Falling in Line

How leading companies helped the Nazi cause

“Germans today have been told to suppress their national ambitions in favor of the European Union …. But there is still a danger of falling back into the old stereotypes and prejudices which lie deep in German culture,” said Alexandra Richie in her book Faust’s Metropolis, a comprehensive history of Berlin. “There is no doubt that a proud German national identity will emerge again, whether in ten years or in fifty. The key is not to prevent it from happening, which is impossible, but to try to ensure that it does not once again become a destructive force.”

Most of Germany’s industrialized companies fell in line with the Nazi government’s war preparations before World War ii had began. You may wonder how well-established companies could “become a destructive force” in an evil government. Could it ever happen again?

Adam LeBor and Roger Boyes, co-authors of the book Surviving Hitler, explain how such a metamorphosis occurs: “The process of moral compromise within the Third Reich did not take place overnight. Rather it was a stepped accommodation, but one where the first steps were the hardest. Each subsequent one became progressively easier, as in the case of the chemical conglomerate ig Farben, which moved from being demonized in the Nazi press before 1933 as a ‘Jewish’ firm, to a decade later, running its own dedicated concentration camp at Auschwitz iii” (Times, Oct. 16).