Were property rights of foreigners respected when war broke out and did they lose their foreign investments?

  • 5
    Welcome to History SE. You are asking too many questions in one post and note one question per post is the guideline of Stack Exchange. Please narrow down your question with your own research effort. I voted to put your question on hold as too broad.
    – Rathony
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 10:17
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    This sounds suspiciously like a homework assignment. Generally speaking, in war, "rights" go out the window, especially for the enemy, and especially in those times. The German's were seizing businesses left, right, and center. I'm sure everyone else was, too.
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 16:40
  • I have edited the question details to narrow the answer set
    – curious
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 1:12
  • You also (still) need more specificity. There were a lot of countries involved in those wars, and they didn't all treat foreigners the same. Asking what happened to foreigners' investments in Russia during WWI is a very different question than what happened to foreigners' investments in Canada during WWII. Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 21:21
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    If the question could be reduced to WW1, or WW2 rather than both that would dramatically reduce the scope - it might also be worth limiting the question to ask about Japanese investments around the world, or American investments in Axis Europe.
    – Kobunite
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 8:32

2 Answers 2


It is generally understood that a war is a temporary condition and, after it ends, the erstwhile combatants will have to resume normal relationships (the notable exceptions were the Nazi and Soviet invasions of Poland and Barbarossa where the invaded states were supposed to disappear forever).

This means that the foreign-owned industry is told to produce whatever materiel is deemed necessary for the war effort. The fate of the profits depends on how cooperative the owner is: friendly foreigners (e.g., Swedes for Germany) may be able to keep them, enemy - not so much (obviously). After the war the property is usually restored to the original owner, less indemnities, reparations &c.

The notable exception is the Bolsheviks after the WW1 who confiscated all foreign property (and an attempt by the West to negotiate its return - as well as the government debts - was so entertainingly described by Bazhanov).

See also

  • Please clarify: is this meant to convey that the aim of the Soviet invasion into Poland included a Soviet plan to let all Poles "disappear forever"? Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 17:30
  • @LangLangC: ouch! of course not! Is it more clear now?
    – sds
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 17:52
  • Reading the edit makes me feel to understand what you meant. Please take a look at my attempt to fix it up. Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 19:22

According to Charles Higham, American companies had investments in Germany amounting to $475 million when Pearl Harbour was hit. Higham says

Though it would have been more patriotic to have allowed Nazi Germany to confiscate these companies for the duration—to nationalize them or to absorb them into Hermann Göring's industrial empire—it was clearly more practical to insure them protection from seizure by allowing them to remain in special holding companies, the money accumulating until war's end.

For individuals, a preliminary study called 'U.S. and Allied Efforts To Recover and Restore Gold and Other Assets Stolen or Hidden by Germany During World War II' says that 'enemy aliens of Jewish origin' were assured that their property would not be confiscated (this was in 1940, but German Jews were not protected). Presumably, this means non-Jewish foreigners in Germany also did not have their property confiscated, but it's not clear if this applied to foreigners who were from countries Germany was fighting.

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