Prescott Bush

Prescott Bush

Prescott Sheldon Bush was born in Columbus, Ohio, on 15th May, 1895. Like his grandfather, James Smith Bush, he went to Yale University in 1913. While at university he became a member of the Skull and Bones Secret Society. A fellow member was E. Roland Harriman, the younger brother of W. Averell Harriman.

His father, Samuel Prescott Bush became General Manager of Buckeye Steel Castings Company, which manufactured railway parts, in 1901. The company was run by Frank Rockefeller, the brother of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, and among its clients were the railroads controlled by E. H. Harriman. In 1908 Rockefeller retired and Bush became President of Buckeye.

Samuel Prescott Bush was also closely associated with Samuel Pryor, who, along with the Rockefellers, controlled the Remington Arms Company. During the First World War, Clarence Dillion, a senior figure at the War Industries Board, arranged for Bush, to become chief of the Ordnance Small Arms and Ammunition Section of the WIB. This involved giving out contracts to supply arms and ammunition to the United States Army. Over half of the small-arms ammunition and 69% of the rifles used by the United States in the war were supplied by Remington.

On 8th August, 1918, the Ohio State Journal reported that Prescott Bush had been awarded the "cross of the Legion of Honor, the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Service Cross." The report added; "The incident occurred on the western front about the time the Germans were launching their great offensive of July 15... The history of the remarkable victory scored later by the allies might have been written in another vein, but for the heroic and quick action of Captain Bush."

Apparently, this information came from his mother Flora Bush. In fact, at this time, Bush had yet to see action on the Western Front. A month later the Ohio State Journal had to report that it was a victim of a hoax. His mother wrote to the paper and apologized for providing this false information. She claimed that she had been fooled by a letter she had received from her son that had been "written in a spirit of fun".

In 1919 Bush was introduced by W. Averell Harriman to his business partner, George Herbert Walker. Later that year, Bush was introduced to Walker's daughter, Dorothy. The couple married in August, 1921. Bush and his new wife moved to Columbus, Ohio, and went to work for his father's family business.

In 1926, Bush's father-in-law, appointed him vice-president of W. A. Harriman & Company. This company had made considerable investments in Germany. At the end of the war, the commercial steamships of Hamburg-Amerika were confiscated by the United States government. As the authors of George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography have pointed out: "These ships had then become the property of the Harriman enterprise, by some arrangements with the U.S. authorities that were never made public." In doing so, Harriman created the world's largest private shipping line.

Samuel Pryor, the chairman of Remington Arms, and George Herbert Walker, both became directors of the American Ship and Commerce Company, Harriman's shipping front organization. Walker and Harriman set up their European headquarters in Berlin. With the help of the Warburg Bank, W. A. Harriman began to invest heavily in German industry.

In 1926 Prescott Bush became vice president of W. A. Harriman & Company. Soon afterwards the company expanded into the Soviet Union. After negotiations with Leon Trotsky and Felix Dzerzhinsky, Harriman obtained a contract to mine manganese. In 1927 the company was criticized for its support of totalitarian governments in Italy and the Soviet Union. George Herbert Walker wrote to W. Averell Harriman pointing out that "the suggestion... that we withdraw from Russia smacks some what of the impertinent.. I think that we have drawn our line and should hew to it" (11th August, 1927).

W. Averell Harriman also formed a partnership with the German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen. In 1926 Harriman and Clarence Dillon of Dillon Read Company helped Thyssen and Friedrich Flick to establish the German Steel Trust. According to Anton Chaitkin: "The Flick-Harriman partnership was directly supervised by Prescott Bush". Dillon Read provided two representatives to the board of the German Steel Trust and took responsibility for its corporate banking.

In 1928 Thyssen formed United Steelworks, a company that controlled more that 75 per cent of Germany's ore reserves and employed 200,000 people. Thyssen started a joint-venture with Harriman called the Union Banking Corporation. This was used to transfer funds between the United States and Germany. In 1931 W.A. Harriman & Company merged with the British-American banking house Brown Brothers. Prescott Bush, along with W. Averell Harriman, E. Roland Harriman and George Herbert Walker, became managing partners in the new company, Brown Brothers Harriman. This was to develop into the most important private banking house in America.

Prescott Bush was appointed as a director of the Harriman Fifteen Corporation. This in turn controlled the Consolidated Silesian Steel Corporation, that owned one-third of a complex of steel-making, coal-mining and zinc-mining activities in Germany and Poland. Friedrich Flick owned the other two-thirds of the operation. Flick was a leading financial supporter of the Nazi Party and in the 1930s donated over seven million marks to the party. A close friend of Heinrich Himmler, Flick also gave the Schutz Staffeinel (SS) 10,000 marks a year.

Fritz Thyssen was also one of the leading backers of the Nazi Party. In 1931 he recruited Hjalmar Schacht to the cause and in November, 1932, the two men joined with other industrialists in signing the letter that urged Paul von Hindenburg to appoint Adolf Hitler as chancellor. This was successful and on 20th February, 1933, they arranged a meeting of the Association of German Industrialists that raised 3 million marks for the Nazi Party in the forthcoming election.

On 27th February, 1933, someone set fire to the Reichstag. Several people were arrested including a leading, Georgi Dimitrov, general secretary of the Comintern, the international communist organization. Dimitrov was eventually acquitted but a young man from the Netherlands, Marianus van der Lubbe, was eventually executed for the crime. As a teenager Lubbe had been a communist and Hermann Goering used this information to claim that the Reichstag Fire was part of a KPD plot to overthrow the government.

Hitler gave orders that all leaders of the German Communist Party should "be hanged that very night." Paul von Hindenburg vetoed this decision but did agree that Hitler should take "dictatorial powers". KPD candidates in the election were arrested and Hermann Goering announced that the Nazi Party planned "to exterminate" German communists. Thousands of members of the Social Democrat Party and Communist Party were arrested and sent to recently opened to concentration camps.

Left-wing election meetings were broken up by the Sturm Abteilung (SA) and several candidates were murdered. Newspapers that supported these political parties were closed down during the 1933 General Election. Although it was extremely difficult for the opposition parties to campaign properly, Hitler and the Nazi party still failed to win an overall victory in the election on 5th March, 1933. The NSDAP received 43.9% of the vote and only 288 seats out of the available 647. The increase in the Nazi vote had mainly come from the Catholic rural areas who feared the possibility of an atheistic Communist government.

After the 1933 General Election Hitler proposed an Enabling Bill that would give him dictatorial powers. Such an act needed three-quarters of the members of the Reichstag to vote in its favour. All the active members of the Communist Party, were in concentration camps, in hiding, or had left the country (an estimated 60,000 people left Germany during the first few weeks after the election). This was also true of most of the leaders of the other left-wing party, Social Democrat Party (SDP). However, Hitler still needed the support of the Catholic Centre Party (BVP) to pass this legislation. Hitler therefore offered the BVP a deal: vote for the bill and the Nazi government would guarantee the rights of the Catholic Church. The BVP agreed and when the vote was taken, only 94 members of the SDP voted against the Enabling Bill.

Adolf Hitler was now the dictator of Germany. Fritz Thyssen now joined with W. Averell Harriman to establish credit for the new government. He later admitted that he told Hitler's deputy, Rudolph Hess, that he would do this via BHS, a Dutch bank that he had established with Harriman. "I chose a Dutch bank because I did not want to be mixed up with German banks... it was better to business with a Dutch bank, and I thought I would have the Nazis a little more in my hands."

Albert Voegler, the chief executive of the German Steel Trust was also a director of BHS Bank in Rotterdam. Voegler was also a director of the Harriman-Bush owned Hamburg-Amerika shipping line. He was another leading financial supporter of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Max Warburg was also appointed as a director of Hamburg-Amerika. Warburg wrote to W. Averell Harriman on 27th March, 1933, assuring him that Hitler was good for Germany. However, he was concerned about the "very active propaganda against Germany" that was taking place in the United States. Four days later, the American Jewish Committee, controlled by the Warburgs, issued a statement asking "that no American boycott against Germany be encouraged" and advising "that no further mass meetings be held or similar forms of agitation be employed".

In May 1933, the Harriman International Company, became the head of a syndicate of 150 firms and individuals to conduct all exports from Hitler's Germany to the United States. The agreement had been negotiated by John Foster Dulles and Hitler's economic minister, Hjalmar Schacht. Dulles was the international attorney for several Nazi enterprises and in September, 1937, he wrote to Prescott Bush about the German Atlantic Cable Company, that owned Nazi Germany's only telegraph channel to the United States.

In 1934 Prescott Bush sent W. Averell Harriman an article that appeared in the 19th March edition of the New York Times. The article claimed that the Polish government intended to take action against the Upper Silesian Coal and Steel Company because it was controlling 45% of its steel production. The newspaper reported that "two-thirds of the company's stock is owned by Friedrich Flick, a leading German steel industrialist, and the remainder is owned by interests in the United States". This of course was Bush, Harriman and Walker. The Polish government complained that the owners of the Upper Silesian Coal and Steel Company were guilty of tax evasion. They were also responsible for using Poland's raw materials to provide for the military needs of Nazi Germany.

Prescott Bush's business interests in Germany suffered after the outbreak of the Second World War. On 20th October, 1942, the United States government seized the assets of the Union Banking Corporation. The shares of the bank were owned by Prescott Bush, E. Roland Harriman, and a couple of members of the Nazi Party. Under the Trading with the Enemy Act, the government took over the Union Banking Corporation and the Silesian-American Corporation, a company that had been managed by Prescott Bush and his father-in-law George Herbert Walker.

Prescott Bush and his son George H. W. Bush
Prescott Bush and his son George H. W. Bush

Prescott Bush was an active member of the Republican Party and in 1950 failed to defeat William Benton, the Democratic Party candidate in Connecticut. Bush was elected to the Senate in 1952. He was a staunch supporter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and played an important role in the Polaris submarine being built by Electric Boat Corporation, based in Connecticut and part of the General Dynamics Corporation.

Bush left the Senate in 1963 to concentrate on his business interests. However, he continued to play an active role in politics and in 1964 he supported the conservative Barry Goldwater against the liberal Nelson Rockefeller. Bush attacked Rockefeller for divorcing his wife of 32 years. "Have we come to the point in our life as a nation where the governor of a great state... can desert a good wife, mother of his grown children, divorce her, then persuade the mother of four youngsters to abandon her husband and their four children and marry the governor?"

Prescott Sheldon Bush died on 8th October, 1972. Bush's son, George H. W. Bush, and his grandson, George W. Bush, both became president of the United States.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) A Government of Thieves (2004)

The founder of the modern Bush dynasty was Samuel Prescott Bush, an Ohio steel executive, whose Buckeye Steel Castings Co. business projects included making parts for the Harriman railway empire. Before becoming President of Buckeye (1905-1927), Samuel Bush held a railroad position in Pennsylvania. He was the son of the Rev. James Smith Bush and Harriet Fay. Samuel graduated from the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1884, and ten years later married Flora Sheldon, with whom he had four surviving children, Prescott, Mary, Margaret and James. Of these his son Prescott Sheldon Bush was to be his father's dynastic successor. Samuel's money was not to give him immunity from personal tragedy however, for his wife Flora was to be killed when struck by a car in 1920. Samuel later remarried Martha Bell Carter of Milwaukee.

For many years Samuel was a leading member of the National Association of Manufacturers, and for a time was President of the Ohio Manufacturer's Association. Later he was to be an advisor to the disastrous Depression-era President Herbert Hoover on business and unemployment issues. He began the Bush family's abiding interest in golf, baseball, tennis and football. His old company Buckeye Steel endured for many years, but under new ownership filed for bankruptcy reorganization in Dec. 2002.

After the US entered World War I in April 1917, Samuel Bush obtained a position as head of the War Industries Board's Ordnance, Small Arms and Ammunition Section. This is surprising, considering he had no background in armaments. There was a hidden logic. As an apparent 'cleanskin' suitable for a sensitive official position, Bush already had powerful patrons eager to put his name forward. We can note for example Frank and Percy Rockefeller, whose famous family had moved to gain control of the Remington Arms Company in 1914. (Frank Rockefeller, a brother of clan head John D. Rockefeller, was the previous President of Buckeye Steel).

Then there was a certain George Sheldon, a director of the huge Bethlehem Steel Corp., which like Remington benefited enormously from World War I. George Sheldon was also a vice-president of the Navy League, which was subsidized by steel & arms makers to agitate for a massive naval expansion advantageous to them.

Finally, the War Industries Board was itself headed by Bernard M. Baruch, a Wall St. speculator who had close personal and business ties to E.H. Harriman, father of the closest friend of Bush's son Prescott at Yale. Sometimes the associations of their children can bring advancement to parents just as readily as the reverse. In Samuel Bush's later years he was to remain closely associated with the high-flying Baruch. In the America of the day, big money stuck together closer than clotted cream.

So the link between the Bushes, war, patriotism and profits was now firmly established through an informal network of influence. It has continued ever since.

(2) Ohio State Journal (8th August, 1918)

International Honors, perhaps unprecedented in the life of an American soldier, have been conferred upon Captain Prescott Sheldon Bush, son of Mr. and Mrs. S.P. Bush of Columbus.

Upon young Bush... were conferred: Cross of the Legion of Honor... Victoria Cross... Distinguished Service Cross....

Conferring of the three decorations upon one man at one time implies recognition of a deed of rare valor and probably of great military importance as well.

From word which has reached Columbus during the last few days, it appears as if the achievement of Captain Bush well measures up to these requirements.

The incident occurred on the western front about the time the Germans were launching their great offensive of July 15.... The history of the remarkable victory scored later by the allies might have been written in another vein, but for the heroic and quick action of Captain Bush.

The ... three allied leaders, General Foch, Sir Douglas Haig and General Pershing ... were making an inspection of American positions. General Pershing had sent for Captain Bush to guide them about one sector.... Suddenly Captain Bush noticed a shell coming directly for them. He shouted a warning, suddenly drew his bolo knife, stuck it up as he would a ball bat, and parried the blow, causing the shell to glance off to the right....

Within 24 hours young Bush was notified that the three allied commanders had recommended him for practically the highest honors within their gift.... Captain Bush is 23 years old, a graduate of Yale in the class of 1917. He was one of Yale's best- known athletes... was leader of the glee club ... and in his senior year was elected to the famous Skull and Bones Society.

(3) Webster G. Tarpley & Anton Chaitkin, George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography (1992)

The Union Banking Corporation was established formally in 1924, as a unit in the Manhattan offices of W.A. Harriman & Co., interlocking with the Thyssen-owned Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart (BHS) in the Netherlands. The investigators concluded that "the Union Banking Corporation has since its inception handled funds chiefly supplied to it through the Dutch bank by the Thyssen interests for American investment. ''

Thus by personal agreement between Averell Harriman and Fritz Thyssen in 1922, W.A. Harriman & Co. (alias Union Banking Corporation) would be transferring funds back and forth between New York and the "Thyssen interests '' in Germany. By putting up about $400,000, the Harriman organization would be joint owner and manager of Thyssen's banking operations outside of Germany.

Prescott Bush became vice president of W.A. Harriman & Co. in 1926. That same year, a friend of Harriman and Bush set up a giant new organization for their client Fritz Thyssen, prime sponsor of politician Adolf Hitler. The new German Steel Trust, Germany's largest industrial corporation, was organized in 1926 by Wall Street banker Clarence Dillon. Dillon was the old comrade of Prescott Bush's father Sam Bush from the "Merchants of Death '' bureau in World War I.

In return for putting up $70 million to create his organization, majority owner Thyssen gave the Dillon Read company two or more representatives on the board of the new Steel Trust.

Thus there is a division of labor: Thyssen's own confidential accounts, for political and related purposes, were run through the Walker-Bush organization; the German Steel Trust did its corporate banking through Dillon Read.

The Walker-Bush firm's banking activities were not just politically neutral money-making ventures which happened to coincide with the aims of German Nazis. All of the firm's European business in those days was organized around anti-democratic political forces.

(4) Toby Rogers, Heir to the Holocaust (May, 2002)

While the Enron scandal currently unfolds, another Bush family business scandal lurks beneath the shadows of history that may dwarf it.

On April 19, 2001, President George W. Bush spent some of Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Capital Rotunda with holocaust survivors, allied veterans, and their families. In a ceremony that included Jewish prayers and songs sung by holocaust victims in the camps, Benjamin Meed, a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, movingly described to the gathering what he experienced on April 19, 1943.

"I stood outside a Catholic church, which faced the ghetto," Mr. Meed said, "a young Jewish boy posing as a gentile. As I watched the ghetto being bombarded by the German artillery, I could see many of the Jews of my community jumping out of windows of burning buildings. I stood long and mute."

The survivor concluded his reminiscence saying, "We tremble to think what could happen if we allow a new generation to arise ignorant of the tragedy which is still shaping the future."

President Bush, appearing almost uncomfortable, read a statement that said that humanity was "bound by conscience to remember what happened" and that "the record has been kept and preserved." The record, Mr. Bush stated, was that one of the worst acts of genocide in human history "came not from crude and uneducated men, but from men who regarded themselves as cultured and well schooled, modern men, forward looking. Their crime showed the world that evil can slip in and blend in amid the most civilized surroundings. In the end only conscience can stop it."

But while President Bush publicly embraced the community of holocaust survivors in Washington last spring, he and his family have been keeping a secret from them for over 50 years about Prescott Bush, the president's grandfather. 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. In fact, President Bush himself is an heir to these profits from the holocaust which were placed in a blind trust in 1980 by his father, former president George Herbert Walker Bush.

Throughout the Bush family's decades of public life, the American press has gone out of its way to overlook one historical fact – that through Union Banking Corporation (UBC), Prescott Bush, and his father-in-law, George Herbert Walker, along with German industrialist Fritz Thyssen, financed Adolf Hitler before and during World War II. It was first reported in 1994 by John Loftus and Mark Aarons in The Secret War Against the Jews: How Western Espionage Betrayed the Jewish People.

The US government had known that many American companies were aiding Hitler, like Standard Oil, General Motors and Chase Bank, all of which was sanctioned after Pearl Harbor. But as The New York Times reporter Charles Higham later discovered, and published in his 1983 groundbreaking book, Trading With The Enemy; The Nazi American Money Plot 1933-1949, "the government smothered everything during and even after the war." Why?

According to Higham, the US government believed "a public scandal ... would have drastically affected public morale, caused widespread strikes and perhaps provoked mutinies in the armed services." Higham claims the government thought "their trial and imprisonment would have made it impossible for the corporate boards to help the American war effort."

However, Prescott Bush's banks were not just financing Hitler as previously reported. In fact, there was a distinct business link much deeper than Mr. Higham or Mr. Loftus knew at the time their books were published.

A classified Dutch intelligence file which was leaked by a courageous Dutch intelligence officer, along with newly surfaced information from U.S. government archives, "confirms absolutely," John Loftus says, the direct links between Bush, Thyssen and genocide profits from Auschwitz.

The business connections between Prescott Bush and Fritz Thyssen were more direct than what has been previously written. This new information reveals how Prescott Bush and UBC, which he managed directly, profited from the Holocaust. A case can be made that the inheritors of the Prescott Bush estate could be sued by survivors of the Holocaust and slave labor communities. To understand the complete picture of how Prescott Bush profited from the Holocaust, it is necessary to return to the year 1916, where it all began.

(5) Ben Aris and Duncan Campbell, The Guardian (25th September, 2004)

George Bush's grandfather, the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany.

The Guardian has obtained confirmation from newly discovered files in the US National Archives that a firm of which Prescott Bush was a director was involved with the financial architects of Nazism.

His business dealings, which continued until his company's assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act, has led more than 60 years later to a civil action for damages being brought in Germany against the Bush family by two former slave labourers at Auschwitz and to a hum of pre-election controversy.

The evidence has also prompted one former US Nazi war crimes prosecutor to argue that the late senator's action should have been grounds for prosecution for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

The debate over Prescott Bush's behaviour has been bubbling under the surface for some time. There has been a steady internet chatter about the "Bush/Nazi" connection, much of it inaccurate and unfair. But the new documents, many of which were only declassified last year, show that even after America had entered the war and when there was already significant information about the Nazis' plans and policies, he worked for and profited from companies closely involved with the very German businesses that financed Hitler's rise to power. It has also been suggested that the money he made from these dealings helped to establish the Bush family fortune and set up its political dynasty.

Remarkably, little of Bush's dealings with Germany has received public scrutiny, partly because of the secret status of the documentation involving him. But now the multibillion dollar legal action for damages by two Holocaust survivors against the Bush family, and the imminent publication of three books on the subject are threatening to make Prescott Bush's business history an uncomfortable issue for his grandson, George W, as he seeks re-election.

While there is no suggestion that Prescott Bush was sympathetic to the Nazi cause, the documents reveal that the firm he worked for, Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), acted as a US base for the German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen, who helped finance Hitler in the 1930s before falling out with him at the end of the decade. The Guardian has seen evidence that shows Bush was the director of the New York-based Union Banking Corporation (UBC) that represented Thyssen's US interests and he continued to work for the bank after America entered the war.

Bush was also on the board of at least one of the companies that formed part of a multinational network of front companies to allow Thyssen to move assets around the world.

Thyssen owned the largest steel and coal company in Germany and grew rich from Hitler's efforts to re-arm between the two world wars. One of the pillars in Thyssen's international corporate web, UBC, worked exclusively for, and was owned by, a Thyssen-controlled bank in the Netherlands. More tantalising are Bush's links to the Consolidated Silesian Steel Company (CSSC), based in mineral rich Silesia on the German-Polish border. During the war, the company made use of Nazi slave labour from the concentration camps, including Auschwitz. The ownership of CSSC changed hands several times in the 1930s, but documents from the US National Archive declassified last year link Bush to CSSC, although it is not clear if he and UBC were still involved in the company when Thyssen's American assets were seized in 1942.