Nazi Billionaires

ABOVE: Ferdinand Porsche, creator of the Volkswagen Beetle, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche automobiles, presents Hitler with a model car.

According to Wikipedia: “Hitler considered Czechs subhuman. Porsche was urged to apply for German citizenship in 1934. A few days later, he indeed filed a declaration giving up the Czechoslovak citizenship at a Czechoslovak consulate in Stuttgart. In 1937, he joined the Nazi Party (becoming member no. 5,643,287) as well as the SS. By 1938, he was using the SS as security personnel and drivers at his factory, and later set up a special unit called SS Sturmwerk Volkswagen. In 1942, he reached the rank of SS-Oberfuhrer, and during the war, he was further decorated with the SS-Ehrenring and awarded the War Merit Cross… Porsche produced a heavy tank design in 1942, the VK4501 also known as Tiger (P).

Panzerjager Tiger

Panzerjager Tiger (couortesy of the Tank Museum, UK.

Due to the complex nature of the drive system, a competing design from was was chosen for production instead. Ninety chassis that had already been built were converted into self-propelled anti-tank guns; these were put into service in 1943 as the Panzerjager Tiger (P) and known by the nickname “Ferdinand”…On 15 December 1945, French authorities arrested Porsche, Anton Piech and Ferry Porsche as war criminals. While Ferry was freed after 6 months, Ferdinand and Anton were imprisoned first in Baden-Baden and then in Paris and Dijon…

The legal circumstances of Piëch and Porsche’s imprisonment and trial could be largely apportioned to Ferdinand Porsche’s contribution to his country’s war effort. In the Porsche family’s own account, the affair was a thinly veiled attempt at extorting money and forcing them to collaborate with Renault.

But the family was deceptive about the use of forced labour and the size of their wartime operation. It was later shown that approximately 300 forced laborers were employed, including Poles and Russians. During the war, it was common practice for German factories of this size (about 1000 workers) to use what was essentially slave labour, often with Slavic prisoners of war, who were frequently worked to death. The post-war French government required a payment of one million francs, variously described as ransom or bail, for the release of Piëch and Porsche. Initially unable to obtain this amount of money, the family eventually raised it…”

Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche

Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche (Photo courtesy Porsche)

Porsche was imprisoned for 22 months before his son, Ferry Porsche, was able to buy his freedom. In 1948, Ferdinand and his son Ferry formed the Porsche automobile company we know today, called Porsche AG.

While John McCloy’s post-war policy of favouring appeasement over justice — liberating Nazi industrialists who were convicted of war crimes — did not directly account for the release of Ferdinand Porsche in particular, it was unmistakably McCloy who engineered and implemented the precedent whereby the reinvigoration of the German economy, in concert with western powers, was deemed more important than ensuring Nazis ought to be held responsible for the incarceration, forced labour and/or murder of more than six million Jews.

de Jong, David.  Nazi Billionaires: The Dark History of Germany’s Wealthiest Dynasties (Harper Collins 2022)