Free «The Role of Corporations in Nazi Germany» Essay

The Role of Corporations in Nazi Germany

The Second World War was the most wide-ranging and bloody war during the existence of mankind. The whole world fought against the aggressors, the main of which was the Nazi Germany. The murderous war showed how courageous and brave people can be. Every person wanted to defeat the enemy, even at the cost of his or her own life. Nobody could imagine how it is possible to cooperate with bloodthirsty occupiers. But it concerned only to common people, and specifically it was not the characteristic to a big business. In 1930, when most international companies have boycotted the Nazi regime, there were several companies around the world which maintained an extremely profitable cooperation with the enemy. Many companies, such as “Standard Oil”, “General Motors”, “Ford”, “General Electric”, “Volkswagen”, “Deutsche Bank”, and “Coca-Cola" collaborated with Nazis (Beyer & Schneider, 1999). At least 100 U.S. corporations have been in business contacts with the Third Reich. IBM conducted business communication with aggressors most actively (Stephens, 2002). Taking into account a large amount of information, the paper describes only few of such companies.

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The IBM and the Nazi regime

Probably, many people know that before and during the war, many companies and firms collaborated with the fascist regime. For example, on the German territory, "BMW", "Volkswagen", “Deutsche Bank”, and others were among them. It is understandable because these companies were German. After the occupation of Europe, the entire European industry subordinated to the interests of the aggressors. It is also obvious. On the other hand, very few people know that there are enough companies which were not at risk of capture but, nevertheless, collaborated with Nazis. Such business entities worked with them for a profit. Many corporations, especially in the U.S., are well known and still working. The most famous of these was IBM. The fact of collaboration became a cause for a scandal and lawsuits of Nazi victims against the company (Stephens, 2002).

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The fact of the cooperation between the Third Reich and IBM became first known in February 2001. It happened when the American researcher wrote and published the unique book “The IBM and the Holocaust” (2008). The research was based on a set of documents found in the archives of seven countries. The IBM leadership has never denied business connections with the Nazis. However, despite numerous publications, any comments were not given. The new edition of the book called “IBM and the Holocaust” (2008).The strategic alliance of Nazi Germany and America’s most powerful corporation includes previously unpublished documents of IBM, which were clear evidence of collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War.

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After Hitler came to power in 1933, IBM was involved in organizing and recording the data concerning the Jewish population. Representatives of IBM in New York, Germany, Poland, Holland, France, Switzerland, and other countries were engaged in developing punched cards and providing automation of data. In 1933, the Third Reich offered Watson, the leader of the IBM, to supervise the secret plan which is unknown for today. Hitler, having aimed to destroy all the Jews, wanted to hold their pre-registration. Preparation of the assassination of millions of people required careful preparation (Blank, 2008). First of all, it was necessary to develop a system for the identification of the Jews so that none of them was able to escape from annihilation. This also applies to those who identified themselves as Germans, French, etc., forgetting about its remote ancestors in their family tree. This aim required to carry out the racial population census, which was unknown for those days’ supernumeraries. Second, it was not a simple task to determine the total number of Jews in the world, which should be destroyed. Third, to solve the first two problems, it was necessary to use the latest technology of that time. Such technology belonged to IBM exclusively because this company controlled about 90% of the world market of computers (Blank, 2008).

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During the research, the scientists had managed to find photos of punched cards designed for SS units. Another punched card was developed by IBM engineers specifically for expert in Jewish demography Richard Korherr (Beyer & Schneider, 1999). During the Second World War, he was an assistant of “Holocaust architects” Heinrich Himmler and Adolph Eichmann. Over time, the production of punch cards became the task of the German branch of IBM, the Dehomag Company. The IBM document, dated June 10, 1941, refers to the fact that the mentioned affiliate participated in the census of Dutch Jews and in the treatment of its results. Similar International Business Machines subsidiaries were established in Poland, France, and other countries occupied by the Nazis.

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One of the documents lists the codes that were used to organize the data at the death camps: Auschwitz – 001, Buchenwald – 002, Dachau – 003, etc. In particular, IBM punch cards were used for cataloging victims: every victim applied to a certain "class" (Blank, 2009).

Particular attention should be paid to the U.S. Government documents. First, referring to the Department of State, was drawn up in December 3, 1941. In this document, it was mentioned that the IBM lawyer Chauncey Harrison came to the U.S. State Department in order to express the concern regarding the close cooperation between his company and Nazi Germany. "Chauncey is concerned that IBM later be accused of having links with the Nazis," - the document says (Stephens, 2002). The second note from the U.S. Department of Justice was made during the investigation of IBM collaboration with the Third Reich. Interrogator Howard Carter wrote: "Hitler gained control of one of our largest corporations, IBM, which collaborated with the Nazis closely" (Stephens, 2002). Consequently, IBM, its affiliates, and its leader, Thomas Watson, became one of the elements one of the Holocaust (Stephens, 2002).

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The Role of German Corporations

German companies did not accept the responsibility for the collaboration with Nazi for a long time. Only under the pressure of U.S. courts in the late 80's, they opened their archives, reviewed its history, and began paying individual compensation to its former involuntary workers. The resistances of the National Socialists or the refusal to cooperate with them were uncommon exceptions to the general rule (Beyer & Schneider, 1999).  

IG Farben

The German corporation IG Farben pioneered the use of the prisoners’ labor, who were sentenced in concentration camps. This chemical company, established in 1925, built the factory near the Auschwitz camp and started producing the synthetic rubber. In December 1944, at this factory, almost 4,000 prisoners were employed. The mortality at this enterprise was extremely high. In the period between 1943 and 1945, the total amount of workers was thirty five thousands, and the number of died unwitting people was twenty three thousands (Beyer & Schneider, 1999).

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Deutsche Bank

“Deutsche Bank” was one of the first German companies which enlisted the assistance of independent researchers and conducted an overall revision of its own history. In 1997, a specially formed committee of historians examined the activities of the bank from 1933 to 1945. From the beginning, the bank's management promoted a policy of the Nazi regime without any resistance. This business entity was extremely useful for Hitler because it provided almost all money transactions of the Third Reich (Stephens, 2002). Financial resources, which were needed to carry out the trade between Germany and its allied members, were transmitted with the help of this big and powerful financial institution. In addition, the Deutsche Bank had to involve an involuntary labor in order to provide great amount of services (Beyer & Schneider, 1999).

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Concern “Volkswagen” followed the example of ‘Deutsche Bank’ and asked well-known historian of National Socialism Hans Mommsen to draw a historical audit of the company. The results of this research were presented in the book "Volkswagen factory and its workers in the Third Reich”. During the Second World War, the factory “Volkswagen” switched over to the production of military equipment. The official website of the company said that it used the labor of twenty thousand unwitting workers, prisoners of war, and, later, concentration camp inmates (Beyer & Schneider, 1999).


The Second World War showed that a big business has no barriers and limitations. Even when the whole world fought for peace on earth, some business entities provided an extremely profitable trade with the enemy. It is notional that not only the European companies stepped over moral barriers and collaborated with the Nazis, but also the corporations from the USA, which had not threat to be captured. There are a lot of obvious examples of such actions. Thus, there are at least one hundred companies which got profit from the greatest evil of the twentieth century. 

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