Karl Blessing

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Person.png Karl Blessing  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(central banker, economist)
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H29131, Reichsbank, Sitzung der Transferkommission.jpg
The German representative in the Transfer Commission, 1934, from left: Hjalmar Schacht, Blessing, Emil Puhl , von Wedel
Born5 February 1900
Enzweihingen
Died25 April 1971 (Age 71)
Rasteau, France
Alma materHandelshochschule Berlin
RelativesMartin Blessing
A classic example of the intelligent, amoral Nazi technocrat that smoothly transitioned to the new West Germany.

Karl Blessing was a German banker. He was President of the Deutsche Bundesbank from 1958 to 1969.

Early life

He was born in Württemberg, joined the Reichsbank in 1920 and graduated in Business Administration in 1925.

Pre World War Two

In 1929 he became an assistant to then Reichsbank president Hjalmar Schacht, where he took part in various important conferences, such as the 1929 Paris Young Conference, the Hague Reparations Conference and the conference establishing the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel. Blessing worked between 1930 and 1934 as a department head at the BIS (seconded from the Reichsbank)[1] and experienced the effects of the Great Depression there.

After working from 1934 to 1937 as a general consultant in the Reich Ministry of Economics, Blessing joined the NSDAP in 1937. Now it was possible for him to become a member of the board of directors of the Reichsbank. Shortly after Kristallnacht, on November 12, 1938, in a meeting with Hermann Göring (who was, among other things, responsible for the four-year plan for rearmament of the Wehrmacht and for war preparations) on November 12,1938, he reported concerns about the Jewish property levy to pay for Kristallnacht, a forced contribution payment of over one billion Reichsmarks. He argued that they would then have to sell government bonds, to the detriment of the German economy.

He was let go on February 1, 1939, together with Hjalmar Schacht, after he had refused to share responsibility for the inflationary armaments financing. Blessing retired into the private sector, worked from 1939 to 1941 as a board member at Margarine Union AG (later: Unilever) and between 1941 and 1945 as a board member at Kontinentale Öl AG.

World War Two Era

Recent historical evidence undercuts Blessing's statements that he was unaware of Nazi treatment of Jews: in 1941 he wrote a letter asking to take possession of an apartment the Gestapo had recently taken from a Jewish family.[2]

As the American historian Christopher Simpson notes in his book The Splendid Blond Beast, a ground-breaking study of the links between big business and genocide, Blessing attended 30 out of 38 meetings of the Himmlerkreis, the secret group of financiers and industrialists who bankrolled his private projects. He went on two group trips to visit concentration camps, guided by Heinrich Himmler himself. [3]

During the war Blessing joined the board of Kontinentale-Öl, a monopoly created by IG Farben and private oil companies to seize control of petroleum firms in the newly conquered territories, and served as a member of its senior management team. His fellow board members included Walther Funk, the Reichsbank president and Bank for International Settlements (BIS) director, and Heinrich Butefisch, a senior executive at IG Farben. Like IG Farben, Kontinentale-Öl was built on slavery, plunder and murder. It ran a network of concentration camps in Poland where the workers were “leased” from the SS until they died of starvation or overwork.

Blessing was a classic example of the intelligent, amoral Nazi technocrat that smoothly transitioned to the new West Germany. At best he was complicit in the genocide, at worst he was what Simon Weisenthal called a “desk-murderer”, a loyal follower always eager to do his duty, no matter what the cost in human lives.

Blessing's name was found in documents by Carl Goerdeler naming him as a potential Minister of Economics or President of the Reichsbank if the 20 July plot to kill Adolf Hitler had succeeded. He was not arrested by the Gestapo after the plot failed.

Post War

After the war Blessing was arrested while the Allied authorities considered charging him with war crimes, as he deserved. But Allen Dulles also had Blessing in his sights. In the summer of 1945 the US occupation authorities asked Dulles to provide whitelists of suitable candidates for posts in the new German administration. Dulles provided an A list and a B list. The A list included Ernst Hulse, the former head of the BIS banking department. Blessing’s was the first name on the B list. Dulles termed him “a prominent businessman and financial expert with considerable experience in international trade”, which was one way of describing him. John J. McCloy also wrote a letter of support for Blessing.

With Dulles’s support, Blessing was freed to return to his former employers Unilever. In 1958, Blessing was appointed president of the Deutsche Bundesbank, successor to the Reichsbank. Blessing served as president until 1969, regularly attending the central bankers’ meetings at the BIS. After 1945 Blessing reinvented his wartime past as a “lowly functionary” in a government ministry, a myth swallowed by a credulous press. [4]

Shortly after retiring as President of the Deutsche Bundesbank in 1969 Blessing died in Rasteau, France aged 71, garlanded with praise from his fellow bankers and the German establishment, his wartime role at Kontinentale-Öl forgotten or glossed over. His grandson, Martin Blessing, was CEO of Commerzbank from 2008 to 2016.



References

  1. https://web.archive.org/web/20150523045158/http://www.bundesbank.de/Navigation/DE/Bundesbank/Aufgaben_und_Organisation/Historisches/55_Jahre_Bundesbank/Praesidentengalerie/Karl_Blessing/karl_blessing.html
  2. Ewing, Jack (3 November 2017). "Germany's Central Bank Backs Study of Role in Nazi Crimes". The New York Times.
  3. Simpson, Christopher (1995). The splendid blond beast : money, law, and genocide in the twentieth century. Monroe, Me.: Common Courage Press. p. 400.
  4. DeBor, Adam (November 2021). The Critic https://thecritic.co.uk/issues/november-2021/the-american-who-let-the-nazis-rebuild-germany/