A way with words

Sometimes the things that are unsaid are far more telling than the things said.

I had cause to reflect on this when I stumbled across a book on my shelves that I have not opened for many years. The book, entitled “Deutsche Bank: Dates, facts and figures 1870-1993”, is an English translation of the year-by-year history of the bank compiled by Manfred Pohl and Angelike Raab-Rebentisch. In keeping with the title, the style is more bullet points than narrative. Nevertheless, I continue to find the pages spanning World War II strangely fascinating.

In 1938, with the connivance of the French and British, Germany annexed Sudetenland in Western Czechoslovakia. For Deutsche Bank, this meant more branches.

Deutsche Bank 1938

The following year, Deutsche Bank was fortunate enough to be able to continue its branch expansion, this time into Poland. At least this time, there is a mention of the events outside the bank that may have been relevant.

Deutsche Bank 1939

Another year, and some more expansion for the bank including a few branches in France. No need to mention the invasion of France here, of course.

Deutsche Bank 1940

From 1942, outside events start to interfere with the bank: the “impact of war” forces rather inconvenient branch closures.

DB War End

To see these extracts in the full context, here are the pages spanning 1934 to 1940 and 1940 to 1946.

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21 thoughts on “A way with words

  1. Magpie

    Sehr interessant, Herr Stubborn. Wie mächtig Freunde/Feinde können machen oder brechen ein Geschäft.

    Treten Sie die Punkte bei…

    Die Elster

  2. Magpie

    By the way, Herr Stubborn,

    There were other respectable companies, from Germany and abroad, with close links to the regime. In Germany there were AEG, Siemens, Krupp, Rheinmettal, among the largest.

    Actually, do you know who were some of the founders of the BIS?

    But there was a very interesting company you’ll never guess to whom was linked: Fordwerke. Let me give you a tip: the founder (initials HF) was a rabid anti-Semite and sponsored the publication of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in his country. Who would have guessed?!

    And IBM and Coca-Cola!

  3. pfh007

    I suppose we should at least credit them for sticking with a name that doesn’t hide its origins. For a few decades after WW2 that name was probably a bit of a liability.

    I have a copy of TIME magazine from 1970 that has a double page advertisement for Luthansa. The crew are all wearing these 1000W canary yellow uniforms in true 1970’s style.

    The tag line for the ad is

    “At last a German uniform that you are happy to see!”

    25 years later and a German company could finally mention the war!

    These days companies with colorful histories get the full corporate botox treatment.

    Check out the website for the military services company formerly known as Blackwater Inc


    Not sure how to pronounce it but it may rhyme with sexy.

  4. Zebra

    Magpie – to the winner goes the spoils. I once remember being on the beachfront at Brighton, England while a VW convention was going on and there were hundred of VWs strung out along the foreshore. I thought “So this is what it would have been like if Germany had won the war”.

  5. Magpie

    pfhoo7 and Zebra

    “These days companies with COLORFUL HISTORIES get the full corporate botox treatment.”

    Yeah, they do get the full botox treatment, alright! ;-)

    I guess that’s a way of looking at it.

    But these guys cannot claim they were neutral observers, who just happened to have profited with the war: they supported the Nazi party when it was starting, they supported the Nazis when they took power, they instigated the persecution of communists and socialists (Dachau, the first concentration camp, for instance, was opened to “lodge” communists, trade-unionists and socialists, before the Nazis decided to get rid of the Jews, Gypsies, mixed race people, Jehova Witnesses, pacifists, gay, disabled people, even the dissident Nazis!), many of them used slave labor. Their executives even asked for troublemaking slaves to be executed!

    When the war was obviously lost, they kept making money on the death and misery of millions of Germans and foreigners, civilian and military, young and old, men and women, while squirreling away money for them and their SS buddies (many of whom were also small and not-so-small “businessmen”, actually).

    And when the Nuremberg trials (and the following de-Nazification process) the great majority of them were treated with leniency, pretty much without explanation.

    Actually, soon enough the Allies were more interested in chasing the commies! Just like the Soviets were keen in using the Nazis and their lackeys to terrorize the people in Eastern Europe.

    As Stubborn said: “Sometimes the things that are unsaid are far more telling than the things said.”

  6. Magpie

    By the way, I did like the Xe “Code of Business Ethics and Business Conduct”.

    I don’t know why, but it reminded me of Dexter’s “Code”

  7. Magpie


    Yes, it certainly does. And I didn’t say otherwise.

    But the Nazi party did not come into existence in September, 1939…

  8. Magpie


    Okay, without further ado, let me give you the answer: Hjalmar Schacht (economist, btw) was one prominent Nazi.

    He was one of the defendants at Nuremberg, too. He wasn’t convicted because the British didn’t want him convicted.

    Why? I don’t know. To the best of my knowledge, they never explained.

    But, as you said, “sometimes the things that are unsaid are far more telling than the things said.”

    And he wasn’t the only one. The SS had a full department (Amt) dedicated to the economy.

  9. pfh007

    I think my comment may have been misunderstood. I was not suggesting that Deutsche Bank or Lufthansa or any other German companies do not have major skeletons in their closets or that any skeletons are not important or should not be revealed. My comments/observations were directed to the different ways companies handle associations with war – particularly unfavorable associations.

  10. pfh007

    “It’s just that I get a bit fired up against those bastards.”

    Yes – Illinois Nazis are the worst of all.

  11. Stubborn Mule Post author

    Magpie: the book mainly looks at the period 1919-1933, following the four key central bankers of England, the US, France and Germany. In the final chapters, it does, however, discuss the Nazi links to some extent. Here are some interesting bits and pieces:

    [Starting from 1933:] Over the next few months, as the Nazis maneuvred to undermine successive governments in the Reichstag, Schacht became a prominent supporter of the movement and a major fund raiser for the party.

    In an interview carried in newspapers around the world, Schacht declared that Hitler was “the only man fit for the Chancellorship”.

    Hitler would later confess that he thought Schacht “a man of quite astonishing ability…unsurpassed in the art of getting the better of the other party. But it was just his consummate skill in swindling other people which made him indispensable at the time.” [Schacht returned to head the Reichsbank for Hitler in 1933]

    When he first came to power, Schacht used to say that he would be willing to make a pact with the devil in order to restore German economic strength. By the late 1930s, he began to fear he had done just that. He never joined the Nazi Party nor did he become a member of Hitler’s inner circle. But as the regime’s abuse of power mounted, he found himself increasingly at odds with the direction of those who ran it. He had always kept his distance from other Nazi bigwigs—Himmler, Göring, Goebbels—often treating them with contempt and relying on Hitler to protect him. Now he came into open conflict with them, especially over corruption.

    On the Berlin cocktail circuit the rumour was that Schacht had the banknotes issued to the ministries controlled by Göring, Goebbels and Himmler marked, thus enabling him to track how much ended up in foreign accounts. He was increasingly heard referring to the Nazis as a bunch of “criminals” and “gangsters,” and even calling Hitler a “cheat and a crook.”

    Schacht was not above exploiting the popular irrational hatred and suspicion of Jews by peppering his speeches with anti-Semitic remarks. Nevertheless, he fought against many of the regime’s more extreme policies against Jews not so much on moral grounds as out of the pragmatic fear that they were harming the economy. In 1938, he was one of the architects of a plan to allow four hundred thousand German Jews to emigrate over the coming three-year period, their assets to be expropriated and placed in a trust as collateral for bonds that were to be sold to rich Jews outside Germany. The money so raised was to be used to resettle German Jews and to subsidize German exports—a macabre extortionary scheme to ransom these desperate people.

    In November 1937, after falling out with Herman Göring, he [Schacht] was fired by Hitler as minster of the economy…Two years later, when Schacht tried to resist further central bank financing of the ever-growing budget deficit, he was also removed from the Reichsbank…he was now for all intents and purposes a private citizen.

    In the years immediately before the war, Schacht took a leading part in several of the conspiracies by conservative politicians and businessmen to overthrow Hitler.

    After war broke out, Schacht kept a low profile, retiring to his estate in Gühlen away from the intrigue and paranoia of Berlin.

    Though Schacht remained on the fringes of the resistance movement, he was never trusted enough to be included in the inner circles. But his name was frequently mooted as a potential successor to Hitler in the event of a coup. In April 1944, his son-in-law Hilger von Scherpenberg, a German foreign service officer based in Stockholm, was arrested by the Gestappo. Following the failed July 20 plot to assassinate Hitler, Schacht was also arrested an imprisoned in Berlin—not because of any evidence of his complicity but because of his potential usefulness as a hostage or an intermediary in future negotiations with the Allies. [Schacht was well-respected in international banking circles.] In April 1945, he was sent to Dachau. Two weeks later, as the Allied armies advanced into Germany, he was one of a group of high-value prisoners, including Prince Philip of Hesse; the French ex-prime minister Léon Blum and his wife; General Franz Halder, formerly chief of the army staff, and his wife; Fritz Thyssen, the steel baron; and Prince Frederick Leopold of Prussia, who were shipped out—to be traded as potential hostages. They were finally liberated by the Allies from a camp in the southern Tyrol.

    Instead of greeting Schacht as a hero, the Americans arrested him, and he was among the twenty-four major figures to be prosecuted an Nuremberg. Furious at being lumped in with the “gangsters” of the Nazi regime, he insisted the he was different, that he had only acted in self-defence to protect Germany against the Allied economic stranglehold and had broken with the führer once he realized war was inevitable.

    Schacht and Von Papen were acquitted, on the grounds that their involvement with the Nazi regime had ended before the war broke out. Three days after being released, he was rearrested by the new government of the State of Bavaria under its de-Nazification laws. After five different trials, all of which ended without a conviction, he was finally released in 1950.

  12. Magpie

    Thanks for that Stubborn!

    As I said at the Stable, Schacht and other people (including Papen and Hindenburg) thought they could maneuver Hitler.

    After 30-01-1933, when Hindenburg (who had been elected President) decided to appoint Hitler to the Chancellorship (Papen to vice), it is said that Papen had boasted “within two months we will have pushed Hitler so far in the corner that he’ll squeak.”

    During the Great Depression the Nazis had increased their numbers dramatically, by the continuous denunciation of the Versailles financial impositions, the weakness of the Weimar Republic and by blaming the chaos on an alleged Jewish-Communist conspiracy.

    The more traditional right had never truly embraced Weimar, either (many were monarchists). Although they despised Hitler, they thought it safer to make a deal with him.

    Further, people like Alfred Hugenberg (media concerns), Kurt Schmitt (Allianz AG), Friedrich Flick (Daimler), Alfred Krupp saw in Hitler a useful weapon against a more active left.

    And you might not believe it, but in fact, around those years that vision was shared overseas, as well:

    “One may dislike Hitler’s system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.” (Winston Churchill, “Hitler and His Choice”, The Strand Magazine, November 1935).

    The left was violently divided ever since WW1: SPD (social democrats) supporting the war; the more radicals, opposing it. In 1919, the SPD violently suppressed the Spartacist revolts and up to 1933 supported the Weimar Republic, while the KPD partly because of this, partly on Moscow’s instigation, opposed Weimar.

    At the end of the day, not only Hitler out-foxed people like Papen, but Hindenburg died, leaving Hitler’s path open.

    The rest of the gang perhaps did not like Hitler personally, but that was a little price to pay: they were making profits like crazy.

    A few, like Schacht, were a little more perspicacious and understood that ultimately Hitler’s policies were unsustainable (politically, militarily and economically), but for the most part, they were happy then, and after the war, they remained happy.

    Flick family

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