6 September 2013 — Boiling Frogs
Hitler’s Propaganda Principles Alive in 21st Century
The studio heads, who were mostly immigrant Jews, went to dramatic lengths to hold on to their investment in Germany. Although few remarked on it at the time these men followed the instructions of the German consulate in Los Angeles, abandoning or changing a whole series of pictures that would have exposed the brutality of the Nazi regime….At the center of the collaboration was Hitler himself. Hitler was obsessed with movies and he understood their power to shape public opinion. In December of 1930, two years before becoming dictator of Germany, his party rioted against All Quiet on the Western Front in Berlin leading to the first instance of collaboration with the American studios…the collaboration involved not only the Hollywood studios and the German government but also a variety of other people and organizations in the United States….If this is a dark chapter in Hollywood History, then it is also a dark chapter in American history.” – Ben Urwand, The Collaboration
“The receptivity of the great masses is very limited and their intelligence is small but their power of forgetting is enormous.” – Adolf Hitler
Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013) is a disturbing, unsettling and must-read. That Hollywood’s studio heavyweights like Jack Warner and Carl Laemmle would cut scenes and dialog offensive to the ideology of National Socialism is a tough fact to digest. But aggressive capitalists, whether operating in US dollars or German Deutsche Marks, do not distinguish between good and evil (think Allen Dulles, famed Wall Street lawyer and OSS/CIA). Siphoning profit off from the clash between good and evil, or the suffering of good at the hands of evil, is part and parcel of the capitalist enterprise, particularly in the United States. Taking a “stand” only occurs if the balance sheet prospers, legal action is immanent, or national security interests—as defined by capitalists—are at stake. How else to explain the present day US alliances with Al Qaeda in Syria, the military junta in Egypt, and the love-fest with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain?
So once the nerves settle after reading The Collaboration, it becomes evident why both Warner and Laemmle would go so far as to cut language referring to Jews in many films of the 1930’s and even approve the firing of Jewish film industry employees in Germany. As The New York Times put it, “Even Jack Warner, praised by Groucho Marx for running “the only studio with any guts” after green lighting the 1939 film “Confessions of a Nazi Spy,” comes in for some revisionist whacks. It was Warner who personally ordered that the word “Jew” be removed from all dialogue in the 1937 film “The Life of Emile Zola,” Mr. Urwand writes, and his studio was the first to invite Nazi officials to its Los Angeles headquarters to screen films and suggest cuts.” And at one point, Germany had the nerve to request that Max Baer (Jewish) of the Prizefighter and the Lady (1933) be recast with a non-Jew.
Quentin Tarantino, in an interview in Jewish Journal, offers an explanation—and in other parts of the interview justification—as to why the film industry of the 1930’s would bend over backwards for Hitler. “Germany is special to this day; they’re a movie-going public. To some degree, even today, where-goes-Germany, where-goes-Europe. When you have big European grosses, Germany will be one of your biggest. And [at the time] they had a healthy film industry, and our stars were really popular there. So it was a big deal. They didn’t necessarily need to hear German language; they had no problem watching American movies — they dug ‘em.”
Hitler: Propaganda Principles Alive in 21st Century
Urwand notes that Hitler saw the value of film for nationalist, mass propaganda long before other 20th century leaders did. Hitler thought that “Books were worthless. A writer could never change the views of an ordinary man on the street…there was only one way to inspire change–thru the spoken word…the vast majority of people were inherently lazy and unlikely to pick up a book if it went against what they believed to be true…There was a chance that they might glance at a leaflet or poster advertising a contrary position but they would never give it sufficient attention to change their views…The picture in all its forms up to the film has greater possibilities…Here a man needs to use his brains even less, it suffices to look, or at most to read, extremely brief texts and thus many more readily accept a pictorial presentation than read an article of any length. The picture brings them in a much briefer time, I might almost say at one stroke, the enlightenment which they obtain from written matter only after arduous reading….
And as to the beauty of film for nationalist, mass propaganda, Hitler thought that “The same applies even to a movie…If movies were screened around 9 p.m., just when he and many other cinema goers watched them, they could have a powerful effect…The receptivity of the great masses is very limited and their intelligence is small but their power of forgetting is enormous….” According to Urwand, Hitler believed “people were more likely to be convinced by his speeches after sundown. They were also more likely to be seduced by a piece of theater,” in the evening.
Other Collaborations with Hitler
Wall Street, US Intelligence, American Industry: According to Christian Dewar inMaking a Killing (note: the following edited for brevity). “Many Americans are probably not aware of the great extent to which U.S. corporations collaborated with the Nazi war machine during WWII. After WWI, many wealthy American industrialists, bankers and financiers invested in Germany, in part, to avoid onerous U.S. regulations and also to reap the tremendous profits from the rebuilding of the nation. Worried that there might be another war that would cause them to lose their investments, the directors of many of these companies plotted to protect their interests. Law firms like Sullivan and Cromwell specialized in helping to arrange these deals. When WWII broke out, the Dulles brothers, Allen (who was a partner in Sullivan and Cromwell) and John, helped these companies hide their assets. As a result, many Nazi industrialists and their American collaborators maintained their wealth after the war ceased.
Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg once stated that “The Dulles brothers were traitors.” Some historians believe that Allen Dulles became head of the newly formed CIA in large part to cover up his treasonous behavior and that of his clients. Not confined to a few isolated companies, some of America’s most prominent families and their financial empires worked with the Nazis well after the first bombs were dropped on Pearl Harbor. On March 4, 1998, a woman from Belgium brought a suit against the Ford Motor Company and its German affiliate seeking compensation for the work she performed as a slave laborer for the company. Born in Russian, Elsa Iwanovwa claimed that she was abducted and forced to work at Ford’s plant at Cologne. As many as 10,000 men, women and children may have labored there, many of them from the Buchenwald concentration camp.
The Ford plant in Germany played a major role in the Nazi war effort. While their American factories produced weapons for the allies, their German subsidiary manufactured troop transports, tracked vehicles, Panzer tanks, anti-tank guns and other crucial equipment for the Nazis. Providing weapons for both contestants in a world war was extraordinarily lucrative. It is alleged that high ranking American officials including Edsel Ford oversaw the German plant’s operations even during the war. Unlike most American businesses doing business in Germany during the war, Ford enjoyed significant independence and was never seized by the Nazi government. The reason for this was in large part due to the close friendship that endured between Henry Ford and Adolf Hitler. Ford was known for his virulent anti-Jewish views and he made substantial financial contributions to Hitler and the Nazi organization in its early years which may have sustained the party at a point where it might have otherwise collapsed.
Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf borrowed heavily from Ford’s book, The International Jew, a Worldwide Problem which was published in 1927. Hitler awarded Ford with Germany’s highest civilian honor, the Great Cross of the German Order of the Eagle. Hitler’s office had a large picture of Ford on the wall and stacks of Ford’s books to give away to associates. Jim Mooney, GM’s chief executive for overseas operations, was also awarded the Order of the German Eagle. Ford was only one of many American corporations that eagerly helped the Germans. Some did so for ideological reasons and others for the immense profits which could be realized.
Standard Oil has also been implicated in providing crucial support for the Nazi war machine. They helped the Germans develop plants and gave them the necessary technology for the manufacture of synthetic fuels and leaded gas. Standard Oil also assisted the Germans in stockpiling $20 million worth of petrol products in anticipation of the war. This deal was concluded with the assistance of the Wall Street investment firm Brown Brothers Harriman where the senior managing partner was George H.W. Bush’s father, Prescott Bush. It also is alleged that Standard made a deal with the Germans to thwart the development of synthetic rubber in the United States and to withhold a method of producing synthetic ammonia. The U.S. government eventually seized some of Standard’s patents. When the oil giant sued to retain them, their case was denied. A judge who reviewed the appeal stated that ‘Standard Oil can be considered an enemy national in view of its relationships with I.G. Farben after the United States and Germany became active enemies.’
The Curtis-Wright Aviation Corporation was another U.S. company doing business with the Nazis. Their planes were well suited for dive bombing. Although the Nazi pilots used this technique as an integral part of their blitzkrieg strategy of warfare, it was developed by the US. It was so effective that air plane manufacturers were forbidden to teach this to foreigners. Curtis-Wright managed to get around this inconvenient policy by not ‘teaching’ it, but rather demonstrating it at air shows in order to boost sales to Hitler.
Several American corporations who had collaborated had the audacity to sue the American government for damage that had been inflicted on their German plants by Allied bombers. GM managed to extract $33 million for the destruction of their Folke-Wulf plant. ITT received $27 million and Ford, $ 1 million.
American banks have also been implicated in assistance to Nazi Germany including J.P. Morgan, Guaranty Trust of New York, Bank of the City of New York, Chase National Bank and American Express which turned over Jewish accounts to the Nazis. The Nazi government through Chase National Bank offered Nazi in America the opportunity to buy German marks with dollars at a discount. The arrangement was open to those who wished to return to Germany and would use the marks in the interest of the Nazis.
Other Nazi collaborators include William Hearst, the media giant. After meeting with top Nazi officials and the payment of substantial sums of money, Hearst agreed to a policy whereby his newspaper would only report favorably on Nazi affairs. Ultimately, the international corporations, the lawyers, bankers and financiers who collaborated with the Nazis prevailed. They exerted tremendous influence to thwart investigators delving into their seditious activities after the war. Many of the key players were elevated to senior positions in the U.S. government. Many of them were able to maintain their fortunes intact after the war. Officers from the Nazi intelligence and scientific communities became U.S. allies in the Cold War against the Soviets.”
US-Global Environmentalism: The Nazis had elements that were supportive of animal rights, zoos and wildlife, and took several measures to ensure their protection. In 1933 the government enacted a stringent animal-protection law. Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring were supporters of animal protection. Several Nazis were environmentalists (notably Rudolf Hess), and species protection and animal welfare were significant issues in the regime. Heinrich Himmler made efforts to ban the hunting of animals. Göring was an animal lover and conservationist. The current animal welfare laws in Germany are more or less modification of the laws introduced by the National Socialist regime. In 1935, the regime enacted the “Reich Nature Protection Act”. The concept of the Dauerwald (best translated as the “perpetual forest”) which included concepts such as forest management and protection was promoted….Efforts were also made to curb air pollution. Courtesy Wikipedia
US Military/Space Program: B2 Bomber predecessor the Horten Ho 2-29 made a successful test flight just before Christmas 1944, but by then time was running out for the Nazis and they were never able to perfect the design or produce more than a handful of prototype planes. Courtesy UK Telegraph.
Germany developed the first assault rifle the Sturmgewehr 44. They also fielded the first jet aircraft the Messerschmitt Me 262 in 1944. Germany also developed the first cruise missiles (V-1) and rocket-powered ballistic missiles (V-2). Though their impact on the course of the war was primarily psychological, after the war, Allied powers, especially the Americans, profited immensely from captured German technology and expertise in the development of rocket vehicles capable of space travel. Courtesy Wikipedia
Remembering the Nazi Scientist Who Built the Rockets for Apollo…According to The Atlantic, “Few figures in the history of technology provoke a reaction as quickly as Wernher von Braun. The rocket scientist was a card-carrying Nazi who built the world’s first ballistic missile with slave labor from concentration camps. As the war wound down, he surrendered to the Americans and took his rocket-building team and talents to the United States. Eventually, he became a leader in the American space program, building the rocket (the Saturn V) that carried Apollo 11 to the moon. Roger Launius, a senior curator in the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum, wrote a nuanced evaluation of the man’s life. Wernher von Braun was a stunningly successful advocate for space exploration and has appropriately been celebrated for those efforts. But because he was also willing to build a ballistic missile for Hitler’s Germany, with all of connotations that implied in the devastation and terror of World War II, many of his ideals have also been appropriately questioned. For some he was a visionary who foresaw the potential of human spaceflight, but for others he was little more than an arms merchant who developed brutal weapons of mass destruction. In reality, he seems to have been something of both.”
Digital Computing: “…the computer is a German invention…the first computer was built in the living room of one Konrad Zuse in 1936. His “Z1” is now acknowledged as the first programme-controlled digital computer. Zuse also went on to devise the first ever programming language in the 1940s, and many modern mathematicians regard him as a pioneering genius. Part of the reason you’ve never heard of him is that he failed to find commercial success. Hardly anyone in post-war West Germany recognized the potential of Zuse’s creations, and he failed to get investors to help with the enormous development costs. His company Zuse KG, founded in the state of Hesse, was soon overtaken by giants IBM and Siemens, who bought him out in 1967.” Courtesy The Local: www.thelocal.de
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John Stanton, BFP contributing author & analyst, is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security matters. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org .