Exploring the Unknown

Exploring the Unknown
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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Herr Fanta! A Brief History of Nazi Coke By Vincenzo Sciortino

Coca Cola Swastika
Pic © Coca-Cola Corporation
Coca-Cola is one of the most popular American soft drinks ever made. However, this huge corporation with the slogan ''Open Happiness'' has its own dark past. Thus it may surprise you to learn that the Coca-Cola Corporation conducted business with the Nazis before and during World War II. Coca-Cola's indifference uillustrates how profit-minded the company was in this dark period of history. The Coca-Cola Corporation was a hypocritical corporation that published  tons of propaganda posters around the United States with slogans to make people believe that Coke was supporting American troops and all the Allied forces with slogans like: ''The drink that fights back, Militant men drink Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola goes along'' (Adbranch.com, 2011). Yet, despite this, they were also publishing similar campagin posters under the banner of Fanta.


The German Businessman



Coke in Nazi Germany circa 1938
Pic © Coca-Cola Corporation
Ray Powers, who was an American businessman, introduced Coca-Cola into Germany  in 1929.  In just four years, Coca-Cola went from only 6,000 cases sold to 100,000 cases sold in the year 1933 (KillerCoke.org, n.d.). 1933 is also the year when the Nazi party came to power with its supreme leader Adolf Hitler. In that same year, a German bottler named Max Keith started working for Coca-Cola.  He wanted to increase the sales of Coca-Cola in Germany. Since the Nazi party won the elections in 1933, Coke had a lot of issues with Nazi authority. This can  be explained by the fact that Coca-Cola was originally an American and  not a German company. The Nazi authorities accused Coke of  being an American-Jewish corporation. For the Germans, these two groups were the same (Watters, 1978). Because of these accusations, Coca-Cola was the target of  its competitors. One of Coke’s competitors actually visited a New York Coke bottling plant. Apparently this man had found corks with a Kosher symbol on them, which is a Jewish sign. Of course, when this competitor came back  to Germany, he  printed all over Germany thousands of pictures of these Kosher corks. Keith clamed that it was an  aggressive attack but he fought back against it (Watters, 1978). Despite those attacks, Keith was still able to make Coca-Cola a popular soft drink in Germany.

The ''American Freedom'' Soft Drink at the Berlin Olympics


Pic © Coca-Cola Corporation
Germany was still at peace with the allies in 1936 and it was the year in which the Berlin Olympics occurred. It was Hitler's chance to prove to the whole world how powerful and superior the Aryans athletes were (Pendergrast, 1993). Of all the sponsors for this event, Coca-Cola was the most supportive in the Olympics games. Keith provided hundreds of Coca-Cola bottles to the athletes, the spectators, and the visitors for the event Pendergrast (1993). However, the German Coke bottles had something a bit different from those of the United States. They had caffeine-warning label because the Nazi health authorities, led by Adolf Hitler, considered it dangerous for the health of  the German people (Pendergrast, 1993).

Pic © Coca-Cola Corporation
Keith provided not only the drinks for the sports event but also the ads for the Olympics (Adbranch.com, 2011).  However, those ads were very  particular. They  might even be seen as propaganda, using  slogans like ''One People, One Nation, One Drink" which was very close to the slogan of Hitler, '' One People, One Nation, One Führer'' (Adbranch.com, 2011).   Even after the Olympics, Coke was the sponsor of many other sporting events such as the 1938 Soccer Cup in Germany (Adbranch.com, 2011).

The Rise of an International Conflict


Mussolini, Benito; Hitler, Adolf; Chamberlain, Neville
Pic © Britannica.com
On  September 1, 1939, Hitler launched his army in an attempted invasion against Poland. Two days after the invasion, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany because Hitler betrayed the Munich Agreement. Hitler signed the treaty on September 29, 1938, which  forbade him to invade any other countries of Europe (Britannica.com, 2013). World War II  started and Keith was still able to provide Coca-Cola to the German people and to the soldiers because the United States was not involved in the war. Therefore, Keith was still able to receive Cokes secret syrup recipe from America until 1941. After that year, the Imperial Japanese Air Force launched a major attack  against the U.S naval base Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Hitler, who was  allied with Japan, declared war on the U.S a few days after  the attack. Keith was afraid for his company. He didn't have any more syrup to create Coca-Cola. He gave   his last production of Coke to the German soldiers (Diggerhistory.info, 2002). It was now the time to work on something new only for the Germans something unique.

The New Coke



Fanta, The People's Drink
Pic © Coca-Cola Corporation
Indifferent to the situation that the world  faced, Keith thought only of what he had to do for his company. He was  ready to do anything to keep the Coca-Cola business running (Pendergrast, 1993). He knew that the future of his company depended on his chemists. He asked them to create a new soft drink exclusively for the Germans, and that this drink had to be as popular as the original Coca-Cola. They came up with the idea of creating a fruit-flavored soda (Hays, 2004). This new orange flavored soda was made with the leftovers of other food industries and with apple fibers (Pendergrast, 1993). The drink tasted good, but it needed a catchy name like Coca-Cola had. Keith asked his employees to find an attractive fantasy name for the new product. Joe knipp, a salesman for the company came up with the name Fanta (Pendergrast, 1993). Thus, Fanta was born and had it's own distinctive bottles and was introduce to the public. The new soda was successful and in 1943 3 million cases were sold (Diggerhistory, n.d.). Fanta saved Coca-Cola in Germany, since the company couldn't make anymore Coca-Cola in the Nazi state. Michael Moore explained that ''Fanta was the Nazi drink'' by creating this new soda Coca-Cola was able to continue making business with their eyes closed on the bloody war that was happening on their own soil.  It seems that Fanta made more than just a success in Germany. Since its creation, this soda can be found in every corner of the globe in varieties of 7 flavors in almost every local grocery stores.

Coca-Cola Goes Along


Pic © Coca-Cola Corporation
Robert Woodruff, was the president of the Coca-Cola company in America and was providing all GI's in the world Coca-Cola bottles for five cents just like in America even  if  it costed more money to the company  to import the sodas  in Europe and in Japan. The reason  why Woodruff made this decision was  to persuade the soldiers that Coke was on their side and that, if only symbolically, Coca-Cola was fighting alongside them (Oliver, 1986). Little did the GI's know at the time that the the Coca-Cola Corporation company was doing the same thing amongst German troops under their new banner of Fanta. Over five billion bottles of Coca-Cola have been sold to the U.S soldiers in the years between 1941 to 1945. Because of the increasing demand of Coke in Europe in 1943, the General Dwight Eisenhower asked the War Department for the establishment of ten Coca-Cola bottling plant in North Africa and in Italy (Oliver, 1986). The Second World War has increased the sales of Coke and by the end of 1945 there was 64 Coca-Cola bottling plants in the whole world Oliver(1986).

Pic © Dialogue International.
Nevertheless, Coca-Cola's past with the national socialist party is only one segment of  the true story of the corporation. Of Course Coke doesn't remind the population of its past with Nazi Germany and even if today the past of Coca-Cola with the Nazis isn't a secret, people are still buying products from the corporation. Inevitably it is only normal that this company is only trying to reflect the positive aspects and not the negative ones, after all, the goal is to make profits and to achieve this objective the company must make people want to buy the merchandise. However, a question arises: would it really change anything if companies would announce to the population the truth  behind the brand name? Their silence on this topic itself is telling. For more information on the history of The Coca-Cola Corporation and how to this day they have been involved in various human rights abuses, check out Killer Coke.org.

References


Adbranch.com. (2011). Coca-Cola ads in Nazi Germany. Adbranch.com.

Adbranch.com. (2010). Who Invented Fanta? Adbranch.com.        

AWorldAtWarUnderstandingWWII.Weebly.com. (n.d.). 1936 Berlin Olympics. AWAWUWWII.Weebly.com.

DifferHistory.com. (2002). Coca-Cola at War (on both sides). DiggerHistory.com.

Killer Coke.org. (n.d.). Coca-Cola and Nazi Germany: A Contradiction. Killer Coke.org.

Hays, L. C.(2004). The real thing truth and power at the Coca-Cola company. New York, NY: Random House Trade PaperBacks.

Moore, Michael. (n.d.). Nazi Fanta. Publisher Unknown.

Mooney, P. (2010). Memorial Day & Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola Company.com.

Oliver, T. (1986). The real Coke the real story. New York, NY: Random House Trade               PaperBacks.  

Pendergrast, M. (1993). For god, country and Coca-Cola. New York, NY: Collier Books.  

Pendergrast, M. (1993). Viewpoints; A brief history of Coca-colonization. The New York Times.

Toile-libre.prg. (1996). Pour l'Amour de Coke. Toile-libre.org.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2013). The Munich Agreement. Britannica.com. 
                                                                                           
Watters, Pat. (1978). Coca-Cola: An Illustrated History. New York, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.

About The Author


Vincenzo Sciortino is presently studying at Champlain College Lennoxville located in Quebec, Canada. Herr Fanta! A Brief History of Nazi Coke was written as part of an assignment for Rage Against The Machine: Consumerism, Leisure & Popular Culture in the Department of Humanities.

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