Abstract: Property, Control, and Room for Maneuver: Royal Dutch Shell and Nazi Germany, 1933-1945

Marten Boon


Nationalistic Nazi politics created problems for foreign multinational firms in Germany. Although currency restrictions and the Nazi economic boom caused Royal Dutch Shell's subsidiary Rhenania-Ossag to grow luxuriantly during the 1930s, the question was to what extent the major allocation decisions were taken in Royal Dutch's headquarters in The Hague or London or in Hamburg. Under Nazi dictatorship and occupation, in particular, the management of foreign multinationals was limited by regulations and increasingly controlled by the regime. Although the room for maneuver had decreased in the course of time, it was not always clear who had been in control. A complicating factor was Rhenania's relationship with IG Farben. Royal Dutch Shell became involved with IG Farben to gain access to its technology. Under the Nazi regime, however, IG Farben became the favored instrument of autarky, undermining the position of foreign oil companies in Nazi Germany. The entanglement with IG Farben thus complicated Rhenania's position in Nazi Germany. The paper examines to what extent the parent company and the German subsidiary were able to control their businesses in Nazi Germany and what their room for maneuver was.