Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland often writes about historical events to illustrate current conditions. Here he points out the abominable history of a German company that is now doing business in Chicago, and about the spirit of forgiveness in America.
The company that armed the German war machine in World Wars I and II (not to mention the Austro-Prussian and the Franco-Prussian wars) is coming to Chicago.
ThyssenKrupp will open its Regional Headquarters for North America here this summer, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today.
“ThyssenKrupp’s decision to locate their North American headquarters in Chicago is a testament to the world-class business environment the city offers,” Emanuel said. “By combining transportation, infrastructure, and the best workforce in the world, Chicago is a destination for the greatest companies around the globe, and ThyssenKrupp is a perfect example of this.”
ThyssenKrupp is an amalgamation of two German manufacturers founded in the 19th Century. Krupp, the more famous of the two companies, built its first steel cannon in 1847, but rose to international prominence when its Kruppstahl out dueled France’s bronze artillery in the Franco-Prussian War. During World War I, Krupp built 84 U-boats and designed the famous Big Bertha howitzer that destroyed the Belgian forts in Liege and Antwerp. The Krupps were the main suppliers of Adolf Hitler’s rearmament project in the 1930s. After the war, the company’s president, Alfried Krupp, was sentenced during the Nuremburg trials to 12 years in prison for using slave laborers, in particular for building a factory near Auschwitz and leasing Jewish prisoners at four Deutsche marks a day.
Thyssen was Germany’s leading steel and coal mining company. Fritz Thyssen, an early adopter of Nazism, was one of the industrialists whose supporter of Hitler convinced President Paul von Hindenburg to appoint him chancellor. As the violent, racist nature of Hitler’s dictatorship revealed itself, however, Thyssen became disillusioned. When Germany invaded Poland, Thyssen declared his opposition to the war and fled to Switzerland. He was expelled from the Nazi Party and eventually sent to Dachau, but survived the concentration camp.
Just as losing World War II convinced Germany to renounce its habit of militarism, so did it convince Krupp. The company no longer produces weapons of any kind, instead devoting its industrial know-how to premium carbon steel; automotive components; elevators, escalators, passenger boarding bridges; material trading, plant construction and industrial services. As
Americans, we forgive but do not forget. So let us let bygones be bygones, and welcome ThyssenKrupp to Chicago.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!