Volkswagen, BMW, Allianz, Dr. Oetker… are some of the richest German multinationals in the world. They already had significant capital when on February 20, 1933, about two dozen businessmen attended an appointment with the recently appointed foreign minister of the country, Adolf Hitler. The leader of Nazi Party he explained to the tycoons that if they supported him, they would also be protecting their fortunes.
With this story begins david dejong your book Money and power in the Third Reich (Principal of the Books), a comprehensive investigation into Germany’s richest dynasties and their dark past with the Nazi regime. “Private companies cannot be maintained in the age of democracy“Hitler held at that meeting in 1933, according to De Jong.
The Nazi Party lived in very precarious conditions, but they obtained a millionaire illegal fund for the elections
The Nazi Party brought these tycoons together for the sole purpose of creating an illegal fund to finance the campaign for the upcoming elections on March 5. At that time, the organization was living in very precarious conditions. Nevertheless, businessmen raised three million marks, about 18 million euros currently. The rest is history.
The myth of denazification
The German tycoons who promoted the rise of Hitler were not convinced National Socialists, but rather convinced capitalists, he explains to Public David deJong. “These families were already incredibly wealthy before Hitler came to power and were able to prosper in any political system, whether democratic or authoritarian. That’s why they were rich in the Nazi regime and are still rich now.”
the author of Money and power in the Third Reich defends that “denazification is a myth“. The Nuremberg Trials were “a flawed legal process” and drew a “straight line” for hegemony from Hitler’s totalitarian regime to the Federal Republic of Germany.
The western bloc played an important role in the continuity of the money and power of these dynasties. USA it starred in a process of democratization in capitalist Germany as a defense against the Soviet bloc. “The fatal error was that returned hundreds of thousands of suspected Nazi war criminals and they spared the supporters,” lamented De Jong.
The USSR expropriated the German dynasties of the Nazi regime, but in the capitalist zone they kept their fortune
These families were able to keep the goods they had stolen or the companies they still ran in West Germany, while the socialists expropriated everything they had in the east. “The companies, the factories, the houses, the land… Somehow, the Soviet Union he punished them in a way that the English, French and Americans could have imitated”, considers the author, and states that “the contrast could not have been greater”.
The Independent Investigations Trap
Many of these dynasties have carried out research by independent historians to study the past of their companies. A sample, a priori, of commitment to historical responsibility. However, De Jong criticizes that they are nothing more than image washes for families and their businesses with the sole objective of appeasing the media.
The findings of these investigations are published in German and the vast majority lack translations, which greatly reduces the audience. The circles in which the studies are disseminated are small and already desensitized to the issues of the Nazi regime. “A global audience is much more sensitive,” De Jong says, but these stories rarely reach beyond the local.
The findings of these investigations are disseminated in very small circles, denounces David de Jong
In addition, “if a German citizen criticizes one of these families, they can ask what theirs did during the war,” explains the author. “Maybe your father or uncle was in the SS or maybe your mother or grandmother was in the Nazi Party,” so dynasties discredit their German opponents.
In this way, multinationals maintain their large foundations, awards, museums or corporate headquarters “in the name of men who committed Nazi war crimesbut without teaching said crimes, but celebrating their successes in business and pretending that nothing has happened, without assuming historical or moral responsibility”.
Verena Bahlsen, heiress to the family industry that markets the famous Leibniz biscuits, stated in 2019 that her company “has nothing to feel guilty about,” the book collects. The Bahlsens exploited 700 deported women as forced labor during the Hitler regime, so this comment caused a huge stir. The family announced an independent investigation to dispel the controversy. Verena Bahlsen is now the company’s main shareholder.
Like the Bahlsens, there are the Quandts, who run the BMW; the Flicks, the first owners of Daimler-Benz, the current Mercedes Benz; the Oetker, owners of the famous frozen pizzas with the same name; the Von Fincks, co-founders of the insurer Allianz; or the Porsche-Piëch, who created the car giants porsche Y volkswagen.
Forgetfulness and the rise of the extreme right
Historical ignorance about the recent past is a factor in the rise of the far right, says de Jong. “If you don’t push the Germans or any country to remember through public pressure, they wouldn’t want to remember what happened.” However, the radical populism represented by the party Alternative for Germany (AfD) also attacks this very idiosyncratic culture of remembrance in the country.
In Germany, a majority conservative citizenry has always lived, explains De Jong
“Many people are tired of hearing what happened in those years. They look at the United States and its slavery; at the United Kingdom and its colonial history; at Spain and Franco; at Italy and Mussolini… and They wonder why they’re the only ones being singled out“, argues the author. In this context, together with an increasingly distant and blurred past, the AfD is born, a party whose most radical ranks even deny the Holocaust.
Despite the culture of memory, In Germany, a majority conservative citizenry has always lived. “His moral and political core has always been very traditional and old-fashioned,” says David De Jong. “Sentiments, whether they’re racist, xenophobic or anti-Semitic, are still alive” and people express them when they feel it’s safe to do so, he adds.
The dynasties he analyzes Money and power in the Third Reich they are the most representative political and economic actors of (dis)memory. “We ask them to do something to remember, but they sweep history under the rug, which is very representative. If the most powerful agents in the country They don’t want to be governed by the rules of society, what are you going to expect from an ordinary citizen?”