After 60 years of inattention and even denial by the U.S. media, 2003 FOIA-uncovered government documents in The National Archives and Library of Congress revealed that Prescott Bush, the grandfather of former President George W. Bush and father of President George HW Bush, served as a business partner of and U.S. banking operative for the financial architect of the Nazi war machine from 1926 until 1942, when Congress took aggressive action against Bush and his “enemy national” partners.
The documents also show that Bush and his colleagues, according to reports from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and FBI, tried to conceal their financial alliance with German industrialist Fritz Thyssen, a steel and coal baron who, beginning in the mid-1920s, personally funded Adolf Hitler’s rise to power by the subversion of democratic principle and German law.
Furthermore, the declassified records demonstrate that Bush and his associates, who included E. Roland Harriman, younger brother of American icon W. Averell Harriman, and George Herbert Walker, President Bush’s maternal great-grandfather, continued their dealings with the German industrial baron for nearly eight months after the U.S. entered the war.
For six decades these historical facts have gone unreported by the mainstream U.S. media. The essential facts have appeared on the Internet and in relatively obscure books, but were dismissed by the media and Bush family as undocumented diatribes. This story has also escaped the attention of “official” Bush biographers, Presidential historians and publishers of U.S. history books covering World War II and its aftermath.
The White House did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.
The Summer of ’42
The unraveling of the web of Bush-Harriman-Thyssen U.S. enterprises, all of which operated out of the same suite of offices at 39 Broadway under the supervision of Prescott Bush, began with a story that ran in the New York Herald-Tribune on July 30, 1942. By then, the U.S. had been at war with Germany for nearly eight months.
“Hitler’s Angel Has $3 Million in U.S. Bank,” declared the headline. The lead paragraph characterized Fritz Thyssen as “Adolf Hitler’s original patron a decade ago.” In fact, the steel and coal magnate had aggressively supported and funded Hitler since October 1923, according to Thyssen’s autobiography, I Paid Hitler. In that book, Thyssen also acknowledges his direct personal relationships with Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Rudolf Hess.
The Herald-Tribune also cited unnamed sources who suggested Thyssen’s U.S. “nest egg” in fact belonged to “Nazi bigwigs” including Goebbels, Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, or even Hitler himself.
Business is Business
The “bank,” founded in 1924 by W. Averell Harriman on behalf of Thyssen and his Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart N.V. of Holland, was Union Banking Corporation (UBC) of New York City. According to government documents, it was in reality a clearing house for a number of Thyssen-controlled enterprises and assets, including as many as a dozen individual businesses. UBC also bought and shipped overseas gold, steel, coal, and U.S. Treasury and war bonds. The company’s activities were administered for Thyssen by a Netherlands-born, naturalized U.S. citizen named Cornelis Lievense, who served as president of UBC. Roland Harriman was chairman and Prescott Bush a managing director.
The Herald-Tribune article did not identify Bush or Harriman as executives of UBC, or Brown Brothers Harriman, in which they were partners, as UBC’s private banker. A confidential FBI memo from that period suggested, without naming the Bush and Harriman families, that politically prominent individuals were about to come under official U.S. government scrutiny as Hitler’s plunder of Europe continued unabated.
After the “Hitler’s Angel” article was published Bush and Harriman made no attempts to divest themselves of the controversial Thyssen financial alliance, nor did they challenge the newspaper report that UBC was, in fact, a de facto Nazi front organization in the U.S.
Instead, the government documents show, Bush and his partners increased their subterfuge to try to conceal the true nature and ownership of their various businesses, particularly after the U.S. entered the war. The documents also disclose that Cornelis Lievense, Thyssen’s personal appointee to oversee U.S. matters for his Rotterdam-based Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart N.V., via UBC for nearly two decades, repeatedly denied to U.S. government investigators any knowledge of the ownership of the Netherlands bank or the role of Thyssen in it.
UBC’s original group of business associates included George Herbert Walker, who had a relationship with the Harriman family that began in 1919. In 1922, Walker and W. Averell Harriman traveled to Berlin to set up the German branch of their banking and investment operations, which were largely based on critical war resources such as steel and coal.
The Walker-Harriman-created German industrial alliance also included partnership with another German titan who supported Hitler’s rise, Friedrich Flick, who partnered with Thyssen in the German Steel Trust that forged the Nazi war machine. For his role in using slave labor and his own steel, coal and arms resources to build Hitler’s war effort, Flick was convicted at the Nuremberg trials and sentenced to seven years in prison.
The Family Business
In 1926, after Prescott Bush had married Walker’s daughter, Dorothy, Walker brought Bush in as a vice president of the private banking and investment firm of W.A. Harriman & Co., also located in New York. Bush became a partner in the firm that later became Brown Brothers Harriman and the largest private investment bank in the world. Eventually, Bush became a director of and stockholder in UBC.
However, the government documents note that Bush, Harriman, Lievense and the other UBC stockholders were in fact “nominees,” or phantom shareholders, for Thyssen and his Holland bank, meaning that they acted at the direct behest of their German client.
On October 20, 1942, under authority of the Trading with the Enemy Act, the U.S. Congress seized UBC and liquidated its assets after the war. The seizure is confirmed by Vesting Order No. 248 in the U.S. Office of the Alien Property Custodian and signed by U.S. Alien Property Custodian Leo T. Crowley.
In August, under the same authority, Congress had seized the first of the Bush-Harriman-managed Thyssen entities, Hamburg-American Line, under Vesting Order No. 126, also signed by Crowley. Eight days after the seizure of UBC, Congress invoked the Trading with the Enemy Act again to take control of two more Bush-Harriman-Thyssen businesses – Holland-American Trading Corp. (Vesting Order No. 261) and Seamless Steel Equipment Corp (Vesting Order No. 259). In November, Congress seized the Nazi interests in Silesian-American Corporation, which allegedly profited from slave labor at Auschwitz via a partnership with I.G. Farben, Hitler’s third major industrial patron and partner in the infrastructure of the Third Reich.
The documents from the Archives also show that the Bushes and Harrimans shipped valuable U.S. assets, including gold, coal, steel and U.S. Treasury and war bonds, to their foreign clients overseas as Hitler geared up for his 1939 invasion of Poland, the event that sparked World War II.
That’s One Way to Put It
Following the Congressional seizures of UBC and the other four Bush-Harriman-Thyssen enterprises, The New York Times reported on December 16, 1944, in a brief story on page 25, that UBC had “received authority to change its principal place of business to 120 Broadway.” The Times story did not report that UBC had been seized by the U.S. government or that the new address was the U.S. Office of the Alien Property Custodian. The story also neglected to mention that the other UBC-related businesses had also been seized by Congress.
Still No Story?
Since then, the information has not appeared in any U.S. news coverage of any Bush political campaign, nor has it been included in any of the major Bush family biographies. It was, however, covered extensively in George H.W. Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, by Webster Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin. Chaitkin’s father served as an attorney in the 1940s for some of the victims of the Bush-Harriman-Thyssen businesses.
The book gave a detailed, accurate accounting of the Bush family’s long Nazi affiliation, but no mainstream U.S. media entity reported on or even investigated the allegations, despite careful documentation by the authors. Major booksellers declined to distribute the book, which was dismissed by Bush supporters as biased and untrue. Its authors struggled even to be reviewed in reputable newspapers. That the book was published by a Lyndon LaRouche’s organization undoubtedly made it easier to dismiss, but does not change the facts.
The essence of the story been posted for years on various Internet sites, including BuzzFlash.com and TakeBackTheMedia.com, but no online media seem to have independently confirmed it.
Likewise, the mainstream media have apparently made no attempt since World War II to either verify or disprove the allegations of Nazi collaboration against the Bush family. Instead, they have attempted to dismiss or discredit such Internet sites or “unauthorized” books without any journalistic inquiry or research into their veracity.
The National Review ran an essay on September 1 by their White House correspondent Byron York, entitled “Annals of Bush-Hating.” It begins mockingly: “Are you aware of the murderous history of George W. Bush – indeed, of the entire Bush family? Are you aware of the president’s Nazi sympathies? His crimes against humanity? And do you know, by the way, that George W. Bush is a certifiable moron?” York goes on to discredit the “Bush is a moron” IQ hoax, but fails to disprove the Nazi connection.
The more liberal Boston Globe ran a column September 29 by Reason magazine’s Cathy Young in which she referred to “Bush-o-phobes on the Internet” who “repeat preposterous claims about the Bush family’s alleged Nazi connections.”
Poles Tackle the Topic
Newsweek Polska, the magazine’s Polish edition, published a short piece on the “Bush Nazi past” in its March 5, 2003 edition. The item reported that “the Bush family reaped rewards from the forced-labor prisoners in the Auschwitz concentration camp,” according to a copyrighted English-language translation from Scoop Media (www.scoop.co.nz). The story also reported the seizure of the various Bush-Harriman-Thyssen businesses.
Still Not Interested
Major U.S. media outlets, including ABC News, NBC News, The New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, Los Angeles Times and Miami Herald, have repeatedly declined to investigate the story when information regarding discovery of the documents was presented to them beginning Friday, August 29. Newsweek U.S. correspondent Michael Isikoff, famous for his reporting of big scoops during the Clinton-Lewinsky sexual affair of the 1990s, declined twice to accept an exclusive story based on the documents from the archives.
After the seizures of the various businesses they oversaw with Cornelis Lievense and his German partners, the U.S. government quietly settled with Bush, Harriman and others after the war. Bush and Harriman each received $1.5 million in cash as compensation for their seized business assets.
In 1952, Prescott Bush was elected to the U.S. Senate, with no press accounts about his well-concealed Nazi past. There is no record of any U.S. press coverage of the Bush-Nazi connection during any political campaigns conducted by George Herbert Walker Bush, Jeb Bush, or George W. Bush, with the exception of a brief mention in an unrelated story in the Sarasota Herald Tribune in November 2000 and a brief but inaccurate account in The Boston Globe in 2001.
John Buchanan is a journalist and investigative reporter with 33 years of experience in New York, Los Angeles, Washington and Miami. His work has appeared in more than 50 newspapers, magazines and books. He can be reached by e-mail at: [email protected]