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Enema Action: The Koch Family’s Nazi Nanny

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COMMENT: Jane May­er’s Dark Mon­ey has received con­sid­er­able dis­cus­sion and media play over the last cou­ple of years. What has been over­looked is a detail about the upbring­ing of the young Koch boys.

Afi­ciona­dos of psy­cho-his­to­ry will find the Ger­man Nazi nan­ny hired by Fred Koch to mind and raise his young sons sub­stan­tial, as well as inter­est­ing.

With Fred Koch hav­ing net­worked with the Nazi spy William Rhodes Davis, we won­der if the nan­ny might have worked for Nazi intel­li­gence as well.

Dark Mon­ey by Jane May­er; Anchor Books [SC]; Copy­right 2016, 2017 by Jane May­er; ISBN: 978–0‑307–94970‑1; pp. 39–40.

 . . . . he [Fred Koch] was enam­ored enough of the Ger­man way of life and think­ing that he employed a Ger­man gov­erness for his first two sons, Fred­die and Charles.  At the time, Fred­die was a small boy, and Charles was still in dia­pers. The nan­ny’s iron rule ter­ri­fied the lit­tle boys, accord­ing to a fam­i­ly acquain­tance. In addi­tion to being over­bear­ing, she was a fer­vent Nazi sym­pa­thiz­er, who fre­quent­ly tout­ed Hitler’s virtues. Dressed in a starched white uni­form and point­ed nurse’s hat, she arrived with a stash of grue­some Ger­man chil­dren’s books, includ­ing the Vic­to­ri­an clas­sic Der Struwwelpeter, that fea­tured sadis­tic con­se­quences for mis­be­hav­ior, rang­ing from cut­ting off of one child’s thumbs to burn­ing anoth­er to death. [That’ll learn ’em!—D.E.] The acquain­tance recalled that the nurse had a com­men­su­rate­ly harsh and dic­ta­to­r­i­al approach to child rear­ing. She enforced a rigid toi­let-train­ing reg­i­men requir­ing the boys to pro­duce morn­ing bow­el move­ments pre­cise­ly on sched­ule or be force-fed cas­tor oil and sub­ject­ed to ene­mas. [“Shitzkrieg?”—D.E.]

 The despised gov­erness ruled the nurs­ery large­ly unchal­lenged for sev­er­al years. In 1938, the two boys were left for months while their par­ents toured Japan, Bur­ma, India, and the Philip­pines. Even when she was home, Mary Koch char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly deferred to her hus­band, declin­ing to inter­vene. “My father was fair­ly tough with my moth­er,” Bill Koch lat­er told Van­i­ty Fair. “My moth­er was afraid of my father.” Mean­while, Fred Koch was often gone for months at a time, in Ger­many and else­where.

 It was­n’t until 1940, the year before the twins were born, when Fred­die was sev­en and Charles was five, that back in Wichi­ta the Ger­man gov­erness final­ly left the Koch fam­i­ly, appar­ent­ly at her own ini­tia­tive. Her rea­son for giv­ing notice was that she was so over­come with joy when Hitler invad­ed France she felt she had to go back to the father­land in order to join the Fuhrer in cel­e­bra­tion. What if any effect this ear­ly expe­ri­ence with author­i­ty had on Charles is impos­si­ble to know, but it’s inter­est­ing that his life­time pre­oc­cu­pa­tion would become cru­sad­ing against author­i­tar­i­an­ism while run­ning a busi­ness over which he exert­ed absolute con­trol. . . .


2 comments for “Enema Action: The Koch Family’s Nazi Nanny”

  1. Anoth­er set of impor­tant pas­sages in this book include:
    A con­tro­ver­sial chap­ter is miss­ing. After leav­ing the U.S.S.R., Fred Koch turned to Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. Hitler became chan­cel­lor in 1933, and soon after, his gov­ern­ment over­saw and fund­ed mas­sive indus­tri­al expan­sion, includ­ing the buildup of Germany’s capac­i­ty to man­u­fac­ture fuel for its grow­ing mil­i­tary ambi­tions. Dur­ing the 1930s, Fred Koch trav­eled fre­quent­ly to Ger­many on oil busi­ness. Archival records doc­u­ment that in 1934 Win­kler-Koch Engi­neer­ing of Wichi­ta, Kansas, as Fred’s firm was then known, pro­vid­ed the engi­neer­ing plans and began over­see­ing the con­struc­tion of a mas­sive oil refin­ery owned by a com­pa­ny on the Elbe Riv­er in Ham­burg.

    The refin­ery was a high­ly unusu­al ven­ture for Koch to get involved with at that moment in Ger­many. Its top exec­u­tive was a noto­ri­ous Amer­i­can Nazi sym­pa­thiz­er named William Rhodes Davis whose exten­sive busi­ness deal­ings with Hitler would even­tu­al­ly end in accu­sa­tions by a fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor that he was an “agent of influ­ence” for the Nazi regime. In 1933, Davis pro­posed the pur­chase and con­ver­sion of an exist­ing Ger­man oil stor­age facil­i­ty in Ham­burg, owned by a com­pa­ny called Europäis­che Tan­klager A.G., or Eurotank, into a mas­sive refin­ery. At the time, Hitler’s mil­i­tary aims, and his need for more fuel, were already well-known. Davis’s plan was to ship crude petro­le­um to Ger­many, refine it, and then sell it to the Ger­man mil­i­tary. The pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can bank with which Davis dealt refused to have any­thing to do with the deal, because it was seen as sup­port­ing the Nazi mil­i­tary buildup, but oth­ers extend­ed the cred­it. After lin­ing up the Amer­i­can financ­ing, Davis need­ed the Third Reich’s back­ing. To gain it, he first had to con­vince Ger­man indus­tri­al­ists of his sup­port for Hitler. In his effort to ingra­ti­ate him­self, Davis opened an ear­ly meet­ing with Her­mann Schmitz, the chair­man of I.G. Farben—the pow­er­ful and well-con­nect­ed chem­i­cal com­pa­ny that soon after pro­duced the lethal gas for the con­cen­tra­tion camps’ death chambers—by salut­ing him with a Nazi “Heil Hitler.” When these efforts didn’t pro­duce the green light he sought, Davis sent mes­sages direct­ly to Hitler, even­tu­al­ly secur­ing a meet­ing in which the führer walked in and ordered his hench­men to approve the deal. On Hitler’s orders, the Third Reich’s eco­nom­ic min­is­ters sup­port­ed Davis’s con­struc­tion of the refin­ery. In his biog­ra­phy of Davis, Dale Har­ring­ton draws on eye­wit­ness accounts to describe Hitler as declar­ing to his skep­ti­cal hench­men, “Gen­tle­men, I have reviewed Mr. Davis’s propo­si­tion and it sounds fea­si­ble, and I want the bank to finance it.” Har­ring­ton writes that dur­ing the next few years Davis met at least half a dozen more times with Hitler and on one occa­sion asked him to per­son­al­ly auto­graph a copy of Mein Kampf for his wife. Accord­ing to Har­ring­ton, by the end of 1933 Davis was “deeply com­mit­ted to Nazism” and exhib­it­ed a notice­able “dis­like for Jews.”

    In 1934, Davis turned to Fred Koch’s com­pa­ny, Win­kler-Koch, for help in exe­cut­ing his Ger­man busi­ness plan. Under Fred Koch’s direc­tion, the refin­ery was fin­ished by 1935. With the capac­i­ty to process a thou­sand tons of crude oil a day, the third-largest refin­ery in the Third Reich was cre­at­ed by the col­lab­o­ra­tion between Davis and Koch. Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, it was also one of the few refiner­ies in Ger­many, accord­ing to Har­ring­ton, that could “pro­duce the high-octane gaso­line need­ed to fuel fight­er planes. Nat­u­ral­ly,” he writes, “Eurotank would do most of its busi­ness with the Ger­man mil­i­tary.” Thus, he con­cludes, the Amer­i­can ven­ture became “a key com­po­nent of the Nazi war machine.”

    His­to­ri­ans expert in Ger­man indus­tri­al his­to­ry con­cur. The devel­op­ment of the Ger­man fuel indus­try “was huge­ly, huge­ly impor­tant” to Hitler’s mil­i­tary ambi­tions, accord­ing to the North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor Peter Hayes. “Hitler set out to cre­ate ‘autarchy,’ or eco­nom­ic self-suf­fi­cien­cy,” he explained. “Got­tfried Fed­er, the Ger­man offi­cial in charge of the pro­gram, rea­soned that even though Ger­many would have to import crude oil, it would be able to save for­eign exchange by refin­ing the prod­ucts itself.”

    In the run-up to the war, Davis prof­it­ed rich­ly from the arrange­ment, engag­ing in elab­o­rate scams to keep the crude oil imports flow­ing into Ger­many despite Britain’s block­ade. When World War II began, the high-octane fuel was used in bomb­ing raids by Ger­man pilots. Like Davis, the Koch fam­i­ly ben­e­fit­ed from the ven­ture. Ray­mond Stokes, direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Busi­ness His­to­ry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Glas­gow in Scot­land and co-author of a his­to­ry of the Ger­man oil indus­try dur­ing the Nazi years, Fak­tor Öl (The oil fac­tor), which doc­u­ments the company’s role, says, “Win­kler-Koch ben­e­fit­ed direct­ly from this project, which was designed to help enable the fuel pol­i­cy of the Third Reich.”

    Fred Koch often trav­eled to Ger­many dur­ing these years, and accord­ing to fam­i­ly lore he was sup­posed to have been on the fatal May 1937 transat­lantic flight of the Hin­den­burg, but at the last minute he got delayed. In late 1938, as World War II approached and Hitler’s aims were unmis­tak­able, he wrote admir­ing­ly about fas­cism in Ger­many, and else­where, draw­ing an invid­i­ous com­par­i­son with Amer­i­ca under Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. “Although nobody agrees with me, I am of the opin­ion that the only sound coun­tries in the world are Ger­many, Italy, and Japan, sim­ply because they are all work­ing and work­ing hard,” he wrote in a let­ter to a friend. Koch added, “The labor­ing peo­ple in those coun­tries are pro­por­tion­ate­ly much bet­ter off than they are any place else in the world. When you con­trast the state of mind of Ger­many today with what it was in 1925 you begin to think that per­haps this course of idle­ness, feed­ing at the pub­lic trough, depen­dence on gov­ern­ment, etc., with which we are afflict­ed is not per­ma­nent and can be over­come.”

    When the Unit­ed States entered World War II in 1941, fam­i­ly mem­bers say that Fred Koch tried to enlist in the U.S. mil­i­tary. Instead, the gov­ern­ment direct­ed him to use his chem­i­cal engi­neer­ing prowess to help refine high-octane fuel for the Amer­i­can war­planes. Mean­while, in an iron­ic turn, the Ham­burg refin­ery that Win­kler-Koch built became an impor­tant tar­get of Allied bomb­ing raids. On June 18, 1944, Amer­i­can B‑17s final­ly destroyed it. The human toll of the bomb­ing raids on Ham­burg was almost unimag­in­able. In all, some forty-two thou­sand civil­ians were killed dur­ing the long and intense Allied cam­paign against Hamburg’s cru­cial indus­tri­al tar­gets.

    Fred Koch’s will­ing­ness to work with the Sovi­ets and the Nazis was a major fac­tor in cre­at­ing the Koch family’s ear­ly for­tune. By the time he met his future wife, Mary Robin­son, at a polo match in 1932, the oilman’s work for Stal­in had put him well on his way to becom­ing exceed­ing­ly wealthy.

    Posted by Alex B. Smith | December 20, 2017, 8:38 am
  2. As Bomber Har­ris said, the Nazis nev­er imag­ined that they in turn would be bombed. Ham­burg was too close to Eng­land for a refin­ery...

    Posted by Andy | December 24, 2017, 2:09 pm

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