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Treason’s Peace — German Dyes and American Dupes

by Howard Wat­son Ambruster
1947, Beech­hurst Press, 438 pages
Down­load Pt. 1 [1] | Down­load Pt. 2 [2]

One can­not under­stand the his­to­ry of the 20th cen­tu­ry with­out under­stand­ing the role played in world events by the I.G. Far­ben com­pa­ny, the chem­i­cal car­tel that grew out of the Ger­man dyestuffs indus­try. Com­pris­ing some of the most impor­tant indi­vid­ual com­pa­nies in the his­to­ry of indus­tri­al cap­i­tal­ism, the firm has dom­i­nat­ed the dyestuffs, chem­i­cal and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­tries before and dur­ing World War II. The com­pa­nies that grew out of I.G.’s offi­cial dis­so­lu­tion after the war—Bayer, Hoechst, BASF, and Agfa con­tin­ued to be deci­sive in world mar­kets. Among the many prod­ucts devel­oped by I.G. or its mem­ber com­pa­nies are: aspirin, hero­in, novo­cain, methadone (orig­i­nal­ly named Dolophine in hon­or of Adolph Hitler) and Zyk­lon B (the poi­son gas used in the exter­mi­na­tion cen­ters of World War II.)

In his text about I.G., Ambruster sets forth the inter­na­tion­al scope and eco­nom­ic impact of the com­pa­ny, its role as the spine of the indus­tri­al war-mak­ing econ­o­my of the Third Reich, and the firm’s ele­va­tion of Hitler to his posi­tion of pow­er. As one observ­er not­ed, “Hitler was Far­ben and Far­ben was Hitler.” Much of the impact that the com­pa­ny wield­ed derived from its inter­na­tion­al dom­i­nance of the chem­i­cal, rub­ber, petro­chem­i­cal and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­tries through its car­tel arrange­ments with part­ner firms in oth­er coun­tries. Farben’s for­eign coun­ter­parts had much to do with let­ting the com­pa­ny and its executives—many of them war crim­i­nals of the first order—off the hook after World War II.

Farben’s car­tel part­ners abroad con­sti­tut­ed an inven­to­ry of the wealth­i­est and most pow­er­ful cor­po­ra­tions in the world. In the Unit­ed States, the major firms with which Far­ben did busi­ness includ­ed: Du Pont, the Stan­dard Oil com­pa­nies, Gen­er­al Motors, Ford Motor Com­pa­ny, Union Car­bide, Dow Chem­i­cal and Tex­a­co. In turn, these cor­po­rate giants wield­ed con­trol­ling polit­i­cal influ­ence in the Unit­ed States through the elect­ed and appoint­ed offi­cials in their sway. Attempts at reduc­ing Farben’s influ­ence in the Unit­ed States before and dur­ing World War II, as well as efforts at hold­ing the com­pa­ny and its top exec­u­tives to account for their crimes after the war were neu­tral­ized by the cartel’s cor­po­rate hirelings and polit­i­cal shills. Many names of the com­bat­ants on both sides are impor­tant and, for old­er and bet­ter-edu­cat­ed read­ers, famil­iar.

On the floor of Con­gress, Cal­i­for­nia Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jer­ry Voorhis waged a valiant, elo­quent and, ulti­mate­ly, unsuc­cess­ful fight to bring Far­ben to heel. After fail­ing to sub­due the drag­on of I.G. Far­ben, Voorhis was defeat­ed for reelec­tion by an up-and-com­ing Cal­i­for­nia Republican—Richard Mil­hous Nixon. Help­ing to pre­serve a state of “busi­ness as usu­al” for Far­ben on both sides of the Atlantic was John J. McCloy, even­tu­al­ly the U.S. High Com­mis­sion­er for Ger­many, head of Rockefeller’s Chase Man­hat­tan Bank and a key mem­ber of the War­ren Com­mis­sion that cov­ered up the assas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Kennedy.

Treason’s Peace is a vivid, remark­able illus­tra­tion of the work­ings of great cor­po­rate pow­er both in the Unit­ed States and abroad. It is must read­ing for any seri­ous stu­dent of polit­i­cal eco­nom­ics and the dynam­ics of con­tem­po­rary glob­al­iza­tion.