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American Academy of Political and Social Science

Holocaust Business: Some Reflections on Arbeit Macht Frei Author(s): John K. Roth Reviewed work(s): Source: Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 450, Reflections on the Holocaust: Historical, Philosophical, and Educational Dimensions (Jul., 1980), pp. 68-82 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. in association with the American Academy of Political and Social Science Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1042559 . Accessed: 18/01/2013 05:38
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During the 12 years of the Nazi regime. 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Maidanek. Attention typically focuses on the principal extermination centersAuschwitz-Birkenau.ANNALS. Fulbright Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Innsbruck. where he has taught since 1966. He received his B. Austria (1973-74). 68 This content downloaded on Fri.D. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy at Claremont Men's College. in philosophy at the Yale University Graduate School. ROTH ABSTRACT: Arbeit Macht Frei. John K. Less well known is the fact that the Nazi program included some 1. This article explores the links between industry. Belzec. and Ph. His publications include A Consuming Fire: Encounters with Elie Wiesel and the Holocaust (1979). and Treblinka-where countless Jews were dispatched by gas chambers and crematoria." Those words formed the entry to Nazi death camps.A. it was only because the victims had somehow avoided being worked to death. slave labor. millions slaved and perished within them. He was a Graves Fellow in the Humanities (1970-71). Sobibor. AAPSS. and the Holocaust. "work makes one free. July 1980 Holocaust Business: Some Reflections on Arbeit Macht Frei By JOHN K. If survivors were found when Allied forces arrived. It also examines implications for moral philosophy that spin off from Holocaust business. 450. Chelmno. Roth is the Russell K. Yale University (1976-77). from Pomona College and took his M. and Fellow of the National Humanities Institute.A.600 forced labor operations.

mechanized petrification. is beyond killed in the twentieth century alone. History itself is the the disease itself. but Rubenstein's framework of interpretation helps to pinpoint crucial questions raised by Holocaust history. ease could be beyond treatment because it is rampant in a cage where Seventy million human beings have been uprooted. depends is still in the making. If survivors were found more or less alive when Allied forces arrived. He saw human who are experiencing a similar plight rationality constructing its own cage. the disreason why. 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Sadly. Belzec. Sig. We will see momentarily how that role developed historically. Max mount campaigns of relief for those Weber is another.caust has produced much hand wringsights about the future.ing about guilt and apostasy. p. or the medicine.in Southeast Asia. Rubenstein's The Cunning of History penetrates a process of total domination in which corporate enterprise played a fundamental part.HOLOCAUST BUSINESS 69 No one knows who will live in this cage in the future. Millions perished. Less well known is the fact that the Nazi version of Max Weber's cage included some 1. and Treblinka-where less Jews were dispatched by gas chambers and crematoria. His vision is not yet such activities. Indeed. Misery rages. or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise. How does it happen that the long and honorable tradition of moral reflection in the West not only seems incapable of providing an effective This content downloaded on Fri. Recent concern about the HoloOME writers have uncanny in. Consider business goes on as usual-almost. Whether is all too clear.renewed moral outrage and indigdrich Nietzsche are three prominent nation. on our ability to understand better Scarcity abounds. What the figure a prospect is grim. they are. that a cage there can be one. God only knows. Franz Kafka. though. War persists. enslaved. Maidanek. It has even led people to examples from the past century. it was only because the victims had somehow avoided being worked to death. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. THE "ADVANCE" OF CIVILIZATION Richard L. It ings for a different outcome. millions slaved within them. is the apparently dysfunctional status of moral philosophy and religious ethics. Such The Rebel (1951). and Frie. some glimpses of Holocaust busiOne difference is that today's work ness as a step in that direction. is done after Auschwitz. if neither. Chelmno. trans. too. Arbeit Macht Frei. and the cage that is our home. however. it leaves yearnshould be today. Max Weber." Those words formed the entry sign at Nazi camps of slave labor and death.1 twelve years of the Nazi regime. During the 1. 1958). or. without-an-exit.600 forced labor camps. or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals. however. It has mund Freud. Sobicountbor. Talcott Parsons (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. if any exists. 182. may be little more than an But we ought not to place sanguine attempt to treat symptoms rather than bets on that hope. and it may never be. vitally important as completely true. "work makes one free. A major problem.embellished with a sort of convulsive selfimportance. for example. the grasp of arms stretched through Albert Camus made that estimate in the bars made by human hands. Attention typically focuses on the principal extermination centers -Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Richard L. Both dimensions point to power. it is more common now rights. utter respectability in an advanced. As far as history is concerned. natural law. It is also true interests that is required for any that the process took on cagelike regime to work. expand. Indeed. The Cunning of pared to face without sentimentality History: The Holocaust and the American the kind of action it is possible freely Future (New York: Harper Colophon Books. though. coupled with outright exterminahowever. Hitler's Nazis could qualities as it moved forward. and they used it. authority to determine what ought to be would have found that no natural laws were broken and no crimes against God and humanity were committed in the Holocaust. appeals are to understand that a basic core of not without sound arguments behind rationality formed the Nazi policies them. No doubt of privileges from it are very often the definition process was just that. right does depend on might. The imations are never unrelated to de. those destiny. those who hold political and economic power also have the auRight: extermination and slave labor thority to define what should and therefore will be. They did so long enough. Rubenstein. one can quarrel with their mark. p. their Although minds are still jarred by claims are often supported by appeals the thought that the Holocaust was not a bizarre aberration unleashed by to reason.Final Solution. That result is not far off the course. It would have been a question. Rubenstein suggests that such considerations are all too often beside the point. Specifically. provided the most efficient Thus Richard Rubenstein puts a cru.of extermination and slave labor. cial item on the agenda: "Until ethical theorists and theologians are pre2. they must be to a process. Granted. none of their assertions about the existence of moral norms will have much credibility. and it left open varied provide the critical mass of common options for solutions. 67. and a need for labor in a state whose Such analysis conjures up visions destiny spelled expansion-and they of the few dominating the many by moved to solve it expeditiously. Those decisions would have been made on rational grounds. Of force. will. inalienable God's self-evident truth. 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . to show what is possible. the long run. psychopaths. widespread. contemporary society.70 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY bulwark against human domination that results in a Holocaust.Nazis perceived a problem-too sires for power and the privileges many people of an undesirable type that it confers. or go out of business. This content downloaded on Fri. whether the slave labor operations should continue. working people to death. but it is vitally important to definition of "problem. Had Nazi power prevailed. If or fate. but even contributes to that process itself? One answer to the former part of the issue is as forthright as it is disturbing. It leads to insights about the second as well. tion."2 The point is simple." but the note that the sharing of political and power to define social reality was economic power and the diffusion theirs. it is also true that such legit. to perpetrate under conditions of 1978). Ulnot keep such a package together in timately. RIGHT DEPENDENT ON MIGHT Philosophers and theologians argue whether one can judge what ought to be on the basis of what is.

high technology. H. This content downloaded on Fri. The power of thought. Faced with the problem of fueling German industry in wartime. has no end. has a history. Religion can kill thinking. Let us look at the situation in terms of labor. in turn. 71 the modern political state. and means and ends. Gerth and C. Religion is often stereotyped as an unthinking phenomenon." these industrialists ran such enterprises. Much more decisive for Western civilization is the fact that religion has been a spur to awaken the human mind.BUSINESS HOLOCAUST The dominating power of practical rationality. vast networks of transportation and communication. The issue. Farben. but they are not even half the story. chairman of the Krupp complex of coal. Carl Krauch. iron. We know that the leaders of German industry under Hitler-men such as Dr. their business acumen was high."3 That advance depended on brain power. But the same factors also made a cage that took the twentieth century to Auschwitz. in turn. and Friedrich Flick. Max Weber. except that it can lead one to become self-conscious about power. Nobel prize winners and Rhodes scholars were among them. is whether their forms of thought-or any forms of power-have authority enough to forestall the tendencies for destruction that are their own progeny. even requires it. dogmatism. "The Holocaust. possibilities. One of the reasons is that they almost perfected a cost-effective labor policy. Certainly they were contributing. is a most significant consequence of the life of reahowever son. That consequence. gave us 3. "bears witness to the advance of civilization. Religion and philosophy were not sufficient to establish Holocaust business. unintended and inconvenient for ethical theory. Wright Mills (New York: Oxford University Press. Questioning. and ed. Thinking is questioning. p. They had vast scientific knowledge and managerialskill. and new consciousness that "the decisive means for politics is violence. chairman of the supervisory board of I. 121."4 Such results are not unmitigated evils. That image arises when one considers religion primarily in terms of superstition. and without them he could never have gotten very far.. head of Mitteldeutsche Stahlwerke-were a distinguished group. which is why the life of religion and the life of philosophy are so closely intertwined. One of its chapters involves religion. Starting from an affirmation of or a search for absolutes. who also condoned Nazi racism at least implicitly. 91 (Rubenstein's italics). 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and their innovative ability to solve problems unsurpassed. G. unprecedented military might. 1976). and steel industries. these businessmen. trans. They were well-educated leaders. Religious history reveals such qualities. Ibid. causes. "Politics as a Vocation. and fanaticism." Rubenstein has written. Life cannot advance without thinking. efficiency." in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. It is also true that thinking is dangerous business. It was no accident that Hitler had these men on his side. p. their loyalty to Germanyindisputable. it can lead to skepticism and relativism and then to a will to power. Before most people could say "multinational conglomerate. Alfried Krupp von Bohlen. made a more than convenient 4. Rubenstein suggests. It also stimulates it. at least in its Holocaust dimensions. if not necessary. Men and women can do amazing things for humanitarian purposes because of those realities. H.

"THE PROBLEM . necessity. but a factory and its supporting operations were well along. and rubber. Attempts to cope with them would take I. Hoechst.. German scientists did know how to produce synthetic rubber. a bargain was struck. which 7. and then well beyond. especially so once World War II was under way. 1944 razed I."6 The need: mass production Hitler's announcement was a propagandistic exaggeration. Hitler boasted that this problem "can now be regarded as definitely solved. Hitler would not have to worry about oil until Allied bombing raids in May. It came from human slaves. Farben. See Joseph Borkin. 62. Farben to Auschwitz. G. Vernichtung durch Arbeit. Still. were substantial. they battled each other viciously. Agfa. Farben traces the path that took this world-leading firm into the most grisly depths of the Holocaust.7 The prelude to this mutual interest is intriguing. 60. but not by much. The Crime and Punishment of I. the German industrialists carried out their policies with relative impunity: "It was possible for respectable business executives to participate in and profit from a society of total domination and a venture involving the murder of millions of defenseless human beings without losing their elite status in one of the most advanced modern societies. Cassella. 6. six German companies-BASF. Logistics made the operation difficult to implement. into the dock at Nuremberg for war crimes. G. and even profitability dictated the course to be rational and. Arbeit Macht Frei was the slogan. Farben (New York: The Free Press. just 5. In return for his governmental support. Ibid. G. good. On 14 December 1933. Joseph Borkin's The Crime and Punishment of I. At the seventh Nazi party congress in Nuremberg on September 11. p. CAN Now BE REGARDED AS DEFINITELY SOLVED" In 1935. At the turn of the century. Superior Allied might caused the plan to fail partially. G. 65. and Kalle-had cornered the world market for synthetic dyestuffs. as they also knew how to convert coal into synthetic fuels that could power Nazi tanks and planes. expediency. The energy that built them was not synthetic. His most noteworthy points for our purposes begin with the observation that Hitler was no fool. Buna was never produced there." was the reality. gunpowder. one of the problems confronting Adolf Hitler was production of a synthetic rubber known as Buna. . p. This content downloaded on Fri. In fact. 1978). 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Still. p. Rubenstein. Bayer. in that sense."5 One moral of this story is that civilization's advance testifies that ethical judgments have authority in history just to the degree that they are backed by political and economic power. Determined that history would not repeat.'s synthetic oil operations. The difficulties of mass production. "annihilation by work. . G.72 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY marriage with the SS (Schutzstaffel). This lesson was not lost on Hitler. British blockades eventually took a heavy toll on German efforts to import required resources for fuel. who wanted governmental support to turn abundant German coal into gasoline by hydrogenation. German defeat in World War I occurred substantially because the country was deficient in crucial raw materials. he successfully wooed I. however.

Duisberg would eventually win favor for a similar plan of organization among German chemical plants. Heretofore I. Taking that eventuality into account. however. Ibid. 15. 1916. G. Within a year. At the same time.base for a war of attrition was minimal. but time was needed to gear up for full production. 5. These chemicals 73 could become devastating instruments of war. it became clear that poisonous chemicals were among the by-products of German dyestuffs. but postwar economic disruptions also made things uncertain. Meanwhile. most of it used in fertilizer. the most critical need was to develop German self-sufficiency in the production of gunpowder. Farben Although Duisberg's intuitions about the future would prove correct. vastly enriched by government support. The solution: I. the basic raw material for gunpowder. p. but by 9 December 1925. Thus Duisberg's dream of a more unified dyestuff industry was realized: I. As military liaisons discussed the options with German industrialists. p. By day's end. Borkin reports. G. he became aware of the trust movement that was booming in spite of the Sherman Antitrust Act. When it became clear that a long war of attrition was precisely what was in store. on a trip to the United States in 1903. Duisberg was especially captivated by the example of John D. Now German leadership turned to Bosch. the general manager of Bayer. Although war would be required to bring it off. Ibid. G. 9.HOLOCAUST BUSINESS discouraged Carl Duisberg. Little was made of this development until it became apparent in 1915 that Germany would have great difficulty importing the raw materials it needed to produce gunpowder for the war effort.. July.8 Production of the poisonous gas required several steps. In the meantime. Farben-the Interessen Gemeinschaft der Deutschen Teerfarbenindustrie-was born in August. 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Carl Bosch decided that a more decisive step must be taken. Care to provide a sound industrial . 18.9 The company's expansionist ambitions were unslacking. Germans found it thinkable that they might lose the war. development of another decisive weapon seemed imperative. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. Bosch succeeded in welding them into a single corporation. German strategy in World War I called for a short struggle and a swift victory. chemical company in the world. All was not well. I. however. 8. Farbenindustrie the biggest Aktiengessellschaft. Thus on the afternoon of April 22. Not only did the victorious Allies bring sanctions against the companies that had armed German forces. Belgium. canisters of chlorine gas were opened at Ypres. With the Battle of the Somme.000 of them dead. Steps in that direction had been taken as early as 1913 when a major breakthrough by Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch made it possible to mass produce synthetic ammonia. G. the chemical magnates believed that they would more likely hang separately than together. by oxidizing the synthetic ammonia. This content downloaded on Fri.. Bosch's gunpowder project moved ahead. large quantities of ammonia were available. the immediate future of I. which were divided up rationally among the bestsuited firms. Farben had been an association of cooperating units. Farben was rocky. Bosch was experimentally producing small amounts of saltpeter.000 soldiers lay on the battlefield. G. Increasingly. 43. Then.

The defended the Jews in I. and good business required called I. G. I.case. since Jews were cen. Bosch the best location for a new plant to hoped to bring Standard Oil of New produce Buna. G. only its and thus his personal relationships goal was to manufacture corpses. With a capital it. G. were willmany invaded Poland on 1 Septem. Bosch and his associates investment totaling nearly one billion dollars in today's money.Auschwitz. All that the firm would ing board were party members. privately owned firm that aim. in procuring the necessary labor at and Herman Goering had put Carl reasonable rates. but the in that area. events unfolded.ing to cooperate.further weakened by the long daily This content downloaded on Fri.Farben began to supplement the gas tories in the east were creating at. Ambros argued that the of oil so low that Standard Oil lost place to build the factory was near interest in further development of the Polish town of Auschwitz. G. These gains were not without prob. already less than energetic because of their meager diet.vored had numerous assets: ample lihood. G. 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Auschwitz party were asserting themselves. a supply of labor would not reserves in Texas dropped the price be in doubt. the war might many's munitions industry. G. these objectives but the two men and their constit. As Ger. for a time I. of course. he would have achieved that coal and water plus ready access to good highway and rail facilities. G. Meanwhile Hitler and the Nazi And I.chambers of Birkenau with death by tractive possibilities for industrial work and starvation.the only enterprise planning extrally involved with the firm. were flourishing. Farben was so optimistic terests to be seriously at odds for about the possibilities in Poland long.factories. I.was to determine for I. Heinrich Himmler. G. G. and I. G. Farben could facilitate to build a new. who genation project alive. Farben's interests ficial agreement was made. and create a labor shortage for German Bosch's dream of German self-suf. Above all. Sensing the importance cost-effective efficiency was the goal. for example.the first year at I. SS had similar intentions. Farben took control of Ger. I. Jew. The mutually beneber 1939. In all like.in a report filed by Otto Ambros. Nazi vic. I. Rudolf Hoess.lems. it would be knew a rich deal when they saw one. Bosch pansion at Auschwitz in 1941. Indeed.ask from the government was help ish leadership had been removed. G. the company had been the largest single project in the I. Auschwitz was a cessfully courted the Nazi leader mixed success. Farben. InI. Himmler and his commandant at Krauch in charge of fulfilling all Nazi needs in the chemical field. As with Hitler were never very good. G. nazified: all members of the manag. was not deed.were hardly incompatible. Farben. Farben was a Nazi target. of such options. Prices for inmate most likely to have decisive influence labor were cheap enough. In goal had not the Great Depression and the discovery of vast petroleum addition. In any uents had too many overlapping in. Farben suc. Auschwitz. if expansion. Farben ful of new sources of capital. By 1937. the process to convert coal. G.74 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY I. were of the SS. However.Farben system. head workers.that it was willing to use its own funds ler's goal. Ever mind. Military preparation was Hit. G. That fact was instrumental ficiency in oil also kept the hydro. The spot Ambros faJersey into this operation.

discipline. working one's way to the top 11. 1970). Joachim C. are by Jewish survivors. I. and what he did was no trivialundertaking. 1942. G. The SS did not run out of gas. its efficiency was remarkable on other counts.11What was Hoess's work? What relation did it have to Arbeit Macht Frei? One historian calls Hoess "the man from the crowd. Fest. And yet to encounter Rudolf Hoess is to meet an unusual individual. inadequate sanitation. "The supply. 276. As SS purchases of this product increased. Constantine Fitzgibbon (London: Pan Books. but the situation could be improved if the laborers were closer at hand. Among its noteworthy insights is Hoess's confession that he lived only for his work. Lord Russell of Liverpool. It was called Monowitz. 1974). 10. The Destruction of the European Jews (New York: Franklin Watts. DEGESCH did its part by removing from the product a special indicating odor normally used to warn human beings of the deadly presence. outside of a restricted circle within the SS. G. a cog in a huge machine. "No!" with force sufficient to command respect? Arbeit Macht Frei? Those words mock the dead. it was not a rational way to run a business. See Rudolf Hoess. Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz. "was kept up to the very end." notes Raul Hilberg. 122. 571. They also mock the living if we think that Holocaust business is vanquished from the earth. Farben decided to build its own concentration camp. p. 13."13 servationsare true. The camp and its commandant The most familiar eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust. periodic selections to weed out the unfit-these realities combined with draining physical labor to make I. the SS handled security. Among its products was prussic acid. p. "Introduction. except perhaps indirectly by prisoners under his authority. The Face of the Third Reich: Portraits of the Nazi Leadership. Auschwitz would be dead within three or four months after their initial stint."'l What should one conclude? Does anything guarantee that it is not good. This content downloaded on Fri. Michael Bullock (New York: Pantheon Books. G. p. Poor food. Thus in July. Farben was the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Schadlingsbekampfung (the German Corporation for Pest Control) better known as DEGESCH. and Elie Wiesel's Night. p. Auschwitz's most important product: death. and he was not widely known. rational business to kill?-unless it is a collective will that says.In Hoess's case. One could calculate quite precisely that the vast majority of workers at I. brutal guards. Commandant of Auschwitz." in Hoess. for example. If no Buna materialized from this process. Under the trade name Zyklon B. Raul Hilberg. an effective insecticide. Among the firms dominated by I. This camp had a rational division of labor: I. Farben fed and housed the slave laborers. it would work wonders for genocide. G. 12. for he was the best at what he did."12 Another commentator describes him as "a Such obvery ordinarylittle man.HOLOCAUST BUSINESS 75 trek to the factory site. Hoess was a functionary. 23. and the supply of workers. That problem can in no way be regarded as definitely solved. but the autobiography of Rudolf Hoess is one telling exception. 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . With valuable time and energy being lost. Alexander Donat's The Holocaust Kingdom. 1973). The Nazi mind is less inclined to remember things past. trans. trans. G.

Part of the problem. If Hoess rejected a figure of two and a half million dead as "far too high" because "even Auschwitz had limits to its destructive possibilities"'1 that total cannot be far from the mark Hoess achieved before he was through. He describes himself as a prisoner more obedient than embittered. rational. there simply was a problem to be solved. Strict discipline and obedience did not save the SS from personal rivalries. Ibid. An introverted boy who loved horses and the out-of-doors. Assignment as commandant was hardly a plum. if we mean that the propensity to unleash mass death is something from which no person is immune. Obedience to authority was emphasized along with the plan that Rudolf would become a priest. and Hoess suggests that he got the post partly because his superior at Sachsenhausen disliked him and was only too glad to let him go. He worked hard because he believed his tasks were important. p. 219. it also diminished. Encouraged by friends to join the Nazi party. It could be true that anyone might fill that role." Hoess reported. he had determined while in prison that his life should be that of a farmer and a family man. and he was amnestied in the summer of 1928 after serving about half of his sentence. Hoess found himself attracted to the army instead. On the other hand. of course. Hoess declined because the party's policies seemed crass. he fought with such distinction on the Turkish front that he not only received the Iron Cross First and Second Class but also at the age of seventeen became the youngest noncommissioned officer in the German army. His camp grew. On the contrary. Hoess was raised in a devout Catholic home. Early in 1940 it was determined that a new concentration camp should be built in Poland. and Hoess received a 10-year prison sentence. A capsule summary of this man's career highlights the following facts. and therefore that the orders he received were to be followed without skepticism. This content downloaded on Fri. That dream prevailed until 1934 when Himmler invited Hoess to join the active SS. p.. Hoess did his work remarkably well. Born in 1900. 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . was solved before it came to Hoess's obedient hands.14 and despite the obstacles he encountered. his membership in a now-illegal military unit implicated him in a murder. Still. and even good. meaningful. Hoess's task was to make the final solution proceed as smoothly as possible. Besides. "every fresh difficulty only increased my zeal. Nor did he shirk his duty where the second matter was concerned. entering the SS officer corps with promotion to SSUntersturmfuhrer (second lieutenant) on 13 September 1936. 14. Hoess. At the war's end. Acceptance took Hoess to Dachau where he worked his way through the ranks. Convinced that the Nazi cause was right. 122. Not that he took pleasure. Hoess's narrative complains repeatedly that such conflicts thwarted his conscientious attempts to do the best job possible at Auschwitz. in killing. 15. The site was Auschwitz. Secretly joining a regiment in 1915. Hoess's was not an "ordinary" performance. Hoess's ingenuity with Zyklon B went far toward handling the first assignment.76 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY meant becoming the commandant of Auschwitz. least of all sadistic pleasure. It was also to enable German industry to meet its labor needs. to think that just anybody could manage Auschwitz is to underestimate Hoess's ability.

In effect. work meant rehabilitation. 82. G. and it was a cornerstone of his administrative policy. His main concern was to increase worker efficiency.""7 Hoess was to be in charge. Himmler visited Auschwitz one last time. in spite of the smoke and stench from bodies burning in the crematoria under his administration. Himmler observed the extermination process without comment. Ibid. he had summoned Hoess to Berlin a year earlier. 77 become "the largest human slaughter house that history had ever known. peacetime operation of some 30. and that such a philosophy can apply completely only "where the conditions are normal.. p. Ibid. Ibid."19 but he was wrong.. and Himmler promised that prisoner labor would be made available as required. presumably available to work for major branches of the German armaments industry that would be transferred there after the war. According to Hoess. During the subsequent review at Auschwitz. Thus the sign Arbeit Macht Frei went up there. Heinrich Himmler paid him a visit at Auschwitz.. Hoess related that meanings of this kind were behind the sign Arbeit Macht Frei. Hoess knew a good deal about forced labor. However. p. Prisoners work. and then went on to inspect the Buna operation. 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 134."18 Hoess could say that "in Auschwitz everything was possible. Original plans called for all Jewish arrivals at Auschwitz to be destroyed without exception. Working hard and well meant that one was learning a lesson and was paying for wrongdoing in a way that would change consciousness for the better. How many Jews should be selected for work? Which were fit? How would the logistics of security best be handled? In spite of these tough questions.BUSINESS HOLOCAUST Prior to his arrival at Auschwitz. 17. Ibid. Accompanying Himmler were high executives of I. Hoess claimed that he still hoped to make Auschwitz "a clean and healthy place. Two weeks later he was hanged at Auschwitz. In the summer of 1942. too. p. on 1 March 1941. 234. p. This content downloaded on Fri. 19. Hoess tried to impress Himmler with the administrative difficulties. too. Plans to make Auschwitz an industrial center were well along. Meanwhile. the purpose of that meeting was to inform Hoess that Auschwitz would 16. Himmler then promoted Hoess to lieutenant colonel and left. Hoess was told that he would have to manage as best he could. "Everything" left no room for hopes like those. Not only was Auschwitz two camps in one. 18.000 inmates. neither was Hoess expecting that his new camp would become a full-fledged Vernichtungslager. Hoess's difficulties compounded. In Hoess's early experience. but at the end of the inspection tour. as the first transports of German Jews arrived. The point is not that justice prevails. A Polish court condemned Hoess to death on 2 April 1947. a different order stated that able-bodied men and women would be segregated and formed into labor brigades. He envisioned a postwar. 231. Indeed Himmler's proposals reached far into the future. but there were competing interests among the groups concerned with the labor pool.. which he first saw at Dachau. not to mention breaking the monotony of imprisonment itself."16 If the conditions were less than that when he took over at Auschwitz. Farben. that principle had been taught to Hoess firsthand while he was himself an inmate.

some demned power. further to determine what shall be. theory tries to back up that judgment. Difficult though it may kill you. language what ought to be done. is foundation the family cases? Granted. theoretical good counts perative. however. Ibid. p. there is not much reason is a good soldier to the end. but on the contrary brought the self in the best light. Who is and will be in power. In that sense Nations United that the accidental not the traditional notion that ethics is spoke out in the aftermath of Holologically prior to politics still rings caust business. that he lived only for his work.. con.tism. he was also testifying that the decisive facNo SIGN OF REMORSE tor in life is who holds power over it."22 If moral sensitivity finds that plea might happen. and members of the human of all what is going to happen in those rights of freedom. this world's history nothing goes 21.that admission to those decisions sulted. In Macht Frei as a categorical im.proclaims that the extermination was schwitz and kept it there until the end? wrong because it failed: "It in no Any reading of Hoess's narrative way served the cause of anti-Semimust allow for his desire to put him. Still.. responses to the Such in the world. G. We claim that their use of for very little. p. but in 20. had alive until rescue from the outside a heart and that he was not evil. but not good enough." and peace justice latter questions alone may not tell us it is but a has long history. Arbeit the Jews was wrong. This content downloaded on Fri. Ibid. 22. Hoess restricts the mocking effect that certainly re. 201. 205. That determination belongs to people This is good. but what shall in fact power was wrong.78 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY But it may be discovered in a very At the end of his autobiography. If one got the others the responsibility for orders chance to work. I. and theory after count for good matters very much. Hoess Macht Frei. too."21 True. a fundamental Hoess controlled social reality at point is nonetheless well taken from Auschwitz. and thus to suppose that he callously in. at least at Jews far closer to their ultimate obthe outset of Hoess's tenure at jective. who will take responsibility and because when Rudolf Hoess said hold it."20 This unrepentant Hoess Auschwitz. Who ought to have power.this world.he also admits matter-of-factly: "I am tended Arbeit Macht Frei to have responsible. reserving to tained a grain of truth. proclaims that Hoess made clear that it is equally of the inherent dignity "recognition crucial for normative reflection to and inalienable the and of equal ask. Hoess also wants his readers to the only thing that could keep one try to understand that "he. at the entrance to Au. and if work did not he received. The Universal Declaration of HuNormative reflection makes it cruman Rights adopted by the General cial to ask. p. Ibid. different place by considering the fol. They imposed Arbeit the commandant of Auschwitz.. of the United Nations on and what should be the case? Rudolf Assembly 10 December 1948. Such priority.that were in his sphere. and Rudolf less than credible. guaranthe postwar trials that contees nothing. Farben. 203. The human will to open by Nazi leaders to death. then being able to work was be. That adage after all. does not guarantee anything either. individual or collective. Flushed into the true. Basically. 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the SS.Hoess makes a less-than-impassioned lowing question: Was Hoess cynical statement that the extermination of when he put up his sign.

Ferencz practices international law in New YorkCity. the number that paid anything to camp survivors could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Indeed. Less Than Slaves: Jewish Forced Labor and the Quest for Compensation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Ibid. especially so in the light of SS evidence that called the industrialists to account.HOLOCAUST BUSINESS 79 protest was raised over "crimes againsthumanity. 188. but not ethical-determined the verdicts: "Of the hundreds of German firms that used concentration camp inmates. the German companies had to accept the reality of forced labor.700 each. Limited restitution Jews fared worst."Moralpronouncements abounded. some of these men and women not only survived but also went on to seek compensation from their captors. One of his efforts in that regard is a recent book entitled Less Than Slaves. Benjamin B. This content downloaded on Fri. The treatment accorded such workers depended on their classification in a Nazi racial hierarchy that relegated Slavs and Gypsies to subhuman status along with Jews. But must not we be practical? Ferencz outlines the successful defense mustered by that outlook. criminals. His book testifies that too many German industrialists With the outbreakof WorldWarII. least of all Jews whom Nazi propaganda had successfully portrayed as a major cause of global conflict. Laborwas essential. too. Disobedience of Nazi commands would have been dealt with summarily. Their cases were heard in courts of law as well as in 23. homosexuals-anyone who ran afoul of Nazi law could find themselves imprisoned and enslaved. less legalistic settings aimed at moral persuasion. 1979). Documents and oral testimony by former SS leaders make plain that German businesses could obtain concentration camp labor only if they requisitioned it. Warwas the excuse. Most ethical perspectives would find such defenses lacking. 192. Otherwise their firms were in jeopardy. theirs was the most strenuous and dangerous work. If they were allowed to live at all. Benjamin B. p. Ferencz's report is that power-economic and political. G. but the fact remains that decisions were taken to utilize 24."24 showed "no sign of remorse. He also writes about the legal problems of world peace. the Nazis made labor conscription commonplace.and with them. Even the severe hardship cases of those who had survived work for I. Nevertheless. nowadays we find everyone defending them. Germans were affected. Who could be againsthuman rightsafterAuschwitz? Indeed. And yet how much justice is done remains a question. Germanindustry was under the gun. 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the industrialists' argument went on to say. the other options available were probably scant.. p. Political and religious dissidents."23 One might well ask. Germanyas well. Should anything different have been expected? From an ethical perspective. Practically speaking. Ferencz. As an American prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials. True. Farben at Auschwitz got no more than $1. and nobody could expect favors. Germany was fighting for her life. Ferencz became concerned about restitution for Jewish survivors who had labored in the Nazi camps. it is not difficult to feel righteous indignation over such trivial individual recompense for wasted lives. That question spotlights once again the cage we inhabit. at least verbally.

once the site of Nazi built specifically by and for industry rallies. Good them released on behalf of out Schmidt. courts did not hesitate to find in the ership was needed. in charge of ler are examples. even from a moral at all to his former Jewish slaves in of duress the under of view. -starvation diets. he was the richest man in Germany and among the wealthiest expressed a sense of guilt and culpa. out further adieu. See Hilberg. It is not without years. And yet the industriIn 1947. however. I. p. Quickly it was survivors' favor. J. or per. concentration camp at Auschwitz. acquitted colleagues and to alleviate the Jewish plight save threatened lives. McCloy. G. three hundred companies . but neither will it ring true for supplying poisonous gas to the morally. Auschand Ambros Jews would have been gassed with8 and Carl Krauch. Mitteldeutsche Stahlwerke. 27. treatment received by these workers Business did so."25 Failure to speak out is un. When Frie"too often it was only those who drich Flick died in the summer of had nothing to be ashamed of who 1972. John such as Otto Kuester and Walter behavior all. It should figured into that decision.26 of would have the fate those workers One other case is particularly been sealed. These exceptions. A fitting epitaph for this man haps it is even more understandable 25. After the war spite of persistent efforts on their was over. at work rebuilding its forces back the rule: however. which "controlled over most: business. Ibid. G. Ferencz. Freeing the guilty Auschwitz. importance greater also be mentioned that some German German industrial leadEvidently. and ethically unpersuasive his for of the SS and support years as they are-left German industry in in his vast use slave labor the of for very healthy condition. 192. [and] Ferencz argues that there are almanufactured everything from toilet ways exceptions. G. and in the case of I. tended to prove both during the war and afterwards and its bank accounts. Men such as but some of them joined their leader Hermann Graebe and Oskar Schind. years. Some German busito Many of Flick's dynamite. became the scene for postwar itself. Farben trial were found guilty validity. years. . Friedrich Flick noteworthy. Walter Duerrfeld policies? Without them. This content downloaded on Fri.in jail. 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 696 n. 156. virtual absence of health care. along with lawyers the American official had such matters. rationa sentence of seven received prison alized. alists' arguments-contrived.So much so that he had paid nothing derstandable.behalf. after all."27 paper nessmen took remarkable steps to were altogether. Had Germany won the war. it became less so. who spoke but of the survivors after the war. . imprisonment in a camp Nuremberg. That reality becomes all the because practical rationality requires more clear when one recalls the that business must get back to normal. p. German industry in the of the defendants None tried that argument. He had managed well. at least from the perspective that seems to matter industrial empire. By January 1951. Otto of I. 6 witz. 26. bility.. that put German industrialists trials But could it not be argued that in the dock and prison: Alfried lives were saved by these labor 12 Krupp. p. was the cold war. point wartime in a Nazi state.in the world.80 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY slaves.

is to change it. 29. In that cage is there any place to stand and say that right makes might? Holocaust business contains few surprises for anyone who studies history. Such factors show how the world works. W. in various ways. because even thinking fostered by philosophical and religious minds advanced civilization-however unintentionallytoward the Final Solution. Feuer (Garden City: Doubleday Anchor Books. Even Heinrich Himmler knew as much. Senses of difference between right and wrong live within us. They can even rally power31. trans. they are ideas that attract. and thus we need to wonder once again: What has happened to justice? Whatmeaning is attached to human rights? If we search for "some credible set of theonomous or autonomous moral norms governing the conduct of men and nations. "have only interpreted the world. which G. ed. and the Holocaust helps to focus them. Hegel. G. Granted.HOLOCAUST BUSINESS 81 might be the pronouncement he made in self-defense at Nuremberg: "Nothing will convince us that we are war criminals. Philosophy of Right. 1959). if one wants to affirm the United Nations' declaration that "everyone has the right to life. He could never quite be unaware of turmoil created in his men by orders to kill. Moralreflection can clarify and intensify feelings of wrong prompted by Holocaust business. F. And Marx was not completely correct." asserted Karl Marx. And yet that understanding alone does very little to change the world. At the same time. liberty and security of person. it cannot be denied that such realities provoke strong feelings that protest and rebel against 28. F. Hegel so aptly called a slaughter-bench. We forget that fact at our peril.. they have a role to play that nothing else can duplicate. liberty. Lewis S. Ibid. 32. "Theses on Feuerbach." where are we left?29 CONCLUSION: CAN RIGHT MAKE MIGHT? what has occurred. falling of the dusk. 155. p. T. 1967). At least within history as we know it. however. but that this success arrives too late where "instruction as to what the world ought to be" is concerned. Karl Marx."28 Flick's fate and disposition do not make an isolated case. Such thinking can show the importance of those feelings by revealing what happens when they fail to work their way into practice. 65. 245 (Marx's italics). or not at all. p. In truth. 12." in Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy. This content downloaded on Fri. the point. and Rudolf Hoess contributed to that end as well. For example. apart from such concrete settings those ideals are little more than ideas.. and security of person are real only in specific times and places. p. 13.They can lure out the best in people. M. rights. Ibid. I.the tools of moralphilosophy and religious ethics are more meager than many persons have thought." it must be emphasized that such claims are as fragile as they are abstract. namely. 30. Farben. Hegel said that "the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the thatphilosophy could achieve understanding in retrospect. that without might there seems to be little hope that theoretical right can prevail. G. Knox (New York: Oxford University Press. W. Still. 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . p. p."31 He thought "The philosophers. Friedrich Flick. Rubenstein. only in actual political circumstances.32 If Hegel is correct."30 Auschwitz did so.

Where was the spirit of Plato and Kant while six million died? The will to power that might have turned their ideas into actions to thwart Holocaust business arose too late. and yet they will change hardly anything unless will intervenes. Will those words provoke the good work that may set us free? Or will they merely mock us? 33. Protestant Ethic. 182. Might will do so in any case."33 Even so. then. that they are more than ideas until men and women take responsibility to make them good may well be hope that is illusion. and then might must carry on. or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals. Weber. In their own way. such developments are advances in civilization. To the degree that a sense of right dwells in feeling and thought. if at all. however. appears to warrant an entry sign. 18 Jan 2013 05:38:22 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . p.82 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY ful forces behind them. Indeed. To assume. the right has reality. they may have a transcendent status ordained by God. This content downloaded on Fri. Our cage. feelings and thoughts that condemn Holocaust business may be so weak as to be functionally insignificant. Can right make might? Only a little it seems. and it takes on greater depth and truth as it is tempered by critical questioning and insightful imagination. Let it read Arbeit Macht Frei. Can right make might? The answer depends on will. but how it does so still depends in part on "whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise.