Excerpted from the book
Trading with the Enemy
The Nazi – American Money Plot 1933-1949
by Charles Higham
Delacorte Press, 1983
…a number of financial and industrial figures of World War II and several members of the government served the cause of money before the cause of patriotism. While aiding the United States’ war effort, they also aided Nazi Germany’s.
It thus came as a severe shock to learn that several of the greatest American corporate leaders were in league with Nazi corporations before and after Pearl Harbor, including I.G. Farben, the colossal Nazi industrial trust that created Auschwitz. Those leaders interlocked through an association I have dubbed The Fraternity. Each of these business leaders was entangled with the others through interlocking directorates or financial sources. All were represented internationally by the National City Bank or by the Chase National Bank and by the Nazi attorneys Gerhardt Westrick and Dr. Heinrich Albert. All had connections to that crucial Nazi economist, Emil Puhl, of Hitler’s Reichsbank and the Bank for International Settlements.
The tycoons were linked by an ideology: the ideology of Business as Usual. Bound by identical reactionary ideas, the members sought a common future in fascist domination regardless of which world leader might further that ambition.
Several members not only sought a continuing alliance of interests for the duration of World War II but supported the idea of a negotiated peace with Germany that would bar any reorganization of Europe along liberal lines. It would leave as its residue a police state that would place The Fraternity in postwar possession of financial, industrial, and political autonomy. When it was clear that Germany was losing the war the businessmen became notably more “loyal.”
Then, when war was over, the survivors pushed into Germany, protected their assets, restored Nazi friends to high office, helped provoke the Cold War, and insured the permanent future of The Fraternity.
To this day the bulk o~ Americans do not suspect The Fraternity. The government smothered everything, during and even (inexcusably) after the war. What would have happened if millions of American and British people, struggling with coupons and lines at the gas stations, had learned that in 1942 Standard Oil of New Jersey managers shipped the enemy’s fuel through neutral Switzerland and that the enemy was shipping Allied fuel? Suppose the public had discovered that the Chase Bank in Nazi-occupied Paris after Pearl Harbor was doing millions of dollars’ worth of business with the enemy with the full knowledge of the head office in Manhattan? Or that Ford trucks were being built for the German occupation troops in France with authorization from Dearborn, Michigan? Or that Colonel Sosthenes Behn, the head of the international American telephone conglomerate ITT, flew from New York to Madrid to Berne during the war to help improve Hitler’s communications systems and improve the robot bombs that devastated London? Or that ITT built the Focke-Wulfs that dropped bombs on British and American troops? Or that crucial ball bearings were shipped to Nazi-associated customers in Latin America with the collusion of the vice-chairman of the U. S. War Production Board in partnership with Goring’s cousin in Philadelphia when American forces were desperately short of them? Or that such arrangements were known about in Washington and either sanctioned or deliberately ignored?
For the government did sanction such dubious transactions-both before and after Pearl Harbor. A presidential edict, issued six days after December 7, 1941, actually set up the legislation whereby licensing arrangements for trading with the enemy could officially be granted. Often during the years after Pearl Harbor the government permitted such trading. For example, ITT was allowed to continue its relations with the Axis and Japan until 1945, even though that conglomerate was regarded as an official instrument of United States Intelligence. No attempt was made to prevent Ford from retaining its interests for the Germans in Occupied France, nor were the Chase Bank or the Morgan Bank expressly forbidden to keep open their branches in Occupied Paris. It is indicated that the Reichsbank and Nazi Ministry of Economics made promises to certain U.S. corporate leaders that their properties would not be injured after the Fuhrer was victorious. Thus, the bosses of the multinationals as we know them today had a six-spot on every side of the dice cube. Whichever side won the war, the powers that really ran nations would not be adversely affected.
And it is important to consider the size of American investments in Nazi Germany at the time of Pearl Harbor. These amounted to an estimated total of $475 million. Standard Oil of New Jersey had $120 million invested there; General Motors had $35 million; 111 had $30 million; and Ford had $17.5 million. Though it would have been more patriotic to have allowed Nazi Germany to confiscate these companies for the duration-to nationalize them or to absorb them into Hermann Goring’s industrial empire-it was clearly more practical to insure them protection from seizure by allowing them to remain in special holding companies, the money accumulating until war’s end. It is interesting that whereas there is no evidence of any serious attempt by Roosevelt to impeach the guilty in the United States, there is evidence that Hitler strove to punish certain German Fraternity associates on the grounds of treason to the Nazi state. Indeed, in the case of ITT, perhaps the most flagrant of the corporations in its outright dealings with the enemy, Hitler and his postmaster general, the venerable Wilhelm Ohnesorge, strove to impound the German end of the business. But even they were powerless in such a situation: the Gestapo leader of counterintelligence, Walter Schellenberg, was a prominent director and shareholder of ITT by arrangement with New York-and even Hitler dared not cross the Gestapo.
As for Roosevelt, the Sphinx still keeps his secrets. That supreme politician held all of the forces of collusion and betrayal in balance, publicly praising those executives whom he knew to be questionable. Before Pearl Harbor, he allowed such egregious executives as James D. Mooney of General Motors and William Rhodes Davis of the Davis Oil Company to enjoy pleasant tete-a-tetes with Hitler and Goring, while maintaining a careful record of what they were doing. During the war, J. Edgar Hoover, Adolf A. Berle, Henry Morgenthau, and Harold Ickes kept the President fully advised of all internal and external transgressions. With great skill, he never let the executives concerned know that he was on to them. By using the corporate leaders for his own war purposes as dollar-a-year men, keeping an eye on them and allowing them to indulge, under license or not, in their international tradings, he at once made winning the war a certainty and kept the public from knowing what it should not know.
Why did even the loyal figures of the American government allow these transactions to continue after Pearl Harbor? A logical deduction I would be that not to have done so would have involved public disclosure: the procedure of legally disconnecting these alliances under the antitrust laws would have resulted in a public scandal that would have drastically affected public morale, caused widespread strikes, and perhaps provoked mutinies in the armed services. Moreover, as some corporate executives were never tired of reminding the government, their trial and imprisonment would have made it impossible for the corporate boards to help the American war effort. Therefore, the government was powerless to intervene. After 1945, the Cold War, which the executives had done so much to provoke, made it even more necessary that the truth of The Fraternity agreements should not be revealed.
A Bank for All Reasons
On a bright May morning in 1944, while young Americans were dying on the Italian beachheads, Thomas Harrington McKittrick, American president of the Nazi-controlled Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland, arrived at his office to preside over a fourth annual meeting in time of war. This polished American gentleman sat down with his German, Japanese, Italian, British, and American executive staff to discuss such important matters as the $378 million in gold that had been sent to the Bank by the Nazi government after Pearl Harbor for use by its leaders after the war. Gold that had been looted from the national banks of Austria, Holland, Belgium, and Czechoslovakia, or melted down from the Reichsbank holdings of the teeth fillings, spectacle frames, cigarette cases and lighters, and wedding rings of the murdered Jews.
The Bank for International Settlements was a joint creation in 1930 of the world’s central banks, including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Its existence was inspired by Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht, Nazi Minister of Economics and president of the Reichsbank, part of whose early upbringing was in Brooklyn, and who had powerful Wall Street connections. He was seconded by the all-important banker Emil Puhl, who continued under the regime of Schacht’s successor, Dr. Walther Funk.
Sensing Adolf Hitler’s lust for war and conquest, Schacht, even before Hitler rose to power in the Reichstag, pushed for an institution that would retain channels of communication and collusion between the world’s financial leaders even in the event of an international conflict. It was written into the Bank’s charter, concurred in by the respective governments, that the BIS should be immune from seizure, closure, or censure, whether or not its owners were at war. These owners included the Morgan-affiliated First National Bank of New York (among whose directors were Harold S. Vanderbilt and Wendell Willkie), the Bank of England, the Reichsbank, the Bank of Italy, the Bank of France, and other central banks. Established under the Morgan banker Owen D. Young’s so-called Young Plan, the BIS’s ostensible purpose was to provide the Allies with reparations to be paid by Germany for World War I. The Bank soon turned out to be the instrument of an opposite function. It was to be a money funnel for American and British funds to flow into Hitler’s coffers and to help Hitler build up his war machine.
By 1939, the BIS had invested millions in Germany while Kurt von Schroder and Emil Puhl deposited large sums in looted gold in the Bank. The BIS was an instrument of Hitler, but its continuing existence was approved by Great Britain even after that country went to war with Germany …
The Chase Nazi Account
The Rockefellers’ Chase National Bank (later the Chase Manhattan) was the richest and most powerful financial institution in the United States at the time of Pearl Harbor. The Rockefellers owned Standard Oil of New Jersey, the German accounts of which were siphoned through their own bank, the Chase, as well as through the independent National City Bank of New York, which also handled Standard, Sterling Products, General Aniline and Film, SKF, and ITT, whose chief, Sosthenes Behn, was a director of the N.C.B. Two executives of Standard Oil’s German subsidiary were Karl Lindemann and Emil Helfferich, prominent figures in Himmler’s Circle of Friends of the Gestapo-its chief financiers-and close friends and colleagues of the BIS’s Baron von Schroder.
the lawyer Creekmore Fath wrote in the introduction to a book entitled Patents for Hitler by Gunther Reimann
“Since the middle thirties, whenever a German business group wanted to make an agreement with any business concern beyond the borders of Germany, it was required first to submit a full text of the proposed agreement to the Reichsbank. The Reichsbank rejected or rewrote until the agreement met its approval. The Reichsbank approved no agreement which did not fit into the plans of the Nazi State and carry that state another step toward its goal of world domination. In other words, any American firm which reached an agreement or dealt with a German firm . . . was dealing … with Hitler himself.
As war approached, the links between the Rockefellers and the Nazi government became more and more firm. In 1936 the J. Henry Schroder Bank of New York had entered into a partnership with the Rockefellers. Schroder, Rockefeller and Company, Investment Bankers, was formed as part of an overall company that Time magazine disclosed as being “the economic booster of the Rome-Berlin Axis. ” The partners in Schroder, Rockefeller and Company included Avery Rockefeller, nephew of John D., Baron Bruno von Schroder in London, and Kurt von Schroder of the BIS and the Gestapo in Cologne. Avery Rockefeller owned 42 percent of Schroder, Rockefeller, and Baron Bruno and his Nazi cousin 47 percent. Their lawyers were John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles of Sullivan and Cromwell. Allen Dulles (later of the Office of Strategic Services) was on the board of Schroder. Further connections linked the Paris branch of Chase to Schroder as well as the pro-Nazi Worms Bank and Standard Oil of New Jersey in France. Standard Oil’s Paris representatives were directors of the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas, which had intricate connections to the Nazis and to Chase.
Six months before the war broke out in Europe, Joseph J. Larkin brought off his most audacious scheme in the Nazi interest, acting in collusion with the Schroder Bank. Aldrich and the Schroders secured no less than $25 million American for the use of Germany’s expanding war economy and accompanied it with a detailed record (supplied direct to the Chase Bank in Berlin for forwarding to the Nazi government) of the assets and background of ten thousand Nazi sympathizers in the United States. The negotiations were engineered with the help of Dr. Walther Funk and Emil Puhl.
In essence, the Nazi government through the Chase National Bank offered Nazis in America the opportunity to buy marks with dollars at a discount. The arrangement was open only to those who wished to return to Germany and would use the marks in the interest of the Nazis. Before any transaction could be made, such persons had to convince the Nazi embassy in Washington that they were bona fide supporters of German policy. They were told in pamphlets sent out by the Chase National Bank in Manhattan that Germany could offer glorious opportunities to them and that marks would provide a hedge against inflation and would have much increased value after victory b in the expected war.
As a result, there was a rush on marks. On February 15, 1939, there was a summit meeting at the Chase in New York of representatives of both Chase and Schroder banks on what was known as the Ruckwanderer (Reimmigrant) scheme. Alfred W. Barth was the personal representative of Winthrop Aldrich and Joseph J. Larkin, while E. H. Meili of J. Henry Schroder represented that side of the association. At the meeting the members discussed a proposal that the Reichsbank should send a special representative to the Nazi consulate in New York, which served as the headquarters of the Gestapo and had its accounts at the Chase. The American group decided that they should not take such a risk because their importing such a person ` might reveal to the American public that they were supporting Nazis. The minutes show that it was decided to “let well enough alone and to conduct future business on behalf of Berlin through
“the employment of numerous agents and sub-agents who operate through the country. These agents and sub-agents in cooperation with their respective principals, ourselves, can go a long way towards educating Germans in exile and those sympathetic to the Nazi cause through extensive newspaper advertising campaigns, radio broadcasts, as well as through literature, etc. .
It is unanimously felt that it would be to the greatest advantage of everyone concerned if . . . Berlin would instruct the various consulates in the United States that all inquiries about . . . transactions should be referred to ourselves, whose name should be supplied not only to the various consular offices in the U.S. but also to those who inquire at the consulates in respect to the procedure.”
The bankers agreed that special attention should be focused ;~ shopkeepers, factory workers, and others with little money but great potential for Germany. They should be able-bodied young men and women of pure Aryan stock. Above all, the present meeting must never come to the attention of the American government. The minutes of the meeting state:
“The ensuing publicity and the agitation that has been furthered in certain quarters of this country [against similar schemes] might possibly compel our Department of State to enforce a clearing system between Germany and America, under which monies due to American citizens such as inheritances, etc., would have to be cleared. The results are too obvious: firstly, no benefits are likely to accrue to Germany; secondly, the final outcome might prove disadvantageous from Germany’s standpoint.”
Thus, the Chase directors and the barons von Schroder were afraid that if Morgenthau discovered the true facts, the U.S. government might take measures detrimental to the German government. It was an act of total collaboration with the Nazis.
In May 1940 a prominent diamond merchant in New York City, ~ Leonard Smit, began smuggling commercial and industrial diamonds I to Nazi Germany through Panama. Smit’s company was theoretically Dutch, which placed it under the provenance of the Nazis, but its stock was in fact owned by the International Trading Company, which was located in Guernsey in the Channel Islands. President Roosevelt had issued a freezing order precluding the shipment of monies to Europe, especially if these might seem to be to the advantage of the Axis. A few days after the Smit account was frozen, Chase officials unblocked the funds at Smit’s request. The funds flowed out to Panama, allowing diamonds to be sent through the Canal Zone to Berlin.
On June 17, 1940, when France was collapsing, Morgenthau via Roosevelt again blocked the French account to prevent money going to the enemy. Within hours of the blocking, somebody at Chase authorized the South American branches of the Banque Francaise et Italienne pour l’Amerique du Sud to transfer more than $1 million from New York to special accounts in the Argentine and Uruguay. The Banque was 50 percent owned by the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas (a Chase and Standard affiliate), and 50 percent owned by the Mussolini-controlled Banca Commerciale Italiana. In South America, these banks were working partly for the Axis. Larkin continued to permit free withdrawals from the special accounts even though he knew perfectly well that such accounts were cloaks for Banque Francaise et Italienne funds.
On June 23, 1941, J. Edgar Hoover wrote to Morgenthau: “During the monitoring of foreign funds at the Chase Bank, FBI discovered various payments to oil companies in the United States. There are indications that the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey has been . receiving money from German oil sales by order of the Reichsbank.”
The Chase also handled transactions for the Nazi Banco Aleman Transatlantico, which was, according to a Uruguayan Embassy report dated August 18, 1943, “No mere financial institution. It was in actuality treasurer or comptroller of the Nazi Party in South America. It received local party contributions, supervised and occasionally directed party expenditures, received party funds from Germany under various guises and juggled the deposits . . . all under the guidance of the German Legations.” It was in fact a branch of the Deutsche Uberseeische Bank of Berlin.
Most Nazi businesses in South America handled their affairs through the Banco Aleman. Thus, the German legations throughout Latin America possessed channels for distribution and receipt of Nazi funds. The Paris Chase received large amounts of money from Nazi sources through the medium of the Bank.
Most important of all, the Chase, with the full knowledge of Larkin, handled the accounts of Otto Abetz, German ambassador to Paris, and the embassy itself.
It is interesting to consider what, among other things, Abetz and the German Embassy dealt with during the war. They poured millions of francs into various French companies that were collaborating with the Nazis. On August 13, 1942, 5.5 million francs were passed through in one day to help finance the military government and the Gestapo High Command. This money helped to pay for radio propaganda and a campaign of terror against the French people, including beatings, torture, and brutal murder. Abetz paid 250,000 francs a month to fascist editors and publishers in order to run their vicious anti-Semitic newspapers. He financed the terrorist army known as the Mouvement Synarchique Revolutionnaire, which flushed out anti-Nazi cells in Paris and saw to it they were liquidated. In addition, Abetz used embassy funds to trade in Jewish art treasures, including tapestries, paintings, and ornaments, for the benefit of Goring, who wanted to get his hands on every French artifact possible.
The Chase board in New York could not claim that it was unfamiliar with these activities on the ground that communication with Occupied France was impossible. The purpose of retaining diplomatic relations with Vichy was that the U.S. government could determine what was going on in Occupied France. A constant flow of letters, telegrams, and phone calls between Paris and the Vichy branch of Chase in Chateauneuf-sur-Cher kept Albert Bertrand informed, and in return he kept New York informed; Washington was advised by Larkin. Despite some criticism by Nazi comptroller Hans-Joachim Caesar, Vichy had under French law the power to close the Paris branch at any minute if New York so instructed. No such instructions were ever received. .
The Secrets of Standard Oil
In 1941, Standard Oil of New Jersey was the largest petroleum corporation in the world. Its bank was Chase, its owners the Rockefellers. Its chairman, Walter C. Teagle, and its president, William S. Farish, matched Joseph J. Larkin’s extensive connections with the Nazi government.
From the 1920s on Teagle showed a marked admiration for Germany’s enterprise in overcoming the destructive terms of the Versailles Treaty. His lumbering stride, booming tones, and clouds of cigar smoke became widely and affectionately known in the circle that helped support the rising Nazi party. He early established a friendship with the dour and stubby Hermann Schmitz of I.G. Farben, entertaining him frequently for lunch at the Cloud Room in the Chrysler Building, Teagle’s favorite Manhattan haunt of the late 1920s and the 1930s. Teagle also was friendly with the pro-Nazi Sir Henri Deterding of Royal Dutch-Shell, who agreed with his views about capitalist domination of Europe and the ultimate need to destroy Russia.
Because of his commercial and personal association with Herman Schmitz, and his awareness that he must protect Standard’s interest in Nazi Germany, Teagle made many visits to Berlin and the Standard tanks and tank cars in Germany throughout the 1930s. He became director of American I.G. Chemical Corp., the giant chemicals firm that was a subsidiary of I.G. Farben. He invested heavily in American I.G. and American I.G. invested heavily in Standard. He sat on the I.G. board with Fraternity brothers Edsel Ford and William E. Weiss, chairman of Sterling Products.
Following the rise of Hitler to power, Teagle and Hermann Schmitz jointly gave a special assignment to Ivy Lee, the notorious New York publicity man, who had for some years worked for the Rockefellers. They engaged Lee for the specific purpose of economic espionage. He was to supply I.G. Farben, and through it the Nazi government, with intelligence on the American reaction to such matters as the German armament program, Germany’s treatment of the Church, and the organization of the Gestapo. He was also to keep the American public bamboozled by papering over the more evil aspects of Hitler’s regime. For this, Lee was paid first $3,000 then $4,000 annually, the money paid to him through the Bank for International Settlements in the name of I.G. Chemie. The contract was for obvious reasons kept oral and the money was transferred in cash. No entries were made in the books of the employing companies or in those of Ivy Lee himself. After a short period Lee’s salary was increased to $25,000 per year and he began distributing inflammatory Nazi propaganda in the United States on behalf of I.G. Farben, including virulent attacks on the Jews and the Versailles Treaty.
In February 1938 the Securities and Exchange Commission held a meeting to investigate Nazi ownership of American I.G. through a Swiss subsidiary. The commissioners grilled Teagle on the ownership of the Swiss company. He pretended that he did not know the owners were I.G. Farben and the Nazi government. The commissioners tried to make him admit that at least American I.G. was “controlled by ‘European’ interests.” Teagle replied dodgily, “Well, I think that would be a safe assumption.” Asked who voted for him as a proxy at Swiss meetings, again he asserted that he didn’t know. He also neglected to mention that Schmitz and the Nazi government owned thousands of shares in American I.G.
Teagle was sufficiently embarrassed by the hearing to resign from the American I.G. board, but he retained his connections with the company. He remained in partnership with Farben in the matter of tetraethyl lead, an additive used in aviation gasoline. Goring’s air force couldn’t fly without it. Only Standard, Du Pont, and General Motors had the rights to it. Teagle helped to organize a sale of the precious substance to Schmitz, who in 1938 traveled to London and “borrowed” 500 tons from Ethyl, the British Standard subsidiary. Next year, Schmitz and his partners returned to London and obtained $15 million worth. The result was that Hitler’s air force was rendered capable of bombing London, the city that had provided the supplies. Also, by supplying Japan with tetraethyl, Teagle helped make it possible for the Japanese to wage World War II.
On September 22,1947, Judge Charles Clark delivered the final word on the subject. He 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.” The appeal was denied.
The Mexican Connection
Even the supposed enemies of The Fraternity were connected to it by almost invisible threads. One of Jersey Standard’s most powerful rivals in the field of petroleum supplies to Germany, William Rhodes Davis’s Davis Oil Company, was connected to Goring and Himmler. Davis was linked to Hermann Schmitz and I.G. Farben through the Americans Werner and Karl von Clemm, New York diamond merchants (who were first cousins to Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop by marriage), and through the National City Bank.
The von Clemms were fanatical devotees of Germany, even though both had become American residents in 1932. They used a device typical in Nazi circles: a device copied, ironically, from the Rothschilds. One brother stayed in Berlin, the other remained in New York. They were connected to the Schroder banks through interlocking directorships, and on the board of a company that helped finance General Motors in Germany along with I.G. Farben.
In 1931 they financed the Gestapo with funds supplementing those supplied by Schroder’s Stein Bank. Yet another Fraternity link was their involvement with the First National Bank of Boston, an associate of the Bank for International Settlements. They conceived the idea of unblocking First National’s blocked German marks to build a vast oil refinery for Goring’s air force and for Farben and Eurotank near Hamburg, with Karl von Clemm in charge. This oil refinery would bypass the terms of the Versailles Convention and supply Goring’s so-called Black Luftwaffe, which was secretly being prepared for world conquest.
In order to secure the oil for the refinery, the von Clemm brothers had to find an American who would aid and abet them. The choice was easy. From 1926 to 1932, Werner von Clemm had financially sustained a largely unsuccessful oil prospector and confidence trickster named William Rhodes Davis.
Davis was on the face of it unprepossessing. He was short, not much over five feet, with a solid-gold left front molar and a badly bowed left leg that contained a silver plate put there after he was injured in a train wreck in 1918. His head was too large for his body, and his face sported a broken nose. Yet despite his lack of good looks he had the one indispensable quality needed for success. He had the gift of gab. He was capable of talking anyone into the ground. He spoke in superlatives. He never took no for an answer, and he would shaft anyone when the chips were down.
Davis was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1889. Poorly educated, he left school at sixteen and jumped a freight car. A kindly porter gave him a job as candy butcher, selling chocolate and ice cream from a tray. Railroad crazy, he graduated to brakeman, fireman, and engineer in the Southwestern states until the collision put him out of commission. Emerging from the hospital with a gimpy leg, he used his plight to his own advantage by working as a comedian on the Keith vaudeville circuit, making audiences laugh as he wiggled his distorted member in a dance. When his popularity ran out, he shipped off on tramp steamers as stoker, fireman, and engineer.
Back in the United States, he dabbled in the oil business but consistently went broke. He was under frequent investigation for a variety of swindles. People were fascinated, even hypnotized, by him; but disillusionment would always set in, followed by the inevitable lawsuit. He sold dry wells, manipulated stocks, and set up and collapsed small companies, carrying the shareholders with him.
In 1926 he was penniless. The von Clemm twins stepped into the picture in 1933. Their support of him saved him from ruin and imprisonment. As a result of this he became deeply committed to Nazism. He was fascinated by the opulence of a Germany heavily financed by American bank loans, the handsome, healthy men in black uniforms, the pretty blond women. It all seemed a far cry from the bread lines and pinched faces of America in the Depression.
After the deal with the German government over Eurotank, Davis saw the way to make his fortune at last. He owned a few wells through the von Clemms’ good graces. With German money he could certainly start pumping.
He traveled to Berlin in 1933. He had to have the personal approval of Hitler before he could go ahead. He arrived at the Adlon Hotel, where Karl von Clemm arranged a reception for him to meet Hermann Schmitz of Farben, Kurt von Schroder, and other German members of The Fraternity. He was welcome at once when he gave the group the Nazi salute as he entered the room.
Next morning, two Gestapo officers delegated by Himmler arrived at the door of his suite. They carried with them a letter from the Fuhrer. The former brakeman and candy butcher was overwhelmed. He could not believe he had received so signal an honor. The letter asked him to meet with Finance Minister Hjalmar Schacht at the Reichsbank. When he arrived, Schacht seemed cold and uninterested and brushed the whole matter aside. Schacht already had deals going with Walter Teagle and Sir Henri Deterding of Shell. What did he want with this small fry?
Furious, Davis returned to the Adlon empty-handed. He wrote to Hitler, insisting upon better treatment. Hitler replied immediately in person, asking him to return to the Reichsbank the following morning for another meeting.
Davis arrived in the boardroom at 11 A.M. As FBI records show, Schacht smiled faintly in a corner, obviously in no mood to talk. But a door flew open and thirty directors of the bank appeared, to greet Davis with warm handshakes. Hitler strode in. Everyone jumped to attention and gave the Nazi salute. Hitler said, “Gentlemen, I have reviewed Mr. Davis’s proposition and it sounds feasible. I want the bank to finance it.” Then he walked out.
It was clear to Davis that the directors of I.G. Farben, along with Kurt von Schroder, had exercised influence over the Fuhrer.
Davis traveled to England, where he resumed an earlier business relationship with Lord Inverforth’s oil company. He obtained major concessions in Ireland and Mexico. He traded Mexican oil for German machinery when it proved impossible to export marks. Eurotank was built. By 1935, Davis was shipping thousands of barrels of oil a week from his wells in Texas and eastern Mexico.
Davis knew Senator Joseph F. Guffey of Pennsylvania, whose friend Pittsburgh oilman Walter A. Jones had major contacts in Washington. Through Guffey and Jones, Davis met with John L. Lewis, the labor leader of the CIO. Davis worked hard on Lewis, convincing him that national socialism was preferable to democracy and that the German worker far exceeded in health, good humor and muscular prowess the American equivalent. In 1936, Davis tried to influence Roosevelt by pouring money into the election campaign. From then on he was always able to telephone the Oval Office.
In 1937 he saw a major opportunity in Mexico. He was convinced President Lazaro Cardenas would nationalize the oil fields. He foresaw a way to corner all the oil in Mexico. In February 1938 he started bribing high-ranking officials in the Mexican government. He made a close friend of Nazi Vice-Consul Gerard Meier in Cuernavaca, who was allegedly encouraging Cardenas to invade and repossess California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Davis obtained the Mexican government’s cooperation. He was promised all the oil in Mexico when Cardenas expropriated it on March 18, 1938. Cardenas kept his promise. On April 18, John L. Lewis telephoned Cardenas’s right-hand man Alejandro Carrillo. Lewis told Carrillo that Davis would be making a deal with Germany and Italy immediately and that these two countries were the only two with which it would be safe for Mexico to deal.
Why did America’s most famous labor leader support the arming of the Nazi war machine? Because Lewis had major territorial ambitions himself. He dreamed of a Pan-American federation of labor of which he would be the unchallenged leader. Through Davis, and through Cardenas, he would be able to consolidate the unions north and south of the border. In this he had the total collusion of Vincente Lombardo Toledano, head of the Mexican labor force.
By June 1938, Davis’s first tanker was steaming to Germany with thousands of tons of Mexican oil. But by 1939 he was already running into trouble. On May 31 his chief geologist, Nazi Otto Probst, was found murdered in his hotel room in Mexico City. Probst had been strangled by a clothesline that was tied to the head of his bed.
The German Embassy intervened and prevented an autopsy. FBI investigators determined Probst had been poisoned. It turned out he had bribed government officials and stimulated action against communists. It was almost certainly a communist killing.
Communist cells infiltrated Davis’s growing oil empire. He used strikebreakers to vanquish the opposition and shipped millions of barrels of oil until after World War II broke out in Europe.
Meanwhile, the von Clemm brothers profited enormously from his success. Goring gave them the German franchise in hops, putting them in virtual control of the beer business.
Along with Davis, they became multimillionaires.
The Telephone Plot
During the early days of 1942, Karl Lindemann, the Rockefeller-Standard Oil representative in Berlin, held a series of urgent meetings with two directors of the American International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation: Walter Schellenberg, head of the Gestapo’s counterintelligence service (SD), and Baron Kurt von Schroder of the BIS and the Stein Bank. The result of these meetings was that Gerhardt Westrick, the crippled boss of ITT in Nazi Germany, got aboard an ITT Focke-Wulf bomber and flew to Madrid for a meeting in March with Sosthenes Behn, American ITT chief.
In the sumptuous Royal Suite of Madrid’s Ritz Hotel, the tall, sharp-faced Behn and the heavily limping Westrick sat down for lunch to discuss how best they could improve ITT’s links with the Gestapo, and its improvement of the whole Nazi system of telephones, teleprinters, aircraft intercoms, submarine and ship phones, electric buoys, alarm systems, radio and radar parts, and fuses for artillery shells, as well as the Focke-Wulf bombers that were taking thousands of American lives.
Sosthenes Behn, whose first name was Greek for “life strength,” was born in St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, on January 30, 1882. His father was Danish and his mother French-Italian. He and his brother Hernand, later his partner, were schooled in Corsica and Paris.
In 1906, Behn and his brother took over a sugar business in Puerto Rico and snapped up a small and primitive local telephone company by closing in on a mortgage. Realizing the potential of the newfangled telephone, Behn began to buy up more companies in the Caribbean. He became a U.S. citizen in 1913. In World War I, Behn served in the Signal Corps as chief of staff for General George Russell. He learned a great deal about military communications systems, and his services to France earned him the Legion d’Honneur. Back in the United States, Behn became associated with AT&T, of which Winthrop Aldrich was later a director. In 1920, Behn’s work in the field of cables enabled him to set up the ITT with $6 million paid in capital. Gradually, he spun out a web of communications that ran worldwide. He soon became the telephone king of the world, making deals with AT&T and J. P. Morgan that resulted in his running the entire telephone system of Spain by 1923. His Spanish chairman was the Duke of Alba, later a major supporter of Franco and Hitler. In 1930 Behn obtained the Rumanian telephone industry, to which he later added the Hungarian, German, and Swedish corporations. By 1931 his empire was worth over $64 million despite the Wall Street crash. He became a director of-inevitably-the National City Bank, which financed him along with the Morgans.
Behn was aided by fascist governments, into which he rapidly interlocked his system by assuring politicians promising places on his boards. He ran his empire from 67 Broad Street, New York.
When Hitler invaded Poland, Behn and Schroder conferred with t: German alien property custodian, H-J Caesar. The result was that the ITT Polish companies were protected from seizure for the duration.
Another protector of Behn’s in Germany was ITT’s colorful corporation chairman, Gerhardt Westrick. Westrick was a skilled company lawyer, the German counterpart and associate of John Foster Dulles. Westrick’s partner until 1938, the equally brilliant Dr. Heinrich Albert, was head of Ford in Germany until 1945. Both were crucially important to The Fraternity.
At the beginning of 1940, Behn decided to have Westrick go to the United States to link up the corporate strands that would remain secure throughout World War II. German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop was equally concerned that Westrick undertake the mission. Westrick represented in Germany not only Ford but General Motors, Standard Oil, the Texas Company, Sterling Products, and the Davis | Oil Company.
On June 26, 1940, his Fraternity associates gave a party for Westrick at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to celebrate the Nazi victory in France. This was, of course, only appropriate. Fraternity guests at this scorpions’ feast included Dietrich, brother of Hermann Schmitz of General Aniline and Film; James D. Mooney of General Motors; Edsel Ford of the Ford Motor Company; William Weiss of Sterling Products; and Torkild Rieber of the Texas Company. These leaders of The Fraternity agreed to help in the free-trade agreements that would follow a negotiated peace with Germany.
Westrick leased a large house in Scarsdale, New York, from one of Rieber’s Texas Company lawyers. He was seen entering and leaving the house in the company of prominent figures of the Nazi government and American industry. The New York Daily News sent reporter George Dickson to investigate the meaning of a big white placard with a large G on it in a window of a front second-floor bedroom. The press generally was suggesting this formed some kind of code for use by Nazi agents. Dickson wrote in his column: ”Phantom-like men in white have been responding by day and night to mysterious signaling from a secluded Westchester mansion-now disclosed as the secret quarters of Dr. Gerhardt A. Westrick-invariably they carry carefully wrapped packages . . . they salute with all the precision of Storm Troopers, deliver the packages, salute again- and silently depart . . . super-sleuthing finally solved the mystery just before last midnight.” Then Dickson delivered his death blow to the story: The G sign was an invitation to the Good Humor man to deliver his famous ice cream on a stick!
J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI determined that Westrick had illegally obtained his driver’s license by lying that he had no infirmities. The purpose was achieved: Walter Winchell, Drew Pearson, and other patriotic columnists blew up Westrick’s Nazi connections out of all proportion, and Westrick was asked by German Charge d’Affaires Hans Thomsen to return to Germany at once.
But before he was ordered home, Westrick had been extremely busy. He had gone to see Edsel and Henry Ford at Dearborn on July 11 at the Fords’ urgent invitation, conferring with the Grand Old Man and his son on the matter of restricting shipment of important Rolls-Royce motors to a beleaguered Britain that urgently needed them. He also visited with Will Clayton, Jesse Jones’s associate in the Department of Commerce, who went with Westrick to see Cordell Hull to plead for the protection of German-American trade agreements on behalf of his friends in the Texas cotton industry.
Clayton was the chairman of the U.S. Commercial Company, and he helped protect Fraternity interests during World War II. Others of Westrick’s circle included, interestingly enough, William Donovan, who became head of the OSS (precursor of the CIA) on its formation in 1942. Westrick also made significant contacts with good and true friends at Eastman Kodak and Underwood before returning home via Japan and Russia.
After Pearl Harbor, at meetings with Kurt von Schroder and Behn in Switzerland, Westrick nervously admitted he had run into a problem. Wilhelm Ohnesorge, the elderly minister in charge of post offices, who was one of the first fifty Nazi party members, was strongly opposed to ITT’s German companies continuing to function under New York management in time of war. Behn told Westrick to use Schroder and the protection of the Gestapo against Ohnesorge. In return, Behn guaranteed that ITT would substantially increase its payments to the Gestapo through the Circle of Friends.
A special board of trustees was set up by the German government to cooperate with Behn and his thirty thousand staff in Occupied Europe. Ohnesorge savagely fought these arrangements and tried to obtain the support of Himmler. However, Schroder had Himmler’s ear, and so, of course, did his close friend and associate Walter Schellenberg. Ohnesorge appealed directly to Hitler and condemned Westrick as an American sympathizer. However, Hitler realized the importance of ITT to the German economy and proved supportive of Behn.
The final arrangement was that the Nazi government would not acquire the shares of ITT but would confine itself to the administration of the shares. Westrick would be chairman of the managing directors.
Thus, an American corporation literally entered into partnership with the Nazi government in time of war.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt had asked Nelson Rockefeller to prepare a study of the communications systems of South America. On May 4, 1942, the President had sent a memorandum to Henry Wallace in his role as chairman of the Board of Economic Warfare, ordering him to insure disconnection of all enemy nationals in the radio, telephone, and telegraph fields. He had urged Wallace to eliminate all Axis control and influence in telecommunications in Latin America, acquire hemisphere interests of all Axis companies, insure loyalty in employees, and disrupt direct lines to the enemy. He had asked for a corporation to be set up to handle the financial aspects of the program with the assistance and advice of an advisory committee.
Wallace approached Secretary of Commerce Jesse H. Jones to make the necessary arrangements. Jones set up the U.S. Commercial Company to take charge of the matter. It was a characteristic choice. The company’s second-in-command was none other than Robert A. Gantt, vice-president of ITT itself. Gantt continued to receive salary from ITT while holding his position with the U.S. Commercial Company. The rest of the board was largely composed of directors of ITT or RCA (also a wartime partner in Nazi-American communications companies).
The Hemisphere Communications Committee sat with a mixed Treasury, State, Army, Navy, and U.S. Commercial Company board throughout World War II, doing little more than discussing possible actions against Axis-connected companies.
A pressing issue from Pearl Harbor on was the matter of ITT amalgamating the telephone companies of Mexico. One of these, Mexican Telephone and Telegraph, was owned by Behn outright. The other was owned by the Ericsson Company, of which Behn had a 35 percent share in Sweden. The Ericsson Company was partly owned by Nazi collaborator Axel Wenner-Gren and by Jacob Wallenberg, Swedish millionaire head of the ball bearings firm, which played both sides of the war.
In South America, Sosthenes Behn was in partnership (as well as rivalry) with an even more powerful organism: the giant Radio Corporation of America, which owned the NBC radio network. RCA was in partnership before and after Pearl Harbor with British Cable and Wireless; with Telefunken, the Nazi company; with Italcable, wholly owned by the Mussolini government; and with Vichy’s Compagnie Generale, in an organization known as the Transradio Consortium, with General Robert C. Davis, head of the New York Chapter of the American Red Cross, as its chairman. In turn, RCA, British Cable and Wireless, and the German and Italian companies had a share with ITT in TTP (Telegrafica y Telefonica del Plata), an Axis-controlled company providing telegraph and telephone service between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Nazis in Montevideo could telephone Buenos Aires through TTP without coming under the control of either the state-owned system in Uruguay or the ITT system in Argentina.
Messages, often dangerous to American security, were transmitted directly to Berlin and Rome by Transradio. Another shareholder was ITT’s German “rival,” Siemens, which linked cables and networks with Behn south of Panama.
The head of RCA during World War II was Colonel David Sarnoff, a stocky, square-set, determined man with a slow, subdued voice, who came from Russia as an immigrant at the turn of the century and began as a newspaper seller, messenger boy, and Marconi Wireless operator. He became world famous in 1912, at the age of twenty-one, as the young telegraph operator who first picked up word of the sinking of the Titanic: for seventy-two hours he conducted ships to the stricken vessel. He rose rapidly in the Marconi company, from inspector to commercial manager in 1917. He became general manager of RCA in 1922 at the age of thirty-one and president just before he was 40. Under his inspired organization NBC inaugurated network broadcasting and RCA and NBC became one of the most colossal of the American multinational corporations, pioneers in television and telecommunications.
After Pearl Harbor, Sarnoff cabled Roosevelt, “All of our facilities and personnel are ready and at your instant service. We await your command.” Sarnoff played a crucial role, as crucial as Behn’s, in the U.S. war effort, and, like Behn, he was given a colonelcy in the U.S. Signal Corps. He solved complex problems, dealt with a maze of difficult requirements by the twelve million members of the U.S. armed forces, and coordinated details related to the Normandy landings. He prepared the whole printed and electronic press-coverage of V-J day; in London in 1944, with headquarters at Claridge’s Hotel, he was Eisenhower’s inspired consultant and earned the Medal of Merit for his help in the occupation of Europe.
Opening in 1943 with a chorus of praise from various generals, the new RCA laboratories had proved to be indispensable in time of war.
But the public, which thought of Sarnoff as a pillar of patriotism, would have been astonished to learn of his partnership with the enemy through Transradio and TTP. The British public, beleaguered and bombed, would have been equally shocked to learn that British Cable and Wireless, 10 percent owned by the British government, and under virtual government control in wartime, was in fact also in partnership with the Germans and Italians through the same companies and proxies.
Simultaneously, the Transradio stations, according to State Department reports with the full knowledge of David Sarnoff, kept up a direct line to Berlin. The amount of intelligence passed along the lines can scarcely be calculated. The London office was in constant touch with New York throughout the war, sifting through reports from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile and sending company reports to the Italian and German interests.
In a remarkable example of the pot calling the kettle black, Nando Behn, the nephew of Sosthenes Behn, cabled his uncle from Buenos Aires to New York on June 29, 1942: “It is about time something is done down here to cut out the sole communication center in the Americas with Berlin. Our competitors, Transradio, have a direct radio circuit with Berlin and you can be pretty sure that every sailing from Buenos Aires is in Berlin before the ship is out of sight.”
General Robert C. Davis never seemed to question the fact that his Swedish fellow board members were proxies of an enemy government. Nor that secret documents, charts, and patents were being transferred with speed, accuracy, and secrecy, with the authorization of the Japanese Minister of Communications, to South America direct.
On the day Paris was liberated, August 25, 1944, Behn drove in a jeep down the Champs-Elysees in a new role: He was “special communications expert for the Army of Occupation.” His right-hand man, Kenneth Stockton, who had remained joint chairman with Westrick of the Nazi company throughout the war, was with him in the uniform of a three-star brigadier general. Behn made sure in Paris that his collaborating staff were not punished by Charles de Gaulle and the Free French. He was helped at high army levels to protect his friends.
When Germany fell, Stockton, with Behn, commandeered urgently needed trucks to travel into the Russian zone, remove machinery from ITT-owned works and aircraft plants-and move them into the American zone.
In 1945 a special Senate committee was set up on the subject of international communications. Completely unnoticed in the press, Burton K. Wheeler, “reformed” now that Germany had lost the war, became chairman. An immense dossier showing the extraordinary co-ownership with German and Japanese companies of RCA and ITT was actually published as an appendix to the hearings, but almost nobody took note of this formidable and fascinating half-million-word transcript. Least of all were its contents noted by the committee itself, which wasted the public’s money by simply discussing for days (with Fraternity figures like James V. Forrestal) the possibility, quickly ruled out, of centralizing American communications systems. There was not a mention from beginning to end of the discussions of the questionable activities of RCA and ITT chiefs. Yet, in a curious series of exchanges between Wheeler and Rear Admiral Joseph R. Redman, who had been in charge of Naval Communications during the early part of the war, the cat leaped out of the bag in no uncertain manner. Apparently under the impression that the hearings would never be published, Wheeler seriously sat and talked of some of the reasons that such events had taken place. He asked Redman the question, already knowing the answer, “To what extent has American ownership of communications manufacturing companies in foreign countries, such as Germany, Sweden, and Spain, been of advantage, if any, to this country?” Redman replied, “Of course, from an economic point of view, I am not qualified to say, but I would say this from possibly a technical or research point of view, you get a cross-exchange of information in the research laboratories.”
This amazing revelation by a high personage won the response from Wheeler, “And what about the disadvantages to us?” Redman replied blandly, “While you are working on things here that are developed for military reasons, there may be a certain amount of leakage back to foreign fields.”
Wheeler asked, “How could you keep a manufacturing plant in Germany or in Spain or in Sweden, even though controlled by Western Electric from exchanging information as to what they were doing?”
Redman replied, “Well, we have had to rely a great deal upon the integrity of our commercial activities. Of course, if a man is a crook, he is going to be a crook regardless of whether you set up restrictions or not.”
Wheeler said, “Let us suppose that you have a manufacturing company in Germany and also one here, and they are owned by the same company, aren’t they exchanging information with reference to patents and everything else? . . . Admiral Redman, you are not naive enough to believe, if a company has an establishment in Germany and another in America, they are not both working to improve their patents, are they?”
Redman admitted, ”No, sir.”
Warming to his theme, Wheeler said, “Consequently, if there are private companies that have factories over there and also here, they’re bound to exchange information. It seems to me this has been going on in all kinds of industry. And that would be true of the electronics industry, or any other manufacturing industry, and whether they have a medium for such exchange in the nature of cartels or something else, they exchange information. What check has the Navy made to find out whether or not information is exchanged in that manner?”
Redman said, ”We get a certain amount of information from captured equipment, captured documents, and things like that, and can find out if there is a leakage…. Of course we have depended somewhat on our foreign attaches to get us some information on these things…. I do not like here to get into a discussion of intelligence because I fear we might get ourselves into trouble.”
Wheeler said, “You might, but some of us don’t feel that way about it.”
“Perhaps not,” Redman replied.
Wheeler continued, “We might get into trouble in the Senate, but they cannot do anything about it. They cannot chop our heads off at the moment.”
Senator Homer Capehart added, “For at least six years.”
On February 16, 1946, Major General Harry C. Ingles, Chief Signal Officer of the U.S. Army, acting on behalf of President Truman, presented the Medal of Merit, the nation’s highest award to a civilian, to Behn at 67 Broad Street, New York. As he pinned the medal on Colonel Behn, Ingles said, “You are honored for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service to the United States.” A few years later Behn received millions of dollars in compensation for war damage to his German plants in 1944. Westrick had obtained an equivalent amount from the Nazi government.
The Car Connection (on a separate page)
The Fraternity Runs for Cover
The Nuremberg Trials successfully buried the truth of The Fraternity connections. Schacht, who was more privy to the financial connections than most German leaders, gave an extraordinary performance, mocking, hectoring, and pouring contempt upon his chief prosecutor-Biddle’s predecessor, Robert H. Jackson. Charged with engineering the war when he had only wanted to serve the neutralist policies of Fraternity associates, he was understandably acquitted. Had he chosen to do so, he could have stripped bare the details of the conspiracy, but only once in his entire cross-examination, when he admitted to complicity in the shipment to Berlin of the Austrian gold did he indicate any knowledge of such matters. Never in those days on the witness stand was he asked about the Bank for International Settlements or Thomas H. McKittrick. Not even in his memoirs was there an inkling of what he knew.
Conveniently for The Fraternity, Goring and Himmler committed suicide, carrying with them the secrets that Charles Bedaux, William Rhodes Davis, William Weiss of Sterling, and William S. Farish had carried to their graves. James V. Forrestal also ended his life by suicide. In 1949 he hanged himself from the window of the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he was suffering from advanced paranoid schizophrenia. Newspapers reported him screaming that the Jews and the communists were crawling on the floor of his room seeking to destroy him.
The rest of the conspirators lived out full life-spans.
Those who had opposed The Fraternity were not so fortunate. In | 1948 the House Un-American Activities Committee, in one of its l unbridled smear campaigns, named Morgenthau’s trusted associates Harry Dexter White and Lauchlin Currie as communist agents. Based on the uncorroborated testimony of one Elizabeth Bentley, a self-confessed Soviet spy who was turning state’s evidence, the Morgenthau Treasury administration was smeared in the eyes of the public. White and Currie, those deeply loyal enemies of fascism, those investigators of the Bank for International Settlements, of Standard, the Chase, the National City Bank, the Morgans, William Rhodes Davis, the Texas Company, ITT, RCA, SKF, GAF, Ford, and General Motors, were effectively destroyed by the hearings. Currie disappeared into Colombia, his U.S. citizenship canceled in 1956, and White died of a heart attack on August 16, 1948, aged fifty-six, after returning home from an investigative session. While the surviving Fraternity figures flourished again, helping to form the texture of postwar technology, those who had dared to expose them were finished. The Fraternity leaders who had died could sleep comfortably in their graves-their dark purpose accomplished.
Trading with the Enemy
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