Friday, September 24, 2004

Hitler History Lesson
Banagor complains, "You claim every trend in history towards your own end, but you ignore the reality of the lessons of history. If it were up to you, I imagine, we wouldn’t have done anything about Hitler ... Why? Because you’re selfish."

What should we have done about Hitler? Not support him. But the US government actually supported him. Selfish? You really need to take a look at the lessons of history. You want to talk about selfish, look at the fact that U.S. corporations increased investment in Nazi Germany enormously while at the same time decreasing investment sharply everywhere else in continental Europe.

cover See endnote 19 of Understanding Power. The U.S. government and business community supported Hitler and Mussolini before World War II.
From endnote 19 of Chapter 5:cover

See for example, Christopher Simpson, The Splendid Blond Beast: Money, Law, and Genocide in the Twentieth Century, Monroe, ME: Common Courage, 1995, especially pp. 46-64;

David F. Schmitz, Thank God They're on Our Side: The United States and Right-Wing Dictatorships, 1921-1965, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999, chs. 1 and 3; cover David F. Schmitz, The United States and Fascist Italy, 1922-1940, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988; John P. Diggins, Mussolini and Fascism: the View from America, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.

The reasons for the warm American response to Fascism and Nazism that are detailed in these books are explained quite openly in the internal U.S. government planning record. For instance, a 1937 Report of the State Department's European Division described the rise of Fascism as the natural reaction of "the rich and middle classes, in self-defense" when the "dissatisfied masses, with the example of the Russian revolution before them, swing to the Left." Fascism therefore "must succeed or the masses, this time reinforced by the disillusioned middle classes, will again turn to the Left." The Report also noted that "if Fascism cannot succeed by persuasion [in Germany], it must succeed by force." It concluded that "economic appeasement should prove the surest route to world peace," a conclusion based on the belief that Fascism as a system was compatible with U.S. interests.

See Schmitz, The United States and Fascist Italy, 1922-1940, p. 140; see also, Daniel Yergin, Shattered Peace: The Origins of the Cold War and the National Security State (this is the updated edition), Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1977, p. 26 (U.S. Ambassador to Russia William Bullitt "believed that only Nazi Germany could stay the advance of Soviet Bolshevism in Europe").

At the same time, Britain's special emissary to Germany, Lord Halifax, praised Hitler for blocking the spread of Communism, an achievement that brought England to "a much greater degree of understanding of all his [i.e. Hitler's] work" than heretofore, as Halifax recorded his words to the German Chancellor while Hitler was conducting his reign of terror in the late 1930s. cover See Lloyd Gardner, Spheres of Influence: The Great Powers Partition Europe, From Munich to Yalta, Chicago: Ivan Dee, 1993, p. 13. See also, Clement Leibovitz, The Chamberlain-Hitler Deal, Edmonton, Canada: Les Éditions Duval, 1993 (fascinating 533-page study reproducing vast documentation, largely from recently-declassified British government sources, of the secret British deal allowing Hitler free rein to expand in Eastern Europe; this deal was "motivated by anti-communism" and was "not a sudden policy quirk but was the crowning of incessant efforts to encourage Japan and Germany 'to take their fill' of the Soviet Union" [p. 6]. Leibovitz's study also establishes conclusively, from a wide variety of sources, that there was great sympathy for Hitler's and Mussolini's policies among the British establishment).

Furthermore, although Hitler's rhetorical commitments and actions were completely public, internal U.S. government documents from the 1930s refer to him as a "moderate." For example, the American chargé d'affaires in Berlin wrote to Washington in 1933 that the hope for Germany lay in "the more moderate section of the [Nazi] party, headed by Hitler himself . . . which appeal[s] to all civilized and reasonable people," and seems to have "the upper hand" over the violent fringe. "From the standpoint of stable political conditions, it is perhaps well that Hitler is now in a position to wield unprecedented power," noted the American Ambassador, Frederic Sackett. See Schmitz, The United States and Fascist Italy, 1922-1940, pp. 140, 174, 133, and ch. 9; Foreign Relations of the United States, 1933, Vol. II ("British Commonwealth, Europe, Near East and Africa"), Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1949, pp. 329, 209.

The U.S. reaction to Fascist Italy before the war was similar. A high-level inquiry of the Wilson administration determined in December 1917 that with rising labor militancy, Italy posed "the obvious danger of social revolution and disorganization." A State Department official noted privately that "If we are not careful we will have a second Russia on our hands," adding: "The Italians are like children" and "must be [led] and assisted more than almost any other nation." Mussolini's Blackshirts solved the problem by violence. They carried out "a fine young revolution," the American Ambassador to Italy observed approvingly, referring to Mussolini's March on Rome in October 1922, which brought Italian democracy to an end. Racist goons effectively ended labor agitation with government help, and the democratic deviation was terminated; the United States watched with approval. The Fascists are "perhaps the most potent factor in the suppression of Bolshevism in Italy" and have much improved the situation generally, the Embassy reported to Washington, while voicing some residual anxiety about the "enthusiastic and violent young men" who have brought about these developments. The Embassy continued to report the appeal of Fascism to "all patriotic Italians," simple-minded folk who "hunger for strong leadership and enjoy . . . being dramatically governed." See Schmitz, The United States and Fascist Italy, 1922-1940, pp. 14, 36, 44, 52; Foreign Relations of the United States, 1919, Vol. I ("Paris Peace Conference"), Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1942, p. 47.

As time went on, the American Embassy was well aware of Mussolini's totalitarian measures. Fascism had "effectively stifled hostile elements in restricting the right of free assembly, in abolishing freedom of the press and in having at its command a large military organization," the Embassy reported in a message of February 1925, after a major Fascist crackdown. But Mussolini remained a "moderate," manfully confronting the fearsome Bolsheviks while fending off the extremist fringe on the right. His qualifications as a moderate were implicit in the judgment expressed by Ambassador Henry Fletcher: the choice in Italy is "between Mussolini and Fascism and Giolitti and Socialism, between strong methods of internal peace and prosperity and a return to free speech, loose administration and general disorganization. Peace and Prosperity were preferred." (Giolitti was the liberal Prime Minister, who had collaborated with Mussolini in the repression of labor but now found himself a target as well.) See Schmitz, The United States and Fascist Italy, 1922-1940, pp. 76-77f.

On the views of U.S. corporations towards Fascism, including details of participation in the plunder of Jewish assets under Hitler's Aryanization programs -- notably, the Ford Motor Company -- see for example, Christopher Simpson, The Splendid Blond Beast: Money, Law, and Genocide in the Twentieth Century, Monroe, ME: Common Courage, 1995, especially ch. 5 (on Ford's role in Aryanization of Jewish property, see pp. 62-63). An excerpt (p. 64):

coverMany U.S. companies bought substantial interests in established German companies, which in turn plowed that new money into Aryanizations or into arms production banned under the Versailles Treaty. According to a 1936 report from Ambassador William Dodd to President Roosevelt, a half-dozen key U.S. companies -- International Harvester, Ford, General Motors, Standard Oil of New Jersey, and du Pont -- had become deeply involved in German weapons production. . . .

U.S. investment in Germany accelerated rapidly after Hitler came to power, despite the Depression and Germany's default on virtually all of its government and commercial loans. Commerce Department reports show that U.S. investment in Germany increased some 48.5 percent between 1929 and 1940, while declining sharply everywhere else in continental Europe. U.S. investment in Great Britain . . . barely held steady over the decade, increasing only 2.6 percent.

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