The Quandt family, major shareholder of BMW, and one of the richest in Germany, is finally and belatedly confessing to its Nazi-past. Patriarch Günther Quandt was an early member of the Nazi party, he joined 1933, after Hitler’s election. During the Third Reich, Quandt company empire was kept running by more than 50,000 slave laborers. Many businesses that were taken away from Jewish owners ended up in the hands of Quandt. He even had odd family ties with the Nazi elite. His second wife Magda, which he had married when she was half his age, divorced him eight years later, only to marry propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, with Adolf Hitler as a witness. While other German carmakers, first and foremost Volkswagen, came to terms with their past, the owners of BMW denied it until recently. When the German Forced Labor Compensation Program was established, the family declined to make a contribution, claiming they had no reason to do so.
In 2007, a documentary aired on German TV and linked the family to the Nazis. The film revealed not only the slave laborers, but also that Günther Quandt had convinced Nazi contacts to send a Belgian competitor to a concentration camp after he refused to sell his company to Quandt. The documentary created only a minor scandal in Germany, because Quandt’s Nazi past had been known. A family spokesman said the allegations were “not incisively new.” However, the Quandts had up to then steadfastly denied all allegations.
The documentary prompted the Quandt family to do what other German companies had done many decades ago: Employ a historian to examine the family’s history during the Third Reich.
A Bonn historian received access to the family archives and concluded in his 1,200 page report that “the Quandts were linked inseparably with the crimes of the Nazis. The family patriarch was part of the regime.”
Hundreds of slave laborers died or were executed. At the end of the war, Günther Quandt’s former wife Magda killed her six children in the Führerbunker, then committed suicide with her husband Goebbels.