Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Merchant of Death: Basil Zaharoff

"...it is certain that he remains the most considerable figure in that feverish world of the munitions makers that has had so much advertisement since the Great War. Only a few names take first rank among this dubious company — old Alfred Krupp, the cannon king of Essen, the Schneiders of Creusot, Thomas Vickers, the English gun maker of Sheffield, Skoda, du Pont de Nemours, the American powder king, Colt and Winchester and Remington and Maxim. They were all, as Messrs. Englebrecht and Hanighen have called them, "Merchants of Death." But the mightiest "merchant" among them, the man who played the largest role in the "merchandising" of munitions, the greatest market maker, was Basil Zaharoff.

It was his melancholy good fortune to come upon the scene when the world went in for arms on an unprecedented scale and it was he who, more than any other man, developed the international market for arms. He did not invent it, to be sure. Old Alfred Krupp had played off Turkish orders against his native Prussia when Zaharoff was a mere fireman in Tatavla. And long before either of them — centuries before — old Andries Bicker, Burgomaster of Amsterdam, had built and supplied and provisioned and even financed a complete navy for Spain when the Spanish king was waging war upon Holland. He then explained to the outraged Dutch that if Holland had not armed the Spanish enemy, the Danes would have done it and reaped the profit.

But Zaharoff played a leading, if not the leading, role in that strange world comedy of the arms makers leading the double life of chauvinists and internationalists. They gave us the spectacle of Boers mowing down English regiments with Vickers' pom-poms, Prussian surgeons picking out of Prussian wounded Austrian shrapnel fired by Krupp's cannon, French poilus massacred by shot poured out of guns made in Le Creusot, English Tommies killed by weapons produced by Armstrong and Vickers, and American ships sent to the bottom by U-boats built on models supplied by American submarine builders. Zaharoff was the master of what one biographer has called the "principle of incitement,"under which war scares were managed, enemies created for nations,airplanes sold to one nation and antiaircraft guns to her neighbors, submarines to one and destroyers to another. He did what the cigarette people did, what the liquor industry, the beauty industry did — created a demand for his merchandise. The armament industry became a game of international politics, the arms salesman a diplomatic provocateur, the munitions magnates of all nations partners in cartels, combines, consolidations; exchanging plans, secrets, patents. He was the greatest of all the salesmen of death, and, as one commentator has observed, if you would see his monument, look about you at the military graveyards of Europe..."

 http://www.mises.org/story/2687

 

"...One of the biographers wrote that gravestones of millions killed in the war should serve a memorial to Zaharoff and their last agony moans should serve the epitaph. On some calculations, Basil Zaharoff’s proceeds from the war divided by the number of killed soldiers equaled six dollars worth of revenue per each death..."

http://www.vor.ru/English/whims/whims_045.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil_Zaharoff

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaharoff_Basil

http://www.namebase.org/main1/Basil-Zaharoff.html

Also appeared in Tintin's adventure 'The Broken Ear':
http://tintinesque.com/archives/001373.html

 

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