Posts Tagged ‘SS’

Buchrezension: Thyssen im 20. Jahrhundert – Band 6: “Zwei Bürgerleben in der Öffentlichkeit. Die Brüder Fritz Thyssen und Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza”, von Felix de Taillez, erschienen im Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag, Paderborn, 2017 (scroll down for English version)

Die offizielle Geschichte zum Zweiten Weltkrieg, die in der Vergangenheit vom Thyssen Komplex herausgegeben wurde, war dass Fritz Thyssen die Nazis eine Zeit lang unterstützt hatte, er aber gegen den Krieg gewesen sei und daher aus Deutschland floh, festgenommen wurde und in ein Konzentrationslager kam. Von seinem Bruder Heinrich wurde gesagt, er sei ein Ungar gewesen und in der Schweiz wohnhaft, sodass überhaupt keine Verbindung zu Deutschland oder gar zum Nationalsozialismus bestanden hätte. Nachdem wir in unserem Buch „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“ (2008) aufgezeigt hatten, dass dies nicht der Wahrheit entspricht, lancierte die Fritz Thyssen Stiftung als Antwort eine akademische Reihe, in die sich dieser Band eingliedert. Er befasst sich vor allem mit Berichterstattungen über die Thyssens in verschiedenen Zeitungen und ist der längste der Serie, mit 546 Seiten, weshalb sich diese Besprechung auf 20 Seiten erstreckt. Das Buch setzt die allgemeine Tonlage der Reihe fort, nachdem die einzelnen Autoren zwar Informationen veröffentlichen, die den alten Thyssen Mythen klar widersprechen, diese Mythen jedoch nichtsdestrotrotz weiter aufrecht erhalten werden.

 

Wie wir sehen werden würde Felix de Taillez diese Haltung als „vollkommen verständlich“ qualifizieren, da die Thyssens und die Thyssen Unternehmen „einen guten Ruf zu verteidigen“ haben. (1997 fusionierte die Thyssen AG mit der Krupp AG zur Einheit thyssenkrupp, welche sich gegenwärtig in wirtschaftlichen Schwierigkeiten befindet). Das bevorzugte Mittel von de Taillez, um berechtigte Kritikpunkte zu vermeiden ist es, etwas als „bemerkenswert“ zu bezeichnen. Er verwendet diesen Ausdruck ausgesprochen oft, was ein äusserst gestelltes Bild ergibt. „Bemerkenswert“ ist ein vager Ausdruck, den man in einer akademischen Arbeit nicht in dieser hohen Frequenz erwartet. Es scheint, als würde de Taillez so eine Atmosphäre von „Spin“ erschaffen, welche Menschen ohne Vorkenntnis des Themas umgarnt. Dies birgt die Gefahr seine ansonsten exzellente historische Arbeit in ein Werk der Public Relations zu verwandeln.

 

Für die Allgemeinheit sieht es so aus, als würde Felix de Taillez diese beiden Gesichter der Medaille äußerst gut zuwege bringen und es erstaunt nicht, dass er es zu einer verantwortungsvollen Position als Referent der Präsidentin der Universität der Bundeswehr in München gebracht hat, die für die Ausbildung des deutschen Offizier-Korps zuständig ist. Aber es gibt Unstimmigkeiten in seiner Buchpräsentation und da seine Thesen jetzt mit der deutschen Staatsräson in Einklang stehen sollten, gibt dies Anlass zur Sorge. So verspricht seine Online Präsenz an der Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität:

 

„(Dieses Projekt) wird die Brüder Fritz und Heinrich Thyssen als EINHEIT GERADEZU KOMPLEMENTÄRER GEGENFIGUREN interpretieren, DENN DER SCHEINBAR UNPOLITISCHE HEINRICH AGIERTE, WENN AUCH VERDECKT, MINDESTENS SO NACHHALTIG POLITISCH wie Fritz. Mediale Sichtbarkeit bzw. Unsichtbarkeit erscheinen in dieser Perpektive als ABGESTIMMTE STRATEGIE POLITISCHEN HANDELNS“.

 

Diese Aussage scheint eine willkommene, neuartige Ehrlichkeit zu versprechen und doch erstaunt sie gleichzeitig, denn sie erscheint nicht im Buch selbst und ist tatsächlich gar nicht repräsentativ für dessen Ausarbeitungen. Im Band selbst wird Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’s Medienabstinenz tenorartig weiterhin damit erklärt, dass er im Zusammenhang mit einem Gerichtsverfahren in jungen Jahren in London schlechte Erfahrungen mit der Presse gemacht und sich danach mit seiner Heirat 1906 als unpolitischer, ungarischer Adeliger aus dem öffentlichen (v.a. dem deutschen!) Leben komplett zurückgezogen habe.

 

Dies ist die Version, welche auch die Familienmitglieder seit jeher propagiert haben. Erst kürzlich wieder ließ sich Francesca Habsburg née Thyssen-Bornemisza im Financial Times Weekend Magazine als österreichische Thronanwärterin und Enkelin eines „ungarischen Barons“ feiern. Was sicherlich angenehmer ist, als Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza korrekterweise als bürgerlichen, deutschen Waffenhersteller und Nazi Banker preisgeben zu müssen; besonders, wenn man sich, wie Habsburg-Thyssen, im schönen Schein der teuren Kunst sonnt, die die Familie, zumindest teilweise, mit den Profiten dieser verwerflichen Aktivitäten erstand.

 

Selbst der von Felix de Taillez für seine Arbeit gewählte Titel ist auffallend irreführend, suggeriert er doch, dass beide Brüder, und zwar als bürgerliche Mitglieder der Gesellschaft, gleichwertig und gewollt in der Öffentlichkeit verankert gewesen seien. Dabei sahen sich die ja gerade diese Thyssen Brüder gar nicht als Teil des Bürgertums. Auch befasst sich nur ein knappes Viertel des Werks mit Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, und nur mit seiner ausdrücklich zugelassenen Sichtbarkeit in den exklusiven Teilöffentlichkeiten der Kunstsammlerei (welche von Johannes Gramlich bereits ausführlich erarbeitet wurde) und des Pferderennsports (welche wir in einem separaten Artikel nach dieser Rezension besprechen werden).

 

Wir nahmen an, de Taillez würde aufzeigen, wie es Heinrich Thyssen ansonsten gelang, sich aus Medienberichten konsequent herauszuhalten und was er dabei der öffentlichen Einsichtnahme zu entziehen suchte. Immerhin verfügt das neu gegründete Archiv der Stiftung zur Industriegeschichte Thyssen in Duisburg über erstaunliche 840 laufende Meter bis zu dieser Serie (ausser von uns) unerschlossenen Materials zum Thema Thyssen-Bornemisza. Doch anstatt gründlich den Wind der Aufarbeitung durch die Bestände des Archivs der ThyssenKrupp AG und der neu hinzugekommenen Akten wehen zu lassen, wird die Öffentlichkeit wieder einmal mit Krümeln abgespeist.

 

In diesem Band wie in der ganzen Serie bleiben die polit-ökonomischen Handlungen v.a. des Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza weitgehend verschleiert, diesmal dem Thema entsprechend hinter der Aussage, die Brüder seien Opfer unausgewogener Berichterstattungen und Medienmechanismen wehrlos ausgesetzt gewesen. Felix de Taillez erwähnt Heinrich’s Beteiligung am Private Banking nicht, welches von Natur aus unter größter Diskretion abgewickelt wird. Er verschweigt seine Freunschaft mit Hermann Göring (ein Kunde der August-Thyssen-Bank) und erwähnt auch nicht die Benutzung der Bank durch die deutsche Spionageabwehr. Dadurch vermeidet er es, Informationen darüber zu geben, wie die Thyssens ihrerseits, und v.a. Heinrich, die Medien manipuliert und ihre Aktivitäten aus deren Spotlight herausgehalten haben.

 

* * *

 

Zu den aufschlussreichen Beschreibungen in Felix de Taillez’s Buch gehört die Aussage, dass Heinrich im Ruhrkampf 1923 sich „politisch auf die Seite von Fritz“ schlug, er „in gewisser Weise (…) sogar radikaler als sein Bruder (Fritz war), da er Verhandlungen mit der Besatzungsmacht grundsätzlich ablehnte“. „Hinter den Kulissen“, so heisst es, traf Heinrich „zusammen mit Weggefährten“, – die de Taillez unbenannt lässt – „die sich alle einer ‘vaterländischen Bewegung der Ruhr’ angeschlossen hatten, führende Militärs und Politiker in Berlin (…).“ Als „Finanzverwalter“ der „Ruhrschutz-Gemeinschaft“ habe Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza „Propaganda im deutschen Sinn in allen besetzten Gebieten“, (sowie in) „Holland, (der) Schweiz, Elsass-Lothringen und Italien“ mit organisiert, so de Taillez weiter.

 

Man würde gerne Frau Habsburg fragen, warum ein Mann, der angeblich ein ungarischer Baron war, so etwas getan haben soll. Und wieso hat es ein Jahrhundert gedauert, bis diese Einstellungen und Handlungen des Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza ans Licht der Öffentlichkeit kamen? Weil hier über die Jahre hinweg eine ganz bewusste Strategie am Werk war. Weil der Thyssen-Komplex die Thyssen Brüder bisher immer so porträtiert hat, als sei Fritz der deutsche Nationalheld und Heinrich der von allem deutschen Übel Befreite gewesen. So schlägt man zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe und spielt gleichzeitig bei Fragen von Macht und Schuld Verwirrspiele mit der Öffentlichkeit.

 

Aber so vorteilhaft diese Art von Dienlichkeitslegenden auch sein mag, es ist sehr aufwändig, sie aufrecht zu erhalten; denn die Welt ist ja, glaubt man Felix de Taillez, voller „schonungsloser“ linker Schreiberlinge, die aus unerfindlichem Grund darauf bestehen, Dinge zu hinterfragen. So kam es z.B. auch, wie der Autor darlegt, dass ausgerechnet „das SPD-Blatt ‘Vorwärts’“ 1932 von einem holländischen Insider die Information bekam und diese auch druckte, dass die Thyssen-Firma „Vulcaan beim Erzfrachtverkehr der (Vereinigten Stahlwerke AG) bevorzugt (wurde), indem sie als einzige Reederei in den Genuss von sehr langfristigen Verträgen mit dem Düsseldorfer Stahlriesen gekommen sei. Überdies zahle die (VSt) dafür Raten, die weit über den üblichen Marktpreisen lägen“.

 

Man würde annehmen, es sei als verwerflich einzustufen, dass ein Teil des von Christopher Neumaier so treffend als „exorbitant“ beschriebenen Thyssen Vermögens also auf unlauteren Geschäftspraktiken zu beruhen scheint. Aber de Taillez erlaubt sich statt dessen den folgenden Kommentar: „Auf diese Weise wurden Geschäftsverbindungen enthüllt, die die Thyssens unter erheblichem Aufwand zu verschleiern versucht hatten“. Als sei die wirtschaftskriminelle Tat eine Leistung und das wahre Übel deren wahrheitssuchende Aufdeckung.

 

Und de Taillez setzt auf diese verdrehte Betrachtungsweise sogar noch einen drauf. Fritz Thyssen bezeichnete den Mangel an Kapital als das größte wirtschafliche Problem der Weimarer Republik. Die Frage nach seiner eigenen Kapitalflucht aus Deutschland heraus verwies er jedoch ins Reich der Legende, z.B. in einem Interiew mit Ferdinand de Brinon 1924. Absolut verständlich, nach Auffassung von de Taillez, schließlich hatte er ja einen Ruf als „pflichtbewusster deutscher Unternehmer“ aufrecht zu erhalten. Wodurch die Künstlichkeit der Thyssenschen Reputation im Handumdrehen ein akademisches und, wegen der Position des Autors, sogar ein quasi staatstragendes (!) Legitimitätssiegel erhält.

 

* * *

 

Das Leben der Thyssen Brüder Heinrich und Fritz strotzte nur so von künstlichen Konstrukten. Da war ihr Militarismus, welchen de Taillez als verinnerlichte Verbindung zu ‘Heer, Tradition, Glaube und militärischen Praktiken’ darstellt. Beide hatten sich in Hohenzollernschen Elite-Regimentern militärisch ausbilden lassen und doch verweigerte sich Heinrich dem Kriegsdienst und Fritz entwich ihm frühzeitig, indem er sich „auf eigenen Vorschlag mit einem offiziellen Auftrag des Auswärtigen Amts betrauen (ließ), um die Rohstofflage für das Reich im Orient (Osmanisches Reich) zu klären“. Stephan Wegener’s Behauptung, die Thyssens hätten im ersten Weltkrieg hohe materielle Verluste erlitten ist nichts weiter als Familienfolklore, die unliebige Fakten zu verschleiern sucht. Wegener, vom Familienzweig des Josef Thyssen, blendet bequemerweise aus, dass die Familie nicht nur vom deutschen Staat entschädigt wurde, sondern auch noch enorme, komplett auditierte Gewinne durch Lieferung von Stahl, Waffen und U-Booten (unter Verwendung von Zwangsarbeitern) machte. Es schwer auszuhalten, dass Felix de Taillez und andere in der Serie die Familienlegende der hohen Kriegsverluste unhinterfragt wiedergeben, als sei sie Fakt.

 

Zu welchen charakterlichen Verrenkungen ihre Selbstinszenierungs-Konstrukte führten wird für Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza am besten am Beispiel seiner adoptierten Nationalität deutlich. Da er sich im Gegensatz zu Fritz als „Ungar“ aufstellen musste, bestand er unerbittlich darauf, sein Schloss im Burgenland mit der ungarischen Bezeichnung „Rohoncz“ zu benennen. Die deutsche Version war ihm zu „sozialistisch“ (aus einem Brief an seine Frau, siehe „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“, Seite 123 – er implizierte fälschlicherweise, der deutsche Begriff sei 1919 mit Ausrufung der Republik neu entstanden). Hierbei legte Heinrich sich laut de Taillez sogar mit der burgenländischen Landesregierung, dem österreichischen Bundesdenkmalamt, dem Bayerischen Staatsministerium für Unterricht und Kultur und dem Auswärtigen Amt in Berlin an. Ironischerweise saß die Schlossverwaltung ganz woanders, nämlich beim Rotterdamsch Trustees Kantoor in Rotterdam. Doppelt und dreifach tarnte sich “der Baron“; ortsgebundene Amtshengste hatten solchen extravaganten Strategien nichts entgegen zu setzen.

 

Auch Fritz stand der Abschaffung der Monarchie in Deutschland und Österreich, sowie der aufsteigenden Sozialdemokratie feindselig gegenüber. Laut de Taillez sah er Deutschland als bedrängten Mittelpunkt eines engen Kreises aus England, Frankreich, Italien und Russland und meinte, der „große Druck von außen lasse die deutsche nationale Einigung auf demokratischem Wege nicht zu“. Sozialdemokraten fand er als „gemäßigte Revolutionäre“ „genauso gefährlich“ wie radikalere Umstürzler. Thyssen wollte, so de Taillez, dass der „spirit of the worker“ einfach nur „deutsch“ sei, und sonst gar nichts. Während die Gewerkschaften verstärkte Rationalisierungen, Arbeitszeitverkürzungen und Lohnerhöhungen forderten, wollte er ein durch die Heraufsetzung des Arbeitstags von 8 auf 10 Stunden (!) wiedererstarktes Volk und das Ende der betrieblichen Mitbestimmunng. Doch wie konnte dies den Kriegsheimkehrern schmackhaft gemacht werden, die sich zunehmend pazifistischen und demokratischen Organisationen zuwandten?

 

Laut Niels Löffelbein, erklärt George Mosse den Aufstieg des Faschismus durch eine „Brutalisierung“ der politischen Kultur der Nachkriegszeit durch die Masse der Soldaten, die zu einer „Entgrenzung und Radikalisierung der politischen Gewalt“ geführt habe. Angel Alcalde hält dem entgegen, die Weltkriegsteilnehmer seien in der „mythomotorischen Inkubationszeit“ der 1920er Jahre durch die extreme Rechte und Veteranenorganisationen zunehmends als anti-bolschewistische Kämpfer „instrumentalisiert“ worden. Im Kult um die gefallenen (wie die noch kampfbereiten) Helden zelebrierten sie die Verbindung von Radikalnationalismus und Krieg. Laut de Taillez richtete Fritz Thyssen noch im Oktober 1917 eine Beitrittserklärung an die rechtsnationale Deutsche Vaterlandspartei (DVLP). 1927 gab er während einer Abendveranstaltung des „Stahlhelm Bund der Frontsoldaten“, des „gewaltbereiten Kampftrupps“ der Deutschnationalen Volkspartei (DNVP) in seiner Heimatstadt Mülheim eine Rede. Auch dem „Bündnis der antidemokratischen rechtsextremen Harzburger Front“, in dem der „Bund der Frontsoldaten“ vertreten war, soll er „sehr nahe“ gestanden haben.

 

Wie Felix de Taillez schreibt, unterstützte Thyssen auch die Austro-faschistische Heimwehrmiliz: „Über Anton Apold, (…) dem Generaldirektor der Österreichisch-Alpinen Montangesellschaft (…) (die) mehrheitlich der Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG gehörte, (…) gab es eine Verbindung Thyssens zu den rechtsradikalen Heimwehren in Österreich.“ „Dem deutschen Großindustriellen wurden von der Düsseldorfer Volkszeitung unterstellt, auf ‘begrenztem Kampffeld in Österreich’ testen zu wollen, wie der Einfluss der Gewerkschaften gebrochen werden könnte.“

 

All dies wird eindeutig auch Heinrich im Geiste unterstützt haben, aber als angeblicher Ungar hielt er sich aus der deutschsprachigen Berichterstattung zum Thema heraus und wurde so nicht als rechtsextremer Unterstützer wahrgenommen. Indem er versäumt, dies klar zu sellen, trägt de Taillez zu dem Bild bei, das in dieser Reihe weiterhin von Heinrich gezeichnet wird, eines Mannes nämlich, der in keinster Weise ein Sympathisant der extremen Rechten gewesen sei. Das ist eine Behauptung, die ausschließlich auf der Abwesenheit öffentlicher Quellen beruht, die als solche bewusst von Heinrich und seinen Partnern sicher gestellt wurde. Mangel an Beweisen ist nicht mit Beweis eines Nichtbestehens gleich zu setzn. Dies hätte von de Taillez klar gestellt werden müssen. Doch tut er dies nicht, denn wenn man Heinrich’s rechtsextreme Sympathien enthüllt, zerstört man zugleich den mythologischen Ruf der Thyssens.

 

* * *

 

Für die Thyssens gab es stets Interessenkonflikte zwischen ihrer nationalen Zugehörigkeit und ihren wirtschaftlichen Eigeninteressen. Nachdem sie bereits vor dem ersten Weltkrieg die Besitzstrukturen ihrer Werk in die neutralen Niederlande verlegt hatten, beteiligten sich Fritz und sein Vater August kurz nach Ende des Krieges in Düsseldorf an Gesprächen über die Gründung einer Rheinischen Republik. Laut de Taillez lautete der Vorwurf des Mülheimer Arbeiter- und Soldatenrats, der sie verhaftete, dass sie „die Abtrennung Rheinland-Westfalens und die Besetzung des Ruhrgebiet durch die Alliierten gefordert hätten“. Ein Kellner hatte das Treffen gemeldet und die Thyssens sahen sich bald als „profitgierige Heuchler“ und „Geldsackpatrioten“ bezeichnet; andere sagten, dies sei eine Verleumdung absolut treu-deutscher Industrieller. Das Verfahren gegen sie wurde eingestellt, offiziell, weil ihnen kein Hochverrat an Deutschland nachgewiesen werden konnte. Felix de Taillez schreibt der Kellner hätte gestanden, gelogen zu haben. Dass er dies eventuell tun musste, um seinen, oder überhaupt einen, Job zu behalten, scheint dem Autor nicht in den Sinn zu kommen. Fritz Thyssen, der laut de Taillez „für die deutsche Politik einen viel höheren Stellenwert als ein normaler Bürger“ hatte, wurde bald darauf vom Auswärtigen Amt in Berlin an den vertraulichen Nachverhandlungen einzelner Artikel des Vertragswerks des Versailler Friedensvertrags beteiligt.

 

Bereits kurz nach dem Krieg fing Fritz Thyssen auch an, sich in Argentinien einen Ausweichwohnsitz einzurichten, in dem er zunächst die Estancia Don Roberto Lavaisse in der Provinz San Luis erstand. Auch die Verbindung der Familie mit Südamerika reichte bereits in die Zeit vor dem ersten Weltkrieg zurück, als August Thyssen in Buenos Aires eine Zweigniederlassung der Firma Deutsch-Überseeische Handelsgesellschaft der Thyssen’schen Werke (Hamborn) gegründet hatte. Seit 1921 hieß die Tochterfirma dann Compania Industrial & Mercantil Thyssen Limitada. 1927 übernahm sie die Firma Lametal und „firmierte fortan unter Thyssen-Lametal S.A.“. Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza verkaufte sie laut de Taillez 1927 für 4,8 Millionen Gulden an die Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG. Auch in Brasilien hatte die Familie seit Jahren Besitz und warb für den wirtschaftlichen Handel dort.

 

Während des Ruhrkampfs 1923, den Fritz Thyssen angeblich als „legitime Abwehrmaßnahme gegen die ausländischen Neider“ interpretierte, ließ er sich vor dem alliierten Gericht durch Friedrich Grimm verteidigen, einem erklärten Antisemiten und späteren NS-Juristen, der laut de Taillez nach 1945 NS-Täter verteidigte und NS-Verbrechen verharmloste. In den Augen des Autors wurde Thyssen aber nur künstlich zur „Projektionsfläche“ einer „neuen deutschen Nationalidentität“ bzw. eines „freien Deutschtums“ „hochstilisiert“ , und zwar vor allem durch die New York Times und die Times of London. Dabei bildete der Ruhrkampf die erste Möglichkeit für Fritz, öffentlich aus dem Schatten seines bis dato allbestimmenden Vaters herauszutreten, der nun ernsthaft kränkelte. Dieses Selbstbefreiungsmotiv ist aus unserer Sicht im Zusammenhang mit Fritz Thyssen’s öffentlich zelebrierten Rechtsrucks ein nicht zu unterschätzender Faktor.

 

Wenn es nach de Taillez geht, muss konkret „offen bleiben“, „ob Fritz Thyssen von der Welt eines mitunter extremen Nationalismus, der sich in Deutschland im ersten Weltkrieg gebildet hatte, erfasst wurde“. Schade nur, dass seine Ehefrau Amelie Thyssen in dieser akademischen Reihe so wenig Beachtung findet, ausser als Co-Stifterin der Fritz-Thyssen-Stiftung. Laut Heini Thyssen’s persönlicher Aussage uns gegenüber war Amelie Thyssen jedenfalls alles andere als „hochstilisiert“, sondern tatsächlich während dieser „Inkubationszeit“ der 1920er Jahre in ihrem starken Deutschnationalismus nationalsozialistisch. Obwohl de Taillez immer wieder beschreibt, wie sehr Fritz von der Meinung seiner Frau abhing, lässt er die Möglichkeit der politischen Beeinflussung innerhalb dieser Paarbeziehung gänzlich unerwähnt. Da Amelie die treibende Kraft hinter der Wiedererlangung des Thyssen-Imperiums nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg war, würde auch jedes schlechte Licht auf sie, den mythologischen Ruf der Thyssens gefährden.

 

Grimm’s Argumentation vor Gericht war von der Aussage geprägt, dass „Privatbesitz wie die Ruhrkohle (…) rechtlich ohne Entschädigung der Eigentümer nicht einfach beschlagnahmt werden (könne), um staatliche Schulden zu tilgen. De Taillez behauptet, der Ruhrkampf habe in Fritz Thyssen ein „politisches Sendungsbewusstsein“ ausgelöst, „das weit über die Aktivitäten im Interesse des Geschäfts hinausging“. Er gesteht ein, dass Thyssen durch seine Aussagen, die deutsche Wirtschaft könne „nur durch größere Arbeitsleistung“ gesunden, SCHULD auf sich geladen habe. Er habe nämlich „durch solche öffentliche Äußerungen (…) auch zum Scheitern der Sozialpartnerschaft in den 1920er Jahren (beigetragen), was die demokratische Staatsform in Deutschland erheblich gefärdete“.

 

Später ließ Adolf Hitler Fritz Thyssen in dem Glauben, er dürfe für sein Konzept des korporativen Staats eine Forschungs- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft führen. Diese nicht erwiderte Tätigkeit ermutigte Fritz zu beträchtlicher politischer Aktivität. Fritz war enttäuscht, als sein Projekt nicht umgesetzt wurde, aber, als er dies bei Hitler bemängelte, erwiderte dieser: „Es gibt nichts, wofür ich Ihnen dankbar sein müsste. Was Sie für unsere Bewegung getan haben, haben Sie zu Ihrem eigenen Nutzen getan und es als Versicherungsprämie abgeschrieben“. (Zitat bei Henry Ashby Turner Jr., siehe „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“, S. 138).

 

Laut de Taillez verfolgte Fritz Thyssen vorrangig seine eigenen Geschäftsinteressen, außer dann wenn für ihn nicht ganz klar war, „welcher Weg (diesen) am zuträglichsten sein würde“. In der Europäischen Verständigungspolitik beschreibt er ihn als „zweideutig“. Thyssen kritisierte die Weimarer Republik sowohl in der französischen Presse als auch in der amerikanischen Öffentlichkeit, bezeichnete die deutsche Regierung als „schwach und nicht vertrauenswürdig“ und fiel damit „der deutschen Außenpolitik in einer schwierigen Situation in den Rücken“. Andererseits kritisierte er die „kurzsichtige und engherzige egoistische Wirtschaftspolitik der Nordamerikaner“. Thyssen „wollte bilaterale Austauschverträge für den Rohstoffverkehr, die der internationalen Finanzspekulation das Handwerk legen und Unabhängigkeit vom Wechselkurs erreichen sollte“. Wenn Fritz aber „gegen die Finanztechnik (wetterte), die die wirkliche Wirtschaft störe“, so blendete er dabei praktischerweise aus, dass die Thyssen-Familie drei internationale Banken zu 100% kontrollierte und damit selbst ein Global Player in Sachen Finanztechnik war (was allerdings von de Taillez unbegreiflicherweise nicht erwähnt wird).

 

* * *

 

Obwohl seine Nachwuchsgruppenleiterin Simone Derix es in ihrem Band bereits ausgiebig widerlegt hat, behauptet Felix de Taillez wiederum dass Heinrich seinen Erbteil des Familienkonzerns vollkommen unabhängig vom Erbteil des Fritz Thyssen führte. Auch dass die beiden Brüder ein schlechtes Verhältnis gehabt hätten betont er häufig. Nun mag es ja sein, dass sie sich nicht über alles liebten. Es ist ganz normal, dass es zwischen Geschwistern gewisse Neidhaftigkeiten gibt. Heini Thyssen erzählte uns, wie sein Vater eines Tages die Zürcher Bahnhofstrasse entlang gelaufen und demonstrativ auf die andere Straßenseite gewechselt sei, als er seinen Bruder Fritz sah. Doch das hatte tatsächlich mehr mit Image als mit Realitäten zu tun. Auch Heini wollte ein Bild des Zwists bestärken, da sich seine, die Thyssen-Bornemisza Seite der Familie bis dahin erfolgreich aus jedweder Diskussion um den Nationalsozialismus herausgehalten hatte. Aber schon ein kurzer Blick auf ein Bild der drei Thyssen-Brüder im Jahr 1938 in unserem Buch und hier zeigt, dass es im Verständnis zwischen Heinrich und Fritz überhaupt kein Problem gab. Statt objektiv zu sein, plappert de Taillez althergebrachte, zu Dogmen erhobene Thyssen-interne Mythen nach. Was „bemerkenswert“ ist, da er doch eigentlich beide Männer als „eine Einheit geradezu komplementärer Gegenfiguren interpretieren“ will, deren „Sichtbarkeit bzw. Unsichtbarket“ (in dieser Perspektive) als „abgestimmte Strategie politischen Handelns (erscheint)“.

 

Nachdem Heinrich 1926 seine „exorbitante“ Erbschaft gemacht hatte, investierte er über wenige Jahre hinweg massiv in Gemälde und Kunstgegenstände, dem Vorbild seines Freunds Eduard von der Heydt folgend, der im gleichen Jahr in die Schweiz gezogen war. Obwohl seine Sammlung nie dort ansässig war nannte er sie „Sammlung Schloss Rohoncz“, um ihr den Anschein zu geben, als sei sie seit längerem organisch gewachsen und von noblem Format. Als solche ließ er sie 1930 in der Neuen Pinakothek in München ausstellen. Doch Friedrich Winkler von den Staatlichen Museen in Berlin rückte „Thyssen-Bornemiszas Methoden (…) in die Nähe von Napoleons Kunstraub“ und beschrieb ihn als „unbedarft, unwissend, beschränkt und abhängig von Händler- und Expertenurteilen“. Rudolf Buttmann, Abgeordneter der NSDAP im Bayerischen Landtag, nannte die Sammlung gar ein „von Händlern zusammengestelltes Ganzes“. Viele Zuschreibungsfehler und Fälschungen wurden angeprangert, was sich zum regelrechten „Medienskandal“ auswuchs. Die Münchner Pinakotheken zeigten sich, laut de Taillez, nur bei 60 der 428 Bilder nach Ende der Ausstellung bereit, sie vorübergehend in ihren eigenen Beständen zu zeigen.

 

Doch dies waren hochspekulative Zeiten mit einer „zunehmenden Kommerzialisierung des Kunstmarkts“. Allem Aufschrei zum Trotz ging Heinrich Thyssens „Kalkül“ auf, „öffentlich den Wert seiner Sammlung bestimmen zu lassen“ (50 Millionen RM – es ist allerdings nicht ersichtlich wie de Taillez von solch einem „Kalkül“ wissen will). Auch wurde sein Unterfangen als „nationale Tat“ beschrieben „an der ganz Deutschland interessiert sei“. Er sei ein „Retter deutschen Kulturguts“ und mit einem „bürgerlichen Bildungsauftrag“ ausgestattet. Während dessen war auffallend, dass Heinrich nirgendwo als Sohn des bekannten Ruhrindustriellen und Erschaffers des Familienvermögens, August Thyssen, vorgestellt wurde. Stattdessen wurde er als „großer Unbekannter“ gehandelt, als eine Person von ominösem Flair, von der niemand so richtig zu wissen schien, woher sie kam. Es musste gerade genug „Deutschtum“ angeheftet bleiben, um die konservativen Kreise Münchens zufrieden zu stellen, während man die Illusion von Heinrich’s adoptierten Magyarentum aufrecht erhielt. Was bedrückt, ist dass de Taillez dies nicht klar als die offensichtliche Thyssensche Manipulation öffentlicher Wahrnehmung outed, die es war.

 

Die Stadt Düsseldorf und ihr Kunstmuseum, die in den Weimarer Jahren „unter deutschen Großstädten führend“ waren im Hinblick auf ein „hoch entwickelte IInstrumentarium kommunaler Öffentlichkeitsarbeit“ nutzte Heinrich Thyssen über Jahre hinweg aus. Laut de Taillez hielt er sich „für eine so wichtige Persönlichkeit (…), um der lokalen Politik Forderungen zu stellen“. Aber de Taillez behauptet unsinnigerweise, die nationale Verortung Heinrichs in Deutschland wäre einzig und allein aufgrund der Pressearbeit seines Kunstberaters Rudolf Heinemann und des Düsseldorfer Oberbürgermeister Robert Lehr entstanden, und nicht in Heinrichs eigenem Sinn gewesen. Dabei gibt er im gleichen Werk an (siehe oben), dass Heinrich im Ausland „Propaganda im deutschen Sinn“ organisierte. Also verstand er sich sehr wohl als Deutscher, behielt ja auch seinen deutschen Pass (siehe „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“ S. 76 – von Simone Derix bestätigt) und kassierte deutsche Entschädigungszahlungen für Kriegsschäden an seine Firmen (siehe „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“, S. 256 – von Harald Wixforth bestätigt). Es ist unverständlich, warum de Taillez solch widersprüchliche Aussagen macht; es sei denn, die Kritik an dieser Reihe, sie sei durch die Quelle des Sponsoring – die Fritz Thyssen Stiftung – beeinflusst, könnte berechtigt sein.

 

Felix de Taillez geht weiter als er sollte, in dem er nicht nur existierende Thyssensche Manipulationen verschleiert, sondern sogar neue ins Leben ruft. Er schreibt: „Heinrich (reagierte) insofern auf das Ausstellungsdebakel, als er seine Kollektion danach zu großen Teilen umbaute, dabei die umstrittenen Bilder veräußerte, und somit erst den eigentlichen Durchbruch zu der heute weltbekannte Sammlung schaffte“. Dabei verweist er auf Johannes Gramlich’s Band „Die Thyssens als Kunstsammler“, Seiten 263-273. Dort allerdings wird nur von 32 Bildern gesprochen, die zwischen 1930 und 1937 verkauft worden sein sollen. Thyssen-interne Listen, die uns vorliegen zeigen, dass 405 Gemälde, die Heinrich bis einschließlich 1930 gekauft hatte 1948 von seinen vier Kindern geerbt wurden. Demnach wären theoretisch also nur 23 Bilder zwischen 1930 und 1948 verkauft worden.

 

Es kann demnach absolut keine Rede davon sein, Heinrich habe „seine Kollektion (nach dem Ausstellungsdebakel) ZU GROßEN TEILEN (umgebaut)“ und dabei „DIE umstrittenen Bilder (veräußert)“, was sich so anhört, als habe er ALLE umstrittenen Bilder der 1930er Ausstellung danach verkauft.

 

Das Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid enthält noch heute mindestens 120 Bilder aus der Münchner Ausstellung von 1930. Wenn ein „Umbau“ stattfand, dann wurde dieser nicht von Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza aktiv durchgeführt, sondern fand passiv nach seinem Tod statt und zwar v.a. durch Erbteilung (1948, sowie 1992 nach dem Verkauf nur einer Hälfte der Thyssen-Bornemisza Sammlung an Spanien – die andere Hälfte ging an die Frau und vier Kinder von Heinrichs Sohn, Hans Heinrich).

 

Auch gab es einen Verkauf deutscher Bilder durch Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza in den 1950er Jahren, der sich nach der Nazi-Era noch stärker als sein Vater von Deutschland absetzen wollte (siehe „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“, S. 269). Ausserdem wurde Heini Thyssen natürlich ein Kunstsammler auf einer ganz anderen Ebene als sein Vater und kaufte tatsächlich einige sehr gute, v.a. moderne Gemälde.

 

Viele der fragwürdigen, 1930 ausgestellten Bilder sind jedoch in Thyssen-Besitz geblieben. De Taillez’s gegenteilige Behauptung ist irreführend.

 

Man muss auch daran erinnern, dass Heini Thyssen die meisten in der Erbteilung von 1948 verteilten Bilder von seinen Geschwistern zurück gekauft hat, sodass die meisten der fragwürdigen 1930er Bilder in seinem Besitz endeten. Die Einstellung der Thyssens war es immer, dass Bilder, sobald sie einmal in ihrem Besitz waren, nicht mehr hinterfragt werden durften. Darin versuchten sie, das Prestige, welches die Rothschilds besaßen, nachzuahmen. Die Öffentlichkeit und die Medien – die möglicherweise einem VIP-Äquivalent des königlichen Turnus’s unterworfen sind (wonach Journalisten vom Zugang zu Mitgliedern des Königshauses ausgeschlossen werden, wenn sie negative Stories publizieren) – schienen diese Version der Realität meist zu akzeptieren.

 

* * *

 

Was an diesem Buch und an der Serie auffällt ist, dass sie nicht ein einziges Originalstatement eines lebenden Mitglieds der Thyssen Familie enthällt. Tausende Seiten neuer Geschichte werden zu ihrem Thema geschrieben, und man frägt sich, wie die Thyssens sich wohl fühlen, jetzt da einige der Teller, die über so einen langen Zeitraum hinweg und in so kostspieliger Weise in der Luft jongliert wurden, plötzlich mit einigem Getöse auf den Boden zu fallen drohen.

 

Doch Felix de Taillez wäre nicht Felix de Taillez wenn er uns nicht noch mit einer weiteren schönfärberischen Einschätzung aus dem Reich der Thyssen-Kunst entlassen würde. Verschiedene Kunstberater, Museumsdirektoren und der Baron selbst hatten widersprüchliche Aussagen gemacht, wann genau die Gemälde erstanden worden waren. Waren sie je im Rechnitzer Schloss gewesen, wie es der Name der Sammlung suggerierte? Manchmal hieß es ja, manchmal nein. Die uns vorliegenden Thyssen-internen Listen zeigen, dass das erste Bild von ihm 1928 erstanden wurde und alle Werke bis zur Ausstellung im Jahr 1930 in verschiedenen Depots verwahrt wurden (das Vorwort des Ausstellungskatalogs macht die sehr deutlich – siehe hier). Was allerdings den Baron nicht davon abhielt, manchmal 1906 für seinen ersten Kauf anzugeben, das Jahr seiner Verheiratung nach Ungarn.

 

Und Ähnliches tat sein Rechtsanwalt auch in den 1930er Jahren mit den Schweizer Behörden: „Im Zusammenhang mit Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemiszas Umzug in die Schweiz ist weiterhin bemerkenswert, dass ihm die erste Ausstellung seiner Sammlung in München in finanzieller Hinsicht von Nutzen war. Anlässlich der Einfuhr seiner Gemälde und anderer Kunstgegenstände in die Schweiz diente ihm bei den eidgenössischen Behörden der Hinweis auf die Ausstellung mit besagtem Katalog als Beweis dafür, dass sich rund 250 wertvolle Gemälde schon länger in seinem Besitz befänden. Durch diesen Schachzug gelang es ihm, die Kunstgegenstände ‘zum persönlichen Gebrauch’ zollfrei nach Lugano schaffen zu lassen“.

 

(Der Name von Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’s Tessiner Anwalt war Roberto van Aken, und es war nicht das einzige mal, dass er es für seinen Kunden mit der Wahrheit nicht so genau nahm).

 

Rekapitulatierend: Heinrich Thyssen trickst über seinen geschmeidigen Anwalt die Schweizer Zollbehörden aus, Felix de Taillez applaudiert dies, gibt anscheinend als Grund dafür, dass angeblich nicht 428, sondern 250 Gemälde in die Schweiz geschafft wurden an, der Baron habe die fragwürdigen verkauft und lässt uns gleichzeitig ebenso wie Johannes Gramlich im Dunkeln, wann und wie genau der Transfer der Güter aus Deutschland heraus stattgefunden hat. Da die Sammlung bei der Erbteilung 1948 insgesamt 542 Bilder enthielt lässt de Taillez auch offen, woher die anderen knapp 300 Bilder stammten und wann sie in die Schweiz gekommen sein sollen.

 

Dass die Thyssens selbst sich so intransparent gaben, leuchtet ein. Dass allerdings Akademiker, die 80 Jahre nach den Geschehnissen beauftragt wurden, den Sachverhalt angeblich „unabhängig“ aufzuarbeiten genauso vorgehen, ist nicht hinnehmbar. Zumal kein Mitglied der Familie befragt wurde.

 

* * *

 

Alles in allem ist Felix de Taillez erstaunlich stur dabei, die Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza umgebenden Mythen zu verlängern, während er bei der Presentation von Fritz viel direkter ist. Wir unterstellen nicht, dass die Fritz Thyssen Stiftung oder die Stiftung zur Industriegeschichte Thyssen die Ergebnisse dieser akademischen Untersuchungen gesteuert haben. Aber die Tatsache, dass Zugang zu Quellen und finanzieller Unterstützung durch diese Einheiten gewährt wurde (in deren Vorständen nur EIN Mitglied der Thyssen Familie sitzt, nämlich Georg Thyssen-Bornemisza, ein Nachfahr von Heinrich, nicht von Fritz) muss die Autoren sicherlich dazu geführt haben, bei ihren Schlussfolgerungen „Vorsicht“ walten zu lassen.

 

Befassen wir uns weiter mit Fritz, so schauen wir nach dem Putsch von General Jose Felix Uriburu 1930 in Argentinien auf ein „undemokratisches Jahrzehnt“, in dem es zu einer „starken ökonomischen Verflechtung mit Deutschland“ kam. Seit den 1890er Jahre, so de Taillez, gab es dort „starke rechtsextreme Bewegungen“ und „bereits vor der Machtübernahme in Deutschland“ fasste die Auslandsorganisation der NSDAP in Argentinien „besonders gut Fuß“ (siehe auch „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“, S. 250). Später berichtete die La Plata Zeitung, dass Fritz Thyssen 1930 in der argentinischen Öffentlichkeit die „Morgenröte des kommenden neuen Deutschlands“ unter Hitler ausgemalt habe. Im Argentinischen Tageblatt forderte er 1934 die „unumschränkte Macht der neuen (deutschen) Regierung zur Ankurbelung der Wirtschaft“, was de Taillez „bemerkenswert“ findet, habe er doch „sonst immer auf große Freiräume für the Privatwirtschaft“ bestanden. De Taillez weiter: „Die Machtkonzentration im NS-Staat bot laut Thyssen den wesentlichen Vorteil, Entscheidungen zu trefen, ohne wie im ‘marxistisch verseuchten Parteienstaat’ ‘Halbheiten’ machen und Kompromisse schließen zu müssen“. Wobei Fritz die extremistische Sprache der Nationalsozialisten gegen ihre politischen Feiden verwendete.

 

Während der Gelsenberg-Affäre 1932 gab es Presseberichte, angefeuert vom ehemaligen Reichsfinanzminister Hermann Dietrich, wonach Fritz Thyssen für die Vereinigten Stahlwerke AG ein Geschäft mit französischen und niederländischen Investoren ausgehandelt hätte, welches die Reichsregierung aber verhindern wollte, da sie keinen ausländischen Einfluss auf das Unternehmen wünschte. Indem er einen Brief an die deutsche Öffentlichkeit schrieb, „dass er lediglich Kreditsondierungen vorgenommen habe“, so de Taillez, „stellte er bewusst die Reichsregierung bloß“. De Taillez argumentiert, dass Thyssens Angaben demontiert wurden, als ein Brief von Friedrich Flick an ihn der Frankfurter Zeitung zugespielt wurde, welcher aufzeigte, dass Flick „Thyssens Vorschlag (abgelehnt hatte) gerade wegen der damit verknüpften Geldquelle“. Die Düsseldorfer Volkszeitung brandmarkte ihn daraufhin als „unpatriotisch“.

 

Anfang 1932, während sein Bruder Heinrich die Villa Favorita in Lugano erwarb, schwenkte Fritz „demonstrativ zum Nationalsozialismus um“. Seine Frau war bereits seit 01.03.1931 Parteimitglied, Fritz wurde es offiziell am 07.07.1933. Auf den Ruhrkampf zurückblickend schloss er laut de Taillez, dass dies ein „Vorläufer für das nationalsozialistische Gedankengut des neuen Deutschlands“ war. „Anders als 1923 stehe nun nicht nur das Ruhrgebiet entschlossen da, sondern ganz Deutschland werde den Weg gehen, den der ‘Führer’ vorschreibe. Die Zerschlagung des Marxismus im Innern sei allein Hitler, der SA und der SS zu verdanken“ (aus einem Artikel in der Kölnischen Zeitung, „Fritz Thyssen über den Klassenkampf“, am 02.05.1933).

 

So wurde Thyssen zum „Medialen Akteur“, der dann unter Hitler „erheblich von der Abschaffung der Pressefreiheit“ profitierte, da bald niemand mehr seinen verbalen Roheiten etwas entgegensetzen durfte. In Buenos Aires führte er während dessen Verhandlungen „mit hohen staatlichen Stellen“ wie „General Agustin Pedro Justo, dem nach gefälschten Wahlen seit 1932 amtierenden Staatspräsidenten“. Nachfolgend wurde im November 1934 ein Argentinisch-Deutsches Handelsabkommen samt Verrechnungs- und Kompensationsverfahren unterzeichnet, wodurch der Handel zwischen den beiden Ländern drastisch anstieg. Es scheint, dass Thyssen hier versuchte, einen Gegenpol zur allmächtigen anglo-amerikanischen Wirtschaftsmacht aufzubauen. Felix de Taillez wertet dies allerdings nur dahingehen, der extremst egoistische Fritz habe sich hierin ausschließlich um den Aufbau seines öffentlichkeitswirksamen „Image“ als „einflussreicher Wirtschaftsführer“ gekümmert, um nur für sich persönlich viel öffentliche Beachtung zu finden.

 

Doch nicht die gesamte südamerikanische Presse war den Thyssens hold. Das Argentinische Tagesblatt sprach 1934 von einer „Bindung gemeinsamer Pleiten“, die Anfang 1933 stattgefunden hätte, als die Vereinigten Stahlwerke bankrott und die NSDAP hoffnungslos verschuldet gewesen seien. „Die Zeitung warf der Vereinigten Stahlwerke AG, under Thyssens Ägide als Aufsichtsratsvorsitzender, Bilanzfälschung in erheblichem Ausmaß vor“ (aus dem Artikel „Geschäfte eines Staatsrats“, vom 08.11.1934). Die Kölner Kulturzeitschrift Westdeutscher Scheinwerfer bescheinigte Fritz Thyssen gar eine „Selbstherrschernatur“ und „führte als Hauptgrund für die Krise bei der Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG die problematische persönliche Politik des Fritz Thyssen an“. Seine Kritiker in den Medien „erklärten Fritz Thyssen in wirtschaftlichen und politischen Fragen für unfähig“ und „machten ihn für die hohen Verlust der Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG verantwortlich“.

 

Es war genau das, wovor sein Vater August, der keinerlei gesellschaftliche Ambitionen hatte und ausschließlich für seine Werke lebte, Jahre zuvor gewarnt hatte. Er hatte sicher gestellt, dass sein Sohn Fritz nur Aufsichtsratsvorsitzender, nicht aber Geschäftsführer der Vereinigten Stahlwerke AG wurde, um den Schaden zu mindern, den er der Firma zufügen würde. August glaubte, dass Heinrich nur minimal besser als Fritz geeignet war, das Thyssen Imperium zu führen (siehe „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“, S. 95).

 

Nach dem Krieg beschuldigten die Alliierten die Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG, die NSDAP finanziell kontinuierlich und vorbehaltlos unterstützt zu haben (siehe „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“, S. 106). Fritz schleuderte quasi den Ball zurück in die alliierte Hälfte als er 1950 schrieb „Meiner Meinung nach dienten die Nürnberger Prozesse nur dazu, Sündenböcke für Hitlers Kriegspolitik zu finden. Es wäre für die Amerikaner beschämend gewesen, hätten sie zugeben müssen, dass sie die deutsche Wiederaufrüsung von Anfang an unterstützt hatten, weil sie einen Krieg gegen Russland wollten“ (siehe „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“, S. 294).

 

Was „bemerkenswert“ ist für einen Mann, dessen Ruf von der Glaubwürdigkeit seiner anti-KriegsPosition abhängt: Als die Nationalsozialisten Wilhelm von Keppler und Kurt von Schröder Unterschriften für die Eingabe bei Paul von Hindenburg zusammentrugen, Adolf Hitler zum Reichskanzler zu ernennen, war Fritz Thyssen einziges Mitglied der Ruhrlade (Verbindung 12 wichtiger Ruhrindustrieller, die 1928-1939 existierte), der unterschrieb. Im Umgang mit anderen Unternehmern konnte er schroff und unmanierlich sein. Er ermahnte v.a. solche Kollegen zur „Disziplin“ die in seinen Augen „liberalistisch“ agierten. Leute wie Gustav Krupp zu Bohlen und Halbach, der sich bis zuletzt gegen Hitler sträubte und, wie Richard Freudenberg und viele andere auch, sich erst dem Nationalsozialismus ergab, nachdem die Diktatur mit Hilfe der Thyssens und ihrer Gesinnungsgenossen installiert worden war. „Etwaigen Störern“, so de Taillez, „drohte (Thyssen) mit seinem neuen Einfluss auf die zuständigen staatlichen Organe“, i.e. er drohte, sie bei Hermann Göring anzuschwärzen.

 

Dies ist ein Eingeständnis durch den Thyssen Komplex einer hochgradig herrischen Verhaltensweise des Fritz Thyssen die, als solche, tatsächlich bemerkenswert ist.

 

* * *

 

Selbst katholischen Geistlichen, eigentlich Verbündete, drohte Fritz Thyssen, so zum Beispiel Kardinal Schulte im März 1933, als er verlauten ließ, seine Familie würde dem Gottesdients fernbleiben „solange die ungerechte Behandlung der Führer & Mitglieder der NSDAP andauert“. Er nahm an soziologischen Sondertagungen in Maria Laach unter dem Abt Ildefons Herwegen und dem Kreis ‘anti-demokratischer Rechtskatholiken’ teil, die laut de Taillez zu den Nationalsozialisten „anschlussfähig“ waren. Diese waren „gegen die Aufklärung, die allgemeinen Menschenrechte, Demokratie, Liberalismus, Sozialismus, Kommunismus, dezidiert anti-semitisch“ und für einen „autoritären Korporatismus“. Sie versuchten eine „Reichstheologie“ zu entwickeln, „getragen vom katholischen Akademikerband“.

 

Dies erinnert uns wieder einmal daran, dass Mitglieder der akademischen Berufe, wie z.B. Rechtsanwälte, besonders frühe und begeisterte Anhänger der Nazi Ideologie wurden.

 

Trotz all dieser Drohgebährden behauptet Felix de Taillez – nicht sehr überzeugend -, Fritz Thyssen habe den Nationalsozialismus „konservativ“ ausgelegt. Anscheinend sah er ihn als „Wiedergeburt des verloren gegangenen Staates und der Volksgemeinschaft“. Der Nationalsozialismus sei für ihn keine Weltanschauung gewesen, sondern eine „HELDISCHE KRAFT“, wonach ein „staatstragender Stand von Menschen“ wieder erstanden sei, der den „Kampf gegen die Totengräber des Staates“ aufgenommen haben. – Anklänge an die instrumentalisierenden, proto-faschistischen Veteranenverbände nach Angel Alcalde sind hier deutlich zu vernehmen -. Doch im gleichen Paragraphen enthüllte Fritz Thyssen dann seine elitäre Vorstellung seiner Rolle im Nationalsozialismus, wenn er sagte man würde diesem Stand allerdings „seine Würde und seinen Vorrang nehmen, wenn man versuchen wollte, durch weltanschauliche Propaganda 64 Millionen Menschen in die gleiche Würde hineinzuheben“.

 

Für die Rheinische Zeitung hieß das, Thyssen war ein Faschist, aber „kein Radau-Nazi“. In Wirklichkeit war es so, dass er sich selbst und seine Familie als Teil des Staates, nicht aber als Teil der Volksgemeinschaft sah, die er in einem deutlich untertänigen Rang zu sich und seinen Partnern wähnte. Es hört sich weniger wie eine konservative und mehr wie eine FEUDALE Auslegung des Nationalsozialismus an.

 

Mit dem Ingangkommen der Diktatur bat der Gauleiter von Essen, Josef Terboven, in einem Schreiben an Rudolf Hess, „Thyssen durch den ‘Führer’ zum wirtschaftspolitischen Bevollmächtigten für das Ruhrgebiet ernennen und sein Amt mit unbedingter Autorität ausstatten zu lassen“. Anscheinend gab es ein Power-Dreieck bestehend aus Hermann Göring, Gauleiter Terboven und Fritz Thyssen, dessen mediales Sprachrohr die National-Zeitung war. Fritz Thyssen nahm laut de Taillez an den Nürnberger Reichsparteitagen teil. Er war Mitglied des Zentralausschuss der Reichsbank, der Akademie für deutsches Recht und des Sachverständigenbeirats für Bevölkerungs- und Rassenpolitik (siehe auch hier). Bis 1938 hatte Fritz auf sich so viele Aufsichtsratsmandate versammelt, „dass er hinter dem Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG Vorstandschef Albert Vögler und dem Bankdirektor der Berliner Handelsgesellschaft, Wilhelm Koeppel, den dritten Rang der Einzelpersonen (einnahm), die im Zentrum der Netzwerke der reichsweiten Wirtschaftselite positioniert waren“.

 

* * *

 

Die bahnbrechende These von Felix de Taillez ist, dass es ein langer Weg gewesen sei, bis Fritz Thyssen den Bruch mit den Nazis vollzogen habe: „Die 1948 im Spruchkammer-Verfahren von ihm und Weggefährten vorgebrachten Beteuerungen, sich bereits im Laufe der 1930er Jahre demonstrativ abgewendet zu haben (erscheinen) so nur als vorgeschobene leicht durchschaubare Verteidigunsversuche“. Noch 1936 habe er Hitler in einer Tischrede im Düsseldorfer Industrie-Club geradezu manisch verteidigt und dabei sogar Zitate aus „Mein Kampf“ verwendet. Im gleichen Jahr gab er sich in den Worten des Autors „unbelehrbar“, als er denjenigen, die in der Rüstungspolitik der Nazis Vorboten von Krieg sahen vorwarf, sich zu irren. „Hitler allein sei es zu verdanken“, so Thyssen, „dass Deutschland international wieder als gleichwertiger Partner gesehen werde“. Sowohl Gottfried Niedhart in der Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung als auch der Perlentaucher haben die Interpretation freudig aufgegriffen, Fritz Thyssen sei „keineswegs der mächtige Mann hinter Hitler“, sondern nur „geblendet“ gewesen und habe „wohl wirklich geglaubt, die Aufrüstung diene nicht der Kriegsvorbereitung, sondern dem Ziel, „bündnisfähig zu werden“.

 

Doch weshalb sollte man es glauben, dass ein Mann, dessen Gedankengänge ansonsten so wechselhaft und unzuverlässig waren, ausgerechnet in diesem EINEN, für die deutsche Volksseele so zentralen Punkt (die Befürwortung des Kriegs und der Nazi-Greuel), klar gesehen und wahrhaftig gewesen sein soll? Hört es sich nicht eher wie einen weiteren Versuch an, die lang anhaltende Unterstützung des Nazi-Regimes durch die Thyssens zu verschleiern? Vor allem da Fritz’s angebliches Engagement gegen den Krieg so wichtig für die Fähigkeit der Thyssens war, ihr Eigentum nach dem Krieg von den Alliierten zurück zu erhalten.

 

Und warum, wenn Fritz wusste, wie er 1950 schrieb, dass die Amerikaner Deutschland wiederbewaffnen wollten, um gegen Russland in den Krieg zu ziehen, sagte er sich nicht früher von dieser unheilvollen Allianz los?! Weil auch er einen Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion befürwortete? Oder weil es für ihn wichtiger war, die wirtschaftlichen Gewinne einzufahren, als einen moralischen Standpunkt einzunehmen? Und falls dies so war, wieso geben diese offiziellen Thyssen Biographen weiterhin an, seine Flucht aus Deutschland, als sie denn endlich stattfand, habe einer sittlichen Positionierung entsprochen, nicht einer simplen Bequemlichkeit, wo Fritz doch, so de Taillez, so viele frühere Gelegenheiten versäumt hatte, sich Hitler’s Plänen entgegen zu stellen?!

 

Nachdem Hermann Göring im Sommer 1938 die kriegswirtschaftliche Mobilmachung ausgesprochen hatte, verbreitete Thyssen, so de Taillez, „diese Propaganda durch sein klares Bekenntnis zum Vierjahresplan medial weiter“. Im Februar 1939 wurde er durch Walther Funk, einem Kunden der August Thyssen Bank (siehe „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“, S. 115) zum Wehrwirtschaftsführer ernannt. Die im Denazifizierungsverfahren vorgebrachten Eingaben, Thyssen „habe sich mit ernsthaften Umsturzgedanken“ getragen und sei mit Widerstandkreisen in Kontakt gewesen bezeichnet de Taillez als müßig, da „verlässliche Quellen fehlen“. Vielmehr bescheinigt de Taillez Thyssen absolute „Tatenlosigkeit“ nach außen bis November 1939, also bis zwei Monate nach Ausbruch des Krieges. Auch bei einer Vorgabe, „nach dem November-Pogrom 1938 habe Thyssen General von Kluge eine enge Kooperation zwischen Industrie und Armee vorgeschlagen, um der NS-Politik ein Ende zu bereiten“ fügt er klärend hinzu: „aufgrund der Quellenlage ist es mehr als fraglich, ob es einen solchen Plan überhaupt gegeben hatte“.

 

Im Prinzip demontiert Felix de Taillez damit komplett die bisher „erfolgreiche Umdeutung“ des Fritz Thyssen zu einem „Bild eines außergewöhnlich frühen ‘fanatischen Gegners’ des Nationalsozialismus, der bereits 1936 im Widerstand aktiv war“, wie sie ab 1948 von Thyssens Rechtsanwalt und PR-Beauftragten Robert Ellscheid herausgegeben worden war (siehe auch hier).

 

Und das ist wirklich „bemerkenswert“!

 

* * *

 

Laut de Taillez berichtete die englische Presse nach der Flucht Fritz Thyssens in die Schweiz im September 1939, es läge ein internationaler Haftbefehl gegen ihn für Diebstahl, Veruntreuung, Steuerhinterziehung und Bruch deutscher Währungsrestriktionen vor. Thyssen aber drohte Hitler ausgerechnet mit der internationalen öffentlichen Meinung, während er sich gleichzeitig als „stolzer“ Deutscher „mit jeder Faser seines Seins“ dargestellte. Er wolle „die Unschuld der ‘German nation’ an den Entwicklungen“ aufzeigen, schrieb er, während er gleichzeitig sagte, „das deutsche Volk habe in der Zwischenkriegszeit bewiesen, dass es ‘incapable of adjusting itself to democratic institutions’ sei“ (Selbst während seines Denazifizierungsverfahrens 1948 „stand Fritz Thyssen weiterhin auf dem Standpunkt, dass Demokratie keine geeignete Staatsform für Deutschland sei“!).

 

De Taillez qualifiziert seine Einstellung als „naiv“. „Schizophren“ und „dreist“ wäre aus unserer Sicht eindeutig angebrachter. Typisch für den Thyssenschen Allmachtsglauben ist sicherlich auch, dass Fritz zu meinen schien, der Lauf eines von solch langer Hand geplanten Krieges ließe sich durch ein paar simple Äußerungen seinerseits ändern. Die Tatsache, dass es seinem Bruder Heinrich so elegant gelungen war, über seine ungarische Nationalität und seinen sicheren, bequemen schweizer Wohnsitz, sich aus allem Politischen herauszuhalten und dennoch alle finanziellen Vorteile der Thyssen-Unternehmungen im Krieg zu genießen, muss Fritz immens geärgert haben. Dieser Verdruss mag sogar ein Auslöser seiner Flucht gewesen sein. So erstaunt es auch nicht, dass er keine Rücksicht auf Heinrich’s Stillschweigeabkommen mit den Schweizer Behörden nahm (siehe „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“, S. 132), das er durch seine laute Flucht gefährdete.

 

De Taillez erläutert nun, dass Fritz Thyssen über „geheime Kanäle“ „Kontakt zu Altkanzler Joseph Wirth und westlichen Agenten“ aufgenommen habe und so „in gewisser Weise Teil von Wirths Sondierungsversuchen mit Frankreich und England“ geworden sei. Dann aber sei General Halder, der „bis dahin Anführer der geheimen militärischen Opposition zum Dritten Reich“ gewesen sei „Anfang 1940 eingeknickt“. Der französische Geheimdient, so de Taillez, vermutete hingegen, „dass Fritz Thyssen Kopf einer weitläufigen Geheimorganisation sei, die Deutschland in der Schweiz aufbaue, um den französischen und britischen Einfluss in Europa zu unterminieren“. Gleichzeitig glaubt de Taillez, „unter normalen Umständen wäre Thyssen die Einreise nach Frankreich während des Kriegs verweigert worden. Sein Glück war, dass er den französischen Geheimdienst in der Schweiz hatte überzeugen können, über wichtige Informationen und Einschätzungen zu verfügen, die den Alliierten im Kampf gegen das Dritte Reich nützten“.

 

Es war stets typisch für die ultra-vermögenden Thyssens, sich bei allen wichtig zu machen. Nur dass es diesmal um Krieg ging. Um Zugehörigkeit ging es den Thyssens nie. Sie waren transnational und nur sich selbst, aber keiner einzigen Nation verpflichtet.

 

Gut ablesen lässt sich das auch aus dem Buch „I Paid Hitler“, welches Fritz Thyssen zusammen mit Emery Reves 1940 verfasste und Letzterer 1941 in London und New York veröffentlichte (siehe auch hier). Reves arbeitete laut de Taillez seit 1937 auch mit Winston Churchill zusammen. 1940 soll Churchill Reves „mit dem Aufbau des britischen Propagandaapparats in Nord- und Südamerika“ beauftragt haben (!). De Taillez weiter: „Reves weihte Churchill in die zentrale These Fritz Thyssen’s zur Wiederherstellung des Friedens in Europa ein, die bald öffentlich proklamiert würde: Deutschlands Teilung“ – und zwar in „ein protestantisches Ostdeutschland und ein katholisches Westdeutschland unter einem Wittelsbacher“. Churchill soll diese Ansichten an seinen Geheimdienstberater Major Desmond Morton weiter geleitet haben – obwohl man hier doch wohl Zweifel hegen könnte, wieviel davon O-Ton Fritz Thyssen gewesen wäre, und wieviel eher britischer Propaganda zuzuschreiben sein mag…

 

Dass Fritz Thyssen auch manchmal „bewusst die Unwahrheit gesagt“ (sprich gelogen) haben könnte, ist etwas, was Felix de Taillez auf Seite 459 im Zusammenhang mit Thyssens Aussagen zur Entstehungsgeschichte von „I Paid Hitler“ in den Raum stellt. Es ist ein Anflug von Ehrlichkeit, die eben auch mit „Ehre“ zu tun hat, und die bei so vielen Aussagen der Thyssens und ihrer offiziellen Biografen bislang sehr vermisst wurde. Nachdem sich Thyssen und seine Anwält von dem Buch distanzierten, bestätigte Reves der Spruchkammer, es sei insgesamt von Thyssen diktiert und zu zwei Dritteln von ihm korrigiert worden. Reves bestritt, ein Ghostwriter zu sein, und bezeichnete sich als Herausgeber und Presseagent. Auch brachte er vor, Anita Zichy-Thyssen habe ihm mehrfach für die Veröffentlichung gedankt. Bis heute preisen die Nachfahren von Anita in Süd-Amerika das Buch an und verunglimpfen jeden, der sich kritisch über Fritz Thyssen äussert (siehe hier).

 

* * *

 

De Taillez hält fest, dass Fritz Thyssen nach seiner Ingewahrsamnahme durch die Alliierten „in Britischen und US-Amerikanischen Wochenschauen als mutmaßlicher Kriegsverbrecher präsentiert“ wurde. Sodann behauptet er: „offenbar taten sich die Amerikaner sowohl mit einer einheitlichen Einschätzung von Thyssens Fall als auch in der Koordination mit den deutschen Behörden noch schwer“. Dies blendet aus, dass der Fall vor allem dadurch erschwert wurde, dass ein Zugriff auf Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza in der Schweiz für die Alliierten nicht möglich war und auch, dass es Diskrepanzen zwischen den Briten und den Amerikanern gab, wie die Thyssens zu behandeln seien (die Briten tendierten mehr zu deren Bestrafung). Wilhelmus Groenendijk, der von 1957 bis 1986 dem Finanzmanagement der Thyssen-Bornemisza Gruppe angehörte, erklärte uns gegenüber: „Heinrich wie Fritz waren als Kriegsverbrecher erfasst. Aber von den Niederlanden aus haben wir es geschafft, dass ihre Namen auf der Liste immer weiter nach unten rutschten, bis wir behaupten konnten, dass ihr Vermögen in Wahrheit alliiertes Eigentum sei“ – und daher unmöglich den deutschen Kriegsanstrengungen zugute gekommen sein konnte…. (siehe „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“, S. 240).

 

De Taillez resumiert für Fritz Thyssen dass er sich „trotz erheblicher Differenzen (…) lange Zeit mit dem Dritten Reich arrangierte, da es einen Sockel an Gemeinsamkeiten gab“, nämlich das Ideal des autoritären Staats, die Entmachtung der sozialistischen Arbeiterbewegung und die Revisionspolitik. Dazu kam die Aussicht auf Gewinnsteigerungen der Stahlindustrie. Er schildert dass „der ehemalige Reichskanzler (Heinrich) Brüning (im Nachkriegs-Spruchkammerverfahren gegen Fritz Thyssen) schriftlich erklärte, dass für den Aufstieg Hitlers die Finanzierung aus dem Ausland ausschlaggebend gewesen sei“. Und doch behaupten verschiedene Autoren dieser Serie, inklusive de Taillez, Letzteres sei nichts weiter als eine Verschwörungstheorie. Nichtsdestotrotz macht de Taillez gleichzeitig die bemerkenswerte Feststellung, dass „die oft polarisierenden Äußerungen des Fritz Thyssen in der weltweit am einflussreichsten anglo-amerikanischen Medienwelt bis 1933 positiver bewertet wurden als in der deutschen Öffentlichkeit“ – was doch auf eine Unterstützung des deutschen Rechtsrucks gerade in Großbritannien und den Vereinigten Staaten hinweisen würde.

 

De Taillez schildert Fritz weitaus intimer als Heinrich, und zwar als absurd, agitierend, ambivalent, einflussreich, fast manisch, polarisierend, realitätsfern, eine Reizfigur, selbstüberschätzend, skrupellos, unbelehrbar, uneinsichtig, unklar, ein Unruhestifter, UNSINNIG, zusammenhanglos, zynisch, und, in einer Beschreibung durch Andere, als von einer „mehr als sonderbaren Art“. Viele dieser Charakteristiken treffen sicher auch auf Heinrich zu, denn sie sind nicht zuletzt auf den gierigen Luxus der Familie und die resultierende, hubristische Wirklichkeitsfremdheit zurückzuführen. Nur war Heinrich intelligenter als Fritz und er wusste vor allem, dass man sich in einer gewissen Zurückgezogenheit viel besser tarnen kann, vor allem wenn man in Wahrheit noch skrupelloser ist als sein überlauter Bruder.

 

Felix de Taillez’ Kollege Jan Schleusener („Die Enteignung Fritz Thyssens“) bewertet Fritz Thyssen hingegen als Helden: er sei „der einzige Reichstagsabgeordnete (gewesen), der gegen die Entfesselung des Krieges offen Protest erhob“, was an Thomas Rother’s gleichsam unpassende Aussage erinnert, Thyssen sei der einzige Industrielle in Deutschland gewesen, der an Hitler’s Krieg nicht verdient hätte. Gegenüber Norman Cousins gab Fritz Thyssen, laut de Taillez, anscheinend ein einziges Mal zu, “dass er sich wegen seiner finanziellen Unterstützung Hitlers in den späten 1920er Jahren für den Nationalsozialismus mitverantworlich fühle“. Doch Cousins fiel gleichzeitig unangenehm auf, dass Thyssen „nicht die vielen Verbrechen seit 1933, die politischen Morde, die Zerstörung bürgerlicher Freiheiten und die Verfolgung der Juden als ausschlaggebend für seine Abwendung vom Nationalsozialismus nannte“. Von Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza sind zu diesen Thematiken überhaupt keine Äußerungen überliefert.

 

Mehr muss man eigentlich nicht wissen, um einschätzen zu können, ob die angeblich heldenhafte, anti-nationalsozialistische, antimartialische Gesinnung der Thyssens wahrhaftig ist oder ob sie den artifiziellen Diskulpierungen zu verschonender Kriegsprofiteure/-verbrecher (denn sie müssen gewusst haben, dass Hitler’s Krieg ein Vernichtungskrieg sein würde) durch ihre Untergebenen entstammt.

 

Die herausragende Leistung dieses Buches ist es jedenfalls, dass sie die äußerst elitäre Perspektive dargestellt, aus der die Thyssens ihre Rolle im Nationalsozialismus sahen. Bisher ist es der einzige Band der Serie, der nicht nur in akademischen Kreisen, sondern auch in einer der größten deutschen Tageszeitungen besprochen worden ist.

 

Eine ehrliche deutsche Sicht (Foto copyright Lizas Welt:  internet/lizaswelt.net/2011/02/28/volksgemeinschaft-gegen-rechts/

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Art, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »

Book Review: Thyssen in the 20th Century – Volume 6: ‘Two Burghers’ Lives in the Public Eye: The Brothers Fritz Thyssen and Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’, by Felix de Taillez, published by Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag, Paderborn, 2017

 

The official Second World War history put out by the Thyssen complex has always been that Fritz Thyssen supported the Nazis for a while but, being against war, fled Germany only to be recaptured and locked up in a concentration camp. Of his brother Heinrich it was said he was a Hungarian living in Switzerland with no connection to either Germany or the Nazis. When we revealed in our book ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’ (2007) that this was far from the truth, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation launched an academic response, which this book forms part of. It is mostly concerned with the press coverage of the Thyssens and, at 546 pages, is the longest in the series, which is why this review runs to 20 pages. The book continues the general theme that, while the various authors are revealing information contradicting the old Thyssen myths, overall these myths are nonetheless kept very much alive.

 

As we will see, Felix de Taillez would qualify this as being ‘entirely understandable’, since the Thyssens and the Thyssen company had ‘a reputation to defend’. (In 1997 Thyssen AG merged with Krupp AG to become thyssenkrupp, which is currently in major economic turmoil). De Taillez’s favourite tool in avoiding the making of justified criticism is to say that something is „remarkable“. He uses the term exceedingly frequently throughout the book, which comes across as highly staged. It is a vague term not expected with such high frequency in an academic work. De Taillez seems to use it to create an atmosphere of ‘spin’ which can beguile people with no previous knowledge of the subject matter. It harbours the danger of turning his otherwise excellent work of history into one of public relations.

 

To the general public, De Taillez pulls off these two faces particularly well and it comes as no surprise that he has landed a prestigious job as an advisor – presumably on German history – at the University of the German Armed Forces in Munich, which oversees the training of the officers corps. But there are inconsistencies in his book presentation and the fact his theories now seem to feed into the country’s state-sponsored history make these particularly concerning. His official online presence at the Ludwig Maximillian University promises:

 

‘(This project) will interpret the brothers Fritz and Heinrich Thyssens as a UNIT OF ALMOST COMPLEMENTARY OPPOSITE NUMBERS, BECAUSE THE APPARENTLY APOLITICAL HEINRICH ACTED, EVEN THOUGH IN A CONCEALED MANNER, AT LEAST AS LASTINGLY, IN POLITICAL TERMS, AS FRITZ. Visibility, respectively invisibility’ appears, (from this perspective), as A ‘COORDINATED STRATEGY OF POLITICAL ACTION’.

 

This statement appears to promise a new honesty and yet leaves one puzzled, as it does not appear in the book itself and is not, in fact, representative of the elaborations in the book. There, Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’s absence in the media is still principally explained by his involvement in a court case in London as a young man, in which he is said to have made such bad experiences with the press, that he subsequently – with his marriage in 1906 – retreated completely from public (especially German!) life, to be an apolitical, Hungarian nobleman.

 

This is also the version which family members have propagated ever since. Again recently Francesca Habsburg née Thyssen-Bornemisza, let herself be fêted in the pages of the Financial Times Weekend Magazine as pretender to the Austrian throne and ‘grand-daughter of a Hungarian Baron’. Which is certainly more pleasant than having to expose Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza correctly as a German commoner, weapons manufacturer and Nazi banker; especially when one suns oneself, as Habsburg-Thyssen does, in the beautiful appearance of the expensive art the family bought, at least in part, with the profits of these reprehensible activities.

 

Even the title chosen by Felix de Taillez is noticeably misleading, as it suggests that both brothers were anchored equally and intentionally, and as bourgeois members of society, within the public sphere. Yet these Thyssen brothers in particular, really did not see themselves as part of the middle class at all. Also less than one quarter of the book deals with Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza and then only with his explicitly authorised visibility in the exclusive, only partially public spheres of art collecting (which was already monitored comprehensibly by Johannes Gramlich) and horse racing (which we will deal with in a separate article following this review).

 

We expected de Taillez to show how, apart from his presence in these two domains, Heinrich Thyssen managed to stay consistently out of the media, and what he aimed to withhold from general view. After all, the newly created archive of the Thyssen Industrial History Foundation in Duisburg has an astonishing 840 continuous meters of hitherto unaccessed material (except by us) on the Thyssen-Bornemisza complex. But instead of letting the wind of Aufarbeitung blow through the holdings of the ThyssenKrupp AG archives and these newly acquired files, the public is once again fobbed off with crumbs.

 

In this volume, as so far in the series, the politico-economical actions especially of Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, remain mostly camouflaged, this time, as befits the subject matter, behind the statement that the brothers were ‘victims of biased reporting’ and ‘helplessly exposed to media mechanisms’. Felix de Taillez does not mention Heinrich’s involvement in private banking, which is by its very nature, highly secretive. He leaves his close friendship with Hermann Göring (a client of the August Thyssen Bank) untackled and keeps silent about the use of the bank by the ‘Abwehr’, the German counter-intelligence service. In so doing, he avoids giving any information about the mechanisms used in turn by the Thyssens, and particularly Heinrich, in order to manipulate the media and keep their activities out of its spotlight.

 

* * *

 

One of the insightful descriptions in this book is the statement that during the Ruhrkampf battle in 1923, Heinrich ‘cast his political lot in with Fritz’, that ‘in certain respects (…) he was even more radical than his brother (Fritz), as he rejected negotiations with the occupation force outright’. ‘Behind the scenes’, says de Taillez, Heinrich, ‘together with his associates, who had all linked together in a “patriotic movement of the Ruhr“, met leading members of the army and politicians in Berlin (…)’. – For unknown reasons, de Taillez does not mention who these “associates“ were -. As ‘finance administrator’ of the ‘Ruhr Protection Association’, Taillez continues, Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza ‘helped organise propaganda in favour of Germany in all occupied territories’, (as well as in) ‘Holland, Switzerland, Alsace-Lorraine and Italy’.

 

One would like to ask Frau Habsburg why a man, who was allegedly a Hungarian Baron, would do such a thing. And why has it taken a century for these attitudes and actions of Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza to see the light of day? Because over the years, a conscious strategy was at play, whereby the Thyssen complex portrayed the Thyssen brothers as if Fritz had been the German national hero and Heinrich free of all ‘German evil’. It is the ideal way in which to confuse the public concerning questions of power and guilt.

 

But as advantageous as such kinds of ‘legends of convenience’ might be, it is very time-consuming to uphold them. Because, if you believe Felix de Taillez, the world is full of ‘merciless’ left-wing writers who, for some unfathomable reason, insist on questioning things. This, according to him, is also the reason why, of all papers, ‘the social democrat paper “Vorwärts“’ in 1932 was leaked by a Dutch insider (and printed the information) that the Thyssen company ‘Vulcaan (was) favoured for the ore freight traffic of (the United Steelworks), by being the only shipping company enjoying very long-term contracts with the Düsseldorf steel giant. Furthermore the (United Steelworks) paid rates for this service, which were far above going market prices’.

 

One would assume that the fact part of the Thyssen fortune, which has been described so pointedly by Christopher Neumaier as ‘exorbitant’, seems to have been based on some dishonest business practices, should be condemned. But de Taillez allows himself instead the following comment: ‘Thus business connections were uncovered which the Thyssens had tried to camouflage under considerable efforts.’ As if acts of economic crime were an achievement and the real scandal their disclosure by those seeking the truth.

 

And de Taillez adds yet another layer to this twisted approach. Fritz Thyssen declared the lack of capital to be the Weimar Republic’s biggest economic problem. But when asked about his own capital flight from Germany, for instance in a 1924 interview with Ferdinand de Brinon, he circumvented the question. Absolutely understandable, in the eyes of de Taillez, as he had to maintain his reputation as a ‘dutyful German entrepreneur’. Whereby the artificiality of the Thyssens’ reputation, in the twinkling of an eye, receives an academic and, because of the author’s current position, a quasi stately seal of approval.

 

* * *

 

The lives of the Thyssen brothers Heinrich and Fritz teem with artificiality. There is their militarism, which de Taillez explains as their internalised connection to ‘army, tradition, faith and military practices’. Both trained in Hohenzollern elite regiments, however Heinrich declined war service and Fritz escaped it early by ‘having himself charged, on his own suggestion, with an official order by the Foreign Office to clarify the raw material situation for the Reich in the orient (Ottoman Empire)’. Stephan Wegener’s assertion that the Thyssens suffered high material losses through World War One is nothing but family folklore designed to shield unpalatable truths. Wegener, a member of the Josef Thyssen side of the family, conveniently leaves out that they were not only compensated by the German state, but made huge, fully audited profits supplying steel, armaments and submarines, with the assistance of forced labour. It is unforgivable that an academic such as Felix de Taillez and others in the series repeat the family legends of overall material war loss, as if they were fact.

 

The issue of Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’s adopted nationality shows most clearly what kinds of self-staging the family used. As he had to position himself as a ‘Hungarian’ to contrast Fritz, Heinrich insisted unforgivingly on his castle in Burgenland being called by its Hungarian name ‘Rohoncz’. He said he found the German version too ‘socialist’ (implying falsely that the German term had only come about in 1919 with the proclamation of the republic, see ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, page 123). According to de Taillez, Heinrich even got into fights with the Burgenland County Government, the Austrian Federal Monuments Office, the Bavarian State Ministry for Education and Culture and the Foreign Office in Berlin. Ironically the castle administration sat somewhere completely different, namely with Rotterdamsch Trustees Kantoor in Rotterdam. ‘The Baron’ camouflaged himself twice and threefold; sedentary officials had no tools to counteract such extravagant strategies.

 

Fritz too opposed the abolishment of the German and Austrian monarchies and the rise of social democracy. According to de Taillez he saw Germany as a hard-pressed center surrounded by a tight circle formed by England, France, Italy and Russia and was of the opinion that ‘the big pressure from outside did not allow for the German national unification to proceed by democratic means’. Fritz thought social democrats as ‘moderate revolutionaries’ were ‘just as dangerous’ as more radical subversives. According to de Taillez, Thyssen wanted the ‘spirit of the worker’ to be ‘German’ and no more. While the unions were requesting increased rationalisations, shortening of working hours and increased wages, he wanted a ’Volk’ (people) strengthened by the increase of the working day from 8 to 10 (!) hours and an end to participative management (a German speciality, whereby workers representatives sit on the management board). But how could this be made palatable for the men returning from the horrors of the First World War, who were turning in droves to pacifist and democratic organisations?

 

According to Niels Löffelbein, George Mosse explains the rise of fascism with a ‘brutalisation’ of post-war political culture through the mass of soldiers, which led to a ‘dissolution of boundaries and a radicalisation of political might’. Angel Alcalde counters that the world war participants were increasingly ‘instrumentalised’ as anti-bolshevik fighters by the extreme right and the veterans organisations. This, says Alcalde, happened during the ‘mytho-motoric incubation period’ of the 1920s. Thus the connection between radical nationalism and war was celebrated within the cult for the fallen heroes (and those still willing to fight on). According to de Taillez, as early as October 1917, Fritz Thyssen submitted an enrollment declaration to the right-wing, nationalist Deutsche Vaterlandspartei (DVLP, German Patriotic Party). In 1927 he gave a speech during an event of the ‘Stahlhelm Bund der Frontsoldaten’ (Steel Helmet Association of Front-Line Soldiers), the ‘fighting force ready for violence’ of the Deutschnationale Volkspartei (DNVP) in his hometown of Mülheim. He is also said to have been ‘very close’ to the ‘Association of the anti-democratic, extreme right-wing Harzburger Front’.

 

Felix de Taillez writes that Thyssen supported the Austro-fascist home guard militias: ‘Via Anton Apold, the general manager of the Austrian-Alpine Mining Company (Österreichisch-Alpine Montangesellschaft) (…), which in its majority belonged to the United Steelworks, (…) there was a connection of Thyssen with the radical right-wing home guards of Austria’. ‘The Düsseldorf Peoples Paper (Düsseldorfer Volkszeitung) insinuated that the big German industrialist wished to test out, “on the limited battle field of Austria“, how the unions’ influence could be broken’.

 

Without the shadow of a doubt, these associations would have been backed by Heinrich as well, but as a purported Hungarian privatier, he managed to keep out of all media reports about the topic and thus was not publicly perceived as a supporter of the extreme right in the German-speaking world. By not clarifying this circumstance, de Taillez adds to the picture of Heinrich drawn by the series as not being in any way a sympathiser of the far right. It is an allegation based purely on the absence of public sources, which was deliberately engineered by Heinrich and his associates. Absence of proof is not proof of absence and this should have been exposed by de Taillez. It is not, as exposing Heinrich’s far right-wing sympathies would destroy the Thyssen family mythological reputation.

 

* * *

 

For the Thyssens, there were always conflicts of interests between their national affiliation and their economic ambitions. After they had transposed the ownership structures of their works to the neutral Netherlands before the First World War, Fritz and his father August participated shortly after the war in talks about the formation of a Rhenanian Republic. According to de Taillez, the accusation by the Workers and Soldiers Council was that they ‘had requested the separation of Rhenania-Westphalia and the occupation of the Ruhr by the Allies’. A waiter had reported the meeting and the Thyssens were soon accused of being ‘greedy hypocrites’ and ‘money bag patriots’; others said this was a slur on the loyally German industrialists. The case against them was dismissed (see ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, p. 56) and Felix de Taillez writes that the waiter admitted to having lied. It does not cross his mind that this man might have needed to do so in order to keep his, or indeed any, job. Afterwards, Fritz Thyssen, who, according to de Taillez, ‘had a much higher status for German politics than a normal citizen’, was commissioned by the Foreign Office in Berlin to participate in the confidential follow-up negotiations for individual articles of the Versailles Peace Treaty.

 

Soon after the war, Fritz Thyssen also began to establish for himself an alternative domicile in Argentina by buying, first of all, the Estancia Don Roberto Lavaisse in the province of San Luis. The family’s connections with South America went back to pre-war times, when August Thyssen had founded in Buenos Aires a branch of the German-Overseas Trading Company of the Thyssen Works (Hamborn) (Deutsch-Überseeische Handelsgesellschaft der Thyssen’schen Werke). Since 1921 the company was called Compania Industrial & Mercantil Thyssen Limitada. In 1927 it took over the Lametal company and from them on ‘went under the name of Thyssen-Lametal S.A.’. According to de Taillez, Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza sold it in 1927 for 4.8 million guilders to the United Steelworks. In Brazil too the family had owned property for years and advertised commercial trade there.

 

During the Ruhrkampf (battle against the Ruhr occupation) of 1923, which Fritz Thyssen allegedly saw as a ‘legitimate defence measure against foreign begrudgers’, he let himself be represented in the allied court by Friedrich Grimm, an avowed anti-semite and subsequent Nazi lawyer who, according to de Taillez, defended Nazi perpetrators after 1945 and downplayed Nazi crimes. In the eyes of the author, Thyssen was merely ‘talked up’ artificially as a ‘projectory surface’ for a ‘new German national identity’, respectively for a ‘free Germanness’, particularly by the New York Times and the Times of London. But the Ruhrkampf was the first occasion for Fritz to move out very publicly from the shadow of his almighty father, whose health had started to deteriorate, In our opinion, this motive of self-liberation is a factor in Fritz Thyssen’s publicly celebrated swing to the right that should not be underestimated.

 

If you listen to de Taillez, it must ‘remain open’, ‘whether Fritz Thyssen was captured by the world of a sometimes extreme nationalism, which had formed in Germany during the First World War’. What a pity that his wife Amelie Thyssen gets so little attention in this series, apart from her role as co-founder of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. According to a statement made by Heini Thyssen to us, there was certainly nothing ‘talked up’ about Amelie Thyssen’s politics and she indeed seems to have been national socialist in her strong German nationalism during this ‘1920s incubation period’ and beyond. Although time and again de Taillez describes how much Fritz depended on his wife’s opinions, he leaves the possibility of political influencing within this couple’s relationship completely unmentioned. Since Amelie was the driving force in successfully reclaiming the Thyssen organisation after the Second World War, any bad light on her would, once again, harm the Thyssen family mythological reputation.

 

Grimm’s argument before the court was characterised by his statement that ‘private assets such as Ruhr coal (…) legally could not simply be confiscated, in order to settle state debts, without compensating the owners’. Taillez alleges that the Ruhrkampf set in motion in Fritz Thyssen a ‘sense of political mission’, which ‘surpassed by far the activities in the interests of the business’. He concedes that Thyssen, by saying that the German economy could only recover ‘through even greater working output’, had incurred guilt: ‘through such public statements (…) he also contributed to the failing of the social partnership in the 1920s, which gravely endangered the democratic form of government in Germany’.

 

Eventually, Fritz would be indulged by Adolf Hitler with a promise to establish a Research and Development Department for Fritz’s concept of a corporate state. This unrequited activity encouraged Fritz in considerable political activity. Fritz was disappointed by his project’s lack of action, but, when he pointed this out to Hitler, was told: ‘I never made you any promises. I’ve nothing to thank you for. What you did for my movement you did for your own benefit and wrote it off as an insurance premium’ (quoted by Henry Ashby Turner Jr., see ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, p. 108).

 

According to de Taillez, Fritz Thyssen followed his own business interests above all else, apart from situations when it was not completely clear to him ‘which path would served (these) most’. Within European rapprochement politics, he describes him as ‘ambiguous’. Thyssen critised the Weimar Republic in the French press as well as the North-American public sphere, described the German government as ‘weak and not trustworthy’ and thus ‘stuck the knife into German foreign politics in a difficult situation’. On the other hand, he criticised the ‘short-sighted and mean-spirited, selfish economic politics of the North Americans’. Thyssen ‘wanted bilateral exchange contracts for the traffic of raw materials, which were to put a stop to international financial speculations and achieve independence from exchange rates’. But when Fritz ‘(ranted) against finance techniques which (he said) were getting in the way of the real economy’, he failed to mention that the Thyssen family controlled 100% of three international banks and thereby was itself a global financial player (which, strangely, Felix de Taillez does not mention).

 

* * *

 

Although his group leader, Simone Derix, refuted this comprehensively, de Taillez continues to allege that Heinrich managed his inherited share of the family concern independently from Fritz’s. He says the relationship between the two brothers was bad. Now they might not have loved each other wholeheartedly; it is normal for there to be certain jealousies between siblings. Heini Thyssen told us how his father walked down Bahnhofstrasse in Zürich one day and changed to the other side of the street when he saw his brother Fritz. But this had indeed more to do with image than realities. Heini too wished to give the impression of discord, because his own, the Thyssen-Bornemisza side of the family, had managed to keep disassociated from discussions about the Third Reich. A photograph of the three brothers in 1938 (see ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, p. 128) and here shows that there were no problems in their relationship. Instead of being objective, de Taillez repeats parrot-like old Thyssen-internal myths, which have become dogma. This is particularly ‘remarkable’ as he tells us, on the other hand, that he wants to ‘interpret’ both men as ‘a unit of almost complementary opposite numbers’, whose ‘visibility respectively invisibility’ appears (from this perspective) as a ‘coordinated strategy of political action’.

 

After Heinrich received his ‘exorbitant’ inheritance in 1926, for a few short years he invested massively into paintings and works of art, thereby following the example of his friend Eduard von der Heydt, who had moved to Switzerland that same year. Despite it never being housed there, he called his collection ‘Rohoncz Castle Collection’, to give the impression of it having grown organically over a long period of time, and being of an aristocratic cachet. As such he had it exhibited in 1930 in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich. But Friedrich Winkler of the State Museums in Berlin compared ‘Thyssen-Bornemisza’s methods (…) to Napoleon’s art theft’ and described him as ‘clueless, uninformed, limited and dependent on the opinions of dealers and experts’. Rudolf Buttmann, delegate of the Nazi party in the Bavarian County Parliament, called the collection ‘an entity gathered by dealers’. Many false attributions and fakes were decried and the whole thing descended into a veritable ‘media scandal’. According to de Taillez, the Munich Pinakothek was willing only in the case of 60 out of 428 paintings to take them temporarily into their own stock after the end of the exhibition.

 

But these were highly speculative times with an ‘increasing commercialisation of the art market’. Despite all the hoo-ha, Heinrich’s ‘calculation to have the value of his collection determined publicly’ came good (at 50 million RM – without de Taillez explaining how he would know of such a ‘calculation’). His enterprise was described as a ‘national deed’ in which ‘the whole of Germany was said to be interested’. He was described as a ‘saviour of German cultural goods’, who was endowed with a ‘bourgeois educational mandate’ over the public. Meanwhile, it was striking that Heinrich was not presented anywhere as the son of the famous Ruhr industrialist and creator of the family fortune, August Thyssen. Instead, he was made out to be ‘the great stranger’, a person of ominous flair who nobody seemed to know exactly where he came from. There needed to be just enough ‘Germanness’ tagged onto him to keep conservative Munich audiences happy, while still maintaining the illusion of Heinrich’s adopted Hungarianness. What is troubling is that de Taillez does not openly decry this as the obvious Thyssen manipulation of public perception that it was.

 

The town of Düsseldorf and its art museum, which were ‘leading amongst big German cities’ during the Weimar years in view of a ‘highly developed apparatus of communal public relations’, was used by Heinrich Thyssen over many years, according to de Taillez. He took himself for ‘such an important personality (…), that he could make demands on the local political sphere’. It appears nonsensical that de Taillez equally alleges that the national positioning of Heinrich in Germany was only down to the materials handed out to the press by his art advisor Rudolf Heinemann and the Düsseldorf mayor Robert Lehr and that it was not in Heinrich’s own sense. Heinrich had organised propaganda in favour of Germany, he also kept his German passport (see ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, p. 55 – confirmed by Simone Derix) and accepted German compensation payments for war damages to his enterprises (see ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, p.201 – confirmed by Harald Wixforth). It is incomprehensible why de Taillez makes such contradictory statements; unless the accusations levelled at the series’ output of having been influenced by the source of their sponsorship – the Fritz Thyssen Foundation – might be justified.

 

Felix de Taillez goes way further than he should by not just obfuscating existing Thyssen manipulations but even generating new ones. He writes: ‘Heinrich (reacted) to the debacle of the exhibition, namely by restructuring big parts of his collection afterwards, selling THE controversial paintings and only thereby creating the actual breakthrough to the collection which is today world renowned’. His underpinning reference is to Johannes Gramlich’s volume ‘The Thyssens As Art Collectors’, pages 263-273. There, however, only 32 paintings are mentioned as having been sold between 1930 and 1937. Thyssen-internal lists available to us show that 405 paintings bought by Heinrich up to 1930 were inherited by his children in 1948. This would mean that only 23 paintings had theoretically been sold between 1930 and 1948.

 

So there can be no talk of Heinrich ‘restructuring big parts of his collection (after the exhibition debacle)…….selling THE controversial paintings’, which makes it sound like ALL the controversial pictures exhibited by Thyssen in 1930 were subsequently sold by him.

 

Even today, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid contains at least 120 paintings from the 1930 Munich Exhibition. If there was any ‘restructuring’ of the 1930 collection, it was not done actively by Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, but happened passively following his death, mainly through inheritance share-outs (1948, as well as 1993 after Hans Heinrich (‘Heini’) Thyssen sold only half the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection to Spain – the other half went to his wife and four children).

 

There was also a sale specifically of German paintings in the 1950s by Heini Thyssen who, after the Nazi period, wanted to be seen as being even more disconnected from Germany (see ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, p. 269). And of course, Heini Thyssen became an art collector on a completely different scale to his father and did indeed buy some very good, mostly modern, paintings.

 

Many of the questionable paintings exhibited in 1930, however, remained in Thyssen ownership and de Taillez’s assertion that they did not is misleading.

 

It must be remembered in this context that Heini Thyssen bought back most of the paintings that went to his siblings in the 1948 inheritance share out, so that most of the questionable 1930 paintings would have ended up in his possession. The Thyssens’ attitude has always been that once a painting had entered their inventory it was to be seen as beyond reproach. In this, they sought to emulate the prestige which the Rothschilds possessed. Most members of the general public, influenced by the media – who are possibly submitted to a VIP equivalent of the royal rota (whereby journalists are excluded from access to members of the royal family if they publish negative stories) -, have always seemed to accept this version of reality.

 

* * *

 

What is noticeable throughout the book and the series as a whole is that it comprises not a single personal quote from a living member of the Thyssen family. So much new history is being written about them and one wonders what they feel now that some of the plates that had, for so long and at great expense, been kept spinning in the air are starting to come tumbling down.

 

But Felix de Taillez would not be Felix de Taillez if he did not release us from the world of Thyssen art with yet another piece of white wash. Various art advisors, museum directors and the Baron himself had made contradictory statements about when exactly the paintings had been bought. Had they ever been at Rechnitz Castle, as the name of the collection suggested? Sometimes they said yes, sometimes no. The Thyssen-internal lists available to us show that he bought his first painting in 1928 and all works remained in safe deposits until the 1930 exhibition (the foreword to the exhibition catalogue makes this very clear – see here). Which did not, however, stop the Baron from saying sometimes that he had made his first art purchase in 1906, the year he married into Hungary.

 

In the 1930s, his lawyer did something similar with the Swiss authorities: ‘In connection with Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’s move to Switzerland it is furthermore remarkable that the first exhibition of his collection in Munich was of financial use to him. For the import of his paintings and other works of art into Switzerland he was able to use, vis-a-vis the Swiss authorities, the reference to the exhibition with said catalogue as proof that around 250 valuable paintings had been in his possession already for a longer period of time. Through this gambit he was able to have the works of art moved to Lugano “for his personal enjoyment“ and exempt from customs duties’.

 

(The name of Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’s Ticino lawyer was Roberto van Aken, and it was not the only time he bent the truth on behalf of his client),

 

To recapitulate: Felix de Taillez applauds the outwitting of the Swiss customs authorities by Heinrich Thyssen’s malleable lawyer, seems to give as a reason why allegedly 250, not 428 paintings were moved to Switzerland, that the Baron had sold the questionable paintings and, at the same time, like Johannes Gramlich, leaves us completely in the dark as to when and how exactly this transfer of goods out of Germany is supposed to have taken place. As the collection at the time of the 1948 inheritance share-out contained a total of 542 paintings, he also leaves unexplained where the other almost 300 paintings are supposed to have come from and when they got into Switzerland.

 

The fact the Thyssens themselves were intransparent concerning this matter is understandable. But it is unacceptable that academics, having been commissioned almost a century later to work through the events in a claimed ‘independent’ manner, are behaving in the same way. Particularly as no family members have been quoted.

 

* * *

 

On the whole, while Felix de Taillez is remarkably obstinate in prolonging the myths surrounding Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, he seems somewhat more direct in his presentation of Fritz. We dont suggest the Fritz Thyssen Foundation or the Thyssen Industrial History Foundation have steered the results of these academic investigations. But the fact access to source materials and financial sponsorship were granted by these entities (on whose boards sits only ONE Thyssen family member, namely Georg Thyssen-Bornemisza, a descendant of Heinrich, not Fritz) must have led the authors to tread with a degree of ‘caution’ in their ultimate assessments.

 

Continuing on the theme of Fritz, following the putsch by General Jose Felix Uriburu, an ‘undemocratic decade’ began in Argentina in 1930, during which a ‘strong economic integration with Germany’ came about. According to de Taillez, ‘strongly extreme right-wing movements’ existed there from the 1890s onwards, and ‘already before the seizure of power in Germany’ the foreign organisation of the Nazi party ‘took hold (in Argentina) particularly well’ (see also ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, p. 195). Lateron the La Plata newspaper reported that Fritz Thyssen in 1930 (!) proclaimed the ‘dawn of the coming, new Germany’ under Hitler in the Argentinian public. In 1934 he demanded in the Argentinian Journal (Argentinisches Tageblatt) the ‘unlimited power of the new (German) government in order to boost the economy’, which de Taillez describes as ‘remarkable’, after all he had ‘normally always insisted on big freedoms for the private economy’. De Taillez continues: ‘According to Thyssen, the concentration of power in the Nazi state offered the important advantage, of making decisions, without having to take “half-measures“ and “make compromises“ like in the “party state contaminated by Marxism“’. By which Fritz used the extremist language of the National Socialists against political opponents.

 

During the Gelsenberg affair in 1932 there were press reports, encouraged by the former Reich Finance Minister Hermann Dietrich, that Fritz Thyssen had negotiated a deal for the United Steelworks with French and Dutch investors, but that the Reich government wanted to prevent this, because it did not wish for foreign influence on the enterprise. By writing a letter to the German public, that he had ‘only explored the possibility of obtaining loans’, Thyssen ‘consciously exposed the Reich government’, writes de Taillez. The author argues that Thyssen’s statements were dismantled when a letter by Friedrich Flick to him was leaked to the Frankfurter Zeitung, which showed that Flick ‘had (rejected) Thyssen’s suggestion precisely because of the source of the money connected with it’. The Düsseldorf Volkszeitung newspaper reacted by calling Thyssen ‘unpatriotic’.

 

At the beginning of 1932, while his brother Heinrich bought Villa Favorita in Lugano, Fritz ‘veered demonstratively towards National Socialism’. His wife had already joined the party on 01.03.1931. He would do so officially on 07.07.1933. Looking back at the Ruhrkampf, Fritz concluded, according to de Taillez, that this was ‘a preliminary for the national socialist body of thought of the new Germany’: ‘In contrast to 1932 now it is not just the Ruhr area standing firm, but the whole of Germany will go the path that the “Führer“ is prescribing. The shattering of Marxism in the country was only down to Hitler, the SA and the SS’ (from an article in the Kölnische Zeitung newspaper ‘Fritz Thyssen about the class struggle’, on 02.05.1933).

 

Thus Thyssen became a ‘media player’, who under Hitler ‘profited considerably from the abolition of the freedom of the press’, as soon nobody was allowed any longer to set anything against his verbal crudeness. Meanwhile, he led negotiations in Buenos Aires ‘with high state organs’ such as ‘General Agustin Pedro Justo, the President in power since 1932 after rigged elections’. Subsequently an Argentinian-German trade agreement, including offsetting and compensation procedures, was signed in November 1934, whereby trade between the two countries increased drastically. It seems Thyssen was trying to help form an antipole to Anglo-American economic might. But Felix de Taillez believes Fritz, utterly selfishly, was just helping construct his own ‘image’ as an ‘influential economic leader’, to bring great publicity to himself.

 

Not all of the South-American press was positive about Thyssen. The Argentinian Tagesblatt paper in 1934 talked about a ‘coming together of joint bankruptcies’ having taken place in 1933, when the United Steelworks were bankrupt and the Nazi party was ‘hopelessly in debt’. ‘The newspaper accused the United Steelworks under Thyssen’s leadership as chairman of the supervisory board to have carried out extensive accounting fraud.’ (from their article ‘Business deals of a State Councillor’, dated 08.11.1934). The Cologne cultural magazine ‘Westdeutscher Scheinwerfer’ described Fritz Thyssen as an ‘autocrat’ and ‘said the main reason for the crisis at the United Steelworks was the contentious personal politics of Fritz Thyssen’. His critics in the media ‘declared Fritz Thyssen to be incapable in economic and political affairs’ and ‘made him responsible for the high losses at United Steelworks’.

 

It was the very thing his father August, who had no social ambition but lived entirely for his works, had warned about many years earlier. He had ensured Fritz was only head of the supervisory board, not the management board, in order to minimise the damage August was convinced Fritz would do to the company. August believed Heinrich was only marginally more adequate than Fritz to be head of the Thyssen empire (see ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, p. 70).

 

Meanwhile, after the war, the Allies would accuse the United Steelworks of ‘consistently giving their full financial support to the militarily-minded National Socialist Party’. Loping the ball back into the allied court, Fritz Thyssen would write in 1950 ‘In my opinion, the Nuremberg trials were conducted mainly to find someone to blame for Hitler’s WAR policy. It would have been very embarrassing for the Americans to have to admit that they had supported the German rearmament from the very first, because they wished for a WAR against Russia’ (see ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, pages 80 and 230).

 

‘Remarkably’ for a man whose credibility depends on the assertion that his anti-war stance led him eventually to breaking with the Nazis, when the national socialists Wilhelm von Keppler and Kurt von Schröder collected signatures to ask Paul von Hindenburg to make Adolf Hitler Reich Chancellor, Fritz Thyssen was the ONLY member of the Ruhrlade (association of the 12 most important Ruhr industrialists that existed from 1928 to 1939) to sign. In his dealings with other industrialists he could be gruff and rude. He warned colleagues to be ‘disciplined’, especially those who he thought were being ‘liberalistic’. People such as Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, who strove against Hitler as long as he could and who, like Richard Freudenberg and many others, only surrendered to national socialism once it had been installed, as a dictatorship, with the help of the Thyssens and their associates. According to de Taillez ‘(Thyssen) threatened possible interferers citing his new influence on the state organs in charge’, i.e. he told them he would report them to Hermann Göring.

 

This is an admission of extremely overbearing Thyssen behaviour issued by the Thyssen complex as official historiography, which, as such, really is remarkable.

 

* * *

 

And it does not stop there. Fritz Thyssen also threatened catholic priests, who were normally his allies. In March 1933, for instance, he let it be known to Cardinal Schulte that his family would not take part in any more church services ‘as long as the unjust treatment of the Führer & members of the Nazi party endured’. He took part in sociological special meetings in Maria Laach under the Abbott Ildefons Herwegen and the circle of ‘anti-democratic rightwing catholics’, who, according to de Taillez, were ‘annexable by the national socialists’. These were ‘against the enlightenment, universal human rights, democracy, liberalism, socialism, communism, decidedly anti-semitic’ and in favour of an ‘authoritarian corporatism’. They were trying to develop a ‘Reich Theology’, ‘supported by the association of catholic academics’.

 

Reminding us once again that it was the professions, such as the legal community, who took particularly early and enthusiastically to the Nazi ideology.

 

Despite all this threatening behaviour, Felix de Taillez alleges – not very convincingly – that Fritz Thyssen interpreted national socialism ‘in a conservative manner’. Apparently, he saw it as the ‘renaissance of a lost State and of the Volksgemeinschaft (Peoples Community)’. He writes that for Thyssen, national socialism was not so much an ideology as a ‘HEROIC FORCE’, whereby a ‘class of people underpinning the state’ had been resurrected, who had taken up the ‘battle against the gravediggers of the state’. – This is reminiscent of the intrumentalising slogans, used by proto-fascist veterans’ associations as mentioned by Angel Alcalde -. But in the same paragraph, Fritz Thyssen then divulged his elitist understanding of his role within national socialism, when he said that one would, however, take away ‘the dignity and primacy of this class of people if one were to try and lift up 64 million people into the same dignity through ideological propaganda’.

 

For the Rheinische Zeitung newspaper, this meant that Thyssen was a fascist, but no ‘roister Nazi’. In reality it meant that he saw himself and his family as part of the State, but not as part of the Volksgemeinschaft (Peoples’ Community), which he thought should be kept subservient to himself and his associates.

It sounds less like a conservative and more like a FEUDAL understanding of national socialism.

 

As the dictatorship gathered momentum, the Gauleiter of Essen, Josef Terboven, asked Rudolf Hess in a letter ‘to have the “Führer“ name Thyssen as politico-economic plenipotentiary for the Ruhr area and to have his position endowed with unconditional authority’. There seems to have been a power triangle of Hermann Göring, Gauleiter Terboven and Fritz Thyssen, whose media voice piece was the National-Zeitung newspaper. According to de Taillez, Thyssen took part in the Nuremberg party rallies. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Reichsbank, of the Academy of German Law and of the Expert Committee on Questions of Population and Racial Policy (see also here). By 1938, Fritz had assembled so many supervisory board mandates for himself, ‘that he was positioned as an individual in the centre of a network of the Reich economic elite, on third place after the chairman of the United Steelworks, Albert Vögler, and the bank director of Berliner Handelsgesellschaft, Wilhelm Koeppel’.

 

* * *

 

The groundbreaking thesis of Felix de Taillez is that it took a long time for Thyssen to break with the Nazis: ‘The assertions uttered by him and by his associates during the 1948 denazification proceedings that he had already turned away demonstratively during the 1930s (thus appear) as no more than pretextual, easy to see through, defensive attempts.’ Even in 1936, de Taillez writes, Thyssen still defended Hitler at the Industry Club in Düsseldorf ‘almost manically’, using quotations from “Mein Kampf“. In the same year, he showed himself to be ‘unteachable’, as he accused those who saw the Nazis’ armaments policies as harbingers of war, of being wrong. According to Thyssen, ‘it was only owing to Hitler that Germany was once again seen internationally as an equal partner’. Gottfried Niedhart and the Perlentaucher (elitist culture blog) have taken up joyfully the interpretation that Fritz Thyssen ‘was not at all the powerful man behind Hitler’, but only ‘blinded’ by him, and that ‘he really seems to have thought that the rearmament did not serve the preparation of war, but the goal of “becoming capable of forming alliances“’.

 

But why should one believe that a man, whose views were otherwise so changeable and untrustworthy, should have seen clearly and been truthful in his anti-war stance, which just so happens to hit at the central agony of the German nation (namely the question of their responsibility for the Nazis’ war and its horrors)? Does it not, rather, seem like yet another attempt at obscuring the Thyssens’ long-lasting support of the National Socialist regime? Particularly as his alleged anti-war stance was central also to the Thyssens’ ability of regaining their assets from the allies after the war.

 

And why, if Fritz knew, as he wrote in 1950, that the Americans wanted to rearm Germany to go to war with Russia, did he not break away from this evil alliance earlier on?! Because he too was for a war against the Soviet Union after all? Or because it was more important for him to reap the economic benefits than to take a moral stance? And if so, why are these official Thyssen biographers overall still alleging his flight from Germany, when it finally came, to have been a moral stance, rather than one of convenience, when according to de Taillez, he had missed out so many earlier opportunities at opposing Hitler’s plans?

 

In the words of de Taillez, when Hermann Göring declared the mobilisation of the wartime economy in the summer of 1938, Thyssen propagated ‘this propaganda in the media through his clear avowal of allegiance to the Four-Year-Plan’. In February 1939 he was named by Walther Funk (who was a client of the August Thyssen Bank, see ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, p. 87) as a Leader of the Wartime Economy. The assertions presented at the denazification trial that Thyssen had harboured ‘serious thoughts of subversion’ and had been in contact with resistance circles is described by de Taillez as ‘idle’, because ‘reliable sources do not exist’. Rather, de Taillez testifies to Thyssen remaining absolutely ‘inactive’ until November 1939, i.e. until two months after the start of the war. An assertion that ‘Thyssen proposed a close cooperation between industry and the army to General von Kluge after the November pogrom of 1938, in order to put an end to Nazi politics’ is clarified by him thus: ‘based on the situation with the sources, it is more than questionable, whether such a plan existed at all’.

 

Felix de Taillez thus dismantles the so far, in his own words, ‘successful reframing’ of Fritz Thyssen in an ‘image of an extraordinarily early “fanatical opponent“ of National Socialism, who was already active in the resistance in 1936’. (This being an image issued to the public from 1948 onwards by Thyssen’s solicitor and PR-advisor, Robert Ellscheid (see also here)).

And that is truly ‘remarkable’!

* * *

 

According to de Taillez, following Fritz Thyssen’s flight to Switzerland in September 1939, the English press reported that an international arrest warrant had been issued against him for ‘theft, embezzlement, tax evasion and contraventions against German currency restrictions’. Thyssen, however, threatened Hitler with precisely this international public opinion, while simultaneously presenting himself as a ‘proud’ German ‘with every fibre of his being’. He said he wanted to show ‘the innocence of the “German nation“ concerning recent developments’, while at the same time saying that ‘the German people had shown in the inter-war years that it was „incapable of adjusting itself to democratic institutions“’. (Even during his denazification proceeding in 1948 ‘Thyssen continued to ascertain his view that democracy was not a form of government suitable to Germany’!).

 

De Taillez qualifies his attitude as being ‘naive’…. ‘Schizophrenic’ and ‘impudent’ would be more adequate adjectives from our point of view. It is typical for Thyssen’s belief in his own omnipotence, that he seemed to think that the course of a war, that had been planned by such a long hand, could be changed by a few of his statements. The fact that his brother Heinrich had managed so elegantly, through his Hungarian nationality, and his secure, comfortable domicile in Switzerland, to keep out of public politics, while still enjoying all the financial rewards the Thyssen enterprises were reaping from the war, must have made Fritz very angry. This vexation might even have been one trigger for his flight. And so he showed no consideration for Heinrich’s standstill agreement with the Swiss authorities (see ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, p. 103) which he endangered by his noisy flight to Switzerland.

 

De Taillez then explains that Fritz Thyssen, via ‘secret channels’, ‘got in touch with former Chancellor Joseph Wirth and western agents’ and thus ‘became, in a certain way, a part of Wirth’s attempts at sounding out France and England’. But then, he says, General Halder, who had been ‘until that time, head of the secret military opposition to the Third Reich’, ‘buckled at the beginning of 1940’. According to de Taillez, the French secret service, however, assumed ‘that Fritz Thyssen was the head of a far-reaching secret organisation being built up in Switzerland by Germany, in order to undermine the influence of the French and the British in Europe’. At the same time, de Taillez believes that ‘under normal circumstances, the entry of Thyssen into France during the war would have been refused. It was his luck that he had been able to convince the French secret service in Switzerland that he held important information and assessments, which would be useful to the allies in their fight against the Third Reich’.

 

It was always typical for the ultra-rich Thyssens to make themselves look important with everyone that mattered. Only this time, it was about war. Any kind of allegiance was never at the forefront of their mind. The Thyssens were transnational and committed to no single nation – only to themselves alone.

 

This fact can be gaged from the book ‘I Paid Hitler’, which Fritz Thyssen elaborated together with Emery Reves in 1940 and which was published by the latter in 1941 in London and New York (see also here). According to de Taillez, since 1937 Reves also worked with Winston Churchill. He writes that in 1940 Churchill ‘commissioned (Reves) with building up the british propaganda apparatus in North and South America’ (!). De Taillez continues: ‘Reves told Churchill about the central theory of Fritz Thyssen for the reimplementation of peace in Europe, which would soon be proclaimed publicly: the partition of Germany’ – namely into ‘a protestant Eastern Germany and a catholic Western German under a Wittelsbach’. Churchill is said to have passed on these views to his secret service advisor Major Desmond Morton – although one could have one’s doubts about how much of this was actually a direct quote from Thyssen and how much might be ascribed to British propaganda (!)…

 

The fact that Fritz Thyssen might also sometimes have ‘consciously spoken the untruth’ (i.e. that he sometimes lied) is a suggestion that Felix de Taillez floats in connection with Thyssen’s statements after the war concerning the creation of ‘I Paid Hitler’. It is a tinge of honesty, of openness that has also to do with „honour“ after all, and which has been missing from so many of the statements made by Thyssens and their self-proclaimed official biographers in the past. While Thyssen and his lawyers distanced themselves from the book, Reves confirmed to the denazification court that all of the book had been dictated by Thyssen and that two thirds of it had been proof-read by him. Reves rejected the idea of being a ghostwriter and described himself as publisher and press agent. He also argued that Anita Zichy-Thyssen had repeatedly thanked him for his publishing the book. To this day Anita’s descendants in South America praise the book and slander anyone critical of Fritz Thyssen (see here).

 

* * *

 

De Taillez records that following his being taken into custody by the Allies in 1945, Fritz Thyssen ‘was presented in the British and US-American weekly newsreels as an alleged war criminal’. Then, presumably in order to explain this, in his view, mistaken stance, he alledges: ‘apparently the Americans were still having difficulties in assessing the Thyssen case in a consistent way, as well as in their coordination with the German authorities’. This blocks out the fact that the Thyssen case was fraught because the allies could not access and question Heinrich in his Swiss safehaven, and because there were discrepancies between the British and the American views of how the Thyssens should be dealt with (in general, the British were much more in favour of their punishment). Wilhelmus Groenendijk, who was part of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Group finance division from 1957 to 1986 told us: ‘BOTH Heinrich and Fritz were listed as war criminals. But from the Netherlands, we managed to get their names brought further down and down on that list, until we were able to claim that the assets were in fact allied property’ – and therefore could not possibly be seen as having abetted the German war effort (see ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, p. 188).

 

De Taillez summarises for Fritz Thyssen that ‘despite considerable differences (…) he arranged himself with the Third Reich for a long time, because there was a basis of common ground’, namely the ideal of the authoritarian state, the disempowerment of the socialist workers movement and the revisionist policies. To this was added the prospect of profit increases in the steel industry. He describes that ‘the former Reich Chancellor (Heinrich) Brüning declared in writing (during the post-war denazification proceedings against Fritz Thyssen) that financing by foreign powers was decisive for Hitler’s ascent to power’. And yet various authors of this series, including de Taillez alledge that this is nothing more than a conspiracy theory. Notwithstanding, de Taillez makes the remarkable assertion that ‘the often polarising statements made by Fritz Thyssen were judged more positively in the anglo-american media, which is the most powerful media in the world, until 1933, than by the german public’ – which would of course indicate that, contrary to what is said today, there was indeed support for the German move to the extreme right in Great Britain and the United States after all.

 

De Taillez describes Fritz much more intimately than he does Heinrich, namely as absurd, agitating, ambivalent, influential, almost manic, polarising, divorced from reality, controversial, sophomoric, unteachable, unreasonable, unclear, a troublemaker, NONSENSICAL, incoherent, cynical, and, in a description by thirds, of having a ‘more than peculiar manner’. Many of these characteristics certainly applied to Heinrich also, because they went back not least to the greedy luxury of the family and its resulting, hubristic mannerisms. Only, Heinrich was more intelligent than Fritz and he knew in particular that one can camouflage oneself much better within a certain seclusion, especially when one is in truth even more unscrupulous than his vociferous brother.

 

Felix de Taillez’s colleague Jan Schleusener (‘The Expropriation of Fritz Thyssen’), rates Fritz Thyssen as a hero: he was, says Schleusener, ‘the only delegate of the Reichstag who raised objections to the launching of the war’, which reminds one of Thomas Rother’s equally unsuitable statement whereby Thyssen was ‘the only industrialist in Germany not to profit from Hitler’s war. According to de Taillez, it appears that Fritz Thyssen admitted one single time, towards Norman Cousins, ‘that he felt co-responsible for national socialism, because of his financial support of Hitler IN THE LATE 1920s’. But at the same time, Cousin noticed that Thyssen ‘did not mention the many crimes committed since 1933, the political murders, the destruction of the bourgeois freedoms and the persecution of the Jews as decisive motives for his break with national socialism’. As far as Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza is concerned, not a single statement at all concerning these topics has been handed down.

 

This is to be weighed up when assessing whether the alleged heroical, anti-national socialist, anti-war stance of the Thyssens was real, or whether these were exonerations issued on behalf of ruthless war opportunists (/criminals – as they must have known Hitler’s war was to be one of annihiliation) by their sycophantic underlings to ensure their bosses would not suffer any retribution.

 

The outstanding contribution of this book, meanwhile, is in its explanation of the utterly elitist perspective from which the Thyssens saw their role within National Socialism. So far, it is the only volume to have been reviewed, not only in academic circles, but also by a major German newspaper.

 

An honest German view (photo copyright: Lizas Welt – internet:lizaswelt.net/2011/02/28/volksgemeinschaft-gegen-rechts/)

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Art, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »

The Thyssen Art of Tax Avoidance . . . and Philanthropic Feudalism

During our research for ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, we became witnesses to the art of what is now being called ‘aggressive’ tax avoidance, as a result of our participation in a lengthy masterclass with one of the world’s leading exponents. It was Heini Thyssen himself who admitted to us that his primary mission in life had not been the collecting of art or the maintenance of an industrial fortune, but the avoidance of paying tax. Indeed on page 319 of our book we quoted his astonishingly frank statement word for word: ‘I am a tax evader by profession. If you wanted to be correct, I should be in jail’.

The most intensive part of this masterclass came when Heini chose to take his son Heini Junior (Georg Thyssen) to court, in order to break up a Bermudan trust and regain control of the family fortune. This was not only a structure that had been designed to make such disassembly as difficult as possible and thus protect the fortune from alimony claims, irresponsible siblings and, in Heini’s case, his own extravagance, but it was also meant to minimise its exposure to tax liabilities.

I was astonished that, considering the financial importance of this process to the Thyssen-Bornemiszas, the cost of which, one way or another, they would all be contributing to, not one member of the family displayed any interest in visiting the island, to see if their legal and financial representatives were handling the task with due diligence; a process that would eventually result in a legal bill of some $150,000,000. So I offered to go on their behalf, in the knowledge that the very rich rarely do anything for themselves, even collect art; preferring to have others do things on their behalf.

It was in Bermuda that Caroline and I got to know Heini’s barristers, Queen’s Counsellors Michael Crystal and Robert Ham and their local solicitors, Appleby Spurling & Kempe; experts in tax efficient, financial logistics – and in whose gardens we would complete each day’s activities with refreshing bottles of chilled champagne. Then, more recently, I was reminded once again of their existence when a vast cache of their highly privileged clients’ records were mysteriously leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists from the offices of what had now been rebranded as simply Appleby. This resulted in a spectacular media exposure which has come to be known as the ‘Paradise Papers’.

Around the same time that this financial pasta was beginning to slide off the edge of the plate, the less financially privileged were starting to realise just how iniquitous the super rich really can be. There is increasingly a perceived imbalance reminiscent of feudal conditions, which seem to be favoured not least by those whose marriage has led them to co-opt scions of defunct aristocratic dynasties. The highly paid advisors, meanwhile, had started putting strategies into place in order to meet the PR-challenges of the forced increase in transparency now being applied to offshore financial instruments and their wealthy users.

With this backdrop, Heini Thyssen’s daughter, ’The Archduchess’ Francesca von Habsburg, whose name featured prominently in the ‘Paradise Papers’, wasted no time in announcing to the world her own seemingly admirable ‘mission statement’. This was to use part of her estimated $350,000,000 personal fortune, – inherited from her father, some of which was provided by the Spanish tax payers, when he sold them half his art collection – to save the world’s oceans from pollution.

She also began referring to herself as an ‘executive producer’ and ‘agent of change’.

Soon her London-based organisation TBA21-Academy was said to be ‘curating a top level conference at the Bonn Art Museum’ (a publicly funded organisation!) at the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). But in truth this was but a one-day coming together of some of the privileged recipients of her ‘altruism’.

In order to assist her in such an intellectually complex activity, she had recruited the services of a major Broadway-based public relations organisation called Resnicow and Associates, which specialises in ‘online strategy’, ‘core missions’ and ‘sponsorship“; though considering her exceptional wealth one would not have thought that Francesca Habsburg-Thyssen needed the latter. But I know from my own experience that she has invariably asked others to contribute financially to her various socio-cultural activities over the years. And this has also included those in control of public funds.

Meanwhile, I noticed that she still had her British Virgin Islands-based Fragonard art sub-trust in place, into which her inherited Thyssen-Bornemisza art collection share had been placed in 1993 and which was said to have engendered a presumably Cayman Islands-based trust with the assistance of Appleby Trust Cayman Limited in 2008. Then there is the Alligator Head Foundation Jamaica. She also continues to enjoy the amenities of Thyssen Bornemisza Group (TBG) AG Zurich, TBG Holdings Limited Bermuda, Favorita Investment Limited Malta and other such tax-efficient facilities.

The apple seemed not to have fallen far from the tree and her father’s influence possibly continued to affect Francesca Thyssen’s exposure – or not, as the case may be – to tax in Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Jamaica or anywhere else she may see fit to lay her head.

And it looks as if even a supra-national entity such as the United Nations may be ‘endorsing’ her enterprise in philanthropic feudalism, which would be viewed with a distinct lack of sympathy by polemicists, such as myself and my collaborator. Indeed the latter told me: ‘Aggressively avoiding the payment of tax can hardly be considered helpful to governmental agencies who are responsible for the protection of the environment. Using tax payers’ money to fund one’s own, indulgent self-promotion is even less so’.

But presumably Resnicow is intending to garner sufficient public enthusiasm for Francesca Habsburg’s cultural endeavours in the months ahead to successfully persuade those who care, that should she indeed be aggressively minimising her exposure to the payment of tax, she will nevertheless be perceived as a true philanthropist, acting only in the public’s cultural and environmental interests.

And Resnicow will surely be able to help with disaster management advice, if German academia and the media is ever obliged to accept the truth of our account of where Francesca Thyssen’s fortune comes from. Or if she is held accountable for fulfilling her promise of assisting in locating the graves of one hundred and eighty Jewish slave labourers put to death by the SS ‘guests’ of her Aunt Margit Batthyany-Thyssen in the grounds of the family’s Rechnitz castle in 1945.

Meanwhile, one should perhaps be reminded that the last time there was a Thyssen financial interest on Broadway was during the Second World War, when it was the location of the Thyssen family’s Union Banking Corporation in which they and, so it was rumoured, a number of prominent Nazi party members kept a few million emergency dollars, and Prescott Bush, grandfather of George W Bush, was a director!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Art, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »

Simone Derix Shrouds Thyssen Guilt – Rechnitz Revisited II

The Thyssens have always avoided revealing the details of their Nazi past, relying on a mixture of denial, obfuscation and bribery. But with the publication of our book ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’ in 2007 and revelations concerning the appalling Rechnitz massacre, this philosophy was becoming increasingly difficult to uphold. Finally they decided to recruit ten academics, via the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, to rewrite their personal, social, political and industrial past (a series called ‘Family – Enterprises – Public. Thyssen in the 20th Century’) in an attempt to burnish their reputation.

Sometimes this has been successful and sometimes not, as, despite their best laid plans, the books have often revealed more than the Thyssens might have liked, either directly or through the exposure of contradictions.

As the Thyssen-sponsored treatises have been published, we have reviewed each one in turn, in some considerable detail, and intend to do the same with their latest offering, ‘The Thyssens. Family and Fortune’ by Simone Derix. First, though, we want to examine the book’s one unique feature as, a whole decade after our revelations, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation has finally helped issue the first official Thyssen publication that contains a description of the dynasty’s involvement in Rechnitz life and in the ‘Rechnitz massacre’ of 24/25 March 1945 in particular – because this is a subject which we feel particularly passionate about.

Unfortunately, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation has chosen to allow Simone Derix to include the mere seven pages (of a 500-page book, derived from her habilitation thesis) in a manifesto that is as much a work of public relations on behalf of the Thyssens, as of Derix’s ambitious self-promotion within the ‘new’ field of ‘research into the wealthy’; the bottom line being that the Thyssens should be celebrated for their outstanding wealth, while they must be pitied for their victimisation at the hands of journalists, advisors, authorities, relatives, Bolshevists, National Socialists, etc., etc.

This makes Derix the kind of apologist of whom Ralph Giordano said that they will not tire of ‘turning victims into perpetrators and perpetrators into victims’. The fact that the Association of German Historians has seen fit to award Derix’s work the Carl-Erdmann-Prize (named after a genuine victim of Nazi persecution) is furthermore troubling.

                                                                                    * * *

Germany was a late developer in both its industrialisation and nationhood and emerged onto the international stage with an explosive energy that was to become catastrophic. While the extraordinarily hard-working, middle-class brothers August and Josef Thyssen created their family’s vast, late 19th century industrial fortune, August’s sons Fritz Thyssen and Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, influenced by their socially ambitious mother, turned their backs on bourgeois life and used their inherited wealth to ascend into a new-style, deeply reactionary landed gentry.

Derix describes how, in the early 20th century, far away from the original Thyssen base in the Ruhr, Fritz leased Rittergut Gleina near Naumburg/Saale, bought and sold Rittergut Götschendorf in Uckermark and bought Rittergut Neu Schlagsdorf near Schwerin, as well as Schloss Puchhof in Bavaria. Of course we already knew that Heinrich acquired, amongst others, the Landswerth horse racing stables near Vienna, the Erlenhof stud farm near Bad Homburg, with racing stables in Hoppegarten near Berlin, and the Rechnitz estate in Burgenland/Austria (formerly in Hungary).

Our research has shown that the brothers hunted at each other’s estates which discredits the spurious allegation repeated again and again by this academic series, including Derix, that Fritz and Heinrich Thyssen did not get on. A claim which is designed to obfuscate the synergies in the two men’s business dealings and particularly those benefitting the Nazi regime.

Both men adopted the behaviour of feudal overlords, enjoying the supplies of cheap and forced labour afforded their enterprises by the suppression of labour movements as well as armed international conflicts, which they fuelled with their factories’ weapons and munitions. The Thyssen brothers self-servingly meddled in politics, overtly (Fritz) or behind the scenes, through discrete diplomatic and society channels (Heinrich) – though the latter is denied vehemently by Derix and her academic associates.

Both Thyssen brothers helped bring about the eventual enthronement of the Nazis in 1933. Yet Simone Derix tries to reinvent them as the guiltlessly entrapped, illustrious captains of industry they never were in the first place.

By 1933 Heinrich’s daughter Margit (who had been born and had grown up at Rechnitz castle), corrupted by her ambitious father and anti-semitic mother, as well as her pseudo-pious Sacré Coeur education, had managed to elevate the family by marrying into Hungarian aristocracy (Ivan Batthyany) – as had Fritz Thyssen’s daughter Anita (Gabor Zichy).

On 8th April 1938, one week after the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza gave his Rechnitz estate, which had once been in the Batthyany family for centuries from 1527 to 1871, to Margit, according to our research apparently so that he, ensconced in his Swiss hide-away on the shores of Lake Lugano, would not be seen to own any property in the German Reich.

Simone Derix alleges this was instead done for tax reasons.

All his Ruhr factories being owned by Dutch financial instruments, the Swiss authorities, who until the turning point of the war in 1943 were pro-German but whose ultimate stance was one of political neutrality, were satisfied that Heinrich would not become a political problem to them.

Through his company Thyssensche Gas- und Wasserwerke (later Thyssengas), Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza discreetly continued to fund both Rechnitz castle and the Batthyany matrimony. During WWII, the Walsum coal mine belonging to Thyssengas in the Ruhr used forced labour to the tune of two thirds of its labour force; a record in German industry. In the Rechnitz area, some mining interests were being exploited by the Thyssengas company.

                                                                  * * *

For centuries the huge Rechnitz castle, in whose courtyard, it was said, an entire husars regiment could perform its drill, had been the power centre of Rechnitz. How exactly did this situation develop after the Nazis took charge of the country? Where in Rechnitz did the party and its organisations install themselves?

Simone Derix does not furnish any answers to these important questions, despite pretending to do so, by help of much verbose flourish. Instead, she writes in a vague, evasive manner: ‘The Batthyanys got along by mutual agreement (they found a consensual livelihood) at Rechnitz Castle during World War Two with representatives of the Nazi party and the Nazi regime’.

In 1934, 170 Jews lived in Rechnitz. On 1st November 1938, a week before Reichs Crystal Night, Rechnitz was declared ‘free of Jews’, a situation that members of the Thyssen family would have welcomed (see here). But Simone Derix pointedly refuses to acknowledge the anti-semitism of key Thyssens and instead reserves this characteristic for marginal characters.

In the spring of 1939, according to Derix, Hans-Joachim Oldenburg, whose father was a senior engineer at Thyssen and who himself had worked on agricultural estates owned by the Thyssen family, was sent to Rechnitz Castle to take charge of its estate management, which was soon relying on forced labourers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe.

That summer, Franz Podezin arrived in Rechnitz as a civil servant of the Gestapo border post. He had been an SA-member since 1931 and later became SS-Hauptscharführer. He also became the leader of the Nazi party in Rechnitz.

Simone Derix comments that „both posts of Podezin were in different locations“, but fails to pinpoint them. Stefan Klemp of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre has written that the Rechnitz Gestapo was headquartered in Rechnitz castle all along. Either his statement is correct or Derix is right when she alleges that Podezin only came to take up offices in the castle in the autum of 1944 when he became Nazi party head of subsection I of section VI (Rechnitz) of the South-East Earth Wall building works.

By avoiding clarity on these points, Derix fudges the issue and contributes to the vindication of culprits – particularly of the Thyssens as owners, funders and residents of the castle.

The activities on this reinforced defense system designed to hold up the Red Army were coordinated by the organisation Todt (run by Armaments Minister Albert Speer), by the Wehrmacht major-general Wilhelm Weiss and, in the section in question, by the Gauleiter of Styria, to which Burgenland then belonged, Sigfried Uiberreither.

Locals as well as forced labourers from different nations were employed, whose treatment depended on their position within the racial hierarchies proclaimed by Nazi ideology. Bottom of the heap and therefore having to endure the worst conditions and abuses, were Slavs, Russians and nationals of the states of the Soviet Union. But none of them were as badly treated as the Jews.

                                                                  * * *

How exactly did Margit Batthyany-Thyssen spend these 12 years of Nazi tyranny?

The Countess took on the mantle of her grand-mother and mother as ‘Queen of Rechnitz’, while continuing to travel widely within the Reich. Having inherited her father’s interest in horses, she monitored Thyssen horse breeding and racing in Bad Homburg near Frankfurt, Hoppegarten/Berlin and Vienna, frequented races in various European cities and collected trophies on behalf of her father, who no longer wished to be seen to be leaving his Ticino safehaven.

In 1942, their Erlenhof stud Ticino won the Austrian Derby in Vienna-Friedenau and the German Derby in Hamburg. In 1944, their Erlenhof stud Nordlicht achieved the same feats, though the German Derby was held in Berlin that year due to the allied bombing damage on Hamburg.

At these public gatherings, Margit Batthyany mixed with and was feted by Nazi officials, who looked up to her as a member of the highest-level Nazi-state elite. It is clear that for her the war presented no change in her privileged lifestyle.

Each such event would have been a very public expression of support and legitimisation of the Nazi regime on behalf of the Thyssen and Batthyany families, but any reference to this function is absent from Derix’s treatise.

Margit also travelled regularly to Switzerland during the war, where she met her brother Heini and her father Heinrich in either Lugano, Zurich, Davos or Flims. They clearly sanctioned her life-style. Again, this is not mentioned by Derix.

During her war-time life in Rechnitz, Margit Batthyany apparently had affairs with both Hans Joachim Oldenburg (confirmed by the Batthyany family) and Franz Podezin (as stated by a castle staff member and mentioned by Simone Derix) – thereby confirming details relayed to us by Heini Thyssen’s Hungarian lawyer, Josi Groh, many years ago. Members of the Thyssens’ staff would have been in an ideal position to witness such things, as they cleaned rooms, served breakfast in bed or procured items of daily life of a private nature.

Strangely, Simone Derix still feels the need to proclaim such details as being mere „speculations“, thereby intimating that they are applied artificially to shed an undeservedly bad light on a Thyssen.

The only reason why we highlighted Margit Batthyany’s particular sexual penchant, was because it symbolises so powerfully the Thyssens’ intimate relationship with the Nazi regime, which will take on a particularly poignant dimension in terms of the post-war Aufarbeitung of the Rechnitz war crimes.

Academics such as Simone Derix and Walter Manoschek in particular, as well as members of the Refugius commemoration association have been at great pains to exclaim that we have somehow damaged the historiography of this chapter by „decontextualising“ it into a tabloid „sex & crime“ saga. The only thing that is achieved by these misguided accusations is that once again the Thyssens and Batthyanys are shielded from having to accept their responsibilities which they have so far, apart from Sacha Batthyany, shirked.

                                                                  * * *

By 1944, the Nazi dream was turning sour. In March, the German army occupied Hungary and installed a Sondereinsatzkommando under Adolf Eichmann who organised the deportation of its 825,000 Jews. By July, some 320,000 had been exterminated in the gas chambers at Auschwitz concentration camp and ca. 60,000 became forced labourers in Austria. In October, when the Hungarian fascists took over from the authoritarian Miklos Horthy, the 200,000 Budapest Jews were targeted.

According to Eva Schwarzmayer, ca. 35,000 Hungarian Jews were used for wood and trench works on building the South-East Earth Wall. Of these up to 6,000 would come to work on the Rechnitz section and be housed in four different camps: the castle cellars and store rooms, the so-called Schweizermeierhof near Kreuzstadl, a baracks camp named ‘Woodland’ or ‘South’, and the former synagogue. Meanwhile, the Nazi Volkssturm (last ditch territorial army) had been constituted of which Hans Joachim Oldenburg became a member.

None of this is mentioned by Simone Derix.

In early 1945, with the Western and Soviet armies closing in on Hitler’s Germany, so-called ‘end-phase crimes’ were committed as part of the Nazi policy of ‘scorched earth’. This involved both getting rid of any incriminating evidence, including camp inmates, and to strike equally at any members of the home-grown population expressing doubts that Germany could still win the war.

This attitude lasted beyond Germany’s capitulation when witnesses willing to destify against Nazi war criminals were silenced through political, conspiratorial murders, as would happen repeatedly in Rechnitz.

Now began the so-called ‘death marches’ evacuating Nazi victims from their prisons ahead of the advancing Allies, only to see many of them die or be killed en route by members of the SA, SS, Volkssturm, Hitler Youth, local police forces etc. guarding them, in the open, under the eyes of the general public.

All in all, at least 800 Jews seem to have been killed in Rechnitz in this last phase of the war. The so-called ‘Rechnitz Massacre’ of some 180 Jews during the night of 24/25 March is in fact only one of several murderous events. Simone Derix mentions briefly that ‘shootings on the castle estate were already evidenced before 24 March 1945’, but she does not give any details of those other Rechnitz massacres.

Annemarie Vitzthum of Rechnitz gave evidence, during the 1946/8 People’s Court proceeding, that in February 1945 eight hundred Jews had arrived in Rechnitz on foot and that Franz Podezin ‘welcomed’ the exhausted people by trampling around on them on his horse.

According to Austrian investigators, 220 Hungarian Jews were shot in Rechnitz at the beginning of March.

Franz Cserer of Rechnitz stated that around mid-March eight sick Jews had been brought from Schachendorf to Rechnitz and that Franz Podezin shot them dead near the Jewish cemetery.

Josef Mandel of Rechnitz gave evidence that on 17 or 19 March a transport of 800 Jews arrived in Rechnitz from Bozsok (Poschendorf). The survivor Paul Szomogyi gave evidence that on 26 March, 400 Jews from his group of forced labourers had been killed in Rechnitz.

But not a single mention is made by Derix of the sheer scale of these additional crimes.

Eleonore Lappin-Eppel writes: ‘Paul Karl Szomogyi was transferred from Köszeg to the Rechnitz section on 22 or 23 March together with 3-5,000 co-prisoners’. Otto Ickowitz reported that sick prisoners from a group coming from the Bucsu camp were murdered in a wood near Rechnitz.

Unbelievably, Simone Derix deals with this accelerating horror by using the following technocratic language: ‘During the last months of the war very different types of camp communities with their own specific experiences collided and amalgamated with the local structure of domination’.

It almost sounds like a line from the pen of Adolf Eichmann himself.

                                                                  * * *

On the night of 24/25 March 1945, the people involved in the massacre and/or the party seem to have included: the Nazi party leader of the Oberwart district Eduard Nicka and other functionaries from the same party HQ, various Styrian SA-men, Franz Podezin, his secretary Hildegard Stadler, Hans-Joachim Oldenburg, the SS-member Ludwig Groll, the leader of subsection II of section VI of the South-East Earth Wall building works Josef Muralter, Stefan Beigelböck, Johann Paal (Transport), Franz Ostermann (Transport) and Hermann Schwarz (Transport).

Derix adds: ‘The alleged perpetrators were recruited from the circle of this party society, which Margit and Ivan Batthyany also formed part of’.

Margit Batthyany would later help the two main alleged perpetrators, Podezin and Oldenburg, flee and avoid prosecution. If she had had nothing to do with the Rechnitz massacre and had found the actions reprehensible, it seems logical that she would have helped bring about the just punishment of the people involved rather than help them evade justice.

Simone Derix seems intent on absolving the Thyssens, even going as far as conjuring up the possibility that Margit might have helped victims – withouth, however, furnishing any evidence.

During the post-war proceedings Josef Muralter was said to have organised the ‘comradeship evening’ of 24 March 1945 at Rechnitz castle. Various academics have placed great emphasis on this fact in order to show that Margit Batthyany was not in fact the hostess of the event, as we had stated.

But as long as there are no documents forthcoming proving that any Nazi Party organisation paid for the festivities (and Derix does not furnish any), the fact remains that it was Margit Batthyany who was the overall hostess, as it was her family who paid for the castle and anything happening within its walls and grounds, for which documentary evidence is available (see here).

Simone Derix acknowledges the central role played by the conglomerate of people based at the Batthyany-Thyssen castle in the terrible abuses taking place in Rechnitz during WWII. She even acknowledges that some people might feel that there is room for directing questions of moral and legal responsibility at its owners. But she never implicates the Thyssens and Batthyanys in any responsibility or guilt and instead intimates that they probably did not ‘see anything’.

It is the same kind of defence as used by Albert Speer, when he lied to Hugh Trevor-Roper saying that he did not know about the programme of the final solution, because it was ‘so difficult to know this secret, even if you were in the government’. It is a tactic designed to shield powerful individuals and blame the general public.

As in previous volumes of this series, it is the Thyssen managers that get apportioned the full responsibility and in this case this falls on Hans-Joachim Oldenburg. He is said to have ‘extended his authority to exert power vis-a-vis his employers’, to have ‘taken an active part in producing a national socialist Volksgemeinschaft’ and to have ‘acted in a racist and anti-Semitic manner’, though Derix once again produces not a single piece of evidence to prove any of her allegations.

If Margit Batthyany had had a problem with this kind of behaviour, it would have been easy for her to leave the location and settle in any European hotel for the duration of the war. But she did not. So one must assume that she agreed with the racial and political victimisations that took place. Derix, however, fails to draw this obvious conclusion.

Margit chose to be part of the Rechnitz regime of terror. Derix chooses to use the less negative sounding description of “Volksgemeinschaft” instead.

Only when the Russians finally drew close to Rechnitz did Margit Batthyany, together with Hans Joachim Oldenburg and some of her staff, flee the scene in private cars, thereby leaving everyone else in the lurch; as did Franz Podezin.

Emmerich Cserer of Rechnitz said that on 28 and 29 March big transports of several hundreds of forced labourers left Rechnitz. Josef Muralter stated that he left the castle on 29 March with 400 castle cellar inmates.

                                                                  * * *

The people of Rechnitz had to endure the final confrontation with the Red Army, the burning down as part of the Nazi scorched-earth policy of their central, 600-year-old castle, the post-war criminal justice investigations and the stigmatisation of the town that continues to this day. A stigmatisation which is not, however, due to the case having been ‘scandalised’ by media reports including ours, but which developed because, based on the deviousness of the escapees, the crime(s) could never be properly investigated and punished.

The people of Rechnitz did their duty by giving much evidence to judge the perpetrators. Nonetheless they were later accused by academics and some media outlets of maintaining a silence on the issue. When we went to Rechnitz as english-speaking outsiders, people talked to us unprompted and freely about the matter. Especially the town historian, Josef Hotwagner, who was recommended to us by townspeople as their spokesman. They did not hide what had happened in any way.

                                                                  * * *

Having fled Rechnitz, Simone Derix explains, Margit Batthyany installed herself in April 1945 in a house in Düns in Vorarlberg/Austria. During the summer she went ‘travelling’. What Derix does not say is that Margit Batthyany entered Switzerland for the first time after the war, without any apparent difficulties in July 1945. It is inconceivable that Swiss authorities would not have been aware of what had happened in Burgenland only a few months earlier.

According to Derix, from November onwards Batthyany was working for the French military government in Feldkirch/Austria, in other words, she managed to access the western allies’ administrative set-up, likely because of her family’s overall high-level contacts and because she could offer intelligence on a region which was now under Soviet occupation. Derix, however, does not give any explanations for this sudden ‘assignment’.

A year later, in July 1946, Margit is said to have visited her brother Stephan Thyssen-Bornemisza in Hanover. This was a man who had been a financially contributing member of the SS and involved in various industrial activities using forced labour for the German war effort throughout WWII, though he subsequently flatly denied this. Derix does not mention Stephan Thyssen’s pro-Nazi activities at this stage.

According to Derix, Margit Batthyany, financially dependent on her father as she was, moved into his Villa Favorita in Lugano in August 1946.

Our research revealed that in November 1946, Margit wrote to her sister Gaby Bentinck: ‘So as not to be obvious, I have agreed with O.(ldenburg), that he will first of all go to South America on his own for two years. I am expecting to receive visa for him, what do you say?’. This evidence was provided by us to Sacha Batthyany and used in his newspaper article (but not his book!). But Simone Derix ignores it and writes simply that Margit had ‘plans, in November 1946, to leave Europe’.

The fact that Margit Batthyany could at this point in time envisage a transfer of assets between countries and even continents shows again how privileged her situation was in comparison to that of the vast majority. She could certainly also rely on investments that the family had already made in South America before the war.

Meanwhile, in Burgenland in 1946 eighteen people were accused of having committed war crimes in Rechnitz, seven of whom were indicted in a Peoples’ Court, including, in absentia, Franz Podezin and Hans Joachim Oldenburg. But only two would receive sentences, which were eventually quashed in early 1950s Austrian amnesties. The proceedings took two whole years and in fact were only finally closed 20 years later in 1965 in Germany.

On 7 January 1947 Margit Batthyany was questioned for the first and last time in the matter by the Swiss cantonal police in Buchs (Swiss State Security File, entry C.2.16505). She never had to appear as a witness at the Austrian court, a fact that has been denounced on the information plaques of the Rechnitz memorial unveiled in 2012 (in the smaller English and Hungarian version only, not, for some reason, in the main German version).

Was Margit Batthyany-Thyssen ever summoned to appear in court? If not, why not? Did the neutrality of her host country Switzerland play a role in this failure? Or was the protection afforded her simply down to her highly advantageous social position?

Simone Derix alleges that the Countess ‘tried’ to give Oldenburg an alibi during her questioning. In reality she did give him an alibi by saying that he had not left the party at any time of the night. Sacha Batthyany’s conclusion in both his article and his subsequent book is more forceful: ‘She protects him, her lover, because Oldenburg has been seen by witnesses at the massacre’.

In the summer of 1948, as per our research, Margit wrote another letter to her sister Gaby Bentinck: ‘O.(ldenburg) has a fantastic offer to go to Argentina and join the biggest dairy farm. He will be there by August’. This evidence was once again provided by us and published by Sacha Batthyany, but is not mentioned by Simone Derix, who also failed to consult certain family archives in London.

On 13 August 1948, the court noted that according to a verbal message from the constabulary in Oberwart, both Franz Podezin and Hans-Joachim Oldenburg were living in Switzerland and intended to emigrate with Margit Batthyany to South America, thereby following her husband, who had already gone there. On 30 August 1948, Interpol Vienna informed the Lugano authorities by telegram:

‘There is the danger that (Podezin and Oldenburg) will flee to South America. Please arrest them’. The arrest warrants against the two evaders were published in the Swiss Police Gazette of 30.08.48, page 1643, art. 16965. But no arrests took place. All this has been investigated and published by Sacha Batthyany. Simone Derix fails to mention it.

Eleonore Lappin-Eppel summarises the 1946/8 proceedings thus: ‘Because of the flight of the two alleged ringleaders Podezin and Oldenburg the court had considerable difficulties in establishing the truth’.

Sacha Batthyany comments: ‘(Margit) helped the alleged mass murderer (Oldenburg), flee’.

But the line taken by Simone Derix is once again one of protecting Margit Batthyany-Thyssen when she says: ‘It remained unclear what role Margit had played when two main perpetrators were able to avoid an interrogation by the Austrian authorities and thus a possible punishment.’

Simone Derix also alleges that Franz Podezin was questioned in the matter. But this is untrue. Podezin was never once questioned about his alleged involvement in the Rechnitz massacre.

Thus Derix is not only clearly engaged in practices of exoneration on behalf of the Thyssen family, her publication is also lagging ‘behind’ in terms of the stage of advancement of research on this subject, as well as grossly inaccurate on a crucial point.

                                                                  * * *

Margit Batthyany-Thyssen and her husband Ivan Batthyany did come to live between 1948 and 1954 on a farm they had bought in Uruguay. What became of Podezin’s and Oldenburg’s travel plans is less clear.

Simone Derix explains that by 1950 Hans Joachim Oldenburg was working on the Obringhoven agricultural estate, which was owned by Thyssengas, a fact that has never before been revealed. It is a rare, valuable new contribution to the Rechnitz case made by Derix.

This shows that the Thyssen family was happy to continue employing this farm manager, who had been indicted for war crimes in an Austrian court. The Thyssens thus provided Hans Joachim Oldenburg not only with a livelihood but as well, it seems, with protection from further investigation.

Yet Derix fails to comment critically on this important issue.

As far as Franz Podezin is concerned, according to Stefan Klemp of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, he had gone underground as an agent for the Western allies in East Germany. Apparently, he was arrested in the Soviet zone of occupation because of his activities for allied intelligence services and condemned to 25 years in prison, but released after 11 years and sent to Western Germany, where he came to live as an insurance salesman in Kiel.

In 1958, the Central Office of the County Judicial Administrations for the Clearing up of Nazi Crimes was instituted in Ludwigsburg. In 1963, it filed murder investigation proceedings against Franz Podezin and Hans Joachim Oldenburg. A letter dated 18.02.1963 makes clear that the prosecutor was aware that Podezin was so heavily incriminated that he needed to be arrested, yet he delayed proceedings. Oldenburg was questioned by the Central Office in Dortmund on 26.03.1963.

When police eventually moved in to arrest Podezin on 10 May, he had fled to Denmark. Kurt Griese, an ex SS-Hauptscharführer and now governmental criminal investigator, further blocked proceedings according to Klemp, making it possible for Podezin to travel to Switzerland, where he blackmailed Margit Batthyany-Thyssen into facilitating his flight to South Africa. There he worked for Hytec, a company associated with Thyssen AG, as Stefan Klemp established.

Sacha Batthyany writes: ‘Did Aunt Margit, nee Thyssen, help (Podezin) flee in the sixties and then also procured him the job in South Africa?’. But the topic is ignored by Simone Derix.

As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported in addition to our 2007 article, although one of the German investigators reported to the Austrian Justice Ministry in 1963 that Margit Batthyany was suspected of having aided the two Rechnitz murderers flee, charges were never pressed against her. Why not? Derix does not mention this and thus furnishes no explanations.

According to Eva Holpfer, the proceedings against Hans Joachim Oldenburg were closed on the orders of the prosecutor on 21.09.1965 due to a lack of evidence.

By the 1960s Margit Batthyany was back at the Austrian Derby in Vienna collecting trophies on behalf of the winner Settebello whom she had bred. She also regularly returned to Rechnitz (where she died in 1989), especially for the hunting season, spreading largesse in the form of plots of land and other gifts to locals, as relayed to us by Rechnitz people and confirmed by Sacha Batthyany.

In 1970 Margit Batthyany-Thyssen was accorded the Swiss citizenship papers she had tried to obtain ever since the end of the war. The same year Horst Littmann of the German War Graves Commission began digs in Rechnitz but had to stop because permission from the Austrian Ministry of the Interior was not forthcoming.

                                                                  * * *

In the 1980s, the anti-fascist Hans Anthofer initiated the first Rechnitz memorial for the Jewish victims. But in the early 1990s the Jewish cemetery in Rechnitz was still being defaced and according to Eva Schwarzmayer even during the memorial year of 2005 people in public positions still said that it was unsure whether the Kreuzstadl massacre had really happened.

Then, in 2012, the Rechnitz memorial became extended into a museum, which was opened by the Austrian President Heinz Fischer who assured the listeners that ‘everything will still be undertaken to find the bodies of the victims’.

The Refugius commemorative association has spoken of a ‘change of attitude’ that has taken place in Rechnitz. At the same time, they disparage on one of the museum’s information panels that ‘the active remembrance and commemoration work still does not meet with a general popular consensus’.

What is noticeable is that, contrary to their avowed intentions of wanting to establish the truth and honour the victims (see footnote), none of the Thyssens have actually ever manifestly taken part in the annual commemorations of the Rechnitz massacre.

The Office of the Burgenland County Government has told us that ‘The Thyssen respectively Batthyany Family do not play any role whatsoever in the remembrance culture and Aufarbeitung of the past of that area or of Austria as a whole’.

Why do they not?

Sacha Batthyany has reported that he got threatened by members of his family because of his attempts to clarify their history during the Nazi era.

As far as the people of Rechnitz are concerned, they are understandably fragmented on the issue and it would be very odd were it otherwise.

But with the Thyssens there is no such fragmentation. They seem unitedly unapologetic and non-participating. This is now presumably reinforced by their belief that the academics they commissioned have come to the conclusion that they are blameless.

The truth, however, is that they are not blameless and it is now high time for the Thyssens to express clearly which side of the fascist / anti-fascist dividing line they stand on.

Only if the Thyssens (and the Batthyanys as their local ‘representatives’) assume their position as role models can the commemoration culture of the Rechnitz massacre become consensual for the rest of the population.

By attending the next commemorative event in Rechnitz in late March 2018 – and being reported in the media to have done so – members of the Thyssen dynasty can make a truly public statement in this regard and meet their historical responsibility transparently and effectively.

After all the prevarications of the past, the informed public now expects these families finally to do their fair share in the matter of the Rechnitz Massacre and show REAL solidarity in the honouring of the dead and maimed of those catastrophic events.

* * *

Footnote: The following statements were made in the past:

1) Francesca Habsburg, nee Thyssen-Bornemisza on the German Television programme ‘Titel, Thesen, Temperamente’ in October 2007: ‘I support the idea that the family itself should work through those past events. The results of this research shall be accessible in a transparent and public manner’.

2) Batthyany Family official website: ‘Since learning about said events in the past few years we are deeply upset and moved…….Many questions have arisen for us. We do not know the answers……

….We hope that the memory of the victims will be cultivated more and more and their graves, which have remained undiscovered to this day, will one day be found.’

Margit Batthyany-Thyssen, daughter of Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, collecting prizes from National Socialist officials for the Thyssens’ winning horse at the Austrian Derby held in Vienna in 1942, thus legitimising the Nazi regime on behalf of both families (photo Menzendorf, Berlin; copyright Archive of David R L Litchfield)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Excerpt from the minutes of the board meetings of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Group held (1939-1944) in Lugano, Flims, Davos and Zurich in the presence of Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, Wilhelm Roelen, General Manager, and Heinrich Lübke, Manager of the August Thyssen Bank in Berlin. This page shows that the company belonging to Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the father of Margit Batthyany-Thyssen, Thyssensche Gas- und Wasserwerke (Thyssengas) exploited mining interests near the seat of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Family Castle in Rechnitz / Burgenland (Austria) during the Second World War. (photo copyright Archiv David R L Litchfield)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

 

 

All in all, at least 800 Jews seem to have been killed in Rechnitz (Austria), seat of the Thyssen-Bornemiszas’ castle and home to Margit Batthyany-Thyssen, in the last phase of the Second World War. The so-called “Rechnitz Massacre” during the night of 24/25 March 1945 is in fact only one of several such murderous events at this location at that time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

 

 

 

‘The Thyssens. Family and Fortune’ is volume 4 of the series ‘Family – Enterprises – Public. Thyssen in the 20th Century’ sponsored by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation of Cologne and published by Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag, Paderborn, Germany. Seven pages of the 500-page book are devoted to the Batthyany-Thyssens’ life in Rechnitz during World War Two and in particular their implication in the so-called “Rechnitz Massacre” (photo copyright Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag, Paderborn).                                  This book is a short version of Derix’s habilitation thesis and will thus be accepted as fact by German academics, a qualification that we strongly object to.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

 

 

Simone Derix, author of ‘The Thyssens. Family and Fortune’, one of ten German academics commissioned by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation with the rewriting of the Thyssens’ history, continues what appears to be a white-wash and extenuation (photo copyright Historisches Kolleg, Munich). The Historisches Kolleg, where Simone Derix presented her book, is also, by the way, an institution that is itself partly funded by…..the Fritz Thyssen Foundation (!)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

 

The Kreuzstadl Memorial in Rechnitz to the Jewish victims of the second world war was extended and opened by the Austrian president in 2012. Large information panels include the information that Margit Batthyany never had to give evidence in court on the Rechnitz massacre of 24/25 March 1945. This was despite the fact that German investigators in 1963 reported to the Austrian Ministry of Justice that Margit Batthyany was suspected of having aided and abetted the flight of the two main alleged perpetrators of the crime, Franz Podezin and Joachim Oldenburg (photo copyright übersmeer blog)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

 

The Austrian head of state who opened the Rechnitz memorial in 2012, Heinz Fischer, assured the public that the Republic of Austria continues in its attempts to locate the graves of the Jews murdered in Rechnitz in 1945. But various Austrian authorities and commemoration associations have also remarked that the commemoration process still does not enjoy a general consensus amongst the population and that the Thyssen and Batthyany families in particular seem to refrain from any kind of positive, pro-active participation in this process of Aufarbeitung and healing (photo copyright Infotronik Austria)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Each year at the end of March, a remembrance event takes place at the Rechnitz Kreuzstadl Memorial Museum, organised by the Refugius commemoration association. While the commemoration event was particularly welcomed and supported by the former Rechnitz mayor, Engelbert Kenyeri, and more and more inhabitants of Rechnitz attend the event, so far, not a single member of either the Thyssen or Batthyany families have participated publicly, despite their fervent statements of intentions made following our publication and the ensuing staging in various European cities of Elfriede Jelinek’s play ‘Rechnitz. The Exterminating Angel’ (photo copyright Infotronik Austria)

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »

Fritz Thyssen and the forced sterilisation of 400,000 Germans (by Caroline D Schmitz and David R L Litchfield)

The Thyssens have always denied their involvement in Nazi ideology.

Following our book „The Thyssen Art Macabre“ (2007), a group of German academics was commissioned by the Thyssen family and corporation, sponsored by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, to publish a series of books on the Thyssens. In the latest volume, Felix de Taillez writes that Fritz Thyssen, in November 1933, became a member of the Expert Committee on Questions of Population and Racial Policy at the Reich’s Ministry of the Interior. Other members included Roland Freisler and Heinrich Himmler.

In a manner described by Pinto-Duschinsky as „grey-washing“, the author then defends the indefensible by alleging that Fritz Thyssen accepted many roles on various boards of Nazi institutions, such as the Academy of German Law, only because he was „trophy hunting“ for titles. He writes that Thyssen never put any serious time and effort into the posts and never became involved in actual decision making.

But ignorance is no defence in a court of law and these were not any institutions. The Expert Committee on Questions of Population and Racial Policy in July 1933 decreed the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring. It came into effect on 1 January 1934. This means that Fritz Thyssen gave his official support to an institution that was responsible for the forced sterilisation of 400,000 German citizens.

By extension, his function as a national role model helped bolster and legitimise the fundamental corruption of medical and legal ethics that formed the basis of the implementation of the Holocaust of 11 million Jews, Slavs, Russians, Romani people, as well as disabled, homosexuals, communists, christians and freemasons of German and foreign ethnicity.

It has taken 70 years for this information concerning Fritz Thyssen’s involvement in Nazi racial policies to be mentioned in an official Thyssen publication. This adds to all the information published by us on his and his brother Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’s financing of the Nazis, their arming of and banking for the regime, their use of forced labour, the family’s membership in National Socialist institutions including the SS, their profiteering from the persecution of Jews and their participation in the facilitation of exterminations.

To this day, the victims of the Nazi forced sterilisation programme, including the Federal Cross of Merit holder Dorothea Buck-Zerchin, have not been recognised in law as victims of Nazi persecution and have not received adequate compensation. This might of course be due to lingering Nazi continuities. 20,000 victims are still believed to be alive.

The continued „grey-washing“ carried out by their official historiographers means that the „transnational“ Thyssens can still refuse to accept their family’s co-responsibility and share of guilt for the crimes of the Nazi regime. They thus persistently reject the request to fairly lighten the load of remembrance carried by the German people. This is completely untenable, particularly in view of the fact that Holocaust remembrance as such has now been called into question by an increasingly radical Alternative für Deutschland party in Germany.

Holocaust remembrance must acknowledge that German people were also victims of the Holocaust. And it must acknowledge that „transnationals“ such as the Thyssens were also perpetrators of the Holocaust.

The Thyssens need to start acknowledging their family’s historical responsibility truthfully and publicly and stop denying our historiographic contribution.

They also finally need to express remorse.

Dorothea Buck-Zerchin, a prominent victim of the Nazi forced sterilisation programme, which Fritz Thyssen officially supported (photo copyright Miguel Ferras, taz newspaper Berlin)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »

Fritz Thyssen und die Zwangssterilisation von 400.000 Deutschen (von Caroline D Schmitz und David R L Litchfield)

Die Thyssens haben stets bestritten, mit der Nazi Ideologie involviert gewesen zu sein.

Nachfolgend zu unserem Buch „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“ (2008) wurde eine Gruppe von deutschen Akademikern von der Thyssen Familie und ihren Unternehmen beauftragt und von der Fritz Thyssen Stiftung finanziert, eine Reihe von Büchern über die Thyssens zu veröffentlichen. Im neuesten Band hält Felix de Taillez fest, dass Fritz Thyssen im November 1933 Mitglied des Sachverständigenbeirats für Bevölkerungs- und Rassenpolitik im Reichsministerium des Innern wurde. Weitere Mitglieder waren unter anderem Roland Freisler und Heinrich Himmler.

In einer Art, die Pinto-Duschinsky als „Grau-Waschen“ beschreibt, verteidigt der Autor sodann das Unhaltbare indem er behauptet, Fritz Thyssen habe nur als „Trophäenjäger“ Posten verschiedener Nazi Institutionen, wie z.B. der Akademie für Deutsches Recht, gesammelt, aber sich nie wirklich um diese gekümmert oder irgendwelche Entscheidungen selbst mit getragen.

Doch Unkenntnis schützt vor Strafe nicht und dies waren nicht irgend welche Institutionen. Der Sachverständigenbeirat für Bevölkerungs- und Rassenpolitik im Reichsministerium des Innern beschloss im Juli 1933 das Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses. Es trat am 1. Januar 1934 in Kraft. Dies bedeutet, dass Fritz Thyssen bereit war, eine Einrichtung offiziell zu unterstützen, die für die Zwangssterilisation von 400.000 Deutschen verantwortlich war.

Er half so durch seine Vorbildfunktion, die fundamentale Korruption der medizinischen und rechtlichen Ethik zu bestärken und zu legitimieren, die die Basis für die Umsetzung des Holocaust an insgesamt 11 Millionen Juden, Slaven, Russen, Roma, Sinti, sowie deutschen und ausländischen Behinderten, Homosexuellen, Kommunisten, Christen und Freimaurern bildete.

70 Jahre hat es gedauert, bis diese Information über Fritz Thyssens Verstrickung in die Rassenpolitik der Nazis in einer offiziellen Thyssen Publikation veröffentlicht wurde. Sie kommt zu all der Information über die Finanzierung der Nazis durch ihn und seinen Bruder Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza hinzu, über ihre Aufrüstung und Finanzgeschäfte für das Regime, ihre Verwendung von Zwangsarbeitern, die Mitgliedschaft in Institutionen des Nationalsozialismus, inklusive der SS, ihre Profite aus der Judenverfolgung und ihre Beteiligung an der Ermöglichung von Vernichtungen, die wir bereits veröffentlicht haben.

Bis heute sind die Opfer des Nazi Programms der Zwangssterilisation, inklusive der Bundesverdienstkreuz-Trägerin Dorothea Buck-Zerchin, nicht vom Gesetz als Verfolgte des Nazi Regimes anerkannt worden. Möglicher Weise infolge von NS-Kontinuitäten. Und sie haben keine angemessene Entschädigung erhalten. 20,000 dieser Opfer leben heute.

Das anhaltende „Grau-Waschen“ durch die offiziellen Geschichtsschreiber führt dazu, dass die „transnationalen“ Thyssens es weiterhin von sich weisen können, die Mitverantwortung ihrer Familie und deren Schuldanteil an den Verbrechen der Nazis eingestehen zu müssen. Damit weigern sie sich beharrlich, die Last der Erinnerung, die auf den Schultern des deutschen Volkes ruht, fair mit zu tragen. Dies is absolut unhaltbar, nicht zuletzt nachdem das Erinnern an den Holocaust jetzt von einer zunehmend radikalen Alternative für Deutschland Partei in Frage gestellt worden ist.

Das Erinnern an den Holocaust muss berücksichtigen, dass auch Deutsche Opfer des Holocaust waren. Und es muss berücksichtigen, dass auch „Transnationale“ wie die Thyssens Täter des Holocaust waren.

Die Thyssens müssen anfangen, die historische Verantwortung ihrer Familie ehrlich und öffentlich an zu erkennen und aufhören, unseren historiographischen Beitrag zu verleugnen.

Und sie müssen endlich Reue zum Ausdruck bringen.

Dorothea Buck-Zerchin, ein prominentes Opfer des Nazi Programms zur Zwangssterilisation, welches Fritz Thyssen offiziell unterstützte (Foto copyright Miguel Ferras, taz Berlin)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »

Die Unerlässlichkeit der “Impertinenz” oder Eine Erläuterung an eine Berliner Buch-Bloggerin über Sacha Batthyany und die Thyssen-Bornemiszas (von Caroline D Schmitz)

Die Aggressivität der Reaktion vieler deutsch-sprachiger Kommentatoren auf unseren Artikel im Feuilleton der Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung im Jahr 2007, „Die Gastgeberin der Hölle“ (im Britischen Independent unter dem Titel „The Killer Countess“ erschienen), hat mich immer zutiefst schockiert. Hier war die mächtige Thyssen-Dynastie, die stets ihre überragende Beteiligung am nationalsozialistischen Regime nicht nur verschwieg, sondern vielmehr durch die Verbreitung irreführender Berichte pro-aktiv leugnen ließ. Und da waren wir, ein englischer Autor und eine deutsche Investigatorin, die der Zufall 1995 in England zusammengebracht hatte, und die durch die Weitsicht weniger herausragender Persönlichkeiten, nämlich Steven Bentinck, Heini Thyssen, Naim Attallah, George Weidenfeld, Frank Schirrmacher und Ernst Gerlach, in die glückliche Lage versetzt wurden, den alles bestimmenden Narrativ des unternehmerisch-akademisch-medialen Establishments in Sachen Thyssen zu durchbrechen und die Wahrheit vor der endgültigen Verschüttung zu bewahren.

Wir waren von Anfang an „impertinent“ im ursprünglichen Sinne des Wortes, nämlich „nicht (zum Establishment) dazu gehörig“, und unsere Recherche fand stets an Original-Schauplätzen statt. Vom „Rechnitz-Massaker“ erfuhren wir nicht im Internet, sondern vor Ort von Ortsansässigen. Zum Zeitpunkt des Erscheinens unseres FAZ-Artikels wussten wir nichts von Eduard Erne, der bereits 1994 einen Dokumentarfilm über das Geschehen mit dem Titel “Totschweigen” gedreht hatte (und der zur Zeit beim Schweizer Fernsehen arbeitet) und auch nichts von Paul Gulda, der 1991 den Verein Refugius (Rechnitzer Flüchtlings- und Gedenkinitiative) ins Leben rief. Als wir beide dann 2008 beim Rechnitz-Symposium im Burgenländischen Landesmuseum in Eisenstadt trafen, verhielten auch sie sich uns gegenüber sehr ablehnend, was wir uns nur damit erklären konnten, dass sie vielleicht glaubten, von uns bewusst übergangen worden zu sein. Dies war nicht der Fall und es war vielmehr so, dass sie nunmehr durch unsere Arbeit einem viel breiteren Publikum bekannt waren als vordem. Warum also attackierten sie uns und nahmen die Thyssens und Batthyanys in Schutz, die ihre Arbeit bislang ganz offensichtlich abgelehnt oder ignoriert hatten?

Ein Jahrzehnt später nun erscheint mit „Und was hat das mit mir zu tun?“ eine umfangreiche Stellungnahme in Buchform seitens eines Mitglieds der Dynastie, die unter großem Aufwand beworben wird und international bis nach Israel und Nordamerika verbreitet werden soll. In Großbritannien soll das Buch (Übersetzerin: Anthea Bell) im März 2017 unter dem Titel “A Crime in the Family” (i.e. „Ein Verbrechen in der Familie“) bei Quercus erscheinen, ein Titel, der auffallend an den Untertitel „Schande und Skandale in der Familie“, der englischen Ausgabe unseres Thyssen-Buchs „The Thyssen Art Macabre“ erinnert, der auf einer Aussage Heini Thyssens uns gegenüber beruhte.

In seiner Pressearbeit gibt Sacha Batthyany serien-mäßig an, „durch Zufall“ auf die negativen Seiten seiner Familiengeschichte, und speziell auf das Rechnitz-Massaker, gestoßen zu sein. Alles sei „ein Geheimnis“ gewesen, bis er eines Tages angefangen habe, Dinge zu untersuchen, von denen er vordem überhaupt gar nichts gewusst habe, da er in der „wattierten“ Schweiz aufgewachsen sei, wo man z.B. vom Zweiten Weltkrieg quasi überhaupt nichts wisse… Dies von einem Journalisten, dessen Familie zum Teil durch die von der Schweiz aus gesteuerten Kriegsprofite der Thyssens finanziert wurde, der ein Mitglied einer der einflussreichsten europäischen (ursprünglich österreichisch-ungarischen) Dynastien ist, unter anderem in Madrid studiert hat, viele Jahre für große internationale Tageszeitungen gearbeitet hat (z.B. für die Neue Zürcher Zeitung), und der einen Großteil seiner Jugend nicht in Zurich, sondern in Salzburg verbracht hat, obwohl er diese Tatsache immer nur dann exklusiv preis gibt, wenn er gerade einmal dort oder in Wien spricht (bis ins Burgenländische, nach Rechnitz oder Eisenstadt, hat er es mit seiner Pressearbeit unseres Wissens nach noch nicht geschafft – der Rechnitzer Bürgermeister, Engelbert Kenyeri, ist im Übrigen vom Buch des Herrn Batthyany nicht gerade sehr angetan, wie es scheint).

Selbst die FAZ (Sandra Kegel), die sich bei ihrer ursprünglichen Berichterstattung gegen massive Anfeindungen unter anderem durch die Neue Zürcher Zeitung zur Wehr setzen musste, und ohne die eine deutschsprachige Version unseres Buches nicht zur Verfügung stünde, unterschlug nun unseren Anstoß und lobte, wie so viele andere, durch die Werbung des Kiepenheuer & Witsch Verlags Animierte, das Batthyanysche Werk als selbstlosen Akt eigenmotivierter Aufrichtigkeit. Dabei gäbe es sein Buch gar nicht, wäre die FAZ damals nicht so mutig gewesen, unsere „Impertinenz“ zu erlauben und das Risiko der ernsthaften Rufschädigung durch ihre Media-Kontrahenten einzugehen.

Ende Mai entschied sich die Berliner Buch-Bloggerin „Devona“ (www.buchimpressionen.de), nach 75 Roman-Rezensionen zum ersten Mal ein Sach-Hörbuch zu kommentieren, wobei ihre Wahl auf „Und was hat das mit mir zu tun?“ fiel. Dabei tätigte sie Äusserungen über die Rolle der Margit Batthyany geborene Thyssen-Bornemisza im Rechnitz-Massaker, die ihr in Anbetracht ihres rudimentären Wissensstands zum Thema nicht zustanden. Unter anderem beschrieb sie Margit’s Deckung zweier Haupttäter nach dem Krieg als bloße „Vermutung“. Daraufhin wiesen wir sie auf die Unrichtigkeit und grobe Fatalität ihrer Äusserung hin. Selbst die im Ausmaß völlig unzulängliche Kommentierung des Rechnitz-Massakers auf der offiziellen Webseite der Familie Batthyany räumt seit wenigen Jahren ein, dass diese Deckung geschah, wieso sollte also eine anonyme, aber eindeutig Familien-fremde Person etwas Anderes verbreiten?

Devona reagierte innerhalb kürzester Zeit höchst verärgert auf den Inhalt unserer kritischen Analyse. Danach revidierte sie ihre Reaktion. Jetzt störte sie nicht mehr so sehr der Inhalt unserer Kritik, als viel mehr unsere angeblich „impertinente“ Art. Und dann tat die Autorin von „Buchimpressionen“ etwas ganz Sonderbares, indem sie zunächst den deutschen Titel unseres Buches (“Die Thyssen-Dynastie. Die Wahrheit hinter dem Mythos”) von ihrer Platform eliminierte, mit dem wir unsere Stellungnahme abgeschlossen hatten, uns danach vorwarf, unsere Arbeit nicht in der deutschen Sprache zugänglich gemacht zu haben, und, als sie herausfand dass unser Buch doch seit 2008 in Deutschland veröffentlicht ist, sich schließlich weigerte, dies anzuerkennen, weil „bis zum heutigen Tag bei Wikipedia nicht auf eine deutsche Version verwiesen wird“.

Die Bloggerin schrieb nun, sie „werde nicht hinter jedem Kommentator bis ans Ende des Internets her recherchieren“. Dabei hatte sie es in Wirklichkeit nicht weiter als bis zur ersten Haltestelle geschafft. Unser Buch existiert auf deutsch, aber für Devona existierte es nicht auf deutsch, weil es nicht auf Wikipedia stand, dass es auf deutsch existiert. Dies war so bezeichnend für die Weigerung von Deutschsprachigen, sich mit dem sachlichen Inhalt unseres Buches auseinander zu setzen. War diese Informations-Verarbeitende nur zu faul oder wollte sie von der Richtigstellung gar nichts wissen? Devona’s Äusserungen waren in ihrer ungefilterten Emotionalität zutiefst aufschlussreich. Auch sprach sie plötzlich nur noch „Herrn Litchfield“ an, nicht mehr mich, als ob das Buch allein Produkt eines Engländers sei und nicht eine englisch-deutsche Koproduktion.

Wikipedia ist unserer Ansicht nach problematisch, unter anderem deshalb, weil die FAZ 2007 bei der Aufarbeitung unseres Artikels aus dem Englischen ins Deutsche, unter anderem nach Gesprächen mit dem überheblichen Leiter des ThyssenKrupp Konzern-Archivs, Professor Manfred Rasch, und nach Überprüfung relevanter Wikipedia-Seiten, einige Änderungen an unserem Text vornahm. Die wichtigste dieser Änderungen ist diese: Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza hat sich nicht 1932, also ein Jahr vor Hitler’s Machtergreifung endgültig in der Schweiz nieder gelassen sondern erst 1938, wie wir bei unseren Nachforschungen herausgefunden haben. Im Independent stand 1938. In der FAZ steht 1932. Menschen mit adequatem historischen Sachverstand wissen, was das bedeutet und die Rollen im Zweiten Weltkrieg, sowohl des Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza als auch der Schweiz, sind in unserem Buch ausführlich beschrieben. Unerfahrenen Menschen sei nur so viel gesagt: es ist ein Umtausch, der winzig erscheinen mag, der in seiner Bedeutung aber zugleich fundamental und monumental ist.

Devona empfand unsere Richtigstellung ihres Blogeintrags als „unverschämt“, obwohl sie nicht mehr war als strikt. Und sie weigerte sich emphatisch, sich gebührend mit der Sache auseinander zu setzen. Das „Unverschämte“ in dieser Angelegenheit, aber, liegt nicht bei uns. Das „Unverschämte“, das „nicht zur Menschlichkeit dazu gehörige“ liegt in den Verbrechen, die während des Zweiten Weltkriegs im Namen des deutschen Volkes geschahen. Die Impertinenz liegt in der Tatsache, dass die Thyssens (die in die Batthyany-Dynastie eingeheiratet und Teile dieser finanziert haben) dem anti-demokratischen, extremst menschenverachtenden Nazi-Regime Beihilfe geleistet haben, und dass sie Rahmenbedingungen geschaffen haben, in denen die monströsen Verbrechen vor allem gegen die Juden, aber auch die gegen andere Völker, inklusive denen gegen das deutsche Volk und seine Ehre, stattfinden konnten. Es ist unverschämt, dass sie 70 Jahre lang geschwiegen, ihre Rolle verleugnet und ihre Taten glorifiziert haben. Es ist impertinent, kurzum, dass sie die Allgemeinheit hinters Licht geführt haben und dies in großen Teilen auch weiterhin tun. Es war nur auf Grund dieser Verhaltensweise, dass diese Vermutung der Unschuld der Margit Batthyany-Thyssen durch diese Buch-Bloggerin zu diesem Zeitpunkt immer noch möglich war.

Die betreffenden Familien genießen eine komfortable Vormachtstellung in der Gesellschaft, im öffentlichen Diskurs und „Ansehen“, begründet auf ihrer Zugehörigkeit sowohl zur Welt des wirtschaftlichen Privilegs als auch zur Aristokratie, die allerdings sowohl in Deutschland als auch in Österreich längst obsolet ist und in einer Demokratie nur toleriert werden kann, wenn sie sich einwandfrei demokratisch verhält. Eine entscheidende Rolle spielt auch, dass thyssenkrupp heute noch einer der größten deutschen Arbeitgeber ist, und dass die deutsche Kohle- und Stahlindustrie, die unter anderen das Land nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg vor dem totalen Kollaps rettete (wie Herbert Grönemeyer in „Bochum“ singt: „Dein Grubengold hat uns wieder hoch geholt“), nach 1945 fatalerweise von den Thyssens weiter beherrscht werden durfte.

Im erz-konservativen Österreich nehmen die Batthyanys (als deren Teil Sacha Batthyany sich eindeutig sieht und gesehen wirrd, da er sich auf ihrer Homepage in ihrer Mitte abbilden lässt und von ihnen abgebildet wird – hintere Reihe zweiter von rechts, im großen Gruppenfoto der Mitglieder der jüngeren Generation) weiterhin eine Sonderstellung ein, die sich aus ihrer langen feudalen Geschichte herleitet (der gegenwärtige Familienchef Fürst Ladislaus Pascal Batthyany-Strattmann, ist päpstlicher Ehrenkämmerer!…).

Im Angesicht dieser Vormachtstellung begnügt sich die Allgemeinheit „pertinent“ damit, in ihrer untergeordneten Rolle als Empfänger Thyssenscher und Batthyanyscher Misinformation zu verharren. Ein Mitglied der Dynastie, Sacha Batthyany, hat nunmehr ein Buch geschrieben, das vorgibt, eine ehrliche Auseinandersetzung mit der Vergangenheit zu sein. Aber nicht jeder scheint überzeugt zu sein, dass es das wirklich ist (siehe v.a. Thomas Hummitzsch in “Der Freitag”, aber auch Michael André auf Getidan, und sogar Luzia Braun, Blaues Sofa, Leipziger Buchmesse).

Die meisten Kommentatoren des Rechnitz-Massakers geben an, sich einig zu sein, dass die Gräber der Opfer gefunden werden müssen. Doch während Ortsansässige behauptet haben, zu wissen, wo sich die Gräber befinden und die ursprünglichen russischen Grabungen die Gräber genau lokalisiert hatten, scheint es so, dass nicht alle einflussreicheren Mitglieder der Gemeinschaft, sowohl in der Vergangenheit wie auch in der Gegenwart, gleichsam bereit sind, zu solch einer Transparenz bei zu tragen.

Während es wie eine Utopie anmutet, darauf zu hoffen, dass sich dies irgendwann ändert, so haben sich die Zeiten seit 2007, als unser Buch erstmals erschien, doch rapide gewandelt. thyssenkrupp ist ein kranker Koloss, dessen Name schon bald nach einer Übernahme von Teilen oder insgesamt in dieser Form vielleicht keinen Bestand mehr haben könnte. Und die deutsche Rechtsprechung in Sachen Strafverfolgung der Nazi-Verbrechen geht nicht mehr automatisch von der Unschuldsvermutung aus, wenn eine aktive Tötungsbeteiligung nicht nachgewiesen werden kann. Eine Präsenz und Rolle im übergreifenden Verbrechen genügt, wobei das Verwaltungsbüro fernab der Gaskammer nah genug ist, um den unerlässlichen Beitrag zur Funktionsfähigkeit des Tötungsapparats nachweisen zu können. Genauso verhält es sich im Fall Rechnitz mit dem, durch die SS requirierten aber weiterhin Thyssen-finanzierten Schloss, und der Rechnitzer Mordgrube der Nacht vom 24. auf den 25. März 1945.

Immer noch werden vor allem die kleinen Fische vors Gericht gezogen, Menschen wie John Demjanjuk, Oskar Gröning und Reinhold Hanning. Doch die Uhr der historischen Aufrichtigkeit tickt unablässig auch für die Großen, die immer noch nicht freiwillig ihre Vergangenheit vollumfänglich aufarbeiten. Diejenigen Thyssens und Batthyanys, die während des Zweiten Weltkriegs eine unrühmliche Rolle spielten, sind tot. Es ist die demokratische Pflicht ihrer Nachfahren, das Netz der Misinformation zu durchbrechen und nicht nur die positiven Seiten ihrer Geschichte hervor zu heben, sondern sich auch den negativen zu stellen. Nur durch ihr Geständnis können aus diesem Teil der Geschichte die letzten Lehren gezogen werden und eine langfristige Heilung und Versöhnung geschehen.

Genau das aber scheinen die Thyssen-Bornemiszas und Batthyanys nicht zu wollen, möglicherweise weil eine freie, aufgeklärte, demokratische Öffentlichkeit nur beherrscht werden kann, wenn man sie manipuliert, verunsichert und entzweit. Die Geschichte des Holocaust könnte längst aufgearbeitet worden sein, wenn diese Familien sich nicht ihrer Verantwortung entzogen hätten. Dem deutschen Volk bliebe die Weiterführung des Alptraums der tröpfchenweisen Aufarbeitung erspart, die so unendlich zermürbend und im Endeffekt kontraproduktiv ist, wenn diese Familien endlich reinen Wein einschenkten und unser Buch als korrekte, unabhängige, historische Aufzeichnung akzeptierten.

Die Namen Thyssen und Batthyany sind in den Urseelen der Deutschen und Österreicher unabdingbar mit dem Gefühl von Stolz und Ehre verbunden, aber diese Familien (die Thyssen-Bornemiszas über ihren Kopf Georg Thyssen, Kuratoriumsmitglied der Fritz Thyssen Stiftung und Unterstützer der Serie „Familie – Unternehmen – Öffentlichkeit. Thyssen im 20. Jahrhundert“, die bisher das Rechnitz-Massaker überhaupt nicht erwähnt, und die Batthyanys über ihren Kopf Graf Ladislaus Batthyany-Strattmann, Unterstützer der Bände „Die Familie Batthyany. Ein österreichisch-ungarisches Magnatengeschlecht vom Ende des Mittelalters bis zur Gegenwart“, der jegliche Beteiligung Margit Batthyany-Thyssens am Rechnitz Massaker glattweg bestreitet!), statt sich ehrenvoll zu verhalten, vermeiden eine unabhängige Untersuchung und kontrollieren ihre Zusammenarbeit in autorisierten Veröffentlichungen der Geschichtsschreibung.

Ihre Abschirmung führt dazu, dass selbst Deutsche und Österreicher, die anti-Nazi sind, oder es zumindest vorgeben, das ganze Ausmaß des Holocaust nicht erkennen können und deshalb die echte Bandbreite der Nazi-Verbrechen, wie z.B. im Fall des Rechnitz-Massakers, unfreiwillig decken, ein Vorgang, der letztendlich wie eine stillschweigende Billigung erscheinen kann.

Im Falle der Deutschen und Österreicher ist dies natürlich besonders verheerend. Aber diese Art von Ausweichmanöver muss auch gerade für Bürger angeblich „neutraler“ Länder wie der Schweiz, und insbesondere für Sacha Batthyany, absolut kontraindiziert sein. Auch ist die Anzahl der in seinem Buch und seiner Pressearbeit enthaltenen Äusserungen, die beleidigend sind, wie z.B.: „Mirta und Marga hatten den Holocaust, an den sie sich klammerten – was hatte ich?“, vollkommen inakzeptabel.

So lange Sacha Batthyany für die fragwürdige Aufrichtigkeit seiner Enthüllungen weiterhin Sympathie einfordert statt Schuld zu bekennen, so lange werden wir in dieser Sache beharrlich sein. Das ist keine „Impertinenz“, sondern unsere heilige Pflicht.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »

The indispensability of “impertinence” or An explanation to a Berlin book blogger concerning Sacha Batthyany and the Thyssen-Bornemiszas (by Caroline D Schmitz)

The aggressiveness of the reaction of many German-speaking commentators following our article in the Feuilleton of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in 2007, „The Hostess from Hell“ (previously published in Britain in The Independent under the title „The Killer Countess“), has always shocked me deeply. Here was the powerful Thyssen dynasty, who not just kept quiet about their overwhelming participation in the National Socialist regime, but who had their role pro-actively denied through the propagation of misleading reports. And there were we, an English author and a German researcher, who chance had brought together in England in 1995 and who, through a very small number of outstanding personalities, namely Steven Bentinck, Heini Thyssen, Naim Attallah, George Weidenfeld, Frank Schirrmacher and Ernst Gerlach, were put into the lucky position of being able to pierce the narrative of the corporate-academic-media establishment on the subject of Thyssen and save the truth from being entombed.

From the beginning, we were „impertinent“ in the original sense of the word which is „not being part of (the establishment)“, and our research always took place at the original locations. We did not learn of the Rechnitz massacre on the Internet, but in Rechnitz itself and from Rechnitz people. At the time our article was published in FAZ, we knew nothing of Eduard Erne, who had made a documentary film on the event entitled “Totschweigen” (i.e. “Silencing to Death”) as far back as 1994 (and who currently works for Swiss television), or of Paul Gulda, who in 1991 founded the Rechnitz Refugee and Commemoration Initiative (Refugius). When we met them both at the Rechnitz-symposium at the Burgenland County Museum in Eisenstadt (Austria) in 2008, they too treated us in an unfriendly manner, which we thought could only be because they felt we had ignored their work on purpose. This was not the case and moreover, because of us, their work was now much more prominent than before. So why were they attacking us and protecting the Thyssens and the Batthyanys who had obviously rejected or ignored their work in the past?

Now, a decade later, a sizeable statement by a member of the dynasty, Sacha Batthyany, has been published in Germany in the form of the book „What’s that to do with me?“, and is due to be released in Great Britain by Quercus in March 2017 (translator: Anthea Bell) under the title „A Crime in the Family“, (a line remarkably similar to the cover headline „Shame and scandal in the family“ we used on our book „The Thyssen Art Macabre“, and which was a statement originally made to us by Heini Thyssen himself). Great efforts of promotion are being lavished on Mr Batthyany’s book, which is to be distributed as widely as Israel and the USA.

In his press work, Sacha Batthyany tirelessly pretends that it was „chance“ that he came across the negative sides of his family history and in particular the Rechnitz massacre. He says it was all „unknown“ until one day he started investigating things of which he knew absolutely nothing before, which he says is because he grew up in the „padded“ country of Switzerland, where one knows nothing, for instance, about the Second World War… This from a journalist, whose family was financially supported by the Thyssens’ wartime profiteering organised from Switzerland, who is a member of one of the most influential European (originally Austro-Hungarian) dynasties, has studied in Madrid, has worked for various big international newspapers (e.g. Neue Zürcher Zeitung) and spent a big part of his youth not in Zurich, but in Salzburg (although he admits the latter very exclusively only when he happens to be speaking in the major Austrian towns of Salzburg or Vienna – his press work does not seem to have led him to the Burgenland provinces of Eisenstadt or Rechnitz so far, whose mayor Engelbert Kenyeri, poignantly, does not seem to be too impressed by Batthyany’s book).

Even FAZ (Sandra Kegel), which during its original coverage of our story had to fend off huge ill will from Neue Zürcher Zeitung and others and without whom the German-speaking version of our book would not be available, now withheld mention of our impulse and, as so many others showered by the promotion of the Kiepenheuer & Witsch publishing house, praised Batthyany’s work as a heroic act of self-motivated honesty. And this despite the fact that his book would not exist if FAZ, ten years ago, had not had the courage to allow our „impertinence“, thereby exposing itself to the risk of serious reputational attack at the hands of their rivals in the media.

At the end of May, the Berlin book blogger „Devona“ (www.buchimpressionen.de), having reviewed 75 works of fiction, decided to review a non-fiction audio book for the first time in her life and chose „What’s that to do with me?“ to do so. In her review, she made statements about the role of Margit Batthyany nee Thyssen-Bornemisza in the Rechnitz massacre, which, according to the rudimentary state of her knowledge about the case, were not hers to make. For instance, she described the fact that Margit covered up for two main perpetrators of the crime after the war as mere „conjecture“. So we wrote a comment to her, pointing out the inaccuracy and coarse fatality of her statement. Even the statement concerning the Rechnitz massacre on the official website of the Batthyany family, which is still far from extensive enough, has been admitting for a few years now that this cover-up did happen. So why should an anonymous person, who is obviously not part of the family, disseminate contradictory information?

Devona reacted at great speed and very angrily to the content of our critical analysis. Then she revised her reaction. Now, it was no longer so much the content of our criticism that angered her, as our manner of expressing it, which she alleged to be „impertinent“. And then the author of „Buchimpressionen“ did something truly astonishing. She first took off the name of the German version of our Thyssen book („Die Thyssen-Dynastie. Die Wahrheit hinter dem Mythos“) from her platform, which had been part of our statement. She then accused us of not having provided the German public with a German-speaking version of our work. When she subsequently found out that a German version of our book has existed since 2008, she refused to recognise this fact, because, as she said, „to this day Wikipedia does not refer to a German version“.

The blogger now added that she would „not research to the ends of the Internet after every commentator“. But in truth she had not researched anywhere near the ends of the Internet, she had come to rest at its very first stop. Our book on the Thyssens exists in German, but for Devona it did not exist in German, because on Wikipedia it did not say that it exists in German. This was so indicative of German-speakers’ refusal to engage with the factual content of our book. Was this information handler just too lazy or did she not want to know about the correction? Devona’s statements, in their unfiltered emotionality, were highly revelatory. She had now also stopped addressing me and directed herself exclusively to „Mr Litchfield“, as if the book were the product of an Englishman only and not an English-German co-production.

Wikipedia as a reference point is problematic to us, particularly because FAZ in 2007, during the translation of our article from English to German, carried out several changes to our text, after, amongst other things, conversations with the presumptious head of the ThyssenKrupp archives, Professor Manfred Rasch, and after checking various Wikipedia-pages. The most important one of these changes is this: Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza did not settle permanently in Switzerland in 1932, i.e. one year before Adolf Hitler came to power, but only in 1938, as we found out during our research. The Independent article said 1938, but the FAZ article says 1932. People with adequate historical knowledge know what that means and the roles of Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza and of Switzerland during the Second World War have been explained at length in our book. To the less experienced we say simply this: it is a swap that might appear tiny, and which yet has a meaning that is both fundamental and monumental.

Devona thought of our comments to her as being „impertinent“, although they were merely strict. And she refused emphatically to look into the matter in a way that was befitting its gravity. The „impertinence“ of the matter, however, does not lie with us. The outrageousness and the aberration lies with the crimes that were committed in the name of the German people during the Second World War. The impertinence lies with the fact that the Thyssens (who had married into and financed parts of the Batthyany family) gave aid to the anti-democratic, grievously inhumane Nazi-regime, that they set the parameters in which the monstrous crimes against above all the Jews, but also against other people, including the crimes against the German people and their honour, could be carried out. It is impertinent that they have remained silent about it for 70 years, have denied their role and glorified their deeds. It is impertinent that they, in short, have misled the general public and that in large parts they continue to do so. It is only because of their behaviour that this book blogger at this time was still able to express her assumption of Margit Batthyany-Thyssen’s guiltlessness.

The families in question enjoy a comfortable supremacy in society, within the public discourse and in the „regard“ of people, based on their membership of both the world of the financially privileged and of the aristocracy. (NB: the latter is strictly long since defunct both in Germany and in Austria and can be accepted in a democracy only if it does behave in an impeccably democratic manner). Furthermore their status is due to the fact that ThyssenKrupp is still one of the major German employers and that the coal and steel industries, which the Thyssens were unfortunately allowed to continue to control after 1945, helped prevent a total collapse of the country following the Second World War (as Herbert Grönemeyer sings in his song „Bochum“: „your pit gold lifted us up again“).

In arch-conservative Austria, the Batthyanys (who Sacha Batthyany obviously considers himself part of and vice-a-versa, as he lets himself be and is pictured in their midst on their homepage – last row, second from right in the big group picture of the younger generation) continue to have a special status which derives from their long feudal history (the current head of the clan, Count Ladislaus Pascal Batthyany-Strattmann, is a Gentleman of the Papal Household!…).

In view of this, the general public continues „pertinently“ to content itself with its submissive role of being recipients of Thyssen and Batthyany misinformation. One member of the dynasty, Sacha Batthyany, has now written a book, which purports to be an honest examination of the past. But not everyone remains convinced (see in particular Thomas Hummitzsch in “Der Freitag”, but also Michael André on Getidan, and even Luzia Braun, Blue Sofa, Leipzig Book Fair).

Most of the commentators of the Rechnitz massacre say they agree that the graves of the victims have to be found. But while local people have claimed they know where the graves are and the original Russian investigations certainly located them, not everyone amongst the more powerful members of the community, both past and present, seem to be equally willing to contribute to such transparency.

While it appears to be utopic to hope that this might change, times have moved on rapidly since 2007, when our book first appeared. Thyssenkrupp is now an ailing colossus, whose name quite possibly might not exist in its present form in the foreseeable future, following a sale or take-over of all or parts. And German legislation concerning the prosecution of Nazi crimes no longer assumes automatic guiltlessness if a direct participation in acts of killing cannot be proven. A presence and role in the overall crime suffices, and an administrative office some distance away from a gas chamber is close enough for its essential contribution to the effectiveness of the killing machine to be proven. The same goes in the case of Rechnitz for the castle (which was requisitioned by the SS but continued to be financed by the Thyssens) and the Rechnitz murder pit of the night of 24/25 March 1945.

Today it is still mainly the small fish that get dragged before the courts, people such as John Demjanjuk, Oskar Gröning and Reinhold Hanning. But the clock of historical honesty is ticking relentlessly for the big fish too, who still are not working through their past voluntarily and comprehensively. Those Thyssens and Batthyanys, who played unsavoury roles during the Second World War, are dead. It is the democratic duty of their descendants finally to cut through the web of misinformation and stick by not only the positive sides of their history but the negative sides too. Only through their confession can the general public learn the last serious lessons from this history. Only then can permanent healing and reconciliation happen.

But the Thyssen-Bornemiszas and Batthyanys, it seems, do not wish this to happen, possibly because a free, enlightened, democratic public can be better controlled through unsettling, divisive manipulation. The history of the Holocaust could be comprehensively settled by now, if these families had not shirked their responsibilities. The German people could finally be released from a continuation of the drip-drip-drip of Aufarbeitung which is so bone-grinding and thereby effectively counter-productive, if these families did now come clean and accepted the fact that our book is an accurate, independent, historical record.

Deep in the souls of the German and Austrian people, the names Thyssen and Batthyany are inextricably linked to the feelings of honour and pride. However, these families (the Thyssen-Bornemiszas through their head Georg Thyssen, board member of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and backer of the series „Family – Enterprises – Public. Thyssen in the 20th Century“ (which so far does not mention the Rechnitz massacre at all) and the Batthyanys through their head Count Ladislaus Batthyany-Strattmann, backer of the tomes „The Batthyany Family. An Austro-Hungarian Dynasty of Magnates from the End of the Middle Ages until Today“, which rejects outright any involvement of Margit Batthyany-Thyssen in the Rechnitz massacre!) fail to act honourably by avoiding independent scrutiny and controlling their cooperation in authorised historical publications.

Their shielding leads to a situation where even Germans and Austrians who are anti-Nazi, or purport to be so, cannot recognise the full extent of the Holocaust and thus unwittingly help cover up the true nature of some Nazi crimes, such as the Rechnitz massacre, a process that can all too easily appear to be that of a silent approval.

In the case of Germans and Austrians this is of course particularly devastating. But this kind of dodging is also especially contraindicated for citizens of supposedly „neutral“ countries such as Switzerland, and particularly for Sacha Batthyany. The number of statements he makes in his book and in his press work that are offensive, such as „Marga and Mirta had the Holocaust that they could hold on to. What did I have?“, is also inacceptable.

As long as Sacha Batthyany will continue to claim sympathy rather than guilt for the questionable honesty of his revelations, we will be persistent in this matter. And that is not an „impertinence“. It is our holy duty.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »

Rechnitz Revisited I

Apart from the publication of our book, „The Thyssen Art Macabre“, if there was one event above all others that both symbolically and in reality persuaded the Thyssens, both corporately and privately, to rewrite their history, it is what has now become known as „The Rechnitz Massacre“, or the slaughter of one hundred and eighty Hungarian Jewish slave workers, following a party given by Margit Batthyany-Thyssen for SS officers stationed at the Thyssen-owned Rechnitz castle in Burgenland, Austria, in March 1945, amongst others; not just the event itself but an article we wrote for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in October 2007 concerning Margit’s role in the atrocity (the english version was published by the Independent on Sunday).

When FAZ first published the story in German, some academics, such as Professor Wolfgang Benz from Berlin University, denied the whole event, while Manfred Rasch, ThyssenKrupp’s archivist, subsequently wrote us off as sensationalist journalists who had exaggerated the Thyssens’ involvement with the use of „sex and crime“ style journalism. But this only succeeded in motivating our determination to refute the accusations that we had lied and expose those responsible; who owned not only the castle, which they continued to finance with Thyssen corporate money throughout the war, but the surrounding estate and thus much of the town.

By now the story of the Thyssens’ involvement had flooded the European press and gone online and the realisation that they needed to mount a major campaign of damage limitation had motivated ThyssenKrupp AG (representing the corporation) and the Thyssen Bornemisza Group (representing the family) to authorise a team of academics to write not just of the Rechnitz Massacre, but the entire (or up until a somewhat conveniently flexible date) corporate and private history and establish, or attempt to establish, via the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, an academically approved, historical precedent.

But while there have been various opportunities for the inclusion of a suitably white-washed version of the history of the Rechnitz Massacre in the books of the series „Thyssen in the 20th Century – Family, Enterprise, Public“, such a thing has so far been conspicuous by its absence.

Then, quite recently, we became aware of a little publicised event that had taken place in May 2014 at Munich University, organised by the versatile and omnipresent „Junior Research Group Leader“ Dr Simone Derix, in the form of a two-day conference entitled „Rechnitz Revisited“. When we noticed that the event concerned the Rechnitz Massacre and had been sponsored by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, an organisation which up until the publication of our book never appeared to have previously become involved in financing any in-depth research into the history of the Thyssen family or its corporate past, all became clear.

A decision had obviously been made that as long as the Rechnitz subject remained so contentious and the Thyssens’ involvement so obvious, it was far too dangerous to attempt to make „scientifically“ supported statements that refuted their involvement and/or the accuracy of the facts contained in our book (and the subsequent article in FAZ). Facts that included such details as Heinrich Thyssen’s RM 400,000 loan (via the August Thyssen Bank) towards the upkeep of the castle when it had already been requisitioned by the SS, or Margit’s annual RM 30,000 wartime remit, plus an extra RM 18,000 „flexible“ contribution for maintaining the castle, it being „generally looked after by Thyssengas” (then called Thyssensche Gas- und Wasserwerke) (see also here).

But this did not stop those responsible for the content of the conference from trying, of course, and while our book or our article in FAZ were not named, there were various, all too obvious references to „exaggerated media presentation; sex-crazed chatelaine; scandalous news coverage; exaggerated focus on individuals, especially Margit Batthyany-Thyssen; the large discrepancy between the fanciful reports and historical reconstruction of events; fantasies and speculative projections“.

They also took the opportunity to promote the concept that far from being the responsibility of the honourable Thyssens and Batthyanys, any blame for the crime should more accurately be shouldered by the less privileged members of the population. It is a conscious strategy that is pursued equally in the „Thyssen in the 20th Century“ series and which will by now have become familiar to the readers of our reviews of these books.

Basically the format of the conference in Munich appeared to be geared towards the establishment of an academic „work in progress“, rather than the answering of specific questions or making any form of committed statement whatsoever. It was a ploy that the Austrian Ministry of the Interior has been using for years as a screen behind which they can hide potentially embarrassing details of such things as where the bodies of the victims of the Rechnitz Massacre were buried.

Those invited to the conference were a group of authorised (by Fritz Thyssen Stiftung) academics, such as Eleonore Lappin-Eppel and Claudia Kuretsidis-Haider, plus Sacha Batthyany, a journalist whose family had originally owned both town and castle and profited from their relationship with the Thyssens, while retaining their power and influence in the Rechnitz area. Sacha suffered from a serious conflict of interest but gave the proceedings a degree of noble status and assisted in steering attention away from the Thyssens and his own, apparently guiltless family; many of whom (or so he had originally assured us) still believe in „Jewish conspiracies“ surrounding the unresolved case.

Doubtless the Fritz Thyssen Foundation will now repeat the conference once every few years until their version of events, which excludes any mention of the Thyssen family’s involvement in the Rechnitz crime, has been accepted.

Or until the unlikely event that they acquiesce to the fact that their academic denials lack conviction and only serve to fuel our determination that the Thyssens, who have personally never actually accused us of inaccuracies or exaggerations, accept their appropriate degree of responsibility and guilt.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »

Book Review: Thyssen in the 20th Century – Volume 3: “The Thyssens as Art Collectors. Investment and Symbolic Capital (1900-1970)”, by Johannes Gramlich, published by Schöningh Verlag, Germany, 2015

After the ducking and diving and profiteering from other peoples’ death and misery, we will now be looking at the „shinier“ side of the medal, which is the so-called „artistic effort“ alleged to have been made by the Thyssen family. This had more to do with capital flight, the circumvention of foreign exchange controls and the avoidance of paying tax (art collections being described by Gramlich as „a valid means of decreasing tax duties as they are difficult to control“), short-term speculation, capital protection and profit maximisation than it did with any serious appreciation, let alone creation, of art.

Significantly, not a single review of this third book in the series „Thyssen in the 20th Century: The Thyssens as Art Collectors“, which once again constitutes nothing more than the shortened version (at 400 pages!) of a doctoral thesis – this time at the University of Munich – has been posted. Not a single suggestion that this student of history, german and music might not know what he is talking about, since he does not seem to have any previous knowledge of art history or obvious personal talents in the visual arts. Or about the fact that way too much of the art bought by the Thyssens was rubbish. Or that the Thyssens pretended to be Hungarian when they wanted something from Hungary, Swiss when they wanted something from Switzerland, or Dutch when they wanted something from the Netherlands.

In fact if there is one overall message this book appears to propagate it is this: that it is the ultimate achievement to cheat persistently, and as long as you are rich and powerful and immoral enough to continue cheating and myth-making all through your life, you will be just fine. Not least because you can then leave enough money in an endowment to continue to facilitate the burnishing of your reputation, so that the myth-making can continue on your behalf, posthumously. And if by any chance you can take advantage of another person’s distress along the way, so much the better – as Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza is said to have done from the Jewish collections of Herbert Gutmann and Max Alsberg and Fritz Thyssen from those of Julius Kien and Maximilian von Goldschmidt-Rothschild.

But: does anybody find this message acceptable?!

Mysteriously, this book also contains some very derogatory descriptions of the Thyssens’ true characters. Fritz Thyssen is described (in a quote by Christian Nebenhay) as „not very impressive“ and „meaningless“. His brother Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza is said to have been „difficult“, „unpleasant“, „avaricious“, „not always straight in his payment behaviour“ and somebody who „could not find the understanding for needs and aspirations of people who were in a relationship of dependency from him“. Amelie Thyssen is said to have tried to get the historical record bent very seriously as far her husband’s alleged distancing from Nazism was concerned and to have lied about the date of art purchases to avoid the payment of tax.

Fortunately, we did not know any of these second-generation Thyssens personally. But we did know Heini Thyssen, the last directly descended male Thyssen heir, and very well at that. Over the period of some 25 years (Litchfield more than Schmitz) we were lucky enough to be able to spend altogether many months in his company. We both liked and miss him greatly. He was a delightful man with a great sense of humour and sparkling intelligence. What was most astonishing about him, considering his family’s general sense of superiority, was his total lack of arrogance.

Heini Thyssen described the art business to us as „the dirtiest business in the world“. He knew of the secret-mongering of dealers, the hyperboles of auction houses and the dishonesties of experts. It was a choppy sea that he navigated with just the right combination of caution and bravado to be successful. But of course, he also used the art business outrageously in order to invent a new image for himself. The reason why, contrary to his father and uncle, he was extremely successful in this endeavour, was precisely because he was such a likeable man.

But this did not make Heini Thyssen a moral man. He continued to cheat about his nationality, the source and extent of his fortune, his responsibilities and his loyalties just as his father, uncle and aunt (and to some extent his grand-father) had done before him. And now, this series of books continues to perpetuate the very same old myths which have always been necessary to cover the tracks of these robber barons for as long as the modern-day German nation state has existed. The size and claimed value of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection also persuaded many members of the international art community and of the general public to accept this duplicity.

The all important Thyssen-owned dutch Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart, for instance, is repeatedly said to have been founded in 1918, when the real date is most likely to have been 1910. This is important because the bank was the primary offshore tool used by the Thyssens to camouflage their German assets and protect their concern and fortune from allied retribution after the first lost war. But the information is precarious because it also implies a massive disloyalty of the Thyssens towards Germany, the country that was, is and always will be the sole original source of their fortune.

And again Heinrich and Heini Thyssen are said to have been Hungarian nationals, presumably because it is meant to excuse why, despite supporting the Nazi war machine that made possible some of the worst atrocities in human history, the Thyssen-Bornemiszas entirely avoided allied retribution after the second lost war also. In reality, Heinrich Thyssen’s Hungarian nationality was highly questionable, for several reasons: because it was originally „bought“, was not maintained through regular visits to the abandoned country, extension papers were issued by Thyssen-sponsored friends and relatives in diplomatic positions and because Heinrich actually maintained his German nationality. In Heini’s case, his status depended entirely on the fact that his mother’s second husband worked at the Hungarian embassy in Berne and procured him the necessary identity papers (a fact that will be plagiarised from our work by „Junior Research Group Leader“ Simone Derix in her forthcoming book on the Thyssens’ fortune and identity, which is based on her habilitation thesis (!) and as such already available – Strangely, despite being volume 4 in the series, her book is now said to be published only following volume 5). To call those Hungarian nationalities legitimate is plainly wrong. And it matters greatly.

When Philip Hendy at the London National Gallery put on an exhibition of paintings from Heini Thyssen’s collection in 1961, Heini apparently told Hendy he could not possibly be showing during the same year as Emil Bührle, because “As you know Bührle was a real German armament king who became Swiss, so it would be very bad for me to get linked up with German armament“. But this was not, as this book makes it sound, because Heini Thyssen did not have anything to do with German armament himself, but precisely because he did! Since this partial source of the Thyssen wealth has now been admitted by both Alexander Donges and Thomas Urban, it is highly questionable that Johannes Gramlich fails to acknowledge this adequately in his work.

Then there are new acknowledgments such as the fact that August Thyssen and Auguste Rodin did not have a close friendship as described in all relevant books so far, but that their relationship was terrible, because of monetary squabbles, artistic incomprehension and public relations opportunism. The only problem with this admission is that, once again, we were the first to establish this reality. Now this book is committing shameless plagiarism on our investigative effort and, under the veil of disallowing us as not pertaining to the „academic“ circle, is claiming the „academic merit“ of being the first to reveal this information for itself.

Another one of our revelations, which is being confirmed in this book, is that the 1930 Munich exhibition of Heinrich’s collection was a disaster, because so many of the works shown were discovered to be fraudulent. Luitpold Dussler in the Bayerischer Kurier and Kunstwart art magazine; Wilhelm Pinder at the Munich Art Historical Society; Rudolf Berliner; Leo Planiscig; Armand Lowengard at Duveen Brothers and Hans Tietze all made very derogatory assessments of the Baron’s collection as „expensive hobby“, „with obviously wrong attributions“, containing „over 100 forgeries, falsified paintings and impossible artist names“, where „the Baron could throw away half the objects“, „400 paintings none of which you should buy today“, „backward looking collection“, „off-putting designations“, „misleading“, „rubbish“, etc. etc. etc. The Baron retaliated by getting the „right-wing press“ (!) in particular to write positive articles about his so-called artistic endeavours, patriotic deed and philanthropic largesse, an altruistic attitude which was not based on fact but solely on Thyssen-financed public relations inputs.

The book almost completely leaves out Heini Thyssen’s art activities which is puzzling since he was by far the most important collector within the dynasty. Instead, a lot of information is relayed which has nothing whatsoever to do with art, such as the fact that Fritz Thyssen bought Schloss Puchhof estate and that it was run by Willi Grünberg. In the words of Gramlich: „Fritz Thyssen advised (Grünberg) to get the maximum out of the farm without consideration for sustainability. As a consequence the land was totally depleted afterwards. The denazification court however came to the conclusion that these methods of exhaustive cultivation were due mainly to the manager who was doing it to get more profit for himself“. Apparently Grünberg also abused at least 100 POWs there during the war but, after a short period of post-war examination, was reinstated as estate manager by Fritz Thyssen. This gives an indication not only of the failings of the denazification proceedings, but also of Thyssen’s concepts of human rights and the non-applicability of general laws to people of his standing.

One is also left wondering why Fritz Thyssen would be said to have bought the biggest estate in Bavaria in 1938, for an over-priced 2 million RM, specifically for his daughter Anita Zichy-Thyssen and son-in-law Gabor Zichy to live in, when Heini Thyssen and his cousin Barbara Stengel told us very specifically that the Zichy-Thyssens, with the help of Hermann Göring, for whom Anita had worked as his personal secretary, left Germany to live in Argentina in 1938, being transported there aboard a German naval vessel. After repeating the old myth that Anita’s family was with her parents when they fled Germany on the eve of World War Two, this book now makes the additional „revelation“ that Anita and her family arrived in Argentina in February 1940, without, however, explaining where they might have been in the meantime, while Fritz and Amelie Thyssen were taken back to Germany by the Gestapo. Of course February 1940 is also the date when Fritz and Amelie, of whom Anita would inherit, were stripped of their German citizenship, a fact that was to become crucial in them being able to regain their German assets after the war.

The defensive attitude of this book is also revealed when Eduard von der Heydt, another Nazi banker, war profiteer and close art investment advisor to the Thyssens, is said to be „still deeply rooted and present in (the Ruhr) in positive connotations, despite all protest and difficulties“. This has to refer not least to the fact – but for some reason does not spell it out – that some Germans, mindful of his role as a Nazi banker, have managed to get the name of the cultural prize of the town of Wuppertal-Elberfeld, where the von der Heydt Museum stands, changed from Eduard von der Heydt Prize to Von der Heydt Prize. Clearly because Willi Grünberg was but a foot soldier and Eduard von der Heydt a wealthy cosmopolitan, Grünberg gets the bad press while von der Heydt receives the diplomatic treatment, in the same way as book 2 of the series (on forced labour) blames managers and foremen and practically exonerates the Thyssens. It is a distorting way of working through Nazi history which should no longer be happening. Meanwhile, Johannes Gramlich is allowed to reveal that in view of revolutionary turmoils in Germany in 1931, Fritz Thyssen sent his collection to Switzerland only for it to be brought back to Germany in the summer of 1933 – as if a stronger indication could possibly be had for his deep satisfaction with Hitler’s ascent to power.

In the same period, Heinrich, after his disastrous 1930 Munich exhibition, teased the Düsseldorf Museum with a „non-committal prospect“ to loan them his collection for a number of years. It is also said that he planned to build an „August Thyssen House“ in Düsseldorf to house his collection permanently. Considering the time and huge effort Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza spent during his entire life and beyond on not being considered a German, it is strange that Johannes Gramlich does not qualify this venture as being either a fake plan or proof of Heinrich’s hidden teutonic loyalties. In view of the dismal quality of Heinrich’s art there was of course no real collection worth being shown at the Düsseldorf Museum at all, which did not, however, stop its Director Dr Karl Koetschau from lobbying for it for years. He was disappointed at Heinrich’s behaviour of stringing them along, which is an episode that leaves even Gramlich to concede: „(the Baron) accepted all benefits and gave nothing in return“. While the „Schloss Rohoncz Collection“ is said to have arrived at his private residence in Lugano from 1934, this book still fails to inform us of the precise timing and logistics of the transfer (some 500 paintings), a grave omission for which there is no excuse. It is also worth remembering that 1934 was the year Switzerland implemented its bank secrecy law, which would have been the ultimate reason why Heinrich chose Lugano as final seat of his „art collection“.

The many painfully obvious omissions in this book are revealing, particularly in the case of Heini Thyssen having a bust made of himself by the artist Nison Tregor when the fact that he also had one made by Arno Breker, Hitler’s favourite sculptor, is left out. But they become utterly inacceptable in the case of the silence about the „aryanisation“ of the Erlenhof stud farm in 1933 (from Oppenheimer to Thyssen-Bornemisza) or the involvement of Margit Batthyany-Thyssen, together with her SS-lovers, in the atrocity on 180 Jewish slave labourers at the SS-requisitioned but Thyssen-funded Rechnitz castle estate in March 1945. Both matters continue to remain persistently unmentioned and thus form cases of Holocaust denial which are akin to the efforts of one David Irving.

It is also astonishing how the author seems to have a desperate need for mystifying the question of the financing of Heinrich Thyssen’s collection, when Heini Thyssen told us very clearly that his father did this through a loan from his own bank, Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart. This fact is very straightforward, yet Johannes Gramlich makes it sound so complicated that one can only think this must be because he wants to make it appear like Thyssen had money available in some kind of holy grail-like golden pot somewhere that had nothing to do with Thyssen companies and confirmed that he really was descended from some ancient, aristocratic line as he would have liked (and in his own head believed!) to have done.

The equally unlikely fact is purported that all the details of every single one of the several thousand pieces of art purchased by the Thyssens has been entered by „the team“ into a huge database containing a sophisticated network of cross-referenced information. Yet, in the whole of this book, the author mentions only a handful of the actual contents of Thyssen pictures. Time and time again the reader is left with the burning question: why, as the subject was so important to the Thyssens, did they leave it to such an unenlightened man rather than an experienced art historian to write about it? Is it because it is easier to get such a person to write statements such as “personal documents (of Fritz Thyssen) were destroyed during the confiscation of his fortune by the National Socialists and his business documents were mainly destroyed by WWII bombing“, because the organisation does not want to publish the true details of Fritz and Amelie’s wartime life? (one small tip: the bad bad Nazis threw them in a concentration camp and left them to rot is definitely not what happened). Or because he is prepared to write: „The correspondence of Hans Heinrich (Heini Thyssen) referring to art has been transmitted systematically from 1960 onwards“ and „for lack of sources, it is not possible to establish who was responsible for the movements in the collection inventory during the 1950s“ , because for a man whose assets are alleged to have been expropriated until 1955, it would be difficult to explain why he was able to buy and deal with expensive art before then?

Was Dr Gramlich commissioned because a man with his lack of experience can write about „APC“ being an American company that Heini Thyssen’s company was “negotiating with”, because he does not know that the letters stand for „Alien Property Custodian“? Or because time and time and time again he will praise the „outstanding quality“ of the Thyssens’ collections, despite the fact that far too many pictures, including Heinrich’s „Vermeer“ and „Dürer“ or Fritz’s „Rembrandt“ and „Fragonard“ turned out to be fakes? The Lost Art Coordination Point in Magdeburg, by the way, describes this Fragonard as having been missing since 1945 from Marburg. But Gramlich says it has been missing since 1965 from the Fritz Thyssen Collection in Munich, when it was “only valued at 3.000 Deutschmarks any longer, because its originality was now questioned”.

At one point, Gramlich writes about the „two paintings by Albrecht Dürer“ in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection without naming either of them. He describes that one of them was sold by Heini Thyssen in 1948. It went to the American art collector Samuel H Kress and finally to the Washington National Gallery. What Gramlich does not say is that this was in fact “Madonna with Child“. The other one remained in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection and can still be viewed at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid to this day under the title „Jesus among the Scribes“. Only, it has received a highly damning appraisal by one of the world’s foremost Dürer experts, Dr Thomas Schauerte; Johannes Gramlich does not tell his readers about this.

The truth in all this is that no matter how many books and articles (and there have been many!) are financed by Thyssen money to tell us that Heini Thyssen bought German expressionist art in order to show how „anti-Nazi“ he was, such a thing is not actually possible and is not even believable after the Nazi period. It is ludicrous to say that August Thyssen saw Kaiser Wilhelm II as „Germany’s downfall“, since he had the Kaiser’s picture on his wall and started buying into the Bremer Vulkan submarine- producing shipyard in 1916, specifically in order to profit from the Kaiser’s war. And it is not believable, in view of Fritz Thyssen’s deeply-held antisemitism, to say he helped Jakob Goldschmidt to take some of his art out of Germany in 1934, because he was such a loyal friend of this Jewish man. Fritz Thyssen helped Jakob Goldschmidt despite him being Jewish and only because Goldschmidt was an incredibly well-connected and thus indispensable international banker – who in turn helped the Thyssens save their assets from allied retribution after WWII.

All the Thyssens have ever done with art – and this book, despite aiming to do the contrary, does in fact confirm it – is to have used art in order to camouflage not just their taxable assets, but themselves as well. They have used art to hide the problematic source of parts of their fortune, as well as the fact they were simple parvenus. In the same way as Professor Manfred Rasch is not an independent historian but only a Thyssen filing clerk (the way he repeatedly gets his „academic“ underlings to include disrespectful remarks about us in their work is highly unprofessional), so the Thyssens are not, never have been and never will be „autodidactic“ „connoisseurs“. And that is because art does not happen on a cheque book signature line but is, in its very essence, the exact opposite of just about anything the Thyssens, with a few exceptions, have ever stood for.

As Max Friedländer summarised it, their kind of attitude was that of: „the vain desire, social ambition, speculation for rise in value….of ostentatiously presenting one’s assets…..so that this admiration of the assets reflects back on the owner himself“. Despite the best efforts of the Thyssen machine to present a favourable academic evaluation of the Thyssens’ art collecting jaunts, in view of their infinitely immoral standards, the assurances of both the aesthetic qualities and investment value of their „art collections“, as mentioned so nauseatingly frequently in this book, are of no consequence whatsoever. The only thing that is relevant is that the extent of the family’s industrial wealth was so vast, that the pool of pretence for both them and their art was limitless. Thus their intended camouflage through culture failed and the second-generation Thyssens in particular ended up being exposed as Philistines.

Johannes Gramlich

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Art, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »