10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany

Khalid Elhassan - July 16, 2018

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Hitler and IBM founder Thomas Watson. Elias Washington Report

IBM Put Its Technology at the Nazis’ Disposal, Facilitating the Holocaust

In 2001, a bombshell of a book by Edwin Black, IBM and the Holocaust, drew on over 20,000 documents unearthed from archives in numerous countries, to describe a twelve year old alliance between IBM and the Third Reich. While numerous American companies had done business in Germany, even after Hitler and his Nazi crowd took over, they cut their business once the war broke out. Not so IBM, which continued doing business with the Third Reich, putting its cutting edge technology to facilitate the administrative aspects of carrying out the Holocaust.

The Final Solution – exterminating Europe’s Jews – was, in addition to being monstrously horrific, also monstrously complex from an administrative perspective. It involved the management and cross referencing of huge databases of financial records, criminal files, and what interested the Nazis the most, Jews. In the Nazi era, the only way to do that was via a complicated punch card system, similar to that used in libraries until relatively recently.

IBM was the leader in punch card and data management technology, and in 1933, soon after Hitler and the Nazis took power, the company’s president travelled to Germany. He oversaw the building of an IBM factory, and the establishment of a local subsidiary that was hired by the Nazis to conduct a detailed census. That census focused on identifying Jews, Gypsies, and other undesirables marked for future extermination. IBM supplied a punch card system that allowed the Nazis to easily sort through the gathered data.

After WWII began in 1939, IBM’s president personally approved a request to supply Germany with specialized machines to help in the exploitation of the recently conquered Poland, and in the deportation of Polish Jews. The process was repeated for each country conquered by the Nazis, with IBM supplying the capabilities for easily identifying undesirables.

The US joined the war in 1941, but even that late, archival records reveal secret correspondence of IBM higher ups to set up a Dutch subsidiary, in lieu of the German one, through which the company could continue to supply the Nazis. By then, it was clear just how the Nazis were using IBM’s technology, but the company continued to supply them with the capabilities to easily identify Jews and other undesirables.

The company furnished the Germans with the means to keep track of millions of their targeted victims from their home and work addresses, through arrest, to transportation, to ultimate fate in the concentration or extermination camps. IBM’s role continued even within the death camps, for which it set up special codes such as Camp Code 001 for Auschwitz, and 002 was Buchenwald. Prisoner Code 8 was for Jews, and 11 was for Gypsies. Status Code 5 mean execution by order, and Status Code 6 was for death by gas chamber. The archives include punch cards developed for the statistician who reported to SS leader Heinrich Himmler, and Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer in charge of the Holocaust’s logistics. IBM has criticized the research underlying IBM and the Holocaust, but it has not denied the explosive charges contained in the book.

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Members of the IG Farben cartel. AHRP

Bayer Was a Member of a Conglomerate That Produced the Chemicals Used in the Holocaust

Bayer is a German pharmaceutical company historically best known as the makers of Aspirin, more recently for making wonder drugs such as Levitra, and to soccer fans, as the initial sponsors of Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen. It also owns household brands such as Claritin, Coppertone, and Dr. Scholl’s. For most of its history, Bayer was a run of the mill business – except for when it was part of IG Farben, the chemical conglomerate that produced the poisonous chemicals used in the Holocaust.

Bayer was founded in 1863 as an independent company, but in 1925, it became part of IG Farben – a union of major chemical companies, modeling themselves after Standard Oil in a quest to form a monopoly. The new conglomerate would go on to participate in numerous atrocities during the Nazi era. It began even before the war broke out, when the Western Powers handed Czechoslovakia to Hitler in a failed attempt at appeasement. IG Farben worked closely with the Nazis and Germany’s military, instructing them which chemical factories should be seized and delivered to IG Farben. They did the same during the invasion of Poland.

When the Holocaust began, German authorities grew concerned that their initial means of killing Jews and other “undesirables”, such as mass shootings or gassing in vans, were slow, inefficient, and took too much of a psychological toll on the murderers. IG Farben owned a cyanide-based insecticide, Zyklon-B, and proposed its use in sealed rooms as a speedy means of disposing of large numbers of people. Tests proved them right, and thus were born the gas chambers of the extermination camps. IG Farben would go on to produce and supply the Nazis with all the Zyklon-B gas canisters they needed to kill millions of men, women, and children.

And because that was not fiendish enough, the chemical conglomerate also set up factories in those death camps, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, where it made use of slave labor on a massive scale. IG Farben’s slave workers were forced to toil in horrific conditions, and were frequently starved, beaten, mistreated, with the ever present threat of murder hanging over their heads.

After the war, 24 IG Farben directors were indicted for war crimes, and 13 of them were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of varying lengths. However, all of them were released early, and most were restored to their directorships or resumed their business careers. Some of them even went on to win civilian medals from the West German government. The conglomerate itself survived the war, until it was split into its original constituent companies. Bayer returned to being an independent company in 1952. It is not the only surviving member of IG Farben: the chemical giant BASF, which posted sales of more than € 70 billion in 2015, was also once a part of the Nazi conglomerate.

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Associated Press logo. The Verge

The Associated Press Engaged in Self-Censorship and Fired its German Jewish Staff to Placate the Nazis

The Associated Press (AP) was formed in May of 1846 by five New York City newspapers, to pool their resources and share the costs of covering the Mexican-American War. The cooperative venture proved a success, and the AP grew and expanded over the years, as other media outlets joined. Today, the AP is owned by its member newspapers and TV and radio stations, who contribute stories to the AP pool and use material written by AP’s staff journalists. It has generally been a paragon of good journalism, earning 52 Pulitzer Prizes since the award was established in 1917. However, a significant deviation from good journalism occurred during the Hitler years, when the AP collaborated with Nazi authorities to facilitate its reporting from Germany.

When Hitler & Co. came to power in 1933, they began exerting pressure on international news organization operating in the Third Reich to conform to Nazi standards. One such standard was the Editor’s Law, enacted by the new regime to strictly limit what newspapers were allowed to publish. It also restricted the profession of journalism to Aryans, and mandated that Jews be removed from newsrooms.

Foreign journalists working in Germany thus found themselves being called upon to collect and send out news while being hosted by a government that wanted nothing to do with independent and objective journalism. Most international news organization refused to comply with such conditions, and withdrew from Germany rather than sacrifice their journalistic integrity and common decency.

The AP opted to stick around, and to placate the Nazi authorities, it fired all of its local Jewish staff. It also engaged in self censorship, and started adjusting its news reporting in order to keep the Nazis sweet. Among those adjustments was the downplaying of the daily discrimination endured by Jews in the Third Reich, and by the end of 1933, the AP was refusing to publish images depicting such discrimination. It worked. By 1935, most international news organizations of the day, such as Wide World Photos and Keystone, had been kicked out of Germany by the Nazi authorities, but the AP was one of the few still allowed to operate in the country.

After America joined the war in December of 1941, AP’s Berlin office was closed, and its American staffers were arrested and interned, before getting swapped in a prisoner exchange. However, in order to continue to obtain photographs from Nazi occupied Europe, the AP made arrangements with news agencies in neutral countries to receive photos for the Third Reich, in exchange for furnishing the Germans with AP photos. The AP images provided to Germany appeared in Nazi propaganda, some were altered, and nearly all their captions were changed to conform to the official Nazi viewpoint.

10 Famous Companies That Collaborated With Nazi Germany
Henry Ford receiving the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from German officials in 1938. Rare Historical Photos

In Addition to its Founder Being a Notorious Anti-Semite, Ford Collaborated With the Third Reich

Henry Ford (1863 – 1947), founder of Ford Motor Company, was a complex man – although not the good kind of complex – when it came to race, and particularly to Jews. On the one hand, for his era, he was relatively progressive in some racial aspects: Ford was one of the few major corporations that actively hired black workers, and did not discriminate against Jewish workers or suppliers. On the other hand, Henry Ford had strongly held anti-Semitic views – so anti-Semitic that Hitler praised him in Mein Kampf, and he was decorated by Nazi Germany. So it is unsurprising that his company collaborated with the Third Reich.

Henry Ford probably had no problem with Jews as individuals, or at least no problem with some Jews as individuals. However, he had some serious problems when it came to Jews in the aggregate, and was an out and out anti-Semite who believed that Jews were conspiring to take over the world. To that end, he purchased and published a weekly newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, that had a decidedly anti Jewish bent. Ford required all of his car dealers to stock his newspaper, and through that and other measures, got its circulation up to 900,000 by 1925, second only to The New York Times.

With that kind of outlook and anti-Semitic track record, it is unsurprising that Adolf Hitler was a great admirer of Henry Ford. The Nazi leader lauded the American industrialist in Mein Kampf, referred to him as “my inspiration”, and kept a photo of him in on his desk. In 1938, on Ford’s 75th birthday, he was awarded The Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest medal that Nazi Germany could bestow on a foreigner.

Henry Ford had no problem whatsoever doing business with Nazi Germany. When the war began in 1939, Ford professed himself neutral, but his and his company’s actions belie that claim. Before America joined the war, Ford had no problem supplying Germany with war materials, but declined to supply the British RAF with aircraft engines.

In the early 2000s, evidence was unearthed from newly declassified government governments, which showed that the Nazi links with Ford Motor Company went well beyond its founder. Among other things, declassified intelligence documents indicate that Henry Ford’s secretary, Ernest Liebold, might have been a Nazi agent who helped fuel his boss’ paranoia about Jews. Indeed, the documents indicate that Ford’s own son and the company then-president, Edsel, could have been prosecuted for trading with the Nazi enemy had he not died in 1943.

Letters between Edsel Ford and the head of Ford’s French subsidiary in 1942 – after America had joined the war – indicate that Ford knew and approved of the subsidiary’s manufacturing efforts on behalf of the German military. The declassified documents reveal that the US Department of Justice concluded that there was a basis for a criminal case against Edsel Ford.

In addition, Ford’s plants in Germany used slave workers in order to meet the demands of the German war effort. Not only after America joined the war and the plants were seized, but also during the interval between the war’s outbreak in September of 1939, and America’s entry into the conflict in December of 1941. During that period, Ford still controlled its German subsidiary, and knew what was going on in its factories. When the US Army liberated Ford’s plants in Nazi Germany, they found emaciated slave laborers behind barbed wires. A US Army investigator’s report, dated September 5th, 1945, accused Ford’s German subsidiary of serving as “an arsenal of Nazism, at least for military vehicles“, with the parent company’s knowledge and consent.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources & Further Reading

All that is Interesting – 7 Brands With Nazi Ties That We All Use

Associated Press – Covering Tyranny, the Associated Press and Nazi Germany: 1933 – 1945

BBC – Hugo Boss Apology For Nazi Past as Book is Published

BBC – Siemens Retreats Over Nazi Name

Black, Edwin – IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation (2001)

Holocaust Online – Siemens

Huffington Post, February 27th, 2012 – IBM’s Role in the Holocaust: What the New Documents Reveal

Jalopnik – The Real Story Behind the Nazis and Volkswagen

Nation, The, March 8th, 2001 – Kodak’s Nazi Connections

New York Post, March 7th, 2016 – BMW Admits ‘Regret’ Over Using Nazi Slave Labor During WWII

New York Times, August 15th, 1997 – Hugo Boss Acknowledges Link to Nazi Regime

PBS, American Experience – Ford’s Anti-Semitism

Ranker – Companies Associated With Nazi Germany

Snopes – Fanta and the Nazis

Telegraph, The, November 3rd, 2003 – Ford ‘Used Slave Labour’ in Nazi German Plants

Telegraph, The, September 29th, 2011 – BMW Dynasty Breaks Silence Over Nazi Past

Washington Post, November 30th, 1998 – Ford and GM Scrutinized For Alleged Nazi Collaboration

Wikipedia – IBM and the Holocaust

Wikipedia – Volkswagen

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