Posts Tagged ‘I Paid Hitler’

Yo Pagué a Hitler (I Paid Hitler) – A Thyssen Vanity Project Then and Now

First published in 1941, the book ‘I Paid Hitler’, whose authorship Fritz Thyssen both claimed and denied at different times, has recently been republished in Spain by Editorial Renacimiento of Seville, with a foreword by Juan Bonilla, under the title ‘Yo Pagué a Hitler’.

But why?

Seventy-six years ago, the work was brokered, edited and largely written by a highly intelligent Jewish, formerly Hungarian literary hustler by the name of Emery Reves (Imre Révész), who made a great deal of money from such things; much of it from subsequently representing Winston Churchill’s literary and journalistic endeavours.

With the encouragement of Reves, the considerably less intelligent Fritz Thyssen attempted to convince his readers that he deserved admiration for his courage in opposing allied First World War reparation demands on Germany. He also craved a sympathetic understanding for his financial support of Hitler as a means of preventing the spread of communism, as well as an acceptance of the notion that he had rejected the Third Reich when he realised the truth of its ambitions in late 1939.

This initial ploy, however, remained largely unsuccessful, as the book was dismissed by many as delusional, self-protective propaganda.

Meanwhile, Fritz, eager to cultivate what he saw as his new-found status of international, political celebrity, had given up his plans of escaping to Argentina (the anonymity of which he feared) and remained in Europe. But, courtesy of the Gestapo, by late 1940 he found himself back in Nazi Germany – together with his wife – where they would be held quite comfortably, first in a private sanatorium and, from 1943 onwards, in the VIP sections (!) of various concentration camps.

Today, at a time when the Fritz Thyssen Foundation of Cologne (founded in 1959 by Fritz Thyssen’s widow Amelie Thyssen as a memorial and tax efficient means of cultivating academic favour by providing financial support for research projects), is busy funding an academic rewriting of the Thyssen corporate and familial history, the reappearance of the book ‘I Paid Hitler’ could prove somewhat of an embarrassment. Indeed, they have already acknowledged the fact that a number of the statements in the work are, in fact, untrue!

So why now? And why in Spain?

When we pointed out in ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’ that Fritz Thyssen and his wife had fled Germany, not, as claimed, in protest against Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland, but largely because of a fear of punishment for their grave contraventions of German tax regulations and foreign exchange controls (to the tune of 48 million Reichsmark, i.e. some 350 million Euros at today’s rate), their eldest grandson, Count Alejandro Zichy-Thyssen, posted a review of ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’ on Amazon which read thus:

’……I find it incredible that someone can loose his time to try so smear one of the important Dutch/German families. It is a much better reading the book “I Paid Hitler” by Fritz Thyssen who was published in 1941 during the war when Hitler had the most powerful army behind him. Then to stand up and try to warn the United States of whom Hitler really was demanded an act of courage. Courage from a hero (Iron Cross) of the First World War. This man was captured by Hitler in 1940 and was put in a concentration camp. To try to smear his family name sixty years later inventing stories about the family in order to sell a book, I leave to you reader to judge the character of such a writer?’

It could thus seem reasonable to assume that, given the fact the Zichy-Thyssens have achieved very little in their lives apart from fortuitous parental choice, resulting in their exceptional wealth, they might have been responsible for funding this latest publishing venture.

So why Spain?

Well, having been raised in Argentina, the Zichy-Thyssens’ grasp of the Spanish language is somewhat better than their obviously tenuous grasp of English.

It should also, perhaps, not be forgotten that the Third Reich was partially responsible for General Franco’s success in the Spanish Civil War and the resulting subjugation of the population to fascist rule, which lasted well into the 1970s. There must still be many Spanish who remain sympathetic to the likes of Fritz Thyssen and of his family’s faded ‘fascist glory’.

And why now?

Well, perhaps because, despite all the academic polishing, the Thyssen reputation continues to rust. Perhaps because our seminal book has obliged the Fritz Thyssen Foundation-funded academics to admit more than the Zichy-Thyssen family is prepared to accept, without protest. And perhaps because ‘I Paid Hitler’ can once again resume its vainglorious objectives as a tool of Thyssen propaganda.

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The Fritz Thyssen Foundation admits its role in banishing the shadows of the family’s Nazi past

The Thyssens have always denied the full extent of their Nazi past.

Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’s side of the family achieved this by camouflaging his supportive industrial and banking facilities behind a dubious Hungarian nationality and Swiss residency, while claiming his brother Fritz to have been solely responsible for what little collaboration with the National Socialist regime the family was willing to admit.

The fact that Fritz Thyssen had co-operated with Emery Reves on a book entitled „I Paid Hitler“ made it easy to divert the spotlight onto his side of the family.

To save his own skin, Fritz and his lawyers alleged that the book had been authored by Reves rather than himself and that the representation of his guilt was grossly exaggerated. This strategy had some success and, at his denazification trial, Fritz Thyssen was judged to have been a „minor Nazi offender“.

A recent book funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation (Felix de Taillez: “Two Burghers’ Lives in the Public Eye. The Brothers Fritz Thyssen and Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza”. Schöningh Verlag Paderborn), however, finds that an investigation by Norman Cousins in 1949 showed conclusively that „I Paid Hitler“ was much more authentic than Fritz Thyssen and his lawyers had argued.

Nonetheless, following Fritz Thyssen’s death, the executor of his will, Robert Ellscheid, in close co-operation with his unrepentant widow, Amelie Thyssen (an ex Nazi-party member from 1931 onwards), set the family firmly onto a path of uncompromising historical obfuscation.

On the occasion of Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’s entombment in the Thyssen family crypt at Landsberg Castle in the Ruhr on 27 June 1952, Ellscheid addressed the funeral guests as well as the assembled press thus (in the words of Felix de Taillez):

„He asked for help, in the name of the family and of all Germans, who had anything to do with the Thyssens, and in the interests of the whole nation, to work together so that the ‘criminal and untrue allegations’ about Fritz Thyssen would disappear from the public domain.

de Taillez eventually concludes: „The public rehabilitation of Fritz Thyssen was practically complete in 1959/1960 when Amelie (Thyssen) and Anita (Zichy-Thyssen) together put shares in the amount of 100 Million Mark into a charitable foundation for the promotion of scientific advances bearing his name, in order to give the remembrance of the deceased a permanently positive image“.

And finally: „The work of the foundation came soon to be recognised in Germany as well as abroad and thus the long shadows of Thyssen’s Nazi past disappeared from the public domain“.

In other words, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation now concedes that the Thyssen family had a darker Nazi past than previously admitted, that it made a conscious decision to white-wash Fritz’s (and by extension the whole family’s) Nazi past, and that the foundation played a role in doing so.

Thus the Thyssens and their advisors, in an unscrupulous and unjustifiably domineering way, once again abused the German nation for their own self-serving purposes.

We call upon the German government to take this admission by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, as well as our findings on the Thyssens’ support of National Socialist rule, into account when updating its position on the investigation of Nazi continuities in public life, Holocaust Remembrance and other related issues.

Thirty years ago such a request would have been unthinkable but now we feel entirely confident that the academic revelations made are coming about as a direct result of our investigative, historiographic and journalistic endeavours, over the past 25 years, concerning the history of the Thyssens, and that it was this that has obliged their corporate, if not their private, public relations machine to change direction.

As we have no intention of reducing our pressure on the Thyssen complex, it seems more and more likely that the family will indeed, eventually, be obliged to adopt a modern-day policy of full disclosure concerning their tarnished past, which will advance immeasurably our understanding of that period of history.

The Thyssen smoke and mirror constructs of the past 70 years are still being maintained to some extent and the breadth of material in the public domain that needs to be corrected is vast. But the first official step towards historical candour has now been made and our satisfaction in having played a part in bringing about this U-turn is immense.

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Die Fritz Thyssen Stiftung erklärt ihre Rolle beim öffentlichen Unsichtbarmachen der langen Schatten der Thyssenschen NS-Vergangenheit

Die Thyssens haben stets die volle Bandbreite Ihrer NS-Vergangenheit verleugnet.

Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemiszas Seite der Familie gelang dies durch Tarnung ihrer industriellen und Bankenaktivitäten hinter fragwürdigen ungarischen Staatsbürgerschaften und schweizer Wohnsitzen, während behauptet wurde, nur der Bruder Fritz sei für das Wenige verantwortlich gewesen, was die Familie an Zusammenarbeit mit dem nationalsozialistischen Regime zuzugeben bereit war.

Die Tatsache, dass Fritz Thyssen mit Emery Reves an einem Buch mit dem Titel „I Paid Hitler“ (Ich bezahlte Hitler) zusammen gearbeitet hatte, machte es einfach, den Scheinwerfer auf seine Seite der Familie zu lenken.

Um seine eigene Haut zu retten, gab Fritz, über seine Anwälte, an, das Buch sei von Reves und nicht von ihm verfasst worden, und die Angaben zu seiner Schuld darin seien vollkommen übertrieben. Diese Strategie hatte einigen Erfolg und Fritz wurde bei seiner Denazifizierung als „minderbelastet“ eingestuft.

Ein neues, von der Fritz Thyssen Stiftung unterstütztes Buch (Felix de Taillez: “Zwei Bürgerleben in der Öffentlichkeit. Die Brüder Fritz Thyssen und Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza”. Schöningh Verlag Paderborn) zeigt jedoch, dass eine Untersuchung durch Norman Cousins 1949 zu dem eindeutigen Schluss kam, dass „I Paid Hitler“ offensichtlich viel authentischer war, als von Fritz Thyssen und seinen Anwälten behauptet.

Nichtsdestotrotz führte der Testamentsvollstrecker Robert Ellscheid nach Fritz Thyssens Tod, in enger Zusammenarbeit mit dessen reuloser Witwe Amelie (ex-NSDAP-Mitglied seit 1931) die Familie auf einen kompromisslosen Weg verbrämender Geschichsschreibung.

Bei der Überführung des Sargs Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemiszas in die Familiengruft auf Schloss Landsberg in der Ruhr am 27. Juni 1952 erklärte Ellscheid vor den versammelten Gästen und Medienvertretern folgendes (in den Worten von Felix de Taillez):

“(Er bat) im Namen der Familie sowie aller Deutscher, die in irgendeiner Weise mit den Thyssens zu tun hätten, im Interesse der ganzen Nation um Mithilfe, damit endlich die ‘verbrecherischen und unwahren Behauptungen’ über Fritz Thyssen aus der Öffentlichkeit verschwänden“.

de Taillez kommt letztendlich zu dem Schluss: „Eine nahezu vollständige öffentliche Rehabilitation Fritz Thyssens wurde 1959/1960 erreicht, als Amelie (Thyssen) und Anita (Zichy-Thyssen) zusammen Aktien in Höhe von rund 100 Millionen Mark in die Gründung einer gemeinnützigen Stiftung zur Förderung der Wissenschaften einbrachten, die den Namen des Verstorbenen trug, um dauerhaft ein positives Andenken an ihn zu bewahren.“

Und: „Durch die bald über die deutschen Grenzen hinaus anerkannte Arbeit der Stiftung (…) verschwand in der Öffentlichkeit nach und nach der lange Schatten von Thyssens NS-Vergangenheit“.

Mit anderen Worten: die Fritz Thyssen Stiftung gibt nunmehr zu, dass die Thyssen Familie eine dunklere NS-Vergangenheit hatte, als bisher zugegeben, dass sie die bewusste Entscheidung traf, die NS-Vergangenheit von Fritz (und dadurch jene der gesamten Familie) weiss zu waschen, und dass die Stiftung hierbei eine Rolle gespielt hat.

Dadurch missbrauchten die Thyssens und ihre Berater die deutsche Nation einmal mehr in einer skrupellosen, unberechtigt dominanten Weise für ihre eigennützigen Belange.

Wir appellieren an die deutsche Bundesregierung, dieses Eingeständnis der Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, sowie die Ergebnisse unserer Arbeit zum Thema Thyssen, bezüglich ihrer Position zur Aufarbeitung von NS-Kontinuitäten im öffentlichen Leben und der Erinnerungskultur etc. zu berücksichtigen.

Vor dreissig Jahren wäre solch eine Aufforderung undenkbar gewesen. Jetzt aber sind wir überzeugt, dass die beschriebenen akademischen Offenbarungen ein direktes Resultat unserer Forschungs-, biographischen und journalistischen Arbeit der letzten 25 Jahre zur Geschichte der Thyssens sind. Diese hat die Öffentlichkeitsarbeit des Komplexes, wenn auch nicht die der Familie, in eine neue Richtung gezwungen.

Da wir nicht beabsichtigen, unseren Druck auf die Thyssens zu verringern, erscheint es nunmehr möglich, dass auch die Familie letztendlich eine moderne Offenlegungspolitik betreiben wird, was einen unschätzbaren Beitrag zum besseren Verständnis der Geschichte des Dritten Reichs darstellen würde.

Die Thyssenschen Verschleierungen der letzten 70 Jahre durch Weihrauch und Selbstinszenierung

werden teilweise noch fort geführt. Auch ist das Ausmaß des Materials zu diesem Themenkomplex, das im öffentlichen Raum steht, und welches korrigiert werden muss, enorm. Doch der erste offizielle Schritt zur historischen Aufrichtigkeit ist jetzt gemacht. Unsere Zufriedenheit, bei dieser wichtigen Entwicklung eine Rolle gespielt zu haben, ist immens.

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