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A Few of the Companies That Collaborated With Nazis

Alex Constantine - October 3, 2012

By Greg  McFarlane

Investopedia, October 2, 2012

For a brief period in the late 1930s and 1940s, Adolf  Hitler managed to redefine and personify evil in a way that even ancient  mass-murderers such as Tamerlane and Genghis  Khan never aspired to. By virtue of Hitler taking complete  control of the most powerful country on the European continent, practically  every existing business entity in Germany thus became a de facto instrument of  this new and tyrannical government. At that time, doing business in Germany  meant supporting Hitler, so it's not fair to frame all these businesses as  enthusuastic Nazi collaborators. While some of these businesses exist and  flourish today, it's likely that millions of their customers have no idea of  these companies' past dealings with the Nazi party.

Bayer It seems that almost any German multinational of a  certain vintage can find a link to the Nazi regime. In some cases, that link is  more direct than in others. Bayer was founded in Germany in 1863, and has been a  household name in North America since not long after. Today, despite making  everything from polymers to blood glucose monitors, Bayer remains most famous  for being the company that first discovered (or more accurately,  isolated) aspirin.

The most outrageous thing about Bayer's connection to the Nazi regime is the  timing. In 1956, Bayer welcomed a new chairman of the board: a second-generation  chemist named Fritz ter Meer. Bayer's directors must have liked what they saw in  Fritz ter Meer, whose resume included the study of law, employment with his  father's company and three years in prison for war crimes.

It's not as if ter Meer had been punished for, say, being ordered against his  will to stand guard at Dachau. No, he helped plan Monowitz, a concentration camp  better known as Auschwitz III. He also built the infamous Buna factory, where  his colleagues conducted human experiments and forced slaves to build critical  components of the Wehrmacht. Furthermore, Fritz ter Meer never denied his  involvement, and he was sentenced to seven years in prison during the infamous  Nuremburg Trials.

However, ter Meer served less than half of his sentence. Even then, having  been subjected to a wrist slap from a light and fluffy pillow, ter Meer didn't  merely fall into obscurity. He not only held the  highest executive position at Bayer, but also served on the boards of  several other companies before retiring in the 1960s and dying of natural causes  at the age of 83.

Siemens Next  time you're in your garage, look at the brand names of the products you find. If  you own a damping pin, turbo compressor or fluoroscope, there's a good chance it  carries the Siemens logo. The company is worth approximately $89 billion,  employs roughly 370,000 people and claims to operate in about 190  countries.
When World War II became the major topic of concern for  Germany, Siemens was there. The company forced slaves to manufacture components  for the rockets that ended up raining down on London and Antwerp, Belgium in  short order. In the early 21st century, Siemens began to pay reparations to the  workers it had paid nary a pfennig to 55 years earlier.

IG  Farben For some of us of a certain age, BASF was the company  that made cassette tapes. Another German multinational that's been around since  the 19th century, BASF is similar to Siemens in another way, in that it produces  the unglamorous if vital things that make life better: engineering plastics,  chemical coatings and polymers that their end users don't even notice.

In 1925, BASF and a couple of partners formed an infamous conglomerate named  IG Farben. One of the chemicals manufactured by the company at the time was  Zyklon B, which was the gas used to suffocate untold millions of concentration  camp prisoners during the Holocaust.

In 1951, when the victors partitioned Germany, the Western Allies restored IG  Farben into its original components. Today, BASF continues to trade as one of  the featured securities on the Frankfurt  Stock Exchange, with a market  capitalization of over $60 billion.

The Bottom Line In a world where Chick-Fil-A  can face a boycott because of the religious views of its chairman, and  British Petroleum can be the subject of virulent protests because of a tragic  accident, it's tough to imagine what form of consumer activism would be  appropriate if the companies featured on this list were doing business today  with hated regimes.


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  1. I read recently that Bayer is merging with Monsanto, a corporation that makes genetically engineered food. I read that Bayer may have made some GMOs of its own. To oppose GMOs, we should look at the web sites responsibletechnology.org and organicconsumers.org.

  2. The best thing that one can say about Patton was that he was an American soldier — aside from that he was a piece of walking shit! And that’s being unjust to shit!

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