Review: Traitors

TraitorsTraitors by Frank Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have often wondered, did the multi-national companies who aided Nazi Germany know what they were doing, or did they hang their heads in sorrow and shame and hope for mercy when they found out at the end of the war?

Well, how stupid of me. They knew. And they happily took Hitler’s stolen gold in payment.

Take Standard Oil, the giant American petroleum corporation that gave the formula for synthetic rubber to Nazi Germany rather than to its own country. But when the US government laid charges against it, its CEO forced them to drop the matter because, it said, the Allies would lose the war without Standard Oil. So, after paying a minuscule fine (and finally providing the US with the formula), this ‘American’ company continued to supply both sides. No wonder the ‘baby Standards’ today, Exxon, Chevron, and Amoco, get away with so much: it’s in their charter.

Or take IBM. Its CEO was awarded, personally by Hitler, a swastika-bedecked ‘Order of the German Eagle with Star’. Why? Because IBM leased thousands of punch-card machines (computer forerunners) to the Nazis from the time Hitler won power to the end of the war. For thirteen years IBM knew their machines were identifying everyone Hitler wanted killed. IBM helped round them up and send them to the deadly concentration camps, even classified their deaths. How do we know they knew what they were doing? Because IBM developed the telltale string-codes: first three digits for the concentration camp name (Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, etc); more digits for reason for imprisonment (Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, antisocials, etc); even a digit for manner of death (execution, suicide, gas chamber, starvation, disease, even worked to death). They knew exactly what Hitler was paying them good money for. IBM even did the concentration camp rounds every two weeks to service the machines! Somehow managing to keep their lunches down in the process.

Everyone involved knew what was going on. Plausible denial is not at all plausible. And it wasn’t just in the Nazi theatre:

The US government used those same IBM machines to round up civilians of Japanese descent for the western version of race prejudice and war hysteria. And the IBM fatcats happily took all the profits and became literally ‘filthy’ rich off these extraordinary miseries too.

Or take the Australian dockworkers in 1938 who refused to load pig iron on a ship bound for Japan, as it would be used to make weapons to conquer the south seas – the seemingly unstoppable Japanese forces had already invaded China and killed over a million Chinese troops. But the ‘big Australian’, the ‘quiet achiever’ BHP literally demanded its right to earn a huge profit. It sacked 4000 workers and cried for government help. In a dictatorial step, the Australian Prime Minister himself forced the workers to load the ship. How much of that pig iron was fired back at our brave troops in New Guinea we will probably never know.

These examples are just a sample of what Walker has put together in this mind-blowing exposĂ© on the hidden priorities of our leaders and our corporations in times of war, and the cold hearts of the manufacturers of Hitler’s ovens. It makes me wonder how their priorities could be any kinder in times of peace.

It is the kind of book that will never be taught in schools – it raises too many hard questions and threatens a way of life very comfortable for some. But if German schoolchildren have to tour the Camps, then we have to read this.

Gutsy, ballsy, and heartbreaking; this is a must-read.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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