German Documentary: BMW's Quandts Tied to Slave Labor
A documentary aired on German TV (without advance notice) has linked the family controlling BMW and the Nazis. In "The Silence of the Quandts," filmmakers Eric Friedler and Barbara Siebert reveal that BMW's eventual owner Günther Quandt used Jewish slave labor in his battery factory during the war. The connection with the Nazi regime went right to the top; Quandt's first son Herbert was raised by Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, architect of Kristallnacht and other horrific aspects of the state-sponsored pogram against German Jews. Herbert Quandt assumed control of the German automaker in 1959. Although a family spokesman said the allegations were "not incisively new," the Quandts have previously denied allegations that they cooperated with the Nazis; up until now they have portrayed themselves as victims of the Third Reich. When the German Forced Labour Compensation Program was established, the family declined to make a contribution, claiming they had no reason to do so.
Three questions I as a German would pose. Is this story new? Second, is it significant? Lastly, does it have legs? It is new insofar as this movie had to be shown in a clandestine operation shortly before midnight. The Quandts are one of the world's richest families and anybody saying anything negative about them better be prepared for a crippling lawsuit. Some of the facts of the matter may be old-news but the movie (which I haven't seen) apparently unearthed new damning information and told the story as it has not been told before. Is this story significant? You bet it is. Those German individuals and companies who have owned up to the past do not take it well when a family of billionaire inheritors and surviving collaborators shirk their responsibility. Not to mention the various international pressure groups, as well as surviving victims. Also -- the Quandts are expected to response in a few days. And the movie will be shown, in an expanded 90-minute version, on TV on November 22. So, this story matters and it will continue. Let's not forget that the Quandts still own almost 50% of BMW. I for one will refuse to contribute to line these people's pockets before they behave responsibly.
Sometimes, these things progress on a positive note: the Quandts have decided to refrain from legal action against the movie. Instead, they have now hired a professional historian who will collect records and write a "unsparing" history of the Quandt clan, including all Nazi blemishes. http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,509837,00.html In case anybody needs an English-language synopsis of this story, they can let me know and I will translate.
Here's the English-language translation, courtesy of Der Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,511193,00.html