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 December 1945.

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.

Splendid Blond Beast

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