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New book examines the link between German business families and Nazi fortunes : NPR

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Adolf Hitler inspects the brand new Volkswagen “folks’s automobile” after laying the muse stone of the brand new Volkswagen works in 1938. On Hitler’s left is the automobile’s designer, Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche.

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Adolf Hitler inspects the brand new Volkswagen “folks’s automobile” after laying the muse stone of the brand new Volkswagen works in 1938. On Hitler’s left is the automobile’s designer, Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche.

Topical Press Company/Getty Pictures

Germany’s willpower to “always remember” the atrocities of the Holocaust has been on the heart of its postwar success. However the Nazi legacies of Germany’s wealthiest households spotlight the nation’s problem to make good on that dedication, in keeping with creator David de Jong.

He tells this story in his new guide, Nazi Billionaires: The Darkish Historical past Of Germany’s Wealthiest Dynasties. He mentioned what shocked him most was the “brazen whitewashing” that also occurred right this moment by corporations like BMW and Porsche.

“The households that management them … are sustaining international foundations within the identify of their patriarchs, equivalent to Ferry Porsche, who designed the primary Porsche sports activities automobile, or Herbert Quandt, who saved BMW from chapter,” de Jong mentioned.

“Their enterprise successes are celebrated, however the conflict crimes they dedicated or the Nazi affiliations they’d, like being voluntary SS officers, are omitted on the web sites of those foundations.”

The Quandt household are the heirs of the BMW fortune, which has made them the richest household in Germany. Collectively, siblings Stefan Quandt and Susanne Klatten personal greater than 40% of BMW and are value about $38 billion.

Their grandfather, Günther Quandt, was near Hitler and used labor from focus camps in his factories. Their father, Herbert Quandt, was a member of the Nazi Get together and has been accused of committing conflict crimes.

A spokesman for the Quandt household informed NPR the household had been clear about its Nazi previous in addition to its previous involvement with pressured labor, and had donated hundreds of thousands to commemorate the destiny of pressured laborers from World Struggle II.

However de Jong argues members of the Quandt household nonetheless wrestle to reconcile their previous.

“I believe it is very exhausting for these heirs to distance themselves from their father and grandfather. They reside within the shadow of those folks,” he mentioned.

“They did not make their fortunes themselves, so their total identification derives from the fortunes that had been created by their father and grandfather, Günther and Herbert. And to disavow the household patriarchs is mainly to disavow their very own identities.”

The connection between the Nazis and well-known vehicle corporations has been nicely documented. In Might 1937, Adolf Hitler’s social gathering based a state-owned firm that was later named Volkswagen, or ‘The Folks’s Automobile Firm’. Hitler himself requested Ferdinand Porsche, founding father of the Porsche automobile firm, to design it.

De Jong argues that the concept behind “always remember” means confronting the previous with full transparency.

“You find out about historical past by displaying the great and dangerous,” de Jong mentioned. “Not displaying that [Herbert Quandt] … had the accountability of a battery factories in Berlin, the place, 1000’s of pressured slave laborers had been used, together with feminine slave laborers from focus camps, you be taught nothing about his historical past.”

For de Jong, historic transparency is the “naked minimal” of what must be anticipated of the worldwide foundations that these households preserve, and their corporations.

The audio for this story was produced by Vincent Acovino and edited by Justine Kenin. Ayen Deng Bior tailored it for internet.

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