top of page

Continued from page 1 here


In 1937 the ten wealthiest families in the United States and their primary sources of wealth were as follows, in order of wealthiest first: Rockefellers (Standard Oil), Fords (Ford Motor Co.), Harknesses (Standard Oil), Mellons (Alcoa), Vanderbilts (New York Central Railroad), Whitneys (Standard Oil), duPonts (General Motors and DuPont Corp.), McCormicks (International Harvester), Bakers (First National Bank), and the Fishers (General Motors.) [274] We have seen above that the Bakers' First National Bank was an owner of the Nazi-friendly  Bank for International Settlements. Next e will look at the role played by the Rockefellers' and Harnesses' and Whitneys' Standard Oil, the Fords' Ford Motor Co., the duPonts' and Fishers' General Motors and the Mellons' Alcoa. We will see that the congeniality among Allied and Axis businessmen was not a peculiarity of the banking sector. America's industrial giants also maintained friendly and cooperative "business as usual" relations with the Nazis prior to and during the war, in a manner that is inconsistent with the theory that they viewed the Axis nations as an enemy which had to be defeated in order to protect their business interests.

In 1941 the largest petroleum corporation in the world was Standard Oil of New Jersey (later Exxon), and the largest chemical manufacturing enterprise in the world was the German conglomerate, I.G. Farben. John D. Rockefeller II controlled Standard Oil and made Walter Teagle chairman and William Farish president. Hermann Schmitz founded I.G. Farben in 1925 and made it, by the outbreak of World War Two, a giant global enterprise that produced innovative products from medicines to synthetic rubber and gasoline. By 1939 I.G. Farben had 2,000 cartel agreements with foreign firms, including Standard Oil of New Jersey, DuPont, Alcoa (the prime source of wealth for America's third wealthiest family, the Mellons), Dow Chemical, and others in the United States. During the 1930s Teagle and Schmitz were close personal and business friends. Teagle was director of American I.G. Chemical Corp., a subsidiary of I.G. Farben, in which Tegle invested heavily, while American I.G. invested heavily in Standard. Teagle, along with Edsel Ford (Henry Ford's son) sat on the board of I.G. Farben. After Hitler was appointed Chancellor, Teagle and Schmitz jointly hired Ivy Lee [275] to supply the Nazi government with information regarding the American reaction to German armament, the German government's treatment of the church, and the organization of the Gestapo, and to create a positive image of the Nazis in the United States.

If Rockefeller was worried about Nazi Germany's or Japan's world aggression being a threat to his profits, his behavior certainly did not indicate it. The German and Japanese air force required an aviation gasoline additive called tetraethyl lead, to which only Standard, Du Pont, and General Moors had the rights. Yet Teagle made sure the Axis governmenbts were supplied with the additive, organizing a sale to Schmitz in 1938 and arranging for the British subsidiary of Standard (Ethyl) to loan him 500 tons of it. In 1939 Standard sold Schmitz a further $15 million worth of the additive, and Standard also sold it to Japan.

Just after war erupted in Europe, Standard Oil sent Frank Howard, a vice-president, to meet with Fritz Ringer, a representative of I.G. Farben, at The Hague on September 22, 1939. The two men drew up an agreement, known as the Hague Memorandum, that specified they would remain in business together "whether or not the United states came into the war." At the meeting, Ringer handed over to Howard "a thick bundle of German patents that were locked into Standard agreements so that they would not be seized in wartime." The Hague Memorandum guaranteed that I.G. Farben would get back its patents the moment the war ended.

On May 5, 1941, Göring, knowing that Germany was growing desperate for oil, held a meeting with the Fascist Rumanian general Ion Antonescu to ensure that if America and Germany went to war, Antonescu would allow Germany to use the oil fields in Rumania that were owned by Standard Oil. The general said he would have to confer with Schmitz and Standard Oil executives in Bucharest. These executives gave Göring the use of the oil fields "whether or not America came into the war" in exchange for $11 million in bonds.

When the British ran a naval blockade the length of the Americas on the Atlantic seaboard to stop shipments of oil to Germany, Standard's President Farish "sent large amounts of petroleum to Russia and thence by Trans-Siberian Railroad to Berlin long after Roosevelt's moral embargo." Farish also shipped oil to Vichy North Africa, and "fueled the Nazi-controlled L.A.T.I. airline [which flew spies, patents, and diamonds for foreign currency as well as Nazi propaganda] from Rome to Rio via Madrid, Lisbon, and Dakar." Standard did not even have the excuse that "if we don't, somebody else will" because they were the only company with "the high-octane gasoline that enabled the lumbering clippers to make the 1,680-mile hop across the Atlantic."

On February 27, 1942, after Pearl Harbor and the United States declaration of war against the Axis, Thurman Arnold, the head of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, along with Secretary of the Navy Franklin Knox and Secretary of the Army Henry Stimson, entered Standard Oil's Rockefeller Plaza headquarters and confronted Standard President Farish, sayinbg he (Arnold) had proof that "by continuing to favor Hitler in rubber deals and patent arrangements, the Rockefellers, Teagle, and Farish had acted against the interests of the American government." Arnold demanded that the patents handed by Schmitz to Standard's Howard at The Hague be turned over to the government, and he called for a $1.5 million fine. Farish replied that Standard as fueling the United States Army, Navy and Air Force and implied they might not continue to do so if the government pursued its case against the company. Arnold was forced to back down, and Farish ended up having to pay a token $1000 fine, leading Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes to write in his diary April 15 that [as paraphrased by author Charles Higham], "[W]hen the light was thrown on a situation like this, it made it easier to understand why some of the great and powerful in the country were Nazi-minded and were confident of their ability to get along with Hitler. After all, he added, they had been doing business with Hitler right along. They understood each other's language and their aims were common."

The next month, on March 26, Arnold apeared before Senator Harry S Truman and his Senate committee investigating war spending, and he produced documents showing that Standard and I.G. Farben had "carved up the world markets, with oil and chemical monopolies established all over the map," and he specifically accused Standard Oil of denying synthetic rubber to the U.S. Navy. He also "charged that cables showed Standard's arrangements with Japan that were to continue throughout any conflict or break in trade." To a reporter's question, Is this treason?" Truman answered in the affirmative. On May 2 Irving Lipkowitz, also in the American Division of the Justice Department, found evidence that "Standard had deliberately retarded production of the vital war material acetic acid in favor of the Nazis." On May 6, John R. Jacobs, Jr., of the Attorney General's departmenbt, testified that as a result of deals between I.G. Farben and Standard Oil, the United States had been prevented from using a method of producing synthetic ammonia, vital for explosives production, and the U.S. had been similarly restricted in producing hydrogen from natural gas and from obtaining a product called paraflow that was needed for high altitude airplane lubrication. Jacobs produced a document showing that on September 1, 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland,Standard Oil cabled I.G. Farben offering to buy its 20% interest in the patents they shared. The Standard Oil memo read: "Of course what we have in mind is protecting this minority interest of I.G. in the even of war between ourselves and Germany as it would certainly be very undesirable to have this 20 percent Standard-I.G. pass to an alien property custodian of the U.S. who might sell it to an unfriendly interest." It is clear that for Standard Oil, the identity of the "unfriendly interest" was not Germany, even if there was "war between ourselves and Germany." If the was was indeed caused by competing American and German industries, we can be pretty sure that these giants of the oil and chemical industry were not the culprits. The stereotype image of wars being fought over oil certainly cannot explain why America's leading oil company was so indifferent, if not outright hostile, to America's efforts to win the war. In fact, on September 22,1947, Judge Charles Clark, in a ruling against the company (the appeal of which was denied) 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." [276]

Henry Ford and Adolph Hitler were fans of each other. Hitler praised Ford in Mein Kampf, and each year on Hitler's birthday Ford sent the Nazi leader 50,000 Reichsmarks. In a 1923 interview, Hitler dubbed Ford "the leader of the growing fascist movement in America" and in 1938 Hitler awarded Ford the Grand Service Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle, an honor which the American did not turn down despite having been given advance notice of the award and ample opportunity to do so. Ford purchased the Dearborn Independent newspaper and in 1920 began publishing weekly anti-Semitic columns which he later published as a book, The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem in 1927. Ford believed in controlling his workers the same way the Nazis did: with a mixture of paternalism and harsh authoritarianism. He employed company police, labor spies, and violence in a  protracted effort to prevent unionization. Ford not only shared Hitler's anti-Semitic world view, but he also had good reason to feel that his industrial empire was safe under the Nazis. Göring assured a director of the German Ford subsidiary, Carl Krauch (also with I.G. Farben), that, "I shall see to it that the German Ford Company will not be incorporated in the Hermann Göring Company." Krauch testified to this in 1946 under interrogation, and added that "Thus, we succeeded in keeping the Ford Works working and operating independently of our [the German] government's seizure." In 1940 Ford Motor Co. "refused to build aircraft engines for England and instead built supplies of the 5-ton military trucks that were the backbone of German army transportation" and Ford even shipped tires to Germany when there was a shortage in the U.S.

Ford also operated a 60-acre automobile factory in the German-occupied section of France in 1940, located at Poissy eleven miles from Paris. This plant, controlled by Edsel Ford from Dearborn, Michigan (and by Carl Krauch and Hermann Schmitz in Berlin) produced airplane engines and trucks for the German military. During the war, the manager of the French Ford plant, Maurice Dollfus, and Edsel Ford communicated by letters which shed light on the Ford family's outlook. On January 278, 1942, in his first letter after Pearl Harbor, Dollfus informed Edsel Ford that the factory was ahead of the French automobile manufacturers in supplying the enemy and that he was getting help from the Vichy government to protect American shareholders' interests. He also reported that he was starting a company in North Africa for the Nazis. Ford replied on May 13 that "It is interesting to note that you have started your African company and are laying plans for a more peaceful future." Dollfus wrote on February 11, 1942 that ford in France made a profit for the year of 58 million francs, which included payments from the Nazis. On June  Dollfus wrote that the British Royal Air Force had bombed the plant four times, and so he had scattered machinery and equipment all over the country, and that the Vichy government had 'agreed to pay for all damages" and that this was "approved by the German government." Ford replied July 16 that he was pleased with the arrangement and that his father joined him in sending best wishes to Dollfus and the staff, in the hope they would continue in the good work. Meanwhile, on May 29, 1942, "Ford Motor Company in Edgewater, new Jersey, had shipped six cargoes of cars to blacklisted Jose O. Moll of Chile. Another consignee was a blacklisted enemy corporation, Lilienfeld, in Bolivia."

In April 1943, Treasury Secretary Morgenthau and economist Lauchlin Currie investigated Ford's operation in France and concluded that "their production is solely for the benefit of Germany and the countries under its occupation" and that the Germans have "shown clearly their wish to protect the Ford interests" because of the "attitude of strict neutrality" maintained by Henry and Edsel Ford, and that "the increased activity of the French Ford subsidiaries on behalf of Germans receives the commendation of the Ford family in America."

click here to continue to page 3

bottom of page