Scottish Daily Mail

Bosch, VW, Mercedes... giants that grew rich on Nazi slavery

- From Allan Hall in Berlin

THE colossal extent of slave labour used by modern- day German blue-chip companies to get rich during the Third Reich was revealed yesterday.

The country’s top business magazine has published a league table illustrati­ng the Nazi past of top firms such as Bosch, Mercedes, Deutsche Bank, VW and many others.

The list comes a week after the forerunner to Audi was exposed as a massive wartime exploiter of slave labour from concentrat­ion camps.

Many of the companies listed by Wirtschaft­sWoche magazine have to some extent acknowledg­ed their Nazi past – such as Daimler, which admitted in 1986 that it had employed 40,000 forced labourers under appalling conditions during the war, enabling it to reap massive profits.

Electrical giant Bosch used 20,000

Treated with immense cruelty

slaves; the Quandt family – majority shareholde­rs in BMW – 50,000 and steelmaker ThyssenKru­pp 75,000.

Publishing giant Bertelsman­n grew rich publishing war books for Hitler Youth members and, according to leading German business newspaper Handelsbla­tt, ‘profited massively’ from contracts with the Wehrmacht and the Nazi Party central headquarte­rs in Munich.

Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest, did not employ slaves but became hugely wealthy under Nazism. it sacked all Jewish directors when the Nazis came to power and from 1938 became the richest in the country through its Ayranisati­on – the taking over – of Jewish-owned businesses by Nazi-supporting customers.

Volkswagen, builder of the ‘People’s Car’ that eventually evolved into the VW Beetle, employed 12,000 slaves in terrible conditions at its plant in Wolfsburg. Meanwhile, the chemical behemoths BASF, Bayer and Hoechst employed 80,000 slaves. Bayer celebrated its 150th anniversar­y last year with no mention in its official blurb about the years 1933 to 1945.

Electrical engineerin­g giant Siemens still plays its cards close to its chest about wartime activities. The German Museum in Berlin said that what it has admitted so far about its past is merely a ‘house history’.

Companies such as adidas and the high street retailer C&A are still working on company histories about their time under Nazism.

A decade ago, leading German firms contribute­d £3billion into a fund to compensate forced labourers enslaved in Third Reich factories.

Under a programme organised by Nazi politician Fritz Sauckel, who was hanged at Nuremberg for war crimes, two million people were brought to Germany to work for the new ‘master’ race. Many went to private firms, while tens of thousands more were conscripte­d to work under the most appalling conditions producing weaponry.

The Nazis differed from other regimes throughout history which used slave l abour. Romans and Greeks, for example, valued their forced labourers, but Nazis treated them with immense cruelty. VW, for example, had ‘dying rooms’ where pregnant forced labourers had to leave their newborns to die.

Most of the agricultur­al slaves came from the occupied eastern territorie­s of Poland, the Baltic states and Russia. Because the Slavik people were regarded as subhuman by Nazis, casualty rates among them were the highest of all.

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