Goering, the Luftwaffe commander. Furthermore, a General Motors senior executive, James D. Mooney, saw Hitler on a number of occasions, including after European hostilities began in September 1939. Hitler had awarded Mooney the Order of Merit of the Eagle in August 1938 for his “distinguished service to the Reich”.
Following the D-Day Landings of early June 1944 – with American soldiers capturing their first German vehicles in Normandy, France – they were bemused to discover that many of the Wehrmacht engines were produced by General Motors, along with the mighty Ford Motor Company, another US transnational, and also Opel, owned by General Motors. This might not have been so surprising. The American magnate Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company and a virulent anti-Semite, was an early fan of Hitler. Ford operations in Germany recorded booming profits, from 25.8 million Reichsmarks in 1933, to 60.4 million Reichsmarks in 1939.
In July 1938 a grateful Hitler awarded Ford the Order of the German Eagle, First Class, the most prestigious decoration that could be granted to a non-German. Hitler had read Ford’s anti-Semitic writings from the early 1920s, which may have had some influence on the Nazi leader.
The powerful US multinational, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), undertook various deals with the Nazis, under IBM chairman Thomas J. Watson, a Nazi sympathiser. Watson, one of the world’s richest men, saw Hitler at separate times and wrote in a letter to Reichsbank president Schacht outlining “an expression of my highest esteem for himself [Hitler], his country, and his people”. As with Ford, IBM’s ventures in Germany increased sharply after 1933, especially under IBM’s German subsidiary, Dehomag. Having made a profit of $1 million in 1933, Dehomag’s net worth in Germany almost doubled from 7.7 million Reichsmarks in 1934, to 14 million Reichsmarks by late 1938. Dehomag provided the Nazis with the punch-card machine, which was needed to automate production.
ITT Corporation, a big US manufacturing firm, had initially secured a 25% share with Focke-Wulf, the German aircraft producer, which would rise to 29% by 1943 – and so ITT was helping to produce military aircraft for the Luftwaffe, even after Hitler had declared war on America in late 1941. Despite Germany now being an enemy of America, ITT was also continuing to provide the Nazis with high-tech communications systems. The ITT founder, US businessman Sosthenes Behn, had met Hitler as long ago as August 1933.
By 1939, at World War Two’s outset, Ford and General Motors’ subsidiaries controlled a remarkable 70% of the automobile market in Germany. That same year the General Motors chairman, Alfred P. Sloan, was forced to defend his business operations with the Nazis, by pointing to the profits that GM were amassing there. Albert Speer, Hitler’s armaments minister from 1942 to 1945, was reported to have admitted that Germany “could not have attempted its September 1939 Blitzkrieg of Poland, without the performance-boosting additive technology provided by Alfred P. Sloan and General Motors”.
Read more: Untargeted aerial bombing of Germany delayed Nazi defeat
Nazi armaments program: A boon for American corporations?
In the late 1930s/early 1940s, the Germans were manufacturing arms at more than 60 factories in the Third Reich owned by American capital, according to Nikolay Inozemtsev, a respected Russian economist and journalist; Inozemtsev was later the director for over 15 years at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, a leading independent research organisation based in Moscow.
The Nazi armaments program, meanwhile, was proving a boon to American corporations, a welcome remedy for unscrupulous businessmen not long after the Great Depression had first hit. A 1940 US Senate investigation revealed that American industrialists – belonging to manufacturers like Pratt & Whitney, Douglas and Bendix Aviation – were freely selling military patents to the Nazis, with the assent of Roosevelt’s government.
President Roosevelt’s position had been compromised. His administration was partly made up of high-level businessmen like Edward Stettinius Jr., a former vice-president at General Motors and chairman of US Steel. Stettinius, who first met Roosevelt in the early 1930s when he was at GM, quickly rose through the ranks of government, becoming Secretary of State before war’s end.
At the time of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941, US corporate investment in Nazi Germany came to an estimated $475 million. By 1942, of the Wehrmacht’s 350,000 trucks in service, around 33% of them were produced at Ford factories in the Reich. Between 1942 and 1944 the Ford plant in Cologne, for example, constructed about 10,000 half-tracks for the German Army; half-tracks consist of large armoured vehicles, equipped with a mounted machine-gun or cannon, which can hold half a dozen soldiers at a time.
Many of the Ford-built trucks and half-tracks were being used by German troops on the Eastern front, against the USSR, America’s official ally in the war. Deep-seated ties between US business and the Third Reich can hardly have escaped the Soviets’ attention, as Red Army troops captured large caches of Wehrmacht weaponry from 1942.
Ford previously exported partially assembled trucks to Nazi Germany, which were shipped directly from the US. Construction of these vehicles was completed at the Ford plant in Cologne, and were ready just in time for Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. A US Army report compiled by investigator Henry Schneider, on 5 September 1945, correctly accused Ford manufacturers in Germany of being “an arsenal of Nazism, at least for military vehicles”, having acted with the “consent” of the parent Ford company at headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.
Shane Quinn has contributed on a regular basis to Global Research for almost two years and has had articles published with American news outlets People’s World and MintPress News, Morning Star in Britain, and Venezuela’s Orinoco Tribune. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.