Prescott Bush and the Financing of the Third Reich

In 1920 a unit of W.A. Harriman & Co. took effective control of a German shipping line, the Hamburg-Amerika shipping company. The Harriman unit was named American Ship and Commerce Corp., and run by George W. Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, and Prescott Bush's father-in-law, George Herbert Walker. During Hitler's rise to power the U.S. embassy in Berlin expressed concern to Washington at the cost of Hitler's political campaign, and of maintaining the Nazi army of more than 300,000 men, and raised questions about the source of funding. In George Bush, the Unauthorized Biography, authors Webster Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin, write that the embassy reported the Hamburg-Amerika shipping company was funding propaganda attacks against the seated German government, for its attempts to prevent Hitler's takeover.

Hamburg-Amerika line officials working through Harriman U.S. businesses attempted to use their influence to prevent anti-Nazi propaganda in the U.S, as well. In 1934 Congress heard testimony that employees of the New York office were actually part of the Nazi Labor Front organization, that the line provided free travel to people on Nazi propaganda business, and that they subsidized pro-Nazi publications in the U.S.

The United States entered World War II early in 1942. In August of that year the U.S. government's Office of Alien Property Custodian, operating under the Trading with the Enemy Act, seized all property of the Hamburg-Amerika line. Two months later the same agency seized the Union Banking Corporation, of which Prescott Bush was a director. At the time, shareholders included Prescott Bush, E. Roland Harriman, and several Nazi agents. The following week the government also took action against two other organizations run by Bush and Harriman - the Holland-American Trading Corporation, and the Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation. The following month assets of the Silesian-American Corporation were also seized under the same law. A government report characterized the Silesian-American Corporation as a holding company for German and Polish subsidiaries, that had been operated by the German government since 1939. The seizure order stated that the shares were held for the benefit of the Thyssen family, who were designated nationals of an enemy country.

Fritz Thyssen, of the same Thyssen family is acknowledged to have been a major financier for the Nazi movement. In his book I Paid Hitler, Thyssen admitted financing Hitler since 1923. A government memorandum recently declassified reports that the Union Banking Corporation had been established by W. Averell Harriman in 1924 as a joint operation of W.A. Harriman & Co. in New York, and the Bank voor Handel end Scheepvaart (BHS) in the Netherlands, primarily to handle Thyssen family funds. The report states that the Union Banking Corporation was connected to the Vereinigte Stahlwerke, which produced between 20 and 50% of Germany's steel products. The Bush-Harriman bank handled Thyssen family funds, while the New York firm of Dillon Read handled the VS funds. (Clarence Dillon had been a colleague of Prescott Bush's father, Sam Bush, during World War I.)

According to Tarpley and Chaitkin, Fritz Thyssen told Allied investigators that he had arranged credit for the Nazi party with BHS prior to Hitler's rise to power in 1933. He reportedly stated that he preferred to use a Dutch bank because it gave him more control than if he had used a German bank. He also apparently wanted to hide the activities from German banks (with which, as an industrialist, he presumably had other dealings).

Thyssen's partner in the Vereinigte Stahlwerke was Friedrich Flick. During the Nuremberg trial preparations U.S. investigators identified Flick as a major contributor to the Nazi party. He was awarded the title of Wehrwirtschaftsfuehrer for his work as head of an industrial conglomerate that included coal mines and steel plants. Flick was sentenced to seven years in prison, but only served three and died a wealthy man.

In 1933 shortly after Hitler took power, an agreement reached in Berlin designated Harriman International Co., headed by Averell Harriman's cousin Oliver, the sole agent for exports from Germany to the U.S. A key participant in the negotiations was John Foster Dulles, who with his brother was a lawyer for the Bush and Harriman families. John Foster Dulles later became Secretary of State, and a leader in the Republican Party. His brother Allan became head of the CIA, helped Prescott Bush in his campaign for Senate from Connecticut, and presumably assisted George H.W. Bush when he headed the CIA himself.

George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography By Webster G. Tarpley & Anton Chaitkin. Note: Chaitkin's father, Jacob Chaitkin, was hired by the American Jewish Congress as legal director of the boycott against Nazi Germany.