“I repudiate these attacks on him…a German of the Germans…his honour so assailed. Who made this infamous attack upon our friend? Men who till now have been looked upon as Germans, but who henceforth are unworthy of that name. And these men come from the Reich’s working classes, who owe so infinite a debt of gratitude to Krupp!”
Speech at the funeral of Friedrich Alfred Krupp (27 November 1902), quoted in William Manchester, The Arms of Krupp 1587-1968 (London: Michael Joseph, 1968), p. 275.
Krupp established the Generalregulativ as the firm’s basic constitution. The company was a sole proprietorship, inherited by primogeniture, with strict control of workers. Krupp demanded a loyalty oath, required workers to obtain written permission from their foremen when they needed to use the toilet and issued proclamations telling his workers not to concern themselves with national politics. In return, Krupp provided social services that were unusually liberal for the era, including “colonies” with parks, schools and recreation grounds – while the widows’ and orphans’ and other benefit schemes insured the men and their families in case of illness or death. Essen became a large company town and Krupp became a de facto state within a state, with “Kruppianer” as loyal to the company and the Krupp family as to the nation and the Hohenzollern family. Krupp’s paternalist strategy was adopted by Bismarck as government policy, as a preventive against Social Democratic tendencies, and later influenced the development and adoption of Führerprinzip by Adolf Hitler.
The Krupp social services program began about 1861, when it was found that there were not sufficient houses in the town for firm employees, and the firm began building dwellings. By 1862 ten houses were ready for foremen, and in 1863 the first houses for workingmen were built in Alt Westend. Neu Westend was built in 1871 and 1872. By 1905, 400 houses were provided, many being given rent free to widows of former workers. A cooperative society was founded in 1868 which became the Consum-Anstalt. Profits were divided according to amounts purchased. A boarding house for single men, the Ménage, was started in 1865 with 200 boarders and by 1905 accommodated 1000. Bath houses were provided and employees received free medical services. Accident, life, and sickness insurance societies were formed, and the firm contributed to their support. Technical and manual training schools were provided.
In the hyperinflation of 1923, the firm printed Kruppmarks for use in Essen, which was the only stable currency there. France and Belgium occupied the Ruhr and established martial law. French soldiers inspecting Krupp’s factory in Essen were cornered by workers in a garage, opened fire with a machine gun, and killed thirteen. This incident spurred reprisal killings and sabotage across the Rhineland, and when Krupp held a large, public funeral for the workers, he was fined and jailed by the French. This made him a national hero, and he was granted an amnesty by the French after seven months.
Although Krupp was a monarchist at heart, he cooperated with the Weimar Republic; as a munitions manufacturer his first loyalty was to the government in power. He was deeply involved with the Reichswehr‘s evasion of the Treaty of Versailles, and secretly engaged in arms design and manufacture. In 1921 Krupp bought Bofors in Sweden as a front company and sold arms to neutral nations including the Netherlands and Denmark. In 1922, Krupp established Suderius AG in the Netherlands, as a front company for shipbuilding, and sold submarine designs to neutrals including the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, Finland, and Japan. German Chancellor Wirth arranged for Krupp to secretly continue designing artillery and tanks, coordinating with army chief von Seeckt and navy chief Paul Behncke. Krupp was able to hide this activity from Allied inspectors for five years, and kept up his engineers’ skills by hiring them out to Eastern European governments including Russia.
Gustav and especially Bertha were initially skeptical of Hitler, who was not of their class. Gustav’s skepticism toward the National Socialists waned when Hitler dropped plans to nationalize business, the Communists gained seats in the 6 November elections, and Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher suggested a planned economy with price controls. Despite this, as late as the day before President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor, Gustav warned him not to do so. However, after Hitler won power, Gustav became enamoured with the National Socialists (Fritz Thyssen described him as “a super-Nazi”) to a degree his wife and subordinates found bizarre.
In 1933, Hitler made Gustav chairman of the Reich Federation of German Industry. Gustav ousted Jews from the organization and disbanded the board, establishing himself as the sole-decision maker. Hitler visited Gustav just before the Röhm purge in 1934, which among other things eliminated many of those who actually believed in the “socialism” of “National Socialism.” Gustav supported the “Adolf Hitler Endowment Fund of German Industry”, administrated by Bormann, who used it to collect millions of Marks from German businessmen. As part of Hitler’s secret rearmament program, Krupp expanded from 35,000 to 112,000 employees.
Gustav was alarmed at Hitler’s aggressive foreign policy after the Munich Agreement, but by then he was fast succumbing to senility and was effectively displaced by his son Alfried. He was indicted at the Nuremberg Trials but never tried, due to his advanced dementia. He was thus the only German to be accused of being a war criminal after both world wars. He was nursed by his wife in a roadside inn near Blühnbach until his death in 1950, and then cremated and interred quietly, since his adopted name was at that time one of the most notorious in the American Zone.
As the eldest son of Bertha Krupp, Alfried was destined by family tradition to become the sole heir of the Krupp concern. An amateur photographer and Olympic sailor, he was an early supporter of National Socialism among German industrialists, joining the SS in 1931, and never disavowing his allegiance to Hitler.
After the war, the Ruhr became part of the British Zone of occupation. The British dismantled Krupp’s factories, sending machinery all over Europe as war reparations. The Russians seized Krupp’s Grusonwerk in Magdeburg, including the formula for tungsten steel. Germaniawerft in Kiel was dismantled, and Krupp’s role as an arms manufacturer came to an end. Allied High Commission Law 27, in 1950, mandated the decartelization of German industry.
Meanwhile, Alfried was held in Landsberg prison, where Hitler had been imprisoned in 1924. At the Krupp Trial, held in 1947–1948 in Nuremberg following the main Nuremberg trials, Alfried and most of his co-defendants were convicted of crimes against humanity (plunder and slave labor), while being acquitted of crimes against peace, and conspiracy. Alfried was condemned to 12 years in prison and the “forfeiture of all [his] property both real and personal,” making him a pauper. Two years later, on 31 January 1951, John J. McCloy, High Commissioner of the American zone of occupation, issued an amnesty to the Krupp defendants. Much of Alfried’s industrial empire was restored, but he was forced to transfer some of his fortune to his siblings, and he renounced arms manufacturing.
By this time, West Germany’s Wirtschaftswunder had begun, and the Korean War had shifted the United States’s priority from denazification to anti-Communism. German industry was seen as integral to western Europe’s economic recovery, the limit on steel production was lifted, and the reputation of Hitler-era firms and industrialists was rehabilitated.
In 1953 Krupp negotiated the Mehlem agreement with the governments of the US, Great Britain and France. Hitler’s Lex Krupp was upheld, reestablishing Alfried as sole proprietor, but Krupp mining and steel businesses were sequestered and pledged to be divested by 1959. There is scant evidence that Alfried intended to fulfill his side of the bargain, and he continued to receive royalties from the sequestered industries.
Despite having only 16,000 employees and 16,000 pensioners, Alfried refused to cut pensions. He ended unprofitable businesses including shipbuilding, railway tyres, and farm equipment. He hired Berthold Beitz, an insurance executive, as the face of the company, and began a public relations campaign to promote Krupp worldwide, omitting references to National Socialism or arms manufacturing. Beginning with Adenauer, he established personal diplomacy with heads of state, making both open and secret deals to sell equipment and engineering expertise. Expansion was significant in the former colonies of Great Britain and behind the Iron Curtain, in countries eager to industrialize but suspicious of NATO. Krupp built rolling mills in Mexico, paper mills in Egypt, foundries in Iran, refineries in Greece, a vegetable oil processing plant in Sudan, and its own steel plant in Brazil. In India, Krupp rebuilt Rourkela in Odisha as company town similar to his own Essen. In West Germany, Krupp made jet fighters in Bremen, as a joint venture with United Aircraft, and built an atomic reactor in Jülich, partly funded by the government. The company expanded to 125,000 employees worldwide, and in 1959 Krupp was the fourth largest in Europe (after Royal Dutch, Unilever, and Mannesmann), and the 12th largest in the world.
1959 was also Krupp’s deadline to sell his sequestered industries, but he was supported by other Ruhr industrialists, who refused to place bids. Krupp not only took back control of those companies in 1960, he used a shell company in Sweden to buy the Bochumer Verein für Gussstahlfabrikation AG, in his opinion the best remaining steel manufacturer in West Germany. The Common Market allowed these moves, effectively ending the Allied policy of decartelization. Alfried was the richest man in Europe, and among the world’s handful of billionaires.
The treatment of Jews during the war had remained an issue. In 1951, Adenauer acknowledged that “unspeakable crimes were perpetrated in the name of the German people, which impose upon them the obligation to make moral and material amends.” Negotiations with the Claims Conference resulted in the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany. IG Farben, Siemens, Krupp, AEG, Telefunken, and Rheinmetall separately provided compensation to Jewish slave laborers, but Alfried refused to consider compensation to non-Jewish slave laborers.
In the mid-1960s, a series of blows ended the special status of Krupp. A recession in 1966 exposed the company’s overextended credit and turned Alfried’s cherished mining and steel companies into loss-leaders. In 1967, the West German Federal Tax Court ended sales tax exemptions for private companies, of which Krupp was the largest, and voided the Hitler-era exemption of the company from inheritance tax. Alfried’s only son, Arndt von Bohlen und Halbach (1938–1986), would not develop an interest in the family business and was willing to renounce his inheritance. Alfried arranged for the firm to be reorganized as a corporation and a foundation for scientific research, with a generous pension for Arndt. Although Arndt was homosexual, like his great-grandfather Friedrich (Fritz) Krupp, he married but was childless. He was an alcoholic and died of cancer in 1986, aged 48, 399 years after Arndt Krupp arrived in Essen.
World War I
Krupp produced most of the artillery of the Imperial German Army, including its heavy siege guns: the 1914 420 mm Big Bertha, the 1916 Langer Max, and the seven Paris Guns in 1917 and 1918. In addition, Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft built German warships and submarines in Kiel. During the war Krupp modified also the design of an existing Langer Max gun which they built in Koekelare. The gun called Batterie Pommern was the largest gun of the world in 1917 and was able to shoot shells of ±750 kg from Koekelare to Dunkirk. Before World War I Krupps had a contract with the British armaments company Vickers and Son Ltd. (formerly Vickers Maxim) to supply Vickers-constructed Maxim machine guns. Conversely, from 1902 Krupps was contracted by Vickers to supply its patented fuses to Vickers bullets. It is known that wounded and deceased German soldiers were found to have spent Vickers bullets with the German inscription “Krupps patent zuinder [fuses]” lying around their bodies.
World War II
Krupp received its first order for 135 Panzer I tanks in 1933, and during World War II made tanks, artillery, naval guns, armor plate, munitions and other armaments for the German military. Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft shipyard launched the cruiser Prinz Eugen, as well as many of Germany’s U-boats (130 between 1934 and 1945) using preassembled parts supplied by other Krupp factories in a process similar to the construction of the US liberty ships.
In the 1930s, Krupp developed two 800 mm railway guns, the Schwerer Gustav and the Dora. These guns were the biggest artillery pieces ever fielded by an army during wartime, and weighed almost 1,344 tons. They could fire a 7-ton shell over a distance of 37 kilometers. More crucial to the operations of the German military was Krupp’s development of the famed 88 mm anti-aircraft cannon which found use as a notoriously effective anti-tank gun.
In an address to the Hitler Youth, Adolf Hitler stated “In our eyes, the German boy of the future must be slim and slender, as fast as a greyhound, tough as leather and hard as Krupp steel” („… der deutsche Junge der Zukunft muß schlank und rank sein, flink wie Windhunde, zäh wie Leder und hart wie Kruppstahl.”)
Krupp Industries employed workers conscripted by the National Socialist regime from across Europe. These workers were initially paid, but as National Socialist fortunes declined they were kept as slave workers. They were abused, beaten, and starved by the thousands, as detailed in the book The Arms of Krupp. Germany kept two million French POWs captured in 1940 as forced laborers throughout the war. They added compulsory (and volunteer) workers from occupied nations, especially in metal factories.
The shortage of volunteers led the Vichy government of France to deport workers to Germany, where they constituted 15% of the labor force by August 1944. The largest number worked in the giant Krupp steel works in Essen. Low pay, long hours, frequent bombings, and crowded air raid shelters added to the unpleasantness of poor housing, inadequate heating, limited food, and poor medical care, all compounded by “harsh” National Socialist discipline. In an affidavit provided at the Nuremberg Trials following the war, Dr. Wilhelm Jaeger, the senior doctor for the Krupp “slaves,” wrote, “Sanitary conditions were atrocious. At Kramerplatz only ten children’s toilets were available for 1200 inhabitants. . . Excretion contaminated the entire floors of these lavatories. The Tartars and Kirghiz suffered most; they collapsed like flies [from] bad housing, the poor quality and insufficient quantity of food, overwork and insufficient rest. . . Countless fleas, bugs and other vermin tortured the inhabitants of these camps. . .” The survivors finally returned home in the summer of 1945 after their liberation by the allied armies.
Krupp industries was prosecuted after the end of war for its support to the National Socialist regime and use of forced labour.
In 1997 Krupp attempted a hostile takeover of the larger Thyssen, but the bid was abandoned after resistance from Thyssen management and protests by its workers. Nevertheless, Thyssen agreed to merge the two firms’ flat steel operations, and Thyssen Krupp Stahl AG was created in 1997 as a jointly owned subsidiary (60% by Thyssen and 40% by Krupp). About 6,300 workers were laid off. Later that year, Krupp and Thyssen announced a full merger, which was completed in 1999 with the formation of ThyssenKrupp AG. Cromme and Ekkehard Schulz were named co-chief executives of the new company, operating worldwide in three main business areas: steel, capital goods (elevators and industrial equipment), and services (specialty materials, environmental services, mechanical engineering, and scaffolding services).
The Krupp family used to be patriots. Now the company is working against the German people and their country. What a shame!