Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 21:08:08 -0600 (CST)
From: Workers World <>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: Deutsche Bank & the Nazis
Article: 55103
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Deutsche Bank & the Nazis

By Leslie Feinberg, Workers World, 18 February 1999

It's never been a secret that Deutsche Bank was Hitler's lead banker.

But on Feb. 4, the bank released documents that revealed for the first time how Deutsche Bank financed much of the construction of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Deutsche Bank—the largest in Germany—faces claims for its role in seizing property and other wealth from Jews during the fascist reign, as well as for its bankrolling of the Nazis.

Bank historian Manfred Pohl, who made the documents public, alleged that they were only discovered recently. They provide evidence of the secret SS-controlled accounts used to transfer funds stolen from Jews who had been deported or sent to death camps.

In addition, Pohl named 10 companies—including the I.G. Farben chemical giant—that borrowed money to build Auschwitz. He added that bank managers received regular construction updates and therefore knew precisely what the money was used for.

Deutsche Bank A.G. has been forced to negotiate survivor claims as a precondition for its $10.1 billion purchase of Bankers Trust. Some of the biggest German industrial companies are also currently facing survivor claims over their use of slave labor during the Nazi regime. These include DaimlerChrysler, Siemens and Volkswagen.

The hand-over-fist profits made during the Nazi regime by these and other top bankers and industrialists reveals what the apologists, pundits and ideologues of capitalism would most like to obscure: the class bedrock of fascism.


Perhaps no other historic period of capitalist rule has been so mystified and purposefully stripped of its class content. Fascism has been explained as a historical aberration. An inexplicable explosion of racism and national chauvinism. A surprise coup d'├ętat.

These unscientific characterizations of the victory of fascism in Germany obscure an understanding of fascism and its relationship to capitalism.

When recalling WWII, the U.S. ruling class cloaks itself as the good guys. Democracy versus fascism. Good battling evil. This further obfuscates the truth about the class character of fascism. And most importantly, it leaves workers and oppressed peoples without a clear view of how to fight it.

In a class-riven society, the state is the instrument by which one social class rules over another. Fascism, like democracy, is a form of state.

When the form of state changes as dramatically as it did in Germany, the first question should be: Has a new class risen to power? And which class profits from the ascendancy of one form of state over another?

Both capitalist democracy and fascism are class dictatorships. The small wealthy class that lays claim to all the instruments of mass production, finance and communications rules over the numerically large laboring class that produces all the wealth of society.

The bourgeois republic in Germany was a great advance over the Hohenzollern monarchy, which reigned until 1918. But the democratic rights it afforded had been won through fierce mass workers' struggles.

By the early 1930s, German capitalism—like U.S. capitalism—was in a deep economic depression. The powerful workers' movement in Germany was in a revolutionary mood. They resisted the right of the banks and corporations to make the working class pay for the economic crisis.

Faced with a challenge to their class rule, a wing of German bankers and industrialists funded Hitler's rise to power.

Despite the Nazis' anti-capitalist demagogy and genocidal anti-Semitism, the purpose of fascism was to smash the working-class movement and every remnant of democratic rights won through decades of class battles.

The Nazis portrayed themselves as National Socialists who would use the state to intervene in the economy.

But did a new class come to power with the consolidation of Hitler's victory?

In fact, the same wealthy class remained in power. The Nazis expropriated the wealth of only the relatively small number of Jewish financiers and industrialists.

But the fascists' intervention into the economy was capitalist state intervention. They channeled huge tax breaks and capital to the ruling class in order to gear up war production. As a result, segments of the German ruling class profited handsomely from fascism.

In his book The Arms of Krupp, historian William Manchester wrote that virtually all Germans and a majority abroad believe that German industrialists had no choice, that the Nazis forced them to use slaves of all ages and sexes, that the industrialists themselves would have been exterminated had they behaved otherwise.

This is untrue. The forgotten mountains of Nuremberg documents are quite clear about this. They reveal that the Reich's manufacturers not only had a choice; most of them took advantage of it.

Manchester pointed out, for example, that inmates from 138 concentration camps provided slave labor for the 400-year- old Krupp family military-industrial dynasty.


Following WWII, in territory liberated by the Soviet Red Army, a different form of state rule was set up.

The German Democratic Republic tried to establish an armed state of the working class to suppress the former owning class and its fascist military and police. In East Germany, known Nazis and their sympathizers were ousted from office and arrested.

In West Germany, the capitalists remained in power and many former Nazi officials retained their posts in the state.

The U.S.—which only opened a second front against Germany when it appeared that the Soviet Union could defeat Hitler— helped one of Hitler's top Nazi military officials rebuild the German state machinery after the war. The U.S. gave General Adolph Heusinger the U.S. Legion of Merit and appointed him NATO's military planning chief.

In the Sept. 27 German national election this fall, voters ousted rightist Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his Christian Democrats after 16 years in office.

But the new governing coalition of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Green Party does not threaten the German capitalist system, nor does it even promise significant reforms.

The same class of bankers, industrialists and corporate bosses is still firmly in the seat of power today—in Germany and in the United States.