Chapter XII THE WAR YEARS
We of the United Nations are not making all this sacrifice of human effort and human lives to return to the kind of world we had after the last World War.
We are fighting today for security, for progress, and for peace, not only for ourselves, but for all men, not only for one generation but for all generations. We are fighting to cleanse the world of ancient evils, ancient ills.
From a radio address by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, October 12, 1942
They [corporations] cannot commit treason, nor be outlawed nor excommunicated, for they have no souls.
Sir Edward Coke, 1613
I. Gold Internationale
In the early spring of 1940, a German emissary named Dr. Gerhardt Westrick arrived in the United States on a mission of the utmost importance. Officially, Dr. Westrick traveled as a Commercial Attache to the German Embassy in Washington. Unofficially, he was in America as a personal representative of the Nazi Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop. Westrick’s secret mission was to discuss certain confidential trade agreements with a number of leadincr American industrialists and financiers.
Westrick was well qualified for his assignment. For some years, he had been a familiar figure in international big business circles. As a partner in the prosperous German law firm of Albert & Westrick, which numbered among its clients such concerns as the colossal chemical trust, I. G. Farbenindustrie, Westrick had served as a counsel for the German subsidiaries of the Underwood Elliot-Fisher Company, Eastman Kodak Company, and other outstanding American firms. In addition Westrick was head of the Standard Elektrizitaets Gesellschaft, German subsidiary of the International Telephone and Telegraph Company.*
* An interesting sidelight to Dr. Westrick’s mission in the United States dnring World War II was the role that had been played by his law partner, Dr. Heinrich Albert, in America during World War I.
Prior to America’s entry into the Great War, Dr. Albert was the German Ccmmercial Attache in Washington. He was also the secret paymaster of a German espionage and sabotage ring then operating in America.
In 1919, following a Senate investigation of German wartime espionage-sabotage activities in the United States, Senator Knute Nelson characterized Dr. Albert as the “Machiavelli of the whole thing . . . the mildest mannered man that ever scuttled ship or cut throat.”
The sabotage ring financed by Dr. Albert carried out such operations as blowing up American ships, infecting American cattle with disease germs, setting fire to American war plants and docks, and stirring up anti-Allied sentiment throughout the country. Through Albert’s hands passed at least $40,000,000 to subsidize sabotage, sedition and conspiracy in the United States. In 191 7, Dr. Albert was finally forced to leave America and return to Germany.
During the 1920s and 1930s, as a member of the German General Staff and a representative of I. G. Farben, Dr. Albert helped train German “business agents” for espionage operations in the United States. He himself remained in Germany, running the law firm of Albert and Westrick with Dr. Gerhardt Westrick.
As of February 1945 Dr. Heinrich Albert still held, among other posts, that of Director of the Ford Motor Company, Cologne, Germany.
Though accredited with the U.S. State Department as a diplomatic official attached to the German Embassy, Dr. Westrick spent little time in Washington following his arrival in the United States. He established himself in a sumptuous suite at the Hotel WaldorfAstoria in New York City; made arrangements to receive his confidential mail at another New York hotel, where he was registered under an assumed name; and rented a secluded suburban estate at Scarsdale in Westchester County as a private headquarters for transacting the more vital business of his mission.
Handsome limousines driven by liveried chauffeurs were soon arriving at the Scarsdale estate. Among the first of Dr. Westrick’s various distinguished visitors were Captain Torkild Rieber, Chairman of the Board of the Texas Company, one of America’s largest oil concerns, and Philip D. Wagoner, President of the UnderwoodEllliott Fisher Company.
For his own convenience in traveling: to and from New York City, Westrick had at his disposal a car which belonged to Captain Torkild Rieber. In applying for his auto license, Westrick gave the Texas Company as his business address . . .
On August I, 1940, the New York Herald-Tribune featured a sensational front-page story headlined: “Hitler’s Agent Ensconsed in Westchester — Dr. Westrick Traced to Secluded Headquarters on Scarsdale Estate.” In this and two subsequent articles, the Herald Tribune revealed a number of Westrick’s mysterious, ex-officio activities in the United States.*
* The first stories exposing Dr. Gerhardt Westrick’s mission in the United States appeared on April 6 and April 20, 1940, in the newsletter, The Hour, of which this author was then managing editor.
Editorially, the Herald-Tribune commented:
It is desirable to know what those who have been dealing with him [Westrick] have been doing; it is even more desirable to get those who may have been dealing with him to stand up, to be counted and to explain themselves . . . The great danger to a democracy from its potential Petains and Lavals and Baudouins is that they exist in secret, pretending to support the majority until that critical moment when their sudden defection may paralyze the whole national will just when it is needed most.
Hurriedly returning to Nazi Germany after the Herald-Tribune expose. Dr. Westrick had at least the consolation of knowing that one of his distinguished American friends had come to his defense.
“I don’t believe he has done anything wrong,” John Foster Dulles told a Herald-Tribune reporter. “I knew him in the old days and have a high regard for his integrity.”
Some years later, when questioned by American occupation authorities in Germany at the end of World War II, Dr. Westrick disclosed these facts about his visit to the United States in 1940:
My most important connection with American business was with International Telephone and Telegraph Co., whose president was Col. Sosthenes Behn. Behn was also a director of Standard Elektrizitaets Gessellschaft, which was affiliated with International Telephone and Telegraph Co. . . .
Among those I saw in the United States were Torkild Rieber of the Texas Co., Eberhard Faber of the Faber Co., James Mooney of General Motors, and Edsel and Henry Ford . . .
I paid Mooney a visit and one day he came to visit me in the Waldorf-Astoria, and on his own initiative he told me that he and a group of other people had the intention of seeing the President and trying to convince the President that he should insist on normal political relations between the United States and Germany. This was after Germany had invaded France, Belgium and Norway.
In the critical period of 1939-1941, as Hitler made his open bid for world conquest, there were not a few big businessmen in the United States who, like Dr. Westrick’s American friends and associates, were eager to maintain “normal political relations” with Nazi Germany. Their viewpoint was reflected in a remarkable letter which Alfred P. Sloan, chairman of General Motors, wrote to a stockholder in the spring of 1939. Sloan’s letter read in part:
General Motors is an international organization. It operates in practically every country in the world . . . many years ago, General Motors— before the present regime in Germany— invested a large amount of money in Adam Opel A.G. It has been a very profitable investment, and I think outside of the political phase, its future potentiality from the standpoint of development and profit, is equal to, if not greater than many other investments which the Corporation has made. It enjoys about 50% of the business in Germany— a little less than that to be exact. It employs German workers and consumes German materials . . .
Having attained the position which we have, through evolution, hard work, and, I believe, intelligent management, of approaching 50% of one of the most important industries in Germany, I feel that we must conduct ourselves as a German organization, involving German capital . . .*
* The operations of the great auto manufacturing firm of Adam Opel A.G. were no less valuable to the German Government than they were to General Motors Company. Opel was producing the major portion of the mobile equipment for the Nazi Wehrmacht . .
“By the time the present war broke out,” Sims Carter, Assistant Chief of the Economic Warfare Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, told the Kilgore Committee in September 1944, “most of Germany’s leading industrial, commercial and banking firms had American connections. Even after hostilities had begun, key figures continued to arrive in the United States and other parts of the hemisphere from Germany.”
Most of the intimate, war-time dealings between American and German businessmen, however, were not transacted in the western hemisphere. A more convenient meeting place for their secret negotiations was the headquarters of the Bank of International Settlements at Basle, Switzerland.
On May 19, 1943, an article in the New York Times had this to say about the Bank at Basle:
Allied preparations for an invasion of the European continent make the Bank of International Settlements at Basle, Switzerland, look still more incongruous than it ever looked since the outbreak of the war in September, 1939. In the seclusion of a Swiss city, American, German, French, and Italian bankers, not to mention Swedish, Swiss and Netherland representatives, are still at work side by side and attend to common business . . .
Does it mean that, in this world of today, so hopelessly torn asunder, all belligerents are tacitly agreed to preserve a unique shelter for what was formerly called international finance— a shelter to be eventually used at will for the purpose of a policy of appeasement?
The directors of the Bank of International Settlements included three directors of the Bank of England; the powerful Nazi financiers—Baron K. F. von Schroeder of Cologne, Reichsbank President Walther Funk and Dr. Hermann Schmitz, President of I. G. Farben; and the American Wall Street banker, Thomas H. McKittrick, Director of the First National Bank of New York and President and General Manager of the Bank of International Settlements.
“It is German-controlled,” Harry White, special adviser to the U.S. Treasury Department said regarding the International Bank of Settlements on November 23, 1943. ‘There’s an American president doing business with the Germans while our boys are fighting Germans.”
The American banker McKittrick informed a United Press correspondent in Switzerland in the summer of 1944: “We keep the machine ticking . . . because when the Armistice comes the formerly hostile powers will need an efficient instrument such as the BIS.”
Two other important personages reported to be doing their part toward keeping the machine ticking in Basle, Switzerland, were von Ribbentrop’s former personal emissary to the United States, Dr. Gerhardt Westrick, who made frequent trips during the war to the BIS headquarters; and Westrick’s old friend, Allen Dulles, John Foster Dulles’ brother, a member of the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, and a director of the Schroeder Banking Company. In 1942 Allen Dulles had been appointed as head of the Switzerland branch of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services. He remained in Switzerland until the fall of 1944 . . .
On June 3, 1942, in a speech delivered before the Illinois Bar Association, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thurmond Arnold had this to say about the international cartel agreements which leading American industrialists were still maintaining with their German counterparts:
The small group of American businessmen who are parties to these international rings . . . still think of the war as a temporary recess from business-as-usual with a strong Germany. They expect to begin the game all over again after the war.
It is significant that these cartel leaders still talk and think as if the war would end in a stalemate, and that, therefore, they must be in a strong position to continue their arrangements with a strong Germany after the war. This is not shown by their speeches, but by the actual documents and memoranda of business policy which we find in their files.
Throughout the war years, most of the largest American corporations continued to collaborate with Nazi trusts through cartel arrangements, or were under agreement to resume business relations with their German partners as soon as hostilities ended. Within the single week of May 1942, the U.S. Department of Justice uncovered no less than 162 cartel agreements between the German I. G. Farben trust and American business firms. Cartels which remained operative during the war years, or were temporarily “suspended,” covered chemicals, rubber, magnesium, zinc, aluminum and many other vital products. Some of these cartel contracts were legally valid until after 1960.
At least one great American company, Standard Oil of New Jersey, publicly refused to cancel postwar cartel deals with Germany. As Homer T. Bone, Chairman of the Senate Patents Committee, informed the Senate Military AflFairs Committee on June 4, 1943:
The Standard Oil Company of New Jersey directors were asked by certain stockholders to cut ofiF all relations with Farben after the war, but it was refused. One official said such a request was “an affront.” There is clear indication that after this unpleasant interlude of war they will hold hands again and resume their very harmonious and beautiful arrangement with the cartels.
The sinister implications of cartel, patent and other such agreements were by no means limited to the period that would follow the war. As Drew Pearson later reported:
I. G. Farben’s monopoly agreement with Standard Oil of New Jersey prevented the United States from developing synthetic rubber and kept the Americans without rubber tires for four years. The monopoly between Aluminum Corporation of America and I. G. Farben kept magnesium away from the American aircraft industry and retarded our production of airplanes. Bausch and Lomb’s secret agreement with Carl Zeiss was extremely detrimental to the U.S. Navy on submarine sights . . .*
* These were some of the scores of American firms listed by the Senate Kilgore Committee as having entered into various cartel arrangements with Nazi trusts: Agfa Ansco Corp.; Aluminum Co. of America; American Cyanimid Co.; Bell and Howell Co.; Carbide and Carbon Chemical Corp.; National Aniline & Chemical Co.; Dow Chemical Co.; Eastman Kodak Co.; General Motors Research Corp.; Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.; Procter and Gamble; Standard Oil Groups.
“Under our agreement,” stated officials of Siemens-Halske, the great German electrical equipment producer, in a memorandum to the American firm, BendLx Aviation Co., on October 25, 1939, “your geographical contract territory includes the United States, its territories and Canada. A state of war exists at the present time between Canada and ourselves. Notwithstanding the war we are of course willing to live up to the agreement as far as possible.” The Siemens executives went on to request that Bendix “supply no instruments, built under a license, if you know that they are destined for our enemies.”
A Bendix official replied: “As regards the drawings sent over, you may rest assured. As regards fabrication … we will arrange to the best of our ability to keep within the orbit of domestic use.”
Siemens maintained cartel and patent agreements with numerous other American concerns, including Westinghouse Mfg. Co.
After the war, it was established that Siemens had devised and manufactured the gas-chamber installations at Oswiecim and other Nazi death camps, and had a monopoly on gas-chamber electrical equipment. One of the devices patented by Siemens was a ventilating system for regulating the flow of gas with such efficiency that at Oswiecim 10,000 persons could be killed within twenty-four hours . . .
I. G. Farbenindustrie, the gigantic chemical combine, maintained cartel arrangements with more American firms than any other German trust. Among these American firms were Standard Oil of New Jersey, duPont de Nemours, and Ethyl Gasoline Corp., which was half-owned by General Motors.
I. G. Farben was Hitler’s largest financial backer and reaped the greatest profits in Germany from the Nazi war effort. At the Nurnberg trial of Nazi war criminals, moreover, it was established that I. G. Farben conducted many wartime “experiments,” with chemicals and drugs, using concentration camp inmates as guinea pigs. In one typical case, Farben bought 150 women from the Oswiecim camp, for approximately $70.00 apiece, “in contemplation of experiments of a new soporific drug.”
Later a Farben memorandum reported: “Received the order of 150 women. Despite their emaciated condition, they were found satisfactory . . . The tests were made. All subjects died. We shall contact you shordy on the subject of a new load.”
There were other ways in which certain leading figures in American industrial and financial circles pursued a business-as-usual policy during the years of the Second World War.