Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

News & Supplemental  

The Splendid Blond Beast (Excerpt, pp 154–155)

By 1943, impor­tant changes were also under way among the Ger­man eco­nom­ic elite, and these had an indi­rect but nonethe­less impor­tant effect on polit­i­cal debate in the U.S. Up until the Ger­man defeat at Stal­in­grad in late 1942, Adolf Hitler remained the best thing that had ever hap­pened to the Ger­man finan­cial elite from a strict­ly busi­ness point of view—notwithstanding the Nazi par­ty’s occa­sion­al flour­ish­es of ant­i­cap­i­tal­ist rhetoric. The sophis­ti­cat­ed con­ser­v­a­tives that dom­i­nat­ed Ger­man busi­ness made the most of Nation­al Social­ism. Vir­tu­al­ly all major Ger­man enter­pris­es adopt­ed ele­ments of Nazi ide­ol­o­gy in their day-to-day oper­a­tions, includ­ing the purg­ing of Jews, dec­i­ma­tion of labor unions, and exploita­tion of forced labor. Along the way, they invent­ed a vari­ety of tri­umph-of-the-will ratio­nal­iza­tions for cor­po­rate bru­tal­i­ty and theft.

But in ear­ly 1943, the Ger­man finan­cial and indus­tri­al elite began to split on the future of Hitler. Increas­ing­ly, the very forces that they had helped set in motion were now drag­ging the whole of Ger­many toward cat­a­stro­phe. Hitler had irrev­o­ca­bly blun­dered and, it was rumored, might even be men­tal­ly unbal­anced. The banker Hjal­mar Schacht-long the quin­tes­sen­tial Ger­man estab­lish­ment banker who had backed the Nazis since before Hitler came to pow­er-left Hitler’s gov­ern­ment. Even Oscar Hen­schel, whose weapons com­pa­nies made exten­sive use of forced labor, claimed to have con­clud­ed as ear­ly as Decem­ber 1942 that the mil­i­tary sit­u­a­tion was hopeless.12

The eco­nom­ic elite turned their atten­tion to self-preser­va­tion. But such plan­ning, regard­ed by Hitler’s gov­ern­ment as defeatist or even trea­so­nous, could be car­ried out only under a thick veil of secre­cy. Intrigu­ing­ly, the exist­ing social net­works used by the eco­nom­ic elite to coor­di­nate their actions and to secure influ­ence with­in Hitler’s gov­ern­ment pro­vid­ed some of the most effec­tive “cov­ers” for Ger­man cor­po­rate efforts to pre­pare for the post­war world.

The noto­ri­ous Himm­lerkreis, the Cir­cle of Friends of Reichs­fuhrer SS Hein­rich Himm­ler, is a good exam­ple of the dynam­ics of Ger­many’s high-lev­el busi­ness net­works dur­ing the decline of the Third Reich. The Nazis and lead­ing Ger­man busi­ness­men had joint­ly cre­at­ed the Himm­lerkreis in the ear­ly 1930s as an infor­mal com­mu­ni­ca­tion link between the finan­cial and indus­tri­al elite and the SS. Himm­ler sought the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic sup­port of the busi­ness elite, and the elite in turn sought influ­ence out­side of offi­cial chan­nels with the increas­ing­ly pow­er­ful police leader. Senior busi­ness lead­ers active in the Himm­lerkreis includ­ed Siemens’ gen­er­al direc­tor Rudolf Bin­gel, Unilever and Kon­ti­nen­tale Öl direc­tor Karl Bless­ing, steel indus­tri­al­ist Friedrich Flick, Dres­d­ner Bank’s Karl Rache and Emil Mey­er, ship­ping and oil exec­u­tive Karl Lin­de­mann, and board mem­bers or senior man­agers from the Deutsche Bank, RKG, IG Far­ben, Krupp, and a dozen oth­er com­pa­nies cen­tral to the Ger­man economy.13 As the SS grew as an eco­nom­ic pow­er, the SS mem­bers of the Himm­lerkreis often migrat­ed to new posi­tions on cor­po­rate boards, where they could secure gov­ern­ment con­tracts and embody cor­po­rate loy­al­ty to the regime. SS men and Nazi par­ty activists who made this tran­si­tion includ­ed Wil­helm Kep­pler (of the BRABAG brown coal com­bine and SS enter­pris­es), Fritz Krane­fuss (BRABAG, Dres­d­ner Bank), and Rit­ter von Halt, who joined the Deutsche Bank board.14

Offi­cial­ly, the Himm­lerkreis meet­ings were not for con­duct­ing busi­ness, because that would have sug­gest­ed cor­rup­tion in Nation­al Social­ist cir­cles. As a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, how­ev­er, the encoun­ters served as an infor­mal coor­di­nat­ing point for Ger­man indus­try’s nego­ti­a­tions with the SS on pol­i­cy mat­ters. IG Far­ben appears to have used Himm­lerkreis meet­ings to seek sup­port for the com­pa­ny’s vast forced-labor com­plex at Auschwitz, for exam­ple. The com­pa­nies rep­re­sent­ed in Himm­ler’s cir­cle became pace­set­ters in Aryaniza­tion, exploita­tion of con­cen­tra­tion camp labor, seizure of for­eign com­pa­nies in the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries, and sim­i­lar busi­ness ven­tures that depend­ed on SS cooperation.15


One comment for “The Splendid Blond Beast (Excerpt, pp 154–155)”

  1. How on God’s earth could the Amer­i­can peo­ple allow AIG to get a bailout?

    Posted by Whilimena | October 7, 2008, 11:20 am

Post a comment