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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Charles Bedaux Commits Suicide

by Richard Vettese

Charles Eugene Bedaux committed suicide in a Miami, Florida prison on February 18, 1944. The famed and wealthy industrialist was being held in Miami on charges of treason. Bedaux had been arrested in North Africa soon after the November 8, 1942 Allied Invasion on orders of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. At the time of his arrest, Bedaux was preparing to build a pipeline to transport oils across the Sahara desert for the Vichy French government and the Nazis. He had also given the Nazis a plan to protect the Persian Gulf oil refineries, which Germany was preparing to capture, from bombing. He was sent to the United States when it was found unfeasible to put him on trial before a military commission on charges of treason and communicating with the enemy. Little is known about his so-called suicide except that his attorney found him unconscious in his bed. He was taken to a hospital, remained in a coma and died without gaining consciousness. Many breathed a sigh of relief with his death, for Charles Bedaux perhaps knew too much about the connections between leading American industry leaders and the industrial development in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s.

Strangely also, his case was linked with the deaths of two FBI agents, Percy Foxworth and Harold Haberfeld who were killed when their plane crashed mysteriously over Brazilian jungles while en route to North Africa to work on the Bedaux case. The day before his suicide, Bedaux, an intimate friend of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as well as many of Germany’s foremost Nazis, was told at a special hearing in Miami that he would have to stand trial for treason unless he could prove that his American citizenship had been forfeited because of his long residence in France.

Born in poverty in Paris, France in 1886, Bedaux dropped out of school early on, worked a series of menial jobs, and eventually moved to the United States in 1906. He took jobs as a silk worker and as a sandhog helping to dig the first tunnel under the East River in New York. Bedaux married and had one son in 1909, Charles Emile Bedaux who lived until 1993. 

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