The United States is no stranger to controversial history. Throughout the decades, America has been a hotbed of clashing social rights issues, from abolition to women’s rights.
One might believe that the US is truly a marvelous place because of these social strides, but there are dark chapters underneath it.
No stranger to these controversial pieces of history is business. Even today, international business shakes hands with countries, administrations, and governments with “questionable” views on social rights, to say the least.
But before all that, a handful of American companies were in bed with perhaps one of the most infamous and tyrannical powers of recent history: the Nazi regime.
While the subject of “working” with the Nazis can get muddied, depending on who you ask or what you read, there were absolutely business entities that supported the genocidal empire.
Often, profit margins swayed the end goals of American-based businesses when working with Nazi Germany.
While many were willing to suspend operations during wartime and the discovery of the Holocaust, a surprising degree still maintained business relationships in some capacity.
Many were integral to not just the Nazi war machine but executing the Holocaust as well.
Here are ten prolific American companies that supported the Nazis.
Known today as JP Morgan Chase, the Chase Manhattan Bank has a spotty history with Nazi Germany.
Notably, during the buildup of the Third Reich, Chase-Manhattan (with a handful of other US banks) aided the Nazis by helping them raise $20 million for a dollar exchange, a commission from which the bank profited $500,000.
To make matters worse, the Rockefeller Foundation, started by Chase’s founder JD Rockefeller, helped the Nazis by funding their eugenics research.
Chase went out of its way to aid the Nazis by targeting Jewish accounts and refugees fleeing the Nazi regime.
As a result, French Jews had their accounts frozen, and millions of marks were taken from the accounts of fleeing Jewish people between 1936 and 1941.
Those who know of the company’s controversial past will undoubtedly be aware of Ford’s relationship with the Nazis.
For example, Henry Ford never shied away from his relationship with Hitler or downplayed the praise he received.
Henry Ford received honors, and Hitler even maintained a portrait of Henry, a rare “honor.”
Decades later, it was discovered Ford Motor factories were exploiting enslaved Russians to work in their factories (specifically Cologne).
Additionally, Ford was part of the AFA (America First Association) which advocated the US stay out of WWII, regardless of the conflict and occurring atrocities.
If there was ever a myth that the Nazi war machine ran on its resources, then its dealings with Dow Chemical prove how much international collaboration occurred.
Unsurprisingly, a chemical company had its hands in some black-hearted affairs and provided the Nazis with manufacturing supplies.
Raw materials and technology aided the Nazi war machine and efforts, and their success in the field would not have been as potent without the help of Dow Chemical.
From a company that originally produced a soda with “questionable” methods, Coca-Cola was a major part of German consumerism up until 1942.
Once the war started, Coke products were no longer sold until the head of Coca-Cola Germany, Max Keith, rebranded it to “Fanta” to continue German public support for the war.
This was especially so as sugar was rationed and harder to find, where Fanta was ready to supply it.
So while indeed Coca-Cola products were not technically sold to the Nazi German market, a simple name change allowed them to maintain a profit margin even during the WWII conflict.
Woolworth sold merchandise throughout the United States and Germany, though in limited quantities.
During the discovery of Jewish persecution, Americans protested the sale of products from Woolworth, though German citizens protested the removal, seeing it as an insult.
Woolworth clarified their position on the affair by firing all its Jewish workers and were considered honorary Aryan sellers by the Reich.
Companies were greatly influenced by market share, and MGM was no exception. An exceptionally popular provider of films for German audiences said audiences made up a huge portion of their profit and traffic.
The German public had a romanticized view of America, at least through film, and it’s one of the key reasons films produced by MGM were wildly popular there.
Just as much, MGM didn’t mind providing both entertainment and support for the Nazi regime, even after the 1939 invasion of Poland.
Here, they donated 11 film reels for relief efforts to maintain their market capture while ignoring rumors of enslavement and war crimes.
It was only after French and British markets walked away from MGM films (as well as failing support in Germany due to wartime strife) that their amiable relationship ceased.
Though they’re known for scenic pictures and photography, Kodak has a history of Nazi collaboration.
Kodak had numerous subsidiaries and businesses in Germany, and while their operations closed during the US war against Nazi Germany, subsidiaries still stationed in Germany were autonomous and continued operations for a profitable sum.
Kodak wasn’t shy about selling photographic and electronic equipment to the Nazis to aid their war effort, either.
Their motive and logic for working with Nazi Germany during the war was profit, even if Kodak used 250 slave laborers taken from concentration camps.
While General Electric is a household name in the United States, it also ties to Nazi Germany.
Germany’s manufacturing firm, Krupp, worked closely with GE, exploiting Jewish slave labor and using said slave labor to build the gas chambers found in concentration camps.
But, once again, profit ruled the motives, as it’s estimated GE made around $1.5 million working with Krupp during WWII.
Though the United States fined them, it didn’t stop their profit venture and revealed a ghoulish degree of inhumanity in the name of profit margins.
Vast quantities of aluminum were manufactured during the course of WWII, and Nazi Germany desperately needed it. Alcoa, one of today’s largest possessors and manufacturers of aluminum, had a monopoly on the resource during WWII and readily took advantage of it.
Before the war, Alcoa was responsible for exporting massive quantities of aluminum to Germany, which aided their war effort.
Once the war began, America faced a severe aluminum shortage thanks to the company’s monopoly, which aided the German war machine and hindered America’s early military efforts and operations.
The electronic and tech giant is responsible for many innovations in the digital age, but they were also instrumental in carrying out Nazi Germany operations.
Not just by supplying technology but methods to track Jewish families during the Holocaust.
IBM possessed a German subsidiary, Dehomag, which provided the Germans with technology and accessible ways to identify Jews and other “undesirables.”
This allowed them to track and log Jewish populations and route them to concentration camps. It was essential in aiding the Nazi Regime to carry out the Holocaust efficiently.
A dark history
These are only a handful of US-based companies that, in some capacity, worked with Nazi Germany. Some were content to supply the war machine with supplies, technology, and resources.
Others declared general support for Nazi Germany or, such as in the case of Ford, railed against any US intervention.
The unfortunate reality is that profit margins superseded the cost of human life, even if that cost was horrifying. If enough money was on the table, the listed companies (and others) were willing to turn a blind eye to the Holocaust.
What we learn from history and often reflected in events of today is that human cost is of no concern when there’s money to be made.
Even America, “home of the free” and enemy of Nazi Germany, boasted its own companies that happily worked with a genocidal regime.