Even at the height of the Cold War there was trade between the U.S. and the USSR, and trading with the enemy is as old as warfare–the Crusaders traded on the side with their Muslim opponents. So was there any sub rosa trade during WWII?
Until better answers come along: the traditional trade, as in ships, full of goods, passing each other in the night, was very anemic already at the time Germany declared war on the US. This in no small part due to the British blockade of Germany. I don’t know for sure that it stopped the moment war was declared, I suspect it did, but even if it didn’t the pre-Pearl Harbor volumes were negligible.
More complex is the non- tangible stuff. There were American companies operating in Germany, (Ford, GMB, IBM affiliates etc) and they continued after the declaration of war. However, while technically owned by Americans or American companies, they had not been allowed to repatriate profits for some years already, and management of these companies was heavily directed by the German government. I would argue that these companies were American in name only during the war, but books can readily be found denouncing American corporate complicity with the Nazis. Before spending any actual money on any of those books, I suggest a cursory checking of their authors.
Fanta is a good example.
Coke bottlers in Germany couldn’t get syrup from the company. It was banned by the trade embargo.
Max Keith, the head of Coca-Cola Deutschland developed Fanta, a line of fruit flavored soda to sell in war time Germany.
It became popular and is still sold today.
IBM sold equipment to the Nazis, presumably before Germany declared war on the USA.
I’m thinking more along the lines of how the USSR bought American wheat wheat and we bought Soviet titanium (or platinum?), even though both sides were helping their enemy. Different circumstances obviously, but weird things happen in wartime and Switzerland or Sweden were convenient places for clandestine exchanges.
Keep in mind the Cold War wasn’t an actual war. It was a period of hostile relations. Same thing with the Crusades; there were long periods when the Christians and the Muslims were not at war.
Trading with a country your country is at war with is generally a crime. Trading with a country your country is just unfriendly towards is generally legal.
If it’s not too much of a hijack, can I tag on a related question? If someone in a Allied country wanted to send someone in an Axis country a letter during the time of the hostilities, did the enemy postal services still coordinate mail delivery? (I’m guessing not, but I often guess wrong.)
The Allies tried their best to blockade all sea trade with Germany.
But Germany …well, they built blockade runner armed freighters.
American corporate footsie with the Nazis is unfortunately a matter of historical record, and cannot be explained away on the basis of these firms supposedly losing control of their subsidiaries in Germany. Henry Ford is a notorious example of an anti-Semite and admirer of Hitler, whose company policies reflected his views.
*"That Ford and a number of other American firms–including General Motors and Chase Manhattan–worked with the Nazis has been previously disclosed. So, too, has Henry Ford’s role as a leader of the America First Committee, which sought to keep the United States out of World War II. However, the new materials, most of which were found at the National Archives, are far more damning than earlier revelations. They show, among other things, that up until Pearl Harbor, Dearborn made huge revenues by producing war matériel for the Reich and that the man it selected to run its German subsidiary was an enthusiastic backer of Hitler. German Ford served as an “arsenal of Nazism” with the consent of headquarters in Dearborn, says a US Army report prepared in 1945.
Moreover, Ford’s cooperation with the Nazis continued until at least August 1942–eight months after the United States entered the war–through its properties in Vichy France. Indeed, a secret wartime report prepared by the US Treasury Department concluded that the Ford family sought to further its business interests by encouraging Ford of France executives to work with German officials overseeing the occupation. “There would seem to be at least a tacit acceptance by [Henry Ford’s son] Mr. Edsel Ford of the reliance…on the known neutrality of the Ford family as a basis of receipt of favors from the German Reich,” it says."*
The book “The American Axis” also goes into nauseating detail about Ford’s beliefs and the activities of Ford Motor Co.
Was there any indirect trade through neutral countries, like Turkey?
Frankfurt was the location for censorship of all mail from Germany to North America. So (1) it was all controlled, and (2) it happened somehow.
Just shipping through a neutral country would have been possible, but the normal postal funding arrangements would have not worked for that.
I think that American companies that were illegally directing German subsidiaries did so through 3rd party countries (typically in South America), rather than sending mail/telegraphs directly.
During the American Civil War, the CSA established its own post office on February 21, 1861. But it didn’t go into service until June 1 of that year. Prior to June 1, the United States post office continued to operate in the seceded states. (Despite the war, which began on April 12.) Even after the Confederates began to operate their own postal service and the war had begun, mail was still passed from the United States into the Confederacy and vice versa. Finally on August 26, 1861, Congress enacted a law banning the exchange of mail with the Confederate states.
Thing is, most world trade is through the sea routes and that was controlled by the Allies since basically Day 1. So if there was any tarde it was through acquiescence of the Allies, either official or due to corruption.
Here’s a book directly on point:
“Trading with the Enemy - The Nazi - American Money Plot 1933-1949” by Charles Higham.
Sources for it at: Trading with the Enemy
That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw the thread title.
A few weeks back I watched as my daughter pulled a bottle of Fanta out of the fridge and took a deep swig of the nasty substance.
I chimed in: “Ahhhh, nothing beats the taste of the official soft drink of the Third Reich!”
The look on her face was priceless, and a bit puzzled. I explained that technically Fanta really did come from Nazi Germany.
…then I explained the important nuances–that it was a part of Coca-Cola left stranded in Germany and cut off by the war, trying to continue to operate somehow, and producing an entirely new soda with whatever they could scrounge up.
If there were ever a preferred soft drink of the Third Reich, it would have been actual Coca-Cola–they loved it in Germany but couldn’t get it anymore.
In the first World War, to get through the blockade, Germany created a couple of merchant submarines:
(However, that doesn’t fit the question exactly as the merchant submarine trade stopped with the US declared war with Germany. I just think it’s really interesting.)
It is interesting, thanks Blakeyrat!
Captain Koenig wrote a book, Voyage of the Deustchland.
Admit it, you work for Ebay, don’t you?
IBM never sold their machines outright, they always leased them to ensure a continuing revenue stream for themselves.