William S. Knudsen (1879-1948)

By Richard Sanders, Editor, Press for Conversion!

Knudsen is known to have donated at least $10,000 to the American Liberty League.

Signius Wilhelm Poul Knudsen immigrated to America from Denmark in 1900 and ended up directing the U.S. government’s military production program during WWII. He became vice-president of du Pont-owned General Motors and donated generously to the fascist American Liberty League. Knudsen traveled to Germany in 1933, the year that Hitler took absolute control of Germany and the anti-FDR plot was brewing in America. Knudsen met with Nazi Luftwaffe Chief Hermann Goering and they discussed, among other things, GM’s wholly-owned company, Adam-Opel. During WWII, it was one of Germany’s main manufacturers of tanks, trucks and bomber engines. Upon his return from Germany, Knudsen told a reporter that Hitler’s Germany was “the miracle of the twentieth century.” That was also the year that GM vice-president J.D. Mooney accepted a prestigious Nazi medal from Hitler.

By 1936, GM was the world’s largest corporation. Signius Wilhelm was then known as William S. or, simply, “the Speedup King.” He received this moniker for his efforts to increase the speed of factory workers to such dangerous levels that they fainted from exhaustion. At the time, an average GM worker received $900 a year, even though the “New Deal” government said that $1,600 was the minimum needed by a family of four. Knudsen himself received a $375,000 salary that year, which apparently was enough to feed a family of about 1000. Knudsen became president of GM in 1937 and served in that position until 1940.

That year, President Roosevelt’s National Defense Advisory Commission was revived and Knudsen was put in charge. He probably felt at home with U.S. Steel’s Edward Stettinius, a Council on Foreign Relations member who later became Secretary of State (1944-1945), and Sears’ chairman, Donald Nelson, the anti-Semite who chaired the America First Committee, an influential outfit that strongly opposed fighting Nazism. By 1941, Knudsen was co-chairing the Office of Production Management to oversee the country’s armament program. He probably felt less at home though with Roosevelt’s choice of co-chair, Sidney Hillman, a Jewish labour leader. But, all-in-all, WWII was highly profitable for Knudsen and his company. GM received $14 billion in contracts from the U.S. War Production Board, which was conveniently chaired by Knudson. GM’s vehicle factories in Germany churned out most of Hitler’s army trucks and many bomber aircraft engines for the Nazi war effort. In 1942, Knudsen was recognized in a special way by the U.S. Army. No he wasn’t arrested for conflict of interest or conspiring to arm the enemy, he became the first civilian to be made a U.S. Army General.


Lawrence Solomon, "Down with left and right," The Next City, Spring 1997.
Google cache of http://www.nextcity.com/main/town/7editor.htm

"Super Globalism," eMOTION! REPORTS

Events of January 16

Sidney Hillman (1887-1946)

Jerry Fresia, Toward an American Revolution, 1988

Source: Press for Conversion! magazine, Issue # 53, "Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism," March 2004. Published by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.

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