The OSS intelligence files notes in May 1946. “We assume that Switzerland, greatly favoured as it was by such transactions, received, if not a higher, at least a treasure of a similar amount.” It is in these Safe Haven (SH) documents, whose importance is increasingly being realised by serious academics tracking Hitler’s men post war, the extraordinary ODDESSA File was located which identified a meeting held in 1944 at The Red House in Berlin which proves German industrialists, including those from Thyseen Krupp were working with a group of fugitive SS officers, who planned to resurrect the Third Reich after the war working with Swiss and dutch banks. In this story we take a close look at Thyseen and Bührle families who where tied up in the Nazi’s post war efforts and later Klaus Shwab’s World Economic Forum.
During the war Emil Bührle whose son Dieter Bührle went on to help South Africa and Israel procure nuclear weapons technology built up one of the world’s greatest collections of modern European art during the war and in the post-war years – mostly Impressionist and Post-Impressionist, including works by Monet, Cézanne, Van Gogh Water Colour and Degas – questions were raised, particularly by surviving German Jews, about their provenance and Emil Georg’s friendship with Hermann Goering whose stolen treasures included a self-portrait by Van Gogh, along with works by Cezanne and Rembrandt. Many of these masterpieces are still missing, with trails that seem to lead straight to Swiss Banks, specifically those with a connection to Lugano and Davos the Swiss Nazis enclaves.
Bührle dealt with known trafficker of looted Jewish art, and, according to documents in the U.S. National Archive, he seems to have enjoyed preferential treatment from Hermann Göring when buying art from Nazi agents, such as the use of diplomatic pouches to transfer the paintings to Switzerland from Occupied France. He also freely patronized the Fischer Gallery in Lucerne, a known purveyor of stolen Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.
In 1948, an independent tribunal determined that 77 artworks then in Switzerland had been stolen in wartime France; Bührle owned 13 of these. Lawsuits for restitution were filed and, after losing the first case Bührle attempted to buy back the remaining paintings at market value. He was successful with nine of them, returning the other four to their original owners.
Soon afterwards, the Swiss Federal Court declared that Bührle had been unaware of the stolen paintings’ shady past and bought them “in good faith.” This is despite Bührle well known association with Göring (Photo right above) and other Nazi art mag pies of the Third Reich. These postwar court decisions were thought to bullet proof Bührle against future claims and lent him an air of legitimacy: Pretty soon his company was again supplying both the United States and its NATO allies with arms. Yet it was not until the outing of Bührle junior in South Africa reminded society of the family’s ties to war and fascism the Bührle Room in the Kunsthaus would be renamed in 1975 as during the 1980s pop culture and books regularly reminded the public just who had collected these paintings. Bührle’s collection would remain a “poisoned chalice” for years.
Bührle had begun manufacturing weapons of war in his Zurich factories in the 1920s and his wealth let him indulge his passion for art. After the Second World War began Bührle was elected a member of the art collection committee of the Kunsthaus. In 1996, a wartime US intelligence report codenamed Safe Haven emerged, listing both Oerlikon-Bührle (during the era of Dieter’s father) and Bally (when it was still a separate Swiss family firm) as dealing with the Nazis during the war despite Switzerland’s official neutrality. Oerlikon-Bührle was accused of “assisting German armaments production and technical research”.
Bührle also played a part in South Africa’s secret atomic programme, aimed at producing six nuclear bombs using enriched uranium. One such firm was Sulzer Brothers Ltd, which “on its own information contributed a three-figure million sum to the uranium enrichment [process]”. As late as 2017 the Swiss-South African Association, a pro-apartheid business group, would describe Nelson Mandela as “mentally unfit to lead South Africa. The organisation was comprised of number of prominent business personalities including Adolf Jann (general director of UBS), arms dealer Dieter Bührle (general director and owner of Oerlikon-Bührle) and Georg Sulzer (president of Sulzer Gebrüder AG ). Dieter Bührle father Emil G. Bührle, who had died in 1956 seven years prior to his sons conviction, famous art collection was made possible via the sales of arms to Nazi Germany in particular.
Yet despite these repeated ties to the Nazis the Bührle Room quietly got its name back in 2000 as society once more developed amnesia induced by the promise of generous patronage.
Money had spoken and there was no outcry in terms of the collection contract which stipulated “The paintings were not given to the city as a gift, but just on loan. One condition was that research on provenance remain the preserve of the Bührle collection. The contract stipulated that no work of art which Bührle might have bought in dubious circumstances was to be given back. In 2020 Lukas Gloor, the Foundation’s chief art historian, was found trying to doctor a research report in order to prettify the portrayal of Bührle. In 2020 he proposed to leave out terms like “Freikorps” (referring to the German paramilitary groups engaged in putting down revolution in the aftermath of the First World War – Bührle had been involved) and “antisemitism” altogether.
Erich Keller, another historian working on the study drew attention to the changes. Removing his name from the report in a letter, he stated, “I cannot and will not have my name support a study that is not the result of independent and open research, and which fundamentally disregards my rights as an author.” notes In addition to these specific accusations, the issue also raises political questions.
The German paper WOZ notes in article called ‘Bührle History is Whitewashed’ “Over the years, Zurich’s political and cultural circles have obviously grossly underestimated the significance of Bührle’s history”
Bührle was not alone in 1986 Heini Thyssen, moved his fathers Fitz (some time known as Hitler’s puppet master) art collection from the family Villa located in Lugano Switzerland according to David Litchfield’s book on the Thyssen family which reminds us what that family of steel barons was up to during World War II. Countries reportedly fell over themselves to host the Thyssen Art.
Thyssen’s art Nazi origins was never mentioned as no doubt Thyssen junior (Heini) intended from the outset. So in 1993 Spain (where Hitler’s bodyguard Otto Skorzeny CEO of Paladin Security had acted as the head of the CIA’s post war Spanish Gladio unit) paid $350m for half the collection as the fate of the other half remains unclear. By 1930 Fitz Thyssen was one of the leading backers of the Nazi Party. The following year he recruited Hjalmar Schacht to the cause and in November, 1932, the two men joined with other industrialists in signing the letter that urged Paul von Hindenburg to appoint Adolf Hitler as chancellor. This was successful and on 20th February, 1933, they arranged a meeting of the Association of German Industrialists that raised 3 million marks for the Nazi Party in the forthcoming election. Fitz Thyssen supported the measures that Hitler took against the left-wing political groups and trade unions He also put pressure on Hitler to suppress the left of the Nazi party hat resulted in the Night of the Long Knives. However, as a Catholic, Thyssen objected when Hitler began persecuting people for their religious beliefs.
One of the revelations of this book is that, far from having ceased to buy works of art in 1938, as Heinrich and then Heini maintained, pictures moved between Paris and Switzerland, where Heinrich Thyssen lived, and by 1945, 218 works of art had been bought. Heinrich Thyssen always denied that he went to France during the Nazi occupation, but in fact he made numerous journeys to Paris, where Hotel Drouot was selling works stolen from French Jews as where Julius Böhler and Karl Haberstock both associate of Thyseen the Nazi arms dealer. It was the Allies who forgave the Thyssen empire, in the interest of the postwar German economy and creating strong allies who could oppose the Soviets, before Berlin was even taken and Hitler had committed suicide in a bunker.
Thyssen Gas and Water could be found working with the Allied Military Governor and by 1948, Bremer Vulkan, the Thyssen shipyard that had made U-boats for the Nazis, had orders from the Allies worth DM11.25m. The fact that in 1946, Averell Harriman, who in January 1941 still nominally held the Thyssen shares in their BVHS bank, became Secretary of State for Commerce almost certainly helped the Bush family get back their banking assets. Harriman Brothers (whose partners included Prescot Bush the father of the future President of the United States George Herbert Bush and the grandfather President George W Bush) who had fund frozen during the war for the crime of trading with Nazi Germany and Thyssen during the war. The bulk of those ceased funds where returned when the firm agreed to assist U.S. military intelligence in Operation Paper Clip which saw Nazi war criminals and their personal wealth smuggled out Germany and used to aid the US military science and anti Soviet efforts in South America). The route used by American Army Counter Intelligence was alternatively known as SH or the Ratline.
Litchfield’s assessment of Heini Thyssen is that he managed to repress all memory of what his family had been doing during the war. He quotes the baron as saying to the Spanish journalist Luis de Villalonga: “During the war, a group of big industrialists employed Jewish deportees in their plants and made them work like slaves. When they became too ill or too weak to work, they were sent to concentration camps and to the gas chambers. Not only did we have nothing to do with this, but we were persecuted by the Nazis as well”. This is simply nonsense. Although only a very young man and living in Switzerland during the war, Henri was present at all the meetings of the directors held by Thyssen enterprise that built arms used by the Nazis it subsidiary MABAG, directly chair by a Thyssen, being a company that sank mine shafts, built machinery, including parts for the V1 and V2 rockets that bombed Britain led by Von Braun the Nazi rocket scientist who later went to work for the American and founded NASA.
Together with IG Farben ((for whom Prince Berhard had worked) Thyssen constructed the Reich’s main fuel-storage depot in the Kohnstein mountains. By the end of 1943 there were more than 10,000 forced labourers living under Kohnstein mountain and by October 1944, it had become a concentration camp in its own right, Mittelbau, with 60,000 prisoners of whom 20,000 were worked to death. US government memo in the Washington Archives says that in 1943, one in two miners in the Thyssen’s Walsum mine were slave labourers.
Thyssen had two children Baron “Heini” Thyssen-Bornemisza, self-styled “Swiss” industrialist and legendary art collector and Margit who grew Up in the Thyssen family villa on lake Lugano. In 1933, Margit had enhanced her social position by marrying the impoverished Count Ivan Batthyany, whose family had originally owned the town of Rechnitz and a large slice of Hungary. In a bizarre arrangement, while “the countess” shared the castle and her bed with her SS guests, as her estranged husband continued to enjoy his wife’s money and breed horses on one of the Batthyanys’ adjoining Hungarian estates. Margit had voracious sexual appetite and and is rumoured to have taken two or more lovers to bed simultaneously. True or not it is known her main lovers included Franz Podezin, a Gestapo administrator and leader of the Rechnitz Nazi Party and including such as Joachim Oldenburg a Thyssen employee and Nazi Party member, seconded to assist in managing the Thysseen estate.
WELCOME TO CASTLE WOLFENSTEIN
David Litchfield who broke the story of kinky Margit and the Rechnitz massacre writes “Finally, with the Red Army only 15km away, the countess hosted a party at the castle on the 24 March, the eve of Palm Sunday, inviting up to 40 people including leading Nazi Party, SS, Gestapo and Hitler Youth members. The party started at 9pm and lasted until dawn, with a great deal of drinking and dancing. But traditional party entertainment was not enough, and at around midnight some 200 half-starved Jews, pronounced unfit for further work, were delivered by lorry to ‘Kreuzstadel’, a barn within walking distance of the castle. Podezin then ushered Margit and 15 of the more senior guests to a store room, gave them weapons and ammunition and invited them to ‘kill some Jews’ for fun.”
‘Fun’ in this case can be described as systematic and sadistically murdering more than 200 unarmed Jews, slave labourers. Victims where shot at point blank range by drunk party attendees after prisoners had first being made to strip before then being brutalised and toyed with before being murdered in cold blood. Witness describes how the Countess preferred to have a front-row seat to the sadistic killings and beatings.
The victims bodies were never located and at the end of the war the castle burnt down, some say it was razed by locals to destroy incriminating evidence.
No action was ever taken against Margit Batthyany after the war and no one ever went to jail for the Schloss Rechnitz March 24th 1945 massacre. The main reason for a fail to secure a conviction in the brutal night of murder (done in the name of “fun”) was that all the key witnesses kept dying in “accidents” before they could testify. Soon after the killings, two witnesses to the horrific crime were killed, and a house containing key documents about the atrocities was burned to the ground. The Thyssen’s never rebuilt the castle.
Some historian dispute the idea the massacre was triggered by the motives of entertainment but provide no counter evidence to the testimony of witnesses who claim it was for “fun”. It i hard to discern if the clash of historians is sparked by dispute over academic methodology or is part of the ongoing denial that wishes to under play such accounts in the interest of national pride or shame. Regardless no one dispute the killing took place and witnesses where later murdered or disappeared.
In the 1960s, the graves of 18 of the victims was found. An investigation in 1945 end with two suspects being killed before they could be interrogated by allied forces while Margit lover vanished and escaped presumably with the help of the Countess. Rechnitz massacre was in fact was but horrific event from a whole series of such murderous events that took place in Burgenland and Lower Austria in the last weeks of the Second World War. The Nazi and their collaborators conducting 124 massacres in the area just weeks before the war ended. In 1963, however Franz was found living in Kiel and was now working for the Eastern intelligence services (as the Nazis placed their former spies into the camps of both Eastern and Western intelligence brokers in return for leniency). But he was never subject to German postwar criminal investigations in an era when the vast bulk of post wear police serving in both Germany and Austria had served in some arm of Hitler’s security apparatus.
In June 1963, Countess Margit Batthyany surprisingly offered to the public prosecutors in Dortmund that she herself could act as a witness. A meeting was arranged for the 8th of the month, only to be subsequently cancelled by the head of the prosecution office. An extradition warrant had finally been issued in Kiel, but before it could be enacted, Podezin had disappeared to South Africa and so escaped the German judiciary. What happened to him then is unknown. Franz Podezin’s last known address in 1973: was listed as 1 Briley Court, De Jager Street, Hillbrow, Johannesburg South Africa. Source: Operation Last Chance.