The Nazi regime is seen as an empire of evil. However, things haven’t been always like that. In fact, many large corporations have had close economic relations with the Nazi regime. While some businessmen of those times sympathized with the Nazi ideology, others linked their companies to Adolf Hitler just for profit.
Whatever the reason, those companies have contributed to the suffering caused by the Nazis, making huge profits. Below, you’ll find some of them. Keep in mind that they are still in business.
Through its branch from Europe, IBM provided Germany the necessary equipment to identify the people that the Nazis wanted to eliminate. They also provided the technology needed to monitor the transportation to the extermination camps.
After the outbreak of the war, IBM was already an important IT company with important activities in Europe. In 1933, at the beginning of the Nazi regime, the president of the company, Thomas Watson, went personally to Germany to supervise the establishment of a new factory.
Meantime, IBM was contracted by the Nazis to carry out the population census. The purpose of the census today seems very predictable, but at that time, the German population had no idea what was the true purpose of the census. So, they managed to identify the Jews, Gypsies, and other unwanted ethnic groups. IBM also provided cards and a sorting system of those cards that allowed the Nazis to identify more easily the ethnic groups.
The same system provided by IBM was used by the Nazis in other countries as well, to coordinate the transports to the concentration camps. Even after the U.S. entered the war, IBM executives falsified internal data and used European branches to ensure that Nazi Germany is properly supplied.
Why? Well, business with the Germans was very profitable. In fact, during the war, Germany was the second largest territory in which IBM was doing business.
At the end of the war, IBM was investigated, but there was “no sufficient evidence” to prosecute anyone.
Coca-Cola Company also had financial benefits from Nazi Germany. An interesting fact is that Fanta, produced by the company, was actually born during the Nazi regime. In 1933 when the Nazis came to power, the Coca-Cola Company was flourishing.
The company’s operations were led by Max Keith, who managed to conquer most of the German market. However, at the end of 1933, the company suffered a huge blow. The German government drastically restricted the imports of syrups, including Coca-Cola.
In an attempt to save the business, the president of Coca-Cola tried to convince Hermann Goering to fix the problem, but in 1937 the company suffered a second blow. The Germans noticed that some bottles’ labels contained Hebrew words.
From that moment, the Germans started to believe that Coca-Cola was led by the Jews. To counter this idea, Keith began to accentuate the idea that Coca-Cola is a pro-Nazi company. He addressed to the Hitler Youth organization, trying to win that market segment.
Also, to avoid the limitation of syrup imports, Keith developed a local syrup to in order to sell it in the local markets with no restrictions. The drink was called “Fanta”, a shortcut word for “fantasy” (German: die Fantasie).
3. Hugo Boss
In 1931, two years before the Nazis came to power, Hugo Boss began his business in the fashion world. However, Hugo Boss was already a collaborator of the Nazis, producing uniforms for them in a factory that he acquired in 1924.
In fact, in 1931, Hugo Boss officially registered in Adolf Hitler’s party. Later on, he became a sponsor of Schutzstaffel (SS). Due to his loyalty, Boss had a special treatment from the Nazis.
He was also the creator of the famous black uniforms of the SS troops, but also of the Hitler’s Youth organization. In 1938, Hugo Boss began to produce uniforms for the German army.
In order to cope with the increasing number of orders, the company began to use prisoners from the concentration camps. After the war, Boss was classified as an “activist”. In 1946, he was fined and lost is right to own a company. Ironically, after his death in 1948, the company continued to operate, under the direction of Eugen Holy, Boss’s son in law.
After the WWII no one knew that Kodak had collaborated with the Nazis. However, only in 2000, it was discovered that the American company helped the Germans before and during WWII.
Just like many other international companies, Kodak had branches throughout Europe, including Germany. In the 1930s Germany became more and more aggressive internationally, but Kodak kept its branch in Germany.
Later, in 1941, the United States entered the war. This also banned all the American companies to import or export any kind of products from Germany. Just like many other companies at that time, Kodak didn’t want to lose money, therefore they granted more importance to its branch from Germany. Thus, it came under the command of the Nazis.
Then, Kodak started to use its branches from the neutral states, such as Switzerland and Portugal, to pursue business with Germany. During the war, Kodak supplied the Nazis with photographic and electronic equipment, which they used in the war against the Allies.
You might think that is not such a bad thing to help the Nazis with photographic equipment. But, the sad part is that the German branch of Kodak used over 250 people from the concentration camps.
After the war, Kodak paid $500,000 in a fund for families of inmates that were forced to work for the Nazis. However, Kodak officials have never apologized for its ties with Nazi Germany.
The famous company for the creation of aspirin has a dark side in its history. At first, Bayer was established as an independent company. In the 1930s, it became part of IG Farben, a conglomerate of several major companies from Germany.
Under the Nazi regime, IG Farben has committed a multitude of atrocities. When Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, IG Farben collaborated with the Nazi government and the army the gain control of the chemical companies from Czechoslovakia.
Also, IG Farben is known for creating the Zyklon B, which was a gas used by the Nazis in the gas chambers. Just like other companies, IG Farben took advantage of the workforce from the Nazi concentration camps.
As a matter of fact, the company has opened a factory near Auschwitz, in order to have “free manpower”. At the end of the war, IG Farben was dissolved and its executives were accused of murder.
Although 13 out of 24 executives were convicted, all were released before the term. Most of them returned to business. For example, Fritz ter Meer, who coordinated the operations at the factory near Auschwitz, became the president of Bayer.
In 1995, the company formally apologized for their role during the Holocaust.