American-linked German corporations were pivotal in financing the political ascension of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. In addition, the cartel agreements between corporate industrial giants on both sides of the Atlantic were instrumental in giving Germany access to vital strategic raw materials and technologies, while restricting that access for the Allies. During World War II, the job of interdicting the Trans-Atlantic cartel relationships between German and American firms fell to the Economic Warfare Section of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. Headed by James Stewart Martin, this group was titled “The Bombing Boys” because they helped to generate target selection for the strategic aerial bombardment of German industry. After the war, Martin served as the point man in the unsuccessful attempt at dissolving the Trans-Atlantic financial and industrial access and de-cartelizing Germany.
Martin’s All Honorable Men documents the manner in which powerful economic interests in the United States frustrated attempts at de-cartelization, thereby ensuring the postwar perpetuation of globalized “business as usual” for both Germany and the United States. As Martin points out, these commercial interests were able to successfully manipulate the networks through which government operates, and direct it to their own nefarious ends. In addition to lobbying in Congress and waging a vigorous public relations campaign against de-cartelization, the American partners of the German cartels successfully placed their own personnel in positions of responsibility for the postwar economic “reconstruction” of Germany.
One of the most important aspects of Martin’s eloquent book is his warning for the future. Having witnessed firsthand how easily the American business interests were able to subvert the economic restructuring of Germany, Martin feared for the future of the United States. Noting that economic concentration in Germany had made it possible for a small number of powerful interests to put Hitler in power, Martin noted the same pattern of economic concentration becoming evident in the United States as of the late 1940’s. He offered a stark warning for future generations of Americans.
“The ecopolitical masters of Germany boosted Hitler and his program into the driver’s seat at a time when the tide in the political fight between the Nazis and the supporters of the Weimar Republic was swinging against the Nazis. All of the men who mattered in banking and industrial circles could quickly agree on one program and throw their financial weight behind it. Their support won the election for the Nazis. We must assume that the same thing is not yet true in the United States. We do have economic power so concentrated that it would lie in the power of not more than a hundred men—if they could agree among themselves—to throw the same kind of combined economic weight behind a single program. They have not agreed yet. . . . If the United States should run into serious economic difficulties, however, most of the conditions for a re-enactment of the German drama would already exist on the American stage. The slight differences within the camp of the fraternity then may be the only real barrier to the kind of integration of the financial and industrial community behind a single repressive program, like that which the financiers and industrialists of Germany executed through Hitler. Are we safe in assuming that it would take a grave economic crisis to precipitate the dangers inherent in economic concentration? The basic integration of the financial and industrial groups in the United States is evident when we look at the increase of concentration in the past few years. . . .”
(All Honorable Men; James Stewart Martin; Copyright 1950 [HC]; Little, Brown & Co.; p. 295.)
“ . . . The moral of this is not that Germany is an inevitable menace, but that there are forces in our own country which can make Germany a menace. And, more importantly, they could create a menace of their own here at home, not through a deliberate plot to bring about a political catastrophe but as a calm judgment of ‘business necessity.’ The men who would do this are not Nazis, but businessmen; not criminals, but honorable men. [This is the last paragraph of the book!—D.E.]”
(Ibid.; p. 300.)