The front page of the New York Herald-Tribune, July, 31, 1941.
The Thyssen/Union Banking article was continued on page 22 in the financial news section, with three almost full columns plus another full column ancillary story on Thyssen. The articles are reproduced in full in the following pages.
Pass pointer over the newspaper to zoom in on Tyssen story:
Union Banking Corp. May Hide Nest Egg for High Nazis He Once Backed
By M. J Racusin
In the tides of economic warfare now surging over the world, the New York Herald Tribune, has discovered that Fritz Thyssen, the German industrialist who was Adolf Hitlers original patron on a prodigal scale a decade has $3,000,000 in American cash, salted away in the bank vaults of downtown New York.
In the American colony of Thyssen enterprises perhaps the most interesting is, the Union Banking Corporation, 39 Broadway, nominal guardian of the $3,000,000 cache, all in United States currency a sort of nest egg for Herr Thyssen or perhaps for some of his highplaced Nazi friends when the present troublous days are over.
Among other Thyssen interests in New York are half a dozen corporations engaged in the shipping, export and import trades, centering chiefly about coal and steel industries and operating under the wing of the Union Banking Corporation. These organizations did a thriving business in rolling up dollars for Herr Thyssen in years past, but have been brought virtually to a standstill during the last year by the war.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this story is the mystery surrounding the Thyssen fortune. At the moment, of course, no can get at this Thyssen nest egg, because it is part of the $4,500,000,000 foreign assets frozen by the United States government since Adolf Hitlers armies began overrunning Europe.
Government circles assert that the assets of the Union Banking Corporation and its subsidiaries were frozen because capital and control came from Netherlands institution called the, Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart (Bank for Trade, and Shipping) in Rotterdam one of the Thyssen string of banking houses on the Continent. It was subject to the freezing order, however, as a Dutch corporation and not as a Germanowned property.
As the Custodian of all Dutch property outside the Netherlands, the Netherlands government in exile represents that it, too, would seem to have some rights in the, matter. Nevertheless all of Fritz Thyssens properties were confiscated by the Nazi regime back in 1939, and thus it might appear that the assets here are legally a part of the German governments assets in the United States.
Rotterdam Bank Bombed
The Thyssen bank in Rotterdam which nominally owned the New York corporation was bombed out of existence by the invading Nazis in May, 1940. No one in New York professes to know what has happened to the officers of the Rotterdam institution. Not a word of instruction or advice has come from abroad.
Perhaps it wasnt Herr Thyssens money at all, some persons suggest. Maybe he sent it here for safekeeping for some of the Nazi bigwigs perhaps for Goering, for Goebbels, for Himmler, or even Hitler himself.
No matter how the story comes out, the United States government has the situation in hand. Every penny of known Thyssen assets is frozen, under the strictest control.
There are many Americans in responsible positions who do not think that the rift between Herr Thyssen and the Nazis was genuine at all, preferring to believe that Thyssen was in reality a sort of economic advance agent of the Hitler forces, a financial surveyor and softenerup posing as a refugee.
Reliable private information is that Thyssen has been wandering about Switzerland, France and other European countries before and after the Nazi armies arriving without much hindrance, from the Hitler government. Thyssen is now in Germany not under confinement, free to move about but closely watched perhaps a willing prisoner, perhaps a hostage for his wealth throughout the world.
Herr Thyssens adventure in the American business world dates back to August, 1924, when without flourishes or ruffles the Union Banking Corporation was incorporated with a capital stock of $400,000, the money coming from the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart, of Rotterdam. It was licensed under the New York State banking laws as an investment corporation.
In addition to known lieutenants of the Thyssen interests in Europe, there appeared and continue to appear on the board of directors of this corporation the names of several partners of the private banking house of Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., 59 Wall Street.
Enlisted Harriman In 1925
This circumstance dates back to a chance meeting in Europe in 1925 between Fritz Thyssen and W. Averell Harriman, a partner of the Brown Brothers, Harriman firm and now minister plenipotentiary to England as expediter of leaselend aid to the British. Herr Thyssen said to Mr. Harriman that he was opening a bank in the United States to take care of his financial and industrial interests here and, asked Mr. Harriman to serve on the board. Mr. Harriman agreed to have several other members of his firm, go on the directorate.
This took place, of course, at a time when the present world tangle could hardly have been foreseen and when such courtesies were part of the normal routine of international banking relations.
When a new world war began the Brown Brothers Harriman partners sensed possible embarrassment through association with a corporation stemming from German interests and considered withdrawal from the Union Banking Corporations board. In a consultation with William R. White, State Superintendent of Banks, on the subject Mr. White requested them to remain on the board to assure efficient administration of the corporations affairs by trustworthy and responsible persons during the emergency. They agreed to comply with Mr. Whites request.
Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. have never had any financial interest in the Union Banking Corporation or any of its subsidiaries, and have never profited in any way from its activities. The association of some of its partners with the Thyssen corporation, it points, out, was entirely a matter of courtesy.
The circumstances of relationship were frankly set forth in a letter addressed by Knight Woolley, a partner of the, Brown Brothers Harriman firm, to Mr. White on Jan. 14 of this year. This letter follows:
January 14, 1941.
William R. White, Esq.,
Superintendent of Banks, State Of New York,
80 Centre Street,
New York, N, Y.
Dear Mr. White:
As you are aware, my partners, E. R. Harriman, Ray Morris, Prescott S. Bush and our manager, H. D. Pennington, are directors of the Union Banking Corporation, a state institution under your supervision. This corporation is located, at 39 Broadway, and it is in effect a New York office, or agency, of the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart, in Rotterdam. Because of possible uncertainty as to whether the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart might be held to be a Dutch institution, or whether it is, in fact, a German institution under a Dutch name, my partners have been giving serious consideration to withdrawing from the board. Should the United States enter the war, they feel they might be under some embarrassment because of their connection with the bank, even though we have no financial interest in the Union Banking Corporation, nor do we participate in its earnings. They act as directors merely as a matter of business courtesy.
In order that you may understand clearly the reasons for our doubts, I should like to give you the background of our connection with the Union Banking Corporation. Our partner W.A. Harriman was in Europe in 1925, and at that time he became acquainted with Mr. Fritz Thyssen, the German industrialist. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Thyssen formed the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart and presumably controlled that institution. - At one of his meetings with Mr. Harriman, he told him he was forming a bank in New York to look after his interests in the United States and he asked Mr. Harriman to serve on the board. Mr. Harriman agreed that certain of his associates would serve in this capacity, and as a result various members of the Harriman organizations and now of Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., have been on the board ever since.
The Union Banking Corporation does no commercial business, and its only depositor is the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart. Its activities are limited to occasional payments and a few purchases and sales of securities. All shares of the Union Banking Corporation are registered in the name of E. R. Harriman, who is chairman of the board, except the qualifying shares held by directors. As the company is Dutchowned, its banking accounts were frozen under the Presidential Proclamation of May 10, 1940.
The Union Banking Corporation maintains accounts with the Chase National Bank, the National City Bank, the Guaranty Trust Company, and ourselves. At present its account with us is the only one which is active, and the drawings are limited to the Payment of salaries and usual office expenses. To further control its operations, we have arranged that either Ray Morris or H. D. Pennington must sign checks jointly with the president of the company, Mr. C. Lievense, or with the, assistant treasurer, Mr. W Kauffmann, and that one of our gentleman from our organization must be present when access is desired to the companys safe deposit box at the Chase Bank. -
You have perhaps read in the newspapers recently that, Fritz Thyssen is no longer in Germany, and it has been reported that he has had differences with the Nazi regime. We have no knowledge as to whether he still retains an interest in the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart, nor are we able to obtain any information with respect to the stock ownership in the bank.
In view, of these uncertainties, together with the censorship affecting communications to and from Rotterdam, I realize that the Union Banking Corporation might be placed in an embarrassing position if all the directors were to resign at this time. I feel sure however that you will understand the position of my Associates, and I would greatly appreciate, a frank expression from you as to the action which you feel that they should take should you believe that the interests of the Banking Department would be best served by their continuing as directors until the situation abroad has been somewhat clarified, I know that they will be glad to be guided by, your judgment and I shall greatly appreciate your reaction to this situation and your opinion as to what action, if any, should be taken by my associates.
Very truly yours,
To this Mr. White replied:
May 13, 1941.
Mr. Knight Woolley,
Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.,
59 Wall Street,
New York City.
Dear Mr. Woolley:
Reference is made to your letter of January 14 and to conversations which you and certain of your partners have since had with me relative to the status of the Union Banking Corporation.
During recent months this department has been obliged to give unusual attention to certain of the banking organizations in this country which have been affected by the freezing orders. This, however has not been true in the case of the Union Banking Corporation because of the confidence which the department has in the directors of this institution
While the department would, not feel free to object if your partners, Mr. Harriman, Mr. Bush, and your firms manager, Mr. Pennington, should desire to resign as directors of the corporation, nevertheless the department would be gratified if these gentlemen could find it possible to remain on the board during this period of uncertainty.
I appreciate your thoughtfulness in bringing this matter to my attention and the willingness of yourself and your associates to consideration to the departments point of view in the matter.
WILLIAM R. WHITE.
The personnel and financial setup of the Union Banking Corporation is provided in the following report of the institution, issued on Jan 1, 1941:
UNION BANKING CORPORATION. NEW YORK, 39 BROADWAY, ORGANIZED 1924
Cornelis Lievense, President
Walter Kauffmann, Treasurer
Directors Cornelis Lievense, E. Roland Harriman, R. D. Pennington, P. S. Bush, J. Kouwenhoven, Ray Morris, J. G. Groeninger
Cash on hand and due from
banks (domestic) $2,817,763.95
Bond and Stock investments 232,880.25
Other loans, notes and bills
(including other acceptances) 53,000.00
Accrued Income 947.66
Total resources $3,104,591.86
Deposits: Demand $115,880,14
Due to banks (domestic
and foreign) 2,262,040,20
Other Liabilities 822.64
Capital stock .400,000
Surplus and undivided profits 302,339.70
Total liabilities 3,104,591.86
Lievense a United States Citizen
The dominating personality in the administration of the Thyssen domain in the United States is the shy and little known Cornelis Lievense, a colorful little Hollander who arrived in this country by way of Montreal in May, 1926, two years after the Union Banking Corporation was set up Mr. Lievense is a naturalized American citizen having received his final citizen papers on Jan. 29, 1932, at Mineola, L.I.
Besides the Union Bank Corporation, Mr. Lievense is president of the Holland American Corporation, the Domestic Fuel Corporation, and the Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation.
All of these occupy offices with the Union Bank Corporation at 39 Broadway. Others in the group at that address are the Kemari Trading Corporation, the Riberena Fuel and Chartering Corporation, Kauffmann & Co. and Religious Publications Inc.
Mr. Lievense admitted that the assets of the Domestic Fuel Corporation, the Holland American Trading Corporation and the Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation had all been frozen along with those of the Union Banking Corporation by the Treasury Department. He said the business of the whole group, aside, from the bank, hardly approached $1,000,000 annually.
Blacklisted by Canada
He admitted also that the Domestic Fuel Corporation, which had been bringing cargoes of, coal from the Thyssen mining interests in Europe to Canada and other Western Hemisphere points, had been blacklisted by the Canadian Trade Commission in the fall of 1940.
Mr. Lievense would reveal little of the operations of the corporations beyond saying that they are now under the strict supervision of the Treasury Department and that there was very little activity.
He insisted, however, that Religious Publications, Inc., although occupying offices with the Union Banking Corporation and the others, was not a Thyssen venture but was purely his personal affair.
This is a philanthropic venture of mine, he explained with disarming sincerity, undertaken to bring out the religious works of Dr. K Schilder, a Dutchman who has recently been released from a German concentration camp. This is in no sense a profit-making venture and must not be associated with these other business organizations.
Three of Dr. Schilders books have been, brought out by the William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, of Grand Rapids, Mich., and were translated from the Dutch by Henry Zylstra. They bear the titles, Christ In His Suffering, Christ on Trial and Christ Crucified.
On Other, Thyssen, Boards
Mr. Lievense speaks in soft, low tones and merely smiled broadly when questioned about his association with Herr Thyssen. His name appears as a director of the Thyssen Holland American Investment Corporation, at Rotterdam. He is a member of the board of the August Thyssen Bank, Aktiengesellschaft, at Berlin, and, he is also a director of the Handelscompagnie Ruilvkeer, a Thyssen bartering company at Amsterdam.
Two of Mr. Lievenses associates, on the board of the Union Banking Corporation,, J. G. Groeninger and N. J. Kouwenhoven, are among Herr Thyssens chief managerial assistants in the conduct of many of his European Projects. Kouwenhoven is an old school friend of Mr. Lievense and is managing director of the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart. He is also managing director of the Holland American Investment Corporation and is on the board of the Thyssenowned Vlaardingen Harborworks.
Groeninger is managing director of the Thyssenowned Halcyon Line, with headquarters at Rotterdam. It was this corporation which refused to transfer its headquarters and assets outside Holland when the Netherlands government warned all industrialists to take their properties to Dutch colonies at the time of the Nazi Invasion. Just before the arrival of the German forces at Rotterdam, the British and Dutch navies seized eleven of the thirteen ships of the line and incorporated them in the British shipping pool. It is understood that three of these ships have since been destroyed. Only two ships of the line fell into the Nazis, hands.
Only One Has Visited U. S.
Both Groeninger and Kouwenhoven are directors of the local Holland American Trading Corporation. Groeninger is also on the board of the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart and is a director of the Vulcan Rhine Shipping Co., another unit in Thyssens industrial kingdom. Kouwenhoven visited the United States about four or five years ago, Mr. Lievense said, but Groeninger appears never to have been here.
I have told the government, Authorities everything I know and that is all I can say, Mr. Lievense said in a tolerant manner. As, a matter of fact, I cannot say now who owns this money and this bank and these corporations. I cannot tell you if Mr. Thyssen owns it or not. You know, of course, that the building the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart has been bombed out of existence. Where is it now? Who owns it? Who knows?
Pacing the floor of his office on the twentyfifth floor of 39 Broadway, he said, All I know is that I am here and that the United States government is exercising strict supervision of all activities of the bank and these corporation. I cannot tell you whom I am working. You may be sure there is really little to do. All these corporations in their best years have done less than $1,000,000 annually.
Mr. Lievense added that his business had slowed down to such a degree that he had to let out two or three of his office force and had reduced his three-room office to two rooms.
Has Time to Play the Organ
In fact he said, I have been, spending too much time indulging in my favorite pastime playing the organ at my home. I also play the organ for the Whiteman Memorial Baptist Church at Oyster Bay, What else is there to do?
Mr. Lievense and his wife, Maria Jacobs, have lived In a rambling twostory semiColonial home in Cedar Swamp Road, in the High Hills Farm section of Glen Head L. I., for the last eight or ten, years.
He passes much time visiting the tulip beds in the vicinity of his home. He is a member of the Netherlands Club, and was born In Maasslius, Holland, July 28,1890.
Below is a sidebar article from Herald TribuneJuly 31, 1941, page 22.
In World Affairs
Still a Mystery
Original Hitler Backer May
Be Refugee or Nazi Agent
if Hes Alive and at Large
Fritz Thyssen, once ruler of the German steel trust and most important backer of Adolf Hitler In the early days of the Brown Shirt revolution in Germany, is the international mystery man of today. It is anybodys guess whether he is a genuine refugee from the Nazi terror or a Hitler agent wrapped in a fugitives cloak. The world at large does not know where he is or even whether he is alive. And it has, apparently, no way of finding out.
On March 17 it was reported in Vichy. France, that he had been arrested on the Riviera in December, returned to Germany and lodged behind the barbed wire of Dachau concentration camp. Four days later German authorities announced that he was not in France or in Dachau but in South America. Earlier this month informed sources in Germany said he had been released from custody and was in a German sanatorium enjoying limited freedom of movement.
Contradictory reports of Herr Thyssens status are not new in the history of the man who, more than any other, financed Hitlers rise to power. Since 1934 vague rumors of breaks between Thyssen and Hitler have circulated from time to time. They came to a head on Nov. 11, 1939, when it was announced that he had left Germany for Switzerland for an indefinite stay. The next day he arrived in Lucerne and for several months kept correspondents regarding his hints that he quit his country after protesting against the NaziSoviet pact and urging Hitler through Hermann Wilhelm Goering, not to go to war.
A week after his arrival in Switzerland it was announced in Berlin with fanfare that the Reich had confiscated his fortune and property estimated to be worth at least $88,000,000. It was done on the basis of a law aimed at persons inimical to the people and the state. On Feb. 12, 1940, a decree was published in the official German gazette stripping him and his wife of their citizenship. They were then living In luxury in a Locarno hotel.
From then until his disappearance from the Riviera his movements were of a nature to arouse suspicion, or at least puzzlement. He was in Belgium in March, 1940, and within a few weeks Hitlers armies forced the surrender of that country. From Belgium he moved to France, where he remained unmolested long after the French bowed before Hitlers legions.
Thyssens residence at the Hotel Crillon in Paris while the German armies gathered in front of the, Maginot Line puzzled the Parisians. It seemed strange to them that a man who was a declared enemy of France and the prime mover of Hitlers coup should be ensconced in the French capital at that particular time, able to get the ear not only of French industrialists but also of French politicians.
The same puzzlement arose after the French surrender when Thyssen supposedly an enemy of the Reich was allowed to sun himself for months on the sands of Cannes, although the German authorities could have had him for the asking.
Mentioned as Roehm Associate
All this maneuvering was an echo of in earlier incident in his career. In 1934 after Hitler had assumed the Chancellorship with the staunch help of Thyssen, Berlin began to buzz with rumors of a split among the Nazis. It was also said that Thyssen was seen frequently in the company of Captain Ernst Roehm, one of the leaders of the supposed plot against the Fuehrer.
In the blood bath of July 30, 1934, when Hitler purged his party by killing Roehm and others, there was no mention of Thyssens having a part in the conspiracy. Yet, when he sailed in August for South America, it was reported that he was fleeing. Despite his intimacy with Roehm however, Thyssen apparently suffered none of Hitlers suspicion. After studying the steel business of South America, he returned in the spring to Germany and took up where he had left off.
In the various accounts of the stringpulling responsible for Hitlers rise in Germany, there in no suggestion that Thyssen shelled out his marks to the Nazi party for any reasons but selfish ones. He was firm believer In capitalism so far as capitalism was represented by the palatial Thyssen chateau, the roaring Thyssen steel furnaces in the Ruhr and Rhine valleys and the 120,000 workers who owed their daily bread to the Thyssen pay rolls. Hitlers main appeal to him was as a defender of Capitalism against tile Bolshevik bogey.
The Thyssen holdings were hard hit in the German inflation and the subsequent struggle of German industry against the restrictions imposed under the Versailles Treaty. Thyssen hated the French, distrusted the German Republic and dreaded socialism. He began to look around for an antidote to the three-headed monster of his imagination. In 1927 he found it in the person an Austrian former house painter.
Started Pushing In 30
Thyssen kept an eye on Hitler and, when the depression in 1930 rocked the Thyssen industrial empire, decided that it was time to push the Nazi leader. He introduced him to prominent industrialists, promised them that Hitlers National Socialism was only window dressing and helped to pry money for the cause from their pockets. In 1930 he and a business associate distributed 1,000,000 marks to the party and two years later, before the fateful presidential election leading to Hitlers Chancellorship, Thyssen donated 3,000,000 more.
His reward was to be made economic dictator of western Germany and a member of the Reichs Grand Economic Council and Prussian State Council. He also had a seat in the Reichstagg.
If the version that would picture him tossed over by Hitler is correct, he mistook his man when he patronizingly gathered the Fuehrer under his wing, His idea was to guide Hitler in the paths of safety for the Thyssen fortune. Like other German industrialists with same thought, however, it would appear that his supported puppet turned out to be a Frankenstein monster.