FRANKFURT (Germany) – The Quandt family, extremely wealthy BMW owners, and the ready-to-wear label Hugo Boss, two big names in the German economy, are trying to settle the accounts of their Nazi past, 70 years later.
Far from being a “victim of the nazis“, as he wanted to believe at the end of the war, Günther Quandt, patriarch of one of the richest families in Germany,”was part of the diet“, strikes the report commissioned from an independent historian.
Published at the end of September, Joachim Scholtyseck’s investigation is an exercise “openness and transparency“according to his grandchildren, who seriously tarnishes the image of the founder of their industrial empire and of his sons Herbert and Harald.
In his factories, Günther Quandt sometimes exploited to the death more than 50,000 forced laborers, prisoners of war and concentration camps, to manufacture weapons and batteries indispensable to Hitler.
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Entrepreneur “unscrupulous“, he flourished during Nazism, taking advantage to rob Jewish entrepreneurs and turn his business into an industrial empire.
He was certainly at odds with Joseph Goebbels, but for personal reasons – after their divorce, his wife Magda had married Hitler’s propaganda chief and was raising their children with him.
His son Herbert, one of the figures of German employers during the “economic miracle“post-war, revered for having saved BMW from bankruptcy by buying it back in 1959, also takes it for his rank.
He used forced laborers while running one of the group’s companies in Strasbourg and at the end of the war even oversaw the construction of a barracks for prisoners from concentration camps in Sagan, in present-day Poland, reveals the historian.
Encouraged by this work, the Quandt grandchildren, at the head of a fortune estimated at 20 billion euros, are now saying their “deep regrets“forced labor, but do not resolve to repudiate their grandfather.
“We would have liked it to be different“, declared Gabriele Quandt, in the only interview given since the publication of this report, to the weekly Die Zeit.
Stefan Quandt sees in this man “a responsible entrepreneur“, removed from politics and who”was not meant to kill people“. A portrait disputed by the research of M. Scholtyseck.
On the side of Hugo Boss, no family history but the desire to cut short the “vague statements about his past“. An embarrassing rumor has it that its founder was the”favorite designer” d’Hitler.
Ferdinand Hugo Boss did supply the Nazi party in brown shirts, as early as 1924. After the crisis of 1929, he joined the party, and not just to be able to supply the Wehrmacht and the SS in uniforms.
Ferdinand Hugo Boss was “clearly not“hostile to the Nazis, and adhered to their policy, judges the study commissioned from another historian and which has just been published, but he was far from being the main supplier of uniforms for the regime.
To settle the past, the ready-to-wear manufacturer has “presented his deep regrets“to have employed 140 forced laborers, the majority of whom were women and 40 French prisoners of war.
Most German companies resorted to forced labor during Nazism. In total, 6,500 of them have contributed to the funding of the Memory, Responsibility and Future Foundation (EVZ), which paid 4.4 billion euros in compensation to more than 1.6 million former forced laborers or to their heirs.
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But many others, not meeting the criteria, have never been compensated. The latest historical research estimates the number of forced laborers in Hitler’s Europe as high as 20 million.