The Thyssen Art Macabre
David R. L. Litchfield
- Hardcover: 470 pages
- Publisher: Quartet Books (December 2006)
- ISBN-10: 07043 71197
- ISBN-13: 978 07043 71194
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
The Thyssens liked to give the impression that they became one of the world’s richest industrial dynasties after many years of hard work, frugality and self-sacrifice. They also claimed to have abandoned Germany when Hitler came to power and never to have been involved in the manufacture of arms or the use of slave labour. They encouraged the acceptance of their identity as both Swiss industrialists and Hungarian aristocrats who selflessly ‘donated’ their art collection to Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. But the truth is much darker.
Having brilliantly but ruthlessly created one of the world’s greatest industrial fortunes and acquired questionable aristocratic status, Thyssens profited from both World Wars, financed the Nazis, armed Hitler and were even personally implicated in a Jewish atrocity. They avoided the dangers of military conflict by seeking safe-haven in Switzerland and Argentina, before returning to Germany after the war to deny their past, re-claim their fortune and re-establish their industrial power.
They then set about squandering rather than developing the family fortune and became notable less for their commercial achievements than for their tax avoidance, alcohol and drug abuse, infidelity, promiscuity, theft, murder and suicide.