|Did American companies
collaborate with the Nazis ?
TEXACO FORGED BONDS WITH THE NAZIS
"The trouble with this country is that you
can't win an election without the oil bloc,
and you can't govern with it."
Franklin D. Roosevelt
|Torkild Rieber, Norwegian naturalized
American in 1904, ex-captain of an oil tanker,
propulsed himself to the head of Texaco
where he imposed his iron fist. In 1936, TIME
magazine honored him with its coveted cover
story. The year after he started to develop
Texaco's business with Spain and Germany.
History books about the ambiguous attitude of the american tycoons between
1933 and 1941 are legions and so are the Internet sites which are implicating Wall
Street's financiers or even the Bush family together with Averell Harriman and
other american moguls, not to mention the Kennedy clan. A simple search in
Google's search engine brings up a lot of links from where the amateur historian
can try to make up his mind. The nazi regime stirred sympathies all over the world.
However one of the most sympathetic to the Nazis was the
americano-norwegian Torkid Rieber born in Voss (Norway) in 1882 and naturalized
American in 1904. He joined the Texas Cy in 1905 and built ruthlessly its tanker
fleet during the course of the next 30 years. In 1935, as the pinnacle of his career,
he was sacred Chairman of Texaco and developped its business all over the world
(Colombia, Bahrein) and professed an overt admiration for the Nazis and General
Francisco Franco who was leading the civil war against the Spanish Socialists.
Although not an anti-semite, -he always bragged about his friendship with Solomon
Guggenheim- he clearly had some admiration for the way Germany was
administered and the dictatorial methods of Hitler.
In 1937, out of his support to Franco, he ordered Texaco's tankers to smuggle
oil to Spanish Insurgents from Galveston, Texas. Roosevelt disagreed and asked
Rieber not to do it again. Rieber bolted and continued to ship oil to Franco this time
through italian northern ports. In 1938, a German named Dr. Friedrich Fetzer
convinced Rieber that it would be good for Texaco to do business with the
Germans. The oil mogul agreed and started once more to ship oil to a fascist
country, the oil was paid in Reichmarks onto an account in a German bank in
In spite of the outbreak of the war, Texaco continued its shipping to the Nazis
and even defied the British embargo and blockade through the Atlantic. Rieber so
much befriended the Nazis that at some stage in 1940 he visited FDR with a peace
proposal emanating directly from Marshall Goering whose goal was to keep
America out of the war while Germany would settle her differences with England,
then with Russia. The US President was infuriated by the bold demand of Rieber
and told him with some condescension "to keep out of this thing."
Undeterred by the presidential rebuke, Rieber accepted to finance the
"pro-german" activities in the US of a German lawyer named Dr. Westrick who
stayed in a Scarsdale (NY) mansion payed by Texaco and was even given a car.
Helped by Texaco's money and Rieber's social connections, Dr. Westrick was able
to meet Henry and Edsel Ford, James Mooney of General Motors and in June 1940
was capable to wire to Berlin that " an influential group headed by Mooney had
agreed to put pressure on FDR to improve relations with Germany by
suspending shipments of armaments to Great Britain." Into this group were
Col. Sosthenes Behn, CEO of ITT, Ralph B. Strassburger, Pennsylvania financier,
James D. Mooney, General Motors Overseas Operations CEO, Edsel Ford,
Eberhard Faber and representatives of Eastman Kodak, the Underwood Elliott
Fisher Cy. and The International Milk Cy.
But the worst was yet to come. In December 1939, Rieber had met another
German named Dr. Nikolas Bensmann who was nobody else than a partner into the
Law firm representing Texaco patents interest in Germany, Hermann Bensmann
and Co. Unknown to Rieber, Dr "Niko" was also an Abwehr agent under matricule
Sonderfuehrer F.2531. Rieber developped a genuine sympathy for this very
brilliant man who spoke english without accent and excelled in ridiculing Hitler's
antics. More he was an oil expert and knew everything about american oil industry.
Thanks to his friendship with Rieber and his social connections, Niko was able to
produce first rate intelligence to his masters in Berlin. Furthermore, Niko's contacts
with the Abwehr allowed him to do some very big favors to Rieber "in recognition of
the considerable services Captain Rieber was rendering to the German cause" :
thus the Abwehr notably facilitated the secret release of an oil tanker -the Nuova
Andalucia- from German shipyards in barter payment for the shipment of oil.
The ingeniosity and the contacts of Nikolas Bensmann through Rieber were
such that he was eventually capable to wire to Berlin a secret coded message
reading "during recent visit to FDR, Rieber learned personally from the President
that FDR was absolutely determined to keep USA out of war under any and all
circumstances. Rieber obtained same assurance from the Presidents of the
Democratic and Republican parties."
|Sosthenes Behn, CE of IT&T, was on the 26 june 1940 among an array of
distinguished businessmen who celebrated the fall of France at the
Waldorf-Astoria with a German lawyer named Gerhard Alois Westrick. This
array also included tycoons figures as the Fords Henry and Edsel, James
D. Moosey of General Motors and Ralph Strassurger, newspapers baron of
Pennsylvania. The first meeting between Hitler and I.T.T. officials was
reported in August 1933 when Sosthenes Behn and I.T.T. German
representative Henry Manne met with Hitler in Berchesgaden.
Subsequently, Behn made contact with the Keppler circle and, through
Keppler's influence, Nazi Baron Kurt von Schröder became the guardian of
I.T.T. interests in Germany. Schröder acted as the conduit for I.T.T. money
funneled to Heinrich Himmler's S.S. organization in 1944, while World War
II was in progress, and the United states was at war with Germany.
In August 1940 while he was under public scutiny for his leanings and even
accused of being "pro-nazi", Rieber swore that "this country (the USA) had
honored me with its citizenship and under no circumstances could I be identified
with, or sympathetic to, any un-American activity." At the same time, shipments
and intelligence to Germany were still flowing secretly from Texaco. The
intelligence reports from the "Rieber ring" were invaluable to the Germans. Like
pieces of a puzzle, they were feeding the global picture of american oil industry
from exploration to research centers and they gave to the Abwehr an extremely
accurate image of the american strength in the field. In the summer of 1940 just
after France's collapse, Bensmann's reports even provided the actual US
capacity of aircraft production : 50,000 units. This figure was synthesized by
Texaco's economists who concluded that FRD's plans to produce this quantity
was absolutely within the capability of US industry.
When Admiral Canaris, Head of the Abwehr, submitted this terrific information
to Hitler, he was rebuked and dismissed with a snarl :"You must be out of your
mind to take such crap seriously", snapped the Fuehrer. The "military genius" of
Germany never paid attention to intelligence that did not match his prejudices
and his intuitions.
However the Rieber's era came to an abrupt end due to the efforts of the
british counter-espionnage MI.6 who had enough of the German espionage in
America and of the anti-war tycoons propagandists. Their man in the USA, a
certain William Stephenson, decided that he would blow up the cover of Dr.
Westrick and his link to Rieber whom he did not suspect of any wrongdoings with
the Abwehr but he wanted to put an end to Texaco's shipments to Germany. He
did not take long to the MI.6 to accumulate evidence against both men and to
siphon the intelligence to a reporter of the New York Herald. The scandal that
followed the publication of the facts killed Rieber who was forced to resign as
chairman of Texaco in August 1940. “If I were dying in a Texaco gas station, a
Shell man then said, I’d asked to be dragged across the road.” Some authors
even went to say that “Texaco has always taken pride in being the meanest of
the big companies.”
Anyway Stephenson was more than happy with the outcome of his attack
against the ring but unfortunately the British had no idea of the other
involvement of Rieber with the Germans through Dr. Niko and the Abwehr.
Dr. Brensmann quietly continued to call his contacts at Texaco during the
Blitz against England, inquiring from Rieber's successor how England's chances
of surviving were seen in the US. And they were judged "very very dim". Of
course nobody at Texaco suspected the association of Dr Niko with the Abwehr
which shows three things : -1 the naivety of American businessmen before 1941
-2 their wrong appreciation of the reality of the Nazi regime -3 the greed of the oil
barons and their indifference to moral issues.
It is only in 1941 that Texaco's Vice President C.H. Olmsted decided that
"small talks over the phone" should end and that business with Germany should
stopped all together." But the evil has been done. The support the Nazis were
given by the Rieber ring was invaluable. It lasted until December 1941 and the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Then what stayed in History as a "day of
infamy" changed the course of events for ever and for good. America turned her
back to any peaceful idea and it was the end of the Rieber's ring dream of an
America out of war.
Torkid Rieber will keep himself busy during the war working for his
Guggenheim's friends who were unaware of his contacts with an Abwehr agent
as he was himself : he became chairman of South Carolina Shipbuilding and Dry
Docks, supervising construction of more than $10 million of U.S. Navy ships, and
a director of the Guggenheim family's Barber Asphalt Corporation and Seaboard
Oil Company of Ohio. He died in 1968 president of the Barber Oil corporation, an
independent oil company created from the Barber Asphalt Corp.
Hopefully for his memoir, the link between Texaco and the Abwehr was never
revealead before his death, otherwise he could have been judged for treason.
|When it comes to business, nations do not care and their citizens
come up with all sort of justifications
Adolf Hitler’s personal copy of the life
history of the man whom he most
admired in the world. Hitler disdained
most Americans of the 20th century,
feeling that they were simply opulent
capitalists who had for the most part no
true cultural awareness, whatsoever. He,
of course, made certain exceptions. He
was an admirer of Ford, Lindbergh, and
writers such as Poe, James Fenimore
Cooper, Buffalo Bill, George
Washington, Robert E. Lee, and other
notables. But, Henry Ford above all
others stood out in his mind as the
personification of what America should