After the end of World War One, Germany, a defeated nation, was in ruins, especially its economic structure. To get their financial situation under control many public projects were created by Germany to pump money back into the system and bring unemployment down. Also, to head off a major depression enormous amounts of the deutsch (German) mark were printed. This only created increased inflation to the point the deutsch (German) mark became worthless.
With some many problems facing the post-war Germany, it was Adolf Hitler’s opportunity to rise in power and offer solutions to the economic crisis in Germany. Part of his ideas included providing a reason why Germany was in a disaster. He blamed the wealthy Jewish business owners for all of Germany’s economic problems. Also, his plan for economic growth was for military strength, in spite of the limitations placed on military build-up in the Treaty of Versailles.
In 1923 and 1924 with the National Socialist German Workers’ Party aka Nazi, Hitler’s influence increased, even from his jail time in late 1924. His book, “Mein Kampf” was written while in jail and here his set forth his plans to take control of Germany and make it a world power.
During the mid-1920s, the American cultural influence became very strong with the people of Germany. They loved the films, the music and the spirit of adventure that Americans exhibited. This opened the door for American companies to set up factories in Germany, not only to sell their products, but have an eager workforce. The Ford Motor Company set up an assembly factory, called Ford-Werke in the 1920s in Germany. By the 1920s General Motors took over Germany’s largest car manufacturer, Adam Opel AG.
Germany’s government was not stable as the 1930s approached. The Nazi Party had grown over the last few years due to an influx of workers, unemployed, despairing peasants, and middle-class people supporting their ideals. After the 1932 elections, Adolf Hitler was sworn in a Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. By 1936, the Nazi Party under Hitler’s direction had turned the economy around. There were more people employed, making military equipment and Hitler could show Germany off to the world in the 1936 Summer Olympics.
By the 1930s, twenty major American corporations had established themselves in Germany. Next, many American law firms, investment companies, and banks were deeply involved financing projects in Germany. As many of these corporations and economic leaders eventually admitted, they admired Hitler’s skill and style. For the most part the leaders of American industry embraced the economic strength and ambition he demonstrated. The profits increased for the companies without expenses like wages increasing. It all came down to money.
It was Hitler’s plan of rearmament, building a super military giant that kept everyone happy. Even items like punch cards and their machines, used to automate production in the country was developed by IBM. American petroleum companies sold huge amounts of oil to Germany, which it stockpiled for future use. American companies, some 2,500 different businesses, increased their presence in Germany during the 1930s.
Many companies which had financed Hitler stopped after December 7, 1941. However many did not. When Americans soldiers landed on the beaches in Normandy, France in June 1944, they captured German trucks. Here is where they discovered that these vehicles were powered by engines produced by American firms such as Ford and General Motors.
The following are some of the American companies, along with individuals and their relationship to Nazi Germany.
Kodak. Wilhelm Keppler, one of Hitler’s top economic advisers, had deep ties in the Kodak Company. When Nazism became strong in the 1930s, Keppler advised Kodak to fire its Jewish workers. During World War Two, Kodak’s German branch used slave laborers from concentration camps. Several of their other European branches did a good deal of business with the Nazi government.
Bayer. The German Bayer Company began in 1863 in Germany. Aspirin was founded by a Bayer employee, Arthur Eichengrun, around 1900. However, Eichengrun was of Jewish heritage. The company policy later changed to give credit to Felix Hoffman for inventing aspirin. It was the German company called IG Farben, a division of Bayer, which manufactured the Zyklon B gas used in the Nazi gas chambers.
Coca-Cola, specifically Fanta. The Coca-Cola company played both sides during World War Two. They supported the American troops, but also kept making soda for the Nazis. Then, in 1941, the German branch of Coke ran out of syrup, and couldn’t get any from America because of wartime restrictions. The German branch invented a new drink, specifically for the Nazis: a fruit-flavored soda called ‘Fanta’.
Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford was Hitler’s most famous foreign backer. With both sharing an anti-Semite attitude, they had common interests. Ford and Adolf Hitler admired each others’ achievements. Hitler had a portrait on Ford he kept in his office. Ford began financing Hitler before he was well-known in the 1920s. While Hitler was in prison in 1924, he included his personal admiration of Henry Ford in his book, “Mein Kampf.” Henry Ford made annual birthday gifts of 50,000 deutsch marks to Adolph Hitler.
With Hitler in power in the 1930s, the Ford production, known as Ford Werke A.G. had no limits in Germany. On Henry Ford’s 75th birthday, in 1938, Ford received a Nazi medal, the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, designed for “distinguished foreigners”. Henry Ford never returned the medal though Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes denounced its acceptance publicly. It was presented by the German government in recognition of Ford’s pioneering work in the auto industry and in making the car available to the masses.
During 1937 alone, Ford supplied the Nazi war machine with almost two million pounds of rubber and 130,000 pounds of copper. The Ford plant in Germany was never nationalized by the Nazi government, but was under German management and employed slave labor.
More than 50% of the work-force utilized by Ford Werke A.G. were unpaid, forced laborers as well as concentration camp inmates from Buchenwald. Approximately 60% of the 3-ton tracked vehicles produced for the German Army were manufactured by the Ford Werke A.G. Company. There were about 100,000 Ford trucks out of 350,000 total trucks used by the German Army.
Chase Bank. A lot of banks sided with the Nazis government during World War Two. Chase was the most prominent. They froze European Jewish customers’ accounts and were extremely cooperative in providing banking service to Germany.
Standard Oil. The petroleum company had set up an alliance with I.G. Farben, a division of the Bayer Company, to produce artificial rubber and gasoline from coal for the Nazis. They had renewed this agreement even after war broke out in Europe in 1939 and had supplied certain patents to the Germans while keeping them hidden from the U.S. Navy and American industry.
William Randolph Hearst. During the 1930s, Hearst worked with the Nazi party to help promote a positive image of the new Germany for the American media. In 1934, he traveled to Germany, where he was received by Hitler as a guest and friend. The actions of Hearst helped shaped American sentiment about not getting involved, staying isolated, in reference to the political situation in Europe. Many Americans were directed to believe that there was nothing dreadfully immoral or criminal going on in Europe, especially in Germany. Even after the war started there were some Americans who continued to support the Nazi regime based on the propaganda that they had been exposed to through the Hearst media sources.
General Motors. The German Opel Company was a General Motors division. It was one of the largest tank manufacturers for Hitler. Opel built the 3-ton truck named “Blitz”, an important element in the German military. Even after December 1941, GM decided to remain manufacturing in Germany. They supplied trucks, land mines and torpedo detonators and made a huge profit. General Motors, under the control of the Du Pont family of Delaware, was a major team player with the Nazi.
United Steel. This company produced the following percentages of war munitions for the Nazis: Pig iron 50%; Pipe & tubes 45%; Universal plate 41%; Galvanized sheet 38%; Heavy plate 36%; Explosives 35%; and Wire 22%.
Allen Dulles (America’s first CIA director in 1953). Allen Dulles served on the board of the Schroeder Bank. John Foster Dulles, his brother, served as the legal counsel for Schroeder Bank. This bank served as a financial arm of the Nazis Party. John Foster Dulles, who was Secretary of State in1953, publicly supported the Nazi philosophy during the 1930s.
Alcoa Aluminum. Using their connections with several South American companies, managed to send supplies to German factories.
Texaco. Germany needed oil and much of this petroleum was supplied by American corporations. Texaco profited greatly from sales to Nazi Germany. In 1940 and 1941 American oil trusts increased their profitable oil exports to Germany, with 94% of Germany’s oil supplied directly by the United States oil companies.
Even after Pearl Harbor, United States companies would simply open offices in neutral Switzerland where they maintained contact with their branch offices. The Nazis never seized or confiscated these companies or their assets in any of the German controlled regions.
The list can go on and includes: DuPont, Union Carbide, Westinghouse, General Electric, Gillette, Goodrich, Singer, IBM and ITT. They were secretly allied with the Nazis. All of those firms took extraordinary proceedings to conceal their efforts from the United States government and to have their offices in the United States remain in charge. American corporations that had done business in Germany were never punished. In fact, it would be years and decades later before information was fully known of a company’s involvement.
Read also Associated Content article by John S. Craig, titled: ‘Henry Ford’s Disturbing Link to Nazi’
Post-WW I Germany
American Companies and Germany
Industry and Germany