Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine how the Aryanisation program of Nazi Germany created a financial loss of life for Jewish victims. This program led to further losses including political and actual life within the concentration camps and gas chambers.
Design/methodology/approach This paper utilises Agamben’s (1995, 2002, 2005) concepts of biopolitics, the homo sacer and the state of exception. I examine business histories of the firm The Interessen Gemeinshaft der Deutschen Teerfarbenindustrie (the ‘Community of Interest of the German Dyestuff Industry’ known hereafter as ‘I.G. Farben’), German legislation and other historical documents to construct a close reading of Aryanisation. The financial loss is explored as well as the ramifications for a loss of financial life interpreted through the ‘silences’ in accounting.
Findings My analysis exposes the impact of restrictive financial legislation and the precarious position a loss of financial life engendered in Nazi Germany. Drawing attention to other losses suffered during the Holocaust beyond forced labour and the gas chamber uncovers a hidden layer of loss to the Holocaust victims. Financial loss of life is further conceptualised a necessary precursor for genocidal acts.
Research limitations/implications Through use of secondary source materials, this analysis uncovers silences made possible through accounting in the Holocaust. By revealing the interstices between the State, politics, law, citizens, accounting and the ‘Other’, new knowledge is revealed.
Practical implications Practical awareness of the complicit and insidious role accounting had to play in creating (in)visibilities and determining (non)value led to the dehumanisation and quantification of people. By revealing the interstices between politics, law, citizens, accounting and the ‘Other’; new knowledge is uncovered.
Social implications The paper provides awareness of the complicit and insidious role accounting had to play in creating (in)visibilities and determining (non)values, which led to the dehumanisation and quantification of people. This can lead to life or death implications for the victims.
Originality/value This research is one of the few within the accounting literature to empirically address the Aryanisation policy in Nazi Germany. This research also introduces Agamben and his theoretical concepts to the critical accounting literature. It further signals the importance of historical case study analysis to inform ‘histories of the present’ and to shine a light on modern day practices that promulgate the power of the State and its thanatopolitical imperatives.