There are a plethora of works detailing the history of German businesses in Nazi Germany, 1 but few of them, if even involved in the subterranean dispersal project, discuss the plans to move underground. Neil Gregor’s work on a German automobile and engine company, Daimler-Benz in the Third Reich, and others like it, 2 provide a slight, but preliminary, foundation for understanding the underground dispersal project from both the Nazi as well as a business perspective. A look at how Gregor treats the underground dispersal projects is exemplary, and shows how there is much left to be researched about the projects as a whole.

As industrial and Nazi leaders were finally forced to address the issue of defending their factories, they found their efforts, particularly in relation to underground dispersal, severely inhibited. In his study of Daimler-Benz, Gregor argues that much of this company’s effort to move several factories underground ended up in vain as each project was continually beset by technical failures and overly ambitious plans. In most cases, tunnels were expected to be completed months after initial locations were chosen, but it usually took that long simply to finalize building plans, gain official approval, and begin actual work. The Daimler-Benz projects suffered from lack of building material, laborers (both civilian and military skilled workers as well as slave labor provided by the SS), and, as Gregor aptly states, “the lack of realism.” 3 Gregor surmises that the underground dispersal program as a whole “was based on assumptions which were initially at least optimistic and increasingly the product of fantasy.” 4 As is seen in many other aspects of military preparation and planning, Nazi leaders had falsely led themselves to believe in grandiose plans for salvation in the face of defeat.

In analyzing the underground dispersal of Daimler-Benz, Gregor asks if the process was successful. Did the underground factories spare machinery from destruction and keep production running? Gregor concludes that statistical records do not provide enough information to determine how many machines were destroyed in each of Daimler-Benz’s plants specifically, but does show that the overall productive capacity of the majority of the factories were usable after the war. This may be a reason that Daimler-Benz put so much money and effort into dispersal, even as late as January and February of 1945. Obviously, no one knew how long the war would last at that time, but it was certain to many that it might be ending soon. Why then would business owners waste time, money and effort on moving factories? Practically put, business owners wanted to stay in business after the war. In order to do so without large rebuilding costs, they would need to have machinery that worked. As seen with the example of officials at the Daimler-Benz company, decisions to disperse were as much a desire to have the ability for post-war production, as they were to supply armaments during the war. 5

Books similar to Daimler-Benz in the Third Reich focus on a single industry or company, and understandably only tell the history of the tunnel project with which that company was involved, and describe the relationship with the Nazi organizations only as far as that business was concerned. Determining what is available shows the need for a work that spans multiple companies and building projects in order to gain a broader and deeper understanding of the underground dispersal projects.

Only a handful of works, all in German, focus on a single dispersal project and only marginally cover the breadth of the dispersal program. Bertrand Perz’s Projekt Quarz: Steyr-Daimler-Puch Und Das Konzentrationslager Melk, provides one of the only scholarly works published on one of the dispersal programs, which focuses on one project in Melk, Austria. Perz’s book will be invaluable for gleaming primary sources and helping to contextualize the dispersal program. The other monograph of an underground project is Richard – unterirdische Fabrik und Konzentrationslager bei Litoměřice : Mahnmal Terezín, by Jiří Křivský. No English works have been found that describe in detail the Nazi dispersal program as a whole.

Other insights can be gained from books that deal with other, yet related, topics. Books such as Yves Beon’s Planet Dora: A Memoir of the Holocaust and the Birth of the Space Age, Stuart Eizenstat’s Imperfect Justice: Looted Assets, Slave Labor, and the Unfinished Business of World War II, and Wolf Gruner’s Jewish Forced Labor Under the Nazis: Economic Needs and Racial Aims, 1938-1944, will provide understanding from the viewpoint of the slave laborers, forced, in many instances, to carve tunnels out of the mountains or otherwise work the underground factories in debilitating and inhumane conditions.

Other topics of related interest include monumental and technically advanced building projects undertaken by the Nazi government, such as the Autobahn, the Atlantic Wall, Project Riese, the redesign of Berlin, and building the first jet airplane and ballistic missiles. Helpful in studying the apparent fascination of Nazi leaders to build technically advanced but often unrealistic projects are works like Paul Jaskot, The architecture of oppression: the SS, forced labor and the Nazi monumental building economy, Michael Neufeld, The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era and Klaus Muller Deckname Lachs: Die Geschichte der unterirdischen Fertigung der Me 262 im Walpersberg bei Kahla 1944-45. Comparing the dispersal projects to other grandiose building plans will help place the tunnel projects within the overall plan of the Nazi building agenda.

A study of German economics before and during World War II will also provide a needed layer of understanding the process of creating the dispersal project. Businesses involved in the projects were more often than not interested in the economic bottom line and not the progression and improvement of the German war machine. There already exists a large body of secondary works that deal with the economics of World War II, 6 and these will be helpful in weaving an accurate tapestry to frame the dispersal projects. Other works examine other uses of tunnels and bunkers by the Nazis, such as storage of stolen art. 7

With a lack of scholarly works detailing the dispersal projects as a whole, there is, as yet, an incomplete picture of three themes that this dissertation seeks to complete. Reaction to air attacks on German civil and industrial targets by the Reich and Nazi government have been covered in many books, but including the underground dispersal projects might show that a major source of economic resources were belatedly spent on protecting the war production infrastructure from Allied bombing. Such a finding would alter some theories that Hitler was ambivalent to the air attacks, showing that he did desire to protect against them, but that his efforts were grossly misplaced. A second aspect to be explored is the collaboration of German businessmen and Nazi party leaders. Several books have been written on the connection to Nazi business practices and the practice of German companies to do business with the Nazi government, and the dissertation will illuminate some connections while confirming others. Finally, this study will increase the known perpetrators and collaborators of slave labor, but more importantly share the story of those who were forced to work for German government and businesses in building underground factories.

Notes:

  1. Michael Thad Allen, The Business of Genocide: The SS, Slave Labor, and the Concentration Camps (Chapel Hill, N.C: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); Bernard P Bellon, Mercedes in Peace and War: German Automobile Workers, 1903- 1945 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990); Yves Beon, Planet Dora: A Memoir of the Holocaust and the Birth of the Space Age (Boulder, Colo: WestviewPress, 1997); Reinhold Billstein, Working for the Enemy: Ford, General Motors, and Forced Labor in Germany During the Second World War (New York: Berghahn Books, 2000); Edwin Black, IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation, 1st ed. (New York: Crown Publishers, 2001); Edwin Black, Nazi Nexus: America’s Corporate Connections to Hitler’s Holocaust (Washington, D.C: Dialog Press, 2009); Networks of Nazi Persecution: Bureaucracy, Business, and the Organization of the Holocaust (New York: Berghahn Books, 2005); Neil Forbes, Doing Business with the Nazis: Britain’s Economic and Financial Relations with Germany, 1931-1939 (London: Frank Cass, 2000); Neil Gregor, Daimler-Benz in the Third Reich (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998); A. R. L Gurland, The Fate of Small Business in Nazi Germany (New York: H. Fertig, 1975); Peter Hayes, Industry and Ideology: IG Farben in the Nazi Era (Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Harold James, The Deutsche Bank and the Nazi Economic War Against the Jews: The Expropriation of Jewish-Owned Property (Cambrige: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Diarmuid Jeffreys, Hell’s Cartel: IG Farben and the Making of Hitler’s War Machine (New York, NY: Metropolitan Books/ Henry Holt, 2010); Wolfgang Konig, “Adolf Hitler vs. Henry Ford: The Volkswagen, the Role of America as a Model, and the Failure of a Nazi Consumer Society,” German Studies Review 27, no. 2 (May 2004): 249-268; Louis Paul Lochner, Tycoons and Tyrant; German Industry from Hitler to Adenauer (Chicago: H. Regnery Co, 1954); State-Corporate Crime: Wrongdoing at the Intersection of Business and Government, Critical issues in crime and society (New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 2006); Bertrand Perz, Projekt Quarz: Steyr-Daimler-Puch Und Das Konzentrationslager Melk, Industrie, Zwangsarbeit und Konzentrationslager in Österreich (Wien: Verlag für Gesellschaftskritik, 1991); Raymond G. Stokes, “The Oil Industry in Nazi Germany, 1936-1945,” The Business History Review 59, no. 2 (Summer 1985): 254-277; Business and Politics in Europe, 1900-1970: Essays in Honour of Alice Teichova, Cambridge studies in early modern British history (Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Henry Ashby Turner, General Motors and the Nazis: The Struggle for Control of Opel, Europe’s Biggest Carmaker (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005); William Ungar, Only in America: From Holocaust to National Industry Leadership (Jersey City, N.J: KTAV publishing house, 2005).
  2. Black, IBM and the Holocaust; Hayes, Industry and Ideology; James, The Deutsche Bank and the Nazi Economic War Against the Jews; Jeffreys, Hell’s Cartel; Turner, General Motors and the Nazis; Billstein, Working for the Enemy.
  3. Gregor, Daimler-Benz in the Third Reich, 230 Gregor’s description of the tunnel projects is found on pages 218-244.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., 245-246.
  6. Avraham Barkai, Nazi Economics: Ideology, Theory, and Policy (Oxford: Berg, 1990); Berenice A Carroll, Design for Total War. Arms and Economics in the Third Reich (The Hague: Mouton, 1968); Dietrich Eichholtz, Krieg Und Wirtschaft: Studien Zur Deutschen Wirtschaftsgeschichte 1939-1945, Nationalsozialistische Besatzungspolitik in Europa 1939-1945 Bd. 9 (Berlin: Metropol, 1999); Forbes, Doing Business with the Nazis; Enno Georg, Die Wirtschaftlichen Unternehmungen Der SS (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1963); Nicholas Kaldor, “The German War Economy,” The Review of Economic Studies 13, no. 1 (1945): 33-52; Alfred C Mierzejewski, The Collapse of the German War Economy, 1944-1945: Allied Air Power and the German National Railway (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988); Alan S Milward, The German Economy at War (London: University of London, Athlone Press, 1965); R. J. Overy, “Transportation and Rearmament in the Third Reich,” The Historical Journal 16, no. 2 (June 1973): 389-409; R. J. Overy, “Mobilization for Total War in Germany 1939-1941,” The English Historical Review 103, no. 408 (July 1988): 613-639; R. J Overy, War and Economy in the Third Reich (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994); Jan Erik Schulte, Zwangsarbeit Und Vernichtung: Das Wirtschaftsimperium Der SS: Oswald Pohl Und Das SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt 1933-1945 (Paderborn: F. Schöningh, 2001); Albert Speer, Industrial Mobilization and Design and Development of aircraft in Nazi Germany (Aircraft Industries Association [distributor], 1945); J. Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy, 1st ed. (New York: Viking, 2007); Rolf Wagenführ, Die Deutsche Industrie Im Kriege 1939-1945, 2nd ed. (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1963).
  7. Stuart Eizenstat, Imperfect Justice: Looted Assets, Slave Labor, and the Unfinished Business of World War II, 1st ed. (New York: Public Affairs, 2003); Arthur Lee Smith, Hitler’s Gold: The Story of the Nazi War Loot (Oxford [England]: Berg, 1989); Melissa Müller, Lost Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft, and the Quest for Justice (New York: Vendome Press, 2010); Robert M Edsel, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, 1st ed. (New York: Center Street, 2009).

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