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For The Record  

FTR #286 Update on Germany

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1. As the title indicates, this broadcast covers recent political and economic matters affecting Germany, the dominant nation in Europe. The program begins with discussion of a proposed plan to take DNA samples from all males in Germany, ostensibly to combat crime. (“DNA Database Sought to Solve Crimes” by Geir Moulson; San Jose Mercury News; 3/14/2001; p. 2A.)

2. “As Germany confronts the horror of a 12-year-old girl’s rape and strangulation, some politicians are proposing a radical approach to solving the crime: collecting genetic material from the entire adult male population of 41 million.” (Idem.) Opposed by civil libertarians, this proposal could have grave implications, if enacted. Historically, genetics and totalitarian politics have been associated, through the pseudo-science of genetics. In the context of the girl’s murder and the dire proposals it engendered, it should be noted that a German serial killer named Fritz Harmann terrorized the city of Hanover during the days of the Weimar Republic. A paid informant for the Hanover police department, Harmann’s murders frightened the German people and, in some ways, helped to create the psycho-social conditions necessary for the rise of fascism. It should be noted that the head of the Hanover police department at the time that Harmann worked for it was Gustav Noske, the former defense minister for Germany. Noske set up the paramilitary formations that spawned the so-called “Black Reichswehr.” The latter paved the way for the rise of Hitler through a wave of political murders.

3. Next, the program highlights the growing friction between the U.S. and German national security establishments. “The German foreign office and Bundeswehr are pulling the plugs on Microsoft software, citing security concerns, according to the German news magazine Der Spiegel. Spiegel claims that German security authorities suspect that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has ‘back door’ access to Microsoft source code, and can therefore easily read the Federal Republic’s deepest secrets.” (“German Armed Forces Ban MS Software, Citing NSA Snooping” by John Lettice; The Register; 3/17/2001.)

4. In addition, video conferencing between German diplomatic stations is also being restructured. “The German foreign office has meanwhile put plans for videoconferencing with its overseas embassies on hold, for similar reasons. Under secretary of state Gunter Pleuger is said by Spiegel to have discovered that ‘for technical reasons’ the satellite service that was to be used was routed via Denver, Colorado. According to a colleague of Pleuger’s this meant that the German foreign services ‘might as well hold our conferences directly in Langley.'” (Idem.)

5. The article cited above also notes that “. . . Deutsche Telekom. . . along with Siemens. . . picked up the gig. The two companies have supplanted Microsoft (and anything else American) and will be producing a secure, home-grown system that the German military can be confident in.” (Idem.)

6. Past discussion of communications security in the United States has involved the proposed purchase of American mobile phone companies VoiceStream and Powertel by Deutsche Telekom, controlled by the German government. There had been concern that the German governmental control over Deutsche Telekom might constitute a national security threat to the United States. FTR-245 highlighted the fact that the DT acquisitions of VoiceStream and Powertel were to be accomplished through “equity” purchases—the capital tendered was to be in the form of DT stock. FTR-245 also underscored the fact that DT’s stock was significantly overvalued. This program further documents that overvaluation.

7. “A former senior executive at Deutsche Telekom AG alleges that management at Germany’s biggest telecommunication company knew as early as 1995 that its real-estate assets were vastly overvalued on the balance sheet. . . . Mr. [Frerich] Goerts alleged that when Telekom was created out of the German postal ministry on January 1, 1995, its first balance sheet inflated values for the company’s real estate at 36 billion marks ($17 billion). Mr. Goerts said an internal audit later in 1995 determined the valuation was at least 10 billion marks too high.” (“Deutsche Telekom’s Stance on Real Estate Is Disputed” by William Boston; 3/19/2001; p. A14.)

8. Following discussion of Deutsche Telekom, the program revisits the issue of lawsuits seeking compensation for crimes committed by German corporations during the Third Reich. “A foundation set up by German industry announced on Tuesday that it had raised nearly $2.5 billion to compensate former slave workers in the third Reich. But executives of the companies said today that they would not release the money until all suits pending in the United States had been dismissed. The ambiguous message means that the aging survivors of World War II concentration camps may have to wait for several months or even longer before receiving payments. . . . [German Chancellor Gerhard] Schroder, speaking to reporters today in Berlin after meeting with industrial leaders expressed a vague sympathy with the industrial view and placed responsibility on American lawyers and American courts in dismissing the pending cases. ‘We—German industry and the government—are interested in a speedy payout,’ he said. ‘However, we are in no position to bring about the conditions that are still needed.’ A spokeswoman for the American Jewish committee in Berlin, Deidre Aberger, said the German companies were demanding a high level of legal security that just did not exist in reality.” (“Germans, Citing Suits, Say They’re Holding War Slaves’ Fund” by Edmund L. Andrews; New York Times; 3/15/2001; p. A11.)

9. A recent ruling by an appeals court judge had led to further legal maneuvering. “Judge [Shirley Wohl] Kram expressed her ‘sympathy and genuine, serious concern for elderly victims.’ But she placed the blame for continuing delays on the German side, urging the compensation foundation to begin immediate interim payments to survivors. Both the U.S. and German governments plan to join the legal moves to appeal against Judge Kram’s decision and establish legal closure in the three-year old dispute. The German foundation refuses to begin payments until the litigation is ended and it has achieved ‘legal peace’ with the US.” (“Judge’s Stand on Holocaust Deal Spurs Appeal” by Richard Wolffe and John Authers; Financial Times; 3/21/2001; p.6.)

10. Another development on the German corporate front concerns Germany’s drafting of new rules that would impede hostile takeovers by foreign corporations. “Germany’s centre-left government declared yesterday it would press ahead with its own plans to create a clear legal basis for hostile corporate battles after the failure to agree on common rules at the European Union level. Berlin’s initiative underlines the determination of Chancellor Gerhard Schroder’s administration to correct deficiencies in existing, largely voluntary, rules which were exposed by Vodafone AirTouch’s successful hostile takeover bid for Germany’s Mannesmann last year. . . . there are specific exemptions allowing target companies, for instance, to solicit a competing bid from a ‘white knight.'” (“Germany to Draw up Own Takeover Rules” by Ralph Atkins; Financial Times; 3/13/2001; p.2.)

11. Following discussion of the new takeover proposals, the program sets forth the German government’s request to join an investigation into the French acquisition of the Leuna oil refinery in the former East Germany. A former I.G. Farben facility, the Leuna installation was acquired by Elf Aquitaine.

12. “The German government confirmed yesterday it had formally applied to join legal proceedings in three countries as part of its investigation into the privatization sale in 1992 of the former East German Leuna petro-chemicals group to France’s Elf Aquitaine, now part of TotalFina Elf. . . . The purchase, accompanied by big commission payments to third parties, has been central to speculation that the former Christian Democrat-led government under ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl may have received illegal political contributions.” (“Berlin Applies to Join Leuna Action” by Haig Simonian; Financial Times; 3/21/2001; p. 3.)

13. One of the many considerations looming in the background of the Elf Aquitaine scandal concerns the potential impact that the revelations of one Alfred Sirven might have on the investigation. Sirven threatened to disclose devastating information in the event that he was brought to justice in connection with the case.

14. Recently, Sirven proved more reticent than he appeared to be at first. “He had bragged in the past that he knew enough about corrupt officials ‘to bring down the Republic 20 times.’ But in the end he refused to testify after his requests for a new trial were turned down. ‘My presence here is not necessary here for anybody,’ he said last week, insisting that he be returned to La Sante prison in Paris.” (“Testimony Comes to an End in French Corruption Trial” by Suzanne Daley; New York Times; 3/22/2001; p. A10.)

15. It is not clear what caused Sirven’s apparent change of heart in this matter. In FTR #’s 276 and 278, Sirven’s potential disclosures were evaluated in terms of the potential damage it might do to the French political establishment, in particular, the possible revelations concerning the degree of collaboration between the postwar French elite and the remarkable and deadly Bormann flight capital organization. The economic and political component of a Third Reich gone underground, the Bormann group is a primary element of the analysis presented in the For the Record programs.

16. Mr. Sirven’s arrest came at a key time for the evolution of the German-dominated European Union. German chancellor Gerhard Schroder has been pressuring France (and the United Kingdom) to cede greater federal powers to the EU. “Germany’s bold new posturing at the weekend was summed up by the country’s influential Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper which said: ‘there was one thing people there had not heard before; the clarity with which Germany intends to draw the lines of future development, thereby incidentally laying down direction, pace and content for its French neighbor.’ His comments will send a shudder through his partners in London and Paris.” (“Schroder Launches Brussels Offensive” by Allan Hall; The Scotsman; 1/26/2001.)

17. Germany has also moved to fundamentally alter EU agricultural policy in the wake of the outbreaks of mad-cow and foot-and-mouth diseases in Europe. (For a longer discussion of these diseases, see FTR-287.) “To date France has indicated no enthusiasm for change. But last week in the UK, where the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has brought much of the agricultural industry to a standstill, prime minister Tony Blair echoed [German legislator Renate] Kunast’s sentiments. . . . Many observers are convinced the mad cow crisis has triggered a genuine reassessment of farm policy in Berlin. But Mr. Schroder has stopped noticeably short of demanding the re-opening of the long-term farm reform he failed to impose completely in 1999, when Germany held the EU’s rotating presidency. Progress appeared to have been made on the principle of co-financing—under which EU expenditure would have been cut by shifting part of the farm spending burden to member states. But in the end, the then still inexperienced chancellor ran up against the unyielding opposition of France’s President Jacques Chirac at the March 1999 Berlin summit.” (“Germany Signals the European Union Agricultural Policy has to Change” by Haig Simonian; Financial Times; 3/5/2001; p.2.)

18. EU federalization appears to have received something of a boost with a recent legal decision. “The European Court of Justice ruled yesterday that the European Union can lawfully suppress political criticism of its institutions and of leading figures, sweeping aside English Common Law and 50 years of European precedents on civil liberties. The EU’s top court found that the European Commission was entitled to sack Bernard Connolly, a British economist dismissed in 1995 for writing a critique of monetary integration entitled The Rotten Heart of Europe. The ruling stated that the commission could restrict dissent in order to ‘protect the rights of others’ and punish individuals who ‘damaged the institution’s image and reputation.’ The case has wider implications for free speech that could extend to EU citizens who do not work for the Brussels bureaucracy. . . . Mr. Colomer wrote in his opinion last November that a landmark British case on free speech had ‘no foundation or relevance’ in European law, suggesting that the European Court was unwilling to give much consideration to British legal tradition.” (“Euro-Court Outlaws Criticism of EU” by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard; The Daily Telegraph, July 5, 2001.)

19. Discussing the European Monetary Union, FTR-286 highlights the theoretical basis for that institution. Pan-German theoretician Friedrich List set forth a plan for a German-dominated European economic federation as a vehicle for realizing German imperial ambitions. “Many of the major elements of economic imperialism were enunciated in the 1840’s by the ubiquitous Friedrich List. . . . He foresaw an economic organization with an industrialized Germany as its center and a periphery of other central and eastern European states that would supply food and raw materials for German industry and would purchase German industrial products. A semi-autarkic structure would thus be created; it would have the advantage of permitting control, or even exclusion, of British competition. . . .” (The Ideological Origins of Nazi Imperialism by Woodruff D. Smith; Copyright 1986; Oxford University Press [SC]; ISBN 0-19-504741-9; p.30.)

20. Next, the program excerpts FTR-102, highlighting the Nazi “corporatist” strategy of conquest that constitutes the foundation of the Bormann organization. “. . . much of the banking and industrial elite of Germany favored a more traditional, imperial approach to acquiring a new empire in Europe. . . .Their strategy favored integrating businesses in countries occupied by the Germans into private industrial syndicates coordinated through German-based cartels and through private institutions such as Deutsche Bank. The private companies in turn pledged their loyalty to Hitler’s government. German military conquest should be used to create conditions through which German corporations could buy up the key enterprises in newly subjugated counties at very favorable prices, this faction contended. But only in rare instances should the state take direct command of industry. Much of the senior leadership of the Deutsche Bank, IG Farben, the Siemens group of companies, and other German-based cartels maintained that Germany should reenter the world marketplace rather than attempt to build up the orthodox Nazi dream of a self-sufficient German empire in Central and Eastern Europe.” (The Splendid Blond Beast: Money, Law and Genocide in the 20th Century; by Christopher Simpson; Copyright 1995; Common Courage Press [SC]; ISBN 1-56751-062-0; p. 71.)

21. As Germany prepared to face military defeat and planned for the postwar, underground survival of the Third Reich through the Bormann organization, this “corporatist” faction carried the day. FTR-278 (among other broadcasts) analyzes the ‘Himmlerkreis” that financed the workings of the SS.

22. The discussion turns to Himmlerkreis in connection with the post-war contingency plans. “. . . as the war turned against the Third Reich, a number of business leaders in the Himmlerkreis began to cooperate in clandestine and semiclandestine contingency planning for the postwar period. Two of the best known of these groups, the Arbeitskreis fur aussenwirtschaftliche Fragen (Working Group for Foreign Economic Questions and the Kleine Arbeitskreis (Small Working Group), were nominally sponsored by the Reichsgruppe Industrie association of major industrial and financial companies. They brought together Blessing, Rasche Kurt von Schroeder, Lindemann, and others from the Himmlerkreis with other business people such as. . . Ludwig Erhard (then an economist with the Reichsgruppe Industrie and later Konrad Adenauer’s most important economic advisor. . . . with Nazi business specialists such as Otto Ohlendorf (the former commander of the Einsatzgruppe D murder troops) and Hans Kehrl (SS business specialist). A half-dozen similar business forums emerged during the last years of the Third Reich. Most of these overlapped in membership, and all of them favored some variation of the ‘corporatist’ strategy for empire articulated by Hjalmar Schacht, Abs and others. . . .” (Ibid.; pp. 155-6.) (Ludwig Erhard succeeded Adenauer as chancellor.)

23. Next, the program revisits the subject of the resurrection of fascism in postwar Germany. “On November 10, the German parliament’s upper house voted to support Schroeder’s initiative to outlaw the NPD. But on the same day, Germany’s highest state medal, the Bundesverdienstkreuz, (Federal Cross of Merit) was awarded to Heinz Eckhoff, 77, a Waffen SS veteran who had joined the neo-nazi NPD when it was formed in the mid-1960’s. Eckhoff subsequently gravitated toward the conservative Christian Democratic Union, which dominated West German politics for many years while functioning as a catch-basin for various right-wing interest groups, including some that cling to the memory of the Third Reich.” (“Neo-nazism: It’s Not Just in Germany’s Beer Halls Anymore” by Martin A. Lee; Los Angeles Times; 12/31/2001; p. M2.)

24. The German NPD has strong connections with the National Alliance, arguably the most important of the American Nazi groups. “The NPD’s closest U.S. ally is Dr. William Pierce, head of the neo-nazi national Alliance and author of the notorious hate novel, The Turner Diaries, which the FBI has called ‘the blueprint for the Oklahoma City bombing.’ In 1998, Pierce traveled to Germany to attend the NPD’s national convention. The leader of the NPD’s youth wing, Alexander von Webenau, subsequently visited Pierce at his remote, rural encampment in West Virginia. While there Webenau spoke at an invitation-only conference hosted by the National Alliance. Pierce also published an interview with NDP chief Udo Voigt.” (“Far Right Violence Soars in Germany” by Martin A. Lee; San Francisco Bay Guardian; 3/19/2001.)

25. Lastly, the program touches on the search to recover the Amber Room, a priceless work of art that disappeared from Russia during World War II.  “One of the most enduring but futile postwar treasure hunts—the search for the so-called amber room, looted by the nazis from a Russian palace in 1941—has wound its way to this remote frontier village, where a subterranean race has begun between rival German and Czech teams. The competing Raiders of the Lost Amber are equally certain that this fabled piece of plunder lies hidden in a large and long-abandoned silver mine that runs beneath the border.” (“Race to Recover Russia’s Fabled Amber Room” by Peter Finn [Washington Post]; San Jose Mercury News; 2/2/2001; p. 2A.)

26. The broadcast ends with an excerpt from one of the sources utilized in FTR-234. “‘The Bormann group,’ [Georg] Stein said, ‘I know there are such—groups. Powerful groups. Groups of old, and new Nazis. They, too, want to find the Amber Room, the financial bonanza to them would be immense. . . . ‘Do not take my warning lightly,’ Stein cautioned him. ‘The matter in which you have involved yourself, the struggle to find the missing Amber Room, is a dangerous matter. I myself have often been warned. Everyone knows of the dangers’. . . . A year later, Georg Stein was found murdered in a forest near Munich, naked, stabbed to death with two table knives that were still stuck in his body.” (Quest: Searching for the Truth of Germany’s Nazi Past; by Ib Melchior and Frank Brandenburg; Copyright 1990; Presidio Press [SC]; ISBN 0-89141-532-1; pp. 303-306.)

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