The Hitler myth, which remains to this day, is that in 1933 Adolf Hitler was overwhelmingly elected by the German people, when it turns out that he was a bitter compromise by political enemies who distrusted each other and figured that Hitler would be a temporary thorn in their side. What German politicians did not realize was that one of Hitler’s messages- anti-Semitism- brought him money and support, even from Americans, Henry Ford among them. In fact the Reich Youth leader, Baldur von Schirach, had an American mother, and he explained (at the Nurnberg trials) that “he had become an anti-Semite at Seventeen after reading a book, called Eternal Jew, by Henry Ford.” (Shirer 149) Henry Ford, of course, was well known to many in America as a vicious anti-Semite. And, while many ignored that side of the man in favor of his manufacturing achievements, it is obvious that Hitler knew about Ford. In fact, as Antony C. Sutton claims: “Herr Hitler openly boasts of Mr. Ford’s support and praises Mr. Ford as a great individualist and a great anti-Semite. A photograph of Mr. Ford hangs in Her Hitler’s quarters…. (Sutton, Chapt 6)
There were many Americans who were entranced with the “positive” aims of Hitler not only to send money, but to support him even in America, with the “America First” committee, as well as an American Nazi Party, led by Fritz Kuhn. Even the hero, Charles Lindbergh, seemed pro-Hitler and an America Firster. In fact, the German military attaché in Washington “noted that ‘Lindbergh and the famous flyer Rickenbacker were advocating keeping America out of the war.” (Shirer 684) It was the early financing by German industrialists, most of whom were not merely angry at the terms of the 1919 Versailles Treaty, but saw their nation sink into severe Depression and high inflation, who backed Hitler from the very outset. “Some of the ‘influential industrial magnates’ were…Emil Kirdorf, the union-hating coal baron who presided over Treasury’….Fritz Thyssen, the head of the steel trust…Joining Thyssen was Albert Voegler, also a power in the United Steel Works….George von S industrialists and their firms, plus the major banks, were financing the Nazi party. Perhaps, of destruction for the concentration camps. In short, the firms who financed Hitler from the outset also were part of the Holocaust. “It was not until the end of 1942 that…Zyklon B, a prussic acid derivative made by I.G. Farben began to be used (in the camps) instead of diesel fumes….After the war officials of I.G. Farben protested that they were never informed about the use to which the little dark blue pellets` were put.” (Payne 468)
There were international corporations throughout the world who saw Hitler as a savior of an economic Germany, and they tended to look the other way when it came to his anti-Semitic and other hatreds. He was, in the eyes of many, the only possible savior of a bankrupt Germany. And that would mean doing business with a revitalized Germany once Hitler became Chancellor.
In the book “Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler” there are many examples of how supposedly Wall Streeters financed Hitler, including General Electric, I^T & T and I B M, among others. “As we probe into behind-the-scenes German interwar history and the story of Hitler and Nazism, we find both Owen D. Young and Gerard Swope of General Electric tied to the riser of Hitlerism and the suppression of German democracy.” (Suttonm, chapt 3) While this may have been the case early on, surely once the war broke out, most of these firms- especially American ones, broke off any financing. There were, as mentioned earlier, some political supporters acting on their own, and not for their companies.
However, it is important to put the book, and the society behind it (Studies in Reformed Theology- an extremely right-wing Christian association) into proper perspective. This group sees an interaction between Roosevelt’s New Deal, Russian Bolshevism and Hitler’s National Socialism as a trio of deadly “socialist” attacks on an unsuspecting world. In fact, the author calls the American industrialists “American corporate socialists, otherwise known as the Wall Street financial elite of the Eastern Liberal Establishment.” (Sutton preface)
Given that there was financial support from within and outside of Germany in the very early Thirties- fort reasons already described above, what is now significant is how some of those millions of Reichmarks were spent- as propaganda to “purify” Nazism as the overwhelming desire of the German people, and how it is to be considered a true revolution to reestablish Germany as a meaningful contributor to the world’s economy.
Hitler appointed a brilliant strategist, Joseph Goebbels to the unheard of position of Minister of Propaganda. “At the first Cabinet meeting, he (Goebbels) gave us a lecture on ther art and science of propaganda, of which the gist was this: ‘During the many years of party struggle, I have learnt how to influence the masses so that they will follow us without question. Whatever decisions we took during those years, we prepared the ground by the incessant repetition of suitable slogans, until the party members believed every word of them. ” (von Papen 289) In much the same means, Goebbels used propaganda daily, and incessantly to, as he explained it, “convince the entire German nation of the necessity for the Government’s economic and political measures.” (von Papen 290)
Perhaps the must successful and, in its own way, creative, propaganda project turned out- some say ever- was a film by Leni Riefenstahl, entitled “Triumph of the Will”. This documentary featured tens of thousands of young Germans in Nurnberg, at a party rally. There are glamour shots of Hitler in an open convertible, driving along a broad avenue, filled with outstretched arms in that Hitler Salute. There are scenes with a sea of massed humanity, as far as the eye could see. The purpose, of course, was to show the world the enthusiasm of the Germans, especially the young, for their new Fuehrer.
As Hitler’s efforts seemed to bring about a turn-around in the fortunes of Germany, the Rhineland, the Saar, Austria, then the Sudetenland, and finally Alsace-Lorraine- the German industrialists put their money where their own bottom line profits would lie: to Hitler and the Nazi party. Most of these industrialists regretted their investments only after Germany was defeated and many of them were put on trial as conspirators in the Holocaust and crimes against humanity. Who knows who would have become the IBM and GM of Germany, if Germany had won the war!
However, it must be noted that what started out as merely an economic assistance (except for people like Henry Ford who saw an ally in their anti-Semitic crusade) turned into years of horror, the deaths of millions, all because of the initial investments made by naïve speculators who did not see, or understand, the “real” Hitler or the National Socialist Party.
Payne, Robert: The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (1973) New York: Praeger Publishers
Shirer, William: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960) New York: Simon & Schuster
Sutton, Antony C.: Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler Studies in Reformed Theology
Von Papen, Franz: Memoirs (1953) New York: E.P.Dutton Co,