04-30-2016 | Humble Beginnings

Neither Dulles brother particularly welcomed Hitler, whose mildewed origins quickly affected even the best-aired drawing room. Soon after Hitler's ascension to the chancellorship Allen alluded to a "sinister impression" around Berlin. By 1934 Hitler's boycott of Jews was clearly underway, while "alien"-looking citizens were banged around routinely in public forums. Valued clients of ancient standing such as the Warburgs of Hamburg were unnerved, and murmured in their palaces of pervasive Gestapo listening devices.

Once Nazism took hold, both brothers grew cautious about speaking for the record. Hitler's medicine was virulent at times -- undoubtedly repulsive towards Jews of importance -- but what would it take to purge the abuses of Versailles? Allen subsequently grew fond of casting himself in the liberal's role at the celebrated partners' meeting at Sullivan and Cromwell late in the summer of 1935. Two of the senior partners were of Jewish descent, and several of the younger people were incensed that the firm still maintained formal offices in Berlin. Group negotiations were bruited about, while Foster protested with uncharacteristic vehemence that the loss of even reduced business from Germany might endanger the cash flow. Blue-ribbon customers like Remington, Standard Oil, and General Motors wanted German representation. The meeting got raucous, and Allen allegedly threw in with the insurgents, and once the vote went one-sidedly in favor of closing down Berlin, Foster was said to have stalked off in open tears.

Like many of Allen's anecdotes, this tale is pointed up by what it omits. One mammoth client Allen himself lured into the shop, Du Pont, was badgering him badly about the Nazi tyranny. Another partner who ostensibly sat in on the controversial meeting maintains that once the vote was tallied Foster "fully acquiesced." Allen later went so far as to deplore the U.S. arms embargo against the Spanish Republic "while its antagonists were kept supplied by certain European governments." On the other hand, he refused to name these Fascist governments publicly. Meanwhile, according to his obituary in The New York Times, Allen had been working on both the Farben and the Vereinigte Stahlwerke accounts.

The brothers would remain available to clients of every conviction, anywhere in Central Europe. According to his business records, Foster visited Germany every year until the war broke out. It told a great deal that Allen had no apparent compunctions not only about signing on as a director of the New York branch of J. Henry Schroder, but subsequently assuming the much increased workload -- and banking the augmented salary -- which went with the post of Schroder's General Counsel. The influential Schroder investment banking houses in New York and London remained affiliated, through blood and commercial ties, with descendants of "die Gebruder Schroeder." They included, emphatically, Baron Kurt von Schroeder, Heinrich Himmler's special angel.


Another of Allen's regulars, the Schroder Rockefeller investment banking combination, effected a bridging role. Partners in this 1936 hybrid were Avery Rockefeller (John D's nephew, a 42 percent participant) and the cousins Bruno (founder of the London branch) and Kurt von Schroeder (47 percent combined). Both Dulleses cleared out legal objections. Disclaimers appeared each time the liberal press sighted in, and spokesmen repeatedly emphasized that the New York Schroder branches functioned independently of the London house, let alone the Gebruder Schroeder in Hamburg or J.H. Stein in Cologne. It remained a fact that the dominating shareholder in both J. Henry Schroder offices continued to be the majestic Baron Bruno in London, on whom his first cousin Kurt still depended, periodically, to underwrite flagging Rhineland suppliers.

With Hitler progressing steadily, Bruno and the Baroness were actively proselytizing among the English ruling classes to broaden understanding for the new Germany. They inroducted Joachim von Ribbentrop to society when he became Hitler's ambassador to Britain.

As General Counsel of the Manhattan Schroder's, it behooved Allan to examine Baron Bruno's resplendent orchid collection at his estate near Cliveden, to attend the Baron's lament of the inequities perpetrated against "my poor country." Schroeder's recriminations seemed reasoned enough compared to with the feverent anti-Bolshevism of other Dulles contacts like Sir Henry Deterding of Royal Dutch Shell, now vociferously worshipping Hitler.

... Like FDR, Allen had an unnerving way of taking on the political complexion of the last forceful person he'd had a drink with. When his ex-colleague Hugh Wilson served briefly as ambassador to Germany and observed that while one may "deplore the brutality" of the maneuvering which produced the Anschluss, one "must admire the efficiency," Allen hadn't appeared perturbed. Even Foster was stunned for a moment by Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia, but Allen passed it off, in that paralyzingly blase manner he favored when everybody else was raving, by observing that "Hitler's batting average in taking over states is a good one."

- Burton Hersh, The Old Boys p. 72-75

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