Joseph Borkin, as a young lawyer working for a 1934 Senate committee, was assigned to investigate munitions where he first encountered, I.G. Farben. For the rest of his government career he kept bumping into the German conglomerate. When he witnessed the results of war criminal trials following World War II. He vowed to write a book on the corporation, published in 1978.
The company history runs thus (detailed in the book): An executive of one of the dozen or so German chemical companies, early part of the 20th century, visiting the U.S., was informed of the measures Standard Oil had taken to consolidate its power, forming a trust. Inspired he returned to Germany determined to organize his competitors into what became the conglomeration known as I.G. Farben. Holding a virtual international monopoly via patents on key products, everyone grew rich.
The company responded during World War I., patriotically, putting their skills to work creating the first poison gas of the war, which might have left Germany victorious had I.G. Farben’s vision of its use been quickly and ruthlessly utilized. The company was also complicit in Germany’s damning use of slave labor. The military moved into Belgium and seized every able-bodied man they could lay hands on for the project. Generally less than enthusiastic about Hitler’s rise to power, with a few significant exceptions, but preferring him to the left with its anti-capitalist agenda, the company threw their support that way, purging Jewish employees, even highly valued technical and executive level people, and eventually fully utilizing the “free labor” of concentration camp victims, working them to death in their quest to fill the rampaging German military’s insatiable need for synthesized fuel and rubber tires. Borkin gives a horrifying account of what it was like under the cruel boot of the psychopathic Nazi machine. Malnourished prisoners were marched daily several miles to the I.G. Farben factory and worked long hours mercilessly. Those who weakened or fell were shot. A sadist at the factory gate would select out those he estimated were weakest and they’d be immediately taken to the gas chamber.
After the war the high-ranking Nazis who survived and didn’t manage to flee were dealt with by the Nuremberg court with long prison terms and hanging. But the I.G. Farben top executives were able to stall the proceedings until things had cooled off somewhat, the cold war having kicked in and distracted the victors. Many were acquitted and those who were convicted served three to seven years, very light sentences for what they had done. Of course when the nation is taken over by sociopaths not going along is no longer much of an option, an important lesson to resist early. Jefferson (if he indeed said this, but it’s solid whoever the author) knew of what he spoke – “eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” The victors were not subject to the court so the fire-bombing of Dresden and Tokyo were not on the docket.
As well as resisting early, another lesson for statecraft is, avoid war entirely for it is brutal and dehumanizing. Although some tyrants openly glorify the practice, most will claim to trigger the nightmare only after all other options are exhausted. We can be skeptical, ready examples being the Bush/Cheney Iraq attack and the Obama drone war. When South Carolina has a grievance with Georgia the matter is settled by the courts not the National Guard. At least so far. No reason this model can’t be extended internationally though of course those who are well armed feel they can “win” so why take the chance? The answer is plain, “We end war or we end ourselves.” MLK
Image credit: the feature illustration entitled "War" was created by the author, © Tom Ferguson. See more of his work at ThinkSpeak.net.