Friday, January 17, 2020

Booknote: Hell's Cartel

Diarmuid Jeffreys, Hell's Cartel: Ig Farben and the Making of Hitler's War Machine. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2010.  ISBN: 978-0-8050-9143-4.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: history, business, Nazi Germany
Format: trade paperback
Source: Hutchins Library, Berea College

The end of this book to me was neither satisfactory nor surprising. In a nutshell, the corporate executives all get light sentences for the atrocities they committed and/or enabled, and some of them were never even convicted. With that out of the way, let's look at the book.

The book looks at the history of IG Farben from its very humble beginnings all the way to 2003. when what was left of it, a trust fund basically, i.e. a legal entity, finally declared bankruptcy thus dissolving the last remnant of the corporation. Meanwhile, eventually, the companies that made IG Farben, including Bayer and BASF were pretty much allowed to go back to being separate companies and mostly went on business as usual. If there are lessons in the book they are that corporations really can get away with anything, and that yes, they do not only influence politics but are often active political participants. The author writes on lessons from this history,

"More directly, though, it contains a clear warning about the risks inherent in any close relationship between business and state and what can go wrong when political objectives and the pursuit of profit become dangerously entwined" (10).

The book can be pretty interesting, mostly when it looks at the broader historical context. The emerging years were interesting too. However, the book has a lot of business minutiae that may not be as interesting. In addition, the book includes good notes and a bibliography.

In the end, this is an academic volume. It is not exactly light nor pleasure reading. It does provide a good documented history of the company, and it offers a look at Nazi Germany from a more corporate side. The book may be of interest to academic libraries, specially those with good European history and business collections. I would not recommend this for public libraries unless it is larger public libraries with comprehensive collections, and even then I would see it as optional.

Overall, I liked it at times.

3 out of 5 stars. 

No comments: