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Among the Nazis’ first actions after taking power was to dismantle the German trade unions and labour power. By March 1933 the first concentration camp was erected at Dachau, soon to be followed by others, where numerous communists, socialists and other undesirables were interned. The German masses were thereafter transformed largely into devoted followers of Hitler, subjected regularly to Nazi propaganda; much of the techniques of which Gauleiter of Berlin Joseph Goebbels had learnt in the 1920s from Edward Bernays, the influential American propaganda merchant.
Image on the right: Irénée du Pont (Fair use)
The Third Reich’s destruction of the left, along with Hitler’s stated intention to preserve big business, was welcomed by corporate managers. Before Hitler had even come to power, his views had drawn approval abroad from leading industrialists; like the American tycoon Irénée du Pont, a proponent of racial superiority and until 1925 the president of chemical multinational DuPont; and Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, a fervent anti-Semite who in the early 1920s wrote ‘The International Jew: The World’s Problem’.
A number of business moguls in America were overtly anti-Semitic, and Hitler’s rants against the supposed Jewish problem met with their approval. Ford’s writings in fact seem to have influenced Hitler and other Nazis like Baldur von Schirach, future head of the Hitler Youth. At the Nuremberg trials in May 1946, von Schirach said he had read Ford’s above work “and became anti-Semitic. In those days this book made such a deep impression on my friends and myself, because we saw in Henry Ford the representative of success”.
Ford himself was providing funds to the Nazi Party since the 1920s, when it was a miniscule political organisation (1). Hitler kept a life-size portrait of Ford behind his desk in Munich, and in 1931 the Nazi leader told a Detroit news reporter, “I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration”. Each year Ford also sent money to Hitler personally on his birthday through Swiss or Swedish banks, between around 10,000 to 20,000 Reichsmarks annually. These payments to Hitler continued until 1944,