These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil

Khalid Elhassan - June 7, 2021

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
A Siemens truck being used as a Nazi public address vehicle in a 1932 election campaign. Bundesarchiv Bild

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.

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
Slave workers in a Siemens factory within Auschwitz concentration camp. Wikimedia

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.

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
Contemporary sketch of female Siemens slave workers yoked to pull a giant roller. Holocaust Online

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.

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
Mark 14 Torpedo. YouTube

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.

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
The magnetic exploder used in Mark 14 torpedoes failing to explode beneath a target ship in a 1926 test. Naval History and Heritage Command

6. Torpedoes That Ran Too Deep

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.

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
The USS Tang in 1944, returning to Pearl Harbor after her second patrol. National Medal of Honor Museum

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.

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
US Navy Bureau of Ordnance personnel inspecting a Mark 14 Torpedo in 1943. Imgur

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.

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
Hitler had kind things to say about Henry Ford in Mein Kampf. Times of Israel

3. Hitler’s Favorite American

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.

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
Henry Ford on the cover of the January 14th, 1935, issue of Time Magazine. Worth Point

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.

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
Henry Ford, left, and his son Edsel. Ford Corporate

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.

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
Henry Ford receiving the Grand Cross of the German Eagle in 1938. History Channel

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.

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
Ford factory in Cologne, Germany. Panzerserra

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.

These Corporations Committed the Ultimate Evil
A Ford V3000 used by the evil SS Das Reich Division. Panzerserra

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

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

Atlantic, The, December 2nd, 2014 – Bhopal: the World’s Worst Industrial Disaster, 30 Years Later

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

BBC – Siemens Retreats Over Nazi Name

Encyclopedia Britannica – Volkswagen Group

History Collection – Manmade Disasters

History Collection – 20 Nazi-Inspired Inventions

History Extra, November 1st, 2013 – Where the Pulverized Bones of Soldiers and Horses Who Died at the Battle of Waterloo Sold as Soil Fertilizer?

Holocaust Online – Siemens

Jalopnik – The Real Story Behind the Nazis and Volkswagen

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

New York Times, December 11th, 1984 – Indian Journalist Offered Warning

History Collection – 10 Secret Nazi Technologies and Innovations that Changed Warfare Forever

PBS, American Experience – Ford’s Anti-Semitism

Snopes – Did a 1960s Oil Company Ad Boast How Much Glacier It Could Melt?

Snopes – Fanta and the Nazis

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

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

Wikipedia – Bhopal Disaster

Wikipedia – Mark 14 Torpedo

History Collection – Business Pioneers that Had Quite the Disturbing Background

History Collection – 20 Historical Figures Who Changed The World, and Also Committed Monstrous Deeds