The Splendid Blond Beast
excerpted from the book
The Splendid Blond Beast
by Christopher Simpson
Common Courage Press, 1995
Friedrich Nietzsche called the aristocratic predators who
write society's laws "the splendid blond beast" precisely
because they so often behave as though they are beyond the reach
of elementary morality. As he saw things, these elites have cut
a path toward a certain sort of excellence consisting mainly of
the exercise of power at the expense of others. When dealing with
ordinary people, he said, they "revert to the innocence of
wild animals.... We can imagine them returning from an orgy of
murder, arson, rape and torture, jubilant and at peace with themselves
as though they had committed a fraternity prank-convinced, moreover,
that the poets for a long time to come will have something to
sing about and to praise.'' Their brutality was true courage,
Nietzsche thought, and the foundation of social order.
Today genocide-the deliberate destruction of a racial, cultural,
or political group-is the paramount example of the institutionalized
and sanctioned violence of which Nietzsche spoke. Genocide has
been a basic mechanism of empire and the national state since
their inception and remains widely practiced in "advanced"
and "civilized" areas. Most genocides in this century
have been perpetrated by nation-states upon ethnic minorities
living within the state's own borders; most of the victims have
been children. The people responsible for mass murder have by
and large gotten away with what they have done. Most have succeeded
in keeping wealth that they looted from their victims; most have
never faced trial. Genocide is still difficult to eradicate because
it is usually tolerated, at least by those who benefit from it.
The Splendid Blond Beast examines how the social mechanisms
of genocide often encourage tacit international cooperation in
the escape from justice of those who perpetrated the crime...
According to psychologist Ervin Staub, who has studied dozens
of mass crimes, genocidal societies usually go through an evolution
during which the different strata of society literally learn how
to carry out group murder. In his book The Roots of Evil, Staub
contends that genocidal atrocities most often take place in countries
under great political, economic, and often military stress. They
are usually led by authoritarian parties that wield great power
yet are insecure in their rule, such as the Nazis in Germany or
the Ittihad (Committee of Union and Progress) in Turkey. The ideologies
of such parties can vary in important respects, but they are nonetheless
often similar in that they create unity among "in-group"
members through dehumanization of outsiders. Genocidal societies
also show a marked tendency toward what psychologists call "justworld"
thinking: Victims are believed to have brought their suffering
upon themselves and, thus, to deserve what they get.
But the ideology of these authoritarian parties and even their
seizure of state power are not necessarily enough to trigger a
genocide. The leading perpetrators need mass mobilizations to
actually implement their agenda. For example, the real spearheads
of genocide in Germany-the Nazi party, SS, and similar groups-
by themselves lacked the resources to disenfranchise and eventually
murder millions of Jews. They succeeded in unleashing the Holocaust,
however, by harnessing many of the otherwise ordinary elements
of German life-of commerce, the courts, university scholarship,
religious observance, routine government administration, and so
on-to the specialized tasks necessary for mass murder. Not surprisingly,
many of the leaders of these "ordinary" institutions
were the existing notables in German society. The Nazi genocide
probably would not have been possible without the active or tacit
cooperation of many collaborators who did not consider themselves
Nazis and, in some cases, even opposed aspects of Hitler's policies,
yet nonetheless cooperated in mass murder. Put bluntly, the Nazis
succeeded in genocide in part through offering bystanders money,
property, status, and other rewards for their active or tacit
complicity in the crime.
The actions of Nazi Germany's business elite illustrate how
this works. Prior to 1933, German business leaders did not show
a marked impulse toward genocide. Anti-Semitism was present in
German commercial life, of course, but was often less pronounced
there than in other European cultures of the day.4 Among the Nazis'
first acts in power, however, was the introduction of incentives
to encourage persecution of Jews. New Aryanization laws created
a profitable business for banks, corporations, and merchants willing
to enforce Nazi racial preferences. Tens of thousands of Germans
seized businesses or real estate owned by Jews, paying a fraction
of the property's true value, or drove Jewish competitors out
of business. Jewish wealth, and later Jewish blood, provided an
essential lubricant that kept Germany's ruling coalition intact
throughout its first decade in power. By 1944 and 1945, leaders
of major German companies such as automaker Daimler Benz, electrical
manufacturers AEG and Siemens, and most of Germany's large mining,
steelmaking, chemical, and construction companies found themselves
deeply compromised by their exploitation of concentration camp
labor, theft, and in some cases complicity in mass murder. They
committed these crimes not so much out of ideological conviction
but more often as a means of preserving their influence within
Germany's economy and society. For much of the German economic
elite, their cooperation in atrocities was offered to Hitler's
government in exchange for its aid in maintaining their status.
A somewhat similar pattern of rewards for those who cooperate
in persecution can be seen in other genocides. During the Turkish
genocide of Armenians, the Ittihad government extended economic
incentives to Turks willing to participate in the deportation
and murder of Armenians. During the nineteenth century, the U.S.
government offered bounties for murdering Native Americans and,
perhaps more fundamentally, provided free farmland and other business
opportunities to settlers willing to encroach on Native American
territories.9 A similar process continues today, particularly
in Central and South America.
Thus, in genocidal situations, mass violence can become entwined
with the very institutions that give a society coherency. This
has important implications for how perpetrators and their collaborators
are treated once most of the killing is over. By the time the
genocide has ended, it is usually clear that the ordinary, integrative
institutions of society remained centers of power during the killing
and shared responsibility for it.
These institutions usually hold on to some measure of authority
in the wake of any economic or political crisis of legitimacy
created by their actions. Even if the regime is brought down by
a military defeat, as was the case in Turkey and in Nazi Germany,
the residual power of these institutions means that there are
likely to be factions among the victors, and even among the victims,
who perceive an interest in allying themselves with the old power
centers. Such cliques will conceal the old guard's complicity
in crime and exploit their relationship with the old power centers
for political or economic advantage.
"War consists largely of acts that would be criminal if performed
in time of peace-killing, wounding, kidnapping destroying or carrying
off other people's property," said Telford Taylor, the chief
U.S. prosecutor at the second round of the Nuremberg trials. Often
such conduct is not regarded as criminal if it takes place in
the course of war, Taylor continued, "because the state of
war lays a blanket of immunity over the warriors."
The fact is that no clear international ban against crimes
against humanity existed prior to 1945, due in large part to U.S.
opposition. Unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity* are usually
something a government does to its own people, such as genocide,
slavery, or other forms of mass violence against civilians. Although
such crimes were defined in detail at the International Military
Tribunal at Nuremberg and in later United Nations action, even
today they remain a relatively new concept in international law
and often run counter to more established legal custom. Crimes
against humanity remain considerably harder to prosecute than
war crimes, narrowly defined, in part because criminal nation-states
are unlikely to prosecute themselves, and because international
diplomatic practice-particularly by the United States-has blocked
the creation of an international criminal court that would ave
jurisdiction to try perpetrators of these atrocities. Even the
most horrific cases of human rights abuses are often protected
from international justice.
Allied Control Council Law No. 10, promulgated at Berlin in
War crimes - "atrocities and offenses . . . constituting
violations of the laws or customs of war," such as murder
or ill treatment of prisoners of war, plunder, wanton destruction,
or devastation that is "not justified by military necessity."
Crimes against humanity - "atrocities and offenses including
but not limited to murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation,
imprisonment, torture, rape, or other inhumane acts committed
against any civilian population," or "persecution on
political, racial or religious grounds whether or not in violation
of the domestic laws of the country where perpetrated."
Crimes against peace - "initiation of invasions of other
countries and wars of aggression in violation of international
law and treaties," including the planning of such wars.
Budapest Jewish ghetto survivor
"Only by understanding the roots of evil do we gain the
possibility of shaping the future so that it will not happen again."
Hitler's seizure of power in Germany presented U.S. and German
business groups with complex opportunities and challenges The
Nazi-sponsored Aryanization campaigns, clandestine rearmament,
industrial bailouts, and public-works programs created a gold
rush for businesses favored by the Nazi government. The chauvinistic
Nazis tended to view U.S.-based multinational companies with suspicion,
but encouraged them to invest in Germany when it seemed to be
in their interest to do so. Soon U.S. corporate investment was
expanding more rapidly in Hitler's Germany than in any other country
in Europe despite the worldwide economic depression.
In the wake of World War I, the Dulles brothers helped construct
the international treaties and legal definitions that shut down
efforts to bring mass murderers of that time to justice. Between
the wars, both were active in U.S.-German trade and diplomatic
relations, particularly in developing ornate corporate camouflage
intended to frustrate efforts to increase public accountability
of major companies. Like many other corporate leaders in the United
States, the two brothers also disagreed for a time on how best
to respond to the new war unfolding between Germany and Britain.
They did agree, however, on what was to them the pivotal issue:
the preservation of the influence of European business and diplomatic
elites, including that of Germany, when the conflict was over.
Allen Dulles exploited his post in the Office of Strategic
Services (OSS) to quash war crimes prosecutions of senior Nazi
of ficials and German business leaders who cooperated with him
in a series of clandestine schemes to secure U.S. advantage in
Central Europe. He personally intervened to ensure the escape
from prosecution of major German bankers and industrialists complicit
in the Nazis' extermination-through-labor program, according to
archival records brought to light here for the first time. Dulles
also protected SS Obergruppenfuhrer Karl Wolff, the highest-ranking
SS officer to survive the war and one of the principal sponsors
of the Treblinka extermination camp, as well as a number of Wolff's
senior aides, who were alleged to have been responsible for deportation
of Jews to Auschwitz and massacres of Italian partisans.
Meanwhile, John Foster Dulles helped forge consensus on Wall
Street and in the Republican party in favor of an "internationalist"
U.S. foreign policy based on rebuilding the German economic elite
into a renewed bulwark against revolution in Europe. As will be
seen, a key element in his effort was the extension of a de facto
amnesty to most of Germany's business leadership, regardless of
their activities during the Third Reich.
Herbert Pell's UNWCC became one of the first targets for the
Allied factions favoring clemency for Axis notables who had collaborated
in Nazi crimes. State department legal chief Green Hackworth succeeded
in engineering Pell's dismissal in early 1945, then in shutting
down the UNWCC altogether within thirty-six months after the end
of the war. Then a U.S. intelligence agent named Ivan Kerno, who
had worked with Allen Dulles since the 1920s and who served as
senior legal counsel to the new United Nations Organization, sealed
the UNWCC records, keeping them l off-limits to war-crimes investigators
for more than forty years. It | took the scandal surrounding the
wartime career of UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim to break
these files open at last.