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Royal Dutch Shell and Nazi slave labor


Chapter 13: Royal Dutch Shell and Nazi slave labor


The photograph shows military uniforms worn by marching employees of the Shell German subsidiary, Rhenania-Ossag. A photograph on the next page shows swastika flags on display during a staff meeting. Rhenania-Ossag was part and parcel of the Nazi movement when the Shell Group was in undisputed full control of the company.  A senior director was involved in Nazi military planning.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-16-47-56In 1935, Rhenania-Ossag (owned by Royal Dutch Shell) was Germany’s second-largest gas station company, with 16,363 petrol pumps and several refineries. There were active Nazi members in the workforce and management. It’s DG, Dr. Erich Boeder, was involved in Nazi military planning (oil production) on behalf of the company.

Shell’s paid historians had this to say about Rhenania-Ossag on page 493 of RSDH V1:

Nor did the Group’s principles, so evident in the cases of communism or state monopolies, enable managers to perceive the diabolical nature of the Nazi regime. In line with the general development of German business, Rhenania-Ossag quickly adapted to the New Order and grew luxuriantly until it was too late for a fundamental stand. When push came to shove, general considerations such as market position, coupled with a technocratic conception of the business as providing fungible services to governments, clearly won the day.


Google Translation article about Robert Finn from a German webpage posting on Sunday, 8 October 2006:

The above link is to a German blog site article about a controversial individual, Robert Finn.  He worked for Shell before WW2, became head of the German supply of lubricating oil during the war, and returned to Shell as a director after the war.

The article contains photographs from Shell staff meetings in 1935 at the Shell oil factory in Hamburg Curio-Haus, in halls decked with swastika flags. There is also a photograph of a march of Rhenania-Ossag (Shell) employees on 1 May 1938 with some employees in military uniform. The text on an accompanying sign displayed during the march said: “Operating-cell Rhenania Ossag.”

The company is now called Shell Oil Germany GmbH.


There is credible evidence that Rhenania-Ossag was already using Jewish forced labor in June 1939 before the outbreak of WW2. It happened while under undisputed Shell control prior to a Verwalter (administrator) being appointed by the Nazis regime to oversee the company in January 1940. (Page 78 RDSH V2)


Forced labor had been used by the Nazis regime from 1937.

Extract from United Stated Holocaust Memorial Museum website:

Even before the war began, the Nazis imposed forced labor on Jewish civilians, both inside and outside concentration camps. As early as 1937, the Nazis increasingly exploited the forced labor of so-called “enemies of the state” for economic gain and to meet desperate labor shortages.

The evidence about Rhenania-Ossag comes in part from the chilling testimony of Fritz Sarne, a Holocaust survivor, in the form of Internet articles in German. I have provided Google translations into English (1)(2).

Extract from (1)

Forced labor: As of 6 June 1939 I was hired by Hamburg employment office for work, the Jews used as forced labor. Funnily enough, I am back to Harburg, for Rhenania/Ossag where I have a “Jew Column,” consisting of 50 people who have never done earth works, made levelling work for new tank systems on the grounds of Rhenania /Ossag.

According to his moving testimony, Fritz Sarne, who died in his mid-nineties in the USA, was subsequently a slave laborer at IG Farben. He survived and gave testimony at the IG Farben War Crimes Trial at Nuremberg.

His grandson contacted me in April 2013.

There is further evidence that Royal Dutch Shell used slave labor supplied by the Nazis.

It comes from news reports based on declassified U.S. intelligence records.

The Los Angeles Times published on 22 September 2000 an article under the headline: The Secret (Insurance) Agent Men:


A WWII unit gathered underwriters’ data, such as bomb plant blueprints, from warring nations, declassified U.S. files show. The documents also said that two New York insurance executives, Cecil Stewart and Stewart Hopps, also came under scrutiny for selling war insurance to strategic U.S. industries and reselling some of the risk to Latin American affiliates linked to Nazi insurers. The men also ran a steamship company that chartered tankers for Royal Dutch Shell, a Nazi collaborator that used Hitler’s slave laborers.

Further confirmation in a Boston Globe article “Cloaked Business” published over a year later, on 19 November 2001:


Newly declassified United States intelligence records reveal in unprecedented detail how US and Allied firms systematically used backwater countries to conduct backroom business with Axis enterprises. The files peel away a whole new layer of collaboration, describing scores of so-called “shadow agreements” in which corporations disguised their ties with the enemy through the cover of other companies in neutral countries, from Spain to Sweden to much of Latin America. The report said the two men also ran a steamship company that chartered tankers for Royal Dutch Shell, a Nazi collaborator that used Hitler’s slave laborers.


Class Action Statement (with graphics) by U.S. law Firm COHEN, MILSTEIN, HAUSFIELD & TOLL P.L.L.C:


Approximately 1,385 forced laborers worked at oil refineries and petrochemical plants owned and operated by the Royal/Dutch Shell Group during the Second World War. These workers, largely civilians from Eastern Europe and the Low Countries of Western Europe, were compelled to work on the grounds of Shell’s German and Austrian subsidiaries, Rhenania GmbH and Shell Austria AG, respectively. At these locations, the forced laborers toiled long hours under the watchful (and often brutal) guard of Hitler’s S.S. men. Deported from their home countries by force, these workers were housed in filthy barracks, and were denied freedom of movement and proper nutrition. For their work, which was contracted from the S.S., the laborers received no pay from Shell or the German Government.

Shell’s ties with the Third Reich, however, were not limited to the use of forced labor. It was also a founding partner in Deutsche Gasoline (25%), the national German petroleum company explicitly crafted to give the Reich greater control over domestic gasoline production – for both military and civilian purposes. Shell additionally held the dubious distinction not only of having collaborated with the Nazi Regime to bring Deutsche Gasoline into fruition, but also of sharing control over the company with I.G. Farben Industrie – the infamous producer of Zyklon B poison gas.

Despite its enormous wealth – as quantified by annual sales in excess of $93 billion – Shell has failed to compensate any of the men and women who worked on its grounds between 1943 and 1945.

Detailed information follows on the history of Shell’s German and Austrian subsidiaries, which aided the Nazi effort during WWII, and of the forced labor that was utilized in their operations.:

Benzinwerke Rhenania, G.m.b.H

Company information:

In 1902, the Royal Dutch Oil Company established the Benzinwerke Rhenania, G.m.b.H (Rhenania), as its “daughter company.” Rhenania, which operated oil refineries in and around Hamburg, produced gasoline for consumption in Germany and the Netherlands. In 1924, it entered the gas station business and by 1929 it operated 149 such stations. During WWII, Rhenania produced fuel for the German army, for the air force, and for civilian consumption – until much of its production capacity was destroyed by Allied bombing. Following WWII, the firm’s name was changed to Deutsche-Shell, which is now one of Germany’s largest oil refining corporations (in addition to its interests in chemical synthesis).


Slave Labor Information:

Approximately 1135 men and women labored on the grounds of Rhenania’s oil refineries and petrochemical factories in northwestern Germany. 150 forced laborers worked at the Hamburg refinery between 1944 and 1945. They were housed at the nearby Concentration Camp Hamburg-Hafen and worked under S.S. guard cleaning debris from air raids, shoveling snow, felling trees, and performing maintenance work. Ms. Zach, a claimant in our registry, was one of the forced laborers who worked for Rhenania in Hamburg. She has attested to the long hours, poor diet, and physical strain she endured during her time with Rhenania.

Additional locations which housed Rhenania forced laborers: Civilian Work Camp, Homberg, 420 persons; Civilian Work Camp, Hamburg, 175 persons; Concentration Camp, Schwelm, 380 persons.


Das Nationalsozialistische Lagersystem, pp. 78-9, 410, 434, 482.

Shell Austria, AG

Company Information:

Shell Austria has been a full subsidiary of the Royal Dutch/Shell group since its inception in 1923. Its business has consisted chiefly of refining crude oil to produce gasoline, petrochemical products and fuel oil. It also runs a chain of retail gasoline stations.

Slave Labor Information:

Between June 1944 and April 1945 approximately 250 forced laborers worked at the Shell oil refinery in Vienna, Austria. The nature of work performed was maintenance and construction. The laborers, exclusively civilians of East European extraction, were interned at the Civilian Work Camp Florisdorf, which was run by Hitler’s Reichsfuehrer-S.S.


Verzeichnis der Haftstatten unter dem Reichsfuhrer-S.S., p. 374.

Shell Austria’s website:

Aggregate Shell Statistics:

If you have any information which would be helpful to the prosecution of this case, please Alert Us



The litigation apparently did not progress beyond the statement on the law firms website, possibly because of a lack of witnesses. Most of the poor souls forced to work for Rhenania-Ossag would not have survived the Holocaust. Any of those that did would be most unlikely to be alive in 2004. There would likely have been issues over who was legally responsible – Royal Dutch Shell or an administrator appointed by the Nazi government.



There is unassailable evidence confirming “women labored on the grounds of Rhenania’s oil refineries and petrochemical factories”.

Extract from the official memorial website for the Neuengamme concentration camp based in Hamburg, the largest concentration camp in Northwest Germany:

In mid-July 1944, the first women’s satellite camp of Neuengamme concentration camp was established in a warehouse in Veddel on Dessauer Ufer in the free port of Hamburg. The first 1,000 prisoners – Jewish women from Hungary and Czechoslovakia – had been selected at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in early July 1944 to work in Hamburg. They probably reached Hamburg on 16 or 17 July 1944. Around one month later, another 500 Jewish women from the Lodz ghetto in Poland were sent to Dessauer Ufer via Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Working under the so-called Geilenberg programme – a programme of immediate measures for rescuing Germany’s destroyed petroleum industry – the women were forced to carry out clearance work for large Hamburg refineries such as Rhenania Ossag (Shell), Ebano-Oehler (Esso), J. Schindler and Jung-Öl.

On 13 September 1944, the SS divided the women into three groups and transferred them to the Hamburg-Sasel, Wedel and Hamburg-Neugraben camps.

Period: Mid-July 1944 to 13 September 1944

Number of prisoners: 1,500 women

Kind of work: Clearance work

Slave labour on behalf of: Ebano-Oehler (Esso), J. Schindler, Rhenania Ossag (Shell), Jung-Öl and others

According to the website: “At least 42,900 people died in Neuengamme, its satellite camps and during the camp evacuations at the end of the war.”


I have already provided some information about Shell’s involvement in the Hydrierwerke Politz project, with its partners Standard Oil of New Jersey and IG Farben.

During the war, Politz came to rely on large numbers of forced laborers housed in nine camps, which included a separate barracks from the Stutthof concentration camp. The Pommernlager forced labor camp for Poles and prisoners of war existed on the Politz premises from 1940.

30,000 slaves worked at Politz. 13,000 died of starvation, hard labor, disease, lack of medical care or were killed.

The above information comes from a Wikipedia article about Politz.

Shell’s historians cite the same death toll.

(Extract from page 474, RDSH V1) 

During the war, Politz came to rely on large numbers of forced labourers housed in nine camps, which included a separate barracks from the Stutthof concentration camp. Thirteen thousand prisoners are said to have died there. However, by that time the Group had lost all control over Rhenania-Ossag and the Politz works…

So there is no dispute over the fact slave labor was used at companies wholly or partly owned by Royal Dutch Shell.

Shell’s historians argue however that by the time it happened the Group had “lost all control”.

The control issue is considered in more detail in the next chapter.

Shell cannot evade responsibility for the use of forced labor at Rhenania-Ossag, before the appointment of a Verwalter.

Shell has also been accused of getting involved in slave labor in South Africa and Brazil: See “Royal Dutch Shell and slave labor.”





John Donovan, Royal Dutch Shell

John Donovan, Royal Dutch Shell

The ebook by John Donovan (right) can be purchased via Amazon websites around the world. Chapter headings are listed below. The introduction and some sample Chapters are accessible via the hyperlinks provided.



  1. The best historians Shell could buy
  2. News story February 2015: Shell ship named after a Nazi SS Officer
  3. Royal Dutch Shell and the Nazis
  4. Media coverage of Sir Henri Deterding’s Death
  5. The Nazi Funeral of Royal Dutch Shell leader Sir Henri Deterding
  6. Great friend of the Germans
  7. You Can Be Sure of Shell
  8. Royal Dutch Shell Anti-Semitism
  9. Deterding’s support for Nazi Stormtroopers
  10. Shell support for the Nazis continued after the retirement of Sir Henri as leader
  11. Shell collaborated in the Nazi annexation of Austria and occupation of Czechoslovakia
  12. Shell’s notorious business partner: IG Farben
  13. Royal Dutch Shell and Nazi slave labor (above chapter)
  14. Control of Royal Dutch Shell companies in Nazi-occupied Europe
  15. Nazi connections relating to Shell
  16. Shell historians attempt to distance Deterding from Hitler
  17. Why does it still matter?
  18. Time for a rare public apology from Shell?
  19. Key Dates
  20. Shell cloak and dagger activities
  21. Wikipedia: The sanitization of Shell’s history
  22. Authors unique connection with Shell

Index of Shell leadership financial support for the Nazis

This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

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