17. When Russell Brand Got Kicked Out of an Awards Ceremony for Cracking Jokes About This Fashion Brand’s Nazi Ties
In 2013, British comedian Russell Brand was kicked out of a GQ Magazine’s Men of the Year Awards black-tie affair: he cracked jokes about the event’s sponsor, Hugo Boss, and its Nazi ties. As Brand put it: “If anyone knows a bit about history and fashion, you know it was Hugo Boss, who made uniforms for the Nazis. …But they looked [effing] fantastic, let’s face it, while they were killing people on the basis of their religion and sexuality“.
Unsurprisingly, Hugo Boss’ executives were not thrilled that all they got for the £250,000 spent to sponsor the event was another dose of bad publicity about their company’s past. Whether Russell Brand’s humor was in good taste or bad, he was not wrong about the fashion designer’s Nazi ties. Today, Hugo Boss is a global luxury fashion brand, famous for its flashy ties and classic suits, with about 1100 company-owned stores worldwide as of 2021. It would not have happened without a helping hand from history’s most evil regime.
There was a time when it seemed that no yuppie was cool unless his wardrobe contained Hugo Boss shirts, suits, socks, sunglasses, cologne, and man-thongs. Less cool was the history of the company’s founder, fashion designer Hugo Ferdinand Boss (1885 – 1948). He was an enthusiastic Nazi who devoted his talents to making Hitler’s evil goons look as snazzy as possible. He established a textile factory as a family-run business in 1923, and one of his early big contracts was to supply uniforms to the Nazi party’s SA storm troopers, or Brown Shirts.
He eventually joined the party, and when the Nazis took power in 1933 Boss, as an active party member and enthusiastic supporter, was on the inside track when the new regime awarded clothing contracts. Before long, Hugo Boss’ production orders expanded from Brown Shirts’ uniforms to include the SS’ black outfits, and the black-and-brown uniforms of the Hitler Youth. Production continued and expanded during WWII. By then, Hugo Boss had contracts to outfit the SS, SA, Hitler Youth, German rail workers, postal employees, as well as the German army, navy, and air force.
15. Beautiful Outfits, Manufactured in Horrifically Evil Conditions
As WWII raged, Hugo Boss used hundreds of slave workers, mostly from Poland and France, to meet the increased wartime production demands. The slave laborers’ working conditions were dreadful. They were insufficiently fed, received inadequate medical care, and lived in unsanitary barracks infested with lice and fleas. During air raids, they were not allowed into shelters but had to remain in the factory. Those who attempted to flee were sent to even more dreadful places if captured, such as Auschwitz.
In the post-war de-Nazification, Hugo Ferdinand Boss was heavily fined, stripped of his voting rights, and prohibited from running a business. He appealed and managed to reduce the penalties, but the business ban was not lifted. So he was forced to transfer ownership and management of the company to his son-in-law. Ever since, Hugo Boss has, understandably, not been keen to celebrate its founder or discuss its prewar history. In 1999, the company finally agreed to contribute to a fund to compensate its former slave workers.
14. There Was a Time When Exxon Did Not Think It Was Evil to Brag About Melting Glaciers
If you go through advertisements from back in the day, you will often come across ads that prior generations saw as totally innocuous and non-controversial. Reading those ads in the present and knowing what we know now, it becomes clear that they did not age well. Due to social, political, or technological advances and changes, things that seemed like a good idea and that were perfectly acceptable in one era, can be seen today as silly, ridiculous, or outright evil and offensive.
Take for example a 1962 ad by Humble Oil & Refining Company – which eventually rebranded as Exxon – for its Enco brand gasoline. Today, global warming is taken seriously by most people and the overwhelming majority of scientists, both in America and around the world. It was not always so. In the 1960s, Humble Oil – contra its name – bragged about its size and technical efficiency by boasting that it could melt millions of tons of glaciers every single day of the year.
13. When it was Cool to Boast About the Ability to Melt Millions of Tons of Glaciers a Day
As Humble Oil’s 1962 glaciers ad put it: “EACH DAY HUMBLE SUPPLIES ENOUGH ENERGY TO MELT 7 MILLION TONS OF GLACIER! This giant glacier has remained unmelted for centuries. Yet, the petroleum energy Humble supplies — if converted into heat — could melt it at the rate of 80 tons each second! To meet the nation’s growing needs for energy, Humble has supplied science to nature’s resources to become America’s Leading Energy Company. Working wonders with oil through research, Humble provides energy in many forms — to help heat our homes, power our transportation, and to furnish industry with a great variety of versatile chemicals. Stop at a Humble station for new Enco Extra gasoline, and see why the “Happy Motoring” Sign is the World’s First Choice!”
Humble Oil’s non humble boast that it produced enough energy to melt seven million tons of glaciers every day aged badly. A few decades later on down the road, scientists sounded the alarm about the dangers of global warming – a growing menace caused in large part by fossil fuels such as those produced by Humble Oil. Back in 1962, the ad’s copywriters thought they had come up with a clever idea, and were blissfully unaware of that what the future would bring. They certainly had not anticipated that melting glaciers would become major symbols of the risks of global warming, and that to brag about doing so would come across as cartoonishly evil.
12. When the Associated Press Self-Censored to Appease the Nazis
In May 1846, five New York City newspapers pooled their resources to share the costs of covering the Mexican-American War. The resultant cooperative, the Associated Press (AP), proved a success, and grew over the years as other media outlets joined. Today, AP is owned by its member newspapers and TV and radio stations, who contribute stories to its pool and use material written by its staff journalists. AP has generally been a paragon of good journalism and earned 54 Pulitzer Prizes since the award was established in 1917. However, a significant deviation from good journalism occurred during the Third Reich years, when AP collaborated with Nazi authorities to facilitate its work in Germany.
When Hitler & Co. took power in 1933, they pressured international news organizations to conform to Nazi standards. One such standard was the Editor’s Law, enacted by the new regime to limit what newspapers could publish. It also restricted the profession of journalism to Aryans, and mandated that Jews be removed from newsrooms. Foreign journalists in Germany thus had to collect and transmit news from a country whose government wanted nothing to do with independent and objective journalism. Most international news organizations refused to comply with such conditions, and withdrew from Germany rather than sacrifice their journalistic integrity and common decency. AP was not among them.
11. In a Radical Departure From its Usual Journalistic Integrity, AP Fired its Jewish Staff to Appease Hitler’s Government
The Associated Press accepted the conditions imposed by the Third Reich to operate in Germany. To placate the authorities, it fired all of its local Jewish staff. It also self-censored and adjusted its reports in order to keep the Nazis sweet. For example, it downplayed the daily discrimination endured by Jews, refused to publish images that depicted such discrimination. It worked. By 1935, most contemporary international news organizations, such as Wide World Photos and Keystone, had been kicked out of Germany by the Nazis. AP was one of the few still allowed to operate in the country.
After America joined the war in 1941, AP’s Berlin office was closed, and its American staffers were arrested and interned, before they were swapped in a prisoner exchange. However, in order to continue to obtain photographs from Nazi-occupied Europe, AP made arrangements with news agencies in neutral countries to receive photos for the Third Reich. In exchange, they furnished the Germans with AP photos. The AP images provided to Germany appeared in evil Nazi propaganda, some were altered, and nearly all their captions were changed to conform to the official Nazi viewpoint.
10. Europe’s Biggest Industrial Giant Once Used Hundreds of Thousands of Slave Workers
Siemens AG is Europe’s biggest industrial manufacturer. It employs about 375,000 people worldwide, and in 2019, the last year before the Covid-19 pandemic threw the global economy for a loop, it generated more than USD $105 billion in revenues. Its factories churn out a wide range of products in the fields of electronics, electrical engineering, energy, medical goods, drives, fire safety, and industrial plant materials. In the Nazi era, it was Germany’s biggest industrial conglomerate, and was not above evil practices like the use of slave laborers by the hundreds of thousands.
Siemens, founded in 1847, hit a rough patch after World War I, and things did not get any better during the Great Depression that arrived a decade later. The company was saved by the Nazis. When Hitler & Co. took control of Germany in 1933, Siemens profited as the new regime began to rearm, and the company experienced massive growth from armaments contracts. As the leader of Germany’s electrical industry, Siemens’ revenue increased continuously from 1934 onwards and reached a peak during WWII.
9. Siemens Saw Nothing Evil in Participating in the Nazis’ “Death Through Work” Program
As the Third Reich steadily geared up for war and a rematch to settle German grievances about the results of WWI, demands for weapons, ammunition, and all kinds of war material increased. There was a hitch, however: as German workers were taken from factories and drafted into the military, a labor shortfall began to grow steadily. So German manufacturers like Siemens turned to slave workers. The first pool of forced labor were the native political prisoners in the country’s concentration camps.
The pool of potential slave workers mushroomed when stunning victories and conquests in WWII’s early years brought tens of millions of foreigners under German thumbs. From 1940 onwards, Siemens relied heavily on slave labor from occupied countries, prisoners of war, Jews, Gypsies, and concentration camp inmates. The company saw nothing evil in that. Indeed, Siemens was a chief participant in the Nazis’ “death through work” program, which squeezed labor out of those marked for elimination before they perished. It ran factories inside concentration camps such as Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Ravensbruck, Flossenburg, Sachsenhausen, and others.
8. Siemens Did Great Under the Nazis and Profited Greatly from the Holocaust
Siemens’ general director, Rudolf Bingel, was a personal friend of Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler, and used his connections to ensure that his company did well. Siemens’ evil practices included the exploitation of the Holocaust for profit via the “Aryanization Program”. The program expropriated Jewish businesses and properties, then resold them at bargain-basement prices to approved companies such as Siemens. As to Siemens’ slave workers, they toiled in horrific conditions. For example, the company used female slave workers at Ravensbruck to make electrical components for V-1 and V-2 rockets. They were subjected to all types of exploitation, with the ever-present threat of death if they balked.
Siemens’ construction operations also used female slave workers, and yoked them in teams like draft animals to pull giant rollers to pave the streets. After the war, the company did its best to forget that history, but reminders cropped up from time to time. In 2001, in a jaw-dropping display of obliviousness, Bosch Siemen Hausgeraete, the company’s consumer products arm, filed applications with the US Patents & Trademark Office for the name Zyklon. The same as in Zyklon B, the toxic chemical used in the Holocaust’s gas chambers. The company wanted to use the Zyklon name in a range of household products, including gas ovens. After a public outcry, Siemens withdrew the trademark applications.
7. The Officials Who Failed to Test a Defective Weapon, Then Blamed Servicemen for its Failures
The next evil act was not done by a private company, but by officials of a government bureaucracy. They first screwed up when they failed to adequately test a vital weapon enough to make sure it worked as advertised before it was issued to the uniformed end users. When war broke out and the weapon was put to use, reports poured in about serious defects. The bureaucrats ignored or downplayed them. They even blamed the weapon’s failures on human error, rather than on the obvious defects they would have detected if they had tested like they should have done in the first place.
The weapon in question was the Mark 14 Torpedo, used by American submarines when the country joined WWII in 1941. Designed in 1931, it differed from earlier torpedoes that detonated on impact with a target’s hull. Instead, the Mark 14 used an innovative magnetic detonator that was supposed to set off the torpedo’s explosive charge directly beneath the enemy ship’s keel – an explosion that would break the ship’s back. It meant that just one Mark 14 could sink any targeted ship, regardless of its size. That was a vast improvement over earlier torpedoes, which usually required multiple torpedo hits to hole an enemy’s hull in various spots to sink it.
The Mark 14 Torpedo’s magnetic detonator was a potentially revolutionary weapon. However, secrecy and frugality led the US Navy to test only two detonators on live torpedo runs. One of them failed to detonate, and the torpedo continued on harmlessly beneath the target ship. Despite a 50% failure rate, the Navy went ahead and approved the weapon for general use. The Mark 14 was put into mass production, and issued to the US submarine fleet as its standard weapon in 1938. That was negligence. What took it from that to sheer evil was how the bureaucrats responded when the consequences of their negligence cropped up.
The torpedo’s flaws became apparent within the first weeks of hostilities. Submarine commanders correctly reported that the Mark 14 often failed to maintain accurate depth to pass within the correct distance beneath an enemy ship’s keel before detonation. The USS Sargo, for example, fired eight Mark 14s at two enemy ships on December 24, 1941, but not a single one went off. Its commander tried his luck with two more ships that hove into view, but again, the torpedoes failed to explode. A few days later, he discovered the torpedoes ran too deep. When the problem persisted with yet another target, the Sargo’s exasperated skipper broke radio silence to question the Mark 14’s reliability. Other submarine skippers voiced similar complaints.
5. Not Only Did The Mark 14 Fail to Destroy Enemy Ships, it Often Destroyed the Submarines that Fired Them
If accurate depth was achieved, the Mark 14’s magnetic detonator still often exploded prematurely or failed to explode at all. The backup detonator – the contact detonator that was supposed to set off the explosive when the torpedo struck a target’s hull – also frequently failed. Even if a Mark 14 struck an enemy’s hull at a perfect angle, with a loud clang that was clearly audible in the firing submarine. Worst of all, the Mark 14 had a tendency to boomerang: it could miss its target, then run in a wide circle, and return to strike the firing submarine.
At least one submarine, the USS Tullibee, was known to have been sunk by its own Mark 14 Torpedo in that manner. The problem persisted in the new and improved Mark 18, which did a circular run and sank the USS Tang, the most successful submarine in the history of the US Navy. At least a few of the dozens of submarines that simply vanished in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean are suspected to have been sunk by their Mark 14 Torpedoes. Especially those that disappeared in areas where there was no active armed enemy presence, and where Japanese archives seized after the war did not report submarine sinkings.
4. In One of the Most Evil Acts in the History of American Military Procurement, the US Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance Ignored the Mark 14’s Flaws for Years
The US Navy ignored a detailed report detailing the Mark 14 Torpedo’s flaws, as well as reports from numerous submarine commanders complaining about the weapon. In one incident, a submarine commander fired a dozen torpedoes at a large Japanese whaler, but only managed to cripple it. Then, with the enemy ship dead in the water, he maneuvered his submarine and carefully positioned it so that his torpedoes would have a perfect angle of impact. He fired off nine more Mark 14s, all of which hit, but not a single one detonated.
Despite a flood of such reports, it took the US Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance two years to even acknowledge the possibility that a problem might exist. Then, grudgingly, it conducted tests to find out what, if anything, was wrong. The tests verified what American submariners had complained about for the past two years. Corrective measures and remedial steps to address the Mark 14’s many problems were finally begun – two years later than should have been the case. One could only imagine the congressional hearings if something like that happened today.
Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford (1863 – 1947) was a complex man. Not always the good kind of complex, though: downright evil, as a matter of fact, when it came 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 strong anti-Semitic views. So anti-Semitic that Hitler praised him in Mein Kampf, and awarded him one of Nazi Germany’s highest decorations. It is thus perhaps unsurprising that his company collaborated with the Third Reich during WWII.
Ford probably had no problem with Jews as individuals or at least no problem with some Jews as individuals. However, he had serious issues when it came to Jews collectively: he believed that Jews were in a conspiracy to take over the world. To warn against that perceived menace, 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.
2. Only His Death Saved Ford’s Son Edsel from Criminal Prosecution for Trading With the Nazis
Given Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic track record, it is unsurprising that Adolf Hitler admired him greatly. The evil Nazi leader lauded the American industrialist in Mein Kampf, referred to him as “my inspiration”, and kept a photo of him 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 bestowed upon foreigners. Ford reciprocated the admiration and had no problem doing business with Nazi Germany. When WWII began in 1939, he professed himself neutral, but his and his company’s actions belied that claim.
For example, before America joined the war, Ford had no problem supplying then-neutral Germany with war materials but declined to supply the equally neutral Britain with aircraft engines. In the early 2000s, evidence was unearthed from newly declassified government documents that demonstrated the Nazi links with Ford Motor Company went well beyond its founder. Among other things, the 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’s then-president, Edsel, could have been prosecuted for trading with the Nazi enemy had he not died in 1943.
1. Plumbing the Depths of Evil, Ford’s German Branch Used Slave Labor to Manufacture War Materiel For the Nazis
Declassified letters between Edsel Ford and the head of Ford’s French subsidiary in 1942 indicate that Ford knew and approved of the subsidiary’s manufacturing efforts on behalf of the German military. That took place after America had joined the war, and Germany had become an enemy. 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 to meet the demands of the German war effort.
That occurred 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“, with the parent company’s knowledge and consent.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading