Krupp: A History of the Legendary German Firm

Krupp: A History of the Legendary German Firm

Krupp: A History of the Legendary German Firm

Krupp: A History of the Legendary German Firm


The history of Krupp is the history of modern Germany. No company symbolized the best and worst of that history more than the famous steel and arms maker. In this book, Harold James tells the story of the Krupp family and its industrial empire between the early nineteenth century and the present, and analyzes its transition from a family business to one owned by a nonprofit foundation.

Krupp founded a small steel mill in 1811, which established the basis for one of the largest and most important companies in the world by the end of the century. Famously loyal to its highly paid workers, it rejected an exclusive focus on profit, but the company also played a central role in the armament of Nazi Germany and the firm's head was convicted as a war criminal at Nuremberg. Yet after the war Krupp managed to rebuild itself and become a symbol of Germany once again--this time open, economically successful, and socially responsible.

Books on Krupp tend to either denounce it as a diabolical enterprise or celebrate its technical ingenuity. In contrast, James presents a balanced account, showing that the owners felt ambivalent about the company's military connection even while becoming more and more entangled in Germany's aggressive politics during the imperial era and the Third Reich.

By placing the story of Krupp and its owners in a wide context, James also provides new insights into the political, social, and economic history of modern Germany.


Alfred Krupp made the name Krupp into a German icon. For him, it was not a coincidence that the dramatic period of expansion of the small enterprise that his father had established in 1811 coincided with the creation of the German Empire. He proudly announced to Wilhelm I, the new empero, that they were now living in the “steel age.” Kaiser Wilhelm I and Bismarck were both quick to see and confirm the parallels between the new politics and the new business. But the identification between the house of Krupp and the German political order did not stop with the death of Krupp in 1887 or of Wilhelm I in 1888. Krupp’s son, Friedrich Alfred, cultivated an even closer relationship with Wilhelm I’s grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm ii. the new business culture reflected the kaiser’s own search for modernity and greatness. For Adolf Hitler, Krupp was also an icon. in Mein Kampf and again in 1935 at the Nuremberg party rally, Hitler exhorted German youth to be as “quick as a greyhound, as tough as leather, and as hard as Krupp steel.” Some people quibbled that Krupp steel was notably resilient (because slightly malleable) rather than hard, but the company liked the analogy at the time. in 1945 at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, where Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach was indicted as one of twenty-four major . . .

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