Getty helped traitors sell oil to Hitler by Peter Day

The Texan oil bil­lion­aire Jean Paul Getty was at the heart of a con­spir­acy to pro­vide sup­port to Hitler’s Ger­many early in the Sec­ond World War, accord­ing to newly released intel­li­gence documents. The file links Getty to a shad­owy net­work of financiers who sup­plied the Nazis with fuel in defi­ance of a British block­ade and accuses him of gath­er­ing spies and trai­tors around him at his fash­ion­able Hotel Pierre in New York. It records that he returned from Berlin in 1939 “talk­ing breezily of his old friend Hitler” and that his busi­ness con­tacts included Serge Rubin­stein, a noto­ri­ous fraud­ster who ran part of his empire through London. The “Sus­pect Per­sons” file pre­pared by the For­eign Office for the Min­istry of Eco­nomic War­fare has just been declas­si­fied at the National Archives at Kew, south-west Lon­don. It appears to be the work of the British Secu­rity Co-ordination team in New York, run by William Stephen­son, Churchill’s secret envoy to Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt, code­named Intrepid. He was rumoured to be behind the assas­si­na­tion of one of the lead­ing fig­ures in the deal to try to stop it con­tin­u­ing. The dossier was com­piled after the deten­tion in Trinidad in Octo­ber 1941 of the banker who worked for Her­mann Goer­ing, shift­ing Nazi funds out of Europe. He was car­ry­ing $100,000 cash and had another $1 mil­lion in a South Amer­i­can bank. The banker was linked to Rubin­stein, the son of a Russ­ian banker who worked for the last Tsar and had been ruined by the Bol­she­vik rev­o­lu­tion. Rubin­stein had a first class degree in eco­nom­ics from Cam­bridge but turned his tal­ents to mak­ing money fast and illegally. One of his vehi­cles was the Cho­sen Cor­po­ra­tion of Lon­don which owned the rights to Korean gold mines. It was even­tu­ally wound up by a High Court judge in 1943 to pre­vent Rubin­stein get­ting his hands on $1.6 mil­lion in assets. Long before then Rubin­stein had milked it of mil­lions more and trans­ferred the money to New York where he set up a sub­sidiary to finance illicit oil deals through Mex­ico to Nazi Germany. Rubin­stein became one of a cast of extra­or­di­nary char­ac­ters who fre­quented the Hotel Pierre, which Getty reput­edly bought because he wanted to sack a waiter who was rude to him when he was a guest. Among them was a Russian-born Briton, who claimed to work for MI6 but whose sym­pa­thies appeared to lie with Ger­many. He had been seen meet­ing Ger­man agents in Cuba and mem­bers of the Amer­i­can Far Right, includ­ing the Ku Klux Klan. The intel­li­gence file records: “Pre­cisely what he was doing in the USA, and why, has never been elu­ci­dated. At the out­break of the war he was vis­it­ing the US osten­si­bly on behalf of the Air Crew Co of Weybridge. “He appears to have been mixed up in a Mexican-oil-for-Germany deal, together with Mex­i­can pres­i­den­tial con­tender Almazan, and J Paul Getty wealthy owner of the Hotel Pierre. “Getty, con­troller of Mis­sion Oil Corp which holds Ger­man patents licensed by I G Far­ben and Stan­dard Oil of New Jer­sey sub­sidiaries, returned from Europe in Novem­ber 1939 talk­ing breezily about his ‘old friend’ Hitler. “Later he was said to have sold 1,000,000 bar­rels of oil to Ger­many for deliv­ery via Rus­sia. The Hotel Pierre was filled with doubt­ful and flashy char­ac­ters with Nazi-Fascist-Vichy antecedents and/or con­nec­tions, and when Getty bought con­trol of it he first employed an Aus­trian baron, then a Ger­man war vet­eran and an ex-U boat cap­tain as managers. “Among res­i­dents at the Pierre — liv­ing in lux­ury suites on no vis­i­ble income sources — were a Count­ess Mohle who spent her time mak­ing her­self attrac­tive to US Army offi­cers and was in a per­pet­ual state of wide-eyed curios­ity about mil­i­tary matters.” One of Rubinstein’s con­tacts in the oil deal, William Davis, was found dead in a hotel room, osten­si­bly of a heart attack, although there was a sus­pi­cion he had been assassinated. Rubin­stein him­self was the vic­tim of a cel­e­brated unsolved mur­der case when he was stran­gled in his Fifth Avenue apart­ment in 1955. Getty, mean­while, appeared to have a change of heart when Amer­ica entered the war after the Japan­ese attack on Pearl Har­bor. He vol­un­teered, at the age of 49, for US Navy service. His finan­cial empire con­tin­ued to blos­som until he was named the rich­est man in the world. He lived out some of his last days at his Sut­ton Place estate in Surrey. His son, John Paul Getty, lived for much of his life in Britain and was a noted Anglophile who became a British cit­i­zen in 1987. He was knighted for his sup­port of char­ity and the arts, includ­ing a £50 mil­lion dona­tion to the National Gallery. He was also devoted to cricket and made a sub­stan­tial dona­tion towards a new stand at Lords. He died in a Lon­don clinic, aged 70, last April.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.