The Straight Dope has been terrific fun for 30 years. The Chicago Reader column has been setting the record straight with Cecil Adams' wit and research. But Cece tried to answer this question, and seriously screwed up. Not only didn't he talk about one of the slimiest people of the early 20th Ccentury, George Herbert Walker, but he let Prescott Bush off with a mild rebuke. After I complained, he changed the question, but still didn't answer it. Here is the column I wish Cecil Adams had written. I'll try to stick to his style, but the words are mine. I may use some of the original column's research (and that from the Straight Dope's Message Boards, which has changed to subscription since this was written).
By David E Romm
with apologies to Cecil Adams
[links checked and updated 10/07]
While there are no recorded incidents of them goose stepping or giving the "Heil Hitler" salute, the short answer to the question is yes. Both Bush's grandfather's palled around with sympathizers to the Nazi cause, with George Herbert Walker the worse of the two and grandfather Prescott Bush even worse as he dealt with Nazi Germany before and during WWII.
The Bushes don't like to talk about their past, and much of the early information comes from George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography by Webster G. Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin. While the book's origins are suspect and the authors tend to go off on wild LaRouchian rants, the basic research has held up to scrutiny since business dealings and government actions are a matter of public record. Note: I don't have Cecil Adam's resources, staff or salary, and all sources are from the web.
George Herbert Walker married off his daughter to Prescott Bush. It was a good arrangement for both: Prescott married into money and financial connections; the Walkers rose in society and power. A standard trade-off. George Herbert Walker isn't listed as a member of the Skull and Bones Society at Yale, but future son-in-law Prescott is, and the son and grandson named after him are, as are the Bush's who were his grandson and great-grandson. Aside: The Skull and Bones Society itself has been the subject of much speculation especially about the Bushes, and the real story is as interesting, but an entirely different column.
In 1919, Missouri deal-maker Bert Walker became the president and CEO of the W.A. Harriman and co. bank, which became one of the largest companies in the world. In 1922, the Harriman company set up a branch in Berlin under the residency of George H. Walker. In 1924, the Harriman company spun off the Union Banking Corporation [Wikipedia entry on Union Banking Corporation], also run by Bert. The UBC was established to send American capital to Germany to finance the reorganization of its industry under the Nazis. Their leading German partner was the notorious Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen, who wrote a book admitting much of this called "I Paid Hitler." [quoted here] An article called Nazis In The Attic states boldly, "Walker was one of Hitler's most powerful financial supporters in the United States." and gives other details.
Samuel Prescott Bush, father to Prescott, was an Ohio manufacturer and close advisor to President Herbert Hoover. During WWI, Samuel was director of the facilities division of the US War Industries Board under Bernard Baruch. In 1920, Harriman and Bert Walker gain control of the German Hamburg-Amerika Line, said to be the world's largest private shipping line which had been confiscated by the US after the war [part of long blog posting here]. Still, while many of his business deals are with shady people who were more involved with the Nazis, Samuel himself wasn't a major player.
Prescott Bush was a major player. In addition to having ties with most of his father-in-laws friends (notably the Harrimans) and companies (notably the Union Banking Corporation), Bert hired Prescott to supervise the new Thyssen/Flish Consolidated Silesian Steel Corporation and the Upper Silesian Coal and Steel Company. John Loftus, a former Justice Department prosecutor whose latest series of lectures is on The Truth About Terrorism, has published a number of books about the Nazis and WWII. The page on Loftus' site linked above is from a Clamor magazine article by Toby Rogers entitled Heir to the Holocaust and also says, "Prescott Bush became managing director of UBC and handled the day-to-day operations of the new German economic plan. Bush's shares in UBC peaked with Hitler's new German order. But while production rose, cronyism did as well." and "According to classified documents from Dutch intelligence and US government archives, President George W. Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush made considerable profits off Auschwitz slave labor." Rogers says this information came from "A Dutch intelligence agent in 1941," before we were at war with Germany. While the companies were seized by the Germans during the war, claims Cecil, Rogers points out that Prescott was eventually paid $1.5 million for his interest in UBC after Thyssen died and the companies assets were unfrozen.
Dealing with Nazi Germany, and even financing Hitler, may have been ethically and morally repugnant, even at the time, but they weren't illegal until Hitler declared war on the US. Six days after Pearl Harbor, FDR signed the Trading With the Enemies Act. By then, most (though not all) of the companies that had been doing business with Hitler's war machine had stopped. But not Prescott Bush and the Union Banking Corporation. Writes Rogers, "Prescott Bush continued with business as usual, aiding the Nazi invasion of Europe and supplying resources for weaponry that would eventually be turned on American soldiers in combat against Germany." Citing the Tarpley book, this site goes on to say that on October 20, 1942, UBC assets in New York were seized under the act, and "On October 28, the government issued orders seizing two Nazi front organizations run by the bank (in which Bush was a partner): the Holland-America Trading Corporation and the Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation...U.S. forces landed under fire near Algiers on November 8, 1942; Nazi interests in the Silesian-American corporation, long managed by Prescott Bush and his father-in-law, George Herbert Walker, were seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act, on Nov. 17, 1942."
Bush family apologists like to point out that Prescott only had one share of UBC, though how that came to be worth a million and a half is never explained. Prescott was one of seven directors, says a Boston Globe article [link no longer works, but whole article is archived here], quoting a 1942 New York Herald Tribune article, "Hitler's Angel has 3 Million in the Bank". While "Hitler's Angel" refers to Thyssen, Prescott was worried about the association. No need to worry; he was appointed senator in 1950. Apologists also claim that Prescott was an unpaid director, out of courtesy to a client. That's not completely creditable for two reasons: First, it's hard to believe he would do anything for free. Second, being a director has certain responsibilities, legal and ethical, and one can't duck from them quite so easily, especially when your assets are being frozen during a war. It certainly doesn't relieve him of culpability.
What all this says about future generations of Bushes is problematic. George Herbert Walker Bush, called "Poppy" in the family, fought in World War II, but was sent to Pacific theater, presumably so he wouldn't shoot friends. George W. was born in his senator grandfather's state of Connecticut, but moved to Texas fairly early, though he hung out and was arrested for drunken driving [thesmokinggun.com image of Bush's arrest record card] in the family estate in Kennebunkport Maine. He doesn't talk much in public about his progenitors. Still, in today's climate of "you're either with us or against us," there's no question that George Herbert Walker and Prescott Bush were against us.
End note: In the same week, defending the indefensible positions of George W. Bush has destroyed the credibility to Colin Powell and Cecil Adams. Proof that the terrorists have won.
Update October, 2007. Since I posted this in early 2003, facts have been dug out of old records, the web has expanded and search engines have improved. Subsequent articles with similar conclusions include: How Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power a Guardian article from 2004. Siege Heil: The Bush-Rove-Schwarzenegger Nazi Nexus and the Destabilization of California, a commondreams.org article from 2003. An excerpt from 2006's "The American Axis" by Max Wallace. Wikipedia's entry on Prescott Bush contains a section on "Nazi collaboration controversy", though the facts cited are not in question and the controversial claims involve Prescott being implicit with Nazi slave labor in Poland. More from above cite: Former Federal Prosecutor John Loftus confirms the Bush-Nazi scandal from 2003.
If you don't want to take my word for it, do your own research. In the nearly five years since I wrote this piece, no one has successfully refuted any of the points made here. Most don't even try, they just sling mud. Republicans are always soft on crime when it's theirs.
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