The Smartest Nazi
The curious tale of the Nazi banking genius who scored the highest IQ at the Nuremberg trials.
Written by Matthew Archer.
The smartest Nazi was a man named Hjalmar Schacht. Without him the war would not have been possible. This is because Schacht was Hitler’s banker. In 1914, he was placed in charge of Belgium’s banking system after Germany’s invasion. So efficient, so ruthless was he that anybody who was anybody in international finance took notice. A fierce patriot, he would come under Hitler’s spell in 1931. Schacht, however, was anything but a typical Nazi.
He’d grown up in Prussia, the son of a Finnish school teacher and a Baroness. He had a cosmopolitan bent, studying medicine, philology, political science, and finance at four German universities and Paris. He earned his doctorate at the age of 22. At heart, Schacht he was a proud democrat, a humanitarian even. He’d co-founded the centre-left German Democratic Party in 1918 and had travelled the world lecturing on the inequity of the reparations in the Versailles Treaty.
After the Wall Street crash in ‘29, the Americans wanted their money back from Germany. In 1931, Schacht met Hitler and was deeply impressed with his display of patriotism and his desire to build a new economy. Schacht agreed to help. With the genius banker onboard, every finance minister realised it was safe to lend to Germany — such was the power of the man’s reputation. Of course, the US loans would help the Germans rearm.
By 1937, Schacht had realised the mess he’d gotten into and tried to distance himself. He’d been given the Golden Party Badge, something that entitled him to a life of luxury — the finest restaurants, the best theatre seats etc. Still, he continued to object and was an active member of the resistance and the plans for a coup d’état should Hitler invade Czechoslovakia. Even though political assassinations were taking place all around him, Schacht thought he could reason with Hitler. He even publicly critiqued him, a death sentence normally. But Hitler couldn’t kill his Reichsbank president. He was needed to help finance the Russian invasion.
After the attempted assassination of Hitler in ‘44, Schacht was arrested and sent to several camps, eventually ending up in Dachau and somehow surviving until the camp was liberated by the Americans. At Nuremberg, twenty one leading Nazis were giving IQ tests. Schacht scored the highest, a 143. A judge declared that, ‘None of the civilians in the resistance did more or could have done more than Schacht actually did.’ He would be acquitted and eventually, in 1953, come to set up his own bank. Schacht wrote 26 books. He died in 1970 aged 93.
The full breakdown of the Nuremberg IQ tests was as follows:
Matthew Archer is the Editor-in-Chief of Aporia Magazine.
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