Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power 1919-33, by James Pool and Suzanne Pool, 1978, 535 pages, $16.00, available from Northern Voice, P.O. Box 281, Wildwood, PA 15091.
Reviewed by John Bell
Adolf Hitler emerged from World War I as a decorated but penniless army corporal, embittered by the lost war and the devastating Treaty of Versailles which he, like many Germans, attributed to treachery rather than failure of German arms. Yet in 1933 he stood as the undisputed leader of a resurgent Germany, revered by his own people as have been few leaders in history. The story of that ascent is important because the forces that shaped the world in which Hitler contended for power are the same ones that shape our world today --- the shadowy, seemingly disconnected worlds of Bolshevism and international finance.
James and Suzanne Pool's Who Financed Hitler paints a picture that will disappoint conspiracy buffs but which may surprise those who have seen Hitler solely as a demonic megalomaniac because the left has portrayed him that way for the last 60 years. The bottom line is that Hitler rose to power legally via the ballot box. And he did it in large measure --- though by no means exclusively --- on the strength of small contributions from lower and middle class Germans who were most harmed by the war, by the Treaty of Versailles and the runaway inflation that it brought on and by the malevolent, pervasive threat of communist revolution.
Among conspiracy believers it has long been an article of faith that Hitler was secretly funded by Bolshevism, by Wall Street or by international Jewish bankers. Indeed, World War II did make the world safe for Bolshevism, delivering half of Europe into communist hands. It also devastated the White nations of the world, killing millions of the flower of European manhood in the process. However, Who Financed Hitler presents little evidence to support the conspiracy thesis. Most of the money Hitler received from the wealthy class came from nationalist German, British, and American individuals acting alone, an example being car maker Henry Ford. If communism did provide money, it constituted only a small fraction of Hitler's backing.
The truth is that Hitler was the most popular politician in Germany in the late '20s and early '30s. He did not seize power by overthrowing a legitimate regime. He garnered the votes of millions of ordinary German workers, shop owners and artisans. He was opposed not only by communists -- with whom he waged, quite literally, a battle to the death -- but also by most of Germany's military, industrial and intellectual leadership. His "Brown Shirt" street army has been condemned, but in post-WWI Germany it was a necessary self-defense tactic adapted from the communists, who routinely used mob violence against opponents.
The Treaty of Versailles created economic conditions where Hitler's populist message could gain a hearing. The Allies forced a prostrate Germany, threatened by communist revolution from within, to accept full blame for the war. Reparations included the loss of 25,000 square miles of territory together with 6 million inhabitants. Germany lost 65 percent of her iron ore reserves, 45 percent of her coal, 72 percent of her zinc and 10 percent of her industrial capacity. A 26 percent tax was placed on all German imports. It was calculated that, with interest, the cash reparation burden would have taken 50 years to pay off. [Image: Hitler's anti-Versailles poster design -- a chained Germania beneath the slogan "Only National Socialism will free Germany from the lie of sole guilt!"]
When Germany's economy collapsed in hyperinflation in the early 1920s, Versailles was to blame. Americans who remember the double digit inflation under Jimmy Carter that led to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 cannot conceive of Germany's situation. At the end of World War I, Germany's mark exchanged at the rate of 9 marks per dollar. By January of 1922, the rate had increased to 192 marks per dollar. By November of 1923, it took over 4 trillion marks to buy one dollar! People took wheelbarrows full of money to the store to buy a loaf of bread. The wheelbarrow was worth more than the money in it. Millions of German families saw their life savings destroyed.
In this political witch's brew, Hitler's nationalism gave hope to the common man. Had not Germany's elite prevailed on German President Paul von Hindenburg to withhold power from him, he would have become Chancellor in 1932, by which time the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) was the largest party in Germany, with almost twice as many deputies in the Reichstag as its nearest competitor, the fading Social Democrats. Significantly, the Communist Party was the third largest party.
Hitler created the modern election campaign single-handedly, using airplanes to make as many as four or five speeches a day across Germany. Everywhere he was greeted as a savior by ordinary Germans fed up with grinding poverty and communist agitation. Yet the ruling class still opposed him. Only by holding the specter of communism before the Prussian aristocracy, the old-line Junkers landowner class, the military leadership and German industrialists was Hitler able to secure the behind-the-scenes power base needed to gain the Chancellorship.
In the early years, Hitler received only modest support from wealthy German industrialists. Most supported several political parties, some with mildly socialist views. They were anxious to void the Treaty of Versailles but were not eager to risk another war. Furthermore, they were deathly afraid of the influence of communism. German industry sometimes made surprising wage concessions to German workers even during the height of the post-war depression, in order to prevent communists from gaining a foothold. However they were not willing to support Hitler in the early years, perhaps because they perceived in Hitler's message a willingness to take genuine risks.
There were notable exceptions, patriotic individuals whose passion for restoration of a strong nationalist Germany, free of the hated Treaty of Versailles, outweighed their caution and led them to support Hitler out of conviction. Early on, he received help from the secretive Thule Society, a group of aristocrats dedicated to reconstructing a strong Germany. Later, two wealthy German industrialists became key backers.
One was Emil Kirdorf, who began contributing to Hitler in 1927. Kirdorf, whose fortune was made in the German coal mining industry, was so anti-socialist that before the war he considered the Kaiser himself to be a pawn of the middle-of-the-road Social Democrats. The authors point out that "[h]is feud with the Kaiser was carried so far that he refused to appear at any social function where the monarch was present." To such a man, Hitler's brand of nationalism appealed on principle.
By 1929, Hitler had the backing of Fritz Thyssen, heir to the vast steel holdings of his father, August Thyssen. In 1926 the father died and Fritz became chairman of the board of United Steel Works, the largest steel trust in Germany. Thyssen gave more money to Hitler than any other individual. He hated communism with a passion, perhaps because during the abortive German communist revolution of 1918 both he and his father were arrested by a communist revolutionary group and very nearly executed by firing squad. They were freed four days later when even these communist zealots could find no credible charges under which to execute them.
Despite his popularity among the German rank and file, Hitler knew he needed support from Germany's establishment. To this end he cultivated his few industrial supporters carefully in the hope that he might make a breakthrough. In 1929, Emil Kirdorf summoned Hitler for reassurance that Hitler's Brown Shirts would leave Germany's industries alone. Hitler replied that he needed only three things to fully enforce his authority on the party: "I want a little time, a lot of money, and the ban against my political activities in Prussia lifted."
"And what if I give you all of these?" Kirdorf asked.
"You and the other industrialists could dictate the party line insofar as it affected you and the properties you own." As James and Suzanne Pool point out, "From that day forth Hitler basically lived up to this agreement." Hitler gave similar assurances to the Army in 1930 as his NSDAP gained in popular support, admitting that the Brown Shirts "were set up exclusively for the purpose of protecting the Party in its propaganda activities ...." In a Germany racked by communist mobs and street violence, this protection, as foreign as it may seem to today's sheltered Americans, was a necessity for survival.
In January 1932 Hitler appealed to Germany's industrial leadership in a speech to the Industry Club of Dusseldorf. While he gained a few new converts, he presented a tightly reasoned defense of German nationalism that appears to have defused much of his organized opposition among the industrial leadership. The Pools write: "The audience feared Communism more than anything else. Realizing this, Hitler made the danger of Marxism the central theme of his speech. He discussed the topic with rational logic and made some startlingly accurate predictions about its future development."
Hitler argued that liberal democracy and the idea of human equality would inevitably lead to communism. "You maintain, gentlemen, that German business life must be constructed on a basis of private property. Now such a conception as that of private property can only be defended if in some way or another it appears to have a logical foundation. This conception must deduce its ethical justification from an insight into the necessity which Nature dictates ... I am bound to say that private property can be morally and ethically justified only if I admit that men's achievements are different."
"And once this is admitted it is madness to say: in the economic sphere there are undoubtedly differences in value, but that is not true in the political sphere. . . In periods of national decline, we always find that in place of the value of personality there is substituted a leveling idea of the supremacy of mere numbers -- democracy ... [But now] the concept of human equality itself has been developed into a political and economic 'system' and this system ... is Communism."
Hitler's thesis is historically sound. Karl Marx favored democracy, stating in his 1848 "Communist Manifesto" that "The first step in the revolution of the working class ... is to win the battle for democracy." America's Founders detested democracy. John Randolph spoke derisively of "King Numbers." James Madison said that democracies inevitably degenerated into mob rule.
No study of Hitler is complete without coverage of Hitler's relationship to the Jews. Indeed it is this aspect that forms the heart and soul of the left's vilification of Hitler -- and, by extension, of all nationalism. Who Founded Hitler is no exception. It contains a number of obligatory rebukes for "anti-Semitism" and "racism." However, a curious alternate view also emerges, largely based on facts that receive only muted criticism. These little-known facts explain much of the negative attitude of Hitler and Europeans of his time to Jews.
The discussion centers around support by Henry Ford for Hitler's opposition to Bolshevism. In the early 1920s, Ford published a newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, largely devoted to exposing the Jewish roots of Bolshevism and the complicity between communists in the Soviet Union and Jewish bankers on Wall Street. His articles, including his analysis of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, were collected in book form, a four-volume study called The International Jew, the World's Foremost Problem.
The Pools write: "Both Ford and Hitler believed that Jewish capitalists and Jewish Communists were partners aiming to gain control over the nations of the world. Their views differed somewhat, but this was mainly a result of their contrasting positions and nationalities .... Communism was a completely Jewish creation. Not only was its founder, Karl Marx, the grandson of a rabbi, but more importantly Jews held leading positions, as well as a high percentage of the membership, in the Communist parties throughout the world."
The authors claim this fact was of little import. But they let stand some damning fact. "[T]his charge against the Jews was believed by many middle class Germans because it did seem to conform to the facts ... [W]hile there were only 7 million Jews among the total Russian population of 136 million, their share in the membership of the revolutionary parties was about 50 percent ... However, most Jews were not in the rank and file, but rather in the upper echelons of the Soviet bureaucracy." Lenin, himself part Jewish, said that, "Jews provided a particularly high percentage of the leaders of the revolutionary movement."
These facts were well known throughout Europe in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the Red Terror that followed, during which literally tens of millions of white Russian middle class citizens were slaughtered. The likely reason for their butchery was genocide, i.e., elimination of the genes of those who possessed sufficient intellect and resolve to provide opposition to the Bolsheviks. Americans should consider carefully the implications of these suppressed historical events. Contrary to current perception, communism is not dead. If it ever gains the upper hand here, we will have our own Red Terror.
No man in history has been more vilified than Adolf Hitler. Whatever one believes about Hitler's alleged "genocide" -- and there is a growing body of scholarship that impeaches many of the more extravagant claims -- everyone concedes that the mass murders committed by Stalin and Mao are far higher than anything Hitler has ever been accused of. Figures for these murderers range as high as 65 million each, carnage which defies imagination. Yet only Hitler bears the continuing wrath of the left. By now, it should have occurred to at least a few Americans to ask why.
The answer is that Hitler called for European nationalism as a response to communism, liberalism and internationalism. Both Stalin and Mao were communists, committed to communist world domination -- as Henry Ford explained so long ago. Communist egalitarianism is a sham, intended to divide the loyalties of ethnically related peoples. Hitler is still demonized today because if the left is to achieve its dream of world conquest it cannot permit the rise of nationalism -- or the validation of nationalist aspirations from the past.
Nationalist Times (March 1996)