The father of the Koch brothers reportedly helped build an oil refinery for the Nazis

Problematic heritage for David Koch?
Problematic heritage for David Koch?
Image: AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File
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The founder of the company that would later become Koch Industries, also the father of politically-involved tycoons Charles and David Koch, once helped to build an oil refinery for the Third Reich, according to a new book.

In her soon-to-be released “Dark Money,” New Yorker writer Jane Mayer says that Fred Koch was hired by an American Nazi sympathizer, William Rhodes Davis, to help with building one of the biggest oil refineries in pre-World War Two Germany. In 1934, Koch’s company drew up engineering plans for the plant near Hamburg, and oversaw the launch of its construction.

The New York Times, which first reported the book’s findings, calls the refinery, which supplied fuel to Nazi war planes, “a critical industrial cog in Hitler’s war machine.” It was personally approved by Hitler, according to Mayer, and eventually destroyed by the US in 1944.

The Washington Post reveals just how much Koch was enamored with the Nazis, in another tidbit from Mayer’s book:

“Mayer writes that the family patriarch, Fred Koch, admired German discipline so much in the 1930s that he hired a fervent Nazi as a governess for his eldest boys. ‘Dark Money’ suggests that the experience of being toilet trained by a Nazi may have contributed to Charles Koch’s antipathy toward government today.”

The book follows the influence of money in right-wing politics, largely focusing on the Koch family, which has long supported conservative causes. Charles and David Koch pledged last year that their network of donors would put nearly $900 million toward political spending in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

Their father built the fortune by improving the process of oil refining and constructing plants, including 15 in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. He eventually came to hate Stalin and communism, and attempted to enlist in the US military when the country entered World War Two in 1941 to fight Germany.

A spokesman for Koch Industries told the Times that the Koch brothers refused to be interviewed for the book: “If the content of the book is reflective of Ms. Mayer’s previous reporting of the Koch family, Koch Industries or Charles’s and David’s political involvement, then we expect to have deep disagreements and strong objections to her interpretation of the facts and their sourcing,” said the spokesman, Ken Spain.