News & Politics

Report: Koch Brothers' Father Helped Nazis Build Oil Refinery

New York Times reveals blockbuster about the rightwing oligarchs.

A new book by New Yorker writer Jane Mayer about the history of far-right financing of elections has quite a revelation: the Koch Brothers father, and patriarch of their fortune, Fred Koch, built an oil refinery for Nazi Germany that was overseen by Hitler himself. The New York Times, which had received an advance copy of the book, “Dark Money,” reported:

But the book is largely focused on the Koch family, stretching back to its involvement in the far-right John Birch Society and the political and business activities of the father, Fred C. Koch, who found some of his earliest business success overseas in the years leading up to World War II. One venture was a partnership with the American Nazi sympathizer William Rhodes Davis, who, according to Ms. Mayer, hired Mr. Koch to help build the third-largest oil refinery in the Third Reich, a critical industrial cog in Hitler’s war machine.

Koch Industries spokesman Ken Spain told the Times, “If the content of the book is reflective of Ms. Mayer’s previous reporting of the Koch family, Koch Industries or Charles’s and David’s political involvement, then we expect to have deep disagreements and strong objections to her interpretation of the facts and their sourcing,”

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The Koch brothers are major players in U.S. politics, having donated to a number of far-right causes including deregulation, climate change denial, anti-tax groups and, most famously, the nominally grassroots right-wing movement generally known as the Tea Party. The Kochs' father founded Tea Party predecessor the John Birch Society that dealt in similar themes of anti-government paranoia that dovetailed nicely with the Kochs' financial interests in pro-corporate deregulation efforts.  

In 1934, Mayer details for the first time, Fred Koch's firm provided engineering plans and began construction on an oil refinery near Hamburg which help fuel the war machine including the Nazis infamous Luftwaffe air fleet. The Washington Post reports that the Kochs links to Nazi Germany went beyond mere business:

For example, Mayer writes that the family patriarch, Fred Koch, admired German discipline so much in the 1930s that he hired a fervent Nazi as a governess for his eldest boys. "Dark Money"  suggests that the experience of being toilet trained by a Nazi may have contributed to Charles Koch's antipathy toward government today.

Mayer’s book also deals generally with the relationship between right-wing oligarchs and U.S. policies. It includes accounts of the Bradleys, DeVoses, the Scaifes, and other families who have used their great wealth to influence the Republican party and conservative and libertarian media. The hardcover of "Dark Money" is out January 19th. 

Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst at FAIR and contributing writer for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJohnsonNYC.