Union Banking Corporation
Early in 1924, Hendrick J. Kouwenhoven, the managing director
of Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart, traveled to New York to meet
with Walker and the Harriman brothers. Together, they established
The Union Banking Corporation. The UBC's headquarters was located
at the same 39 Broadway address as Harriman & Co.
As the German economy recovered through the mid to late 20s,
Walker and Harriman's firm sold over $50,000,000 worth of German
bonds to American investors, who profited enormously from the economic
boom in Germany. In 1926, August Thyssen died at the age of 84.
Fritz was now in control of one of the largest industrial families
in Europe. He quickly created the United Steel Works (USW), the
biggest industrial conglomerate in German history. Thyssen hired
Albert Volger, one of the Ruhr's most influential industrial directors,
as director General of USW.
Thyssen also brought Fredich Flick, another German family juggernaut,
on board. Flick owned coal and steel industries throughout Germany
and Poland and desperately wanted to invest into the Thyssen empire.
One of the primary motivations for the Thyssen/Flick massive steel
and coal merger was suppressing the new labor and socialist movements.
That year in New York, George Walker decided to give his new son
in law, Prescott Bush, a big break. Walker made Bush a vice president
of Harriman & Co. Prescott's new office employed many of his
classmates from his Yale class of 1917, including Roland Harriman
and Knight Woolley. The three had been close friends at Yale and
were all members of Skull and Bones, the mysterious on-campus secret
society. Despite the upbeat fraternity atmosphere at Harriman & Co.,
it was also a place of hard work, and no one worked harder than
In fact, Walker hired Bush to help him supervise the new Thyssen/Flick
United Steel Works. One section of the USW empire was the Consolidated
Silesian Steel Corporation and the Upper Silesian Coal and Steel
Company located in the Silesian section of Poland. Thyssen and
Flick paid Bush and Walker generously, but it was worth every dime.
Their new business arrangement pleased them all financially, and
the collective talents of all four men and their rapid success
astonished the business world.
In the meantime Hitler and the Nazi party were broke. Since the
German economic recovery, members and donations had dried up, leaving
the Nazi movement withering on the vine. In 1927, Hitler was desperate
for cash; his party was slipping into debt. Hitler told his private
secretary Rudolf Hess to shake down wealthy coal tycoon and Nazi
sympathizer Emil Kirdorf. Kirdorf paid off Hitler's debt that year
but the following year, he too had no money left to contribute.
In 1928, Hitler had his eyes on the enormous Barlow Palace located
in Briennerstrasse, the most aristocratic section of Munich. Hitler
wanted to convert the palace into the Nazi national headquarters
and change its name to the Brown House but it was out of his price
range. Hitler told Hess to contact Thyssen. After hearing the Hess
appeal, Thyssen felt it was time to give Hitler a second chance.
Through the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart, Thyssen said he "placed
Hess in possession of the required funds" to purchase and
redesign the Palace. Thyssen later said the amount was about 250,000
marks but leading Nazis later claimed that just the re-molding
cost over 800,000 marks (equivalent to $2 million today).
Regardless of the cost, Hitler and Thyssen became close friends
after the purchase of the Brown House. At the time, neither knew
how influential that house was to become the following year when,
in 1929, the great depression spread around the world. With the
German economic recovery up in flames, Hitler knew there was going
to be a line out the door of industrialists waiting to give him
1930s: Hitler Rises Thyssen/Bush Cash In
Thyssen would later try to claim that his weekends with Hitler
and Hess at his Rhineland castles were not personal but strictly
business and that he did not approve of most of Hitler's ideas,
but the well-known journalist R.G Waldeck, who spent time with
Thyssen at a spa in the Black Forest, remembered quite differently.
Waldeck said when he and Thyssen would walk through the cool Black
Forest in 1929-30, Thyssen would tell Waldeck that he believed
in Hitler. He spoke of Hitler "with warmth" and said
the Nazis were "new men" that would make Germany strong
again. With the depression bleeding Europe, Thyssen's financial
support made Hitler's rise to power almost inevitable.
The great depression also rocked Harriman & Co. The following
year, Harriman & Co. merged with the London firm Brown/Shipley.
Brown/Shipley kept its name, but Harriman & Co. changed its
name to Brown Brothers, Harriman. The new firm moved to 59 Wall
St. while UBC stayed at 39 Broadway. Averell Harriman and Prescott
Bush reestablished a holding company called The Harriman 15 Corporation.
One of the companies Harriman had held stock in was the Consolidated
Silesian Steel Company. Two thirds of the company was owned by
Friedrich Flick. The rest was owned by Harriman.
In December 1931, Fritz Thyssen officially joined the Nazi party.
When Thyssen joined the movement, the Nazi party was gaining critical
mass around Germany. The charismatic speeches and persona of Hitler,
the depression and the Thyssen's Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart
all contributed to Hitler's sudden rise in popularity with the
In September 1932, Thyssen invited a group of elite German industrial
tycoons to his castle to meet with Hitler. They spent hours questioning
Hitler, who answered all their questions with the'"utmost
satisfaction," Thyssen remembered. The money poured in from
the industrial circles mostly due to Hitler's "monarchistic
attitude" towards labor and issues of class.
But by November, German voters grew weary of Hitler's antidemocratic
tendencies and turned to the Communist party, which gained the
most seats in the fall election. The Nazis lost a sweeping 35 seats
in the Reichstag, but since the Nazis were already secretly negotiating
a power sharing alliance with Hindenberg that would ultimately
lead to Hitler declaring himself dictator, the outcry of German
voters was politically insignificant.
By 1934, Hindenberg was dead and Hitler completely controlled
Germany. In March, Hitler announced his plans for a vast new highway
system. He wanted to connect the entire Reich with an unprecedented
wide road design, especially around major ports. Hitler wanted
to bring down unemployment but, more importantly, needed the new
roads for speedy military maneuvers.
Hitler also wanted to seriously upgrade Germany's military machine.
Hitler ordered a'"rebirth of the German army" and contracted
Thyssen and United Steel Works for the overhaul. Thyssen's steel
empire was the cold steel heart of the new Nazi war machine that
led the way to World War II, killing millions across Europe.
Thyssen's and Flick's profits soared into the hundreds of millions
in 1934 and the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart and UBC in New
York were overflowing with money. Prescott Bush became managing
director of UBC and handled the day-to-day operations of the new
German economic plan. Bush's shares in UBC peaked with Hitler's
new German order. But while production rose, cronyism did as well.
On March 19, 1934, Prescott Bush handed Averell Harriman a copy
of that day's New York Times. The Polish government was applying
to take over Consolidated Silesian Steel Corporation and Upper
Silesian Coal and Steel Company from'"German and American
interests" because of rampant "mismanagement, excessive
borrowing, fictitious bookkeeping and gambling in securities." The
Polish government required the owners of the company, which accounted
for over 45% of Poland's steel production, to pay at least its
full share of back taxes. Bush and Harriman would eventually hire
attorney John Foster Dulles to help cover up any improprieties
that might arise under investigative scrutiny.
Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939 ended the debate about Consolidated
Silesian Steel Corporation and Upper Silesian Coal and Steel Company.
The Nazis knocked the Polish Government off Thyssen, Flick and
Harriman's steel company and were planning to replace the paid
workers. Originally Hitler promised Stalin they would share Poland
and use Soviet prisoners as slaves in Polish factories. Hitler's
promise never actually materialized and he eventually invaded Russia.
1940s: Business As Usual
Consolidated Silesian Steel Corporation was located near the Polish
town of Oswiecim, one of Poland's richest mineral regions. That
was where Hitler set up the Auschwitz concentration camp. When
the plan to work Soviet prisoners fell through, the Nazis transferred
Jews, communists, gypsies and other minority populations to the
camp. The prisoners of Auschwitz who were able to work were shipped
to 30 different companies. One of the companies was the vast Consolidated
Silesian Steel Corporation.
"Nobody's made the connection before between Consolidated
Silesian Steel Corporation, Auschwitz and Prescott Bush," John
Loftus told Clamor.
"That was the reason why Auschwitz was built there. The coal
deposits could be processed into either coal or additives for aviation
Even though Thyssen and Flick's Consolidated Steel was in their
possession, Hitler's invasions across Europe spooked them, bringing
back memories of World War I. Thyssen and Flick sold Consolidated
Steel to UBC. Under the complete control of Harriman and management
of Bush, the company became Silesian American Corporation which
became part of UBC and Harriman's portfolio of 15 corporations.
Thyssen quickly moved to Switzerland and later France to hide from
the terror about to be unleashed by the Nazi war machine he had
A portion of the slave labor force in Poland was "managed
by Prescott Bush," according to a Dutch intelligence agent.
In 1941, slave labor had become the lifeblood of the Nazi war machine.
The resources of Poland's rich steel and coal field played an essential
part in Hitler's invasion of Europe.
According to Higham, Hitler and the Fraternity of American businessmen "not
only sought a continuing alliance of interests for the duration
of World War II, but supported the idea of a negotiated peace with
Germany that would bar any reorganization of Europe along liberal
lines. It would leave as its residue a police state that would
place the Fraternity in postwar possession of financial, industrial,
and political autonomy."
Six days after Pearl Harbor and the US declaration of war at the
end of 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Secretary of the
Treasury Henry Morgenthau and US Attorney General Francis Biddle
signed the Trading With the Enemy Act, which banned any business
interests with US enemies of war. Prescott Bush continued with
business as usual, aiding the Nazi invasion of Europe and supplying
resources for weaponry that would eventually be turned on American
solders in combat against Germany.
On October 20, 1942, the U.S. government had had enough of Prescott
Bush and his Nazi business arrangements with Thyssen. Over the
summer, The New York Tribune had exposed Bush and Thyssen, whom
the Tribune dubbed "Hitler's Angel." When the US government
saw UBC's books, they found out that Bush's bank and its shareholders "are
held for the benefit of ... members of the Thyssen family, [and]
is property of nationals ... of a designated enemy country." The
list of seven UBC share holders was:
E. Roland Harriman 3991 shares
Cornelis Lievense 4 shares
Harold D.Pennington 1 share
Ray Morris 1 share
Prescott S. Bush 1 share
H.J. Kouwenhoven 1 share
Johann G. Groeninger 1 share
The UBC books also revealed the myriad of money and holding companies
funneled from the Thyssens and the government realized UBC was
just the tip of the iceberg. On November 17, 1942, The US government
also took over the Silesian American Corporation, but did not prosecute
Bush for the reasons Higham noted earlier. The companies were allowed
to operate within the Government Alien Property custodian office
with a catch no aiding the Nazis. In 1943, while still owning
his stock, Prescott Bush resigned from UBC and even helped raise
money for dozens of war-related causes as chairman of the National
After the war, the Dutch government began investigating the whereabouts
of some jewelry of the Dutch royal family that was stolen by the
Nazis. They started looking into books of the Bank voor Handel
en Scheepvaart. When they discovered the transaction papers of
the Silesian American Corporation, they began asking the bank manager
H.J. Kounhoven a lot of questions. Kouwenhoven was shocked at the
discovery and soon traveled to New York to inform Prescott Bush.
According to Dutch intelligence, Kouwenhoven met with Prescott
soon after Christmas, 1947. Two weeks later, Kouwenhoven apparently
died of a heart attack.
1950s: Bush Sells UBC Stock
By 1948, Fritz Thyssen's life was in ruins. After being jailed
by the Nazis, he was jailed by the Allies and interrogated extensively,
but not completely, by US investigators. Thyssen and Flick were
ordered to pay reparations and served time in prison for their
atrocious crimes against humanity.
On February 8, 1951, Fritz Thyssen died bitterly in Argentina
at the age of 78. Thyssen was angry at the way he was treated by
Europe after the war and how history would remember him as Hitler's
most important and prominent financier.
When Thyssen died, the Alien Property Custodian released the assets
of the Union Banking Corporation to Brown Brothers Harriman. The
remaining stockholders cashed in their stocks and quietly liquidated
the rest of UBC's blood money.
Prescott Bush received $1.5 million for his share in UBC. That
money enabled Bush to help his son, George Herbert Walker Bush,
to set up his first royalty firm, Overby Development Company, that
same year. It was also helpful when Prescott Bush left the business
world to enter the public arena in 1952 with a successful senatorial
campaign in Connecticut. On October 8th, 1972, Prescott Bush died
of cancer and his will was enacted soon after.
In 1980, when George H.W. Bush was elected vice president, he
placed his father's family inherence in a blind trust. The trust
was managed by his old friend and quail hunting partner, William "Stamps" Farish
III. Bush's choice of Farish to manage the family wealth is quite
revealing in that it demonstrates that the former president might
know exactly where some of his inheritance originated. Farish's
grandfather, William Farish Jr., on March 25th, 1942, pleaded "no
contest" to conspiring with Nazi Germany while president of
Standard Oil in New Jersey. He was described by Senator Harry Truman
in public of approaching "treason" for profiting off
the Nazi war machine. Standard Oil, invested millions in IG Farben,
who opened a gasoline factory within Auschwitz in 1940. The billions "Stamps" inherited
had more blood on it then Bush, so the paper trail of UBC stock
would be safe during his 12 years in presidential politics.
It has been 60 years since one of the great money laundering scandals
of the 20th century ended and only now are we beginning to see
the true historical aspects of this important period of world history,
a history that the remaining Holocaust survivors beg humanity to "never
Loftus believes history will view Prescott Bush as harshly as
Thyssen. "It is bad enough that the Bush family helped raise
the money for Thyssen to give Hitler his start in the 1920s, but
giving aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war is treason.
The Bush bank helped the Thyssens make the Nazi steel that killed
Allied solders. As bad as financing the Nazi war machine may seem,
aiding and abetting the Holocaust was worse. Thyssen's coal mines
used Jewish slaves as if they were disposable chemicals. There
are six million skeletons in the Thyssen family closet, and a myriad
of criminal and historical questions to be answered about the Bush
There is no question that the Bush family needs to donate at least
$1.5 million to the proper holocaust reparation fund. Since Prescott
Bush is dead, the only way to compensate is for the main inheritors
of his estate to make amends with surviving slaves and the families
of slaves who died in Bush and Thyssen's coal mines. If the Bush
family refuses to contribute the money to compensate for Prescott
Bush's involvement in the Holocaust, it is like denying the Holocaust
itself and their role in one of the darkest moments in world history.
Special thanks to John Loftus, Emmy winning journalist, author
and current president of the Florida Holocaust Museum.
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