Fascism and big business

Jim heartfield Jim at heartfield.demon.co.uk
Thu Jun 18 03:30:35 PDT 1998

In message <SIMEON.9806171503.B at germanium.primo.ssc.wisc.edu>, Rosser Jr, John Barkley <rosserjb at jmu.edu> writes

>let me note that just because
>somebody "met with" Hitler does not mean that they
>therefore became his supporter or preferred him to more
>traditional conservative formations.
No, but participation in the Friends of the Party group organised in 1932 might suggest some lingering sympathy, might it not?

> Indeed, one of the
>anti-Hitler Big Business martyrs was Thyssen who was on
>your list there.

When you say martyr, I'm not exactly sure what you think Thyssen was a 'martyr' to? Thyssen (who's autobiography was titled 'I Paid Hitler') was appointed by the Fuehrer to the Economic Council in 1933. He broke with the Nazis over the Hitler-Stalin pact, so presumably he was a martyr in the cause of anti-Communism, thinking that the Nazis were soft on Stalin. As early as 1924 Thyssen said 'Democracy with us represents - nothing'.

As to Thyssen's martyrdon, an intesting insight into the onerous conditions he faced can be gleaned from the interrogation of Otto Steinbrink of the Flick combine, in which Steinbrink was trying to minimise his knowledge of the conditions in the Camps.

Steinbrink: the two people whom I knew fairly well and from whom I knew what things were like in the camps were [Pastor] Niemoller and Thyssen.

Prosecutor: Do you think is was a general custom for the inmates of concentration camps to get paid, as Thyssen did?

Steinbrink: Certainly not to the extent of 2,000 marks per month. That is what Thyssen got. [which is to say the equivalent of a year's wages for an industrial worker in Germany at the time]

Prosecutor: Do you think that wine was usually sent to concentration camps? [a reference to Thyssen's living conditions]

Steinbrink: Obviously it is possible that individual inmates were able to buy drinks and luxury goods through official legal channels.

Clearly the conditions of detention suffered by Fritz Thyssen were quite different from those of ordinary camp inmates. I would be interested to know if any businessmen had been interred for opposing Hitler, as opposed to merely losing out in a factional strife within the Nazi party.

It is important to note that the factor that tipped the balance in favour of Hitler amongst the elite was not his success in the years 1930-32, dring which time the NSDAP rose to get 37 per cent of the poll (failing to get an overall majority, but for the first time just pipping the combined SPD/KPD vote).

The NSDAP's growth only tempted Von Papen, Bruning and the Reichspresident to hold Hitler off from office, using him as a counterweight to the left, and allowing them to stand above the fray, playing each side off against the other.

What finally decided the old elite to go with Hitler was a _fall_ in his popularity in 1932. For the first time, the NSDAP's share of the vote started to show signs of falling as the left became more combatative against Bruning's attacks on them. This put the powers-that-be in a spin. If Hitler's forces plummeted, they would be at the mercy of the left. It was that faltering in the NSDAP's support that led business leaders to lobby the President to allow Hitler to become Chancellor.

Business leaders who signed the petition to President Hindenberg demanding he make Hitler Chancellor after the November 1932 elections were

Helferich (Hamburg-American Lines, German-American Petroleum Company), Krogmann (Hamburg-American Lines), Slomann, Witthoft (Hamburg Shipping), Cuno (Hamburg-America, and former Chancellor), Kiep (ditto), Albert, Much Woermann, Schacht (former Reichsbank president), Reinhardt (director MittelDeutsche Creditbank) Schoreder, Fink, Eichborn, Vogler, Haniel, Krupp, Siemens, Springorum (Hoest-Stahl Gruppe), Tischein, Janicke, Rob, Bosch, Ullrich, Lubbert, Beidorff, Reindorff, Nentzky, Kaljreuth, von Oppen, Keudell, Rabethge, Wenzel, Keyserling.

The petition read: 'We recognise in the national movement with penetrates our people the promising beginning of n era which, through the overcoming of class contrasts, only now creates the essential basis for the rebirth of the German economy.'

On January 31 after Hitler took office, outlawing the KPD, the exchanges were buzzing. The stocks of IG Farben rose 103 to 107.25, of Siemens- Schukert from 23.25 to 25.8, Reichsbank from 154.75 to 157.75. The ailing Hamburg-American and North German Lloyd shipping lines also recovered.

As the death toll of workers rose, so too did the stock exchange. According to the Times 'the governments home political measures stimulated the Bourse which ruled firm, with 'unusual all-round activity developing' and 'many quotations rising 3 to 6 points' (3&4 March, 1933). On March 14 the Manchester Guardian noted 'the German stock exchange [is] experiencing almost boom conditions. The view expressed in the Frankfurt Bourse is that the Hitler government is favourable to industrial and trading interests, and extensive share purchasing is observed.' Two weeks later the Guardian reports:'The German stock markets, in siolation from the rest of the world, have done a roaring trade .. The Bourses, especially the government stock markets have for four weeks been booming. Clothing idustries were favoured on the expectation of big orders for uniforms...'

By March 24 1933 AEG shares climbed 30 to 37 points under two and a half months of Hitler's rule, IG Farben from 96.5 to 133.75, Siemens up from 121.5 to 155.5 and Hamburg American lines from 16.75 to 23.5.

Also, it is a mistake to see the political positions adopted by business leaders as fixed. In fact they mostly changed their outlook according to what suited the moment. For example, many of those who had been most in favour of collaboration with the SPD in the twenties, became full-blown Nazis in the thirties, like Schacht, who was Reichsbank President first under the SPD governments, then deposed for his opposition to the Young Plan, and then joined the Nazis to be made Reichsbank president again. -- Jim heartfield

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list