The history of the Second World War, a lot has been written about the devastating years . While many of us have learned about the bravery and sacrifice of the Allied forces, there is also a darker side to this story that is often overlooked. In particular that mostly US based banks played a significant role in supporting the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime in Germany.
Union Banking Corporation
One of the most well-known examples of American support for the Nazi regime was the role played by the Union Banking Corporation. The Union Banking Corporation was established in 1924 by Brown Brothers Harriman, a New York-based investment firm that primarily focused on providing financial services to American companies operating in Europe. Fritz Thyssen, a wealthy German industrialist, began using the bank in the early 1930s to transfer millions of dollars to the Nazi party in Germany.
Thyssen was impressed with Adolf Hitler’s ideas and vision for Germany and began providing financial support to the Nazi party, including funding for propaganda campaigns and other activities. Thyssen’s support helped fund the Nazi party’s rise to power, allowing them to consolidate their control over Germany and expand their influence across Europe.
The Union Banking Corporation was just one of the banks used by Thyssen to transfer funds to the Nazi party. He also used other banks, including the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart in the Netherlands. By the mid-1930s, Thyssen had become a key supporter of the Nazi regime and was appointed to the Reichstag, the German parliament.
The full extent of the Union Banking Corporation’s involvement in providing financial support to the Nazi regime only became clear in the years after the war. In 1942, the U.S. government seized the assets of the Union Banking Corporation under the Trading with the Enemy Act, along with other banks that were involved in transferring funds to the Nazi party.
in 1936, J.P. Morgan finalized a $30 million loan to the German government. The loan was meant to promote trade between the United States and Germany, but soon it became clear that the German government was using the funds to rearm in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles.
Despite this knowledge, J.P. Morgan continued to provide financing to the German arms industry, including the construction of the massive Hermann Göring Works, which churned out armaments for the Nazi war machine.
But J.P. Morgan’s involvement with Nazi Germany was not limited to financial support. The bank also had close ties to I.G. Farben, one of the largest chemical companies in the world, which played a critical role in producing the chemicals and materials used in Nazi weapons and operating concentration camps.
Even after the war broke out, J.P. Morgan continued to fund I.G. Farben and had representatives on the company’s board of directors. And in the years after the war, the bank was involved in helping to smuggle Nazi officials out of Europe, establishing a network of offshore companies and accounts to hide their assets.
Despite its role in supporting one of the most brutal regimes in history, J.P. Morgan was never fully held accountable for its actions. And today, the true extent of the bank’s involvement in the Nazi war effort remains a dark chapter in its history, raising questions about the responsibility of corporations and financial institutions in promoting the interests of powerful and dangerous regimes.
The Bank of America
The Bank of America’s involvement with the Nazis did not end with loans to German companies. The bank also facilitated the transfer of funds to Nazi Germany through its European branches, helping to skirt international financial regulations. In fact, Bank of America even had a branch in Berlin during the 1930s, which continued to operate throughout World War II. The bank also had a number of German subsidiaries, including one that was co-owned by I.G. Farben, the chemical company mentioned earlier.
Furthermore, the Bank of America’s support for the Nazis did not go unnoticed. In 1941, the U.S. government launched an investigation into the bank’s activities, suspecting that it was engaging in illegal transactions with the enemy. The investigation revealed that the bank had been providing significant financial support to Nazi Germany, and had even continued to do so after the outbreak of war in Europe. As a result, the U.S. government seized the bank’s German assets and shut down its Berlin branch.
While the Bank of America did eventually apologize for its actions during the war, it was never held fully accountable for its role in supporting the Nazi regime. The bank’s involvement in this dark chapter of history has remained a stain on its reputation, and a reminder of the dangers of unchecked financial power.
Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart
Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart, also known as the Netherlands Trading Society (NTS), was a Dutch bank that had significant ties to Germany during World War II. The bank had a long history of doing business with Germany, and during the war, it continued to do so, even after the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940.
The bank played a crucial role in providing financial assistance to the Nazi regime. It provided loans and other forms of financing to German companies involved in the production of weapons, military equipment, and other goods needed for the war effort. The bank also helped to finance the construction of key military facilities, including the Atlantic Wall, a massive system of fortifications built by the Germans along the western coast of Europe.
In addition to its financial support for the Nazi regime, the bank also played a role in facilitating the persecution of Dutch Jews. It froze the assets of Jewish clients and cooperated with the Nazi authorities in identifying Jewish-owned businesses and property.
After the war, the bank was accused of collaborating with the Nazis and profiting from their atrocities. In 1951, the bank was nationalized by the Dutch government, and a commission was established to investigate its role in the war. The commission found that the bank had indeed collaborated with the Nazis and had profited from their crimes.
The role played by banks
The role played by banks in supporting the rise of fascism in Europe is deeply troubling and raises important questions about the ethics of corporate behavior in the modern world. On the one hand, it can be argued that American banks were simply doing business and providing financial services to their clients, regardless of their political affiliations or beliefs. But on the other hand, it is clear that the actions of these banks had a significant impact on the course of history, contributing to the rise of a brutal and murderous regime that was responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.
The question of why banks provided financial assistance to the Nazi regime is a complex one, with no easy answers. Some have suggested that the banks were motivated by profit, and saw the Nazi regime as a lucrative market for their financial services. Others have suggested that the banks were motivated by ideology, and shared the fascist beliefs of the Nazis.
Whatever the motivations behind their actions, the fact remains that American banks played a significant role in supporting the rise of fascism in Europe during the 1930s. The consequences of this support were devastating, leading to the loss of millions of lives and a legacy of violence and conflict that still resonates today.