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Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach.


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Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, "Taffi", (August 7, 1870 - January 16, 1950) ran the German Friedrich Krupp AG heavy industry conglomerate from 1909 until 1941. He was indicted for prosecution at the 1945 Nuremberg trials, but the charges were dropped because of his failing health.

Family

He was born Gustav von Bohlen und Halbach, the son of a German diplomat (also called Gustav) working in the Hague. The elder Gustav had made his family fortune in the coal and iron fields of Pennsylvania and had decided to return home once Germany became a unified nation. He became a diplomat too, serving in Washington, Peking and the Vatican City. He married Bertha Krupp in October 1906. Bertha had inherited the company in 1902 at age 16 when her father, Friedrich Krupp had committed suicide. The marriage had been arranged as it was unthinkable at the time for a large company to be run by a woman. The Kaiser announced at the wedding that Gustav would now use the name Krupp. Gustav became company chairman in 1909.

After 1910 Krupp became a member and major funder of the Pan German League (Alldeutscher Verband) which mobilised popular support in favour of two army bills in 1912 and 1913 to raise Germany's standing army to 738,000 men. Krupp's sole proviso in providing the finance was that the rank and file should never know who was paying the bills.

By the First World War, the company had a near monopoly in heavy arms manufacture in Germany. At the start of the war, the company lost access to most of its overseas markets, but this was more than offset by increased demand for weapons from Germany and her allies. One of the company's products was a 94-ton howitzer named Big Bertha after his wife.

After the war, Krupp was widely criticised within Germany for the profits he had made from it. The Versailles Treaty prevented the company from making armaments, and it diversified to agricultural equipment, vehicles and consumer goods. However, it secretly continued to work on artillery through subsidiaries in the Netherlands and Sweden. In the 1930s it restarted manufacture of tanks and submarines, again using foreign subsidiaries.

Krupp was a member of the Prussian State Council from 1921 to 1933. He opposed the Nazis until 1933, when he was persuaded that they would help his company by destroying the trade unions and by increasing the size of the armed forces. Krupp subsequently became the chairman of the Association of German Industrialists, and the Adolf Hitler Spende, a political fundraising organisation for the Nazis. Krupp suffered failing health from 1939 onwards, and a stroke left him partially paralysed in 1941.

He became a figurehead until he formally handed over the running of the business to his son, Alfried Krupp in 1943. Following the Allied victory, plans to prosecute Gustav Krupp as a war criminal at the 1945 Nuremberg Trials were dropped because by then he was bedridden and senile. He died in Blühnbach, Austria.

Trivia

  • Krupp's estate, the Villa Hugel, had a suite of rooms for Wilhelm II whenever he came to visit. Even in exile after World War I Krupp wrote to him on his birthday every year.
  • Krupp's loyalty was to the head of state, no matter who was in power. He was an avowed monarchist but once left a business meeting in disgust when another industrialist, who was the one hosting the meeting, referred to the late President Friedrich Ebert as "that saddlemaker" (Das Sattelhersteller). Once Hitler obtained power and became Reichskanzler (Reich Chancellor) Krupp dropped his objections to the Nazis and became in Fritz Thyssen's words, "a Supernazi.".
  • Hitler actually tried to gain entry to the Krupp Factories (Kruppgusstahlfabrik) in 1929 as head of the Nazis but was refused because Krupp felt he would see some of the secret armament work there and would reveal it to the world.
  • Bertha Krupp never liked Hitler even though she never complained when the company's bottom line rose through the armaments contracts and production. She referred to him as "that certain gentleman" (Der gewisse Herr) and pleaded illness when Hitler came on an official tour in 1934. Her daughter Irmgard acted as hostess..
  • Other members of his family remained in Pennsylvania and became active in business and politics. FDR's interpreter was Charles Bohlen whose grandfather and Krupp's father were brothers.

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