Leadership and Choices: Then and Now 

Recently, NGOs, such as the Sousa Mendez Foundation and Lockdown University *1, have presented talks and movies about the history of the Jews and the world almost weekly. As I watched these programs about spies before, during and after WWll, I discovered the back stories that no one ever thought would come to light.

The Thyssen Saga

The most shocking exposé I have seen recently is a talk on Youtube by the former Irish-American military man, lawyer, and author, John Loftus, launching his book Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, the Nazis, and the Swiss Banks (2000).

Loftus shares his personal story of how he came to be wandering around the CIA archives looking for Nazis in America and accidentally uncovered files that had been “purposely misfiled so that no one would ever find them.” But guess what? He did find them! The video below reveals the weird and unusual financing of the Nazi party by a bank in the US headed by Prescott Bush, father of Bush Senior and his grandfather, Herbert Walker Bush. This meant, in effect, that an American bank in New York was financing the Nazi party in Germany.

It appears that August Thyssen, patriarch of the German Thyssen coal and steel industry, was so upset by reparations exacted from his enterprise after World War I that he decided to set up his financial empire in such a way that regardless of the fate of any future German wars, the Thyssen family would not lose its financial assets. To this end, Thyssen set up three banks in three different countries. In Germany, the August Thyssen Bank; in Holland, the Voor Handel en Scheepvaart Bank; and in New York, the Union Banking Corporation (UBC). Thyssen then assigned each of his sons to head a different bank, making one a Nazi and another son neutral. The Bushes were in charge of the New York Bank. Of course, when the Bushes were involved starting in the 1920s, nothing they did was illegal.

Fritz Thyssen had openly financed the rise of the Nazi party and the election of Hitler as Chancellor. However, in 1939 he wrote a letter to Hitler strongly opposing the invasion of Poland. But it was too late. He and his wife were apprehended by the Nazis and spent the war years in the Dachau concentration camp. However, Thyssen in Germany was one of the major national firms using “slave labour as though they were chemical materiel.” And although the US government appropriated the Thyssen bank in NY in 1942, the Thyssen and Bush family’s wealth was preserved through judicious transfers and cover-ups and the work of their American lawyer, Foster Dulles, after the war.

Wealth often dictates increased power, but the Thyssen family prioritized the preservation of their wealth over using their assets to empower ethical behaviour in the political sphere. Perhaps as a form of penance, in 1959, Thyssen’s widow Amélie and daughter Anita Gräfin Zichy-Thyssen established the Fritz Thyssen Foundation to advance science and the humanities, with a capital of 100 million Deutschmarks (equivalent to €246 million in 2021).

In the same video at 12;30 min, Loftus exposes the US State Department’s policy of repeatedly supporting the Arab side in the many Arab-Israeli wars because of their desire to keep Arab oil flowing to the United States.

Obligations of Kingship in Israel

The book of Deuteronomy Ch.17, V16-20 lays out the obligations and constraints recommended for a King.

16: The king must not get more and more horses for himself. And he must not send people to Egypt to get more horses, because the Lord has told you, ‘You must never go back that way.’

17: Also, the king must not have too many wives, because that will make him turn away from the Lord. And he must not make himself rich with silver and gold.

18: “When the king begins to rule, he must write a copy of the law for himself in a book. He must make that copy from the books that the priests from the tribe of Levi keep.

19: He must keep that book with him and read from it all his life, because he must learn to respect the Lord his God. He must learn to completely obey everything the law commands.

20: Then the king will not think that he is better than any of his own people. He will not turn away from the law, but he will follow it exactly. Then he and his descendants will rule the kingdom of Israel a long time.”


On the other hand, continuous acts of courage and kindness of leaders and private citizens also occurred throughout World War ll and continue to be unearthed.

For example, the Sousa Mendez Foundation recently screened Noel Izon’s documentary, Open Door (2018), about German Jewish refugees in the thirties being offered a haven in the Phillippines. This story was entirely new to me.

Noel Izon, a native Filipino, explores how German Jews were offered haven by the Philippines President Manuel L. Quezon’s Open Door Policy. Even though the Philippines was part of the US Commonwealth since 1898 and subject to US immigration laws, Quezon working with Paul V. McNutt, a sympathetic US High Commissioner, authorized visas for approx 1300 German Jewish emigres at a time when few countries were opening their doors to Jews fleeing German racial laws and restrictions. The pre-existing Jewish community of the Philippines put up the money to resettle all Jewish families. They were quickly integrated into the Philippines society, many working in their native professions and surviving the Japanese occupation with the Filipino people until the Americans finally liberated the islands.

Jewish community in Manila during a Passover Seder celebration, 1925

The Jewish community in Manila during a Passover Seder celebration in 1925. (Source: Group portrait of Passover Seder, Manila, Philippines, 1925)

Few people are aware that Jewish communities worldwide opened their wallets, hearts, and homes to Jewish refugees wherever they knocked on their doors during the crisis of World War Two. This aspect of Jewish resistance before, during and after the war is seldom mentioned but is part of the Jewish imperative of “shivyon shvuyim/freeing captive slaves.”

In our own time, Canadian private donors and charities, both Jewish and secular, have been financing the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees in Canada and worldwide.

A child holds a heart with a drawn Ukrainian flag

Six months ago, during the Ukraine/Russia war outbreak, our Montreal Rabbis, Reuven Poupko and Adam Schier visited the Polish-Ukraine border to report on the needs of fleeing refugees. They shared with pride that the Israeli contingent was the first to set up at the Polish Ukrainian border to assist refugees. As you may be aware, Israel is generally the first to arrive in any disaster zone with personnel and necessary materials. Here is an analysis of the airlift of Ukrainian refugees to Israel in the Jerusalem Post.

As of June 15, 2022, 32,958 Ukrainians have entered Israel, of which 5,888 are new immigrants, and another 4,730 are in the process of aliyah… Had the US taken in a similar number of Ukrainians relative to its population, it would have admitted some 1.2 million Ukrainian refugees. That is not even close to US President Joe Biden’s setting a goal of admitting 100,000 Ukrainians.

This demonstrates the overwhelming power of wealth, usually residing in the state,  over the efforts of private citizens.

In summary, it is crucial for everyone, whether leader or citizen, to be vigilantly informed and to act with moral clarity wherever and in whatever position, leader or layman, we may find ourselves.



1. Lockdown University, an ad-hoc internet learning community occasioned by the pandemic (still working on their website, free and accessible to all). To subscribe to courses, contact info@lockdownuniversity.org and ask to be included in their weekly mailing.

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