From the “Trading With the Enemy” cover blurb:
“Here is the extraordinary true story of the American businessmen and government officials who dealt with the Nazis for profit or through conviction throughout the Second World War: Ford. Standard Oil, Chase Bank and members of the State Department were among those who shared in the spoils. Meticulously documented and dispassionately told, this is an alarming story. At its centre is ‘The Fraternity’, an influential international group associated with the Rockefeller or Morgan banks and linked by the ideology of Business as Usual.
Higham starts with an account of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland – a Nazi-controlled bank presided over by an American, Thomas H. McKittrick, even in 1944. While Americans were dying in the war, McKittrick sat down with his German, Japanese, Italian, British and American executive staff to discuss the gold bars that had been sent to the Bank earlier that year by the Nazi government for use by its leaders after the war. This was gold that had been looted from the banks of Austria, Belgium, and Czechoslovakia or melted down from teeth fillings, eyeglass frames, and wedding rings of millions of murdered Jews.
But that is only one of the cases detailed in this book. We have Standard Oil shipping enemy fuel through Switzerland for the Nazi occupation forces in France; Ford trucks transporting German troops; I.T.T. helping supply the rocket bombs that marauded much of London ; and I.T.T. building the Focke-Wulfs that dropped those bombs. Long and shocking is the list of diplomats and businessmen alike who had their own ways of profiting from the war.”
Preface to the book TRADING WITH THE ENEMY: An Exposé of The Nazi-American Money-Plot 1933-1949 by Charles Higham; Hale, London, 1983.
It would be comforting to believe that the financial Establishment of the United States and the leaders of American industry were united in a common purpose following the Day of Infamy, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Certainly, the American public was assured that Big Business along with all of the officials of government ceased from the moment the war began to have any dealings whatsoever with the enemy. That assurance sustained the morale of millions of Americans who bore arms in World War II and their kinfolk who stayed at home and suffered the anguish of separation.
But the heartbreaking truth is that a number of financial and industrial figures of World War II and several members of the government served the cause of money before the cause of patriotism. While aiding the United States’ war effort, they also aided Nazi Germany’s.
I first came across this fact in 1978 when I was declassifying documents in the course of writing a biography that dealt with motion picture star Errol Flynn’s Nazi associations. In the National Archives Diplomatic Records Room I found numerous cross-references to prominent figures who, I had always assumed, were entirely committed to the American cause, yet who had been marked down for suspected subversive activities.
I had heard over the years about a general agreement of certain major figures of American, British, and German commerce to continue their relations and associations after Pearl Harbor. I had also heard that certain figures of the warring governments had arranged to assist in this. But I had never seen any documentary evidence of it. Now, pieces of information began to surface. I started to locate documents and have them declassified under the Freedom of Information Act—a painfully slow and exhausting process that lasted two and a half years. What I found out was very disturbing.
I had been born to a patriotic British family. My father had raised the first battalions of volunteers against Germany in World War I, and had built the Star and Garter Hospital at Richmond, Surrey, for ex-servicemen. He had been knighted by King George V for his services to the Crown and had been a member of Parliament and a Cabinet member. I feel a strong sense of loyalty to Britain, as well as to my adopted country, the United States of America. Moreover, I am part Jewish. Auschwitz is a word stamped on my heart forever.
It thus came as a severe shock to learn that several of the greatest American corporate leaders were in league with Nazi corporations before and after Pearl Harbor, including I.G. Farben, the colossal Nazi industrial trust that created Auschwitz. Those leaders interlocked through an association I have dubbed The Fraternity. Each of these business leaders was entangled with the others through interlocking directorates or financial sources. All were represented internationally by the National City Bank or by the Chase National Bank and by the Nazi attorneys Gerhardt Westrick and Dr. Heinrich Albert. All had connections to that crucial Nazi economist, Emil Puhl, of Hitler’s Reichsbank and the Bank for International Settlements.
The tycoons were linked by an ideology: the ideology of Business as Usual. Bound by identical reactionary ideas, the members sought a common future in fascist domination, regardless of which world leader might further that ambition.
Several members not only sought a continuing alliance of interests for the duration of World War II but supported the idea of a negotiated peace with Germany that would bar any reorganization of Europe along liberal lines. It would leave as its residue a police state that would place The Fraternity in postwar possession of financial, industrial, and political autonomy. When it was clear that Germany was losing the war the businessmen became notably more “loyal.” Then, when war was over, the survivors pushed into Germany, protected their assets, restored Nazi friends to high office, helped provoke the Cold War, and insured the permanent future of The Fraternity.
From the outset I realized that in researching the subject I would have to carve through an ice cream mountain of public relations. I searched in vain through books about the corporations and their histories to find any reference to questionable activities in World War II. It was clear that the authors of those volumes, granted the cooperation of the businesses concerned, predictably backed off from disclosing anything that would be revealing. To this day the bulk of Americans do not suspect The Fraternity. The government smothered everything, during and even (inexcusably) after the war. What would have happened if millions of American and British people, struggling with coupons and lines at the gas stations, had learned that in 1942 Standard Oil of New Jersey managers shipped the enemy’s fuel through neutral Switzerland and that the enemy was shipping Allied fuel? Suppose the public had discovered that the Chase Bank in Nazi-occupied Paris after Pearl Harbor was doing millions of dollars’ worth of business with the enemy with the full knowledge of the head office in Manhattan? Or that Ford trucks were being built for the German occupation troops in France with authorization from Dearborn, Michigan? Or that Colonel Sosthenes Behn, the head of the international American telephone conglomerate ITT, flew from New York to Madrid to Berne during the war to help improve Hitler’s communications systems and improve the robot bombs that devastated London? Or that ITT built the Focke-Wulfs that dropped bombs on British and American troops? Or that crucial ball bearings were shipped to Nazi-associated customers in Latin America with the collusion of the vice-chairman of the U.S. War Production Board in partnership with Göring’s cousin in Philadelphia when American forces were desperately short of them? Or that such arrangements were known about in Washington and either sanctioned or deliberately ignored?
For the government did sanction dubious transactions—both before and after Pearl Harbor. A presidential edict, issued six days after December 7, 1941, actually set up the legislation whereby licensing arrangements for trading with the enemy could officially be granted. Often during the years after Pearl Harbor the government permitted such trading. For example, ITT was allowed to continue its relations with the Axis and Japan until 1945, even though that conglomerate was regarded as an official instrument of United States Intelligence. No attempt was made to prevent Ford from retaining its interests for the Germans in Occupied France, nor were the Chase Bank or the Morgan Bank expressly forbidden to keep open their branches in Occupied Paris. It is indicated that the Reichsbank and Nazi Ministry of Economics made promises to certain U.S. corporate leaders that their properties would not be injured after the Führer was victorious. Thus, the bosses of the multinationals as we know them today had a six-spot on every side of the dice cube. Whichever side won the war, the powers that really ran nations would not be adversely affected.
And it is important to consider the size of American investments in Nazi Germany at the time of Pearl Harbor. These amounted to an estimated total of $475 million. Standard Oil of New Jersey had $120 million invested there; General Motors had $35 million; ITT had $30 million; and Ford had $17.5 million. Though it would have been more patriotic to have allowed Nazi Germany to confiscate these companies for the duration—to nationalize them or to absorb them into Hermann Göring’s industrial empire—it was clearly more practical to insure them protection from seizure by allowing them to remain in special holding companies, the money accumulating until war’s end. It is interesting that whereas there is no evidence of any serious attempt by Roosevelt to impeach the guilty in the United States, there is evidence that Hitler strove to punish certain German Fraternity associates on the grounds of treason to the Nazi state. Indeed, in the case of ITT, perhaps the most flagrant of the corporations in its outright dealings with the enemy, Hitler and his postmaster general, the venerable Wilhelm Ohnesorge, strove to impound the German end of the business. But even they were powerless in such a situation: the Gestapo leader of counterintelligence, Walter Schellenberg, was a prominent director and shareholder of ITT by arrangement with New York—and even Hitler dared not cross the Gestapo.
As for Roosevelt, the Sphinx still keeps his secrets. That supreme politician held all of the forces of collusion and betrayal in balance, publicly praising those executives whom he knew to be questionable. Before Pearl Harbor, he allowed such egregious executives as James D. Mooney of General Motors and William Rhodes Davis of the Davis Oil Company to enjoy pleasant tête-à-têtes with Hitler and Göring, while maintaining a careful record of what they were doing. During the war, J. Edgar Hoover, Adolf A. Berle, Henry Morgenthau, and Harold Ickes kept the President fully advised of all internal and external transgressions. With great skill, he never let the executives concerned know that he was on to them. By using the corporate leaders for his own war purposes as dollar-a-year men, keeping an eye on them and allowing them to indulge, under license or not, in their international tradings, he at once made winning the war a certainty and kept the public from knowing what it should not know.
Because of the secrecy with which the matter has been blanketed, researching it presented me with a nightmare that preceded the greater nightmare of discovery. I embarked upon a voyage that resembled nothing so much as a descent into poisoned waters in a diving bell.
Why did even the loyal figures of the American government allow these transactions to continue after Pearl Harbor? A logical deduction would be that not to have done so would have involved public disclosure: the procedure of legally disconnecting these alliances under the antitrust laws would have resulted in a public scandal that would have drastically affected public morale, caused widespread strikes, and perhaps provoked mutinies in the armed services. Moreover, as some corporate executives were never tired of reminding the government, their trial and imprisonment would have made it impossible for the corporate boards to help the American war effort. Therefore, the government was powerless to intervene. After 1945, the Cold War, which the executives had done so much to provoke, made it even more necessary that the truth of The Fraternity agreements should not be revealed.
I began with the conveniently multinational Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland. The activities of this anomalous institution in wartime are contained in Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau’s official diaries at the Roosevelt Memorial Library at Hyde Park, New York. Other details are contained in reports by the estimable Lauchlin Currie, of Roosevelt’s White House Economics Staff, whom I interviewed at length by telephone at his home in Bogotá, Colombia, to which city he had been banished, his citizenship stripped from him in 1956 for exposing American-Nazi connections. Another source lay in reports by the late Orvis Schmidt of Treasury Foreign Funds Control. German records were a useful source: Emil Puhl, vice-president and real power of the Reichsbank, a most crucial figure in The Fraternity’s dealings, had sent reports to his nominal superior, Dr. Walther Funk, from Switzerland to Berlin late in the war.
I turned to the matter of the Rockefeller-controlled Chase National Bank, which had conducted its business for the Nazi High Command in Paris until the war’s end. Evidently realizing that future historians might want to examine the highly secret Chase Bank files, Morgenthau had left subtle cross-references at Hyde Park that could lead future investigators to Treasury itself. I asked Ralph V. Korp of Treasury for access to the sealed Chase boxes, which had been under lock and key since 1945. Under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr. Korp obtained permission from his superiors to unseal the boxes and to declassify the large number of documents contained therein.
From the Chase Bank it was a natural progression to Standard Oil of New Jersey, the chief jewel in the crown of the Rockefeller empire. Records of Standard’s dealings with the Axis were contained in the Records Rooms of the Diplomatic Branch of the National Archives were specially declassified. There, too, I found records of Sterling Products, General Aniline and Film, and William Rhodes Davis, whose FBI files were also most revealing. Documents on ITT and RCA were declassified. After waiting out the better part of the year, I was able to obtain them from the National Archives. Classified SKF Industries files are held in the Suitland, Maryland, annex of the Archives. General Motors matters are covered in the James D. Mooney public access collection of Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. The unpublished post–Pear Harbor diaries of Harold Ickes were invaluable; they are to be found in the manuscript room of the Library of Congress.
The most elusive files were those on Ford in Occupied France. I could find no reference to them in the Treasury documentary listings. I knew that a Treasury team had investigated the company. I wondered if any member of the team could be alive.
Something jolted my memory. I remembered that a book entitled The Devil’s Chemists had appeared after World War II, written by Josiah DuBois, an attorney who had been part of the Treasury team at Nuremberg. The book was a harrowing account of the trial of the executives of I.G. Farben, the Nazi industrial trust, that showed Farben’s links to Wall Street.
I reread the book’s pages, looking for a clue. In it DuBois mentioned that he came from Camden, New Jersey. I decided to call information in the Camden area because I had a theory that, embittered by his experience in Germany and Washington, DeBois might have returned to live there after the war. It was only a hunch, but it paid off. In fact, it turned out that DuBois had gone back to his family law firm in Camden. I wrote to him, asking if he had records of the Ford matter. I figured that these might have been so important that he would have been given personal custody of them; that Secretary Morgenthau might not even have risked leaving them at Treasury.
DuBois replied that he believed he still had the documents, including the letters of Edsel Ford to his managers in Nazi-occupied France after Pearl Harbor, authorizing improvements in automobile and truck supplies to the Germans. After several weeks, DuBois wrote to say that he had searched his attic to no avail. The documents were missing. However, he would keep looking.
He was admitted to a hospital where he underwent major surgery. Although enfeebled, he returned to the attic and began searching again. Compelled by a desire to disclose the truth, he pursued his task whenever he could find the strength. At last, when he was about to give up hope, he uncovered the documents.
However, he explained that the main files was so incendiary that he would not send it by mail or even by messenger—I was at liberty to examine it in his office. I was faced with a new dilemma. Since I was expecting delivery of an important set of documents, I couldn’t risk an absence from my house for a prolonged journey to the East. I said I would call him back.
I knew that Rutgers University was close to DuBois’s offices. I called the Law department and asked for a student researcher. Within an hour I received a call from a young man who needed work. I contacted DuBois’s secretary and arranged for the student to copy the documents on the premises. He did so; I sent an air courier to his home to pick them up. As I read the documents, the last details of the puzzle fell into place.
I have tried to write this book as dispassionately as possible, without attempting a moral commentary, and without, of course, intending implication of present corporations and their executive boards. It will be claimed that the people in this book, since they are dead, cannot answer and therefore should not be criticized. To that I would reply: Millions died in World War II. They, too, cannot answer.
Excerpts from; Third World Traveller website; www.thirdworldtraveler.com
Excerpted from the book “Trading with the Enemy – The Nazi – American Money Plot 1933-1949″ by Charles Higham.
A Bank for All Reasons
On a bright May morning in 1944, while young Americans were dying on the Italian beachheads, Thomas Harrington McKittrick, American president of the Nazi-controlled Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland, arrived at his office to preside over a fourth annual meeting in time of war. This polished American gentleman sat down with his German, Japanese, Italian, British, and American executive staff to discuss such important matters as the $378 million in gold that had been sent to the Bank by the Nazi government after Pearl Harbor for use by its leaders after the war. Gold that had been looted from the national banks of Austria, Holland, Belgium, and Czechoslovakia, or melted down from the Reichsbank holdings of the teeth fillings, spectacle frames, cigarette cases and lighters, and wedding rings of the murdered Jews.
The Bank for International Settlements was a joint creation in 1930 of the world’s central banks, including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Its existence was inspired by Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht, Nazi Minister of Economics and president of the Reichsbank, part of whose early upbringing was in Brooklyn, and who had powerful Wall Street connections. He was seconded by the all-important banker Emil Puhl, who continued under the regime of Schacht’s successor, Dr. Walther Funk.
Sensing Adolf Hitler’s lust for war and conquest, Schacht, even before Hitler rose to power in the Reichstag, pushed for an institution that would retain channels of communication and collusion between the world’s financial leaders even in the event of an international conflict. It was written into the Bank’s charter, concurred in by the respective governments, that the BIS should be immune from seizure, closure, or censure, whether or not its owners were at war. These owners included the Morgan-affiliated First National Bank of New York (among whose directors were Harold S. Vanderbilt and Wendell Willkie), the Bank of England, the Reichsbank, the Bank of Italy, the Bank of France, and other central banks. Established under the Morgan banker Owen D. Young’s so-called Young Plan, the BIS’s ostensible purpose was to provide the Allies with reparations to be paid by Germany for World War I. The Bank soon turned out to be the instrument of an opposite function. It was to be a money funnel for American and British funds to flow into Hitler’s coffers and to help Hitler build up his war machine.
By 1939, the BIS had invested millions in Germany while Kurt von Schroder and Emil Puhl deposited large sums in looted gold in the Bank. The BIS was an instrument of Hitler, but its continuing existence was approved by Great Britain even after that country went to war with Germany …
The Chase Nazi Account
The Rockefellers’ Chase National Bank (later the Chase Manhattan) was the richest and most powerful financial institution in the United States at the time of Pearl Harbor. The Rockefellers owned Standard Oil of New Jersey, the German accounts of which were siphoned through their own bank, the Chase, as well as through the independent National City Bank of New York, which also handled Standard, Sterling Products, General Aniline and Film, SKF, and ITT, whose chief, Sosthenes Behn, was a director of the N.C.B. Two executives of Standard Oil’s German subsidiary were Karl Lindemann and Emil Helfferich, prominent figures in Himmler’s Circle of Friends of the Gestapo-its chief financiers-and close friends and colleagues of the BIS’s Baron von Schroder.
In 1942, introducing a book entitled Patents for Hitler by Gunther Reimannthe, the lawyer Creekmore Fath wrote:
“Since the middle thirties, whenever a German business group wanted to make an agreement with any business concern beyond the borders of Germany, it was required first to submit a full text of the proposed agreement to the Reichsbank. The Reichsbank rejected or rewrote until \ the agreement met its approval. The Reichsbank approved no agreement which did not fit into the plans of the Nazi State and carry that state another step toward its goal of world domination. In other words, any American firm which reached an agreement or dealt with a German firm . . . was dealing … with Hitler himself.
As war approached, the links between the Rockefellers and the Nazi government became more and more firm. In 1936 the J. Henry Schroder Bank of New York had entered into a partnership with the Rockefellers. Schroder, Rockefeller and Company, Investment Bankers, was formed as part of an overall company that Time magazine disclosed as being “the economic booster of the Rome-Berlin Axis. ” The partners in Schroder, Rockefeller and Company included Avery Rockefeller, nephew of John D., Baron Bruno von Schroder in London, and Kurt von Schroder of the BIS and the Gestapo in Cologne. Avery Rockefeller owned 42 percent of Schroder, Rockefeller, and Baron Bruno and his Nazi cousin 47 percent. Their lawyers were John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles of Sullivan and Cromwell. Allen Dulles (later of the Office of Strategic Services) was on the board of Schroder. Further connections linked the Paris branch of Chase to Schroder as well as the pro-Nazi Worms Bank and Standard Oil of New Jersey in France. Standard Oil’s Paris representatives were directors of the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas, which had intricate connections to the Nazis and to Chase.
Six months before the war broke out in Europe, Joseph J. Larkin brought off his most audacious scheme in the Nazi interest, acting in collusion with the Schroder Bank. Aldrich and the Schroders secured no less than $25 million American for the use of Germany’s expanding war economy and accompanied it with a detailed record (supplied direct to the Chase Bank in Berlin for forwarding to the Nazi government) of the assets and background of ten thousand Nazi sympathizers in the United States. The negotiations were engineered with the help of Dr. Walther Funk and Emil Puhl.
In essence, the Nazi government through the Chase National Bank offered Nazis in America the opportunity to buy marks with dollars at a discount. The arrangement was open only to those who wished to return to Germany and would use the marks in the interest of the Nazis. Before any transaction could be made, such persons had to convince the Nazi embassy in Washington that they were bona fide supporters of German policy. They were told in pamphlets sent out by the Chase National Bank in Manhattan that Germany could offer glorious opportunities to them and that marks would provide a hedge against inflation and would have much increased value after victo in the expected war.
As a result, there was a rush on marks. On February 15, 1939, there was a summit meeting at the Chase in New York of representatives of both Chase and Schroder banks on what was known as the Ruckwanderer (Reimmigrant) scheme. Alfred W. Barth was the personal representative of Winthrop Aldrich and Joseph J. Larkin, while E. H. Meili of J. Henry Schroder represented that side of the association. At the meeting the members discussed a proposal that the Reichsbank should send a special representative to the Nazi consulate in New York, which served as the headquarters of the Gestapo and had its accounts at the Chase. The American group decided that they should not take such a risk because their importing such a person ` might reveal to the American public that they were supporting Nazis. The minutes show that it was decided to “let well enough alone and to conduct future business on behalf of Berlin through ”the employment of numerous agents and sub-agents who operate through the country. These agents and sub-agents in cooperation with their respective principals, ourselves, can go a long way towards educating Germans in exile and those sympathetic to the Nazi cause through extensive newspaper advertising campaigns, radio broadcasts, as well as through literature, etc. .It is unanimously felt that it would be to the greatest advantage of everyone concerned if . . . Berlin would instruct the various consulates in the United States that all inquiries about . . . transactions should be referred to ourselves, whose name should be supplied not only to the various consular offices in the U.S. but also to those who inquire at the consulates in respect to the procedure.”
The bankers agreed that special attention should be focused on shopkeepers, factory workers, and others with little money but great potential for Germany. They should be able-bodied young men and women of pure Aryan stock. Above all, the present meeting must never come to the attention of the American government. The minutes of the meeting state:
“The ensuing publicity and the agitation that has been furthered in certain quarters of this country [against similar schemes] might possibly compel our Department of State to enforce a clearing system between Germany and America, under which monies due to American citizens such as inheritances, etc., would have to be cleared. The results are too obvious: firstly, no benefits are likely to accrue to Germany; secondly, the final outcome might prove disadvantageous from Germany’s standpoint.”
Thus, the Chase directors and the barons von Schroder were afraid that if Morgenthau discovered the true facts, the U.S. government might take measures detrimental to the German government. It was an act of total collaboration with the Nazis.
In May 1940 a prominent diamond merchant in New York City, ~ Leonard Smit, began smuggling commercial and industrial diamonds into Nazi Germany through Panama. Smit’s company was theoretically Dutch, which placed it under the provenance of the Nazis, but its stock was in fact owned by the International Trading Company, which was located in Guernsey in the Channel Islands. President Roosevelt had issued a freezing order precluding the shipment of monies to Europe, especially if these might seem to be to the advantage of the Axis. A few days after the Smit account was frozen, Chase officials unblocked the funds at Smit’s request. The funds flowed out to Panama, allowing diamonds to be sent through the Canal Zone to Berlin.
On June 17, 1940, when France was collapsing, Morgenthau via Roosevelt again blocked the French account to prevent money going to the enemy. Within hours of the blocking, somebody at Chase authorized the South American branches of the Banque Francaise et Italienne pour l’Amerique du Sud to transfer more than $1 million from New York to special accounts in the Argentine and Uruguay. The Banque was 50 percent owned by the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas (a Chase and Standard affiliate), and 50 percent owned by the Mussolini-controlled Banca Commerciale Italiana. In South America, these banks were working partly for the Axis. Larkin continued to permit free withdrawals from the special accounts even though he knew perfectly well that such accounts were cloaks for Banque Francaise et Italienne funds.
On June 23, 1941, J. Edgar Hoover wrote to Morgenthau: “During the monitoring of foreign funds at the Chase Bank, FBI discovered various payments to oil companies in the United States. There are indications that the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey has been receiving money from German oil sales by order of the Reichsbank.”
The Chase also handled transactions for the Nazi Banco Aleman Transatlantico, which was, according to a Uruguayan Embassy report dated August 18, 1943, “No mere financial institution. It was in actuality treasurer or comptroller of the Nazi Party in South America. It received local party contributions, supervised and occasionally directed party expenditures, received party funds from Germany under various guises and juggled the deposits . . . all under the guidance of the German Legations.” It was in fact a branch of the Deutsche Uberseeische Bank of Berlin.
Most Nazi businesses in South America handled their affairs through the Banco Aleman. Thus, the German legations throughout Latin America possessed channels for distribution and receipt of Nazi funds. The Paris Chase received large amounts of money from Nazi sources through the medium of the Bank.
Most important of all, the Chase, with the full knowledge of Larkin, handled the accounts of Otto Abetz, German ambassador to Paris, and the embassy itself.
It is interesting to consider what, among other things, Abetz and the German Embassy dealt with during the war. They poured millions of francs into various French companies that were collaborating with the Nazis. On August 13, 1942, 5.5 million francs were passed through in one day to help finance the military government and the Gestapo High Command. This money helped to pay for radio propaganda and a campaign of terror against the French people, including beatings, torture, and brutal murder. Abetz paid 250,000 francs a month to fascist editors and publishers in order to run their vicious anti-Semitic newspapers. He financed the terrorist army known as the Mouvement Synarchique Revolutionnaire, which flushed out anti-Nazi cells in Paris and saw to it they were liquidated. In addition, Abetz used embassy funds to trade in Jewish art treasures, including tapestries, paintings, and ornaments, for the benefit of Goring, who wanted to get his hands on every French artifact possible.
The Chase board in New York could not claim that it was unfamiliar with these activities on the ground that communication with Occupied France was impossible. The purpose of retaining diplomatic relations with Vichy was that the U.S. government could determine what was going on in Occupied France. A constant flow of letters, telegrams, and phone calls between Paris and the Vichy branch of Chase in Chateauneuf-sur-Cher kept Albert Bertrand informed, and in return he kept New York informed; Washington was advised by Larkin. Despite some criticism by Nazi comptroller Hans-Joachim Caesar, Vichy had under French law the power to close the Paris branch at any minute if New York so instructed. No such instructions were ever received. .
The Secrets of Standard Oil
In 1941, Standard Oil of New Jersey was the largest petroleum corporation in the world. Its bank was Chase, its owners the Rockefellers. Its chairman, Walter C. Teagle, and its president, William S. Farish, matched Joseph J. Larkin’s extensive connections with the Nazi government.
From the 1920s on Teagle showed a marked admiration for Germany’s enterprise in overcoming the destructive terms of the Versailles Treaty. His lumbering stride, booming tones, and clouds of cigar smoke became widely and affectionately known in the circle that helped support the rising Nazi party. He early established a friendship with the dour and stubby Hermann Schmitz of I.G. Farben, entertaining him frequently for lunch at the Cloud Room in the Chrysler Building, Teagle’s favorite Manhattan haunt of the late 1920s and the 1930s. Teagle also was friendly with the pro-Nazi Sir Henri Deterding of Royal Dutch-Shell, who agreed with his views about capitalist domination of Europe and the ultimate need to destroy Russia.
Because of his commercial and personal association with Herman Schmitz, and his awareness that he must protect Standard’s interest in Nazi Germany, Teagle made many visits to Berlin and the Standard tanks and tank cars in Germany throughout the 1930s. He became director of American I.G. Chemical Corp., the giant chemicals firm that was a subsidiary of I.G. Farben. He invested heavily in American I.G. and American I.G. invested heavily in Standard. He sat on the I.G. board with Fraternity brothers Edsel Ford and William E. Weiss, chairman of Sterling Products.
Following the rise of Hitler to power, Teagle and Hermann Schmitz jointly gave a special assignment to Ivy Lee, the notorious New York publicity man, who had for some years worked for the Rockefellers. They engaged Lee for the specific purpose of economic espionage. He was to supply I.G. Farben, and through it the Nazi government, with intelligence on the American reaction to such matters as the German armament program, Germany’s treatment of the Church, and the organization of the Gestapo. He was also to keep the American public bamboozled by papering over the more evil aspects of Hitler’s regime. For this, Lee was paid first $3,000 then $4,000 annually, the money paid to him through the Bank for International Settlements in the name of I.G. Chemie. The contract was for obvious reasons kept oral and the money was transferred in cash. No entries were made in the books of the employing companies or in those of Ivy Lee himself. After a short period Lee’s salary was increased to $25,000 per year and he began distributing inflammatory Nazi propaganda in the United States on behalf of I.G. Farben, including virulent attacks on the Jews and the Versailles Treaty.
In February 1938 the Securities and Exchange Commission held a meeting to investigate Nazi ownership of American I.G. through a Swiss subsidiary. The commissioners grilled Teagle on the ownership of the Swiss company. He pretended that he did not know the owners were I.G. Farben and the Nazi government. The commissioners tried to make him admit that at least American I.G. was “controlled by ‘European’ interests.” Teagle replied dodgily, “Well, I think that would be a safe assumption.” Asked who voted for him as a proxy at Swiss meetings, again he asserted that he didn’t know. He also neglected to mention that Schmitz and the Nazi government owned thousands of shares in American I.G.
Teagle was sufficiently embarrassed by the hearing to resign from the American I.G. board, but he retained his connections with the company. He remained in partnership with Farben in the matter of tetraethyl lead, an additive used in aviation gasoline. Goring’s air force couldn’t fly without it. Only Standard, Du Pont, and General Motors had the rights to it. Teagle helped to organize a sale of the precious substance to Schmitz, who in 1938 traveled to London and “borrowed” 500 tons from Ethyl, the British Standard subsidiary. Next year, Schmitz and his partners returned to London and obtained $15 million worth. The result was that Hitler’s air force was rendered capable of bombing London, the city that had provided the supplies. Also, by supplying Japan with tetraethyl, Teagle helped make it possible for the Japanese to wage World War II.
On September 22,1947, Judge Charles Clark delivered the final word on the subject. He said, ”Standard Oil can be considered an enemy national in view of its relationships with I.G. Farben-after the United States and Germany had become active enemies.” The appeal was denied.
The Mexican Connection
Even the supposed enemies of The Fraternity were connected to it by almost invisible threads. One of Jersey Standard’s most powerful rivals in the field of petroleum supplies to Germany, William Rhodes Davis’s Davis Oil Company, was connected to Goring and Himmler. Davis was linked to Hermann Schmitz and I.G. Farben through the Americans Werner and Karl von Clemm, New York diamond merchants (who were first cousins to Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop by marriage), and through the National City Bank.
The von Clemms were fanatical devotees of Germany, even though both had become American residents in 1932. They used a device typical in Nazi circles: a device copied, ironically, from the Rothschilds. One brother stayed in Berlin, the other remained in New York. They were connected to the Schroder banks through interlocking directorships, and on the board of a company that helped finance General Motors in Germany along with I.G. Farben.
In 1931 they financed the Gestapo with funds supplementing those supplied by Schroder’s Stein Bank. Yet another Fraternity link was their involvement with the First National Bank of Boston, an associate of the Bank for International Settlements. They conceived the idea of unblocking First National’s blocked German marks to build a vast oil refinery for Goring’s air force and for Farben and Eurotank near Hamburg, with Karl von Clemm in charge. This oil refinery would bypass the terms of the Versailles Convention and supply Goring’s so-called Black Luftwaffe, which was secretly being prepared for world conquest.
In order to secure the oil for the refinery, the von Clemm brothers had to find an American who would aid and abet them. The choice was easy. From 1926 to 1932, Werner von Clemm had financially sustained a largely unsuccessful oil prospector and confidence trickster named William Rhodes Davis.
Davis was on the face of it unprepossessing. He was short, not much over five feet, with a solid-gold left front molar and a badly bowed left leg that contained a silver plate put there after he was injured in a train wreck in 1918. His head was too large for his body, and his face sported a broken nose. Yet despite his lack of good looks he had the one indispensable quality needed for success. He had the gift of gab. He was capable of talking anyone into the ground. He spoke in superlatives. He never took no for an answer, and he would shaft anyone when the chips were down.
Davis was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1889. Poorly educated, he left school at sixteen and jumped a freight car. A kindly porter gave him a job as candy butcher, selling chocolate and ice cream from a tray. Railroad crazy, he graduated to brakeman, fireman, and engineer in the Southwestern states until the collision put him out of commission. Emerging from the hospital with a gimpy leg, he used his plight to his own advantage by working as a comedian on the Keith vaudeville circuit, making audiences laugh as he wiggled his distorted member in a dance. When his popularity ran out, he shipped off on tramp steamers as stoker, fireman, and engineer.
Back in the United States, he dabbled in the oil business but consistently went broke. He was under frequent investigation for a variety of swindles. People were fascinated, even hypnotized, by him; but disillusionment would always set in, followed by the inevitable lawsuit. He sold dry wells, manipulated stocks, and set up and collapsed small companies, carrying the shareholders with him.
In 1926 he was penniless. The von Clemm twins stepped into the picture in 1933. Their support of him saved him from ruin and imprisonment. As a result of this he became deeply committed to Nazism. He was fascinated by the opulence of a Germany heavily financed by American bank loans, the handsome, healthy men in black uniforms, the pretty blond women. It all seemed a far cry from the bread lines and pinched faces of America in the Depression.
After the deal with the German government over Eurotank, Davis saw the way to make his fortune at last. He owned a few wells through the von Clemms’ good graces. With German money he could certainly start pumping.
He traveled to Berlin in 1933. He had to have the personal approval of Hitler before he could go ahead. He arrived at the Adlon Hotel, where Karl von Clemm arranged a reception for him to meet Hermann Schmitz of Farben, Kurt von Schroder, and other German members of The Fraternity. He was welcome at once when he gave the group the Nazi salute as he entered the room.
Next morning, two Gestapo officers delegated by Himmler arrived at the door of his suite. They carried with them a letter from the Fuhrer. The former brakeman and candy butcher was overwhelmed. He could not believe he had received so signal an honor. The letter asked him to meet with Finance Minister Hjalmar Schacht at the Reichsbank. When he arrived, Schacht seemed cold and uninterested and brushed the whole matter aside. Schacht already had deals going with Walter Teagle and Sir Henri Deterding of Shell. What did he want with this small fry?
Furious, Davis returned to the Adlon empty-handed. He wrote to Hitler, insisting upon better treatment. Hitler replied immediately in person, asking him to return to the Reichsbank the following morning for another meeting.
Davis arrived in the boardroom at 11 A.M. As FBI records show, Schacht smiled faintly in a corner, obviously in no mood to talk. But a door flew open and thirty directors of the bank appeared, to greet Davis with warm handshakes. Hitler strode in. Everyone jumped to attention and gave the Nazi salute. Hitler said, “Gentlemen, I have reviewed Mr. Davis’s proposition and it sounds feasible. I want the bank to finance it.” Then he walked out.
It was clear to Davis that the directors of I.G. Farben, along with Kurt von Schroder, had exercised influence over the Fuhrer.
Davis traveled to England, where he resumed an earlier business relationship with Lord Inverforth’s oil company. He obtained major concessions in Ireland and Mexico. He traded Mexican oil for German machinery when it proved impossible to export marks. Eurotank was built. By 1935, Davis was shipping thousands of barrels of oil a week from his wells in Texas and eastern Mexico.
Davis knew Senator Joseph F. Guffey of Pennsylvania, whose friend Pittsburgh oilman Walter A. Jones had major contacts in Washington. Through Guffey and Jones, Davis met with John L. Lewis, the labor leader of the CIO. Davis worked hard on Lewis, convincing him that national socialism was preferable to democracy and that the German worker far exceeded in health, good humor and muscular prowess the American equivalent. In 1936, Davis tried to influence Roosevelt by pouring money into the election campaign. From then on he was always able to telephone the Oval Office.
In 1937 he saw a major opportunity in Mexico. He was convinced President Lazaro Cardenas would nationalize the oil fields. He foresaw a way to corner all the oil in Mexico. In February 1938 he started bribing high-ranking officials in the Mexican government. He made a close friend of Nazi Vice-Consul Gerard Meier in Cuernavaca, who was allegedly encouraging Cardenas to invade and repossess California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Davis obtained the Mexican government’s cooperation. He was promised all the oil in Mexico when Cardenas expropriated it on March 18, 1938. Cardenas kept his promise. On April 18, John L. Lewis telephoned Cardenas’s right-hand man Alejandro Carrillo. Lewis told Carrillo that Davis would be making a deal with Germany and Italy immediately and that these two countries were the only two with which it would be safe for Mexico to deal.
Why did America’s most famous labor leader support the arming of the Nazi war machine? Because Lewis had major territorial ambitions himself. He dreamed of a Pan-American federation of labor of which he would be the unchallenged leader. Through Davis, and through Cardenas, he would be able to consolidate the unions north and south of the border. In this he had the total collusion of Vincente Lombardo Toledano, head of the Mexican labor force.
By June 1938, Davis’s first tanker was steaming to Germany with thousands of tons of Mexican oil. But by 1939 he was already running into trouble. On May 31 his chief geologist, Nazi Otto Probst, was found murdered in his hotel room in Mexico City. Probst had been strangled by a clothesline that was tied to the head of his bed.
The German Embassy intervened and prevented an autopsy. FBI investigators determined Probst had been poisoned. It turned out he had bribed government officials and stimulated action against communists. It was almost certainly a communist killing.
Communist cells infiltrated Davis’s growing oil empire. He used strikebreakers to vanquish the opposition and shipped millions of barrels of oil until after World War II broke out in Europe.
Meanwhile, the von Clemm brothers profited enormously from his success. Goring gave them the German franchise in hops, putting them in virtual control of the beer business.
Along with Davis, they became multimillionaires.
The Telephone Plot
During the early days of 1942, Karl Lindemann, the Rockefeller-Standard Oil representative in Berlin, held a series of urgent meetings with two directors of the American International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation: Walter Schellenberg, head of the Gestapo’s counterintelligence service (SD), and Baron Kurt von Schroder of the BIS and the Stein Bank. The result of these meetings was that Gerhardt Westrick, the crippled boss of ITT in Nazi Germany, got aboard an ITT Focke-Wulf bomber and flew to Madrid for a meeting in March with Sosthenes Behn, American ITT chief.
In the sumptuous Royal Suite of Madrid’s Ritz Hotel, the tall, sharp-faced Behn and the heavily limping Westrick sat down for lunch to discuss how best they could improve ITT’s links with the Gestapo, and its improvement of the whole Nazi system of telephones, teleprinters, aircraft intercoms, submarine and ship phones, electric buoys, alarm systems, radio and radar parts, and fuses for artillery shells, as well as the Focke-Wulf bombers that were taking thousands of American lives.
Sosthenes Behn, whose first name was Greek for “life strength,” was born in St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, on January 30, 1882. His father was Danish and his mother French-Italian. He and his brother Hernand, later his partner, were schooled in Corsica and Paris.
In 1906, Behn and his brother took over a sugar business in Puerto Rico and snapped up a small and primitive local telephone company by closing in on a mortgage. Realizing the potential of the newfangled telephone, Behn began to buy up more companies in the Caribbean. He became a U.S. citizen in 1913. In World War I, Behn served in the Signal Corps as chief of staff for General George Russell. He learned a great deal about military communications systems, and his services to France earned him the Legion d’Honneur. Back in the United States, Behn became associated with AT&T, of which Winthrop Aldrich was later a director. In 1920, Behn’s work in the field of cables enabled him to set up the ITT with $6 million paid in capital. Gradually, he spun out a web of communications that ran worldwide. He soon became the telephone king of the world, making deals with AT&T and J. P. Morgan that resulted in his running the entire telephone system of Spain by 1923. His Spanish chairman was the Duke of Alba, later a major supporter of Franco and Hitler. In 1930 Behn obtained the Rumanian telephone industry, to which he later added the Hungarian, German, and Swedish corporations. By 1931 his empire was worth over $64 million despite the Wall Street crash. He became a director of-inevitably-the National City Bank, which financed him along with the Morgans.
Behn was aided by fascist governments, into which he rapidly interlocked his system by assuring politicians promising places on his boards. He ran his empire from 67 Broad Street, New York.
When Hitler invaded Poland, Behn and Schroder conferred with t: German alien property custodian, H-J Caesar. The result was that the ITT Polish companies were protected from seizure for the duration.
Another protector of Behn’s in Germany was ITT’s colorful corporation chairman, Gerhardt Westrick. Westrick was a skilled company lawyer, the German counterpart and associate of John Foster Dulles. Westrick’s partner until 1938, the equally brilliant Dr. Heinrich Albert, was head of Ford in Germany until 1945. Both were crucially important to The Fraternity.
At the beginning of 1940, Behn decided to have Westrick go to the United States to link up the corporate strands that would remain secure throughout World War II. German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop was equally concerned that Westrick undertake the mission. Westrick represented in Germany not only Ford but General Motors, Standard Oil, the Texas Company, Sterling Products, and the Davis Oil Company.
On June 26, 1940, his Fraternity associates gave a party for Westrick at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to celebrate the Nazi victory in France. This was, of course, only appropriate. Fraternity guests at this scorpions’ feast included Dietrich, brother of Hermann Schmitz of General Aniline and Film; James D. Mooney of General Motors; Edsel Ford of the Ford Motor Company; William Weiss of Sterling Products; and Torkild Rieber of the Texas Company. These leaders of The Fraternity agreed to help in the free-trade agreements that would follow a negotiated peace with Germany.
Westrick leased a large house in Scarsdale, New York, from one of Rieber’s Texas Company lawyers. He was seen entering and leaving the house in the company of prominent figures of the Nazi government and American industry. The New York Daily News sent reporter George Dickson to investigate the meaning of a big white placard with a large G on it in a window of a front second-floor bedroom. The press generally was suggesting this formed some kind of code for use by Nazi agents. Dickson wrote in his column: ”Phantom-like men in white have been responding by day and night to mysterious signaling from a secluded Westchester mansion-now disclosed as the secret quarters of Dr. Gerhardt A. Westrick-invariably they carry carefully wrapped packages . . . they salute with all the precision of Storm Troopers, deliver the packages, salute again- and silently depart . . . super-sleuthing finally solved the mystery just before last midnight.” Then Dickson delivered his death blow to the story: The G sign was an invitation to the Good Humor man to deliver his famous ice cream on a stick!
J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI determined that Westrick had illegally obtained his driver’s license by lying that he had no infirmities. The purpose was achieved: Walter Winchell, Drew Pearson, and other patriotic columnists blew up Westrick’s Nazi connections out of all proportion, and Westrick was asked by German Charge d’Affaires Hans Thomsen to return to Germany at once.
But before he was ordered home, Westrick had been extremely busy. He had gone to see Edsel and Henry Ford at Dearborn on July 11 at the Fords’ urgent invitation, conferring with the Grand Old Man and his son on the matter of restricting shipment of important Rolls-Royce motors to a beleaguered Britain that urgently needed them. He also visited with Will Clayton, Jesse Jones’s associate in the Department of Commerce, who went with Westrick to see Cordell Hull to plead for the protection of German-American trade agreements on behalf of his friends in the Texas cotton industry.
Clayton was the chairman of the U.S. Commercial Company, and he helped protect Fraternity interests during World War II. Others of Westrick’s circle included, interestingly enough, William Donovan, who became head of the OSS (precursor of the CIA) on its formation in 1942. Westrick also made significant contacts with good and true friends at Eastman Kodak and Underwood before returning home via Japan and Russia.
After Pearl Harbor, at meetings with Kurt von Schroder and Behn in Switzerland, Westrick nervously admitted he had run into a problem. Wilhelm Ohnesorge, the elderly minister in charge of post offices, who was one of the first fifty Nazi party members, was strongly opposed to ITT’s German companies continuing to function under New York management in time of war. Behn told Westrick to use Schroder and the protection of the Gestapo against Ohnesorge. In return, Behn guaranteed that ITT would substantially increase its payments to the Gestapo through the Circle of Friends.
A special board of trustees was set up by the German government to cooperate with Behn and his thirty thousand staff in Occupied Europe. Ohnesorge savagely fought these arrangements and tried to obtain the support of Himmler. However, Schroder had Himmler’s ear, and so, of course, did his close friend and associate Walter Schellenberg. Ohnesorge appealed directly to Hitler and condemned Westrick as an American sympathizer. However, Hitler realized the importance of ITT to the German economy and proved supportive of Behn.
The final arrangement was that the Nazi government would not acquire the shares of ITT but would confine itself to the administration of the shares. Westrick would be chairman of the managing directors.
Thus, an American corporation literally entered into partnership with the Nazi government in time of war.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt had asked Nelson Rockefeller to prepare a study of the communications systems of South America. On May 4, 1942, the President had sent a memorandum to Henry Wallace in his role as chairman of the Board of Economic Warfare, ordering him to insure disconnection of all enemy nationals in the radio, telephone, and telegraph fields. He had urged Wallace to eliminate all Axis control and influence in telecommunications in Latin America, acquire hemisphere interests of all Axis companies, insure loyalty in employees, and disrupt direct lines to the enemy. He had asked for a corporation to be set up to handle the financial aspects of the program with the assistance and advice of an advisory committee.
Wallace approached Secretary of Commerce Jesse H. Jones to make the necessary arrangements. Jones set up the U.S. Commercial Company to take charge of the matter. It was a characteristic choice. The company’s second-in-command was none other than Robert A. Gantt, vice-president of ITT itself. Gantt continued to receive salary from ITT while holding his position with the U.S. Commercial Company. The rest of the board was largely composed of directors of ITT or RCA (also a wartime partner in Nazi-American communications companies).
The Hemisphere Communications Committee sat with a mixed Treasury, State, Army, Navy, and U.S. Commercial Company board throughout World War II, doing little more than discussing possible actions against Axis-connected companies.
A pressing issue from Pearl Harbor on was the matter of ITT amalgamating the telephone companies of Mexico. One of these, Mexican Telephone and Telegraph, was owned by Behn outright. The other was owned by the Ericsson Company, of which Behn had a 35 percent share in Sweden. The Ericsson Company was partly owned by Nazi collaborator Axel Wenner-Gren and by Jacob Wallenberg, Swedish millionaire head of the ball bearings firm, which played both sides of the war.
In South America, Sosthenes Behn was in partnership (as well as rivalry) with an even more powerful organism: the giant Radio Corporation of America, which owned the NBC radio network. RCA was in partnership before and after Pearl Harbor with British Cable and Wireless; with Telefunken, the Nazi company; with Italcable, wholly owned by the Mussolini government; and with Vichy’s Compagnie Generale, in an organization known as the Transradio Consortium, with General Robert C.
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