By John Donovan
Last Updated 23 March 2010
This is an updated article about the role of Royal Dutch Shell as a collaborator and financial supporter of Hitler and the Nazi Party via its founder, Sir Henri Deterding.
Further research has revealed evidence that a huge injection of Royal Dutch Shell funds by Sir Henri, saved the Nazi Party from collapse and in so doing, indirectly caused millions of deaths in World War II.
I have provided extensive verification evidence from reputable independent sources of the Royal Dutch Shell connection with Hitler and the Nazi. This includes evidence of a four-day meeting between Sir Henri and Adolf Hitler at his Mountain top retreat, The Eagles Nest in Berchtesgaden.
Declassified US intelligence records show Royal Dutch Shell was viewed as “a Nazi collaborator that used Hitler’s slave laborers”.
A ruthless thirst for access to new oil fields was a driving force by Sir Henri (right) for his support for the most evil man in history. Sir Henri was himself described at one time as “The Most Powerful Man in the World”. The oil baron, able at the height of his powers, to bind the Board of Shell without their knowledge and consent, became an embarrassment to Shell because of his infatuation with Hitler and the Nazi.
These historical events provide a lesson in what can happen if a dominant person becomes too all powerful in any County, or for that matter, any multinational company.
It was perhaps a lesson not learned the first time round by Shell given the reserves securities fraud revealed in 2004 that resulted from another dominant Shell leader, the fraudster Sir Phillip Watts. He also ended up causing huge long-term damage to Shell’s reputation.
Sir Phillip was escorted from Shell premises. He left with a severance package worth a reported $18.5 million despite bringing an end to the Anglo-Dutch twin company structure, which had lasted for 100 years. The unified company – Royal Dutch Shell Plc – rose from the ashes.
Shell has itself recognised the potential danger of having a dominant leader. The following is an extract from an article published by Fortune magazine on 4 August, 1997:
What kind of company chooses a Herkstroter? One with a long history in Europe, where men with too much power have caused world wars. Shell executives say that archive films showing the birthday celebrations of Henri Deterding, Shells last strong, single master, are eerily reminiscent of Hitlers rallies. Indeed, Deterding harbored Nazi sympathies; had he not retired from Shell in 1936, the companys subsequent history might have been different. We in Europe have always had a fear of the strong man, says Shell managing director van den Bergh.
While Royal Dutch Shell support for the Nazi all those years ago has no link to current Shell management, there is a link to current activities, with Shell supporting *yet another evil dictator. Oil and gas is the reason why Shell (and BP) has signed contracts with the Libyan mass murderer, Gaddafi.
So basically, nothing has changed; Shell is still willing to deal with the devil to fuel its unquenchable thirst for oil, irrespective of moral considerations and the potential deadly consequences of handing over billions of dollars to a regime which may well end up funding future terrorist atrocities, as it has in the past. In addition to the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Gaddafi was also responsible for arming the IRA, another terrorist organisation.
In 1984 police constable Yvonne Fletcher was shot dead outside the Libyan Embassy in London while policing an anti-Gaddafi demonstration. A burst of machine-gun fire from within the building was suspected of killing her, but Libyan diplomats asserted diplomatic immunity and were repatriated. (This paragraph contains extracts from Wikipedia)
*It is not long ago that Shell was funding the corrupt Nigerian dictator, General Sani Abacha, during Shell’s plunder and pollution of the Niger Delta.
As I said, nothing has changed.
Detailed Historical Evidence of how Royal Dutch Shell saved Hitler and the Nazi Party
More than 60 years after the demise of Nazi Germany, people apparently remain fascinated by the evil deeds of Adolf Hitler and his equally evil henchmen.
The recent movie ‘Valkyrie‘ tells the story of the well-documented bomb plot against Hitler. Tom Cruise is in the lead role of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the patriotic aristocrat who unsuccessfully attempted to carry out the assassination. An article published in The Sunday Times on 4 January 2009 reviews a related book release: Valkyrie, by Philipp von Boeselager.
Another example of the resurgent interest is the video clips on YouTube said to glorify Nazi troops. A Daily Telegraph article reports that the controversial clips have received “million of hits”.
The same newspaper published an article on 3 January 2009 reporting the extraordinary news that “the Fuehrer has been given centre stage by the next European City of Culture.” The article said that the Austrian city of Linz has decided to showcase the works of the architect of the Third Reich.
What is less well known is the Royal Dutch Shell connection with Hitler and the Nazi. It is one of those episodes in Shell’s history, such as the recent multibillion-dollar reserves fraud, which the oil giant would prefer to forget.
The unfortunate association stemmed from the actions of a colossal figure in the history of the Royal Dutch Shell Group, Sir Henri Deterding, the ruthless Dutchman described as “THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD“, the title of a book written about the oil baron by Glyn Roberts. Deterding was the man responsible for founding the Royal Dutch Shell Group and was at the helm of the oil giant for 30 years. He was known as the “Napoleon of Oil”.
A Time Magazine article about the launch of the Glyn Roberts book said: “Roberts thinks his backing for Hitler and his admiration for Mussolini are based on his hatred of communism…”
An article published by The Times on 23 April 2004 said: “When the British Shell company merged with Royal Dutch in 1906 it was soon dominated by a single despot, Henri Deterding, a brilliant trader who became increasingly autocratic and ended up a fervent admirer of Hitler.”
The association between Deterding and the Nazi was such that Hitler and Goering both sent wreaths to his funeral when Deterding died just before the outbreak of the 2nd World War. The Nazis propaganda machine exploited his funeral and also intended to exploit the circumstances of his death to gain control over the entire Royal Dutch Shell Group.
A New York Times article reported that as earlier as 1929, the Nazi had begun to try and make friends in Britain and a firmer bond had been established with “Sir Henri Deterding, the oil magnate, and his associates.”
In 1933, Sir Henri was said to be “currying favor with Adolf Hitler in the hope of winning oil contracts for Royal Dutch Shell.”
The New York Times published an article on 26 October 1934 under the headline:
The article with the sub-headline: “Hitler’s Terms for Control of Distribution Unsatisfactory to Royal Dutch and Shell” reported the content and outcome of a four day meeting between Hitler and his guest, Sir “Henry” Deterding, held at Berchtesgaden – Hitler’s mountain top retreat known as the Eagles Nest.
“LONDON, Oct. 25.-It is reported confidentially from Berlin that the object of Sir Henry Deterding’s recent visit to Chancellor Hitler at Berchtesgaden, where he stayed for four days, was to discuss the conditions for granting a monopoly to the Royal Dutch and Shell Companies of petrol distribution in Germany for a long period of years. Chancellor Hitler’s terms were unsatisfactory and the negotiations have broken down temporarily. Three conditions advanced by the Germans were”
First-The companies were to supply oil on credit for the first year.
Second-The companies were to build a network of distributing stations along strategic motor roads, these buildings to be protected against air attacks.
Third-The companies were to invest their money, frozen in Germany, locally.
On 13 February 1939, Time Magazine published an article about the death of Sir Henri. It said that he “backed Hitler in Germany” and had “added a German residence to his English, Dutch and Swiss homes.”
On 25 October 1942, The Los Angeles Times published a review of a book authored by reporter Marquis Child’s, titled: “I WRITE FROM WASHINGTON”. Child’s is described in the review as “trying to be eminently fair” in his appraisal of public figures. During his research, he had discovered “startling facts”, some relating to Shell and Sir Henri.
Child’s said in his book:
“…Sir Henri Deterding of Royal Dutch Shell was not himself innocent of working with Hitler. Sir Henri backed him with a huge sum when the Nazi party was about to fall; and it was the oil man’s objective to get Hitler to attack Russia so that Sir Henri might take over the Baku oil fields.”
Printed below are extracts from three books, which included extensive coverage of the Royal Dutch Shell connection with Hitler and the Nazi.
His influence on the company was erratic and as one Shell veteran recalls: ‘Deterding’s interventions were like thunderstorms; suddenly flattening a field of wheat, while leaving other fields un-scathed.’ The stately managers of Shell began to have the worrying impression that their Director-General was going mad, and still worse, going pro-Nazi. His anti-Communism, spurred on by his Russian second wife, had already made him sympathetic to the Nazis. But in 1936, just after he had celebrated his seventieth birthday and his fortieth year with Shell, he married a third time, to a German girl, Charlotte Knaack, who had been his secretary. He was now convinced that the Nazis were the only solution to the Communist menace.
He died six months before the outbreak of war: memorial services were held in all Shell offices in Germany and Hitler and Goering both sent wreaths to the funeral on his estate.
The outlook was grim and disheartening. Norway and Denmark were in German hands, France would surrender the following month, and Britain would stand alone, bearing the brunt of the war. No one was better suited than Churchill to lead his country through its “darkest hour.” No one better understood the critical role that oil would play, first in Britain’s very survival, and then in the prolonged conflict ahead.
The government also had to cope with a different kind of problem-the future of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. The current management of the Group was no less concerned and apprehensive. For there was a risk that the Group could pass under the Nazi sway. The heart of the problem was Henri Deterding, the grand master of the company. He had continued to dominate the Group through the 192os. “Sir Henri’s word is law,” observed a British official in 1927.
“He can bind the Board of the Shell without their knowledge and consent.” But by the 1930s, Deterding’s grip on the company was slipping, and he was becoming an embarrassment to the management and a source of anxiety to the British government. His behavior was increasingly erratic, disruptive, megalomaniacal.
In the mid-1930s, as he entered his seventies, Deterding had developed two infatuations. One was for his secretary, a young German woman. The other was for Adolf Hitler. The determined Dutchman-who had gravitated to Britain before World War I, had been courted by Admiral Fisher and Winston Churchill, and had become a firm and fervent ally during that war-was now, in his old age, entranced with the Nazis.
On his own, Deterding initiated discussions in 1935 with the German government about Shell’s providing a year’s supply of oil-in effect, a military reserve-to Germany on credit. Rumors of these talks so greatly alarmed the Shell management in London that one of the senior directors, Andrew Agnew, asked the government to have the British embassy in Berlin investigate so that Agnew “could take suitable actions with his colleagues on the Board here in good time.”
Finally, retiring from Shell at the end of 1936, Deterding acted on both of his new infatuations. He divorced his second wife, married his German secretary, and went to live on an estate in Germany.
Deterding died in Germany in early 1939, six months before the war began. Strange and deeply disturbing rumors immediately reached London. Not only had the Nazis made much of his funeral, but they were also trying to take advantage of the circumstances of his death to gain control of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. That, of course, would have been a disaster for Great Britain. The company had virtually been Britain’s quartermaster general for oil during World War 1. Should it now pass under Nazi domination, Britain’s entire system of petroleum supply would be undermined. But it was discovered that the key “preference” shares, which embodied control, could only be held by directors, and at his demise, Deterding’s shares had been swiftly distributed to the other directors. At best, the Germans could only get their hands on a tiny fraction of the common shares, which would do them no good at all, either before or after the outbreak of war.
The 1930s had proved a difficult and unpredictable decade for Shell Transport and Trading – the Depression, the successful move into chemicals, the increasing politicization of oil as governments of both extremes came to power. Yet even if none of that had occurred, it would still have been a climactic time, for on l7 November 1936 Sir Henri Deterding retired. He was then a few months over 70 years old. His forty years in the oil business included twenty-nine as an executive director of Shell Transport and Trading (in modern terminology, a Group Managing Director) and thirty-six as General Manager (that is, president) of Royal Dutch. He had been a decisive, governing influence in Shell Transport, and in almost complete charge of Royal Dutch, for more than half his life: he had become a dominant force throughout the world-wide industry, earning the respect of almost everyone who knew him, and often their affection too.
Naturally, therefore, his departure engendered a considerable sense of loss; and yet it was not entirely unwelcome, for as he had grown older he had become rather an embarrassment to his colleagues.
Given all his achievements, this is an unhappy story, and one which has caused lasting distress within Shell Transport and Royal Dutch; but it is as much a part of the history as the more glorious days, and enough time has passed for it to be seen in some perspective.
Briefly, Deterding had become increasingly right-wing, bordering, some said, on the megalomaniac. His memoirs, published in 1934, were a masterpiece of vanity and egocentricity, reading as the self-portrait of an autocrat. For example, there was his talk with Mussolini – ‘a man who, regard him as you may, has shown a driving force almost unparalleled in running a country’. Deterding decided that this conversation:
proved that there were several points on which we saw eye to eye. We both agreed that the coping-stone of Education is a sense of discipline and a respect for prestige, lacking which no youth can be considered to have been properly educated at all… To people unacquainted with the Italian character his manner in public may seem at times to be a trifle theatrical, but what chiefly interested me at our meeting was that he seemed so direct. One felt that, if faced with a difficulty, he would get out his sledge-hammer and strike straight at its root.
So too would the ageing Sir Henri. When he wrote that, he was 68. Many people, as they grow older and see the world changing around them, become more conservative, with a hankering for ‘the good old days’ and a growing belief that things are not what they were. With Sir Henri the process was becoming somewhat marked. In the same text, he wrote this memorable sentence:
If I were dictator of the world – and please, Mr. Printer, set this in larger type – I WOULD SHOOT ALL IDLERS AT SIGHT.
But in a world where millions of working men and women were idle through no fault or desire of their own, Deterding’s colleagues (particularly in The Hague) were very sensitive to the public display of such sentiments, and still more so to his open admiration of what he perceived as the firm government which had recently been elected in Germany.
Back in 19l4, just before the outbreak of the Great War, Britain’s Admiral Fisher had written to Winston Churchill: ‘I have just received a most patriotic letter from Deterding to say he means you shan’t want for oil or tankers in case of war – Good Old Deterding! How these Dutchmen do hate the Germans!’
The new Lady Deterding was German. In a striking lack of imagination on Sir Henri’s part, she was also his former secretary; and because the Nazi regime was visibly restoring order to her country’s chaotic economy, she was very much in favour of it. So was Sir Henri, who saw the disciplined economic aspects of Nazism as the world’s most powerful weapon against Communism. The Nazis, eager even after his death to exploit the publicly-avowed support of this world-famous individual, virtually hijacked his funeral: Field Marshal Goering, chief of the German air force, sent a wreath; so did Hitler himself; and, even Germanizing his name, the functionary who represented them said as he laid the wreaths: ‘In the name and on the instructions of the Fuhrer, I greet thee, Heinrich Deterding, the great friend of the Germans.’
To his former colleagues both in Shell Transport and Royal Dutch, these events were intensely painful and hard to come to terms with.
Recalling his irrational and damaging price war in 1927 against buyers of Soviet oil, and his high-handed ‘colonial’ treatment of the left-wing Mexican government in 1934, some wondered privately if he might have been going mad. Probably he had not; rather, traits that he had always possessed – simplicity of outlook, clarity of goals, strength of character and forcefulness of speech – had become accentuated by old age. By then, their expression was crude and humiliating. In his youth and middle age, though, the same traits had been priceless business assets. Using them, he had rescued Shell Transport from virtually certain extinction, and had built its fortunes, together with those of Royal Dutch, to an level which simply would not have been credible when he began; so both as a friend and an inspiring leader, his passing was genuinely mourned.
Deterding apparently felt very strongly on the subject of “idlers”. According to an article published on 18 February 1940, “Sir Henri Deterding had told Hitler that Mexico had the laziest population in the world, and rich prizes for Germany to grasp.”
On 19 November 2001, TheBoston Globe published an article entitled “Cloaked Business”.
The second paragraph said:
Newly declassified United States intelligence records reveal in unprecedented detail how US and Allied firms systematically used backwater countries to conduct backroom business with Axis enterprises. The files peel away a whole new layer of collaboration, describing scores of so-called “shadow agreements” in which corporations disguised their ties with the enemy through the cover of other companies in neutral countries, from Spain to Sweden to much of Latin America.
The article also contained the following reference to Shell:
The report said the two men also ran a steamship company that chartered tankers for Royal Dutch Shell, a Nazi collaborator that used Hitler’s slave laborers.
Ironically, the driven ruthless man most responsible for the great enterprise which is Royal Dutch Shell Plc today, was also responsible for one of the darkest periods in its long history.