War profiteers are such a loathsome notion. The idea that while people are struggling for causes while others use the confused nature of military logistics to make dishonest money is appalling. The thought that these companies supported the most deadly regime in the world and went on to become fixtures in our daily lives is loathsome, even well over half a century later, yet it remains a bitter reality.
Coca-Cola was a major presence in Nazi Germany, even though officials in the Reich were said to believe the stuff was too frivolous for the German character. Nevertheless, the very American nature of the product (wealth, flashy dreams, etc.) appealed too much to the German public and the stuff was kept around. It wasn’t until 1942 that the company’s presence in the nation was seriously threatened.
Coca-Cola’s hundreds of bottling plants in Germany were naturally cut off from main American support when America entered World War II. But Max Keith, the representative of the company in Germany at the time, redubbed the product “Fanta” for Reich consumption. The bottling factories and processing plant were then used to provide Germany’s citizens a key element to keep their energy up to support the war effort: A supply of sugar above what the government rationed to them. After the war, Keith, in an amazing display of company loyalty, turned over the wartime profits to the parent company when the Allied armies arrived, when surely the gigantic amount of inevitable post-war confusion and complication would have allowed him to sneak off with it.
Prior to World War II, Germany had been one of America’s most important film markets (as implied in the above entry, Germans had a bit of an obsession with a heavily romanticized vision of America), and as such, American film studios were willing to bend over backward to appease the German government. Even Warner Brothers, who developed a reputation for being the most anti-Nazi of major studios at the time, ordered that the word “Jew” be taken out from their movies and invited Nazi dignitaries to visit their studio.
But the single greatest act of Nazi support was one done by MGM after the invasion of Poland in 1939. They donated prints of eleven of their films to the German Relief Effort after the war with Poland began. These bewildering dreams of maintaining a market in Germany only died off after France and Britain’s markets threatened to die out too in response to all this collusion with their enemy.
8. Chase Manhattan Bank
The Chase Manhattan Bank’s form of colluding with the Reich was particularly heinous. Because Carlos Niedermann, Chase’s representative in Paris, had very good personal relations with the Nazis, he agreed to their requests that the bank seize the assets of at least one hundred Parisian Jews that were considered especially worth pursuing by the Reich. This doubtless helped the Gestapo capture those people. Chase Manhattan was hardly alone in this, though. In 1998, the company was part of a suit demanding reparations from J. P. Morgan and Citibank for the millions of dollars stolen. In the end, the payouts were $200 a month. The survivors and descendants had to fight to not have large amounts of the payments eaten up by wire transfer fees.
7. Dow Chemical
It’s not too much of a stretch for many people to imagine oil companies collaborating with evil people. We are used to the mental image of oil companies being willing to prop up evil dictators to have access to petroleum and similar atrocities. Dow Chemical was one of the companies that provided an insane amount materials for the Nazis, including not only raw materials but also American technological innovations in regards to oil refinery. The contributions were so extreme that it allowed the Nazis to forgo their previous quotas to accommodate the influx. This indicates the Nazis were taken by surprise in regard to how much material they received from these American companies! No wonder they were able to achieve the massive armament build-up that they did.
6. Brown Brothers Harriman
During the early 1930s, Fritz Thyssen ran a business that he used to help finance Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. Brown Brothers Harriman was a subsidiary company that he used as a base of American operations. This collusion is of particular note because it was integral to the basis of the claim that Prescott Bush, father of Ex-President George Bush and of course grandfather of Ex-President George W. Bush, supported the Third Reich. He was on the board of directors for BBH and in 1942, the company’s assets were seized by the federal government. Suspicions then arose that some assets were taken as part of the Bush family fortune. These, among other reasons, came to light in 2003 as part of the presidential campaign, and make it appear that the Bush family owed their fortune to Nazi activities. It really does seem like the sort of discovery an opposing campaign team would dream about making in regards to their opponent (not that it ultimately helped much).
In 1933, 1.25% of the company’s entire inventory came from Germany, but mostly it was in the form of trinkets, like Christmas decorations. At the time, even that led to protests in America because news was coming from Germany that the Reich was beginning its public persecution of the Jews. When Woolworth conceded to public pressure and removed the offending items from its stock, it caused protests over in Germany over the abuse of their “hospitality.”
What was significant about Woolworth’s interaction with the Nazis was a horrible thing that Woolworth did, that ultimately lent legitimacy to their notorious anti-semitism. Woolworth fired all of its Jewish employees. This won them the designation “Adefa Zeichen,” an award reserved for companies that were “pure Aryan.” Most likely Woolworth doesn’t advertise their products with that seal of approval.
Alcoa is now the third largest aluminum producer in the world. Back in 1941, it was much more powerful. It had a monopoly on aluminum in addition to owning a massive amount of America’s electricity production and other minerals. Before America declared war on Germany, it sent so much of its aluminum product over to Germany that the country made upwards of sixty percent more aluminum products than America. When the US’s involvement in the war began, there was a massive aluminum production shortage in America, in no small part because of Alcoa’s monopoly. Alcoa essentially sold the Axis powers much of the material to build their war machines and a reprieve from the American war machine.
3. Ford Motor Company
When Hitler pays tribute to you in his biography and keeps a portrait of you in his office, it will be hard for you to claim that you did not have some connection to him. However, Henry Ford didn’t seem particularly inclined to distance his company or himself from the Nazis anyway, since he accepted Germany’s highest honor freely and never returned the award while Hitler was alive. He was a committee member of the America First Association which advocated America to stay out of World War II. In 1998, it came out that the Third Reich was providing Ford’s factory in Cologne with 1,200 Russian slaves, as a potential form of compensation
2. General Motors
Similar to their automotive rivals, General Motors was sued by Holocaust survivors for assisting the Nazi war machine. Beginning in 1935, GM built a factory in Berlin for the purpose of building “Blitz” trucks for the Wehrmacht. Ford began building similar trucks around the same time, but GM was the number one producer of the vehicles that were vital for the quick conquests of Poland, France, and much of the Soviet Union. Albert Speer, the minister of armaments and war production, claimed that the rubber GM supplied was the key to the ability of the Germans to wage war the way they did. Inevitably when America declared war on Germany, the Reich seized GM’s German production facilities.
Although neither Ford nor General Motors ever fully conceded that they had willingly participated in the use of slave labor, they both were massive contributors to a fund started in 2000 for Holocaust survivors.
1. International Business Machines
In 1933, International Business Machines began providing Germany with punchcard machines that functioned as precursors to modern computers and databases. Documents have since been uncovered that show that as late as 1941, IBM was working in tandem with the Reich to liquidate Jews from Holland. IBM employees were training SS personnel how to use their machines to record the movement, sorting, and mass execution of large numbers of undesirables, at times right in the headquarters of death camps. These machines, however, remained IBM property at all times.
In 2002, IBM was sued by five gypsies to collect reparations because their parents had been killed during the Holocaust. After four years of legal discussion, the case was dismissed due to the statute of limitations.