The International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation maintained close ties with leaders of Nazi Germany from 1933 until the end of the war in 1945, according to Anthony Sampson, the author of a forthcoming book, “The Sovereign State of ITT,” to be published by Stein and Day. His charge is based on a study of U.S. government records in the National Archives that have been ignored until recently.
Sampson, a newsman from the London Observer, stated in an article in the current issue of New York magazine that ITT “carefully arranged to become German” and “deliberately invested in the German war effort.” The giant corporation, which has been in the news recently for trying to prevent the election of Salvador Allende as President of Chile, produced Focke-Wulf bombers for the Nazi regime during World War II that “were to wreak havoc on Allied convoys,” Sampson wrote.
The protagonist in Sampson’s article is the late Sosthenes Behn who founded the ITT in 1920. Citing a news item that appeared in The New York Times on Aug. 4, 1933, he reports that Adolf Hitler, then Germany’s new chancellor, received a delegation of American businessmen which consisted of Behn and his representative to Germany, Henry Mann. “The meeting was the beginning of a very special relationship between the ITT and the Third Reich,” Sampson notes. “Behn was eager to work closely with the new Nazi government.”
NAZIS JOINED ITT BOARDS
Behn obtained the names of “reliable men acceptable to the Nazis who could join the boards of ITT’s German companies, Sampson continues. One of these men was the banker Kurt von Schroeder, later a general in the Nazi SS “and the crucial channel of funds into Himmler’s gestapo.” Another “important Nazi ally.” Sampson states, was Gerhardt Alois Westrick, whose law firms represented several American companies in Germany, and who also became a director of Standard Elektrizitats-Gesellschaft (SEG) and Lorenz. The SEG was a holding company Behn formed when he brought ITT to Germany in 1930. He later bought Lorenz.
Sampson also writes that after the U.S. entered the war, the Swiss ITT factory “continued to collaborate fully with the Nazis at a time when its Swiss-owned rival, Halser, refused to make equipment for Germans.” But ITT also aided the Allied cause when in 1942 its laboratories in New Jersey invented a high-frequency direction finder to protect Allied convoys, which were simultaneously being attacked by the Focke-Wulfs, Sampson stated. Behn received the U.S. Army highest civilian honor, the Medal of Merit, for his aid to the Allied cause.
Despite its connections with the Nazi regime, ITT later presented itself as a “victim of World War II,” Sampson writes, and in 1967 managed to get $27 million “in compensation from the American government for war damages to its factories in Germany.” This sum included $5 million for damages to its Focke-Wulf plants on the basis that “they were American properties bombed by Allied bombers.” According to Sampson, the ITT “buried its history in a mountain of public relations.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.