martes, 1 de julio de 2014

Hitler: The secret billionaire

HE POSED as a frugal leader but history's most hated man was a tax dodger who hid a vast personal fortune.

In the summer of 1945 a young German in civilian clothes who claimed to be a journalist was sent for interrogation to the former prisoner-of-war camp Stalag XI-B in Lower Saxony, which was being used as an internment camp for suspected Nazis. His British interrogators weren't satisfied with his story and were particularly suspicious of his oddly shaped shoulder-pads.
Eva Braun
Their doubts proved well founded when the pads were found to contain top-secret documents drafted in the last days of the Third Reich. The man was actually Heinz Lorenz, Adolf Hitler's deputy chief press secretary, and among the documents he was carrying was the dictator's last will and testament, signed shortly before dawn in his underground bunker in Berlin on the day he and Eva Braun shot themselves.

"At her own desire she goes as my wife with me into death," Hitler wrote in his will. "It will compensate us for what we both lost through my work in the service of my people. What I possess belongs - in so far as it has any value - to the [Nazi] Party. Should this no longer exist, to the State; should the State also be destroyed, no further decision of mine is necessary."

He asked for provision to ensure the maintenance of a "modest, simple life" for his sister and half-siblings, as well as for his new mother-in-law and his "faithful co-workers". Since he also stressed that the pictures he had bought over several years had never been collected for private purposes but were destined for a new gallery in his Austrian home town of Linz, the document gave the impression of a frugal figure who had never operated for personal gain.

Reality could scarcely have been more different. The man who claimed not even to have a bank account actually had an acute business sense, charging money for his fiery performances as a political speaker, copyrighting his own image so that he eventually received a royalty from every postage stamp sold in Germany and showing a contempt for the taxman that was translated into a formal exemption once he got into power.

At today's prices the supposedly frugal tyrant who worked only in the service of his people was actually a billionaire - and the fate of his cash and assets has continued to fascinate historians. In 1948 an Allied court formally issued a death certificate for Hitler and said his entire personal estate was worth just DM200,000, less than £15,000 at the time and no more than £500,000 at today's prices.

But a will written in 1938, drafted with less of an eye on public view than the bunker version, suggests Hitler knew very well his own estate was more substantial. He named specific heirs and stated exactly how much should go to each. For example his sister Paula was to receive 1,000 Reichmarks a month, the equivalent of £150,000 a year today.

Other relatives and staff were also to receive substantial bequests and had Hitler died in 1938, his estate would have had to pay out nearly £200,000 in the first year alone - £1.2million at today's prices. For annual payments like that to be sustainable, Hitler must have been rich.

"Let's try to talk in today's figures. By 1944 he's definitely in the billions of Reichsmarks, which is not far off billions of euros today," says historian Cris Whetton, who argued in his book Hitler's Fortune that the dictator was probably the richest man in Europe.

From his earliest days in the Nazi Party, Hitler realised that people would pay to hear him speak. He used to say he took no fees for speeches - he brushed off the taxman's queries on official forms by saying it was entirely a matter for the party not him personally - and insisted he had no bank account. But Whetton cites Hitler's own headed notepaper which provided bank details on it.

Imprisoned for nine months in 1923, he wrote the unwieldy manifesto Mein Kampf which would contribute hugely to his fortune. It was published in 1925 and he received a royalty of around 10 per cent from every sale. Initially released in an expensive volume that sold only modestly, it was then reissued in a budget edition that transformed Hitler's fortunes.

Once he rose to power in the 1930s, he decreed every newlywed couple in Germany should be given a copy - with the state footing the bill and the author receiving his royalty.

By 1938 his unpaid tax bill was 400,000 Reichsmarks, equivalent to £1.75million at today's prices. Hitler clearly felt paying tax was beneath him and his government in due course gave him a formal exemption as Chancellor, ruling that his tax papers should all be destroyed. In fact they were locked in a safe, providing a rich seam of information for future historians.

He poured the money into property: a luxury apartment in central Munich, a villa used by Braun and most of all his Alpine home at Berchtesgaden, bought in 1936 for the equivalent of £120,000 at today's prices but steadily enlarged into a sumptuous 30-room mansion. The documentary makers estimate he ploughed the equivalent of £136million into the place at today's prices.
The house was damaged by British bombing, set on fire by retreating SS troops and finally levelled by the post-war German government in 1952.

Hitler also intended to be the world's greatest art collector, amassing works that he genuinely did intend to exhibit in Linz. By the end of the war he had gathered some 8,500 pictures for this purpose. Unlike many Nazis he didn't loot the treasures and does appear to have bought them legitimately, albeit sometimes at knockdown prices.

These paintings were among those recovered by the Allies from underground tunnels in Austria after the war, with a total value of almost £1million.

As for cash, in the post-war period the forerunner of the CIA found that Hitler had access to massive amounts. Agents discovered Swiss bank accounts holding 45million Reichsmarks - equivalent to £210million today.

So what happened to it? When Hitler died he left some 20 living relatives. Paula was his next of kin and the only one to pursue any of her brother's funds. After the Allies had officially valued his estate at £15,000 she went to court in Munich to try to get control of his assets and money.

In 1960 the court ruled that she was entitled to two-thirds of her brother's estate, with the remainder going to their half-sister and half-brother. But it put no value on the estate and Paula died four months later. The court ruled that any benefit from the estate should pass to her heirs and relatives but none has made a claim.

A recent ruling in Switzerland stated that after 62 years the funds from dormant bank accounts can pass to government coffers. That may mean the last of Hitler's missing millions have disappeared.


2 comentarios:

Ana dijo...

Raudel Bosquez Alvarez Rodriguez, fiel seguidor de este blog, me ha pedido que inserte su comentario a esta entrada, pues él no lo ha podido hacer por causas técnica. El debate está abierto.

No pongo en duda la fortuna del Dictador, tengo la experiencia de lo que pasa en mi País ¡Cuba.! Pero veo ingenuidad en el proceso de Hitler, por razón de que todos sabemos de qué manera llego al poder. El golpe de estado fallido donde murieron personas…. De ambos lados… La noche de los cuchillos largos…El control absoluto de todas las instituciones… Un País sometido y aterrado por la Gestapo. La industria armamentista solapadamente dedicando todos los recursos para armar el País para la guerra…., todo bajo control absoluto de la tiranía.
¡Señores! Por Dios, Alemania entera era del señor Adolf Hitler…como nos centramos de manera ingenua en los recaudos de las ventas de su libro, sus discursos o sus propiedades… mobiliarios.
Quien indemniza tantos muertos, tantos desaparecidos tanta destrucción de una Europa desbastada totalmente por este señor y su seguidores…Quizás crean que estoy fuera del tema…pero mi planteamiento es el siguiente…. Como un hombre tan despiadado y macabro se le puede procesar de manera legal un proceso judicial a cerca de sus bienes económicos; Cuando se robó la fortuna de un País entero y destruyó la de otros…. Sin piedad ni compasión alguna… más se robó su patrimonio de una forma u otra…Es este hombre digno de respetarle sus mal ávidos vienes….? Es este Señor un hombre de negocios al cual hay que cobrarle impuestos justos…. por tener un país entero bajo sus pies trabajando para el solo y su propósito….. Como un Ladrón se le puede adjudicar todo lo hurtado como bien habido…. !No es justo de ninguna manera!
Pero no es de extrañarme este Mundo de hoy; donde lamentablemente se llega a sentir simpatía y afecto por el impío! Ejemplo de ello ¡Fidel Castro! un sistema Totalitario al estilo de la Gestapo hitleriana; Miles y miles de fusilados encarcelados y torturados… y no tendría para cuando parar…..Hi en los E.U.A Mi segunda Patria donde practica la Democracia al pie de la letra según la opinión pública mundial. Hay personas dentro del mismo Gobierno Estado Anídense, Senadores que lo AMAN, no solo que simpatizan si no que lo AMAN y lo justifican…..Es una verdad más grande que un templo. Ese es el Mundo.
Me preguntaría si un joven Alemán llevara consigo una camiseta puesta en la universidad de Miami, con el rostro de Adolf Hitler. ¡Cuál sería la reacción de la facultad!?. Porque he tenido que soportar que muchos jóvenes portan sus camisetas con la figura del Che Guevara, y Fidel Castro en Universidades Norte Americanas….
Así que porque he de extrañarme con la problemática Nazista; Si el mismo contesto lo tengo hoy con personajes diferentes! Lo único que me gustaría es que el mundo tome conciencia de toda esta problemática…. Que pida justicia Como el pueblo judío….y se pueda oír sus boses
No soy Cubano De Miami extremista o intransigente como nos han querido vender los Castristas no!; soy un Cubano De Marti Gomes,Grajales,Maseo , de Félix Varela y muchos más…..
Espero no herir a nadie por ver las cosas de manera diferente; En caso de que no pienses igual que yo, o tengas una opinión diferente…
Raudel Bosquez Alvarez Rodriguez

Ana dijo...

¡Hola Raudel!

La cuestión de la fortuna de Hitler no una cuestión superficial. Con este artículo se muestra la profundidad de su matanza; el dinero y el poder. Ni la raza aria, ni la implantación de un nuevo Reich, simplemente, el dinero y su poder personal.

Con ello, no se esta menospreciando los horrores que él empezó y llevó a cabo. Únicamente, se muestra cuan superficial eran sus motivos: los de cualquier criminal.

Un abrazo, Raudel. Espero verte de nuevo por aquí. Ana.