Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hitler : The Misjudgment of a Character

puppet head & photo by marguerita
As Hitler shouted his way up the political ranks in Germany, the Guardian and Observer misjudged the extent of his early influence, writes Sir Ian Kershaw
By the time the Nazi party came to prominence by winning 107 seats (18.3% of the votes) in the Reichstag election of September 14 1930, British newspapers could not ignore Hitler and his movement. But, as Brigitte Granzow showed long ago in her book, A mirror of Nazism, the reportage was replete with distortions and misinterpretation.

In an article on September 21 that year, the Observer echoed the widely held belief on the left that Hitler was the creature of big capital. It saw the real dangerman not as Hitler, but as the media tycoon and leader of the German National People's party, Alfred Hugenberg. The "Hugenberg manoeuvres", it stated, had aimed to promote both Communists and Nazis as a vehicle to weaken the organised working classes. "Hugenberg, and not Hitler, will ultimately call the Nazi tune."
A week later, the newspaper dismissed Hitler as "dramatic, violent and shallow", and "a lightweight", seeing him as "not a man, but a megaphone" of the prevailing discontent, fronting a militarist reaction, which would mean the destruction of peace. The newspaper went on to claim, remarkably, that Hitler was "definitely Christian in his ideals", and, even more strangely, that these matched the ideals of German Catholics.

Gerald D. Feldman, Historian of the Nazis and Finances, Dies at 70

Dr. Feldman was part of a team of international historians that found documents proving that Deutsche Bank had financed the building of Auschwitz.

Dr. Feldman said he had turned to studying the Holocaust at age 60 partly because he was Jewish. But he wanted his conclusions to emerge from objective scholarship, not emotion, he said. As an example, Lloyd’s List, a British newspaper specializing in insurance and other economic areas, said his Allianz book suggested that the company and its senior officers had “never really had their hearts” in collaborating with Hitler.

His book “Allianz and the German Insurance Business, 1933-1945” (2001), told how Allianz, a giant German insurance company, had given money owed to Jewish beneficiaries of life insurance policies to the Nazi authorities instead and had insured concentration camps. In what he termed “a state-sanctioned exercise in moral turpitude,” the company’s executives helped the government disguise its defrauding of Jews as “business as usual.”

He received total access and complete cooperation from Allianz -- and it shows. The portrait he paints of the insurance giant's sharklike behavior as Germany dumped its Jews overboard is, to put it quite mildly, not a flattering one.
Feldman and his team spent four years sifting through the documentation of Allianz and its subsidiaries in archives throughout Germany, Italy, Lithuania, France and Russia. They book reveals the company's disturbingly casual disregard for human suffering.

"Allianz" highlights case after individual case of Jewish employees cut loose, Jewish property bought up on the cheap and business ethics tossed by the wayside while currying favor and profit within the Nazi regime.
Perhaps the best example of how deeply corrupted the German business establishment had become was Allianz's willingness to play along with the Nazis' economic repression of the Jews following Kristallnacht.
In the wake of 91 murders, the burnings of synagogues, Jewish homes and businesses, and countless shattered windows on Sept. 9, 1938, any compensation for Jews was outlawed by both Hitler and his right-hand man, Hermann Goring.

Instead of paying compensation to the victimized Jews, Goring insisted the insurance companies could maintain the image of propriety by funneling the money owed to Jews into a government fund, which the Nazis would keep.

Insurance inspectors toured the concentration camp factories and were fully aware of what was going on. Inspectors were expressly forbidden from entering the ghetto, however, which should have raised an immediate red flag. Of course, it did not.
The agent who closed the deals for Allianz, Max Beier, was an enthusiastic Nazi and the contracts he brokered were large and quite profitable. In fact, Allianz was actually beaten out by competing insurance companies in 1945.


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