Posts Tagged ‘Third Reich’

The Lies of Doctor Schleusener oder Die Lügen des Jan Schleusener

So how do I know that Dr. Jan Schleusener is a liar? Because, it is I of whom he lies! Also of Hans Heinrich Thyssen. But ‘Heini’ is no longer with us, so, as his biographer, I inherit a responsibility to question any libellous accusations concerning our personal and professional relationship, as well as about my credibility as an author.

The lies in question are contained in a book titled ‘The Expropriation of Fritz Thyssen’, written by Schleusener, published in March 2018 by Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag and funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. In this book, Jan Schleusener states that ‘Heini’ and I ‘fell out’, due to his ‘cancellation of his commission’ for my writing his biography. Schleusener even gives the page numbers of the German edition of my book, ‘Die Thyssen-Dynastie’, on which he falsely claims I confirmed this situation. Furthermore, Schleusener insists that my book contains vast swathes of ‘polemic revenge’ against ‘Heini’ and that it was obviously NOT written ‘sine ira et studio’. He then asserts that while I studied many pertinent sources, I interpreted them one-sidedly and ‘took into account only those aspects’ that supported what he purports to have been my ‘intention to scandalise’.

The truth is that the cancellation was subsequently rescinded without ever having been the cause of friction. I got on incredibly well with ‘Heini’ Thyssen (as did Caroline Schmitz, my German ‘collaborator’) and had no reason to be vengeful; quite the opposite in fact. This is explained in some detail in my book, while Dr Schleusener made no attempt to contact me or clarify the situation when researching his book. So there can be little doubt that his accusations are not only false but also malicious and designed to damage my reputation and credibility as an author, and as such they qualify as libellous.

I would also assume that as he is an academic, albeit a junior and undistinguished academic, Dr Schleusener’s students, the relevant seats of learning who reward him and the Fritz Thyssen Foundation would all expect him to adhere to certain standards of honesty and professionalism, which he obviously isn’t respecting. This is of particular concern when it comes to his coverage of history relating to the Third Reich. So Dr Schleusener presumably considers lying to be an acceptable practice, regardless of the subject or period. This was manifest in his dismissive response to my e-mails demanding a retraction and apology, while his publisher saw fit to ignore my request altogether; which doesn’t bode well for the accuracy of their whole academic series of Thyssen books.

Finally, I would like to address Dr Schleusener’s accusation of my having ‘scandalised’ evidence, as I had no reason to do so; the story being quite sufficiently scandalous without the need to resort to exaggeration. As a point of interest, it was ‘Heini’ himself who suggested the cover line, ‘Shame and scandal in the family’ as a title. And as far as our friendship was concerned, I should remind Dr. Jan Schleusener of the last paragraph of my book: ‘In my role as Heini Thyssen’s confessor, it was a family I had become part of and would no doubt continue to do so. I would also never raise a glass of red wine to my lips without thinking of him.’ Hardly the reflection of a man bent on revenge.

 

 

Hans Heinrich (‘Heini’) Thyssen-Bornemisza and David R L Litchfield at Villa Favorita, Lugano, Switzerland, 1989 (photo copyright Nicola Graydon)

Weshalb ich weiss, dass Dr Jan Schleusener ein Lügner ist? Weil ich es bin, über den er lügt. Und ebenso über Hans Heinrich Thyssen. Aber „Heini“ weilt nicht mehr unter uns, und so erbe ich als sein Biograf die Verantwortung dafür, jedwede verleumderische Anschuldigung über unser persönliches und professionelles Verhältnis – sowie über meine Glaubwürdigkeit als Autor – zu hinterfragen.

Die erwähnten Lügen sind in Dr Schleusener’s Buch „Die Enteignung Fritz Thyssens“ enthalten, welches vom Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag im März 2018 veröffentlicht und von der Fritz Thyssen Stiftung gefördert wurde. In diesem Buch behauptet Jan Schleusener, es habe ein „Zerwürfnis“ zwischen „Heini“ und mir gegeben, nachdem er den Auftrag an mich für das Schreiben seiner Biografie „wieder zurückgezogen“ habe. Schleusener verweist sogar auf bestimmte Seiten der deutschen Ausgabe meines Buches „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“, wo, so gibt er fälschlicherweise an, ich diese Situation bestätigt hätte. Weiterhin besteht Schleusener darauf, mein Buch enthalte „in weiten Strecken“ eine „polemische Abrechnung“ mit „Heini“, und dass es „überdeutlich nicht sine ira et studio geschrieben“ sei. Sodann beteuert er, dass ich zwar „viele einschlägige Quellen studiert“ hätte, diese aber „einseitig“ auswerten würde, um meine „skandalisierenden Absichten“ zu stützen.

Die Wahrheit ist, dass die Absage später zurück gezogen wurde, ohne jemals Friktionen hervor gerufen zu haben. Ich habe mich mit „Heini“ Thyssen überaus gut verstanden (und genauso ging es auch Caroline Schmitz, meiner deutschen Mitarbeiterin) und hatte keinerlei Grund, irgend eine Rache an ihm zu üben; ganz im Gegenteil. Die genauen Umstände unserer Beziehung habe ich in meinem Buch geschildert, aber Dr Schleusener hat während er seine Studie erarbeitete weder versucht, mich zu kontaktieren, noch die Situation klar zu stellen. Es kann also kaum ein Zweifel daran bestehen, dass seine Anschuldigungen nicht nur falsch sind, sondern obendrein böswillig und darauf ausgelegt, mein Ansehen und meine Glaubwürdigkeit als Autor zu schädigen. Als solche sind sie als verleumderisch anzusehen.

Ich würde auch annehmen – da er ein (wenn auch bisher wenig etablierter Nachwuchs-) Wissenschaftler ist -, dass seine Studenten, die Stätten der Gelehrsamkeit, bei denen er in Stellung ist, und auch die Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, alle von ihm erwarten würden, dass er an gewissen Standards der Ehrlichkeit und Professionalität festhält. Dies tut er aber offensichtlich nicht. Das ist besonders bedenklich, wenn es um seine Forschungen zum Dritten Reich geht. So nehme ich an, Dr Schleusener erachtet das Lügen als eine zulässige Gepflogenheit, unbenommen des Themas oder erörterten Zeitraums. Dies wurde deutlich aus seiner abschlägigen Anwort auf meine E-Mails an ihn, in denen ich meiner Erwartung eines Widerrufs und einer Entschuldigung Ausdruck gab. Sein Verleger sah es als gänzlich unnötig an, mir überhaupt zu antworten. All dies sind keine guten Vorzeichen hinsichtlich der Genauigkeit dieser ganzen akademischen Serie von Büchern zum Thema Thyssen.

Schlussendlich möchte ich noch Dr Schleusener’s Anschuldigung behandeln, ich hätte gewisse Aspekte „skandalisiert“. In Wirklichkeit hatte ich gar keinen Bedarf, etwas zu skandalisieren, da die Geschichte selbst ohne jegliche Übertreibungen schon skandalös genug ist. Interessehalber: es war „Heini“ selbst, der den Titel-Slogan der englischen Ausgabe „Schande und Skandale in der Familie“ vorschlug. Und so weit es meine Freundschaft mit „Heini“ betrifft, so darf ich Dr Jan Schleusener an den letzten Paragraphen meines Buches erinnern: „In meiner Rolle als Heini Thyssen-Bornemiszas Beichtvater bin ich ein Teil dieser Familie geworden und werde es wohl immer bleiben. Und niemals werde ich ein Glas Rotwein an meine Lippen führen, ohne an ihn zu denken“. Nicht gerade die Gedanken eines Menschen, der auf Rache aus ist.

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

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

But why?

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

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

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

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

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

So why now? And why in Spain?

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

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

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

So why Spain?

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

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

And why now?

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

 

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Book Review: Thyssen in the 20th century – Volume 1: „The United Steelworks under National Socialism, Concern Politics between Market Economy and State Economy“, by Alexander Donges, published by Schöningh Verlag, Germany, 2014.

This book begins with the author expressing his „astonishment“ at the fact that the entrepreneurial, Nazi period history of the United Steelworks (Vereinigte Stahlwerke, VSt) – a conglomerate which included Thyssen works – has not so far been properly researched by academia. Obviously, the independent scholarly information contained in our book has not been considered worthy of acknowledgment, regardless of the fact that it was as a direct result of its publication that Dr Donges and his fellow academic authors have been commissioned and funded to rewrite the Thyssens’ history.

Not until half way through the 400-page tome does he finally acknowledge that VSt was massively involved in armaments manufacture, but that, instead of perceiving this adequately, academia until now has rather viewed VSt as a mere raw iron and raw steel producer – in stark contrast to the Krupp-concern.

While it is difficult to know how to react to such obviously manipulated claims, this reviewer wonders whether it might ever occur to Dr Donges that the dimensions of previous mis-representations are such that it takes minimal intelligence to conclude that they must have been the result of intent rather than accident.

Considering that by the onset of Hitler’s dictatorship, the Thyssens, together with the German state, controlled 72,5% of VSt, and VSt’s output was three times the size of that of its biggest competitor, it was always illogical that Alfried Krupp was sentenced to prison at the Nuremberg Trials while the Thyssens got off scot-free. But for many and various reasons, explained at length in our book, they did, and there the myth of their quasi-heroic immaculacy began to be established.

It is apparent that German academia and the German media were prepared to follow this myth instead of, as we did, questioning it. In their defense they might argue that they were not able to view certain archives and that this has hampered their research. But while the Thyssen-Bornemiszas’ files have indeed been unavailable to academia until recently, for the past 53 years of their existence the ThyssenKrupp archives – officially at least (the truth is another matter) – have not been subject to such restrictions.

When at some point around 2006/7 Georg Thyssen-Bornemisza created the Thyssen Industrial History Foundation and placed in it his father’s archives (which we had previously viewed in private, first in Madrid and later in Monte Carlo), he effectively placed them under the questionable curatorship of Prof. Manfred Rasch, head archivist of ThyssenKrupp AG, and even, it seems, in the same building as the ThyssenKrupp archives in Duisburg.

This move did the extraordinary thing of symbolically uniting the files of Fritz Thyssen’s side with those of Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’s side of the family; a momentous act, since it was a crucial element of the Thyssen historical myth that the two sides always pretended to have nothing to do with one another, a myth that the first three books in this series are nonetheless still trying to propagate.

Upon closer inspection of the contents lists, however, curious internal restructurings of files appear to be going on in these two archives. There are important files, which we know used to be in the archives of ThyssenKrupp, such as, surprisingly, the estate of Wilhelm Roelen (main war-time manager of Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza) or, unsurprisingly, the estate of Robert Ellscheid (main lawyer of Fritz and Amélie Thyssen), and which are now said to be in the new Thyssen Industrial History Foundation archives.

But what is most noticeable from the footnotes is that time and time again, when reference is made to armaments in particular, the files in question tend to allegedly have been sourced in the archives of the newly created Thyssen Industrial History Foundation, rather than the archives of ThyssenKrupp AG, giving the impression of a possible damage limitation aspect in respect of this already ailing giant of German heavy industry.

In any case, one of the few major admissions made in this book is that Fritz Thyssen’s flight from Germany to Switzerland at the onset of World War Two might have had less to do with heroic opposition to Adolf Hitler and more with the fact that he had contravened foreign exchange regulations and committed tax evasion on a massive scale, as we first revealed (though they say nothing of the other reasons for his flight, including Hitler’s humiliating accusations of self-interest).

While presenting the actual figures of Fritz Thyssen’s misdemeanours, namely 31 million Reichsmark in evaded tax plus 17 million Reichsmark Reich Flight Tax, equalling a total of 48 million RM payable to the German State, Dr Donges quickly attenuates the claim by explaining that the denazification board of 1948 did not come to the conclusion that this had played a role in Fritz Thyssen’s flight. But what he fails to mention – although another author in the same series of books does – is how any genuine Aufarbeitung by these courts stalled once the Cold War began.

It is also noticeable that the author alleges the critical tax investigation into Fritz Thyssen’s affairs to have begun in the late 1920s, when in actual fact it had started almost immediately after the end of World War One.

The book manages to reveal that the retiring Joseph Thyssen branch of the dynasty (deriving from the brother of old August Thyssen) indirectly profited from the persecution of the Jews, as the Reich paid out their 54 million RM shares in VSt after Fritz Thyssen’s flight and the confiscation of his assets, by handing them shares previously owned by Jews and taken from them as part of the Jewish Assets Levy (Judenvermögensabgabe).

But it was Fritz Thyssen, whose anti-semitism was most overt, as he was prominently involved in forcing the Jewish members Paul Silverberg, Jakob Goldschmidt, Kurt Martin Hirschland, Henry Nathan, Georg Solmssen and Ottmar E Strauss to vacate their seats on the supervisory board of VSt in 1933/4. And no matter how often in this series they will try to tell us that Fritz Thyssen “gradually denazified himself” starting in 1934 and that his anti-Semitism was not of the vicious, murderous kind, we need to remember that forcing Jews out of their jobs was the first step in their disenfranchisement and on the road to the Holocaust.

When the Simon Hirschland Bank in Essen was „aryanised“ in 1938 by a banking consortium including Deutsche Bank and Essener National-Bank AG, Fritz Thyssen bought a share of 0.5 million RM, yet his role is said to be „unclear“ and „explained unsatisfactorily by reseachers“, which is the academics’ way of sowing doubt over established facts, especially when these are detrimental to the Thyssens’ image, and especially when they have been funded by Thyssen institutions to rewrite their history.

Of course generally the all important finance and banking side of things remains as much in the dark as it was at the time in question. Dr Donges mentions anonymous holdings in Holland, Switzerland and the USA; the Reich’s camouflaging of armaments financing through Metallurgische Forschungsanstalt; and Faminta AG of Glarus, Switzerland, which he alleges to have been a foreign vessel for Thyssen & Co. rather than for Fritz Thyssen personally. He leaves US bond creditors unnamed and states that „the role of the Finance Ministry within the Third Reich has not been sufficiently studied yet“.

And while on page 28 Dr Donges admits, albeit in the most superficial of ways, that after the death of the patriarch August Thyssen in 1926, Fritz Thyssen had to relinquish “part of the VSt shares” to his brother Heinrich, he does not tell us how long this stock [not just a few shares, but an initial 55 million RM, no less, and for which Fritz received shares in the family’s Dutch bank Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart in Rotterdam in return, which was controlled by Heinrich] might have remained under Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’s ownership and whether any of it was still in his possession at the time of the confiscation of Fritz’s fortune in 1939/40 (and if so, what happened to it after this date).

Instead the author concentrates on looking at the „use of political, legal and social options to further economic success….during the Nazi period“. He concludes that „entrepreneurial advantages were to be gained from the development of the armaments enterprises“ and that „although the freedom of action was hampered through many restrictions compared to the time of the Weimar Republic, the leadership of VSt could still pursue a long-term investment strategy.“

Thus this work ends with the earth-shattering conclusion that „if one looks at the development lines of the German steel industry in the 20th century, the long-term trend was that the steel manufacturers moved towards further processing. So VSt in the 1930s would probably have chosen that way even under another political regime“.

So presumably that was the main purpose of this book; to save the image of ThyssenKrupp AG and the conscience of surviving members of the Thyssen family, who have profited, and continue to do so, from the part Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG played in the death of 80 million people as a result of World War Two.

It is very difficult to see how Dr Donges’s doctoral thesis could possibly “close the gap” in research on the subject of the history of the United Steelworks during the Nazi period, as has been the claim made at the outset of this series “Family – Enterprise – Public. Thyssen in the 20th century”.

But whether anyone outside his immediate circle of overtly Thyssen-financed researchers will now wake up from their “great unquestioning slumber” and decide to pursue a more forthcoming research on the subject remains to be seen. Academic book reviews so far (by Tobias Birken at Sehepunkte and by Tim Schanetzky at H-Soz-Kult) suggest that they will not. In any case, how dissident academics would be received when knocking on the doors of “Professor Rasch’s archives”, remains an altogether different question.

Political economist (Dr.) Alexander Donges, gaining his title by being a Thyssen academic mercenary at Mannheim University

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The Thyssens’ Poisoned Chalice

It was recently announced that the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid has suffered a loss of some 4.5 million Euros during 2014. Considering the fragile state of Spain’s economy and the fact that, contractually, they are not permitted to capitalise on the value of the collection by selling any of the pictures, it was bad news.

But worse was to come. For it was also revealed that the total legal costs of defending a claim by surviving members of a German Jewish family against the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum for the return of a picture painted by Camille Pissarro that they claim to have sold under duress to the Nazis in 1939, and which was subsequently procured by the Thyssen family before being sold on to the Spanish nation, has now reached 1.3 million Euros.

Heini Thyssen and his father had always used their art collection as a smoke screen behind which they could hide the fact that much of their fortune was the result of profits earned fuelling and arming the Third Reich and supplying it with banking facilities.

One of the unfortunate effects of such a restitution claim is that it reminds people of the Thyssens’ Nazi past and the fact that it is the Spanish people who are being obliged to fund the protection of the Spanish ‘investment’ as well as the defence of the Thyssens’ name, who in turn have not exactly been forthcoming in contributing to the coffers of the Spanish tax authorities.

And while the American lawyers are representing the Cassirers on a contingency basis, which avoids the family having to make any contribution to costs, the plaintiffs remain all too aware that every time they mount another appeal (which they are doing at this very minute), the Spanish legal fees, for which there is no ultimate profit which they can be offset against, continue to mount. As do the Museum’s losses. Thus there must come a time when the Spanish will be obliged to ‘take a view’ and hand the picture back.

To us it has always been clear that this collection would one day reveal itself as a poisoned chalice for the host country. The Cassirer claim, if successful, could open the gates to further claims against the museum, as there is no shortage of paintings in its holdings with questionable provenances, a fact that the Spanish failed to identify by independent verification before they committed to buy. The potential for a major eclat is intrinsic to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. The only question is: how long will it take to unravel?

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On 4th April 2016 Mark Kochanski commented:

In a recent court brief the Foundation contends that the plaintiffs (the Cassirers) ”continue their campaign to tarnish the Foundation’s image with “red flags” to suggest actual knowledge of the 1939 taking or, at the very least, a level of negligence that warrants punishment.” The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum has tarnished its own image by knowingly hoarding Nazi looted art in violation of the Washington Conference Principles and the Terezin Declaration. This is shameful and the “Baroness” needs to be held to account.

Camille Pissarro: "Rue St Honore, apres-midi, effet de pluie" (1897).

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