|Born||13 Aug 1907|
|Died||30 Jul 1967|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Alfried Felix Alwyn von Bohlen und Halbach was born in Essen, Germany, the heart of the Krupp family industrial conglomerate. His father, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, was not born a Krupp, but married one; he had married not only any Krupp, but Bertha Krupp, the heir of the family enterprise. In order to maintain the Krupp lineage, Kaiser Wilhelm II granted his father the right to use the name Krupp, and the right would be hereditary. Hence, for as long as the younger Bohlen und Halbach could remember, he had always had heavy pressure on his shoulders. He studied engineering in Munich and Berlin, and upon graduation he returned to Essen to help run Friedrich Krupp AG.
In the 1930s, Gustav Krupp's unfaltering loyalty for his fatherland turned him onto the path to become a stern Nazi supporter. Bohlen und Halbach was much the same way. Although he lacked the usual mannerisms of his Nazi peers - the clicking of the heels, the closely cropped hair, and the stiff Nazi salute - he was a proud member of the SS since 1933. He had a lonely personality, and he enjoyed it. His friends were nearly all made during or before his university years. In the deep woods of his family estate he constructed a 15-room home for himself, then further secluding himself by barbed wire and a manned sentry box. With five servants, he spent his quiet evenings going over operations reports, glancing over financial statements, and chain-smoking American Camel cigarettes. His loneliness was broken briefly in 1937 when he married Anneliese Bahr, the daughter of a Hamburg businessman, who gave him a son on 24 Jan 1938. Because Bahr was a former divorcee, the marriage was vehemently opposed by Bertha Krupp. Strong family and company resentment eventually set the foundations for divorce in 1941, with Bahr taking the son, Arndt, to Bavaria. After the divorce, the future Krupp became lonely once again, devoting himself totally in his career. Otto Kranzbühler said after the war that it was his way to serve his country, especially after the European War had started. All his brothers were all serving in the military, so running the firm was his way to contribute.
As the war drew close, Friedrich Krupp AG, continued to supply the Germany military weapons and ammunitions. This was forbidden, of course, but Friedrich Krupp AG had been doing it for years. Under the guise of agricultural equipment, the company remained knee-deep in military research just like it did along the course of modern German history. Tanks researched under the false pretense of an agricultural tractor were one of the many weapons that the company secretly developed. Sometimes the secrets leaked out, for example a sketch for a heavy tractor included a 7.5-centimeter cannon. In another instance a heavy tractor's specifications included the need to easily use the railroad systems of Belgium and France. A company memorandum found years later noted that of all weapons used in 1939-1941, "the most important were already fully developed in 1933." Of the wide range of weapons developed at this time, perhaps the most important historically was the 88mm gun, which Allied airmen would come to fear and respect a handful of years down the road.
As Germany's borders grew beginning with the pre-war annexations, so did the Krupp enterprise. Before Germany troops entered Poland, Adolf Hitler invited representatives of German industries to submit list of properties lost in 1918 as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. In Holland, Bohlen und Halbach was the sole advisor to Berlin that dictated what equipment and ore Dutch businessmen most turn in to the German war effort. In France, Yugoslav Jew Robert Rothschild's tractor factory in France was given to Friedrich Krupp AG on 27 Aug 1942; Rothschild was mysteriously kidnapped by a gang of anti-Semites on 21 Feb 1944 and eventually ended up at the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he vanished from history. With the help with the likes of Bohlen und Halbach, Germany systematically pillaged the conquered states, extracting profits that far exceeded the reparations paid after the WW1 defeat.
Bohlen und Halbach became a master in converting acquired industries into manufacturers of war equipment. In France, Alsacian Corporation for Mechanical Construction's textile factory operating under the name of Elsaessische Maschinenfabrik AG (referred to in the Nuremberg documents as ELMAG) was taken over by a German administrator in Aug 1940, and was turned over to Friedrich Krupp AG. It was quickly retooled for armor plate. Later in the war, he also acquired the talent for efficiently transplanting acquired foreign heavy equipment into German borders (though sometimes it was forced due to Allied threats). For example, in Mar 1943, the entire Krupp Krawa plant was efficiently picked up and moved to ELMAG, adding the capability of military tractors and 88mm anti-aircraft gun production to the French factory. By this time in 1943, the Krupp empire had grown to be worth 237,316,093 marks, more than three times the company's worth in 1933. That figure did not even take into consideration the assets Friedrich Krupp AG or Nazi Germany had confiscated from conquered lands that were placed under Krupp control. When Adolf Hitler confirmed his decision to uphold Kaiser Wilhelm II's decree and bestowed upon him the name Krupp on 13 Nov 1943, making him the official head of Friedrich Krupp AG, he became history's greatest mogul. Particularly after his order to abolish the Friedrich Krupp AG's board of directors, making himself the sole power of the newly renamed Friedrich Krupp, his empire now included interests all across conquered Europe.
Unlike his father in WW1, Krupp did not blindly believe the invincibility of Germany. When he took over the family enterprise, he inherited more than 200 million marks in German treasury bonds. Almost starting from his first day as the head of the company, he began to liquidate the bonds. By the end of the war, 162 million marks of what would become worthless pieces of paper were sold off through various channels so to avoid accusation of defeatism. He never admitted that the act of selling off the bonds was a unpatriotic act on his part; instead, he argued it was simply a matter of priorities. Should Germany lose the war, he argued, Krupp would need the necessary funding to keep Germany going.
Of course, what younger Krupp's father would perceive as outright disloyalty did not mean that the younger Krupp would not continue to take advantage of what Germany had conquered. What he suggested to Berlin was "extermination through work", a way to exploit the manpower found in the concentration camps ran by the Nazi. In Sep 1942, Hitler authorized a new policy that allowed company representatives to visit concentration camps to pick out their laborers. Between 1942 and 1945, Friedrich Krupp employed forced labor in nearly 100 factories across Germany, Poland, Austria, France, and Czechoslovakia. The estimated 100,000 slaves were often came from concentration camps, and as the factories filled up with them, they found themselves essentially living and working in another concentration camp. Triple-layer bunks, a familiar image of concentration camps, were common in slave quarters. Guard towers and barbed wires, too, were everyday sights. Many slaves were beaten, overworked, starved, and were often deprived of adequate medical attention. The use of concentration camp slave labor was conducted with Krupp's full knowledge. Drexel A. Sprecher, a prominent Washington attorney, commented after the war that "Alfried [Krupp]'s exploitation of slave labor was worse than that of any other industrialist.... Nowhere else was there such sadism, such senseless barbarity, such shocking treatment of people as dehumanized material." Needless to say, Krupp was charged as a war criminal for authorizing such atrocity.
Krupp was not a man of total evil, however. Among his German employees, he was a well-respected philanthropist. He had personally sponsored schools for girls and women, apprentice shops for all boys 14 and older, a 85,000-volume library in Essen, and free healthcare for all citizens of Essen, even for those who worked for other firms. Even a Social Democrat political opponent of Krupp's once said to William Manchester that "I would die for Alfried Krupp." Communists, too, showed utmost respect for this capitalist. One once said after the war that "[i]f the company begins making arms again the workmen should protest, but not strike.... They know I am responsible for their lasting employment, as Krupps have been since my great-grandfather." Berthold Beitz, a later colleague of Krupp's, said
In 1945, American Lieutenant Colonel Clarence Sagmoen led his men into Krupp's home, Villa Hügel, to arrest him. After about ten minutes of dealing with the butler, Sagmoen grew impatient and charged up the stairs into his room. Adjusting his necktie, he turned toward Sagmoen and asked what he wanted. "Are you Krupp?" Sagmoen asked.
"Yes, I am Krupp von Bohlen."
"You are under arrest!"
What happened next was unclear. According to some, Krupp was placed in the back of a jeep and the party drove off without incident. According to Krupp's butler Karl Dohrmann, however, Krupp was forcefully pushed out of the doors while other American soldiers ran up and down the hallways, inspecting every room. What was agreed upon was that the servants were in great shock. One servant, a weekend bag and lunch in hand, ran after the jeep, but the Americans drove off without stopping for him. In captivity, a German-American guard politely asked him how he preferred to be addressed, Herr Alfried, Herr von Bohlen, or Herr Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach. "Call me Krupp", he answered, "I'm here because of that name. This cell is my share of the great Krupp inheritence."
As Krupp was going through the war trials, he saw his empire stripped away from him. In Kiel, British technicians destroyed every submarine pen and every Germaniawerft facility. In what was to become East Germany, the Russians claimed Grusonwerk and other Friedrich Krupp factories; the secret tungsten steel formulas were brought back to Moscow and the results could later be observed in Russian Cold War-era weapons. Blast furnaces went to Greece, a 15,000-ton press went to the Yugoslavs, and even bricks were shipped to the Netherlands as reparations.
Nevertheless, Krupp knew they were all merely distractions; if he could successfully defend himself at the war trials, however difficult it might be, he would be able to start over. The chief counsel on the prosecution side was Telford Taylor. The judges in this case were Presiding Judge Hu C. Anderson, Edward J. Daly, and William J. Wilkins. At the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Krupp was well-defended by a team of talented attorneys whose collective resume rivaled that of the prosecution team and the judges combined. He also enjoyed the advantage that many of the witnesses were fellow Germans, who had never lost their respect for the Krupp family that had been arming Germany for generations. The specific charges filed against him were:
- Crimes against peace by participating in the planning and waging of wars of aggression and wars in violation of international treaties.
- Crimes against humanity by participating in the plundering, devastation, and exploitation of occupied countries.
- Crimes against humanity by participating in the murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, and use for slave labor of civilians who came under German control, German nationals, and prisoners of war.
- Participating in a common plan or conspiracy to commit crimes against peace.
The final verdict that was delivered on 31 Jul 1948 which found him guilty was not a total surprise to him, but the verdict was devastating. Because the "wartime activities of the Krupp concern were based in part upon spoliation of other countries and on exploitation and maltreatment of large masses of forced foreign labor", Judge Edward J. Daly, on behalf of his fellow judges on the tribunal, sentenced Krupp to twelve years of imprisonment and the forfeiture of all his property. At the blink of the eye, he had lost the family enterprise that had been generations in the building. He had expected a prison term, but "when confiscation was announced he went white as a sheet. I thought he was going to faint. He seemed to be on the point of collapse." Recalled Rawlings Ragland. Along with him, nine other Friedrich Krupp leaders were also found guilty and imprisoned.
Krupp was imprisoned at Landsberg, Bavaria, in the same medieval stronghold where Hitler wrote Mein Kampf in captivity. Dressed in red and white striped dungarees, his imprisonment was rather enjoyable. Food was enjoyable, he once again had access to his stash of Camel cigarettes, and besides shifts of work time he had plenty of time to peruse the well-stocked library. "Landsberg", Fritz von Bülow recalled later, "was one long sunlit holiday." As the Cold War began, suddenly a self-supportive Germany became a priority for the former western Allies. As such, Krupp found himself at the helm of the industries that were confiscated from him earlier. From Landsberg, he and his board of directors discussed production figures and financial statements; meanwhile, high commissioner of the American occupation zone John J. McCloy authorized the removal of the 11 million ton limitation on German steel production. As he played a part in the rebuilding of the German industrial power, he had so much knowledge of the West's design to contain Russian influence that he probably had the highest clearance of any prisoner in the entire penal history.
In Jan 1951, McCloy announced his controversial decision to release Krupp, along with the restoration of $45,000,000 of his property and several companies back under his control. He was also given back the 70 pieces of art that had been stolen by Allied personnel from his home, Villa Hügel. Also, each of Krupp's four brothers and sisters and his nephew, Arnold von Bohlen, received ten million marks in cash or equivalent stock in two of his industrial companies. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the former US President, wrote him personally to ask "[w]hy are we freeing so many Nazis?" In the Sunday Pictorial in London, a cartoon was published depicting Death, overlooking a mass of smoking chimneys, urging Krupp on with his bony fingers. There were even rumors circulating that McCloy had been bribed by Krupp's American lawyer Earl J. Carroll, which McCloy denied. At 0900 on 3 Feb 1951, Krupp emerged from the gates of Landsberg finding himself a national hero. His brother Berthold von Bohlen und Halbach welcomed him with a bouquet of jonquils and tulips, and helped him dodge the mass of journalists who awaited outside the gate until Krupp changed and had adequate rest before putting his face to the public for the first time as a free man.
On 19 May 1952, at the grounds of Berchtesgaden, Krupp married Vera Hossenfeldt, a triple-divorcee who had captured the heart of Krupp. Vera Krupp was a good compliment to Krupp; she towed him to social events, unofficially becoming his head publicist. A Villa Hügel servant once noted that "[t]he only time I saw him smile after the war was when he was with Frau Vera." Like the first marriage, however, it was not to last. Vera Krupp soon grew sick of the eternally-grey skies of Essen, and the fact that Krupp was constantly leaving on business trips did not help, either. The marriage eventually ended in 1956, and Krupp returned to being his usual quiet, secluded, and joyless workaholic self.
On 12 Mar 1953, Krupp returned to Essen formally. Crowds of Kruppianers gathered in the streets to welcome the returning owner as if he was a sovereign. Of course, that was not too surprising, for the Krupp industrial enterprise had always been dubbed Kruppdom ("Kruppreich"), with a Krupp at its throne. Even after indictment as a war criminal and after serving part of his sentence, he was still a welcomed figure in the Ruhr region. He dutifully returned the favor, too. When his board suggested not paying out pensions to retired employees, Krupp rejected the suggestion flatly. "Human beings have come first with us for a hundred years", he said, quoting the company's history of guardianship for the people of Essen. In return, his workers continued to give all they could. When Krupp asked a veteran worker whether he could help rebuild the war-devastated industrial complex at Essen, the response was "[s]ure we can; after all, we're still kruppianer!"
Krupp's new strategy to bring his company back to the world market was different. Instead of visits from heads of European powers, he now hosted leaders of developing nations such as Mali, Yemen, India, and Nigeria. He knew that the developing nations were not to be under-estimated, for that it was to be these countries that would require the most amount of heavy industries to get them to world's standards. Before long, Krupp was building rolling mills in Mexico, paper mills in Egypt, foundries in Iran, refineries in Greece, and a vegetable oil processing plant in Sudan. His company's project in India was perhaps its greatest feat. Krupp engineers built an industrial city from the ground up, designing everything from the sewerage pipes to the hospital system, and of course, the steel plant that was to be the focal point of the industrial city. What resulted was essentially a magnificent clone of Essen. The Indian workers proudly called themselves Neokruppianer as they filed into their new jobs. Thus, the Krupp empire was now global. As Nobert Mühlen observed, "[w]here Hitler's soldiers had failed, Krupp's salesmen succeeded."
Within a decade of his release, Krupp's company was the 12th largest corporation in the world. What made his empire really stand out from the rest of the top 12, however, was that his was the only one that was solely owned by one man. After the re-acquisition of the Constantine coal mines in 1959, Friedrich Krupp again reached vertical integration, supplying 75% of the coal needed for industrial production. Not only his combined companies again was a giant employer at 120,000 workers, it also stunningly doubled its pre-war steel production capacity. On 14 Apr 1960, he announced that all subsidiaries of Friedrich Krupp was again merged under a single company under his command. Kruppreich had returned to existence as it had before the fall of Germany broke it apart.
On paper, the returned Kruppreich fared well, but in actuality a serious problem was hiding just under the horizon. Because of the competitive prices and the generous financial terms offered to customers, the more business it conducted, the greater loss Fried. Krupp actually incurred in its books. As Fried. Krupp's business grew into Eastern Europe (at the alarm of Western European nations), the greater customer base actually further contributed to its demise. Finally, by 1966, the problem was so great that the company's creditors called for a restructuring. Against Alfried Krupp's wishes, though there was little he could do to fight it, Fried. Krupp was to become a stock company, ending the Krupp dynasty. On 1 Apr 1967, at Villa Hügel's main hall, Krupp formally announced that he was to give up the sole proprietorship. His son, Arndt Friedrich Alfried von Bohlen und Halbach, also announced he was to give up his rights to become the next Krupp. What his son failed to mention was that he, with a reputation of a playboy, showed little interest in the responsibility in becoming the head of the Krupp, and the fact that by giving up the inheritance claim to Fried. Krupp, he was entitled to receive a handsome amount of payments from the future stock company until his death.
On 30 Jul 1967, after drawing a will some time before summer of that year that included none of his brothers and sisters, Alfried passed away at his home Villa Hügel in Essen, West Germany. Thousands of Kruppianer filed pass his body in an oak coffin in the great hall of Villa Hügel before the funeral on 3 Aug; 125,000 Kruppianer all over set aside their tools at the precise time of the funeral to mourn the passing of their proprietor. The last of the dynastic philanthropic Kanonenkönig ("Cannon King"), but also the one responsible for the plunder of conquered Europe and the senselessly brutal treatment of forced laborers, was buried in the Krupp family's private cemetery in Essen.
President Heinrich Lübke of West Germany wrote the "life and work of Alfried Krupp are inextricably linked with the fate of our nation".
After Krupp's death, all his asset were collectively transformed into the joint stock company Fried. Krupp G.m.b.H. on 2 Jan 1968, with Günter Vogelsang as its general director. Within a short period of time, the patriarchal Krupp tradition faded; in its place an organization as "impersonal and as bland as General Motors or Ford" stood, breaking the hearts of the older Kruppianer.
Sources: the Arms of Krupp.
Alfried Krupp Timeline
|13 Aug 1907||Alfried Krupp was born.|
|24 Jan 1938||Alfried von Bohlen und Halbach's wife, Anneliese Bahr, gave birth to a son.|
|13 Nov 1943||Adolf Hitler officially upheld Kaiser Wilhelm II's previous decree and bestowed upon Alfried von Bohlen und Halbach the name Krupp, making him the official head of the Krupp family conglomerate Friedrich Krupp AG.|
|31 Jul 1948||German industrialist Alfried Krupp was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and the confiscation of his wealth.|
|4 Feb 1951||German industrialist Alfried Krupp was released from imprisonment; US$45,000,000 worth of his fortunes previously confiscated were to be returned to him.|
|19 May 1952||Alfried Krupp married Vera Hossenfeldt.|
|12 Mar 1953||Alfried Krupp returned to Essen, West Germany.|
|30 Jul 1967||Alfried Krupp passed away.|
|3 Aug 1967||The funeral of Alfried Krupp was held at his Villa Hügel home in Essen, West Germany.|
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Winston Churchill, 1935