Alfried Krupp, the son of Gustav Krupp, was born in Essen, Germany, on 13th August, 1907. After studying engineering in Munich and Berlin he joined his father's company, Friedrich Krupp AG, that by the First World War was Germany's largest armaments company.
Krupp and his father were initially hostile to the Nazi Party. However, in 1930 they were persuaded by Hjalmar Schacht that Adolf Hitler would destroy the trade unions and the political left in Germany. Schacht also pointed out that a Hitler government would considerably increase expenditure on armaments. In 1933 Krupp joined the Schutzstaffel (SS).
As a result of the terms of the Versailles Treaty the Krupp family had been forced to become producers of agricultural machinery after the First World War. However, in 1933, Krupp factories began producing tanks in what was officially part of the Agricultural Tractor Scheme. They also built submarines in Holland and new weapons were developed and tested in Sweden.
During the Second World War Krupp ensured that a continuous supply of his firm's tanks, munitions and armaments reached the German Army. He was also responsible for moving factories from occupied countries back to Germany where they were rebuilt by the Krupp company.
Krupp also built factories in German occupied countries and used the labour of over 100,000 inmates of concentration camps. This included a fuse factory inside Auschwitz. Inmates were also moved to Silesia to build a howitzer factory. It is estimated that around 70,000 of those working for Krupp died as a result of the methods employed by the guards of the camps.
In 1943 Adolf Hitler appointed Krupp as Minister of the War Economy. Later that year the SS gave him permission to employ 45,000 Russian civilians as forced labour in his steel factories as well as 120,000 prisoners of war in his coalmines.
Arrested by the Canadian Army in 1945 Alfried Krupp was tried as a war criminal at Nuremberg. He was accused of plundering occupied territories and being responsible for the barbaric treatment of prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates. Documents showed that Krupp initiated the request for slave labour and signed detailed contracts with the SS, giving them responsibility for inflicting punishment on the workers.
Krupp was eventually found guilty of being a major war criminal and sentenced to twelve years in prison and had all his wealth and property confiscated. Convicted and imprisoned with him were nine members of the Friedrich Krupp AG board of directors. However, Gustav Krupp, the former head of the company, was considered too old to stand trial and was released from custody.
By 1950 the United States was involved in fighting the Cold War. In June of that year, North Korean troops invaded South Korea. It was believed that German steel was needed for armaments for the Korean War and in October, John J. McCloy, the high commissioner in American occupied Germany, lifted the 11 million ton limitation on German steel production. McCloy also began pardoning German industrialists who had been convicted at Nuremberg. This included Fritz Ter Meer, the senior executive of I. G. Farben, the company that produced Zyklon B poison for the gas chambers. He was also Hitler's Commissioner of for Armament and War Production for the chemical industry during the war.
McCloy was also concerned about the increasing power of the left-wing, anti-rearmament, Social Democratic Party (SDP). The popularity of the conservative government led by Konrad Adenauer was in decline and a public opinion poll in 1950 showed it only had 24% of the vote, while support for the SDP had risen to 40%. On 5th December, 1950, Adenauer wrote McCloy a letter urging clemency for Krupp. Hermann Abs, one of Hitler's personal bankers, who surprisingly was never tried as a war criminal at Nuremberg, also began campaigning for the release of German industrialists in prison.
In January, 1951, John J. McCloy announced that Alfried Krupp and eight members of his board of directors who had been convicted with him, were to be released. His property, valued at around 45 million, and his numerous companies were also restored to him.
Others that McCloy decided to free included Friedrich Flick, one of the main financial supporters of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). During the Second World War Flick became extremely wealthy by using 48,000 slave labourers from SS concentration camps in his various industrial enterprises. It is estimated that 80 per cent of these workers died as a result of the way they were treated during the war. His property was restored to him and like Krupp became one of the richest men in Germany.
McCloy's decision was very controversial. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to McCloy to ask: "Why are we freeing so many Nazis? The Washington Post published a Herb Block cartoon depicting a smiling McCloy opening Krupp's cell door, while in the background Joseph Stalin is shown taking a photograph of the event. Telford Taylor, who took part in the prosecution of the Nazi war criminals wrote: "Wittingly or not, Mr. McCloy has dealt a blow to the principles of international law and concepts of humanity for which we fought the war."
Rumours began circulating that McCloy had been bribed by the Krupp's American lawyer, Earl J. Carroll. According to one magazine: "The terms of Carroll's employment were simple. He was to get Krupp out of prison and get his property restored. The fee was to be 5 per cent of everything he could recover. Carroll got Krupp out and his fortune returned, receiving for his five-year job a fee of, roughly, $25 million."
McCloy rejected these claims and told the journalist, William Manchester: "There's not a goddamn word of truth in the charge that Krupp's release was inspired by the outbreak of the Korean War. No lawyer told me what to do, and it wasn't political. It was a matter of my conscience."
Within a few years of his release Krupp's company was the 12th largest corporation in the world. Alfried Krupp died in Essen, West Germany, on 30th July, 1967.