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Ernst Poensgen (Director General of the Vereinigte Stahlwerke A.G., member of the Board of the Federation of German Industries and of the Franco-German Rapprochement Committee, President of the Economic Group Iron Producing Industry and Director of a great number of firms, such as chemical and engineering works and coal mines), has recently written a brief survey of his experiences with reference to the relationship between the Ruhr industrialists and the National Socialist Party. Although intended as a defence of the Ruhr industrialists, it strikingly demonstrates that in spite of numerous conflicts with the Nazis, the industrialists as a group toed the Party line on all important issues. The arrest of the forty Ruhr industrialists which has recently taken place was therefore a measure of special importance and urgency. Even had none of these gentlemen ever been a member of the National Socialist Party, this party could have never lived and prospered had it not been for the voluntary help of the industrialists. It is important to note - although the employers' organisations may have been reluctant to subsidize the Nazi Party - as Poensgen stated - Thyssen and Kirdorf, to quote only two cases in point, gave millions to Hitler. And that was sufficient to finance the political struggle.
When in May, 1942 the "National Steel Association" (Reichsvereinigung Eisen) was founded, the Minister for National Economy Funk relieved me of my duties as the leader of the Economic Group Steel Producing Industry (Wirtschaftsgruppe Eisen schaffende Industrie). At the same time I laid down my post as chairman of the Board of Vereinigte Stahlwerke A.G.
Since then I have been repeatedly approached both by officials and by private individuals to write my memoirs. So far I always felt I should decline this: firstly because all my documents were destroyed during an air-raid on Duesseldorf, and I therefore have to rely exclusively upon my memory; and secondly, because I was afraid I should write too subjectively.
What made me change my mind now - in February, 1945 - was an article in the "Iron and Coal Trades Review" of October 20th, 1944, a German translation of which has just reached me. This article is a book review dealing with a publication by Professor Hexner of the Carolina University, called "The international Steel Cartel". I know this book solely through the review under discussion, which describes Professor Hexner as the representative of the Czech Steel Industry on the Board of the Cartel. This statement is incorrect, Hexner was not on the Board. I would have known this, as since the foundation of the
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Cartel until the outbreak of the war I was one of its three vice-chairmen and the leader of the German group. Apart from this misstatement, however, it appears from the review that the book is fairly correct and objective.
In the book review - not in the original text of Hexner's work - I found the following passage: "It is said that the cartels are too strong a competition for the big British and American firms, and that Hitler is making use of them to attain world domination. Whether one considers Hitler to be an outstanding personality or not, one fact is undeniable: the Prussian Junkers and the Ruhr industrialists stand (or, at any rate, stood) behind him. His avowed protector and financial advisor was Fritz Thyssen, one of the two main figures of the first International Steel Agreement of 1926 (the other was Dr. Emil Mayrisch of Luxembourg)."
Concerning the attitude to Hitler of the Ruhr industrialists and of some other big industrialists I would like to report from my own experience:
When Hitler came to power I was the chairman of the Employers' Federation North-West, chairman of the Association of German Iron and Steel Industrialists, chairman of the Pig Iron Association (Rohstahlgemeinschaft) and a member of the Berlin Executive Organisations (Spitzenverbaende).
To-day, in my seventy-fourth year, I live in retirement in the Tyrols, without any contact with Germany proper. I am dependent on no man's favour; I can afford to tell the truth.
The periodical ,,The Iron and Coal Trades Review" seemed to be disappointed at not having found a proof in Professor Hexner's book that the Steel Cartel was founded by the Germans "for attaining world domination". Such a statement would, however, be at variance with the facts. When the Cartel was founded, in 1926, there was hardly a steel industrialist, probably not even Fritz Thyssen, who knew the name of Hitler, nor his book "Mein Kampf". The steel industry was economically and financially badly off. We were just on the point of obtaining loans from America. "Revenge" and schemes of conquest were far from our minds.
The reasons for the creation of the international Pig Iron Association are quite correctly stated by Hexner. The cessation of free imports and the re-erection of the German custom barrier in the West on January 1st, 1925, made it desirable for the steel industry of the Western Powers to come to an agreement regarding the future exports to Germany and about the deliveries of the Saar Basin. To the Steel Works Association (Stahlwerks-Verband) which took over these deliveries at German home market price and forwarded them to the consumers, this agreement assured the adaptation of foreign imports to the needs of the German home market and the end of price undercutting, as practiced hitherto. At the same time a contract was made with ARBED in Luxembourg regarding supplies of half-finished goods to their works situated in Germany; thus ARBED could dispense with rebuilding its steel works "Rote Erde" near Aachen. These negotiations led to the first discussions regarding the delimitation of competition.
At first production agreements were tried - a measure which we Germans in our home experience had found to be ineffective, and have therefore substituted by quota agreements. Although these first attempts, even after several adjustments, proved abortive as they were made during a slump (the price of rolled steel had fallen at
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that time to 2½), there was still a positive side to them: the leading men from the former enemy countries got to know one another during the conferences, they learned to respect and trust each other and some of them became friends. Thus the basis was laid for the export quota cartel (Exportquotenkartell) which came into force in 1933. We often met in London after the British had joined the Cartel under the leadership of Sir Andrew Duncan, who later became a Cabinet Minister.
After the ineffective production agreement (in 1926), Fritz Thyssen no longer co-operated in the international Pig Iron Association.
The representatives of the International Steel Cartels met at short intervals in the various member countries to discuss questions of common interest. Whatever problems and differences of opinion cropped up were always settled in a spirit of friendship; mutual respect for the difficulties of the various groups prevailed. It probably never occurred to any of the participants that the German group would exploit the International Steel Cartels for making preparations for another war, least of all to the German representatives themselves.
The members of the International Cartels were rightly convinced that these discussions would further the understanding between the peoples and considerably contribute to eliminating economic conflicts and their consequences. This idea was always stressed in speeches made by the representatives of the various groups during banquets. We German steel industrialists who according to the opinion prevalent to-day - an opinion based either on error or on bad will - were interested in steel armaments for a future war, were on the contrary convinced that the International Cartels substantially helped international co-operation and the safeguarding of peace.
After the statesmen had met in Godesberg and Munich we exchanged telegrams of congratulation with the British and the French. In the home of Carl Bosch (the chairman of IG-Farben) in Heidelberg we soon discussed these meetings in a circle of some twelve industrialists. On that occasion the attitude of Chamberlain and Daladier was unanimously praised.
From an economic point of view, too, the producers of all countries profited by the successes of the international association. They were no longer forced to sell below cost price. With the steel industry of the U.S.A., too, friendly relations were taken up. Representatives of that country took part in our discussions, although they did not officially join our Cartels.
The representatives of the Pig Iron Cartel met for the last time in June, 1939, for the exhibition in Liege. Another meeting was then planned for October in Munich.
In Liege the chairmen of the different groups were introduced to M. Lebrun, the French President, who visited the exhibition. The atmosphere was friendly up to the last.
The Pig Iron Association or its German group was never an instrument for attaining world domination. Hitler was never interested in that association, he probably did not even know about its existence.
During the years before Hitler came into power unemployment increased. A growing discontent throughout the nation was the con-
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sequence. The payment of reparations prevented German industry from expanding and obtaining credits. The frequently changing German governments enjoyed no authority, neither at home nor abroad, and had often to accept humiliating treatment. Last but not least, the slogans of democracy were without any attraction for the man in the street.
When Hitler's successes grew and he recruited an ever-increasing number of supporters, mainly from working class circles, his party appeared to be the only effective counter-weight against the steadily growing strength of communism. At that time there were certainly some industrialists and businessmen who preferred the National Socialist Party as a parliamentary party - not as the exponent of totalitarianism which it became only later - to communism, regarding it as the lesser evil.
The leading men of the Ruhr industry, however, took up a completely negative attitude to the National Socialist Party - with the exception of Kirdorf and Thyssen. These two were the only personalities of consequence in the Ruhr industry who favoured Hitler already before he came into power. That the Ruhr industrialists stood and still stand behind Hitler, was a conclusion drawn abroad which generalised on the attitude of these two men.
Already before the first world war Emil Kirdorf nourished a deep hatred of Wilhelm II.; he was won by Hitler at a Party conference, I seem to remember it was in 1930. Hitler's ideas impressed Kirdorf very deeply. At that time he had left his post in the management of the Coal Syndicate and of the Gelsen
kirchener Bergwerks A.G. and lived in retirement on the "Streithof". There Kirdorf arranged for the first time (it was in 1930 or 1931) a meeting between some thirty coal and steel industrialists and Hitler. Hitler gave us a long political lecture and appealed to us to withdraw our support for the Bruening government. A little later Hitler through the good offices of the the Erbprinz of Wied invited the same circle once more to Berlin. I do not think that either of these meetings secured Hitler a single new supporter. On my return I summed up my own impression in the following way: "This man does not impress me in the least".
Hitler public speeches I detested almost without exception.
Whatever one might think about Fritz Thyssen, one thing is certain: he was a courageous German. This he proved after the first world war during his arrest by Communists and Frenchmen, and by his behaviour during the Trial in Mainz from which he triumphantly returned. When and how he came to Hitler I do not know. With the intensity peculiar to him on occasions he suddenly spoke only about Hitler's aims and gave to many of his friends Hitler's "Mein Kampf". In 1932 he succeeded in having Hitler invited for a lecture by the Industrialists' Club in Duesseldorf. There it was the custom that the lecture of the main speaker was followed by a discussion speaker. When Dr. Voegler wanted to make a critical reply, Fritz Thyssen (who was Voegler's superior) prevented him from speaking and spoke himself instead, ending with a eulogy on Hitler. The impression Hitler made on me - and, as I found out, upon many of the other listeners - was the same as at the "Streithof" and in Berlin.
The following day Voegler and myself met Hitler, Goering and Roehm at Thyssen's on the "Landsberg" Estate. In the course of a walk Goering asked me, in the event of the National Socialists coming to power, to allow Grauert, the secretary of the Employers' Organisation North West, to take on the post of Minister of Labour. Grauert felt attracted by some of the social and corporative ideas of Hitler. Thyssen, too, was at that time a supporter of the corporative ideas as expounded by the Professors Othmar Spann and Heinrich (the latter was later arrested). I do not think that Thyssen had any clear
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conceptions on these problems. He was mainly concerned with bringing about a better understanding between employers and employees, and he desired to that end the dissolution of the old political and industrial organisations which should then be substituted by corporative institutions.
Before the last decisive parliamentary elections Thyssen approached Grauert and succeeded in obtaining from him a loan of 100,000 marks from the funds of the Employers' Associations; Grauert did this without asking me. Later we had unpleasant conflicts about it. These hundred thousand marks which, moreover, had never been paid down, were the only industrial subsidy to Hitler of which I know.
After coming to power Thyssen supported Hitler only for another year. He felt disappointed at Hitler's economic and financial measures, and was horrified at the ever-increasing dictatorship, thought that one of his nephews had been poisoned in Dachau, was passionately opposed to the methods of the S.S., the treatment of the Jews and the suppression of the churches. At the end he turned away from Hitler altogether and even made public utterances and committed actions tantamount to a campaign against Hitler which was, however, purposely overlooked by official quarters. When he was invited by Hitler to attend the parliamentary session on September 1st, 1939, he sent a telegram to Hitler which ran: "Cannot come. Am against any war and against any collaboration with the Soviet Union which can only lead Germany to communism." Fritz Thyssen then went abroad, was arrested in 1940 in the South of France and taken to a concentration camp. For years we lost all trace of him.
Shortly before Hitler came to power Fritz Springorum - he was then chairman of the Group North West, which post he relinquished to Fritz Thyssen in 1933 - invited a young secretary of the Federation of German Industries to give a lecture on the character of fascist corporations. Fritz Springorum energetically pointed out to the members of the Federation of German Industries that after the elections the executive must take up a clear attitude. Opinions were divided. And the statement which was subsequently made was very lukewarm.
The following day a number of leading industrialists of the Federation of German Employers' Association (Vereinigung Deutscher Arbeitgeberverbände) met in the home of Siemens and decided to keep up the contact with the trade union leaders - in defiance of Hitler and Ley. It was, however, too late, the trade union leaders were already under arrest.
The Federation of German Industries then for the first time divided up according to the corporative pattern into Main Groups and Subdivisions. Following the suggestion of the President, Krupp von Bohlen and Halbach, I was supposed to lead the Main Group I. This was, however, opposed by the National Socialist Party with whom I was not persona grata. It was only some years later that the Minister of National Economy Schacht defied the protest of the Party and appointed me to be the head of the Economic Group Iron Producing Industry (Wirtschaftsgruppe Eisen schaffende Industrie) which I had been running all the time, even without holding office.
We industrialists often discussed problems of labour legislation and the attempts of Robert Ley to influence factory management through the Labour Front. We had hoped that Rudolf Pietsch from Munich would be the right man to oppose Ley. Pietsch, a former supporter of Hitler, a very respectable man, was disgusted by the dirty machinations inside the Party and by the rise of numerous ignoramuses to fairly important posts. He was, however, too much of a theoretician and had
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neither the strength nor the influence to hold his own vis-à-vis Ley. Ley regularly broke the agreements he made with him.
Schacht, too, as Minister of National Economy, strongly opposed Ley's plans and ambitions. At the beginning he seemed to be successful. We already thought that the time had come for Ley and his comrades to disappear, but the biggest "idealist of the Fuehrer" was left in his post.
I had the doubtful pleasure of meeting Ley three times during his visits; once during his attempt in Duesseldorf to "finally" win over the industrialists to the Party, once dead drunk in front of our workers in Hamborn, and once on the "Huegel" (Krupp's Villa) where he obscenely abused the Italians. Up to the outbreak of the war we succeeded in the Ruhr industry to confine the influence of the Party and its emissaries to mere formalities. The big conference room of the "Stahlhof" (the administrative building of the Steel Federation) in Duesseldorf has never seen a Hitler picture - this I want to remark on only by the way to show our resistance. The National Socialist Party did ask, of course, on several occasions that the picture of Wilhelm II should be replaced by that of Hitler. Bad acoustics and lack of ventilation were our excuse when we removed all fittings and replaced them by wood panneling on which no oil portrait would fit. Thus we succeeded in preventing at least the picture of Adolf Hitler from entering the "Stahlhof".
During the war the Associations Coal and Iron (Reichsvereinigungen Kohle und Eisen) admitted delegates of the Labour Front to their Executives. How effective they were, I am unable to say, as at that time I no longer held any office. The leading Ruhr industrialists never attended the Chambers of Labour (Arbeitskammern) instituted by Ley in the various districts (Gauen).
It is not possible to give in a few words a final judgement on the German Labour Front. The local leaders differed. Attempts on the part of the Nazis' shop stewards (Betriebsobleute) illegally to remove bosses they disliked were often - but not always - supported by them. The social institutions of the big concerns (workers homes and settlements, medical attention and hygiene, help to mothers, nurseries, training for apprentices, sport) were excellent long before 1933. When the Germans marched into Luxembourg and the Party told the Luxembourg workers what benefits would be conferred upon them, they found out that in Luxembourg as much had been done for the workers as in Germany. All the same, I do not want to deny that in some factories the German Labour Front achieved some improvements which otherwise would not have been made. I myself and the majority of my colleagues sharply opposed the attempts of the Nazi shop stewards to arrogate to themselves the right to form a judgement on the quality of the factory management. The ambition of some directors to receive the Golden Flag or similar Party distinctions, I could never understand (in some cases we received such distinctions without having asked for them). The Vereinigte Stahlwerke never encouraged such ambitions. In my opinion only an expert is in a position to judge whether or not a factory is well run.
The attempts of the Party and the labour Front to influence the leisure time of the workers was in my view prompted by the desire to educate the workers in a National Socialist spirit. The institutions of "Strength through Joy" (Kraft durch Freude) only benefited - as soon as they took on bigger proportions - old Party members and favourites. I appreciate, however, that by encouraging comradeship in the factory certain things were achieved which had been neglected before.
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A number of Ruhr industrialists who held leading positions at the time when Hitler came to power have died in the meantime (Springorum, Kloeckner, Winkhaus, Fickler, Dechamps, Klotzbach, Karl Haniel). Reusch of the "Gutehoffnungshuette", his son and the son-in-law of Kloeckner were, under pressure from the Party, removed from their positions.
During the weeks that have passed since I started writing these notes I have tried to remember each of my colleagues and his attitude to the Party. I made a sincere effort to find out the truth and to report it; as a result of this effort I can, with good conscience, give a negative answer to the question whether the Ruhr industrialists stood behind Hitler.
True, many of us held the point of view that it was better to become part of the management than to stand passively aside. This view might have later on induced the one or the other to join the Party; I myself did not hold this view, nor did the majority of my colleagues in the Ruhr like Reusch, Kloeckner, Klotzbach, Wenzel, Voegler, Henle, Stinnes.
It is not a contradiction to this attitude when I admit that after the outbreak of the war we Ruhr industrialists did everything in our power to increase the armament production both as regards quality and quantity. How far we were behind as regards quantity I want to indicate by stating that at the outbreak of the war not more than a hundred and twenty tanks were produced. In this case it was the duty of every one of us to serve our fatherland to the last.
About what took place in the concentration camps we did not learn until now - after the end of the war - when we heard all about their horrors through the broadcasts of the Allies. We certainly had a vague idea that anti-Nazis were treated in the camps in a shameful and inhuman manner without, however, having proof of this. But what has happened in reality surpasses all human imagination.
As these things weigh heavily on my mind, I want to make some observations on the view expressed in the Anglo-American broadcasts that the whole of the German people were responsible for these events. Those who hold this opinion have no conception of the means used by the Party to rule us. I therefore decided to conclude with a report about the founding of the Hermann Goering Works. This report should convey to the unbiased reader an idea of the way in which the N.S.D.A.P. enforced its will, even with regard to purely economic and business matters. He will then be able to judge for himself what were the chances for the "common man" to prevail against the Party.
Before I go over to this subject I want to express my views on the question whether the Ruhr industrialists furthered Hitler's designs for world domination by war if necessary. In discussing this question I consciously refrain from touching any of the political and moral problems and confine myself to dealing with my own sphere, economy, or more precisely steel production.
We in the Ruhr were opposed to the war - and had we been asked we would have emphatically advised against waging it, if for no other reason than our conviction that we could not win. For we expected the U.S.A. to join in on the side of Great Britain. Not until five months after the outbreak of the war were we offered an opportunity to express our opinion, indirectly, on these questions.
In January, 1940 I gave a report to the Secretary of State, Landfried, and a circle of the experts in Essen on the potential steel
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production in Germany as compared with that of the enemy powers. As I expected for certain that the U.S.A. would enter the war I had included in my tables the probable production figures of that country in order to demonstrate that the U.S.A. with their 80 million tons would leave the German figures far behind. I also pointed to our shortage of manganese, tungsten, chromium and other metals indispensable for the hardening of steel.
I then submitted the contents of this report in writing to the generals von Hanneken (Minister of National Economy) and Thomas (Economic Defence Staff). I no longer possess this document, but some copies may still exist somewhere. I know that Thomas had the same apprehensions as I, and that the majority of my colleagues in the Ruhr shared my views.
The correctness or otherwise of the statement that from the beginning there was a close contact and co-operation between the Party and the steel industry is best illustrated by the events which led to the creation of the HGW, and by their attitude towards the private steel industry.
The iron ore mines in the Salzgitter district had for a long time attracted the attention of the German steel industrialists. After the first world war the exploitation of these ores was tackled with renewed vigour, which was specially necessary in view of the instability of our currency. The Ruhr industry formed thereby the opinion that these ores could only be used with any degree of technical and economic efficiency after concentrating them through the classifier process. In consequence large concentration plants were erected and it was further planned by private industry to exploit these deposits on a big scale.
After Hitler came to power the economic advisor of Hitler, Wilhelm Keppler, and his collaborator Paul Pleiger, concentrated their efforts on developing German iron ore mining and on increasing its production. Pleiger later on continued this activity on the Office of German Raw materials (Amt fuer deutsche Roh- und Werkstoffe), the head of which was Colonel Loeb, whilst Keppler, after the creation of the National Office for Geological Research (Reichsamt fuer Bodenforschung) devoted himself mainly to the boring and investigation of iron ore deposits.
These Offices, and especially Pleiger personally, were from the beginning sharply opposed to private industry, alleging that not enough had been done to promote iron ore mining inside Germany. This allegation, however, completely overlooked the fact that we had striven for years to develop iron ore mining, but came up against a complete lack of understanding and unwillingness to help on the part of the authorities with regard to wages and building licences. Our dispute finally centred round the problem of the development of the Salzgitter deposits. Pleiger - in contrast to the leaders of the iron industry - was of the opinion that the Salzgitter ores could be worked in their crude form, a view which later on proved erroneous.
The differences of opinion regarding these technical and economic questions, especially with regard to the question to what extent the production could be increased, became more and more pronounced. I should mention, however, that in Spring, 1937, following a meeting where Goering took the chair, an agreement was reached regarding a plan to step up the production of home iron ore and to fix the future amount of pig iron production. This agreement was signed by Colonel Loeb for the Office of German Raw-Materials and Professor Goerens for the Association of German Steel Producers (Verein deutscher Huetten-
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leute). In spite of this Goering was constantly being incited against the steel industry which led, in June, 1937, to a meeting with Goering in the course of which grave reproaches were levelled against the private steel industry, and the creation of the HGW was suddenly sprung on us. At the same time the greatest proportion of the Salzgitter mines was expropriated and handed over to the HGW. I might mention by the way that some deposits there were sold by State owned firms to the private Mannesmann Concern only a short time before expropriation.
The formation of the HGW was an open declaration of war against the private steel industry and was regarded and discussed as such by the public. At that time all mine-owners were forced to buy shares of the State-owned works which were later on sold at a loss.
The question of financing the project gave rise to an incident which I would like to report: One day Schacht requested me to call on him. He asked me in my capacity as head of the Economic Group Steel Producing Industry to express my views regarding the Salzgitter project, as he, being the President of the Reichsbank, would have to be satisfied as to its finances. In the course of this talk Schacht became very excited: he indicated that it was still in his power to veto such a project. He asked me to write a memorandum on the attitude of the steel industry. I am convinced that a gramophone record of this talk which lasted about an hour was made and sent to Goering.
The following week Goering asked Dr. Voegler and myself to discuss the same question with him in "Karinhall". We told him about the earlier schemes and stressed our opinion regarding the necessity to install some blast furnaces, but emphasized at the same time that in our opinion the erection of rolling mills would be superfluous, as the existing plants had a surplus of them. Goering warned me against trusting Schacht too much. I replied that Schacht had appointed me to my position as head of the Economic Group and had asked me in this capacity to write a memorandum of which he, Goering, would certainly receive a copy. In parting Goering repeated his warning I should be careful of the "Old Fox".
The memorandum was discussed in various conferences with most of the firms, and finally it was also discussed in Berlin. It appeared at first difficult to reach agreement regarding the concluding part of the memorandum, bit in the end I succeeded in getting the firms to express their willingness to erect new blast furnaces.
Immediately after the last conference I submitted a summary of the memorandum to Goering's Secretary of State, Neumann, and learned of his agreement with my proposals. It was intended that the following day the resolution should be passed and the memorandum signed in Düsseldorf. To my great surprise and disgust, ninety per cent of the members had changed their minds and, without giving any plausible reasons, refused to sign. I withdrew the memorandum and went to Berlin to report to Schacht. As I felt that I no longer had the confidence of the members I asked him to relieve me of my post as head of the Economic Group, Schacht said to me: "Tender your resignation in writing, I shall accept it in due course. I shall probably soon go myself. If we both went now in connection with the Hermann Goering Works, it would be regarded as obstruction."
From Schacht I went to Pleiger to inform him of the fate of the memorandum; in the course of our conversation Pleiger proposed that in future we should take concerted action in all decisive matters.
Eight weeks later, when we discussed these happenings in a close circle, I learned what had been going on behind the scenes. Kloeckner said that after he had received the secret telegram from Goering he was, of course, unable to sign. Voegler and I were flabbergasted;
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we knew of no telegram.
Acting on the above mentioned proposal, I went straight to Pleiger from whom I learned the following: In the early hours of the day on which the Conference in Düsseldorf took place Goering and he himself received a `phone call' from the director of a firm informing them that a Conference was to take place in Düsseldorf with the purpose of drawing up a memorandum against the Hermann Goering Works. Goering ordered Pleiger by `phone' that he should immediately have these people arrested. Pleiger advised against it, and instead sent the following telegram to the firms: "Vereinigte Stahlwerke memorandum amounts to sabotage of HGW. Request not to sign. = Goering =." I was very upset about it and asked Pleiger straight away to arrange a meeting with Goering. Pleiger tried to calm me down by pointing out that the matter was already settled. I replied: "Firstly, Goering knew about this memorandum, secondly it was not drafted by the Vereinigte Stahlwerke but by the entire Economic Group with myself as its head, and thirdly, I felt that after this telegram I had better resign from the Economic Group and the Vereinigte Stahlwerke.
The meeting with Goering took place a little later without Pleiger. Goering and I were shouting at one another for about an hour, during which Goering repeatedly verbally quoted statements made by Schacht (viz. gramophone record); he did, however, frequently confuse this with a talk which Flick had with Schacht about the same matter. Finally Goering said: "When I received the reply to my telegram, which, by the way, was not secret, `We shall not sign and would not have signed even without this telegram', the matter was settled, as far as I was concerned." I replied: "That's where the matter starts for me. I would have shown this telegram to my worst enemy." I then repeated my request which I before addressed to Schacht: To relieve me of my duties with the Economic Group. Goering refused, as I could not be spared at the moment.
At any rate, the project of the HGW was officially approved of on the basis of Pleiger's proposals and was carried out with American aid (Brassert). What Brassert-Pleiger created in a technical sense on virgin soil is truly enormous; however, it is equally unparalleled how problems of expropriation, railway sidings, wages, town planning, etc. were settled with the aid of the Party and the State.
There was still a little episode worth recounting: After the "Anschluss" of Austria Goering demanded from us the majority of the shares of the "Alpine Montangesellschaft" for his works. Under pressure we first were willing to go fifty: fifty, with equality on the Board of the firm. When Goering and Pleiger insisted upon 51: 49 we preferred to give up all our shares of the "Alpine Montangesellschaft" against a cash-down payment and a thirty years agreement as to ore deliveries.
We felt that unfair pressure had been brought to bear on us, and together with Voegler and Wenzel I therefore left the Board of the HGW. After a short time they refused to carry on the above-mentioned contract for deliveries of iron-ore, as we could not come to an agreement, the contract was then suspended until further notice.
There were constant conflicts regarding the iron ore deliveries of the HGW, which at the end of last year led to a rather embittered correspondence, in the course of which the Ruhr firms were accused of sabotaging the war effort. But even apart from this the HGW were in all questions opposed to the private steel industry, a conflict which - as I learned - even led to the personal intervention of Speer.
I have gone into all these details not in order to expose German "internal policy", but solely to refute the statement that German heavy industry was a war-monger and an ardent supporter of National Socialism. Had this been the case, the conflict of the HGW versus the private steel industry would have never arisen and developed.