SPIEGEL's Daily Take Hitler the Tax Dodger

Was Adolf Hitler a tax evader? New documents show how the dictator's big time debts were forgiven after he rose to power. Germany partners with Russia in shady oil and gas deals. And how many calories can a man burn while seducing a woman?

Croatian Cuisine

We can all agree on fish for dinner. Can't we?
Hilke Maunder

We can all agree on fish for dinner. Can't we?

Here's an experiment to try: Gather together 29 acquaintances -- they should have different socio-economic backgrounds, include a few who grew up in cities, some from the country, and a handful with violent childhoods and overbearing parents -- and then ask them all a question. Say, "where should we go to dinner tonight?" Here's the trick. Everybody -- the not-so-well-off, the vegetarians, the smokers, the ones with peanut allergies, and those who know this to-die-for sushi place downtown -- has to agree.

That, essentially, is what is going on in the EU right now. It has 25 official members at the moment, but Romania and Bulgaria are likely to join in 2007. Turkey was invited to start the process today. And, under a radar jammed by Turkey talk, the EU on Friday extended an invitation to Croatia to start talks possibly as early as April, 2005 (on the condition that it stops harboring indicted war-crimes suspects). That makes a total of 29 potential EU members. So what's for dinner? (5:45 p.m CET)

Tax-Dodging Dictator

Adolf Hitler a tax evader? Here's the proof.

Adolf Hitler a tax evader? Here's the proof.

Turns out Adolf Hitler wasn't just a mass-murdering, war-mongering, racist and depraved ogre. He was also a tax-dodger. At the same time he was preaching to the masses that the collective good is more important than the good of the individual, he was also doing all he could to avoid paying taxes, according to Klaus-Dieter Dubon, who has plunged into Hitler's tax files. That allows us to add "hypocrite" to the list of nasty Hitler adjectives in use.

Just how much did Hitler owe? 400,000 Reichsmarks -- the equivalent of millions of dollars today. Hitler's dictator salary only pumped 45,000 Reichsmarks into his account every year. Not surprisingly, the Fuehrer never had to pay his tax bill; in December of 1934, after Hitler took control, his tax bill was forgiven.

The bill was mostly from book royalties earned from the sale of his ranting, repetitive and virulently anti-Semitic missive "Mein Kampf." Despite the book's lack of literary luster, it earned Hitler 1.2 million Reichsmarks by 1933. But it wasn't just the book. Hitler had loads of admirers who plied him with gifts, even before he seized power. For example, a rich woman wrote him in the 1920s, "Dear Mr. Hitler, I have an extra watch which I have enclosed. Wouldn't you like to use it?" In 1925, he received a Breughel painting (worth 50,000 Reichsmarks). The tax office never found out about such perks.

(Note: Some of our own admirers have accused SPIEGEL International of playing up Hitler stories. Here, for example, is a comment we received this week about a feature on a new hotel being built in former Nazi retreat Obersalzburg: "A typical SPIEGEL article -- pure sensationalism.... What would SPIEGEL do if Hitler hadn't existed? The magazine would only be half as thick. Sincerely, Wolfram Herzog" Our response: Hitler did exist. And he remains one of history's most frigtening and fascinating figures.) (2:00 p.m. CET)

Uggghhhh! Back hair!

The conservative German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has been keeping tabs on quirky surveys and oddball studies. Here's a summary of wacky facts:

*Germans like eating ice cream in the winter
*Men burn 87 calories when opening their partner's bra with their mouth
*Christmas gift shopping annoys most Germans
*Twenty-six percent of men in Germany only buy gifts in the week before Christmas
*Those who have extra-marital sex are at greater risk of heart attacks than those who don't
*Drivers of BMWs have sex more often than the drivers of any other car make
*Every third driver has sex fantasies when sitting in a traffic jam
*Sex-drive killers for women: uncared-for feet, back hair, dirty underwear lying around, pin-up posters and pictures of mother near the bed
(12:40 p.m. CET)

The Russian Giant Squid

At the other side of the black hole? Russian gas giant Gazprom.

At the other side of the black hole? Russian gas giant Gazprom.

A quick reminder: this Sunday, one part of the Russian oil giant Yukos which was ripped apart in a legally shady seizure by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2003 (a subsidiary called Yuganskneftegaz), is to be auctioned off -- likely to Russian gas giant Gazprom. Leaving aside for a second the fact that western banks have frozen credit to Gazprom pending the resolution of a Yukos bankruptcy filing with a court in Houston, who stands to benefit from the deal?

First of all, Russia itself and its quasi-private-but-state-steered natural gas giant Gazprom. The company is already spreading its tentacles across Europe and by gobbling up bits of Yukos, it is hoping to improve its standing in the world of oil.

Second up is Germany. The country gets 40 percent of its gas from Gazprom, and German companies are directly and deeply attached to the company. The energy company E.on owns 6.5 percent of Gazprom, Deutsche Bank wants to finance the Yuganskneftegaz deal, Dresdner Bank is also on board, and the whole thing is being midwifed by a German law firm. A number of other German companies are also close partners with Gazprom.

All of which goes a long way toward explaining German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's turning a blind eye to the rather questionable legality of the whole business -- and to his close friendship with the not-so-democratic Putin. "There are no indications that (the break up of Yukos) is not consistent with the law," Schroeder said about the issue in July. His coalition partner the Greens aren't so sure: "A lot is subordinated to this strategic energy partnership -- which I don't agree with," the Green Party's energy expert said.

In other words, "It's the economy stupid." (11:30 a.m. CET)

A Foreigner's Perspective: German News

Cans. What could be more exciting?

Cans. What could be more exciting?

Yesterday big news hit Europe. The European Parliament agreed to start accession negotiations with Turkey. Clearly front-page material. But what story did the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung lead with? The riveting story that tolls for trucks on German highways are to be introduced. And today? The big news on the home page of SPIEGEL ONLINE is this: the German can-deposit law has been simplified. Wow! That'll keep us coming back for updates. Cans and tolls. What could be more exciting? Germans love these sorts of snoozers. And the more esoteric the details, the better. Throw a dry, detailed article on any inconsequential subject on the front pages, and Germans will line up at the news stands. Reminds us of one story played up big in the German media this spring. The chimney-sweep monopoly (chimney-sweep monopoly???) might just (but only maybe) be broken up. Pass the oxygen. (10:30 a.m. CET)


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