Busts of August Thyssen, (1923 by Georg Kolbe) and Fritz Thyssen (1965 posthumously by Gwendolyn Blume).
Fritz Thyssen is the eldest son of August Thyssen (1842 - 1926) and Hedwig Pelzer (1854 - 1940). After studying mining and metallurgy in London, Liège and Charlottenburg (Berlin), in 1897 he is appointed by his father to the mining board of the Deutscher Kaiser trade union. At the dawn of the new century Fritz Thyssen joins the supervisory boards of various group subsidiaries as his father's representative and is involved in the management of foreign subsidiaries. Up to the death of August Thyssen he develops technical improvements to the Thyssen iron and steel mill, in particular after the First World War he modernizes and rationalizes the ironworks. However, in his work he is still overshadowed by his father.
Against his father's wishes Fritz Thyssen marries Amélie Zurhelle, daughter of a factory owner from Mülheim am Rhein, in 1900. The couple's only child Anita is born in 1909.
Fritz Thyssen, August 6, 1936.
Fritz Thyssen volunteers for service in the First World War, but is discharged in 1916/17 with a lung condition. During the Franco-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr in 1923, as spokesman for the affected mining companies he rejects the orders of the occupying power as illegal, is promptly arrested and together with other industrialists ordered to pay a fine by a French military court. "For his services to uphold German law during the Ruhr conflict" he is made an honorary doctor of law just a few weeks later by the University of Freiburg. Fritz Thyssen nevertheless seeks reconciliation with France; in the mid 1920s he participates in the Franco-German industrial negotiations on founding the international crude steel association. On the establishment of Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG, which unlike his brother Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (1875 - 1947) he and his father approve, he is elected chairman of the supervisory board as representative of the biggest private shareholder (26%) in 1926. He has no ambition to become chairman of the executive board. He plays a leading role in associations and confederations (German iron and steel industry association, imperial association of German industry, central committee of the imperial bank, etc.).
Fritz Thyssen is a conservative nationalist, but not a realist. Up to 1932 he is a member of the German National People's Party (Deutschnationale Volkspartei) and is among the followers of the corporative state ideas of the economist, philosopher and sociologist Othmar Spann. Sections of the NSDAP initially support the corporative state idea, and for this reason the party requests Fritz Thyssen to set up an "Institute for Corporatism" in Düsseldorf in 1933. Soon to fall foul of national socialist economic policies, the institute is closed in the summer of 1936.
At May 1, 1933 Fritz Thyssen joins the NSDAP, to which he has already donated financial support, the amount of which is generally overestimated. The denazification trials ordered by the Allies in 1948 found that Fritz Thyssen donated around 650,000 Reichsmarks to various right-wing and conservative national political parties and groups, including the NSDAP, between 1923 and 1932. At Hitler's behest he is made a member of the Reichstag and of the Prussian council of state.
After 1934 (so-called Röhm-Putsch) Fritz Thyssen increasingly distances himself from the NSDAP and its objectives, but remains a member of the party and the Reichstag. His move away from NS thinking culminates in a clean break when he fails to attend the Reichstag assembly in Berlin to approve the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, openly stating in a telegraph to Hermann Göring: "... I am against war. ..."
Fritz Thyssen delivering a speech in the Stahlhof, Düsseldorf, at a works meeting of Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG, between 1933 and 1937.
Fritz Thyssen flees with his family via Switzerland to France with a view to emigrating from there to Argentina, but his plans are frustrated by the German invasion of France. During this time the so-called autobiography, published under the title "I paid Hitler" in New York in 1941, is written. The publisher is the journalist Emery Reves, an American of Hungarian descent. The text is based on dictations, only the first nine chapters of which were edited by Fritz Thyssen himself. The rest, the most frequently quoted section, has been imaginatively embellished by the publisher, and is of limited value as a source of reference on Thyssen's actual movements and his role up to 1939. The very title of the book is misleading and for this reason Thyssen always contested its authenticity. The board of arbitration in the denazification trial agreed with him.
Fritz Thyssen and his wife Amélie are among the first Germans to be delivered to the national socialists by the Vichy government at the end of 1940. Their assets are confiscated by the state. After spending two years confined in the secure section of a sanatorium near Berlin, they are both incarcerated first of all in the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen, in February 1945 in Buchenwald and finally in Dachau. Together with other prominent prisoners of the regime they are released by German and US soldiers as they make their way through the Alps. Fritz Thyssen is again arrested - this time as a supporter of the NSDAP - and finally has to submit to just one denazification trial. He is indicted for "minor crimes". As a punishment 15% of his German assets are to be confiscated. An arrangement is reached: In return for the quashing of the confiscation of his assets, Thyssen pays court costs of DM500,000. A free man, he emigrates with his wife in January 1950 - ten years later than originally planned. They join their daughter Anita who lives near Buenos Aires and has been married to the Hungarian Count Gabor Zichy (1910 - 1972) since 1936. The union produces two sons Federico (b. 1937) and Claudio (b. 1942) Zichy-Thyssen.
Fritz Thyssen dies of a heart attack on February 8, 1951 in Argentina. Together with his father and brother Heinrich he is buried in the family vault at Schloss Landsberg near Essen. His wife Amélie and daughter Anita are also buried there.
Amélie Thyssen with German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer at Schloss Puchhof near Straubing receiving the Grand Cross of Merit with Star and Riband on August 7, 1960.
The rebuilding of the Thyssen group after the Second World War is supported by Amélie Thyssen. On July 7, 1959 Fritz Thyssen's two heiresses, his wife Amélie and daughter Anita Countess Zichy-Thyssen, establish the Fritz Thyssen Foundation to advance science and the humanities with a capital of DM100 million nominal-value shares in August Thyssen-Hütte AG, established in 1953. It was the first large private scientific foundation to be established after the Second World War in the Federal Republic of Germany. Amélie Thyssen dies in 1965. In 1986 her daughter Anita Countess Zichy-Thyssen donates her father's small but valuable art collection to the Bavarian National Museum in Munich. She dies in Munich four years later.
Anita Countess Zichy-Thyssen on June 10, 1955.
In September 1995 Fritz Thyssen's grandsons, Counts Claudio and Federico Zichy-Thyssen, announce their withdrawal from the company Thyssen AG form. August Thyssen-Hütte and sell their shares (15.38%) to Commerzbank. Since the two counts left the supervisory board of Thyssen AG on March 22, 1997, no descendants of the company founder have been involved with the company.