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Getty helped traitors sell oil to Hitler

by Peter Day

The Tex­an oil bil­lion­aire Jean Paul Get­ty was at the heart of a con­spir­a­cy to pro­vide sup­port to Hitler’s Ger­many ear­ly in the Sec­ond World War, accord­ing to new­ly released intel­li­gence doc­u­ments.

The file links Get­ty to a shad­owy net­work of financiers who sup­plied the Nazis with fuel in defi­ance of a British block­ade and accus­es him of gath­er­ing spies and trai­tors around him at his fash­ion­able Hotel Pierre in New York.

It records that he returned from Berlin in 1939 “talk­ing breezi­ly of his old friend Hitler” and that his busi­ness con­tacts includ­ed Serge Rubin­stein, a noto­ri­ous fraud­ster who ran part of his empire through Lon­don.

The “Sus­pect Per­sons” file pre­pared by the For­eign Office for the Min­istry of Eco­nom­ic War­fare has just been declas­si­fied at the Nation­al Archives at Kew, south-west Lon­don. It appears to be the work of the British Secu­ri­ty Co-ordi­na­tion team in New York, run by William Stephen­son, Churchill’s secret envoy to Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt, code­named Intre­pid.

He was rumoured to be behind the assas­si­na­tion of one of the lead­ing fig­ures in the deal to try to stop it con­tin­u­ing. The dossier was com­piled after the deten­tion in Trinidad in Octo­ber 1941 of the banker who worked for Her­mann Goer­ing, shift­ing Nazi funds out of Europe. He was car­ry­ing $100,000 cash and had anoth­er $1 mil­lion in a South Amer­i­can bank.

The banker was linked to Rubin­stein, the son of a Russ­ian banker who worked for the last Tsar and had been ruined by the Bol­she­vik rev­o­lu­tion. Rubin­stein had a first class degree in eco­nom­ics from Cam­bridge but turned his tal­ents to mak­ing mon­ey fast and ille­gal­ly.

One of his vehi­cles was the Cho­sen Cor­po­ra­tion of Lon­don which owned the rights to Kore­an gold mines. It was even­tu­al­ly wound up by a High Court judge in 1943 to pre­vent Rubin­stein get­ting his hands on $1.6 mil­lion in assets.

Long before then Rubin­stein had milked it of mil­lions more and trans­ferred the mon­ey to New York where he set up a sub­sidiary to finance illic­it oil deals through Mex­i­co to Nazi Ger­many.

Rubin­stein became one of a cast of extra­or­di­nary char­ac­ters who fre­quent­ed the Hotel Pierre, which Get­ty reput­ed­ly bought because he want­ed to sack a wait­er who was rude to him when he was a guest.

Among them was a Russ­ian-born Briton, who claimed to work for MI6 but whose sym­pa­thies appeared to lie with Ger­many. He had been seen meet­ing Ger­man agents in Cuba and mem­bers of the Amer­i­can Far Right, includ­ing the Ku Klux Klan.

The intel­li­gence file records: “Pre­cise­ly what he was doing in the USA, and why, has nev­er been elu­ci­dat­ed. At the out­break of the war he was vis­it­ing the US osten­si­bly on behalf of the Air Crew Co of Wey­bridge.

“He appears to have been mixed up in a Mex­i­can-oil-for-Ger­many deal, togeth­er with Mex­i­can pres­i­den­tial con­tender Almazan, and J Paul Get­ty wealthy own­er of the Hotel Pierre.

“Get­ty, con­troller of Mis­sion Oil Corp which holds Ger­man patents licensed by I G Far­ben and Stan­dard Oil of New Jer­sey sub­sidiaries, returned from Europe in Novem­ber 1939 talk­ing breezi­ly about his ‘old friend’ Hitler.

“Lat­er he was said to have sold 1,000,000 bar­rels of oil to Ger­many for deliv­ery via Rus­sia. The Hotel Pierre was filled with doubt­ful and flashy char­ac­ters with Nazi-Fas­cist-Vichy antecedents and/or con­nec­tions, and when Get­ty bought con­trol of it he first employed an Aus­tri­an baron, then a Ger­man war vet­er­an and an ex‑U boat cap­tain as man­agers.

“Among res­i­dents at the Pierre — liv­ing in lux­u­ry suites on no vis­i­ble income sources — were a Count­ess Mohle who spent her time mak­ing her­self attrac­tive to US Army offi­cers and was in a per­pet­u­al state of wide-eyed curios­i­ty about mil­i­tary mat­ters.”

One of Rubin­stein’s con­tacts in the oil deal, William Davis, was found dead in a hotel room, osten­si­bly of a heart attack, although there was a sus­pi­cion he had been assas­si­nat­ed.

Rubin­stein him­self was the vic­tim of a cel­e­brat­ed unsolved mur­der case when he was stran­gled in his Fifth Avenue apart­ment in 1955.

Get­ty, mean­while, appeared to have a change of heart when Amer­i­ca entered the war after the Japan­ese attack on Pearl Har­bor. He vol­un­teered, at the age of 49, for US Navy ser­vice.

His finan­cial empire con­tin­ued to blos­som until he was named the rich­est man in the world. He lived out some of his last days at his Sut­ton Place estate in Sur­rey.

His son, John Paul Get­ty, lived for much of his life in Britain and was a not­ed Anglophile who became a British cit­i­zen in 1987.

He was knight­ed for his sup­port of char­i­ty and the arts, includ­ing a £50 mil­lion dona­tion to the Nation­al Gallery. He was also devot­ed to crick­et and made a sub­stan­tial dona­tion towards a new stand at Lords. He died in a Lon­don clin­ic, aged 70, last April.


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