Like many of you, I watched parts of Vera Sharav’s new documentary series, Never Again is Now Global, this week. With its sharp focus on the Holocaust and Nazi tactics in general, I felt the need to reach back into some of my older research and remind readers who was supporting and enabling the rise of Hitler.
Spoiler alert: It is the same class of folks responsible for tyranny today.
What we’re taught about the years leading up to the Second World War involves alleged appeasement of the Third Reich, e.g. if only the Allies were stronger in their resolve, the Axis powers could have been stopped.
Perhaps the first step in challenging this so-called analysis would be to demonstrate that it wasn’t appeasement that took place prior to WWII. It was, in the best cases, indifference. More often, it was a collaboration based on economic greed and more than a little shared ideology.
The pursuit of profit long ago transcended national borders and national loyalty. In the decades before WWII, doing business with Hitler’s Germany or Mussolini’s Italy (or, as a proxy, Franco’s Spain) proved no more unsavory to the captains of industry than selling military hardware to Saudi Arabia does today. What’s a little repression when there are boatloads of money to be made?
In other words, when William E. Dodd, US ambassador to Germany during the 1930s, declared “a clique of US industrialists is working closely with the fascist regime[s] in Germany and Italy,” he wasn’t kidding.
“Many leaders of Wall Street and of the US foreign policy establishment had maintained close ties with their German counterparts since the 1920s, some having intermarried or shared investments,” says investigative reporter Christopher Simpson. “This went so far in the 1930s as the sale in New York of bonds whose proceeds helped finance the Aryanization of companies and real estate looted from German Jews. US investment in Germany accelerated rapidly after Hitler came to power.”
Such investment increased “by some 48.5 percent between 1929 and 1940, while declining sharply everywhere else in continental Europe.”