Ch. 3: Koch Family - An Unbroken Lineage of White Supremacy

Part 1: Nazi sympathies of the Koch family

  1. Koch Industries and Nazi Germany

  2. Holocaust denialism in Charles Koch's Early Academic endeavors

  3. Institute for Humane Studies and Hitler youth

1. Koch Industries and Nazi Germany

A free-market alliance with Nazism is nothing new to the Koch network, or Koch Industries itself. In Jane Mayer’s recent book on the Koch family, Dark Money, she sheds a light the early origins of the Koch Industries’ wealth, then called Winkler-Koch Engineering, under the guidance of Charles Koch’s father, Fred Koch. Mayer notes relevant years during the mid-late 1930’s that omitted from “the oficial corporate history of Koch Industries.”

Mayer points out that the Koch family company profited greatly from a “willingness to work with the Soviets and the Nazis,” playing “a major factor in creating the Koch family’s early fortune.”

In the years after Hitler’s rise to power, Winkler-Koch provided the engineering plans and oversaw the construction of “the third- largest refinery in the Third Reich” with “the capacity to process a thousand tons of crude oil a day.” Koch’s Hamburg plant was one of the few refineries in Germany that could “produce the high-octane gasoline needed to fuel fighter planes.” Winker-Koch finished the refinery in 1935, and it went on to become “a key component of the Nazi war machine,” literally fuelling German bombing raids.

Mayer cites a historian of the German oil industry during the Nazi years, who clarified that “Winkler- Koch benefited directly from this project, which was designed to help enable the fuel policy of the Third Reich.”

Charles Koch, born in 1935, grew up for a time in a pro-Nazi American household whose patriarch valued free-market activities over all else.

After frequent visits to Germany during the 1930s, Fred Koch held pro-Nazi, pro-fascist positions. Mayer quotes a 1938 letter from Fred, just one year before WWII, at a time when Nazi intentions were clear, Fascists had power in Italy, and Japan had invaded China:

Although nobody agrees with me, I am of the opinion that the only sound countries in the world are Germany, Italy, and Japan, simply because they are all working and working hard . . .The laboring people in those countries are proportionately much better off than they are any place else in the world. When you contrast the state of mind of Germany today with what it was in 1925 you begin to think that perhaps this course of idleness, feeding at the public trough, dependence on government, etc., with which we are afflicted is not permanent and can be overcome.”

As Mayer details, Fred Koch built the Hamburg refinery with business associate and American Nazi sympathizer, William Rhodes Davis, who was eventually accused by a federal prosecutor for being an “agent of influence” for the Nazi regime because of his numerous relationships to Hitler’s Germany. Winkler-Koch would later contract to refine high-octane fuel for U.S. warplanes, many of which would eventually destroy a particularly high-value Nazi target in Hamburg Germany, the Winkler-Koch refinery. (Mayer, 2016, pgs 29-31)

Though Charles Koch was very young while his father was directly collaborating with Nazi agents, it would appear that Fred’s Nazi sympathies may have been passed on to Charles Koch.

Holocaust Denialism in the Academic Endeavors of Charles Koch

Charles Koch’s early academic organizations had alarming ties to Holocaust denialism, with Charles himself directly funding deniers. Additional ties existed through the Center for Libertarian Studies, Institute for Humane Studies, and Cato Institute.

Charles Koch provided considerable funding to the segregated “Freedom School” run by free-market guru Robert LeFevre.

As reported by Pando in 2014, LeFevre and Koch launched Rampart College in 1966, hiring known Holocaust denier James Martin to run the history department. The Rampart Journal’s board of academic advisers included (IHS founder) F.A. Harper, (eventual IHS president) Louis Spadaro, Friedrich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and Hans Sennholz.  

When Rampart collapsed, Martin named Charles Koch as among the “millionaires” that supported him financially.

In 1976, the Koch-funded Reason Magazine January 1976 issue featured Martin alongside other known Holocaust deniers and Neo-Nazis. Marty Zupan, president of the Institute for Humane Studies until 2016, was listed among the editorial staff at the time.

Martin wrote:

I don't believe that the evidence of a planned extermination of the entire Jewish population of Europe is holding up. . . .that the German concentration camps weren't health centers is well known - but they appear to have been far smaller and much less lethal than the Russian ones. (Martin, Reason, 1976)

According to one investigation, Martin was featured in Reason from the mid-1960s through 1980. In 2007 interview with the Atlas Network, Koch’s longtime political strategist, George Pearson recalled James Martin as simply a scholar:

My first involvement in the “freedom movement” was a short stint at Bob LeFevre’s “Freedom School” in Larkspur, CO. In the mid-60s, LeFevre decided to expand the Freedom School into a college and arranged with William Hutt, an economist, and James Martin, a historian, to head the faculty of the new Rampart College.

The Mises Institute celebrates Martin as an “American historian . . best known for his work on the history of American individualist anarchism, Men Against The State,” which the Mises Institute re-published in 2009. James Martin went on to write for a Holocaust denial group, the Institute for Historical Review.

Another contributor to Reason’s Holocaust denial issue was Gary North, an eventual Mises Institute scholar. North questioned the “supposed execution of 6 million Jews by Hitler,” calling it “the Establishment’s favorite horror story” (North, Reason, 1976, pg 34). At the time, North was working as a congressional aide to Congressman, and eventual Mises board member, Ron Paul. Senior Editor of Reason Magazine at the time was Tibor Machan, currently a Mises Institute scholar.

Reason’s 1976 revisionist issue featured an open neo-Nazi named Austin J. App. App served on the board of trustees of the neo-Nazi National Youth Alliance, which later became the violent National Alliance, described the Southern Poverty Law Center as “the most dangerous and best organized neo-Nazi formation in America.”

Institute for Humane Studies and Hitler Youth

The same year that Reason Magazine celebrated Holocaust deniers, Charles Koch sponsored the launch of the Center for Libertarian Studies (CLS) with an inaugural conference. The conference was intended to develop a libertarian strategy for political change.

Charle Koch presented alongside several free-market scholars, including Leonard Liggio, the Director of History and Social Theory at the Institute for Humane Studies.

Liggio’s contribution was a paper called “National Socialist Political Strategy: Social Change in a Modern Industrial Society with an Authoritarian Tradition.” Historian Clayton Coppin described Liggio’s paper as “an examination of the Nazi success in capturing the German state . . . particularly interested in the Nazis’ use of youth movements as an essential part of their overall movement”:

Based on the Nazi experience Liggio makes the case for a libertarian youth movement concentrated in the universities. Building a youth movement required a concentrated organizational effort that would give a group identity to its members. It also required a series of publications directed at the issues of concern to students. (Coppin, Stealth, pg 57)

For decades that followed, Leonard Liggio and Charles Koch led the Institute Humane Studies (IHS), which serves as the primary youth recruitment and training arm of Koch’s “Liberty Movement,” anchored at George Mason University.

In the previous year (1975), Holocaust denier James Martin and Liggio co-edited Watershed of Empire, a collection of essays on foreign policy. At the time of Liggio’s indecent proposal, James Martin was on the board of advisors for the CLS (CLS, 1976).

In 1977 Charles Koch founded the Cato Institute with Liggio as the founding Vice President. Cato published Holocaust deniers like James Martin and Harry Elmer Barnes as recently as 1980.

In 1979, Liggio became Executive Vice-President of Koch’s Institute of Humane Studies, and President from 1980 to 1988. Liggio served as Chair of the Humane Studies Foundation from 1980 to 1994, and then Vice-Chair until 1998. Liggio became a professor at George Mason University in 1986, where he was a frequent contributor to Mises Institute publications until his death in 2014 (Liggio CV).


Part 2 of this chapter sheds more light onto the white supremacists that Charles Koch has been active with and inspired by, in particular the John Birch Society.