CHAPTER 5: The Nazi Funeral of Royal Dutch Shell leader Sir Henri Deterding

On 10 February 1939, a burial ceremony with many of the trappings of a state funeral was held at a private estate near Berlin. The spectacle included a funeral procession led by a horse-drawn funeral hearse with senior Nazis officials and Shell directors in attendance. An indication of the high esteem in which Sir Henri Deterding was held by his Shell colleagues and by Adolf Hitler, who sent a wreath.

Sir Henri Deterding, a foreign national, was honored with what amounted to a state funeral in Germany, where he was buried.

There was a long funeral procession involving hundreds of mourners. Nazi salutes at the graveside, swastika banners on display, wreaths, and personal tributes from Adolf Hitler and Reichsmarschall, Hermann Göring, who sent a group of air corps officers to convey his respects. See page 489 of RDSH V1.

The mourners included many Nazi military officers and officials along with a contingent of Shell Group directors and other senior Shell staff paying their respects. Mr. Frederick Godber, Mr. J.B.A. Kessler (giving the Nazi salute?).

Mourners Baron Van Eck, Mr. George Legh-Jones, and Sir Andrew Agnew, all group managing directors of the Royal Dutch Shell Group, were also mingling with the Nazis.

The message accompanying the wreath from Hitler said:

“In the name and by order of the Fuehrer, I greet in you, Heinrich Deterding, a great friend of the Germans.”

Hitler’s special envoy, Erich Hilgenfeld of the SS, laid the wreath on Hitler’s behalf (See page 478, RDSH V1.)

The deceased person honored like royalty by Hitler and the Nazi Party was a Dutchman with a British title, Sir Henri Deterding. During his remarkable 40 years with Royal Dutch, over 30 as the absolute leader of the amalgamated Anglo-Dutch Group, Sir Henri built the oil giant best known as “Shell.”

In 1935, the first paragraph of a U.S. newspaper article contained a description of Sir Henri as “strong man of the billion dollar Royal Dutch Shell corporation….” The first three words of the headline described him as “Europe’s Oil Napoleon.”

In 1936, another U.S. newspaper article described him as “principle founder of the Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.”  The extract comes from a small piece in the 5th column immediately above the left- hand corner.

Deterding was responsible for building Royal Dutch Shell Group into a global colossus and turning Shell into an iconic brand, instantly recognizable around the world.

Although I have mentioned Sir Richard Branson and Rupert Murdock, there is no one in the current era to compare with Sir Henri Deterding. He was a globally famous oil baron, a man of controversy and mystery who involved himself in sinister machinations to overthrow regimes that stood in the way of his greed and ambition.

In April 1932, the Daily Express reported: “NEW ATTACK ON SIR H. DETERDING.” The attack in question came from a French financial newspaper accusing him of being an enemy of France – “of withholding vital statements of his companies investments and of secret dealings…”

My impression of Sir Henri is that he relished such controversy.

Some outstanding leaders who amass absolute power, influence, and immense wealth become corrupted by success and fame. A few turn into megalomaniacs and, as they grow older, adopt extremist views.

In the case of Sir Henri, he became infatuated with Hitler and an admirer of Mussolini. 

His funeral took place seven months before the Nazis and the Soviets invaded Poland, triggering a declaration of war on Germany by Britain and France.

According to information on page 490 of RDSH V1: “This occasion was stage-managed as a dreadful Nazi show with swastika banners, wreaths from Hitler and Goring, tributes to the great friend of Germany, and Hitler salutes over the grave.”

WW2 was one of the darkest periods the world has ever seen. Tens of millions of people perished in horrific circumstances as a consequence of the evil actions of the Nazi Party.

A regime funded at a crucial moment in history by the Dutch leadership of Royal Dutch Shell.

Extracts from a translated Wikipedia article: Henri Deterding:  (downloaded 6 August 2020)

Death and burial

When Deterding died in the Engadine at the age of 72, his body was brought to Dobbin and laid out in the castle’s riding arena. His family, public figures and academics, industrialists from the German Reich and abroad and Nazi celebrities appeared at the funeral service on February 10, 1939.

“The hall was lined with pine green and white lilac. The flags of the Third Reich and the Netherlands hung over the podium with the coffin covered with flowers. A white lilac canopy shone from the semi-darkness, enlivened by the dim light from red pylons on either side of the coffin. Two foresters and a body servant of the deceased kept the guard of honor.”

Deterding was buried in the forest between the castle park and the fog.

The inscription HENRI DETERDING can still be seen. A circular zinc cast plaque on the back – later removed and destroyed – bore the inscription: 


At the instigation of his family, Deterding was reburied to Liechtenstein in 1968. 

Wikipedia article extracts End

Just how bad were the Nazis?

In November 2010, a UK tabloid newspaper, The Sun, published an article revealing that following a DNA test, it had been confirmed that a lampshade bought at a New Orleans car boot sale was made from human skin.

The shocking headline: “Lampshade bought at car boot sale is from HUMAN SKIN”

The article said: “The first report of a Nazi skin lampshade was published on April 16, 1945, by Ann Stringer, a United Press International correspondent, after the fall of German leader Adolf Hitler, and the liberation of the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar…”

In an online description of a related book “The Lampshade: A Holocaust Detective Story from Buchenwald to New Orleans” it says:

Few growing up in the aftermath of World War II will ever forget the horrifying reports that Nazi concentration camp doctors had removed the skin of prisoners to makes common, everyday lampshades.” The lampshades are rightly described as “an icon of terror”, the ultimate symbol of Nazi cruelty.

Deterding’s funeral and its immediate aftermath were widely reported.


As the coffin was lowered into the grave, a deputy of the Fuehrer stepped forth and placing a wreath upon it said: “In the name of Adolf Hitler, I greet you, Henri Deterding, the great friend of the Germany.” Field Marshal Goering sent a group of officers of the air corps to convey his respects.

The Times: SIR HENRI DETERDING’S FUNERAL: 11 February 1939


Herr Hitler and Field-Marshal Goring, and the Dutch Government, sent wreaths to the funeral to-day of Sir Henri Deterding at his estate at Dobbin, Mecklenburg

Daily Express: Hitler sends wreath: Front Page: 11 February 1939

Hitler sends wreath

Daily Express Staff Reporter

BERLIN, Friday.- Hitler has sent a wreath with a red, white and black ribbon worded “Adolf Hitler,” to the funeral today of Sir Henri Deterding, multi-millionaire Dutch oil king, who died last Saturday. 

Time Magazine: Royal Dutch Knight: 13 February 1939


He backed Hitler in Germany, added a German residence to his English, Dutch and Swiss homes.

THE ERA, BRADFORD, PA: TUESDAY, MARCH 7, 1939 (item under the heading “CAUSE” in the fourth column)


The last honors bestowed upon the late Sir Henri Deterding by high German officials furnish eloquent confirmation of the story that he was one of the original financial backers of the Nazi movement. A Dutchman by birth and nationality, he attained the chairmanship of the Royal Dutch (Shell) Oil Co. and was knighted by the British king.

The same article was published the following day in the Twin Falls News, Idaho (right): and The Milwaukee Sentinel on 16 March 1939

Extract: Sir Henri Deterding gave 7½ million marks to Hitler in 1929

Daily Mirror: £250,000 FOR A BABY: 20 March 1939: Page 13


EIGHT weeks after the death, of her seventy-year-old millionaire husband, Lady Charlotte Deterding, aged forty, has given birth to a daughter in a Berlin nursing home. Under the terms of her oil-magnate husband’s will the child will inherit about a quarter of a million pounds. Sir Henri left more than £2,000,000, but the exact figure is not yet known. Lady Charlotte was Sir Henri’s third wife. They were married in 1936. She was formerly Fraulein Charlotte Knaack and acted for some time as his secretary.

The funeral service was conducted by Bishop Walther Schultz of Mecklenburg, an ardent supporter of Hitler and the Third Reich. He was also a rabid anti-Semite. Under the circumstances, a perfect choice.

It was a spectacular funeral befitting an oil King.

Hitler and his deputy, Hermann Göring made abundantly clear their high regard and gratitude to Sir Henri Deterding for his support.

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