Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Archive for December 2009

The Arms of Krupp

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After many long weeks, I’ve finished The Arms of Krupp by William Manchester which is the story of the Krupp family and their giant manufacturing firm based in western Germany.   I picked it up because I wanted a bit of history about Germany before WWII.

It was interesting to read the history of a family and a firm instead of simply an individual.  In truth, the Krupps themselves could be rather dull lot.  What makes the story is how they were intertwined with ruling elite of Germany.  Let’s put it this way, there’s a chapter in the book titled “We’ve hired Hitler” and that is a pretty accurate statement.

The book focused on the Krupp family which was the German equivalent of the Rockefellers, unbelievably rich and powerful or of the Ford family, ruling the lives of a 100,000 or more workers.  They were friends of kings and prime misters.

They were the armorer of the world: creating cannon that could shell England from France, selling arms to Russia, China, Turkey and others, and being the primary armorer of the Reich itself.

Like most biographies it was full of colorful details, including some lurid and some shocking.  My favorite was that one of the patriarchs found the smell of manure invigorating and built his office over a stable with vents that let the smell waft up into his office.  Wow.

Alfried Krupp after his early release from prison.

The saddest part of the book was easily the description of Krupp slavery during WWII.  The author makes a point to use the German word sklaven as he reviews the Firm’s memorandum about selecting, feeding, and using sklavenarbeiten (slave laborers).   Jews, Slavs, Frenchmen, and Belgians were all enslaved in the vast Krupp works, creating machinery for the German war machine.

The despicable detailed and specific horrors of the Krupp firm, which Manchester painstakingly traces to the head of the family, resulted in Alfried Krupp’s Nuremberg conviction for war crimes.  Then, in a strange turn of events, Alfried, a man responsible for the deaths of thousands, is released after just three years in prison.

In the 1970s, having survived and prospered for centuries, the firm finally falls apart, having borrowed well beyond it’s means as its businesses hemorrhage money.  Today my Krupp food processor was made by a stock holding company, not by a business run by a sole proprietor.

But besides the story of the family and of German politics it is also a story of business: one giant, sprawling business that dominated Europe.  Manchester tries to keep one out of the realm of accounting but the simple facts of business where what drove the Krupps, drove their politics and drove Germany.

In the end I don’t know what I thought of the book.   I would not recommend its 800 odd pages unless you’re very interested in the making of Germany or in the German war economy.  Even then, I would recommend different reads.  That said, I do admire the amount of work Manchester did for the book, the lucid writing and compelling story that he presents.  Reading Manchester makes me think again about the importance of investigative journalism, both as history and as a means of framing and understanding current events.  I’m glad he set down this story, even if it was a long one to get through.


Written by furthermusings

December 26, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Reviews

DPP Day 24: Part Human, Part Machine

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But if Jeanie is a cyborg, then what does that make Charity?

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December 24, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Pictures

Day 23: We have an Another Anna in C.H.

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Cousin Anna is here!

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December 24, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Pictures

DPP Day 22: Fractured

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Can you tell I’m done grading?  Posting binge.

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December 22, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Posted in General

DPP Day 21: Grading

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No points, but it did make me laugh.  🙂

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December 22, 2009 at 2:26 pm

DPP Day 20: The Persimmons

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I like this photo because of its brash light.  Makes me feel like I’m out on a dare during college.  Yes this is me being wild; eating fruit under a harsh flash.  What can I say?

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December 22, 2009 at 8:19 am

Posted in Laughter, Pictures

DPP Day 19: Walking Around Again

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I love the sunlight in this series of shots.

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December 21, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Posted in Pictures, UNC