The Darkish Historical past of Germany’s Wealthiest Dynasties
By David de Jong. 400 pp. Mariner, 2022. $28.99.
What’s left to say in regards to the Nazis? They misplaced World Struggle II some 77 years in the past, their nation occupied and their leaders both lifeless or in jail camps, ready to be tried and judged. The Germany that emerged from the ruins has typically led the way in which in reckoning with its previous, atoning for the Third Reich’s epic crimes by means of measures that embody paying reparations to Jewish survivors. Three generations of historians have weighed the nation’s guilt. What elements of Germany’s darkish historical past nonetheless should be illuminated, and why now? Investigative monetary journalist David de Jong offers a transparent reply in Nazi Billionaires, a fast-paced, eminently readable, and well-researched ebook on the German enterprise dynasties which have flourished since Hitler’s reign with out ever absolutely accounting for his or her misdeeds.
A 1985 work, German Huge Enterprise and the Rise of Hitler by late Yale College professor Henry Ashby Turner Jr., has lengthy been the usual textual content on Hitler’s early relationships with captains of German business. In response to Turner, these males didn’t do a lot to assist Hitler turn into chancellor in January 1933. This rapidly modified, nevertheless, as soon as Hitler and Hermann Göring personally convoked the enterprise elite and extorted huge marketing campaign contributions for the March 1933 election that cemented the Führer’s energy. In Nazi Billionaires, De Jong carries the story from that point onward, investigating well-known German corporations just like the automaker Porsche and meals producer Dr. Oetker and the way they profited from the following warfare, changing into “Nazi billionaires.” He believes that too many current corporations nonetheless qualify for that title, one thing that bothers him personally as a result of his Dutch upbringing and Jewish heritage.
De Jong tells tales of greed, opportunism, and denial. One businessman whom Hitler and Göring summoned in February 1933 was Günther Quandt; described by De Jong as “a textile producer turned arms-and-battery tycoon,” Quandt made no finish of cash supplying uniforms to the German military in World Struggle I. Within the Nineteen Twenties he married a youthful girl, Magda Ritschel. Their union lasted eight years and produced one son—after which Magda married Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, with Hitler serving as finest man.
For Quandt, this made for an ambivalent relationship with Germany’s new leaders. However enterprise was all-important to him, and he accommodated himself by becoming a member of the Nazi Social gathering. He added to his wealth in the course of the warfare by gobbling up Jewish-owned corporations, in addition to captive Belgian, Polish, Croatian, and Greek industries, and benefited from Nazi compelled labor. Quandt’s heirs right this moment are vastly rich, controlling, amongst different holdings, 47 p.c of BMW.
Postwar, Quandt efficiently portrayed himself as a sufferer, compelled to collaborate with Goebbels as a result of household ties. He escaped punishment, and his fortune remained largely intact. At Quandt’s funeral in 1954, a Deutsche Financial institution government praised him for “by no means submitting servilely to the overbearing state.” In 1941, the identical man had praised him for changing into a Wehrwirtschaftsführer—a number one provider of munitions who believed in Germany and Hitler.
Maybe the best-known of De Jong’s topics is Ferdinand Porsche, the sensible self-taught engineer born in 1875 who really was a pioneer within the auto world. In 1933 Porsche despatched Hitler a fawning telegram that led to enthusiastic cooperation between the 2. Each Porsche and his son Ferry willingly grew to become members of the SS, in addition to the Nazi Social gathering. They championed the concept of a individuals’s automobile, or “Volkswagen,” which Porsche would go on to construct. In 1938 Hitler presided over the groundbreaking for an enormous manufacturing unit at Wolfsburg that’s, even right this moment, residence to the Volkswagen Group.
The necessity for army manufacturing intervened earlier than many VWs could possibly be produced, and Porsche switched to creating jeeps and tanks for Hitler—each enormously worthwhile undertakings, partially due to slave labor from SS focus camps. Alongside the way in which Porsche shed the agency’s Jewish cofounder, racecar driver and entrepreneur Adolf Rosenberger, shopping for out his shares at a fraction of their price. Porsche and son have been each arrested for warfare crimes after World Struggle II ended. Launched inside six months, Ferry was capable of dedicate himself to saving the corporate’s belongings (and securing his father’s launch after simply 20 months). He created the fashionable Porsche model in 1948, which right this moment is interlocked with the Volkswagen Group.
Bringing these tales, and others, updated, De Jong displays on his topics’ makes an attempt at addressing the previous. Following a collection of German exposés, starting with the documentary movie The Silence of the Quandts (2007), the Quandt, Oetker, and Porsche households all commissioned historic research of their companies. However, as De Jong factors out, the Quandts sidestepped robust questions and as a substitute created a basis devoted to the anodyne purpose of “good enterprise management.” The Porsche manufacturing unit in Stuttgart right this moment sports activities a plaque acknowledging the contributions of slave labor. However the agency has by no means absolutely addressed its “Aryanization” within the Nineteen Thirties.
Even worse, De Jong implies, are the Fincks, secretive descendants of wartime bankers who’ve made substantial contributions to conservative and far-right causes like Various für Deutschland, a quickly rising anti-immigrant political occasion that’s been labeled neo-Nazi. He laments that “because the…reminiscence of the Third Reich fades, an more and more mainstream and brazen reactionary proper is brutalizing the progressive beliefs of postwar Germany.” One option to sluggish the pattern, De Jong believes, is to air the misdeeds of Nazi billionaires, as he has executed
on this worthy ebook.
—Historian Nicholas Reynolds started his writing profession with Treason Was No Crime (1976), a ebook in regards to the German resistance to Hitler.